Description: While conflict rages around Illyria, the wandering samurai Jubei takes to assaulting and investigating the forces at work along the leyline. But while he is entering a fray, he comes across Clio St. Jeanne on her way out of one. The former NOL Lieutenant and the S-Rank bounty fend off some of Mab's forces and discuss the future and the myriad possibilities laid out before people like them.
The old samurai was well accustomed to avoiding the limelight. In his time on Earth, he kept to the shadows, carrying out tasks the world at large would be better off never knowing about. He does not take on these duties for fame, or glory. There was once a time that money was enough of a motivator, but even that time has passed. Now, the One-Eyed Twin Lotus fights because it's the -right- thing to do.
Illyria Castle, a confluence of the mystical leylines encircling the globe, has attracted the attention of a number of conflicting forces. And while those more steeped in Faerie lore may be able to shed some more light on the mysteries unfolding here, it would not take such knowledge to know that dullahans, redcaps and ogres aren't exactly walking hand-in-hand with humans on the streets of Switzerland and Austria. And while it would be fine if they -were- friendly, the fact that they're locked in combat with forces of the NOL and the Sacred Order is enough to prove that their intentions are much, much darker.
Every soldier can make a difference -- particularly those who strike from the shadows. The teeming masses engage battle on the larger battlefields -- epic, mythical combat between hundreds of soldiers that would easily form the foundation for legends. Six banshees, their forms nigh-invisible even in broad daylight, had been attempting to circle around behind the main forces, using ancient stone ramparts as cover. If they were allowed to pass unperturbed, mass chaos would be wrought as the banshees unleashed their terrifying abilities on the unsuspecting armies.
Their forms are not invisible to a being with sight -beyond- sight. The orange light of the Sekigan blazes from Jubei's right eye socket, glowing veins tracing outward across his bicolored face. And just as the banshees round a corner...
The first banshee doesn't even know what hits her -- a Nox Nyctores, bisecting her cleanly down the middle. Diaphanous fabric peels away from the incision, the spirit-infused cloth shredding apart from the infinite blade. The split-second of warning is of little comfort to the being directly behind her, who looks down to see the second Dream Blade plunged into her sternum, before the feline dynamo wrenches it out from her right ribcage.
The forms of both defeated banshees begin to flutter away like dandelions in the wind, and yet the cat has not stopped moving yet. The Sekigan pulses as Jubei whips around, spinning his paw into the face of a third. The banshee flinches backward a half step, more out of reflex than any sort of injury. And that gives Jubei the time he needs to whirl around in a fierce upstroke, the Dream Blades sweeping up in interweaved diagonal slashes.
As Jubei's hind paws touch back to the earth, he turns his Sekigan-aided eyes to the remaining three banshee.
"So this is the best the 'Winter Court' has to offer?"
The cat's left eye narrows at the nearest banshee, his lips cocked into an asymmetrical smile.
The semi-transparent banshees stare back, with hands raised in a threatening gesture. Clearly, they -wanting- to strike, but also thoroughly perplexed. How would this -mortal- know of the Court?
Before her time at the NOL Military Academy, Clio St. Jeanne was used to sticking to the shadows. Even as a child she knew her nightly fighting may not be fully accepted, even if just for the fact she was a child doing it. And with her decision on the ramparts made, her chain sundered and a new direction taken, she knew she would have to fall back on old habits to keep herself alive.
And yet, she finds herself not leaving Illyria Castle so quickly. Leo's fears and his request for her help struck at the core of the woman's sense of justice. She couldn't just run, not yet. Not with so much left to do. And so she remains.
Sounds of combat separate from the majority of the fight. A sortie? It draws Clio's attention. But she approaches it in her manner. Running, skipping up the rampart, finding a higher ground atop the ramparts the banshee's had used for cover.
And that's when she sees a sight burned into her memory.
A fight in Japanese Forest. Heavy rains. Fire and flashes of sword and magic. A Nox Nyctores.
"Jubei?" she asks herself, voice quiet as her movements slow to a slink. She crouches, low on the rampart wall, looking down. She's lacking her chain, but the Golden Angel tournament has shown she can stand even without her preferred weapon. This moment wasn't a tournament though. This wasn't professional fighters in a controlled environment. This was life or death. This is where more than reputations were staked.
So of course she leapt from the rampart to get the drop on on of the banshees. A burst of chi exploding from her landing. And, in a particular case of irony, swift enough to strike the banshee without so much as a shout.
Clio's hand remains down on the ground, pressed into the fae creature. A quick circle drawn and from the banshee, spreading outward, indigo flame flares to life.
The mortals know of the court. Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness. And her cohorts. Leo had said there was going to be war. And here Clio was, trying to run from a situation, only to be kept behind to fight all the same.
