#arknights fic Tumblr posts

  • johannstutt413
    26.01.2022 - 20 hours ago

    (requested by lonewanderer2033) Skadi the Harem Protagonist

    The Doctor looked up at his door as Skadi walked in. “Ah, good morning, Skadi…and Skadi…and…Skadi?” In fact, quite a few Skadis walked into his office that day - five, to be precise.

    “Good morning, Doctor,” they said in unison, before real!Skadi spoke up. “There’s a cosplay contest. We’d like to enter as a unit.”

    “I see.” His eyes moved up and down, tracing the outline of the differently-sized Abyss Hunters arrayed in front of him. Who else was with her? Their costumes were all so well-done…

    At least their voices weren’t changed; when Spectre!Skadi spoke up, he recognized her instantly. That, and her teeth were hard to miss. “Good, right?”

    “Alright, so Skadi’s in the middle, Specter you’re on the far right…” He stared into each other Skadi’s soul, trying to discern their identity. “Um…Alright, each of you say something so I can at least properly fill out the entry form.”

    “Morning, Doctor! Operator Skadi, reporting for duty!” The triumph in Grani’s voice came through nice and clear.

    Mousse!Skadi waved shyly. “G-good morning, Doctor…I thought you would see my claws…”

    “Hi, Doctor!” Gummy!Skadi did a twirl. “Aosta and Bibeak really did great, didn’t they?”

    “They really did. How much did commissioning these cost?”

    The real Skadi smirked. “They owed us a favor; we’re even now.”

    “Gotcha, gotcha.” He filled out the entry form and filed it away. “Well, that’s quite something. Out of curiosity, um, how did you come up with this idea?”

    “Well, last night, we were in Skadi’s room-” the Kuranta began to explain.

    The Doctor already had questions, though. “All of you were there? Together?”

    “...Oh, he doesn’t know.” Sharky began chuckling, which would steadily grow into side-splitting floor-rolling laughter (fortunately without affecting the costume too much). “He doesn’t fuckin’ know!”

    “What don’t I know?” He asked innocently.

    Rada stepped up to the plate. “We’re all dating Skadi, Doctor.”

    “All of you?” They all nodded, even the melting madwoman on the far right. “How’d that happen?”

    “It’s kind of a long story,” the Feline attempted to start-

    -but Orca patted her on the back. “I’ll explain, dear. It started when Grani and I first came onto this sky-whale all those months back.”

    “...Whale?” The Doctor decided to just gloss over that detail. “The two of you were already an item?”

    “Oh, no, that took awhile. When I first got here, I realized Sharky was already here, so we carried on where we left off. Grani asked me out for a drink one night, one thing led to another, they both said they were okay with it but weren’t really interested in each other yet. I started visiting Mousse’s cafe, where first I met Gumdrop and then Lil Mouse, asked them both on a date - the same date - and we had a great time. A couple nights later, and now I’ve been the matriarch of a proper pod for a while.”

    That was a new term for every non-Aegir in the room. “‘Pod?’ Like coffee beans?” The Doctor asked for everyone’s sake.

    “What? No, like…Oh. I’m the alpha of a pack.” The chorus of ‘Ohhhhh’s was actually quite musical as everyone incidentally harmonized. “You can continue the story, Precious.”

    “Right! So we were all in her room, and Mousse brought up the contest because one of her other regulars is a judge for it, and I pointed out that I’ve always kinda wanted to try something like that, and Sharky said with a bit of padding I could go as Skadi…and then Skadi said, ‘What if we all dress up like me and go as a pod?’ I was thinking peas when she said it then, though. Did I miss anything?” She glanced around the rest of the harem to be sure. No one had any criticisms.

    The Doctor took all of that in stride, filled out the paperwork, and slid it towards them. “Just one signature’s fine - you’re all pretty together on this, I can tell.”

    “That we are.” Skadi signed for the entire clan. “There. We should put these away so they don’t get roughed up. Have a good one, Doctor.”

    “Sure thing.” As they left, however, there was only one thought on his mind: ‘Why don’t I have a pod?‘

    #arknights#arknights fic#skadi (arknights)#grani (arknights)#specter (arknights)#gummy (arknights)#mousse (arknights) #i've gotten entirely stuck #this is as far as this goes for now #sadly #skadi being a harem queen sounds fun :/
    View Full
  • wastehound-writings
    23.01.2022 - 4 days ago

    Unbreaking

    10. Echo

    Lappland raised an eyebrow as she stalked through the lower-deck halls of the landship. One of her swords hung from its strap over her shoulder, but the other was still back in her dorm. The other one was totally fine, but while cleaning them, she had noticed this one had suffered a small chip midway down the blade since she had last brought it out. But she knew how to fix it… if she could just find the workshop.

    At last, she did. The space was pretty big and full of tools and workstations, yet it was mostly deserted. Perfect. The one other person who was in the workshop raised a silent hand in greeting. She had bluish hair and one of her legs had a mechanical exoskeleton rig attached; the other leg was currently bare, as its exoskeleton rig was on the table in front of the girl. Lappland took a moment to rack her brain. She had met this person before…

    “You’re, ah…” She snapped her fingers a few times as she jogged her memory. “Glaucus?”

    “That’s right,” she replied. “And you’re Lappland. We’ve met a couple times, I think…”

    “We have, yeah. Sorry, I’ve got face blindness. Trying to work my way around it.”

    “Oh, I see,” Glaucus replied, although she didn’t look up from her work. She was fully focused on tinkering with her leg rig.

    Lappland shrugged. “Anyways, I just needed to sharpen my sword here, took some damage on the last mission.”

    Glaucus nodded. “Same with my exoskeletal equipment. And the Franker, but I’m not allowed to work on that in the workshop. It’d be too big a risk to the other sensitive equipment here…”

    “Franker’s your EMP gun, right?” Lappland stepped over to see what she was working on; she was in no real rush today. “That thing’s cool as hell. Shutting targets down before they even get to you is the way to go.”

    “Right?! Can’t believe it was just gathering dust before I found it. Just needed a little TLC to shine.”

    Lappland nodded as she stepped over to the workshop’s grindstone and pulled on a pair of goggles. “How it goes, huh? Just takes the right person to come along and show a little love to something everyone else forgot.” She smiled to herself as she put her sword to the grindstone. It didn’t take a genius to figure out she was talking about herself.

    Exusiai… She tilted the sword back and forth, sharpening away the imperfection as she had done countless times before. This was one task she could easily allow her mind to drift during, and drift it did. That scarlet-haired Sankta… They had just walked into her life and in the span of a few weeks had become just as much a centerpiece in it as Texas was. She could almost still smell apple pie even now…

    She pulled her sword back and nodded in satisfaction at the repaired blade. Just needed some oil now, and the workshop was well-stocked on that.

    “So,” Lappland continued as she stepped back over to where Glaucus was working, oil-wet cloth working on her blade, “what’s the story with the leg rig? You need ‘em to keep the Franker steady?”

    “Uh, sort of…” Glaucus murmured as she opened up the casing on the knee area. “But it’s not the Franker, it’s my legs. It’s a genetic condition, runs in my family. Muscles start to atrophy. The exoskeleton helps me compensate, brings me to what would be a normal level for most people. Maybe a bit stronger, now that I’ve been tinkering with it for a while.”

    “Oh. Shit, uh… I’m sorry. I didn’t know…”

    “Oh, it’s okay,” Glaucus corrected herself. “I’m not upset about it. I like having the exoskeleton.”

    “Really?” Lappland asked, an eyebrow raised and an ear twitching. It seemed like it would just be inconvenient.

    “Sure! Gives me direct control of my own strength. Everything I can do, even just being able to walk easily, is because I gave myself that ability with my own two hands. Most people have to hit the gym and put in a lot of effort to fine-tune their performance. I just need a day in the workshop to make myself stronger!”

    Lappland’s other eyebrow raised. “Well shit, that’s a good way to look at it!” She slung her sword back over her shoulder and took a seat across from Glaucus, watching her work. It wasn’t an especially elegant machine: a long mass of steel tubes and boxes that strapped to the outer side of Glaucus’s legs by way of black leather belts and attached to her boots. But while it seemed to value function over form, they certainly looked quite sturdy. Maybe that appearance helped with the overall intimidation factor: they weren’t just there to look pretty, they were there to get a job done.

    That said… exactly what Glaucus was doing went completely over Lappland’s head. She had about enough technological know-how to change the batteries in a TV remote. Her attention drifted, although she didn’t particularly mind just hanging out for a while. Glaucus seemed to not mind her presence, and she didn’t have anywhere else she needed to be. But a box of bolts sitting on the wall shelf caught her eye, reminding her of something…

    She reached into her pocket and retrieved a tiny bundle of cloth, containing her two family pins. Wasn’t exactly eager to get injured by them again. She stood and pulled out a few of the bins, but didn't find what she was looking for.

    "Hey," she spoke, pulling back away from the Texas family pin and holding it up, "do you know if we've got spares of these laying around?"

    Glaucus took a closer look at the pin back. "No, I don't think I've seen that… Could probably 3D print one though. We've got a printer over there."

    Lappland stepped over to the machine Glaucus indicated. She had never even seen one of these before, much less operated one, but… she could figure it out. Probably. There was a compartment with a sliding door underneath the machine’s monitor, and an option on the screen labeled ‘replicate,’ so… that seemed a decent start. She put the pin back inside the compartment and hit the button, and watched as a tiny beam of light scanned over the object placed inside.

    The machine seemed satisfied with that, so Lappland took it back out and reattached it to the Texas family pin. A 3D model of the object was on the screen now, and once Lappland was pretty sure the machine knew to make it the same size, she hit another button and watched the mechanisms inside slowly begin their work.

    Even with the item being so small, it took some time to finish. But Lappland’s eyes remained glued to the machine’s movement. And eventually, the light above the compartment turned green and the door clicked open. She gingerly reached in and took the new pin back; it was plastic and not silver like the old one, but that wouldn’t be that big an issue, right? She retrieved the Lappland family pin and gingerly brought the new back up to it, and it clicked into place like it was brand new.

    A warmth spread through Lappland’s chest at seeing the pin completed again, yet… it was different. She actually felt further away from her past all of a sudden, rather than closer to it. This pin was her history, who she had been… but not who she was now, perhaps. She wasn’t part of a mafioso famiglia anymore; she was a Rhodes Island operator. She was somewhere else now, somewhere cleaner and safer, her sickness under control, surrounded by people who gave a shit about her beyond her ability to kill people. And the piece of her past that had hurt her had been pacified.

    In spite of herself, Lappland felt a tear in her eye. She took a shaky breath. She was… alive. Somehow, she was still alive. Somehow, she still had time.

    “Are, uh… are you okay?” Glaucus asked. She stepped over to where Lappland was, her exoskeleton back on her legs.

    “Oh, y-yeah, I’m good,” Lappland answered. She smiled and pocketed the pins again. “Hey, if you’re done, you wanna go grab a coffee?”

    ***

    Texas flopped onto the training room bench, panting from exertion. Saria sat next to her, gulping down half a bottle of water in one go. The two had been sparring for what felt like ages, close to an even match. Texas’s speed, strength, and stunning arts made her a serious problem for most opponents, but Saria was simply an immovable object in battle. Her shield was tough to get around, and even if one did, her arts made it very difficult to land a hit that made any lasting impact. She could use her control of calcium to harden her skin at contact and could repair most damage that got past that. So the two had danced around one another and accomplished very little… but it was a good workout.

    “Where on Terra did you learn to fight like that?” Texas asked.

    “It’s mostly self-taught,” Saria replied. “Basic training in Columbia, but using arts this way was all me. Needed some strong preservation skills to join the Rhine Lab Defense Division, and even stronger to survive that position. I just kept sharpening it over time. I tried teaching others how to use their arts this way, but Silence was the only one really able to wrap her head around it… But I’ve been trying to teach people at Rhodes Island as well, with perhaps a little more success.” She shrugged and drank the rest of her water. “How about you?”

    “Same here. I was only properly taught the basics, most of the rest I learned with me and Lappland trying to one-up each other for years, then just picking up tricks in the field.”

    Saria nodded. “Lappland… I’ve been on a few missions with her. Makes Ifrit look tame when she gets going in battle. But I can certainly see how your fighting style developed as a counter to hers…” She blinked in realization. “Wait, is she your ex?” Texas nodded, and Saria whistled. “And I thought I favored strong-willed women.”

    Texas couldn’t stifle a chuckle. “She wasn’t always like this, to be fair.” Since the conversation had drifted here anyway, another question rose to Texas’s mind, a concern that had clung to her since she last spoke with Exusiai… “So, you said you’d gotten back on speaking terms with Silence?”

    “That’s right. It’s still a pretty recent development, and I’m sure it’s driving her crazy that I can’t share all the details about what happened, but… I was at least able to convince her that I mean neither her nor Ifrit any harm, and she’s willing to let me be around Ifrit again, under certain conditions. I’m more than willing to consider that a victory.”

    Texas’s hand went to her pocket, where the Texas family pin still rested. “Can I ask what happened? In general terms, I mean.”

    Saria let out a breath. “That’s a tough question, even if we keep things vague. Lot of dangerous, classified information. But… I’m sure you’d understand that.”

    An ear twitched. “You know something of my past then?”

    “Vague details, yes. Can’t be the director of the Defense Division if you aren’t assessing whether each person you meet is a threat. But, given that you understand just as well as I do the need to keep certain things quiet… I suppose it’s only fair I tell you a little. Maybe it’ll help.”

    She adjusted her position. “Well… you have seen Ifrit in combat, yes? She’s exceptionally powerful, to the point where even she cannot fully understand or control the true depths of her strength. I cannot share the details of how that strength came to rest with her, but at one point… she well and truly lost control of it. Reason left her, and none could hold her back from destroying everything in her path. Except me. If she wasn’t stopped, more people would be hurt, killed… and someone would surely do something drastic to stop her. I couldn’t risk that, she was our daughter… So I stepped in to pacify her in the only way I knew how.”

    “With force,” Texas whispered, her heart fully sympathizing.

    “With force,” Saria confirmed. “I still question if it was right, but it was all I could do. I had to protect her, by fighting her. Calming her rage. And I did succeed, but… that’s not what many others who were present saw. It’s not what Olivia saw. She only saw me attacking our daughter. And what is a mother to do in that situation but take the daughter as far away from me as possible? I don’t blame her… I’ve never once blamed her. But my priority never once shifted from protecting the two of them. Chance brought us both to Rhodes Island, but I was able to help her understand that much at least.”

    She took a moment to catch her breath, her mind obviously somewhere else. Texas nodded, still fiddling with her pin. “It was… a pretty similar situation for me. Lappland had lost control, and I tried to stop her, but… it just blew up in both of our faces.” She wasn’t exactly eager to relive what had happened yet again, but after opening up to Exusiai about it, it seemed a little easier to at least acknowledge it.

    Saria nodded. “Does she hold it against you?”

    “I… I’m not sure. I haven’t talked with her much since she dragged herself here. But it doesn’t sound like she does.”

    Then, quieter, Saria continued: “You hold it against yourself?”

    Texas sighed and looked away. “Yeah.”

    “Well then, do you want to talk with her? If there was no ill-will, then maybe laying everything on the table can help resolve it, as it did for me.”

    “Maybe…” Texas murmured. “Seems like Exusiai would prefer that. They and Lappland got close lately, I guess that’s just… thrown me off guard. I had intended to just leave Lappland alone, let what we had stay in the past… I can’t feel one hundred percent confident she won’t lose control again and be a danger to others. And I can’t… I can’t forget what I did, either.”

    “But now you’re curious, aren’t you?” Saria asked with a raised eyebrow. She was handling this calmly, as though she could read Texas like an open book. Maybe Texas was just making it easy.

    She sighed but nodded. “If she really has changed, left what she was that night well and truly behind her, I’ll be able to tell. And if it’s an act, I’ll be able to tell that too, and redouble trying to get my friends away from her. But I guess… there’s no way to do that except to confront her.”

    Saria nodded, satisfied with the conclusion she had helped Texas reach. “It’s not easy, but it will help. Want backup for that?”

    “No. If Lappland is going to open up, it’ll need to be just me and her.”

    View Full
  • togekissies
    23.01.2022 - 4 days ago
    #kamen rider build #ryusen#banjou ryuuga#kiryuu sento#rae fic #i also posted another ryusen fic i never posted about here #and a 01 fic too. that i also never posted about. and an arknights fic. #uh i have trouble remembering to post them to tumblr lol
    View Full
  • johannstutt413
    22.01.2022 - 5 days ago

    (inspired by this post) Margaret Nearl and the Overclocked Doctor

    “Doctor?” Nearl knocked a couple times on the open office door to get his attention. “I believe it’s time for a break.”

    “Is it? I thought I just sat d- oh.” The Doctor had been working on realigning his deployment teams for several hours now.

    The Kuranta smiled. “Your dedication is admirable, but it’s best you heed your physician’s advice.”

    “Right, right.” He sighed before downing his half-cup of cold coffee. “Shining did say to be more mindful of my hours...She didn’t ask you to check on me, did she?”

    “She did not - I took the initiative to do so of my own accord.”

    He nodded. “Good. I’d hate to be a bother.”

    “A bother?” Margaret shook her head. “Never.”

    “Easy for Kazimierz’s last true Knight to say. As long as you’re alive, so is chivalry. Where are we going?” The Doctor had simply followed her out of his workday bunker; the thought of their destination suddenly struck him as potentially important.

    That compliment of his elicited a blush, although it was probably hard to notice beyond her shimmering aura. “The skylight balcony. It’s a rare day the sun shines like this, and I thought it best we take advantage of it.”

    “Gotcha.” They walked in silence for a few steps. “You just came back from a mission, right? I got the notification this morning.”

    “The notification I specifically returned, or that the mission had ended?” She knew how his system worked loosely, but details like that were unknown to her.

    He chuckled. “That your squad made it back safely. It wasn’t an easy one, but you did brilliantly.”

    “Thank you, Doctor.” Her blush deepened. “I…Your compliments mean much to me.”

    “There was one note that caught my attention - you left with ten other Operators, but came back with eleven passengers total.”

    Nearl nodded. “While we were in the field, one of those we defeated surrendered. She explained her reason for fighting, and after we explained ours, she asked if she could come back with us for treatment.”

    “That’s what she told me, too.” The Doctor looked at her directly. “She also told me what ultimately convinced her was what you said about me.”

    “Ah…Is that so?” The knight wasn’t sure what she’d said about him now.

    He turned back towards the path ahead; looking at her too long from this close might blind him. “Yep. Apparently hearing that her future employer had ‘a heart of gold with room for all seeking redemption’ was exactly what she needed to hear. ”

    “I see.” Or more accurately, heard, suddenly acknowledging how strong those words had been. “Were there any issues with her application?”

    “Oh, none at all - once we have a handle on how far along her infection is and where she’ll best fit into the organization, she’ll be ready to start. I’ll make sure you have her codename so you can check up on her, too.” The Doctor checked the time on his phone. How far was the walk to this balcony?

    As it turned out, their walk ended there. Margaret waited for him to sit before joining him. Something had changed about the mood of their little outing. “I appreciate the consideration, Doctor, and I will gladly visit with her later, but…but I must admit to an ulterior motive asking you to come here with me.”

    “Eh?” Ulterior motive? Nearl?...Margaret Nearl, more accurately? “And, um, what would that motive be, Margaret?”

    “My praise for you in the field was, in part, a reflection of stronger emotions towards you. Some of our colleagues realized this before I did and helped me work through my thoughts and feelings, to the point I can confidently tell you my…my…”

    She’d said ‘confidently,’ but the stuttering threw that into question. It also lit the Doctor’s masked face like a Christmas tree. “Margaret, are you…”

    “My sister reads a lot of Kazimierzian romance novels. She says she reads them for the knights, who at least in the books behave in manners worthy of the title.” The Kuranta slipped into a somewhat pre-prepared side-tangent. “I enjoy reading, as you know from my time in your office, but I rarely read that genre because, to me, they set up an unrealistic expectation for how love looks. People having chance encounters that simultaneously indicate to both parties that they have found the one person in the world meant for them? Rather preposterous…And yet.”

    ‘Holy shit holy shit holy shit holy shit-’

    Margaret’s tail draped behind the Doctor’s back as she looked him in the eye. It was as if the visor, the hood, all of it, were simply an illusion. “And yet, since you’ve returned to Rhodes Island, time and time again, I’ve seen you in moments that showed me just how wonderful life with you could be.”

    “L-life with me?” He looked at the ground, the weight of her confession bearing on him. “This is all so sudden.”

    “I understand if you need time to-” She stopped talking because before her eyes, the Doctor was removing his hood and helm for the first time in her presence…and what she saw made her heart both bleed and start skipping beats.

    He turned back towards her, his working eye tearing up as he did. “I don’t want you to have any regrets about this. Are you sure you want to be with me, and not just a person like me?”

    “There isn’t another person like you, Doctor.” Nearl tentatively reached out a hand and ran it along the uncrystallized part of his hair. The dark gray wasn’t its natural color; that was because of the dust it was constantly trapped with, dust she didn’t immediately wipe from her hand. “No matter what Oripathy will do to us in time, you’re the only person I’ve ever felt this way about.”

    “Alright. I just wanted to give you the chance to change your mind.” He gave her a one-corner smile. The other half would have joined in if it had the capability.

    The knight traced his jawline, fearlessly following it along from the uninfected to the infected side. “It was never my mind that was making the choice…” She looked at him carefully, analytically, absorbing every facet (metaphorically and literally) of his face as she tried to determine how to follow through on her desire. What angle was the best to kiss him from, considering half of him was numb or paralyzed by crystals?

    He led by example and answered that question for her.

    #arknights#arknights fic#nearl (arknights)#horse cute#horse wonderful #can't wait for her to make me spend money #you have no idea how annoyed i am that GamePress doesn't have even an attempted translation of her Alter's dialogue yet #unacceptable! #give me more horse words damnit!
    View Full
  • johannstutt413
    22.01.2022 - 5 days ago

    (requested by anonymous; continuing from this) Tachanka and Absinthe bonding time

    It didn’t take long for Tachanka to see his new official role as Papa Bear - once he’d realized they weren’t that much older than his oldest back home, at least - but the rumor mill set to work around him in its usual pseudo-conscious way. There was a theory that Natalya had become the “Mama Bear” of the USSGG, which was a) completely forgetting Rada did most of the housekeeping, by choice, and b) insensitive to the feelings of all parties involved. Sure, Sasha didn’t have a wife back home, and sure, that first night drinking together might’ve gotten a bit…interesting, but he was an old man. She needed someone closer to her age so she didn’t have to add being a young widow in addition to all her other baggage.

    Sorry, where were we? Right, rumors. Frankly, the Sapiens didn’t care about them on his own behalf, but for the girls’, and thanks to his solid relationship with the Doctor, he knew exactly where to turn when they became prevalent enough to reach them. He kept his ears open for himself, acted when he needed to, and if for some reason the Doctor’s input wasn’t enough to take care of things, well, Tachanka wasn’t just any veteran; he was a Soviet veteran. If problems didn’t make themselves scarce, he could disappear them himself…

    It was paying attention to rumors that brought another Ursus to his attention, one neither the Doctor nor the USSGG seemed as worried about, but who instantly caught Tachanka’s attention after hearing about her. A little more ears-to-the-ground showed him that she was interested in his group but never approached them. That revelation was the tipping point. He made a plan, and when the time was right, he put it into action.

    Absinthe, meanwhile, was completely unaware that the mercenary had her in his sights. She did follow the USSGG, but it wasn’t because she wanted to get to know them…that much, anyway. There were questions she had only they could answer, questions about what happened in Peterheim and how it had become the horror whose aftermath she bore witness to briefly, questions about how justice could be done by them for the suffering Reunion and their fellow countrymen caused them, questions about what life was supposed to mean in the way of all these things.

    Questions her therapist had been working with her on, admittedly, but she still wanted to ask someone who could relate to the inciting incidents better.

    [As before, all dialogue is in Ursine] “I see you’re sitting alone, sestrenka.” Sasha set his tray at her table; he’d found out when she took her lunch break to introduce himself. “Mind if I join you?”

    “...*Yawn* Go ahead.” Zoya cut a slice of barbeque sausage from a larger link and popped it in her mouth. Letting Eunectes into the kitchen had been a stroke of genius, as it turned out.

    Tachanka slipped down his visor - he was wearing his ‘grub bucket’ helmet, as Leto affectionately called it, which left his less-than-Ursine head shape indeterminate - and did the same with his plate. “How’re you holding up?”

    “I’m not dead yet.” She looked up from staring at her food, her ragged bangs covering one eye completely. “Have we met before?”

    “No, but we’ve seen each other around. Alexander.” He extended a hand to her.

    The Caster took it. “Is that your codename?”

    “What’s a codename between friends?” Sasha smiled slightly. “But if you prefer, Tachanka.”

    “Absinthe…but call me Zoya.”

    The mercenary nodded. “That I will. So, you’re not dead. That’s good.”

    “I guess.” Some days, she wondered. “Hmm. You know Zima’s group?”

    “I sure do, sestrenka. You’re curious about them, aren’t you?” The Sapiens had a couple theories about why.

    But Zoya didn’t admit to it right away. “How do you know them?”

    “I met them at the bar,” Tachanka answered. Completely honestly - he stayed because the Doctor asked him to, but he would’ve wanted to know them better regardless. “We each paid for a round, had a good time, so I spend a few nights a week with them.”

    “...They still remember Chernobog?” Her eyes narrowed at the name.

    So did his. “Sestrenka, none of us can forget Chernobog.”

    “You were there?” Sasha shook his head. “Then how can you say that?”

    “I’ve seen what it’s done to them, to you. Children should never have to see the things you’ve seen.”

    She focused back on her food. “What’s done is done.”

    “You don’t sound confident in that, sestrenka.” The Sapiens took out a pocket knife and precisely cut the skin of an orange. “The past can’t be changed, but what you do about it can. It won’t be easy, but it’s possible.”

    “And if it isn’t? If I’m too sad and weak to move on?” Choice visions of the nightmare that was that time began to replay in her mind-

    -until an orange slice bounced off her forehead and landed on her tray. The mercenary smiled at her. “Then we’ll be sad and weak together; between seven broken folks, we can find the pieces of at least one whole person.”

    “...Hmm.” Zoya had to admit, he sold the idea pretty well. But still. “So you want to introduce me?”

    “I’ll be there when you introduce yourself,” Sasha replied before eating the last of his orange slices.

    The Ursus took the straggler from her tray and offered it back to him. “Here.”

    “No, sestrenka, that one is yours.” From outside of her vision, Tachanka pulled out another orange. “I have more.”

    “Alright.” She’d never actually had one of whatever this thing was. Some kind of fruit, obviously, but the smell was strong, and the taste- oh. That was pretty good. “...Thank you.”

    He peeled the second orange quickly, handed it to her, and pulled out a third. “It’s hard to find these in the motherland - they don’t grow well there - but they taste to me like liquid sunlight.”

    “Yeah. What do you call them?”

    “Oranges.” She gave him a disbelieving look. “I know, right? Lazy…Victorians. Yeah, the Victorians named them.”

    The Caster shook her head. “I’ll forgive them for it this time…When are they free? I go back to work in twenty.”

    “I’ll find you when you’re done. Here.” The Sapiens fished a crumpled piece of paper out of a pocket and thumped it onto her tray.

    “Cool. I’ll let you know.” Zoya unfurled it, memorized the number, and then sat for a moment, looking at Tachanka’s face. “You look like him a little.”

    Sasha tilted his head, finishing his last orange. He had a bag in the girls’ dorm for later. “Like who?”

    “..No one.” She realized she’d said her thought aloud and blushed in embarrassment. It was true, though.

    Alexander Senaviev had the same eyes as her father.

    #arknights fic#arknights#absinthe (arknights)#tachanka (arknights) #another Tachanka request came in #and this one was on the short list of 'i know i can write this one given a hot minute' #still was not straightforward as it turned out #busy busy brain #but hey at least i have an orange
    View Full
  • shuuenmei
    18.01.2022 - 1 week ago
    View Full
  • wastehound-writings
    17.01.2022 - 1 week ago

    Unbreaking

    9. Frequency

     “Do you want to…?”

     “Want to… Oh. Oh, uh…”

     “W-we don’t have to! If you don’t want to.”

     “... Damn, I feel pathetic.”

     “You’re not pathetic, Lappy. It’s totally fine!”

     “... Okay. Thank you. Sorry, I just… don’t think I’m ready for that.”

     “That’s really fine! I promise, I’d never be mad about that.”

     “Oh, but, you don’t have to leave! You can still stay here for the night, if you want.”

     “Would you like me to stay?”

     “Yeah. I would.”

    ***

    With their sleep mask covering their eyes, it wasn’t the sunlight filtering through the window that woke Exusiai, but a tickle at their cheek. They reached up and lifted the mask up to their forehead, and saw that it was Lappland’s ear twitching contentedly, the soft silver fur brushing up against their face. Hers was nestled into the crook between Exusiai’s neck and shoulder, her body pressed closed and wrapped around them. Still asleep. They hadn’t had sex, but Lappland had latched onto them as soon as they both climbed into bed.

    This girl… or, as Exusiai suspected, perhaps not a girl. They had only really intended to befriend her and try to break the tension between her and Texas, a friend trying to do right by their friend. Completely falling for Lappland? That, they hadn’t expected. But despite the intimidating exterior, despite the scary front Lappland put up… she was really an affectionate, sensitive person underneath it all. She just needed someone to look past the scars and see it.

    Exusiai couldn’t help themself. With one arm still wrapped around the Lupo, their other reached up to stroke her hair, and she began to stir. Her eyes blearily opened, eyes that appeared equally silver as her hair at first glance, but looking close, they were actually closer to gold.

    “Mm… morning, angel,” she murmured.

    “Morning, handsome,” Exusiai replied, and they felt Lappland’s tail stir under the blankets.

    “You still on that?” she asked, rubbing her eye.

    “Your tail still wags whenever I say it! ‘Course I’m gonna keep doing it!”

    “Mmf… It does… kinda feel nice…” She scooted up a bit and nestled in with her face against Exusiai’s, but got off from on top of them. “Gimme like… five more minutes.”

    “No rush, love.” They nuzzled against Lappland’s cheek. But despite this warm, tender morning… there was something gnawing at their heart.

     I love you, Tex.

     Exu… I love you too.

    They hadn’t even really meant to say it that day, it just slipped out. But it wasn’t like they didn’t mean it. They did love Texas, just as they loved Lappland… But they weren’t stupid. Not everyone would appreciate this approach, not everyone would understand… it could even lead to some serious problems if they weren’t careful. They couldn’t afford to leave this off the table and unaddressed for long.

    “Mehhh,” Lappland groaned. “Sorry, gotta pee.”

    “You do that,” Exusiai teased, ruffling Lappland’s hair as she rolled out of bed. They sat up, thinking over their next move. But their mind just went in circles over the same things. They had made a serious connection with both of them in a short amount of time, and that put all three of them in a precarious position. They could only hope it wasn’t too late to steer things in the right direction.

    A minute or two later, Lappland emerged. She pulled on the hoodie she had bought yesterday and settled in on the bed next to Exusiai. “So…” Lappland started, fingers interlocked and face hidden behind them. “What happens now? Are we dating?

    “I’d like that, Lappy. I really like you… B-but… there’s something I gotta tell you.” Lappland clammed up immediately, sensing that whatever was coming wasn’t good news. “When I saw Texas the other day, and she opened up about what happened… I told her I love her. And she said it back.”

    “Oh…” Lappland’s ears dropped low to her head. “I mean… guess I can’t blame you. She’s wonderful…”

    Exusiai’s halo started to dim. No, no… this is exactly what they needed to avoid! “But it’s not that simple, Lappy… I love you, too. I love you both so much… I didn’t mean for it to get all tangled up like this. I don’t want either of you to feel like I care about you less…”

    “Oh. Exu…” She picked up her legs onto the bed and laid her folded arms over them. “Yeah, I… I think I feel the same way. I haven’t been able to get you out of my head since the first time I recognized you… but you know I never got over Tex, either.” She laid her head down on her arms. “I’m so confused, and… there’s no real way to untangle this without someone getting left out in the cold, huh…? Without a lot of feelings getting thrown away?”

    “I couldn’t live with myself if I left either of you behind… And I can’t help but think, what if it didn’t have to be that way?” Lappland’s head raised just a little. “If I had my choice… none of us would have to choose. We could all just… be together. All three of us.”

    Lappland raised an eyebrow and perked up a little further. “All three of us? Like…?” she held up her fingers and thumbs in the shape of a triangle. “That’s… thinking outside the box.”

    “Wasn’t all that uncommon back home. One of the few things they weren’t super conservative about. So… what do you think?”

    “All three of us… You on one arm, Tex on the other? Damn, Exu… it sounds perfect. But… I don’t know if it’s possible. Brings us back to the original problem: Tex doesn’t want anything to do with me anymore.”

    “Well… I’m not so sure. I don’t think it’s that simple for her either. She’s getting torn in a few directions at once too. She’s confused, hurting, maybe a little scared… but I think a big part of her misses you, too. She doesn’t hate you, that much I’m certain of.”

    “She doesn’t? You’re sure?” There was that surprisingly vulnerable look in her eyes again.

    “I’m sure.” Exu gently kissed her on the forehead. “I… I told Tex I wasn’t going to push her into talking if she wasn’t ready, and I’m going to try to stand by that. But I want to try and put the idea in her head a little more.”

    “Okay… Okay, yeah. If we can get me and her to the same table just to talk, and… she’s willing to stick around long enough for me to figure out what the hell to say… I dunno if getting her to take me back that way is gonna happen, but at the very least, I don’t want things to stay cold like this.” She folded her arms and looked away thoughtfully. “But… maybe we shouldn’t tell her right away that we’re together.”

    Exusiai hesitantly nodded. “That’s probably best… Don’t want her to feel like her best friend and her ex just hooked up behind her back… even if that’s, you know, kinda what happened. But dropping that on her could really hurt her. I wanted to have this all click into place at the same time, but things just kinda happened…”

    “We’ve got time to try and fix it. “

    “I just hope I can keep a lid on it until then,” Exusiai murmured. “I’m a pretty bad liar.”

    “Won’t be for long, hopefully. I don’t like leaving her in the dark. If we can bring her into this, then that’s perfect. But if not, I just wanna make sure she can handle it. This new version of Texas that’s grown since we parted ways… I can’t read her like I used to. But I want to believe she’s grown stronger, not weaker. I wanna believe she hasn’t been avoiding me because she can’t handle me anymore like I thought at first.”

    Exusiai nodded. “She’s not lacking in strength, I’m sure of that much. I think she just needs a little help moving past what happened, but is still too proud and reserved to ask.”

    “Now that sounds like Tex. But if we’re working together, I think we stand a chance of breaking through that ice. Oh, and…” She leaned over and kissed Exusiai lightly on the lips. “I love you too.”

    ***

    The shuttle shook as it docked back into the landship. Texas rolled her arm, still sore after the day’s mission. Stupid mistake, letting that attack slip through her defenses… She had hoped that getting back to it would provide a good distraction, but in reality, it was the job she was distracted from.

     I love you, Tex.

     Exu… I love you too.

    It had only been a few days, but the words wouldn’t leave her mind. Saying it had been an impulse, but those feelings had been there for some time. She hadn’t had any particular desire to remain in Lungmen when she drifted into the city; it was just where she ended up. It was Exusiai who made her want to stay. She wouldn’t exactly call it love at first sight, but Exusiai had made her feel safe and cared about when everything else had been cut off from her, and that feeling never faded. Eventually, it grew. But this was an odd situation for it; they hadn’t done anything particularly romantic before this. No kiss, no holding hands even. So did Exu mean it that way, or were they saying it more in a… ‘best friends’ sort of way?

    And it wasn’t just them. Lappland… the life she had left behind. All the love, all the heartache she had never had the chance to fix. Finally revisiting her past with Exusiai had brought every feeling back to the surface, her heart calling out for what she and Lappland had been. And Lappland was still around, still trying to talk to her. And at least as far as Exusiai made it seem, she wasn’t out for revenge, just closure. Or maybe she wanted back what they had been, too.

    Maybe, just maybe, Lappland was doing better. But that didn’t mean a solution was as simple as just talking to her. She couldn’t forget how it ended, how even she couldn’t pull Lappland out of her rage. How Lappland had fought like Texas was trying to kill her. And how she had abandoned Lappland when she was most in need.

    “Are you all right, Texas?” a deeper voice asked, stepping off the shuttle after her. Saria. “You seem out of it today.”

    Texas shrugged and shook a stick of Pocky out of her box. “Bit distracted I guess. Ex problems.”

    Saria folded her arms and nodded. “I can relate. I’m only just starting to resolve some of my own.”

    “That’s right, you and that doctor. Silence, right?” She and Saria both leaned against the wall.

    “Right. We were… sort of married. Unofficially.” As she spoke, her fingers idly brushed against a feather hanging from her belt. “But things happened.”

    “Things do tend to happen, yeah…” She held out the box of Pocky invitingly, and Saria took a stick and took a bite out of it.

    “We’re back on speaking terms, at least. It took some elbow grease to even get that far, but it’s much better than nothing.”

    Back to speaking terms, huh? Texas wondered as she nibbled her own Pocky. Is that even what I want…? Or is it better for me to just stay away? For both of us? She turned a bit further toward Saria, hoping not to fully show her hand. “You ever thought about trying to get back together with her?”

    “Have I? Certainly. But it’s most likely not happening.” She let out a sigh that spoke volumes. “I’m reasonably sure she and the Doctor are at least flirting with each other. But you didn’t hear that from me.”

    Texas felt a knot in her throat, and she couldn’t delude herself that she didn’t know why. That possibility did exist, however slim. The possibility that, as obsessive as Lappland still seemed to be, she could move on, find someone else. And that ‘someone else’ was likely to be one of the people she had been making friends with lately. Texas’s friends. Would she be able to live with that?

    “Hey, Tex!” that angelic voice said. She turned to see Exusiai bounding up to her, their smile as luminous as their halo.

    “Exusiai!” She flicked the remains of her snack into her mouth and jogged over. Behind her, she could hear Saria chuckle.

    “You two have fun then. And hey, Texas?” She raised an eyebrow and turned back to Saria. “Let’s spar sometime. Your fighting style has me interested.”

    “Oh! Um… sure. Yeah, that would be fun.” Texas was caught a bit off guard, but thankfully, Saria seemed to understand.

    “Mission go well?” Exusiai asked as the pair began walking.

    “Yeah, no major problems. Good time off?”

    “Mhmm! Spent a chunk of yesterday and this morning with Lappland, making sure she was okay.”

    “Mm…” Texas lowly hummed. “Is she?”

    “We got there! She was… stressed after remembering everything, too.”

    “Not surprised.” Who knows what she went through these last four years…? Probably Lappland alone. Another question queued up in Texas’s mind, although part of her was afraid to receive the answer. But still, the question came: “What’d you two get up to?”

    “Oh, uh… Y’know, just wandered around town a little. She got some new clothes, we got food. Nothing major.”

    Texas sniffed. They were dodging the question, and that concerned her. Could they possibly have…? No. There was no way. Right?

     But if they were… Wouldn’t it be selfish of me to be opposed, anyway…?

    “So, Tex…” Exusiai said, “I know I said I wouldn’t pressure you into talking with Lappy if you didn’t want to, and I won’t, but… Have you thought about if you might want to? ‘Cause… I know she wants to talk to you.”

    Lappy?That wasn’t a good sign. Texas shoved her hands in her jacket pockets. “I’m not sure I can.”

    “Well, is there anything I could do to make it easier? What if we all sat in together for it?”

    “Have to imagine that would just make it harder. Look, I get why you’d want us to make up, but…”

    “I get it,” Exusiai assured her. “There’s a lot that happened, just moving past that would be hard for anyone… But, I just want to try and help ease this tension so you don’t have to avoid her like this, so you two aren’t hurting so much when you have to be around each other…”

    Texas sighed, genuinely getting frustrated. “I don’t see it happening.”

    “Have you tried?” Now there was a bit of an edge on their voice too. “You haven’t talked to her much at all since she came here, have you?”

    “No, I haven’t, and with good reason. Look, Exu, you can be friends-” -or more- “-with whoever you want, I’m not going to try and stop you. But you didn’t know her like I did. You weren’t there that night.”

    Exusiai slowed to a stop. “Yeah, you’re right. I don’t know her like you did. The person you describe is almost nothing like the one I know. The person I know was just scared and alone and needed a friend. She needed someone to give her a chance and see she’s not the monster people think she is. Sounds kinda familiar.”

    They started to say something else but seemed to realize they had taken a step too far. Instead, Exusiai merely shoved a hand in their pocket, turned, and walked away. Texas was frozen, just watching them go. Only when they were out of sight did Texas let out a tense breath, the lump back in her throat.

    “Shit,” she breathed.

    View Full
  • johannstutt413
    17.01.2022 - 1 week ago

    (requested by anonymous) Skadi and Suzuran after a long day

    Suzuran had a mission - she rarely did, because as useful as she might’ve been on a battlefield to a more callous Doctor, hers simply didn’t have the heart for it. He liked her staying safe on-base, and it was only when absolutely necessary that he let her ou- I mean, sent her on a mission. She’d gone to Wolumonde to help keep Folinic in check, and she’d gone with the Doctor when he went to get Skadi back and make sure Kal’tsit got there because…because…

    Well, the precise reason didn’t matter. What did matter was that that place was a mess, and it was in that mess that the nine-tailed fox-priestess’ daughter met the white wha- I mean, the Abyss Hunter-turned-mercenary-turned-Operator, Skadi, and to say they got along was…well.

    “Um, Doctor?” Suzuran had tugged on his sleeve as they walked over to the Abyss Hunter trio after Kal’tsit left with a strange woman. “They seem really upset, even though we won. I’m going to check on them.”

    “Hmm…Alright, but if they scare you, let me know, okay?” He reluctantly watched her walk into the shark’s mouth. Figuratively speaking, at least. Specter probably wouldn't actually eat her…Hopefully.

    Gladiia and Specter kept talking despite the approaching Vulpo (definitely hard to miss with all those tails), but Skadi found her attention drifting in that direction. “Where have I seen her before…”

    “We’re heading back to the ship,” Swordfish said. ”Sharky, will you go back in your tank without a fight?”

    “I just got outta damn tank,” she half-growled, half-pouted, in an all-adorable way.

    Her superior officer shook her head. “Alright. Another hour, then.”

    “Excuse me? Sister Skadi?” Suzuran had reached them. “Is everything alright?”

    “Well, looks like you have a fan.” Specter flashed her a toothy grin.

    Orca frowned, thought for a moment, and sighed. “I’ll see the two of you back at the ship.”

    “Seriously? Thought we’d get to chat before I have to nap again.” Sharky’s looks of protest didn’t change the other Hunter’s mind, so knowing how stubborn she could be, the other two left her to…whatever she was doing. “Let’s go to a pub. I’m starving.”

    “You don’t want your friends to know what’s bothering you?” That seemed backwards to the Vulpo.

    Skadi looked at the child, trying to ascertain her intentions, before realizing there wasn’t anything to ascertain. She authentically asked the question, and she authentically wanted to help her feel better. Weird. She really shouldn't want that. “Why do you care?”

    “Strong people help each other when they need it. I’m getting stronger, so I can help people more.” That was how it worked, according to everything she’d learned. “You seem sad, and I want to help you feel better.”

    “What a novel way of thinking.” The Hunter’s reply had a smattering of vitriol to it. Strength couldn’t change what’d already been done, or what would happen, after all.

    They looked at each other for a while, saying nothing, before Lisa’s face lit up. “Would a hot bath make you feel better?”

    “What? Why-” Then Orca glanced down at her borrowed costume, which’d suffered substantial damage during her time on the Iberian coast, and she had to admit, it couldn’t hurt. “...Are you asking to run a bath for me?”

    “I know how,” she confidently asserted.

    Well, refusing would just waste time - more time, at any rate, than being pestered by this ado- strange fuzzball. (‘No, remember - only bad things happen to your friends. You can’t let a child suffer for your past.’) “Alright. When I’m done, you’ll leave?”

    “Um, I can, if you need time to think about stuff.” Her parents had often asked her to leave the room so they could think out loud together. They’d probably be proud of her for being helpful like this, at least. “To the bathhouse!”

    “The ‘bathhouse?’”

    Suzuran giggled. “It’s what my dad always said. They turned an old room into one. I’ll show you!”

    That she did; only a few doors down from Skadi’s room, Engineering had warped an unused storage room into a Higashi hot spring. How? Anyone’s guess; Closure’s department worked in ways outsiders couldn’t possibly comprehend, not even the smartest, and Skadi didn’t see herself as one of them. Especially in light of recent events…

    “Oh, you need clean clothes for after!” The Vulpo’s exclamation broke Orca out of her thoughts. “I brought mine, but you don’t have any with you, do you?”

    “No, I don’t.” She’d walked Iberia in that costume the entire time. Fortunately her room was right there- but did she want to show the child where she slept? Hmm.

    Lisa noticed her hesitation. “I can run the water while you get them.”

    “Oh. Thank you.” Problem solved. “I’ll be right back.”

    “Okay! Oh, and do you want strawberry soap, or lemon?” Why Suzuran had two different scents of shampoo in her bag of ‘essentials’ was anyone’s guess.

    Still, the chance to be lemony fresh after all that travel? “Lemon.”

    “Great!” That was her favorite, too. “It’ll be ready in 10 minutes!”

    “Plenty of time.” …For what? She mentally kicked herself for saying that out loud.

    When she came back, the Vulpo had changed out of her uniform (she’d been fighting as well, after all) and wrapped herself with a towel. At least, as well as she could, considering the whole ‘nine tails’ situation. “The water’s ready!”

    “Good.” As Skadi set her things down, it occurred to her she hadn’t had to actually come back. The thought of disappointing this fluffy- this young, helpful child, after the one who’d helped her in the town that whole time in spite of her attitude, would’ve felt like throwing away lessons learned. She set the bathrobe she’d found in her closet (maybe Specter’s?) on a hook and stepped into the steaming pool waiting for her. “...It’s warm.”

    “Mhmm! The heater wasn't working, so I used my Arts instead!”

    Arts? Wait, was she…? “You have Arts?”

    “I’m taking classes,” Lisa replied proudly. “Oh, can I comb your hair?”

    “...Yes.” There was no way Orca could deny hers- her the opportunity of feeling its softness. A repayment for the kindness at hand. Yes. That was it. Repayment.

    All those illusions broke when Suzuran sat behind her, only her feet dangling in the water, as she gently ran a comb through her Aegir’s silver locks. “I’ll make sure to brush it really good when it’s dry, but you have these weird rocks in it, so I’ll get those out first.”

    “Rocks?” The Hunter realized what they were and chuckled. “Those are fish bones, Mi- what’s your name?”

    “Lisa! Oh, wait, I mean, um, Suzuran! You wanted my codename, right?” She slipped every now and again when introducing herself.

    Skadi shrugged, melting in the steam and delicate but meticulous combing. “Either. Have you ever eaten fish, Lisa?”

    “Um…oh! Yes, we used to eat at a sushi restaurant sometimes! That’s made from fish, I think. Oh, and Mister Jaye’s stand sells fish, too. I didn’t know fish had bones like these, though. They’re brown and crumbly like rocks.”

    “Oh, I see. That cave was rather deep in-”

    The Vulpo’s hand stopped as Orca’s words did. “Sister Skadi?”

    “Sister? I’m not a nun.” The edge came back as she fought her way to the surface, to the present. “Are you done?”

    “Sorry! Almost.” Suzuran went back to combing.

    Hearing the small yelp in that reply, the Hunter sighed. “No, I’m sorry. You asked if everything was alright earlier, right?”

    “I did,” she confirmed. “Um, what I meant was-”

    “Don’t worry, I know the figure of speech. I went to get my…I went to get Sharky - she’s the one people would call a nun, though she’s anything but - from Swordfish - the other one with us, Sharky’s boss - but the reason Sword took her was to use her as bait. She wanted me to help her fight that priest, and I did, but some of the things that happened down there…” No, she couldn’t cry here, not out loud in-

    Lisa hugged her from behind. “It’s okay, Sister Skadi. Doctor told me you were fighting really hard where you were while we were fighting the crawly things.”

    “You- you fought them, too?”

    “We came with a bunch of people to help the people who were living there make it somewhere safer.” The hug continued. “They looked tough, but we’re strong, so we did good. Then there was that huge explosion, and then you and your friends came back, and then we were done! Well, I think Doctor and some other Operators are still helping those people, but-”

    Skadi reached behind her, hand wet from the bath, and patted the Vulpo behind her ears. “You shouldn’t have to be fighting so young.”

    “Sister Skadi, um…I asked to fight so I can be more helpful. My mentors, you, Doctor, everyone has troubles, and they hide them from me because they don’t want to worry me, but I know, and I want to help.” Suzuran couldn’t exactly squeeze the Aegir much, but she did up the hug power slightly.

    “But you’re still a child,” she retorted. “You should be allowed to enjoy that.”

    She fell silent before letting go. The shampoo wasn’t close enough to reach otherwise. “I combed all the bones out. I’m going to wash your hair now.”

    “...Okay.” Orca could tell she’d struck a nerve unintentionally. Why was it that every one of these heart-to-hearts she found herself in ended up like this?

    An incalculable amount of time later (a lot of hair to wash, and Lisa wasn’t in a rush), and the Supporter had finished. “After you’re dry, I’ll brush your hair and put it back in your ponytail.”

    “I-” No, don’t take this from her. “Alright. Do you need your tails brushed?”

    “Oh, um, no, they’re fine, Sister Skadi.”

    Hmm. Ah well, it was worth a try. “Then I’m done. Thank you, Lisa. I didn’t realize I needed this.”

    “Happy to help!” Knowing she had made her happy. “Oh, I need to change, too.”

    “Do your tails make that hard?” The Aegir suddenly needed that information before continuing.

    Suzuran…wasn’t sure how to answer that. “I’ve always had them, and my dad and the people he worked with all had a lot of tails, too, so they helped me when I was little.”

    ‘You’re still little,’ she managed not to say aloud. “Interesting.”

    They changed, Lisa brushed Skadi’s hair back into a glorious, silky-smooth ponytail, and with that, the ritual was done. The Supporter said a short prayer before walking towards the door, waiting for the Hunter to leave, too, but she hadn’t yet.

    “Sister Skadi? Are you staying here?” Suzuran glanced at the clock; it was getting late.

    “No, I…” Why was she still there? She’d stood up to leave, but- ah. That was it. “Can I ask you to do one more thing for me?”

    The Vulpo perked up. “Sure! What is it?”

    “Can I take a nap with you?”

    “It’s almost bedtime,” she replied, “but I can let my caretaker know I’m sleeping in your room. Sometimes Doctor asks me to do that, too.”

    Skadi blinked. “He does?”

    “He says my tails help him keep away the scary dreams.” Lisa rarely had scary dreams, and only on nights when it was storming outside the ship, so maybe there was something to that.

    “Perfect.” Specter would be in her tank that night, so she wouldn’t know her place had been taken by the ball of fluff and good vibes the Hunter was now escorting back to her room. “Do you need anything before we go to sleep?”

    Suzuran shook her head. “I’m okay.”

    “Is there anything you want?” The real question.

    “Um…nope.” She couldn’t think of anything. “Oh, um, be careful about my arm - it has rocks on it.”

    The Aegir heard the words, and it took them a second to register, but when they did, the world suddenly lost a degree of saturation. “You’re Infected? Oh, Lisa…”

    “They’re really small, though, and I take medicine for them.”

    “It’s alright - I can’t be infected.” Skadi thumped her arm, trying to make light of things after a frankly horrifying revelation. “Here’s where our- my- the bed is.”

    Lisa gasped. “It’s so big! All tails can fit on it!”

    “...Can they not in yours?” That seemed like something to talk to the Doctor about.

    “It’s a little small,” she admitted, hopping onto the Hunter’s freely and spreading out on instinct. “This is great! Oh, um, but if I do this, then there’s not a lot of room-”

    Orca laid down on the side of the bed touching the wall, on her side and with a couple of tails over her as she flipped off one of the lights. “There’s enough. Ready?”

    “Almost!” Seeing where Skadi settled, Suzuran shifted so they were cuddling the same way she would with the Doctor.

    “She’s so fluffy,” the Hunter whispered aloud. “Oh, I- ugh. Good night, Lisa.”

    The Vulpo reached up and patted her on the head. “Good night, Sister Skadi. Sweet dreams!”

    “Yeah…You, too.”

    And they were, until a few hours later, when the Aegir woke up to a person-sized weight climbing around and over and onto and off of her; it was concerning enough that she turned on the dimmest light so she could- oh. “Sharky?”

    “Ya got us a teddy?” Specter’s eyes glowed in the dimness. “Make some room for me, too.”

    “I thought you were sleeping in your tank,” she replied, nonetheless doing her best to do that.

    The other Hunter chuckled. “After all that time with that stuffy priest? No way I’d be caught in that thing when you’re nearby.”

    “It is nice to have you back…But,” Orca needed to emphasize, “while Lisa’s here, be polite. We’ll make up for lost time tomorrow night.”

    “Whatever ya say, love.” Sharky gave her a goodnight kiss before lifting Suzuran on top of them both. The Vulpo’s tails unfurled like an opening umbrella, covering them all in softness at least equal to Skadi’s hair, if not softer.

    Even with that interruption, the Aegir wasn’t sure she’d ever slept better than that night, with her beloved lying next to her and a blanket of good wishes and tails over them both. If the Abyss had been hell, then that night made her think that maybe there was a heaven to contrast it to, even after all the world had done...

    #arknights#arknights fic#suzuran (arknights)#skadi (arknights)#specter (arknights)#hi #here on this blog we wonder sometimes #wonder about many things #here's one: 'how much does Suzuran have to get her clothes tailored to work with dem tails?' #here's another: 'will the whole child soldier dynamic and this blog's normal focuses ever be brought too close together for my comfort?' #this fic answers neither of those questions #but it does make me wonder
    View Full
  • johannstutt413
    14.01.2022 - 1 week ago

    (requested by mathmaticalknight) Angelina/Utage II

    Utage needed less than a day to get back on her feet, but Angelina was a busy girl; it was a week before she had a free night to make good on her promise to take the Nue out on a date. The real question, admittedly, was what the hell that date would be…

    “You like shopping?” The trendsetter flashed a golden credit card-looking thing. “The new winterwear’s in now at my usual place, and I’ve gotta get my hands on the new Dawn’s Flash game.”

    “You play video games?” That hadn’t come up in their hanging out before.

    She shrugged. “I’ve got a friend who’s super into the whole Higashi jam; she showed me some I liked, and Dawn’s Flash scratched some itches I didn’t know I had until I played it.”

    “Huh. Well, shopping’s always fun, so let’s go!” The Vulpo grabbed her hand. “Where are we going?”

    “Shuttle depot - it’s a lot of walking-”

    The transporter giggled. “Well, we’re floating, aren’t we? I can get us there faster than a shuttle.”

    “...Alright, I’ll let you drive.” Utage thought through the route in her head. “How do like your directions?”

    “Landmarks please! Much easier for me that way.” Once she learned her routes, Angie didn’t need to think about it as much, but she always kept checklists of places she needed to pass to get where she needed/wanted to go.

    The Nue nodded. “Alright, so once we’re out of the ship, we need to get to the Golden Quarter - should be easy to tell from the street signs, they’re a different color than the usual. The first thing you want to look for is a tall building with a crescent moon on the side…”

    The Vulpo didn’t have any trouble following the trendsetter’s directions, but their destination looked nothing like she’d expected it to. In her mind, when she thought of her friend going out and hunting down the latest clothes or make-up or whatever else she’d gotten into to try out, she thought of a shopping mall or the stores in Victoria she saw on TV sometimes. They weren’t anywhere near a place like that.

    “Miss Utage.” An elderly, hunched-over Zalak man smiled as the pair walked into an unmarked one-room box of a building. “You brought a friend this evening?”

    “Girlfriend, actually. You get the new Dawn’s Flash while I’ve been busting ass?” Utage carried herself like a bull in a china shop, albeit an inch or two off the ground still.

    The shopkeep chuckled. “As opposed to what I’ve been doing? Yes, I have your game, but I expect you’re here for more than that.”

    “Yeah, a couple of the coats I know just came in, too, and…” The Nue looked at Angie questioningly. “What’s on your mind, Angelface?”

    “Eh? Oh, um, I’m more of a window shopper, honestly, so uh…I didn’t have anything in mind.”

    Hearing that, the Zalak’s eyes lit up, and the corners of his mouth rose in a somewhat crooked smile. “Would you like to stroll through the stockroom, then, miss?”

    “What do you think, Utage?” The trendsetter shrugged. “That sounds great!”

    “Excellent. I’ll get your things while we’re walking, Miss Utage.” He walked to the back of the shop, opened a door with an ominous-looking pair of stairs down, and gestured towards them with both hands.

    The Vulpo raised an eyebrow. “Uh, no, we’ll follow you rather than the other way around.”

    “I see you found one with street smarts, Miss Utage.” The shopkeep began hobbling down to the stockroom ahead of them. “Good - you need that in your life.”

    “I need her in my life, for sure.” She used the easy flirt to keep herself in check - this guy was her big into a lot of the harder-to-find goods, after all. No good antagonizing him too much.

    Utage’s line had the bonus effect of making the transporter blush and hover just enough over the stairs she didn’t have to step down them, allowing her to keep between the Zalak and Nue. “I don’t think I’ve heard your name yet tonight, sir. Or your shop’s, even; there’s no sign outside.”

    “It’s best for my business and my customers that I must be looked for to be found,” he replied cryptically. “But, since you’re so polite - unlike our dear Miss Utage - you can call me Jiaoyi. I like to think of this as ‘Lungmen’s bargain basement,’ though some have other names for it.”

    “A couple bruisers came in one night calling it a black market shop while I was shopping, so I sent them packing with a few bruises. He can tease me all he wants, but he knows who’s got his back.” The trendsetter had no intention of letting her inside man go down that easily, after all.

    Angie absorbed that double-header of information for a moment. “So…if you’re not a black market shop, how do you get things before other shops do?”

    “Simple - we’re the shop that supplies them after our customers have their turn.” Jiaoyi, leading them through a maze of shelves with eidetic recollection of their boxes’ contents, stopped in front of one. “I see you can control gravity, miss; could you help me with the top box? My scampering days are behind me.”

    “Behind you? Since when?” Utage teased as the Vulpo gently brought down the top-shelf box.

    He gave her an annoyed look. “You know I’m getting slower in my old age.”

    “A little slower than lightning is still plenty fast,” she observed as the Zalak pulled out a clearly-decorated game cartridge. “Alright, since you’re doing your job, I’ll ease up. Anything catch your eye, Angie?”

    “I’ll let you know when it-” As she was speaking, something did catch her eye.

    The shopkeep followed her gaze…and his eyes widened. “And I thought Miss Utage was the only one who liked that sort of film.”

    “Who doesn’t love a good schlocky thriller on movie night?” Angelina hovered over to a box of B- and C-rated films in a stained cardboard box. “Is there blood on this box?”

    “No, that’s water staining. We supply shops with the goods they want, and we take the leftovers when their other suppliers fail them.”

    The Vulpo glanced around for a bag before just taking the whole box. “Alright, let’s see those coats! I could use something thicker for my longer deliveries.”

    “Sounds like a plan to me.” But Jiaoyi was still rooted in place. “Hey, everything cool? You look like you saw a ghost just now.”

    “I suppose I did.” The shopkeep shook his head, continuing to the next stop on the road map.

    It’d taken him that long to put the dots together, but if Utage was dating who he thought this “Angie” was, his life was going to get…complicated.

    #arknights#arknights fic#utage (arknights)#angelina (arknights) #behold! #i can still string words together! #screwed my sleep schedule again #took a nap before DND yesterday and it's fried the whole thing #and i'm moving to my next spot Saturday #but look at this! #romance! #snark! #potential future drama! #why does Angelina dating the shopkeep's favorite customer cause him dread? #will this come back to Rhodes Island somehow? #what kind of coats are in season? #so many questions...
    View Full
  • wastehound-writings
    12.01.2022 - 2 weeks ago

    Unbreaking

    8. Otherworldly

    “You feeling any better, Lappy?” Exusiai asked. The two of them lay on Lappland’s bed, Exusiai curled tightly around her. Lappland herself was curled in a ball, absent-mindedly picking at the bandage around her hand, but the tears had finally stopped.

    “Yeah…” she mumbled. “Just kinda got lost in my own head. I should know better…”

    “Happens to the best of us. Don’t sweat it.”

    Forcing herself to leave the bandage alone, Lappland wrapped her fingers around a bit of the fabric on Exusiai’s shirt. They reached a hand up to stroke her hair. “I’m really glad you’re here, Exu. Don’t know how you knew to be here, but I’m glad you did.”

    “Like I said, I just had a feeling! Guess you could chalk it up to… a sign from above, maybe?”

    Lappland chuckled, stretching out a little bit. Her legs were starting to cramp. “Y’know, I forget sometimes that you’re religious.”

    “Very few from Laterano aren’t. But… it’s a pretty personal thing for me. Had some trouble with some folks about… well, I’m sure you can guess. But that doesn’t change my faith; I just pray on my own terms. How about you?”

    “Me? Well, we’ve got the She-Wolf… It’s not really an organized religion or anything, but the families pay lip service to the idea of her at least. Guess I like to think she's keeping an eye out…"

    Exusiai hummed, and they and Lappland finally rose to a sitting position. “So…” they began, “I had a thought. How about we hit the town, just the two of us? It might help get your mind off of things.”

    “Going into town, huh?” Lappland shrugged meekly. “I… honestly haven’t really been around the place since I checked in to Rhodes Island. Pretty much only leave the landship if it’s on a mission. But y’know…  it could be nice.” And the way Exusiai had said it… ‘just the two of us,’ almost made it sound like… Lappland’s heart quickened just a little.

    “Think you’d be up for it today? We can wait, if-”

    “No, no,” Lappland hurriedly reassured them. “Let’s do it today, we’ve got time. I can pull myself together.”

    “Great!” Exusiai said, clapping their hands together before lowering one to overlap Lappland’s hand. “Then… let’s set a ground rule now before we go. Neither one of us is gonna talk or think about Texas while we’re there, okay? Today is just for us!”

    Lappland got the strange sense that Exusiai wanted to avoid thinking about Texas too. Now why would that be…? But now wasn’t the time to push on that. She stood on somewhat unsteady feet and made her way to the bathroom, where she had left her coat. And, on the counter…

    “Oh, dammit.” She picked up the bottle of pills sitting there, with one dose more than there should have been inside.

    “Forget to take your meds?” Exusiai asked.

    “Yeah… Probably why I got like that earlier.” They were primarily for the Oripathy, but it did help clear some of the fog from her brain. Kept her focused. She popped one in her mouth and cupped her un-bandaged hand under the sink for some water; better late than never. She swung her jacket over her shoulder and stepped back into the main room.

    Exu nodded, pulling their shoes back on. “Hey, been meaning to ask… that’s sorta your only outfit, huh?”

    “Yeah, I keep it all clean, but I traveled light between Siracusa and here.”

    “Well,” Exusiai replied with what Lappland assumed was a warm smile, “then I know exactly where we’re starting!”

    ***

    An energetic metal song played over the store’s speakers, black and red broken up by the gleam of silver metal. Lappland shook her head in amazement.

    “Exu, sometimes I swear you’re a mind reader,” she said.

    “Just seemed like your style, that’s all! Stuff here can be kinda expensive, but…”

    “Meh, I’m not worried about that.” She gravitated toward the coats first; it wasn’t like she disliked the jacket she already wore, but it was just something she picked up after her old one fell apart, just to keep warm and store her stuff during her travels. But she definitely still needed something warm. Lungmen was a cold place.

    She flipped through until her hand settled on a black hoodie, fairly lightweight, but the material felt nice. And the bottom… it was long enough to cover the full torso, but past that point it was intentionally ripped, fading out in tatters. Lappland nodded rapidly and slung it over her shoulder. But it was a little on the thin side…

    She picked out another item, a gray camo jacket with plenty of interior pocket space. Exusiai reached over to glance at the price tag and raised an eyebrow. "That one's pretty pricey…"

    Lappland shrugged as she tried it on. "Rhodes Island already takes the money for food, dorm and treatment out of my paycheck, so I haven't really spent almost any of what they've been giving me. I can afford it."

    "If you're sure!" they said. “It does look good on you!” The two moved on from the coats. "What about pants?"

    "Man, I wish. Something like… like this?" Lappland picked a pair off of the rack, dark and pre-scuffed much like the hoodie. "This would be sick. But the fuckin' crystals in my legs kinda make pants impossible. Legs are cold all the damn time, but any fabric on the crystals just drives me insane. So it's kinda shorts or nothing."

    "Right… I can't imagine how tough that must be. Hm… what about knee socks and a skirt?"

    "Hell no!" Lappland replied, and Exusiai cracked up laughing.

    "Well, we're in agreement there, then!"

    Lappland regretfully put the pants back, but her eyes caught the shoes at the other side of the shop next: namely, a pair of boots that traveled halfway up to the knee, black leather and steel buckles all the way up. And on closer inspection, there was a hard-to-see rise in the heels. Curious, Lappland kicked off the shoes she was wearing and pulled on the boots in her size. They fit well… and standing up, she could see that she had instantly gained an inch or two more of height over Exusiai. Her tail was wagging hard enough to smack against the back of her legs.

    “I take it you’re getting them too,” Exusiai said with what Lappland assumed was a smirk.

    “Oh yeah.”

    The two began gravitating to the register, but Exusiai became sidetracked by a display of accessories. “Oh, some chain necklaces would go good with that look…”

    Lappland grinned and leaned over to them. “Well, I don’t wanna be the only one getting anything here, so how about… you pick out a couple for me, I pick out a couple for you?”

    “Oh! Eheh… Yeah, that sounds fun!” They smiled and started sorting through; Lappland just hoped they meant that and she hadn’t just made things awkward. But Exusiai probably would have said if it was a step too far, right…?

    Flipping through, there were quite a few different chain necklaces, metal plate shapes for all sorts of things. What would Exusiai like… or, perhaps, what would they pick out for her, and what would be a good counter for that?

    “Here we go!” Exusiai said, handing over two necklaces. Both plates depicted guns, quite similar in design to the ones Exu used. “If we’re trading, then you can think of me when you wear them! Er, uh…” Their halo noticeably brightened and they hurriedly looked away. “Shit, I mean… i-if that’s okay…”

    “No, no, it’s fine! I like that!” Lappland placed her hand in theirs for a moment to take the necklaces. “I, uh, sorta had the same idea…” She handed over another pair of necklaces, these ones showing a howling wolf and a pair of crossed swords.

    “Oh, that’s perfect!” They held the necklaces between their hands, a grin that even Lappland could identify as very happy on their face.

    ***

    “Hey, uh…” Lappland started, a cup of coffee in her hand. The two had bought their stuff from the clothing shop and stopped for snacks and drinks, but… “Think we could, like… pull over somewhere?”

    “Oh?” Exusiai asked. “Sure, what’s up?”

    “Well…” She shoved a hand in the pocket of her new jacket, her old one in a bag around her wrist. “Just been a while since I was like… around people, you know? Not in combat. It’s uh… more to deal with than I remember it being.”

    “Oh! Okay, I gotcha. Um… c’mon Exusiai, think…” They paused, looking around for some place quiet they could stop. “Oh! Yeah, I know just the thing, follow me! It’s just a block or two this way.”

    Exusiai led the way down the road, and Lappland followed, biting her tongue. She was more acutely feeling the lack of her swords now. Why the hell had she left her swords back at base?! The thought of bringing them, in the middle of a city she didn’t know, surrounded by people she couldn’t identify as a threat, hadn’t even crossed her mind. What was she thinking?!

    Mercifully, Exusiai was right and the walk to their chosen destination wasn’t a long one. But Lappland had to raise an eyebrow when she saw it. The sign over the door read The Ends of the Earth.

    “A bar? Really?”

    “It’s Emperor’s bar!” Exusiai explained, fishing a keyring out of their pocket. “Not even open for the day yet. But we can duck in here to take a break. Boss doesn’t mind!”

    The door swung open, and Lappland stepped inside. Exusiai locked the door again behind them. The former nodded, taking in the room around her. “All right, this is a pretty nice place… Boss has a pretty good sense of- oh damn!” She darted over to the other end of the room. “Oh, we had a jukebox just like this back at HQ! Your boss has excellent taste.”

    She fed an LMD into the machine and swung into a seat at the bar, as an upbeat rap track began playing. Exusiai giggled and sat next to her. “You look better already, Lappy.”

    “Yeah, well…” She brushed her hair out of her face, aware that she was blushing a little. “Easier when it’s just you and me.”

    “Aww, Lappy!” They leaned in and gave Lappland a side-hug. “I’m glad! We’re in no rush, we’ll just take this at your pace.”

    Before Lappland could reply, another voice came from the back room of the bar: “All right, who the hell is that?”

    “Crap,” Exusiai said. “Didn’t think Boss was actually in here right now.”

    The backroom door swung open, and out stepped… well, there was no getting around the fact that it was a literal penguin. A penguin who had a gun in one flipper. But it lowered when he took in the two sitting at the bar.

    “Ah, just you,” he said. “And…” his gaze settled on Lappland, before turning back to Exusiai. “You bring home another stray dog?”

    “Aw, c’mon, lemme keep her!” Exusiai said, playing along without missing a beat. “I promise I’ll take good care of her!”

    Emperor clicked his beak and pulled up a chair at the other side of the counter. “What’s this make, three now?”

    “Sora walked in on her own, I had nothing to do with that.”

    Finally getting her wits about her, Lappland started to rise. “God, I thought it was a coincidence you were called Emperor. But you’re the guy aren’t you?” She stood, then knelt on one knee.

    After a moment, Emperor chuckled. “Now how come the rest of you jokers don’t show me this level of respect?”

    “Ah geez,” Exusiai groaned, “now you’ve done it Lappy!”

    “Hey, not my fault.” Lappland stood and took her seat again. “Where I come from, you always pay respect to the boss of a family, whether it’s your own or not. Especially when he’s a fuckin’ rap god.”

    “Damn right,” Emperor said with a nod. “Alright, Apple Pie, this one can stick around.”

    Lappland chuckled. “Apple Pie?”

    “Yeah, the girls gave me that nickname ‘cause I make apple pies a lot. But can you blame me? It’s my favorite dessert!”

    “That one you brought me was really tasty,” she agreed. “I finished it off last night.”

    “All right, all right,” Emperor said, standing and dusting his flippers, “I can tell when I’m bein’ a third wheel. Just don’t drink any of the booze.”

    “W-wait, hang on a sec!” Exusiai objected, their halo flaring up again in embarrassment. Lappland was feeling it too.

    “Boss, d-don’t get the wrong idea-”

    He merely waved a flipper and passed back into the back room, leaving Lappland and Exusiai both flustered at the counter.

    ***

    By the time the pair finally departed The Ends of the Earth, the sun was just beginning to set, a golden light falling over the city. They began ambling back towards where the shuttles would be, but not in any particular rush. Now that the streets were a little less populated, Lappland was able to breathe easier. And when the two passed back over a bridge they had crossed earlier, high above a canal whose water reflected the lights of the city and the sun, Lappland had to pause. Exusiai’s halo flickered - something Lappland gathered meant they were curious - and they looked out on the canal with her.

    "Y'know," Lappland said, leaning on the railing and feeling the cool breeze through her hair, "this city really ain't bad. Was kind of just lights and sounds when I got here, was just so focused on… You know. But now that I'm looking at it? It's nice."

    Exusiai nodded, their halo and wings looking even more luminous in the fading light. "There’s a reason that, out of all the places in the world that Emperor could have set up Penguin Logistics, he picked Lungmen. There’s just something special about this place!"

    Lappland nodded, then turned to them. "So how about you? You know why I came to this city. Why'd you come here?"

    They let out a quiet sigh. "Well… you know Mostima?" Lappland raised a sarcastic eyebrow. "Oh, right, eheh… sorry."

    "No worries," Lappland said. "Don't think I've ever met them."

    "Okay, well, she was friends and squadmates with my sister, Lemuen… who I haven't seen in a long time. She’s alive, but she got brought home in rough shape, was in a coma for a while… She woke up, but wouldn’t tell me what happened. But Mostima knows. When I caught wind she was working here in Lungmen, for Emperor, I followed. She had already left, but Emperor said she was still on contract and would be back, eventually. So when he offered me a job too, I took it. We were the first two to join up with Penguin Logistics. Wasn't long after that when… well, you know."

    Lappland nodded, absorbing the details. A sister… "You suspect foul play?"

    "I'm… not sure what I think. But Mostima is Fallen, which happens when a Sankta breaks one of Laterano's thirteen laws. One of which is about raising a weapon to one of your own without authorization…”

    “That’d do it,” Lappland murmured. “So, you think…?”

    But they shook their head. “Lemuen isn't Sankta, so that wouldn't have done it. And I don’t think Mostima would have hurt my sister anyway. I want to believe there are a lot of details I don’t know, and there’s a good explanation… but when she won’t talk to me about it, of course that possibility comes to mind. However slim it might be…” They sighed and leaned on the railing too. “I just wish she’d give me a clue at least…”

    A friend who had turned on one of her own… Lappland tucked the information away for later. She laid her head on her arms, facing Exusiai. “We’re a lot alike, huh? Came halfway across the world to this city, chasing ghosts, looking for answers… and just got more questions.”

    “Mm… Maybe the answers just aren’t what we expect them to be.”

    “Maybe,” Lappland said with a shrug. “But hey, next time Mostima’s around, if you want some help shaking her down for information? Gimme a call, I’m your girl!”

    Exusiai chuckled, still looking out at the water. “Oh, you’re my girl, are you?”

    “I- Ugh, c’mon, you know what I meant!”

    “I dunno…” They turned to face Lappland. “Do I?”

    Lappland looked them in the eyes, and though she still couldn’t make clear sense of their face in her mind… she was struck with the sense that they were beautiful. The city lights glittering in their eyes and their halo illuminating their brilliantly red hair…

    Exusiai leaned forward, and Lappland did too. Her eyes fluttered shut as their lips pressed into hers. Lappland found herself actually having to work for it; Exusiai was a good kisser. Her hand curled around theirs. The noise of the city faded away, leaving only the breeze. And when Exusiai finally released her, both had to take a moment to catch their breath. Lappland got the feeling her face was a little less pale all of a sudden.

    Neither spoke; neither needed to. They simply looked out on the canal, hand in hand. For a fleeting moment, Siracusa, Laterano, Mostima, Texas… none of it existed in their minds. Just Lappland and Exusiai.

    View Full
  • johannstutt413
    09.01.2022 - 2 weeks ago

    (indulge me for a minute here) Doc x Carnelian

    “Carnelian? Welcome back.” The Doctor greeted his long-away Operator as she walked into his office. “I wasn’t expecting you here so soon after your last visit.”

    The Caprinae shrugged. “My sister is here, the Count sent me on vacation, and where else would I go for that?”

    “Siesta’s warm this time of year, at least.” Granted, it always was with that volcano-

    “I’m not traveling to stay warm, Doctor.” She rolled her eyes, but with a doting smile on her face. “Besides, I came here to see you, too.”

    He blinked at that. “You did?”

    “We haven’t talked in a while, and I was getting worried about you.” Worried he might be forgetting her, even.

    “About me?” He chuckled. “Carnelian, I didn’t-”

    She leaned over his desk, her warm coat’s collar dangling a bit as she did. “You had a nickname for me. Remember it?”

    “...You really want me to call you that?”

    “Alright, then.” That was new; last time, it seemed like she didn’t like it. “Cary, you don’t have to worry about me - I didn’t get to this post because I’m a pretty face.”

    ‘Cary’ shrugged. “I know. You’re still in danger more often than not. There’s only one other person who could’ve pried me away from Leithania like this, and you’re lucky she’s here instead of on a mission of her own right now.”

    “Huh. I didn’t think I was that important to you.” Did the Doctor feel lucky right now? A little, maybe; after all, her sweater was pretty snugly-fitting under that coat.

    “You are.” The Caprinae poked his nose, perfectly locating it despite the mask on his face. “Now, I should find where the little squirt is before I set my bags in my room, but I’ll be right back after that.”

    …Wasn’t this supposed to be her vacation? “I’m not letting you help me on vacation, Carn- Cary.”

    “That’s fine. I’m still coming back.” She gave him a wink before leaving his office.

    ‘This is…different.’ What was going on with her? He didn’t remember her being like this before. ‘How long has it been since we talked, anyway? A couple months, right? That’s not unusual with her mission…Hmm. Something’s definitely up.’

    A few hours later, as the Doctor heated his lunch in a microwave and Carnelian was sitting in the assistant’s desk, he got an inkling of what that something was. “You’re still single, right?”

    “Still?” Did she have to phrase it like that?

    “You weren’t seeing anyone the last time we talked,” the Caprinae shrugged. “That hasn’t changed, has it?”

    He shook his head. “No, it hasn’t. Why?”

    “Just making sure.” She watched him silently for a couple of minutes. “If you let me help with some of the work, we can go home faster.”

    “You don’t have to wait for me - if you want to go back to your dorm, I won’t stop you.”

    Carnelian shook her head. “I don’t think you heard me right - so ‘we’ can go home, Doctor. Together.”

    “Yeah- wait.” The Doctor grabbed his food, realizing the feeling he’d had since she’d returned was her eyes on him. “As in…You want to go home with me?”

    “It’s much easier to watch over you when I have your permission, after all.” 

    Well, he would start eating, but this conversation needed his attention more. “‘Easier?’ Not possible?”

    “It’s cute you think I’d need permission to start.” Anyway. “Your lunch is getting cold.”

    “I can reheat it. Are you saying you watch me sleep?” He slid his still-steaming cup of ramen (still his favorite meal, just…normally prepared) away and stood from his chair.

    Did the Doctor think that was threatening? The Caprinae certainly didn’t as she stood up as well. “When I’m here, I do.”

    “...Alright.” There wasn’t a way of arguing about this with her, he knew that much. “I’m going to eat my ramen. What are you having?”

    “I- oh.Maybe I am getting used to life in Leithania.” There, the ambassador would’ve been brought food by one of the servants upon request, so she hadn’t prepared anything.

    He sighed, handing her his cup. “Here.”

    “Doctor, I’m not eating your lunch.” She set it back on his desk. “I’ll go get something-”

    “I can make another one; eat it before it gets cold. It’s terrible cold.”

    No, because that’d mean he’d be waiting for his to cook. “No, you made this one for you. I can wait for the microwave.”

    “Damnit, Cary, I can’t sit here eating while you’re not, anyway, so start!” The Doctor grabbed the cup and thrusted it towards her- and accidentally sent it all splashing out and onto the floor. “...Shit.”

    “I’ll get the mop,” she sighed, shaking her head-

    -But before she could head for the supply closet, the floor opened beneath it and swallowed the spill. “No need. I’m not in a ramen mood, anyway. What do you like here? I’ll buy.”

    “Barbeque would be nice.” Not that the Caprinae was comfortable with him paying for it, but the display of his Arts for the first time around her had changed her evaluation of him. “I still carry LMD with me, Doctor, you don’t need to-”

    “No, I do.” He’d done the math on this one. “Because I think you’ve got the wrong idea about how to get what you want.”

    Oh, now that was a funny idea. The ambassador reached up to pat his head. “And what do I want?”

    “Me.” The Doctor grabbed her hand before it could touch him and pulled it to her side.

    “You’re not wrong.” She flipped the grip so her hand was in control, settling her other hand against his side. “Did you think I was worried you were in danger? I just thought someone else would get to you first.”

    He rolled his eyes. “Cary, I’ve been a bachelor since I got here. Not even Gravel actually wants me like that.”

    “Good. I’ll still start coming home more. The Count won’t mind if I’m gone more often - he likes to think he’s self-sufficient, and that’s almost true for most things.”

    “Good.” His focus fell from her eyes to her lips for a split second. “Since this is our first date, do you still want barbeque?”

    Carnelian smirked. “In a minute. I’ll be bad today and have dessert first.”

    “You read my mind.” With that, they finally stopped beating around the bush and kissed, and the fuse that’d been slowly burning since that morning ran out. Barbeque would have to wait…Maybe dinner?

    #arknights#arknights fic#carnelian (arknights) #trying something different: #having multiple prompts I'm poking at at once #started this and Angie/Utage II #this worked first #but the other one's coming along #hopefully i'll have it done before moving day #(oh by the way i'm moving again)
    View Full
  • projectfiction
    09.01.2022 - 2 weeks ago

    Requests: UPDATE #2

    Hello friends! Happy New Year! 

    I know it’s been ages since I’ve been active, but I promise I am still alive and working on requests! In the interest of transparency and honesty, I just wanted to give an overview into the circumstances surrounding my extended absence. 

    I was initially taking time off of writing to focus on my exams, but an absolute avalanche of personal issues have plagued my life since November of last year, leading to me having to take a substantial chunk of time off that was both unexpected and deeply distressing. A lot of the troubles I've been dealing with have been health-related, forcing me away from creative endeavours. Things are finally starting to settle now, so I'll be getting back to writing ASAP!

    I'm so sorry for the wait and for not updating everyone, but it's actually been quite a difficult few months for me. I hope you can both understand and forgive!

    View Full
  • wastehound-writings
    08.01.2022 - 2 weeks ago

    Unbreaking

    7. Disappear

    CW: this chapter contains a small amount of accidental self-harm. If that could be an issue for you, be careful!

    Music pulsed from Lappland’s phone, mostly just providing background noise in an unsuccessful attempt to drown out her thoughts. Nevertheless, she settled her weight into the chair at her room’s desk and placed a handkerchief and small bottle of metal polish upon it. Then the fingers of her other gloved hand uncurled, letting two silver pins clatter to its surface. One bore the crest of the Lappland family, the back of the pin lost long ago. The other, the crest of the Texas family.

    Neither pin was dirty; she kept them in good condition as a rule… or perhaps as a ritual. The act helped keep her grounded, remind her of where she had been and had stood for. But having dived so deep into her memories to share with Exusiai… she was hoping the act could now settle some of the turmoil in her heart, however slim a chance it might be.

    She cracked her neck and got to work.

    ***

    Fire and blood. The Lappland family HQ ablaze. Running, running until my legs hurt, until I get to the park. The treehouse there, place to hide? But inside… an unfamiliar boy.

    ***

     “Regardless of whether you agree with it, sir,” a voice echoes from another room, “the other families will not ignore what we do in response.”

     “I’m aware. In fact, I’m counting on it. What they did was unconscionable, it was against what the families stand for. The great She-Wolf would not abide by this. The Texas family’s stance will be known.”

     “Morality aside, sir, the fact remains that they wanted the Lappland family eradicated, and ████ choosing to shelter a survivor stands in their way of that. There may be retaliation.”

     “The Texas family is greater than theirs. Let them try. We will not turn over a child to die. That is my decision.”

     All the while, arms no bigger or stronger than my own wrap around me, confident in their ability to keep me safe from the world. And in my hands, a bloodied silver pin bearing a now-dead family crest. Dead… except for me.

     ***

     Wood clacks against wood and I fall backwards, but I retain my grip on the training sword. The Texas family lieutenant stands over me, tossing his own training sword up into the air and catching it with his other hand. Show-off.

     “Again,” he states. I grit my teeth and push myself back to my feet. No way I’m walking away in defeat today. I run in again, but only after a few swings, I’m pushed back again.

     “Again. Watch your footing.” I charge in, swinging tight and dodging away from a few hits, but the lieutenant is too fast. His wooden sword slaps against my back, and I stumble forward and to my hands and knees. I know it’s coming before he even says it-

     “Again.”

     “What am I supposed to do?!” I ask, pushing myself up and leaning on my weapon. “I can’t land a hit!”

     “You’re going to have to,” he replies simply. “Don’t you think if I were unstoppable, I would be a captain and not a lieutenant? If you’re going to be useful to the Texas family - as the patriarch believes you could be - you’ll need to at least be able to keep up with me.”

     Another voice speaks up from behind me, at the entrance to the sparring room: “But we don’t get sent out ALONE often, right?”

     “████. Nice of you to join us. In any case, solo jobs are more common than you might think. But those are typically given only to more experienced soldiers.” The lieutenant folds his arms. “If you’re suggesting the two of you fight me together, then no. That won’t teach you what you need to know. But fighting each other might. ████, pick up a sword, I’ll watch your stances. Use each other as stepping stones until each of you is strong enough to fight me.”

     He nods and steps over, picking up another training sword, black and red tail swishing back and forth in anticipation. The two of us stare each other down for a few long moments, before we both kick towards each other, swords swinging.

     ***

     My sparring swords clack against his, the sound filling the outdoor courtyard, as do the falling autumn leaves. He spins backwards and comes swinging again, impact after impact echoing off of the exterior walls around us. Everyone else has already left, but we never settled on a winner for today. And we’re not leaving until we do.

     I dig my heel in and duck low, a swing whistling over my head, and take a swing at his legs. But he’s ready and blocks it with his off-hand. What he ISN’T ready for is for me to suddenly spring up, sending him stumbling back a pace, and come in swinging fast and hard after. Clack, clack, my strikes parried, until I get the opening I need. The tip of my training sword pokes against his chest, and he lets out a breath.

     “Ugh, dammit… You’re too good, Lapp.”

     The tip of my training sword raises again, slower, gentler… under his chin, picking his head back up. His eyes widen as he fixes his gaze on me.

     “Only got this good trying to match you,” I reply. The leaves continue to fall around us, a breeze at my back. My body seems to move on its own as I draw closer, lowering the sword only when I’m close enough to drop the other one and put my hand on his cheek instead.

     I lean in and kiss him. His swords fall to the ground and his arms instantly wrap around me.

     ***

     The two of us stand straight upright, inside the patriarch’s office for the first time. He takes a step forward, nodding fondly at us.

     “The two of you show much promise,” he says. “I am certain you will bring power and glory to both your own names and the name of the Texas family.”

     To each of our chests, he affixes the gleaming silver pin of the Texas family. The Lappland family pin rests in my breast pocket below it.

     “Lappland, last of your name, a flame too bright to be extinguished… and ████, the most promising soul of the Texas name in many years. I expect that you two will make a great team, and do great things for the family.”

     ***

     “Hey, it’s all right…” I say, a hopefully-comforting hand on her shoulder. “That doesn’t change anything. I don’t mind at all.”

     “You don’t, sure,” she replies with a sniff. “What about the rest of the family? What are they gonna think?”

     “I think they’ll be thinking ‘if I say one word out of line about it, I’m gonna get my ass kicked,’ frankly. They know damn well they can’t step up to either of us, and you know I’ll go to bat for you any day of the week.”

     “Lapp…” She takes a shaky breath. “How the hell do I even deal with this?”

     “I really wish I knew… This shit’s gotta be scary. But if there’s anything I can do, just say the word. You’re my sworn br-” I stop myself, then smile. “Sister. My sworn sister. I’ve got your back, always.”

     She turns to me, a tear rolling down her cheek but a smile on her face. I lean in and kiss her.

     ***

    Lappland turned over the Texas family pin in her palm, a soft smile on her lips. Better times. Precious memories she cradled close to her heart, no matter how much time passed. Those members of the family that did find out… weren’t generally thrilled to do so. But they were even less excited about answering to the silver-haired demon standing behind Tex. It wasn’t a perfect arrangement, but she kept them in line well enough.

    She set down the Texas family pin and picked up the Lappland one. In comparison, she remembered precious little about the family she had inherited her name from. She had been so small when they had been erased, after all. Only a few hazy memories of her parents, which had only grown hazier over time. Not really enough to pull at her heartstrings, not enough to really feel that loss.

    But they had been Lappland, and so was she. Once she was the last one, her old name fell by the wayside. The family name was hers to use, as the only person left alive who had a right to use it. And the fear it struck in her enemies in Siracusa, knowing they were facing the undying ghost of a family long gone, this last remnant stronger than they could ever dream of being…That kind of power over others was intoxicating. And with Tex… it was a reminder of that day when she, the lonely and scared child, survivor of a full family eradication, had been protected and saved. It reminded her of how safe she felt in Texas’s arms.

    ***

     Fire and blood. My blood. My ears ring, eyes burn, and I drag myself miserably to the stairway. My heart’s gonna beat out of my chest. Fuck. FUCK. I can’t fool myself into thinking this isn’t a worst-case scenario. I know what that bomb was. I know what I pulled out of my legs.

     I pull myself to sit against the wall, just trying to catch my breath. Okay. My pants got shredded in the explosion, but it JUST happened. There’s nothing on me that would indicate it was anything but a regular explosion. Nothing growing yet. No one can tell yet that I’m already infected. Just need to make it back to HQ, back to Tex. Then we can figure… something out. What? What would we figure out? What was there to figure out?! I’m a dead woman walking already. The family can’t help, she can’t help… but, fuck. I can’t face this alone. I’m too scared.

     Roaring with effort, anger, fear, I push myself to my feet. And cursing with each breath, with each step I take, I limp down the stairs. My life just got put on a timer, but no way I’m dying here.

     ***

     I bury my face in Tex’s chest. The tears won’t stop. But she holds me just like she did the night we met, strong enough to fight the world.

     “What are we gonna do?” I choke out. “Most families just kick them out right away… us. Kick us out. Shit, fuck…” Another sob forces its way out of me.

     “Not this one,” Tex murmurs, a hand rubbing my back. “The Texas family hasn’t had something like this before. Don’t know how the patriarch will react, but… they know how important you are to the family. They’re not going to kick you out.”

     “Are they gonna make us stop being a team? Even if they keep me around, I’ll probably be separated from everyone…”

     “No. Like hell I’ll let them take you from me.” She squeezes me tighter. “We’ll think of something, Lapp, and we’ll do it together. I’ve got your back. Always.”

     ***

     Tex settles in next to me, leaning up against the wall of a still under-construction building. Across the street is where our target should be coming out from. Can’t deal with them here, but we’ve got a great view for when they leave. From there, we can follow them somewhere quieter.

     My hand instinctively goes to my leg, the patch under my pants feeling irritated again. They’re slower than I expected, but the crystals are starting to come in now.

     “You okay?” Texas asks.

     I shrug and pick one leg up to lean on it. “Sure.”

     We lapse into silence. She knows it’s a lie, but getting upset about it now won’t help. But… I don’t plan on spending the whole time here feeling sorry for myself.

     “Here, I wanna try something,” I say. Reaching into my jacket pocket, I pull forth a bottle of deep red nail polish.

     “New color?” Texas asks with a raised eyebrow. Instead of replying, I just grin and gently lift one of her hands. “L-Lapp…? What are you doing?”

     “Just treating you like the princess you are,” I say, dragging the brush over her fingernails.

     “Aw, Lapp…” She leans in and kisses me, and I ease her hand away so we don’t damage the still-drying polish.

     ***

     “Lapp, stop!” Tex’s hand wraps around my wrist, stopping me from bringing my sword down. “We already got the money, just let him go!”

     The punk on the ground in front of me scrambles to his feet and runs. Texas lets my wrist go as he rounds the corner, and I don’t move to follow.

     “Lapp…” she says. I sling the swords back over my shoulder and kneel where I stand.

     “I know…” I murmur, a hand to my temple. “I know.”

     She kneels next to me, an arm around me. What’s happening to me? I know I didn’t used to be like this… but the damn black crystals aren’t just in my legs. They’re everywhere inside me. Turning me into something I can’t stop. My head feels fuzzy, rage takes me in battle, my legs are driving me fucking crazy… but with Texas here, it’s a little easier to pull myself back to the surface.

     ***

     Fire and blood. The Texas family HQ ablaze.

     ***

     Texas’s fire. My blood. A scream that could rip the whole night apart.

     ***

     My chest heaves, knuckles white around my swords. Bodies litter the entrance hall to the Sicily family HQ. Some are alive, some aren’t, and I don’t know which are which. But I’m not worried about them. I’m focused on the Vulpo woman standing at the top of the stairs, golden hair flowing behind her and a spear pointed at me.

     “You’ve got a lot of nerve, showing your face here,” she growled.

     “You’ve got a lot of nerve being alive,” I spit back. “You wanted me dead? You shoulda just done it. But now you’ve got the whole Texas family to answer for! I’m gonna burn this fucking place to the ground!”

     “You can barely stand up straight,” she replies, taking slow, deliberate steps towards me. “But you’re right. I SHOULD kill you. I think I will. You’re going to pay for what you did, infected!”

     She comes flying at me, and my swords rise to block. I feel the impact hard. Texas pushed my body to its limit, and the Vulpo is right; I’m barely keeping my head straight. “What I did? You killed them all just ‘cause I’m infected! Don’t you act like you’re the hero here!”

     “Don’t you act innocent, monster! You know what you did to her! To MY Lisa!” Steel sparks against steel, and I’m pushed further back.

     “Who the fuck’s Lisa?” I swing back, hard, and rush her. Her spear deftly parries each hit.

     “Don’t say her name!” Arts emanate from her, and my body feels heavier than ever. She slides around me while I stumble, as though gravity has abandoned me. No… she’s used her arts to slow me down. I barely have enough time to react and bring my swords up to block, but I go flying against the stairs.

     “You infected her,” she goes on, leveling the weapon at me. “She’s just a child! And if the Texas family will employ monsters like you, they deserve what I did!”

     I pull the same trick I tried on Texas. My arts launch me from the stairs, and my already aching head slams into the Vulpo’s, sending her stumbling back. I grit my teeth, the space behind my injured eye screaming.

     “What are you fucking talking about?!” I demand, following up on her with a flurry of attacks. And now, even in my injured state, I’m gaining the upper hand. She may have been a top dog of her own family, but she was no match for me. “I didn’t infect anyone! I didn’t even know you HAD a kid!”

     “Liar!” Her spear spins, and she picks back up the attack. Our blades ring against one another, echoing around the blood-stained hall.

     Her arts start again, but I’m faster. My own splash against her arms, sending her spear clattering to the ground, and her power sputters and is silenced. I rush in close, bashing the pommel of my sword into her chest, knocking the wind out of her, and I follow it up with a kick that sends her sprawling. Before she can get back up, my sword levels at her throat.

     “Now let’s try this again,” my voice growls. “I didn’t infect her. Like hell, I would subject anyone else to this shit. I’m a killer, but I’m a goddamn PROFESSIONAL. And professionals have standards. I don’t target kids, ever.”

     “You’re… serious? But, if you didn’t, then who?!”

     “You’re not the only asshole who wanted the Texas family gone, don’t you get it?! Someone who knew I was infected did the job to frame me! And you took the bait!”

     I turn my back on her and stalk away a few steps. I don’t look back. “I hate you. I lost my family, and the Texas family became my new one. They weren’t perfect, but I loved them. You butchered them all. Tex… I’m alone… I hate you so goddamn much.” I can almost feel Tex’s hand on my shoulder. The rain still roars outside. “And I’m letting you go.”

     “What…?” she breathes. “But if what you say is true, then…!”

     Only now does my head turn. “I'm not doing this for YOUR sake. You deserve getting offed. But your kid just got infected, right? I'm… I’m not gonna let her become another me. Get the fuck out of here. Find the bastard who REALLY infected her, and when you do? Make it SLOW. And then, don’t ever come back to this city.”

     I start to walk away, but her voice calls back: “Wait.”

     “What?” I turn my head to glare at her.

     “There was… one other thing I assumed you did. A Sankta soldier, near where Lisa had been. Dead. Gunshot wound.” I turn my head back, eyebrow raised. “But you don’t use guns, do you? You use swords. If there was a third party involved… that seems an odd piece of the puzzle, doesn’t it?”

     “That’s your business,” I reply, and I walk out the door.

     ***

     Time passes. Don’t know how much. Doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. I drift, just aware enough to take odd jobs and keep food in my stomach. I leave Siracusa and don’t really know or care where I end up. I keep what pathetic shreds of a life I still have in my coat and in a shoulder bag that’s easy to hide. The Oripathy gets worse.

     How long has it been when I finally hear the name Texas again? I’m in a bar waiting for a job when I hear it. Some courier using the name popped up in Lungmen. Lungmen, of all places? My legs take me there regardless. I ax some Sicily family remnants haunting the streets just for fun. Knowing that my name and the Texas name still scare them to death feels damn good.

     The more I dig, the more I’m sure this Texas is the same one I lost. By the time I sniff out where she works, she’s not there. She and her new friends are contracted to Rhodes Island, but their landship is docked nearby. I walk right up to the ramp; unusual, apparently, but they can see how infected I am and have no reason to refuse me. So they check me in, give me meds, and a job as a mercenary. Nothing I haven’t done a thousand times before, and it’s a steady paycheck and three meals a day for a change.

     And then, at the end of the hall… there she is. There she is. Texas. Her hair’s gotten so long. Her ears twitch, and she turns, sensing me too. God, she’s more beautiful than ever. But… she stiffens up, bad. She’s… afraid. Afraid of me. Or just the fact that I’m alive at all. She-

    “Gah!” Lappland blinked, a sudden sharp pain snapping her back to the present. The pin had slipped from her fingers from the force she was using to polish it, and the exposed back had cut her palm.

    “Shit… God dammit.” She stood, leaving the pin on the desk, and made her way to the bathroom. Washed the blood off, wrapped a bandage around it. She let out a deep sigh and leaned on the sink, but even her own face in the mirror seemed hazy in her mind. Tears stung her eyes.

    “Tex… I shoulda just stayed out of your way, huh? Learned you were halfway across the world, shoulda just left it that way… Fuck…”

    She tore her gaze away from her reflection and stalked back into her room. But just as she threw herself onto her bed… a knock at the door.

    “Lappy?” As if on cue, huh? “Hey, are you home? I… I got a weird feeling. Are you okay?”

    The fingers of her injured hand closed around her bedsheets. She wanted to… she didn’t know what. Cry? Not really. Not like this. But Exusiai seeing her this low, this weak? That idea didn’t thrill her either.

    And yet, the dark loneliness closing in scared her more. With immense effort, she pushed herself back off her bed and to the door.

    She didn’t need to say anything, and Exusiai didn’t need to ask. One glance told them all they needed to know. They just stepped inside, closed the door behind them, and pulled Lappland in tight. And Lappland finally allowed herself to cry.

    View Full
  • johannstutt413
    07.01.2022 - 2 weeks ago

    (requested by calligomiles; continuing from this) Beeswax/Mint

    Beeswax was lying next to Mint, sunbathing in one of the Feline’s special places, happy as a goat on a mountain, when a thought struck her. “My sister’s coming home tomorrow.”

    “She is?” Her girlfriend turned to look at her. “Does that mean you’ll be busy?”

    “No. Well, maybe, but I want her to meet you.” The Caprinae squeezed her hand.

    The geologist giggled. “I’d like to meet her, too. You talk about her a lot.”

    “I do?” The acolyte’s brow furrowed.

    “Yeah, but I don’t mind! Hearing your voice makes me happy, whatever you’re talking about.” She kicked her feet against the ground. “You’re easy to focus on.”

    Was she now? “Thank you…My horns are dry now.”

    “Yay! Polishing time~”

    “Mmhmm.” Beeswax sat up and pulled out her horn-care kit. “Here’s the polish, and here’s the polisher. Is there a plug somewhere?”

    Mint had already plugged the polisher in already. “Yep! We can start now.”

    “Alright, I’m ready.” She took a deep breath, preparing herself for whatever was about to happen. This was the first time someone other than her sister was helping with her horns.

    “...Wow.” After some silence, other than the running of the motor in the polisher, the Feline was done with the first horn. “It’s glowing!”

    The acolyte checked the result in a small mirr- holy shit, she’d done it perfectly. “You did great.”

    “Now for the other one!” Whrrr…

    “Thank you.” Perfect again. “They’re shinier than I can make them some days. You’re really good at this.”

    The geologist unplugged the polisher, set it back in the box with the bottle of polish, closed it, and then immediately started rubbing her cheek against the Caprinae’s. “Yay~ What do you wanna do now?”

    “Climbing room? If that sounds good?”

    “Ooh! Yeah, let’s do that!” Mint hopped to her feet, helping her girlfriend to hers. “Before we go though. Chu~”

    It was entirely possible that that was supposed to be a quick kiss on the cheek before they dashed off to the artificial mountain; it took some time before that happened.

    The next day - after an earlier start than usual and more horn care assistance from the Feline - Beeswax felt ready to meet her sister when she arrived…Almost. “I hope she likes you - there’s no reason she shouldn’t, but sometimes I dunno what she’s thinking.”

    “She’s thinking you’ve grown since she last saw you.” Carnelian stepped out of a still-moving vehicle as it continued to its parking spot. “Who’s your friend?”

    “Operator Mint, Caster and environmental geologist receiving treatment at Rhodes Island…and her girlfriend~” To emphasize this claim, the geologist glued herself to the acolyte, purring loudly. She did that a lot around Beeswax.

    The younger sister looked at her elder with a complicated mix of emotions before poking Mint on the shoulder, waiting for her to temporarily decouple, and running forward to hug the other Caprinae, slipping partially under her winter coat. “I missed you.”

    “Yeah, me too, squirt.” She affectionately rubbed her hor- holy shit, they were shiny. “You’ve been taking good care of your horns.”

    “She really does!” The Feline interjected.

    Beeswax nodded. “She helped me this morning; Mint’s a fast learner.”

    “Oh? Already letting her touch your horns?” Carnelian’s eyes momentarily narrowed. “Isn’t that too soon?”

    “Umm…n-no.”

    The geologist stepped forward. “I have a present for you.”

    “For me?” The Sargonian ambassador for RI in Leithania broke off her embrace to step forward and examine the Feline’s offering: a topaz-looking gem carved with a ram’s head. “Oh, this is neat. Did you carve this?”

    “I found it like that.” Entirely true; she’d found it in the wreckage from the old arena.

    The other Caprinae stepped back into her sister’s field of vision, careful not to trip over herself as she almost did. “When we destroyed the arena, the gods left it for us as a trophy.”

    “Destroyed the- what arena?!” That’d gotten her attention like nothing else they’d said so far. “Were you two fighting for sport?”

    “Not sport - as part of an RI-wide evaluation program. She won against me, by the way; her Arts are really strong.” That was the pot calling a slightly-darker kettle black, to be fair.

    The acolyte shrunk a bit as Carnelian’s gaze fell upon her. “I d-did win, sister.”

    “Hmm…Alright, then.” The ambassador looked back to Mint. “Is it fixed now?”

    “It is.”

    She cracked her knuckles. “Then you can fight me, too.”

    “Sister, please.” Beeswax grabbed her sister by the wrist, squeezing. “Please don’t. It was really expensive the first time.”

    “So? The Doctor paid for it once, why can’t he pay for it a-” Suddenly, the Caprinae thought of her Count, and that no longer seemed like such a good idea.

    To emphasize the point, though, the Feline gestured to the smoothness of her gift-stone. “See the weathering patterns? That’s from my wind and her sand. This should’ve taken years for a normal rock to change like this. Together, the two of us are stronger than time!”

    “Hmm…If something happens to her, it’s on your head, Mint. Got that?” The geologist nodded immediately. “And Mila [it sounds like the Chinese original name imo], if you’re serious, you have to take her home to meet the tribe.”

    “Oh, I did already! Your parents were really nice!” They’d given her ear-scritches and played with Bitey for a bit. Great people.

    Carnelian blinked. “Already?...You mean I’m the last one from our tribe to meet you?”

    “You were gone, and I couldn’t call you,” Beeswax shrugged timidly. “S-so I went ahead and-”

    “You’ve got spunk, squirt. Good job. I’ve gotta go talk to the Doctor for a little while, but I’ll find you two for dinner, okay?” With another crack of her knuckles, one last rub of her sister’s horn, and for good measure a Mint-lifting hug, she left to do just that.

    The geologist watched her leave, mildly starstruck. “She’s kinda scary, but I like her.”

    “Mmm.” The acolyte took her hand and squeezed it, but then she realized that wasn’t enough and pulled her close for a hug. “Thanks. It’s been so long, and she seems really stressed…What kind of mission has she been on? The faceless gods haven’t even told me.”

    “She smells like Leithanian rocks to me.”

    Beeswax giggled. “You can smell that?”

    “Yep! I’m a really good geologist!” The Feline kissed her cheek. “Where are we going now? Lunch’s in a couple hours still, I think.”

    “...I want to cuddle where we were yesterday. It’s nice there.” Despite that, she was still hugging Mint for all she was worth.

    That was just fine with her; the geologist loved the sand smell the Caprinae had…and how soft her hair was…and her voice sounded…and-

    #arknights#arknights fic#beeswax (arknights)#mint (arknights)#carnelian (arknights) #carnelian seems like she'd be a pretty good yandere ship for a Doc #just saying #but also MINT #MY PRECIOUS #gotta love that cat #eeeeeeee
    View Full
  • wastehound-writings
    05.01.2022 - 3 weeks ago

    Unbreaking

    6. Trials

    CW: this chapter contains a depiction of an eye-related injury. It isn't in explicit detail, but it is there, so if that's going to bother you, be careful!

    “Sign here.” Texas handed over a clipboard and pen to the client. Once the relevant documents were signed, she handed over the package. Simple, business as usual. Thank goodness. She was seriously off her game today.

    “Cheers,” she said with a wave, taking the clipboard back to the truck. She swung into the passenger seat, and Exusiai backed up the vehicle out of the street.

    “All good?” they asked.

    “Yup,” Texas replied. “Lemme see… two more deliveries, then picking up something the Boss wanted. All over town.”

    “Figures,” Exusiai replied with a chuckle and stepped on the gas. One of Sora’s songs played soothingly over the vehicle’s stereo. Texas was never an especially talkative one, but while Exusiai was usually the one to fill the air and more or less bounce topics off of Texas, understanding that Texas was listening and participating in her own way… they were uncharacteristically quiet today. And Texas had a pretty good idea why.

    Lappland. A name she thought was firmly buried in the past. A past she had thought she put behind her. To say she had forgotten even a second of it would be a lie, but she had started a new life halfway across the world, found something she could call a new family… maybe more of a true family than the one she had before. Maybe, just maybe, she was starting to be able to sleep at night without remembering it all.

    And then Lappland reappeared, clawing her way back to Texas, looking like pure hell. The color gone from her skin, her eyes showing less recognition than ever, the damned crystals still slowly taking over her legs. She was a ghost Texas apparently just couldn’t escape. Every time she saw her, she was filled with the urge to run; part of her wanted to run away, part wanted to run to her in the hopes that somehow, somehow she could make things right… and she wasn’t sure she had the right to do either.

    Seeming to read her mind, Exusiai broke the silence: “So, I heard you had a run-in with Lappland the other day…”

    Texas sighed and nodded. “Yeah, we did.” It was one thing when it was just her dealing with Lappland. She knew she was up to the task, but also, she could remember some of the better times. She could see the memory of those better times still bouncing around in Lappland’s jumbled mess of a head. Lappland wanted that closeness back, and a significant part of Texas wanted it too… But when it came to Lappland being around her friends, it was another story. Her hands itched for her swords. She knew Exusiai was capable of protecting themself and of determining if someone was a threat, but… she could only remember the demon Lappland had become. And she couldn’t ignore the very real chance that all that anger, all that madness, still lived inside her. No one could predict when it would come back out and seriously hurt someone.

    “I talked with her a bit about it,” Exusiai went on. “I wanted to touch base with you sooner too, but we kept getting pulled in other directions for jobs… She told me a bit about her past.”

    Texas slowly folded her arms, hesitant and concerned. “Did she?”

    They nodded, eyes still on the road. “She left out the part about what exactly happened that drove you two apart, but I got the basic details around it. How you two were partners in the same family, how she got infected… how hard it’s been for her.”

    “Lapp, are you crazy…?” Texas murmured. “That was a dangerous move…”

    “Oh, d-don’t worry!” Exusiai added hurriedly. “She didn’t, like, spill any big family secrets or anything. It was all stuff I probably could have learned on my own, but… I wanted to hear it from her. And, if you’re willing… it doesn’t have to be right now, but if you feel up for talking about it, I’d like to hear your side of things too. I’m still missing a pretty big piece of this puzzle…”

    “It’s a pretty dangerous topic to go digging into. Why is it you want to know?”

    “Well…” They sighed as they turned a corner. “Lappland’s hurting. Whatever happened, she doesn’t feel able to just put it behind her. And… well, if it was that bad, I’m worried about you, too. You’re both important friends to me, and if I can help make things easier, I want to try.”

    It would be easier for me to just not have to deal with any of this, Texas thought, but she didn’t say it. Exusiai was just trying to be a good person, she understood that. But she just wished they understood that Lappland was a problem best left alone.

    She nestled into her seat, arms still crossed. “I… I guess if you already know the general details around it…” A hand instinctively rose to partially cover her mouth, and she looked away. “I guess I can… try to talk about what happened.”

    “If you feel like you can!” Exusiai said. “I want to know, but I don’t want you to have to get into it if you’re not ready.”

    “Don’t know if I’ll ever be ready. But… maybe it’ll help you understand why Lappland being around all of a sudden makes me nervous. Why I worry about her hanging around you and the rest of PL. But… not while we’re still on the job. I’m not gonna be able to focus if I get into it now. We’ll talk back at base.”

    ***

     The Texas family was in conflict with the Sicily family, the other big player in our city. Both realized that open war would rip the city apart, but both wanted the territory the other had. Neither wanted the other to be the main family, trapping the other under their boots. For a while, things just simmered. Publicly, the two just stared at each other from across the rooftops. Under the table, both were pulling acts of sabotage, doing anything they could to nudge each other into decline, but neither brought the threat of death to the table. They’d be in everyone’s sights if they did that. Killing fellow family members unjustly would get your own family beaten down by someone more powerful than you, maybe get you erased entirely and let someone else step up and take your place.

     Something changed. We didn’t know what at the time, but I learned later: the child of one of the Sicily family’s top dogs got infected. It was intentional sabotage. Lappland was with me at the time, but they didn’t know that. They assumed it could only have been her. And assuming that the Texas family had not only made the first move into open conflict, but targeted a child? They responded accordingly.

     ***

     The lighter clicks between my fingers, lighting the cigarette between Lappland’s. I take one out for myself and shake the box before putting it back in my breast pocket.

     “Not many left,” I comment, lighting my own and leaning over the railing. Two stories down below, the city looks the same as always. People are just pulling out umbrellas for the approaching rain. They don’t know; how could they? I take a drag.

     “Goddamn bastards,” Lappland murmurs, taking a long drag of her own. Her hair, around shoulder length like my own but much thicker, moves stiffly in the biting wind. “Fuck were they thinking, just… doing it all at once? Going straight from cold war to…”

     She sighs and brings the cigarette back up. I brush my hair back from my face, still not quite used to it being as long as it’s gotten. “They had no provocation to go this far. The other main families will come down on them for it. They won’t survive the month.”

     “I get the feeling they didn’t care,” Lappland says through gritted fangs. “Miserable bastards just didn’t want to see our family on top, so instead of settling for second place… they just decided we’d both burn. Bet they think they got the last laugh in the end.” She tosses the cigarette and grinds it under her boot. “Fuck that. Let’s go fuck them up.”

     I stand up straight too and shake my head. “That just makes us the next targets. As far as they know, we’re already dead. We should use that.”

     “Yes, exactly, for a surprise attack!” She straightens up and shoves her hands in the pockets of her jacket, still looking out over the city. “Those bastards don’t know who they picked a fight with, but they’ll know soon.”

     But I shake my head, taking a step or two back, towards the machinery on the roof. “No, Lapp… that’s not what I mean. There’s… there’s nothing left for us here. While they’re not looking, we need to skip town. Go somewhere they won’t find us and let the other families crush them.”

     “What…?” Lappland turns, looking at me like I grew another head. “Let someone else take our revenge? Have you lost it, Tex?! They killed them all! Our whole family is dead! Like hell I’m letting them get away with that!”

     I swallow a lump in my throat. That Oripathy-fueled bloodlust of Lappland’s is so hard to shake her out of, and after this… no. I won’t let myself believe I can’t get her out of here. I have to try.

     “They won’t get away with it. But, Lapp… I don’t want this. I don’t want this life of killing and revenge for us. I just want you. I don’t want to see you, or us, become vengeful lone wolves just haunting these streets until we die. I want somewhere safe where I can hold you… Please, Lapp. Let’s leave all this behind.”

     She sighs and shakes her head. “Does sound nice… after we make those motherfuckers pay.” She turns back around and leans over the railing again. “I’d rather you do this with me, but if you won’t, I’ll do it myself. But I’m not letting them take my family from me and just walking away. I already had to do that once.”

     “Lapp-”

     “If you’re not going to help me, then just stay out of the way. I’ll come get you when it’s over.”

     “And when is it over?” I ask. “When the whole Sicily family is dead?”

     “When I’m satisfied,” she replies.

     I take another step back, and… my hands find the hilds of my swords. “I can’t let that happen, Lapp. Even if you don’t get yourself killed, there’s… there’s no coming back once you’ve crossed that line. We’ve killed, but for the family. For revenge? On this scale?” I shake my head, feeling myself getting desperate. “I can’t lose you to that darkness, Lapp.”

    “Shit, Tex, when did you lose your spine? We’re the Texas family’s aces! Nothing can fucking stop us! Either one of us can walk in there and burn the place to the ground! They shoulda figured that out before they pissed me off! They’re gonna pay. I’m going to make them suffer.”

     I draw my swords.

     Lappland’s head slowly starts to turn, and I swallow. “Lapp… I can’t let that happen. I’ll stop you, and I’ll get you out of here. We’ll live a life that’s better than this, safer, cleaner… We’ll hold each other and it’ll all be okay. No more killing. Please. I can’t lose you too.”

     “Are you fucking kidding me, Tex?” She turns the rest of the way around, and her hand drifts to her own swords. “You won’t lift a finger to help me, but you’ll draw steel to stop me? From avenging your family? OUR family?” The shoulder straps fall, and she grips one sword in each hand. “Get out of my way, Tex.”

     “Stand down, Lapp.”

     The first drops of rain start to fall.

     Lappland’s swords slam against my own, and the sound of steel meeting steel fills the night. Her fanged snarl fills my vision.

     “What do I always say, Tex? If you’re going to pick up a weapon… you better be ready to kill!”

     I push the swords to the side, and parry strike after lightning-fast strike. The swords spark against one another and slice clean through the railings and machinery around us, our arts channeling through them. We’re moving, circling one another, both swinging our swords tight. Lappland’s swinging hard, but I’m trying to get her with the hilt. It’s difficult, but… I have to try to knock her out. I only get one shot to drag her away from this hell.

     Lappland jumps back and launches a burst of her arts at me, which I only just dodge, and it kicks up plaster from the roof below us. She rushes in low, but I step to the side and push her blades away. I try to whack her on the back of the head, but she’s too fast. Her sword comes up close to my chest, and I hurriedly parry it, backing up as she presses the attack. She’s going in too hard… does she even remember who she’s fighting?!

     I roll to the side and let out a wide burst of my own arts, sending a shockwave around me. Lappland knows what it does and hops back, but not far enough to get away from it. Her body seizes up and she stumbles, teetering uncomfortably close to the edge. I grit my teeth and dash in, but she thrusts one of her swords behind her and triggers a burst of arts of her own, launching herself towards me before her paralysis even wears off.

     Her head bashes into mine and I stumble back, and she rushes unsteadily after me. Her swords whistle through the air around me, threatening to cut the very raindrops apart, and it’s all I can do to just dodge. One swipe gets way too close, and I jump back, but I feel her sword catch my clothes and slice the outer layer open, then hear the brief metallic screech as the blade scrapes across the Texas family pin on my chest.

     My blades rise again to block her attacks, but her rage is pushing her forward, and my arms ache with each hit I block. I can’t take much more… I have to wrap this up now! Baring my own fangs, I push Lappland back and start swinging, hoping to wear her out. Swords clang against swords, the rooftop torn apart. My blades get closer and closer, and I know Lappland knows I’ve got her on the ropes. I throw a swing that should connect the pommel of my sword with her temple, just hard enough to make her lose consciousness, but… Another burts of arts splashes against my chest. Lappland is pushed back at an angle, and my attack goes wide… but it’s too close. Too close. The blade approaches her face, and-

     The swords drop from her hands and she rolls to the ground, clutching her left eye. I fall to my knees, almost losing grip on my own. Lappland doesn’t say a word, doesn’t let out a string of curses, just pulls herself to her knees with the hand that isn’t covering her wound. A sound escapes her throat, but I can’t tell if she’s laughing or crying. Maybe both.

     “Guess I can imagine worse,” she coughed out. “Slow death by Oripathy? Waiting for myself to slip up and let some third-rate mafioso shithead take me out? Or… get put down like the rabid dog I am by the person I love the most?” She laughed weakly, but I don’t think the water dripping down her face is all from the rain.

     I shake my head, tears running down my own face. She just fixes me with her one good eye. “What are you waiting for, Tex?” She pushes herself to sit upright, taking away her hand to reveal the already cauterized wound. “Do it.”

     I can’t speak. I feel my body move, pushing myself to my feet, totally numb. Lappland smiles like she has no idea where she is. But instead of moving towards her… I stumble backwards. Then I turn, and I run.

    ***

    Texas’s voice caught, and she blinked, fighting to put herself back in the present. How much of that horrible night had she actually articulated to Exusiai, and how much was in her head? She had no idea. But judging by the look on their face, she had said enough. Her hand reached up to her breast pocket for a cigarette, only for her to remember her Penguin Logistics uniform didn’t even have a breast pocket, and she had quit smoking a year ago.

    She sighed, trying to steady herself, and grabbed the box of Pocky on the coffee table next to her instead. She just needed something between her teeth.

    Exusiai let out a bated breath. “I… I can see why that’s hard for you or Lappland to face. Oh, Tex…”

    “It’s fucked, isn’t it,” Texas asked. With the Pocky still balanced between her teeth, she reached deeper into her pocket and pulled out the small metal object she always kept with her. The Texas family pin, the scratch from Lappland’s sword marring its surface. “Got word later… there was an attack at the Sicily family HQ. Probably Lappland. But only a few of them died, and no one knew where Lapp went after that. I just assumed… it was over. So I tried to move on and forget. Imagine my shock when she not only didn’t die, but dragged herself all the way to Lungmen and through the front gates of Rhodes Island just to find me again.”

    “I’m so sorry, Tex.”

    She shrugged and bit into the Pocky. “Do you blame me?” she asked. “I fucked it up pretty bad, didn’t I?”

    “No, you didn’t… you did everything you could to protect someone you loved. And I think, in her way, Lappland was just trying to do right by you too… I’m not saying what she wanted to do was right, I… none of it was right. It sounds like an impossible situation.”

    Texas nodded, the lump back in her throat. Exusiai leaned forward and hugged her, and Texas, after some hesitation, hugged them back.

    “I don’t blame you, Tex. I understand. And, now that Lappland is getting treatment… I think she’s getting better. I’m not going to try and force you two to talk and make up, but… it’s okay. I don’t think you need to worry about her anymore.”

    Texas sniffed, let the Pocky drop from her mouth, and buried her face in Exusiai’s shoulder. She took a shaky breath as she felt Exu gently take her tail in their hands and start brushing through it. She could feel the hot sting of tears in her eyes, but Exusiai’s touch immediately took away some of the pain.

    “I’ll…” Texas started, her voice shaky. “I’ll think about it.”

    “Okay. Don’t push yourself.” They kept close, just oh-so-gently brushing her tail. Their head nestled in close, close enough that Texas could feel their breath. And, so quietly she almost felt it more than she heard it: “I love you, Tex.”

    Texas blinked back some of the tears. What…? It seemed like that came out of the blue, but… hearing that from Exusiai sent a flutter through her heart. She allowed herself a weak smile and adjusted her arms to hug them a little tighter. “Exu… I love you too.”

    View Full
  • johannstutt413
    04.01.2022 - 3 weeks ago

    (requested by anonymous) Surtr vs Platinum – Who Wins the Doctor’s Heart?

    “Here comes trouble,” the Doctor noted as he sat in the lunch room with Amiya.

    The Cautus didn’t need to look behind her to hear the heels on the tile. “Doctor, it’s not polite to refer to our Operators like that.”

    “I’m not referring to Operators like that,” he asserted. “I’m referring to-”

    “Doctor, we need a referee.” Platinum, closely followed by Surtr, stood over the table, the former with arms crossed and the latter with hands on her hips.

    His assistant gave the pair a confused look. “A referee? For- oh…Be careful, Doctor.”

    “I can ref for you, I guess,” he shrugged. “What am I judging?”

    “A duel,” the Sarkaz matter-of-factly replied.

    Amiya shuddered. “Doctor, please reconsider…”

    “A duel?” The Doctor cocked his head. “What are you fighting over?”

    “A matter of pride,” the Kuranta explained. More accurately, she lied pretending to explain, but as long as he agreed it shouldn’t matter what the fight was about.

    Right. Pride. “Fair enough. When and where?”

    “But Doctor-”

    “After your lunch in Conference Room 3.” That was enough to get his attention. “We’re not fighting - that wouldn’t be fair for either of us.”

    So if it wasn’t a fight…“What kind of duel is it, then?”

    “You’ll figure it out when we get there.” With that ominous message, the swordswoman and her rival left to prepare.

    “Are you sure about this, Doctor?” The Cautus still had a chance to stop him. “If something goes wrong…”

    He shook his head. “Something definitely will, but I can handle it. Besides, I know what this is about.”

    “I see…You know how they feel about you?” It was obvious to her special sense, but the that was kind of her special thing-

    “Why do you think I call them trouble?” The Doctor’s mask smiled. “They find me on my breaks and either have fun flirty conversations with me or, if they come at the same time, argue with each other until I leave and probably a bit after. In their eyes, they’re the only competition the other has for my attention, and I have no idea why. Guess they finally want me to pick between them.”

    Amiya shook her head. “I’m not sure you should encourage them like that.”

    “I mean, isn’t it kind of cool to have people fight over you like that? And it’s not like one of them isn’t my type or anything…”

    “I’m going back to the office.” The Cautus stood up from the table, taking her half-finished salad with her. “And Doctor? If something happens while you’re with them, Dr. Kal’tsit will want to know why.”

    He shrugged. “Tell her whatever you want if that happens. Like I said, though: I can handle them.”

    “We’ll see…” Having failed to dissuade him, the future queen of Kazdel left the Doctor to his fate.

    A few minutes later, said Doctor walked into Conference Room 3, where Platinum and Surtr were waiting. He shut the door behind him. “Didn’t keep you too long, did I?”

    “No,” both replied simultaneously before the Kuranta continued. “She got here a minute after I did.”

    “I was here first,” the Sarkaz shot back.

    Their prize/referee grabbed a chair and moved it so he could look at both of them. “It’s all good, girls. What kinda duel is this going to be that I’m refereeing?”

    “A chess match.” The assassin smirked as the Doctor’s mask-eyes widened. “We’re playing a three-match set; whoever ends up with the most points at the end of it wins. When Surtr loses, she won’t be bothering you anymore.”

    “Mind using my set for this?” Of course he had a chess set on him. Never left the office without it. It wasn’t the prettiest - he’d had it since before losing his memory, after all - but it seemed dramatically appropriate.

    No way in hell they wouldn’t agree to that.

    The Doctor set up the board himself, rubbed his hands together excitedly, and sat back to watch the bloodbath. “Want me to keep a timer?”

    “There’s too much at stake,” Surtr replied. “I’m not losing to a stopwatch.”

    “Agreed,” Platinum nodded as she, playing white, made her first move. King’s Pawn, nothing strange.

    The Sarkaz responded with…moving her king-side pawn forward. “Hope you can live up to your title, knight-killer.”

    “Oh?” She cracked her fingers. “Alright, then. I hope you like watching your defenses fall apart.”

    “Defense talk from a Sniper? You don’t know the first thing about self-defense, Miss Artillery.”

    The game ended substantially in the assassin’s favor - seventeen points ahead - and left her opponent oscillating in her chair. The Doctor, who’d recorded all the moves they made, nodded to himself as he made a note at the top of his page before starting to reset the board with the colors flipped. “That was a weird one.”

    “No kidding,” Surtr murmured. “It won’t happen again.”

    “Definitely not - I’ll win by a much better margin this time.” The Kuranta smiled at both of them, one more harshly than the other.

    When the first move of the game was the queen-side knight moving forward, admittedly, that seemed pretty likely; however, in a twist that had to be seen to be believed, Platinum made a single error that ultimately led to Surtr winning…and with 18 points to boot. “Checkmate,” she confidently said as she knocked over the black king with a finger.

    “Wow.” Their referee, simply awestruck, reset the board. “Essentially, whoever wins this one wins, period…Out of curiosity, what happens if the two of you draw?”

    “That won’t happen,” the Sniper assured him.

    The Sarkaz nodded. “There’s no way.”

    “Alright, if you say so…but just in case,” he nonetheless continued, “if it does, my word’s the final say. That sound good enough?”

    “Sure.” Again, simultaneous responses.

    The Doctor smiled to himself. “Alright. Platinum, your move.”

    Factually speaking, the players were right: there was no possible way for either of them to win without one of them getting the point advantage. However…there was a way for them to draw with the Kuranta having one more pawn than the Guard left on the board. It wasn’t easy to achieve, considering it would take a very particular set of moves that wouldn’t seem optimal to either of them with the amount of time they had available to them to make their decisions.

    And yet.

    “You’re joking, aren’t you?” Both were looking at their cackling referee in disbelief. Platinum stood up to look at the calculations herself as Surtr stared through the door opposite her. “There’s…there’s no way. We drew, but I must still have the point lead-”

    “Fuck.” No, the numbers didn’t lie.

    That was, fortunately, the point RI’s chessmaster collected himself enough to explain. “Platinum needed to bring this game to a draw with a single pawn more than you on the board. Guess what you two just did?”

    “So we’ll just play one more game to decide, right?” Two games as white, two games as black, that seemed like the fairest chance for both of them- “Why are you shaking your head?”

    “Remember when I said ‘my word’s the final say,’ and you both agreed?”

    Well, yeah, but, “That was because this shouldn’t have been possible!”

    “And yet, here we are.” The Doctor looked from one to the other. “My final say is you both win.”

    “...No. You can’t be serious.” The Sarkaz knew where this was going.

    So did Platinum, but admittedly, it didn’t seem like the worst outcome. “He totally is. Look at him. He’s loving this.”

    “Heh. Yeah, more than a little.” He leaned back in his chair, sighing victoriously. “Y’all want dinner? My treat, no matter how crazy.”

    “I want a gallon of ice cream,” the Guard mumbled.

    The sniper whistled. “Actually, ice cream does sound good right now. Let’s do it.”

    “Alright, two gallons of-” The Kuranta was shaking her head. “Too much?”

    “Just a big cone’s enough for me.”

    Surtr blushed. “It doesn’t have to be big.”

    “I’m actually talking about ice cream,” Platinum shot back with an eye-roll. “Let’s just go before she makes it too weird.”

    “You’re the one who started it,” the Sarkaz grumbled, sliding her hand into the Doctor’s as they left the conference room.

    The Kuranta looped her arm through the Doctor’s on the opposite side. “I just want a waffle cone, nothing weird about that.”

    ‘And Amiya was worried about me,’ their shared boyfriend thought to himself as they bickered across him. ‘That silly Bunny won’t know what to think the next time she sees me.’

    #arknights#arknights fic#platinum (arknights)#surtr (arknights)#king me#lol #no one said someone had to actually WIN the duel after all #just that these two would be fighting over 'continuing the bloodline' like SA and the Nearls in fanon... #kinda surprised i haven't seen that in my inbox yet
    View Full
  • wastehound-writings
    01.01.2021 - 3 weeks ago

    Unbreaking

    5. Faultline

    Lappland was buried under blankets in her dorm room when a knock came at her door. She heavily considered just ignoring it, but a voice came soon after it.

    “Lappy?” Exusiai gently called. Sounded concerned. Maybe they had reason to be. Lappland rose from her bed, wincing at the lasting bruises from yesterday’s sparring match, and trudged over to the door, wearing only her shorts and a sports bra. Part of her just wanted to be left alone, but… a bigger part of her really did want to see Exusiai. She put on what she hoped was a convincing smirk, smoothed her hair, and opened the door.

    “Back for more, eh?” she asked, vaguely aware that her tail was wagging. “Can’t get enough of me, can you?”

    “Guess not!” Exusiai replied, grinning right back. They held up a square white box they were carrying with both hands. “Made you something this morning! My specialty… apple pie!”

    They opened the box to reveal the delicious-looking pastry, and the scent of apples and cinnamon grew stronger. Maybe that’s why they always smelled that way… did they make apple pies that often? Regardless, it was hard to say no to this one. Lappland stepped aside and let Exusiai inside, and they set the pie down on the desk against the wall.

    “Got a knife?” they asked.

    “Pff, ‘got a knife’ they say.” Lappland swiftly retrieved a small one from her bag lying near her bed and handed it over. Soon they handed over a still-warm slice to Lappland and took a bite out of another.

    “Mmm, sho good!” They settled in on the desk chair, and Lappland sat at the corner of her bed, leaning off to avoid getting the sheets dirty. The pie really was delicious though.

    “So,” Exusiai said once they finished their slice, “wild training session? That bruise looks pretty nasty.”

    Lappland gingerly touched the bruise just below her chest. “Yeah, thank Skadi for that. Been a while since I fought somebody who could even keep up, let alone kick the shit out of me. Can’t wait to fight her again!”

    “Appreciate a good challenge huh?” Exusiai asked, rising from their chair and moving to sit next to Lappland on the bed. “I like that about you- oh wow, these sheets are really soft…” They became distracted running their hand over the bedsheets.

    “Eheh, yeah, it’s…” Lappland scratched the back of her head, her tail still wagging at the compliment. “Geez, it’s almost kind of embarrassing to admit, but I got… uh, the chick down in provisions… Closure, right? I got her to order these for me.”

    “A little picky with sheets?”

    “Have to be. These fuckin’ crystals in my legs… Any pressure or anything rubbing against them is irritating as hell. S’why I can only really wear shorts. And most regular bed sheets are out, too… so thank fuck Closure found these. I’ve slept better than I have in years since they got here.”

    “I can only imagine…” Exusiai murmured. “But I guess you make do, right? I mean, I pretty much have to use a sleep mask at night, this thing doesn’t turn off!” They gave their halo a tap-tap. “I-I mean, I get it’s not the same, but!”

    “Nah, I get it,” Lappland waved their concerns away. “I just… I dunno. I hate feeling like I need special accommodations and shit.”

    “Well, what’s wrong with that? Everybody’s got something, especially at Rhodes Island. Everyone’s making it work, one way or another!” Lappland shrugged, and Exusiai put a hand on her shoulder. “Anyway… Bison told me what happened yesterday. You had a run-in with Texas?”

    There it was. Lappland wasn’t really eager to continue revisiting that, but… if she was going to talk about it with anyone, it should be Exusiai. "Yeah. Didn't really accomplish much. Just been sitting here sulking about it."

    Exusiai nodded. "What were you hoping to talk to her about?"

    "Well, you know… about what happened to us. I want to talk about it with her, figure it out… figure out if she really did move on, and if so, how? I… I want to apologize properly. And maybe get an apology back. But I can’t do any of that if she won't talk to me…"

    She pulled her legs up and dropped her head onto her knees. Exusiai’s hand moved up and scritched behind Lappland’s ears. "I don't know if she's put it behind her as much as she says… I mean, she's hard for even me to read, but… I think now that you're back around, it's not as easy for her to ignore, whatever it is that happened."

    “Mm…” Lappland moved her legs back down, hands awkwardly at her sides. “Exu… I’d like to try and tell you a bit about our past.”

    “Oh?” They smiled and moved their arm back down to rest on her shoulders. “I’m all ears, Lappy!”

    “But, um… Can I ask something kinda selfish first?” Even though she had Exusiai beat in terms of physical size and muscle, even if she fancied herself a hardened killer… she felt so very small.

    “What’s that?”

    “You’re not, um… just hanging around to get this information, right? Once you have it… you’re not gonna leave me?”

    “Oh… Oh, Lappy…” Exusiai reached over and hugged Lappland tight. Lappland wrapped her arms around them in return, burying her face in their shoulder. “I promise, I would never, never do that. It’s not that you’re my friend because I want to know; I want to know because you’re my friend. Okay?”

    “Yeah,” Lappland whispered. She sniffed and pulled back away from Exusiai. “Thank you, I… Sorry. I needed that.”

    “Not a problem! We all need a little reassurance sometimes.”

    “So… how much do you know about me and Texas’s past already?”

    Exusiai put a hand to their chin. “Well… I know Texas was some kind of high-ranking badass in the mafia. Did a lot of dangerous things. But that’s about all I know, don’t know what made her leave.”

    “That’s a solid start. Knowing that I’m sure you’ve guessed there’s some stuff we just can’t talk about, even if we wanted to. Famiglia information that puts anyone outside of the Famiglia in danger. And there’s some stuff that I just… I can’t face it alone. Stuff I need Texas to face with me. But I’ll work around those parts.

    “When I was real little, my family got erased. It happens in Siracusa. They weren’t big, and a bigger fish wanted to absorb their territory, so… they got taken out. Same family that did it got erased themselves a couple years later. But I survived, because… Tex found me hiding and protected me. The person, not the Texas family as a whole.” She smiled fondly and leaned back on her bed. She protected me, and I swore to do the same for her… Fucked that up, didn’t I? “She had a different name back then. But I’m sure you assumed that part.”

    Exusiai nodded but didn’t speak, and Lappland continued: “Anyway, she brought me back to the Texas family HQ. The heads debated about it, but ultimately the patriarch made the call to let me stay. So me and Tex grew up together, trained together, eventually got sworn in together. From that moment on, I was officially a member of the Texas family too. Tex was my sworn sister… and more.

    “Before long, the heads of the family figured out they had a couple of aces in their hand. Nobody could step up to the two of us. Each one of us could take down a crowd single-handedly. Together? An army couldn’t touch us. Plenty tried. Plenty died. So we went where the family needed some real muscle to sort shit out, and before long, the Texas family started to become a major power in our city, maybe could have rivaled the main families in the other major Siracusan cities.

    “And then… I got infected.” Lappland let out a tense breath, running her fingers across the black crystal growths in her legs. “Was a solo mission. Supposed to be a surprise attack, but somehow he got word I was coming. And I didn’t get word that he somehow got his hands on a fucking Originium bomb. When he realized he was fucked, he set it off. I dove behind something and kept it from killing me, but I got hit in the legs…” Never been so scared in my life.

    “Tex was the only person I told. I hid it, even when the crystals started coming in, even when it hurt like hell… Some days it felt like my brain was itching from it. But I kept it to myself, and I know Tex never told a soul. I was proud of my position, proud of my family… Proud to fight next to Tex. If it got out, all that woulda been ruined. But… it was affecting me. The face blindness was slowly creeping in, and I was getting angrier. Colder… except with Tex. The people I was fighting, killing… they started feeling less like people. Just targets. Tex did everything she fucking could to keep me grounded, and it did help, but…”

    She sighed again, trying to will the lump in her throat to leave. “I got found out. Don’t know how, don’t know who, but word got out I was infected. Nobody was happy about that. Not only was I a psycho killer, I was a diseased freak. People wanted me gone. A-and…” She shook her head. “Sorry. That next part, I… I can’t. Not alone. I can’t.”

    Exusiai squeezed her hand. “It’s okay, Lappy. You don’t have to say it.”

    Lappland nodded. “Okay. Well… things happened, and I was alone. The Texas family was gone, and Tex wasn’t in Siracusa anymore. I just got worse. Just drifted through the next few years, killing, letting myself fall apart. Waiting for something or someone to come kill me, but too proud to go down without a fight. So I stayed alive, because nobody could beat me.” Barely even remember those four years…

    “And then I heard a rumor that someone named Texas popped up in Lungmen. Longshot, but I had nothing to lose. Followed the trail here. Closer I got, the more I was sure I had found Tex again. Ripped through some mafioso rejects that got sent out here on the way, turned myself in to Rhodes Island when I figured out that’s where Tex went. I had so much I wanted to say to her, wanted her to say to me. Part of me wanted a fight, part wanted to just hold her again. But when I finally saw her, and she saw me… God, I’d never seen her afraid like that before. Everything I wanted to say just left me. And then she turned and left too.”

    Lappland leaned her head on Exusiai’s shoulder, and they wrapped a comforting arm around her. “So that’s it,” she concluded. “That’s my fucked up life.”

    “I assumed it must have been pretty serious…” Exusiai murmured. “You’ve been through more than anyone should have to.”

    "I guess. I just-oh!" Her train of thought was interrupted as she felt a pleasant tug at her tail. She twisted around and saw that Exusiai had scooted back and was running a brush gently through it, using her other hand to hold it still. Did she just have that brush on her already?

    "This always helps Tex relax," they said with a wink, "at least after she stops blushing so much! Lemme know if you want me to stop."

    "Uh, no, this is… this is nice." Even Texas had never handled her tail quite like this. She could feel some of the tension easing off of her body, a warm blush on her face.

    "Anyway," Exusiai continued, "you were saying?"

    Lappland chuckled. "You're mean, making me keep a straight face while you do that. But…" She pulled a leg up onto the bed and leaned her head on it again. "I dunno. I just don't know what to do now. I kept going this long just on the hope that I'd find Texas again, but now that I have… she doesn't want anything to do with me anymore. Why am I even still here…? I don't want to just be a murderous lone wolf anymore. But without her, I don't know how to be anything else…"

    "Well, you're a friend who means a lot to me, even after only a few weeks," Exusiai assured her. "I'd be really sad if you weren't here… And I know the rest of the PL girls feel the same way. That's a start, right?"

    “Yeah…” Lappland remained still for a few moments, then leaned back and wrapped her arms tightly around Exusiai. “Yeah. It’s a start.”

    View Full
  • randomnumbers751650
    29.12.2021 - 4 weeks ago

    Doctor: Operator Ash, how are you today?

    Ash: Doctor, I’m good. I’m just exploring the landship. I can submit a report of areas that might present structural weaknesses.

    Doctor: That’s wonderful, but pleasedontincreasemyworkload...

    Ash: Did you say something, Doctor?

    Doctor: Nothing. And where are you teammates?

    Ash: Frost joined the hunting team, already went with operators Vermeil and Meteor. Operator Nian insisted that Blitz and Tachanka join her and operator Lava in the cinema club today. I’d rather not spend much time around operator Nian.

    Doctor: I see, Nian tends to be like that. Can I ask you favor? I need someone to oversee the cadets’ training. I can’t find anyone at the moment, since most trainers are unavailable right now. I know it’s just two days since you joined and haven’t met our CEO yet, but you’re an experienced soldier. You could teach them how to survive in the battlefield.

    Ash: With the due respect, I’m not the best drill instructor.

    Doctor: I will owe you a favor. Whatever is in my power to do for you, I will. I can convince Amiya to help you with anything.

    Ash: ...alright. I wonder if you can truly help us, but... this can be a learning opportunity as well.

    Doctor: Here’s your schedule.

    (Ash arrives at the training room)

    Ash: Alright, gentlemen, I-

    (Ash stops and sees Suzuran, Shamare and Popukar waiting)

    Suzuran: Oh, well met, miss. Are you today’s instructor?

    Ash: How...how old are you?

    (Ash leaves quickly and grabs the Doctor by the collar, while all of the Doctor’s bodyguards aim their blades and arrows at her vitals; Ash doesn’t care)

    Doctor: Ga-ah!

    Ash: WHY ARE YOU SENDING CHILDREN TO THE BATTLEFIELD?

    (Amiya shows up in the scene, panting, still wearing scrubs)

    Amiya: Wait, please drop your weapons!

    (Ash turns her head to see her, all of the Doctor’s bodyguards lower their weapons)

    Amiya: Ma’am, I’m Amiya, the CEO of Rhodes Island. I’m sorry for not having met you already. My oripathy has flared up and I needed rest for a couple of days. Please, do not hurt the Doctor and let us talk.

    (Ash lets the Doctor go, still dumbfounded that the CEO is a teenager)

    Amiya: Operator Ash, right? I am pretty sure your wrath is understandable and let me say that I sympathize with you. Unfortunately the nations of Terra have not learned a few things yet and we cannot change that for now. We have a lot to learn from you and your friends, including the young cadets. Please, help them.

    Ash: ...Yes, ma’am.

    (Ash leaves and some of the bodyguards carry a still shocked Doctor, while Kal’tsit appears besides Amiya)

    Kal’tsit: Normally, you are not that level-headed when someone tries to hurt the Doctor. She had full intention of beating the Doctor to a pulp.

    Amiya: My powers allowed me to feel Ash’s wrath and I had to run away from the infirmary. I don’t know what happens in her country, but it seems sending children to fight is an unforgivable sin to her. It was so...pure? Intense?

    Kal’tsit: Do you agree with her?

    Amiya: It would be hypocritical, but...

    Kal’tsit: I understand. Team Rainbow isn’t the first of their kind here and they won’t be the last. I am pretty sure you still remember Miss Aroma.

    Amiya: I know...

    (Ash returns to the training room with more questions than before, only to find the kids...baking?)

    Suzuran: Ah, miss, welcome back.

    Ash: Call me operator Ash.

    Suzuran: Ash, we want to have you welcomed. So we’re baking a cake for you!

    Ash: Why?

    Shamare: Morti told me you are different from us.

    Suzuran: But we’re all a bit different here, so we want to have you feel welcomed.

    Popukar: Popukar welcomes Ash.

    Suzuran: If we leave the cake baking now, we can have a tea party when we finish training.

    Ash: Yes...I will look forward to our tea party...

    #arknights #rainbow six siege #cytus ii#crossover #i wanted to write a proper fic #but i only know ash from the crossover #but this idea didn't leave my head #but the culture shock was the most interesting part of the event #and given how ash beat up that guy #she'd do the same for the doctor #it amiya hadn't intervened
    View Full
  • wastehound-writings
    28.12.2021 - 4 weeks ago

    Unbreaking

    4. Ricochet

    Lappland lay sprawled out on her bed, kicking her feet where they dangled off the edge. She scrolled through her phone, eyes scanning over search results that really weren’t providing any useful answers. She shrugged, let the phone plop down on the bed next to her, and went back to looking at the ceiling. “C’mon, I get what it is…” she grumbled. “Doesn’t tell me shit about how you pick it out.”

    She rolled over and quite enjoyed the feeling of not having her hair caught under her. This short hair felt so much better. But surely that alone wasn’t evidence of anything.

    “I can’t just look inside…” She sighed, then chuckled to herself. “Well, I guess you could, once.”

    She shook her head and picked her phone back up, opening up her contacts. Contacts. She had contacts. For years the only one in her phone was Texas’s old number that didn’t connect anymore. Now there were four whole active users on the list with her. She smiled fondly seeing Exusiai’s name there… but they were out on a job right now and set to do-not-disturb. Same with Sora, and Croissant was offline. Bison was online though.

    L: yo what’s up B: oh hey! nm B: sparring B: well on break from sparring L: oh sick L: room for one more? B: oh sure! B: going against a strong opponent might help us get stronger too… B: we’ll be here!

    Lappland grinned and kicked up and off the bed, her tail wagging contentedly. She pulled on her boots and jacket, and did not get her hair caught underneath and have to pull it back out and have it all staticy and messy afterwards. God the short hair was better.

    Her hand instinctively reached for her swords, but… she retracted it and closed it into a fist. She had been at Rhodes Island for a hot minute now and hadn’t run into any trouble. She would be okay leaving the swords in her room… probably. Right? There was the concealed knife in the jacket, anyway, and she wouldn’t be using real weapons to spar. It would be okay. She was safe.

    Repeating this to herself, she took a deep breath and exited her dorm. Her hands remained firmly in her jacket pockets, even as she passed relatively few people in the halls. People she couldn’t identify, and when she was without her weapons… no. No, she was safe. Few if any of them were armed either, and people were friendly at Rhodes Island. She was safe.

    She soon reached the Rhodes Island training grounds, continuing to reassure herself this way. Since there wasn’t an organized drill session scheduled for the rookie operators that day, the place was pretty deserted. Lappland saw two individuals circling one another and trading occasional blows, one with a round shield and one with a lance, both looking too big for the operators carrying them. A third person leaned against the far wall, motionless, wearing dark clothes and an unusual hat.

    Without greeting just yet and interrupting the sparring match, Lappland briskly made her way over to the racks of training weapons. She didn’t care if they weren’t real weapons and wouldn’t do more than bruise somebody no matter how hard one swung them, she just wanted the weight of swords in her hands. She found a pair that was close enough to her real weapons in terms of weight and balance, even if they were shaped differently. Her own were custom-made to best make use of her arts, after all. She couldn’t expect Rhodes Island to have anything like that on hand. But as she had hoped, feeling the weight of the training swords in her hands did a lot to calm her down.

    “Oh, there you are, Lappland!” one of the two people sparring said. Bison… she was pretty sure. Had the horns and the voice, though it was a little strained with the effort of the mock fight. Besides, the other two in the room had silver hair. Lappland nodded and waved.

    “Didn’t wanna interrupt,” she said.

    “No worries! Noticed someone come in while we were at it, but I didn’t wanna lose focus…” she paused and gave Lappland a grin, but she couldn’t tell if it was genuine or snarky. “I like the haircut, by the way!”

    Was she being sarcastic? Lappland really couldn’t tell, and she didn’t know Bison well enough to judge if she would be sarcastic about that. And she wasn’t eager to look stupid if she mistakenly took it as genuine…

    Lappland stuffed a hand in her jacket pocket and smirked. “Keeps it out of my way for fighting.”

    “I’m gonna have to figure that out once mine gets longer…” Bison murmured. The person she had been sparring with stepped over next to her.

    “Should tie it back in a ponytail like mine!” this second person said. Their voice was… difficult to place.

    “Oh, yeah!” Bison said. “I dunno if you two have met; this is Grani! She and I go to the same voice coach.”

    “Don’t think we have,” Lappland replied. “Wouldn’t remember even if we did. Faces don’t stick around in my mind so well… I’m Lappland, the scary one who lurks around Texas and jokes about murder.”

    "O-oh, yeah, I've seen you around…"

    “So I had an idea while you were on the way,” Bison continued, breaking the awkward moment. “You’re like a pro fighter, right?”

    “Sure,” Lappland said with a fanged grin. “Self-taught, but I’ve been swords-for-hire for years, and a top dog in… well, in certain circles in Siracusa.” Elaborating further would be giving uninvolved civilians more information than they needed, and she imagined they could fill in the blanks they needed to on their own.

    “Well, perfect then!”

    Lappland blinked. “I-is it?”

    “Sure!” Bison said, stepping a little closer. “We’ve got… what, three years of combat experience between the two of us? Four years, maybe? Neither one of us would stack up to you alone, but if we went against you two-on-one, I bet we’d learn a lot!”

    Lappland’s grin returned. “Ahh, I see your angle. Think even two of you will be able to stack up?”

    “One way to find out!” Grani chimed in, giving her spear a twirl and ending in a battle-ready stance.

    “Damn right.” Lappland twirled the training swords and stepped out into the main sparring arena, the two younger fighters following behind. The two stared her down, and her gaze drifted between the two of them.

    “First lesson,” she said, knuckles tightening on the mock swords one by one. “If you decide to pick up a weapon… don’t hesitate. Be ready to fight like a woman possessed.” Abruptly she launched forward, deftly parrying Grani’s lance and sliding it down into the ground, then taking a swing with the other at Bison, forcing her to block. “And if it’s a real weapon, you better be ready to kill!”

    She spun hard, forcing Bison and Grani to both dance back away from her blades. She lanced towards Grani with both blades, and Grani parried each strike with less and less room to breathe between attacks. As soon as she batted aside one sword, the next was already swinging at her.

    Lappland’s ears twitched, and she ducked just as Bison’s shield swung at her. She felt it graze against her hair, but stuck her leg out wide and spun on a heel, tripping Bison and making her land on her shield. Keeping her momentum going, she kicked backwards away from a downward chop from Grani and rolled backwards onto her feet. Another kick forward and flurry of strikes, and Grani quickly became overwhelmed and stumbled back onto her rear.

    “C’mon, you two can do better than that!” Lappland jeered as the other two fighters rose to their feet. “Back up, try it again!”

    ***

    “Ugh, it’s no use…” Grani complained, leaning on her spear with one arm and massaging her aching side with the other. “You’re too good…”

    “That’s how you get real strength,” Lappland said, stretching. “Run up against something way stronger than yourself, and fight it. Fight until you can’t stand up straight anymore, then keep fighting. Fight until you win. Then fight until you never lose.”

    “Harsh…” Bison murmured, gingerly feeling a bruise on her arm. “Guess I see the logic though…”

    “Hey,” Grani started, straightening up, “I’ve got an idea then… I wanna see what happens when two really strong people fight! Hey, Skadi!”

    “No,” the person leaning against the wall said simply. She had been there the whole time, watching, but not moving or speaking at all. “I’m just here to observe.”

    “Aw, c’mon Skadi! You’re crazy strong too! We could learn so much watching two strong people fight!”

    “Anything you could learn watching me fight isn’t worth learning,” Skadi insisted. “My skills aren’t meant for regular people who just have jobs to do. A person doesn’t end up like me by living a safe, normal life.”

    “Well, what a coincidence,” Lappland chimed in with a trademark grin. “I could say about the same. Come on, let’s show these kids what real power looks like!”

    “I realize what you are,” Skadi said, turning her cold gaze to Lappland. “It’s quite possible you could understand… but not the leagues of difference in our strength. I mean no insult; certainly, you’re a capable fighter. But we were bred to hunt very different prey.”

    “Aw, whassa matter?” Lappland taunted, stepping closer. “Scared I might give you a challenge? Scared you might like it? Scared that, in the heat and passion of battle against an opponent as battle-hardened as you, you might find yourself falling hopelessly in love with me?”

    Skadi just kept staring daggers into Lappland, and Lappland just kept smiling. “If I agree to one round, will it shut you up?”

    “That’s the spirit!” Lappland hurried back into the training area, while Grani and Bison hurriedly exited to the viewing area. Skadi begrudgingly pushed herself up from the wall and selected the biggest and heaviest sword she could find in the training weapon racks, though from the way she held it Lappland could tell she was used to something even more difficult to wield. She stalked over to the opposite side of the arena, holding the sword against the ground in front of her. But Lappland knew better than to assume she was presenting a window of attack.

    “Draw,” said Skadi.

    Lappland didn’t hesitate before she was moving, her left sword rising from her side for an uppercut. Skadi merely shifted her sword arm, bringing the heavy blade up deftly to block, but Lappland anticipated this. Her right sword was already swinging in for an overhead chop.

    Skadi’s free hand slammed into the handle of her blade, bringing it up in a quick half-circle, quicker than Lappland expected. Her right-hand sword was pushed to the side, and Skadi used the momentum and twisted her body, then shoved the sword forward pommel-first into Lappland’s chest, sending her stumbling back and only just retaining her footing.

    The breath was driven from her lungs, but as it returned, it returned in a laugh. “Wonderful, wonderful!” she coughed out. “This is the kind of fight I was hoping for!”

    She spun her swords and rushed in again, keeping her attacks quick and close this time, forcing Skadi to rely on speed instead of power. Yet despite the size of her weapon and nonchalant stance, she seemed to have no trouble keeping up. Dull thuds rang out throughout the training chamber as the weapons slammed into one another. Though Lappland didn’t let herself get caught unaware again, each time Skadi pushed back on the offensive, it was with enough force to send her opponent skidding backwards; no amount of bracing herself was enough to hold her ground.

    And as they fought, Lappland realized she didn’t need to be able to read Skadi’s face to understand her. The lust for battle, the instinct to unleash every drop of might she had on an opponent who was worthy of it… she knew these things well enough to recognize them anywhere. Skadi could try to hide it, but she felt the rush too, Lappland just knew she did.

    Skadi’s attack pushed Lappland up against the wall, but she used this to her advantage; her boot pressed up against it, and she launched herself forward faster than ever. A flurry of lightning-fast strikes rang out against Skadi’s blade, before Lappland brought both swords down, hard. They were deftly blocked, but with a burst of her arts, Lappland pushed herself up through the swords and into the air, then quickly extended her leg in a kick at Skadi’s head.

    And Skadi’s hand darted forward and caught Lappland by the ankle.

    Skadi spun Lappland around once, giving enough momentum for her to launch her higher into the air, and before Lappland could regain her balance, she felt Skadi’s weapon collide with her  chest and send her flying across the room, rolling to a thud against the far wall. The training swords clattered to the ground away from her.

    Lappland groaned and rolled over onto her back, but despite her aching ribs, she was still giggling. When was the last time she had had this much fun in a fight? Skadi’s boots clacked against the now thoroughly scuffed floor, but the fight was over, and both of them knew it. She stood over Lappland, the faintest hint of a smile on her lips.

    “I’ll admit,” she said, offering a hand which Lappland took, “I had to put forth some effort.”

    “Well, I’m on the right track then!” Lappland managed to cough out as she was pulled to her feet. “Guess I’ll really have to bring it next time.”

    “Oh, were you holding back?” The smirk on Skadi’s face grew a little.

    “Maybe, maybe,” Lappland lied through her teeth. If she had tried any harder, it would have become self-destructive. What the hell kind of prey was Skadi trained to fight? And how much stronger could Lappland get if she sparred against her more often?

    Limping a little, Lappland followed Skadi to the viewing area, but paused as they passed through; there was another figure standing in the doorway leading back into the hall, watching with crossed arms. A very familiar figure. Texas.

    And just as Lappland and Skadi entered the viewing area, Texas exited into the hall.

    “H-hey!” Lappland objected, following after her. But she couldn’t keep much of a pace as beat-up as she was. “Hold on a sec! Tex!”

    The hall turned a corner a little ways ahead, and Lappland was just losing ground. Texas didn’t turn back around, but she hesitated at the corner.

    “Tex, will you just hold on a second?!” Lappland called out, limping to a stop with some distance still between them. “Just talk to me, please! I’m not trying to fight you!” Not that she could right now, anyway.

    “Lapp,” she said, still not turning around. “You’ve made friends.”

    “I… I guess I have. But they’re not you.”

    “No, they’re not.” Lappland couldn’t help but notice how still Texas’s tail was. How ice-cold the hall felt. “It’s good they’re not me.”

    “Tex-”

    “Just forget about me, Lapp. Be with your new friends. I don’t even care that some of them are my friends too. Just…” She let out a quiet sigh. “We can’t go back. The past is dead, and we can’t go back. I’ve moved on… You should move on too.”

    Moved on…? “Do you really believe that, Tex?”

    Texas didn’t speak further, and after a moment, she turned the corner and walked away. Lappland’s eyes drifted to the floor.

    “Move on…?” she whispered. “I can’t move on, Tex. Not without you.”

    View Full