This fight would be the fun part, though. There was a much, much larger one for her on the horizon. So maybe, in this moment, for all it's worth, she could have a little fun.
After all, she got another chance to see one of the great heroes at work again.
Jubei probably didn't need to give the banshees an opportunity to speak. Had he unleashed his full power, it might've been possible for him to wipe out all six of the banshees in one blisteringly fast assault.
He's got a larger strategy in mind, though. The forces of the Librarium and the Sacred Order are everywhere, and the cat has his reasons for avoiding both. And that moment of sardonic wit was, sadly, a necessary element of pacing: a need to keep from expending all of his energy on opponents scarcely worth the time. The Zen warrior brings both his swords level with the ground, brandishing them to buy himself another moment of hesitation from the stunned banshees.
And a new challenger enters the ring with a widening wreath of indigo flame. The impact presses the banshee into the ground, a faint impression of substance branded into the ground for the moment before the thin, semi-corporeal form dispels into a pale grey mist.
Jubei closes his mouth, sparing an instant to pull the patch back over his eye, sealing the orange radiance of the Sekigan away until next time. "... Clio," comes his statement of the obvious. "Long time no see."
The banshees float away, orienting themselves towards their new target. To delay any further would be foolish; it is in the next instant that Jubei lashes out with his seithr-forged sword, laced with drops of ebony chi. One blade swings up, slicing a fifth banshee into two uneven halves; the second follows up with a quartering stroke to usher the fae spirit back towards oblivion.
The diminutive cat whirls around once more, leaping into a shallow downstroke at the last remaining banshee's feet. Unlike the prior blows, this one would not be intended as 'fatal' -- only enough to lop off its feet, giving him time to land once more, raising his arm defensively. It's not an act of mercy -- due to the banshee's positioning between the two friends, a deathblow this close to Clio might have caught her in the blowback.
But it -does- mean that the banshee gets a moment to raise her voice. And as she turns towards a Jubei filled with consternation, she -starts- to howl...
Energy. Clio's bristling with it. The aches and pains of her fight with Leo - No, it wasn't a fight, it was a needed beating - are still with her. Her back and knees and gut complain with every movement, every once of extra energy she's put forth in further hindering her own escape. But she fears not. She cannot fear in this moment. She has to push forward and do what must be done.
And in this moment, doing what must be done involves meeting with a small cat on a castle wall. After, of course, the matter of some of Queen Mab's forces are sent packing back to the storybooks they crawled out from.
Less then fully present, an impression of a thing. Clio notes that maybe getting too ahead of herself with physical tactics will just waste her energy. She doesn't know where she remembers the phrase 'magic must defeat magic' but it's one that comes to her in this moment as she looks to see the cat assume a defensive position and the remaining banshee opening wide.
Fingertips on the stones, Clio surges forward. Two fingertips on her left hand, dragging, spark up a line of unearthly flame and with a heavy half-shout of exertion, a wave of pyreflame rolls and roils up toward the banshee.
"Burn," Clio mutters, watching the fire cascade over the unearthly thing. Her anger, frustration, annoyance and regret rolling in with the chi energy washing toward the Banshee.
She stays low, not getting all the way up, just raising up to her feet and staying slightly bent toward her waist in a half crouch. Bouncing and swaying left and right, the adopted stance of her half-feral motions when fighting without her chain. "Talk after thing is dead," she mutters to Jubei. Her emotions starting to burn up in her cathartic efforts and the events of a loaded day. She wants to apologize, to complain, to panic, to do a lot in this moment, but the focus on the banshee and her own assault is keeping her going just a bit longer.
One of the most significant moments in Jubei's life revolved attempting to bring down a magical being with steel alone. Magic was the missing element -- a shortcoming his enemy was able to exploit with terrible, lethal consequences.
The One-Eyed Twin Lotus grits his teeth, raising his paw before him. He knows how much the banshee's song can hurt -- and his fabric-covered ears start to fold down in anticipation. But more than that, the ebony sludge trailing along his blade begin to rise up with a life of its own, starting to twirl into a circle.
It would not have protected him quickly enough.
But, luckily, Clio's actions -had-.
Pyreflame tears into the banshee, forcing her scream to pull upward, screeching harmlessly over the samurai cat's head. The flames rise up, consuming the ethereal mass into little more than smoldering scraps of half-translucent material. The banshee's pained screech falls dim as its life force ebbs away.
Jubei draws back, passing a quick glance across the impromptu battleground. One of the Dream Blades is flipped around to a reverse grip, allowing him to lift up his eyepatch. His left eye squints shut, as the terrifying orange rays of the Sekigan sprout outward again, surveying the true forms of the creatures before him. Whenever the Sekigan's view passes over the remnants of the banshees, it casts a light over little more than torn threads.
The patch is lowered, once again. And it seems, from the way the cat curls forward, that it takes a bit more out of him than he'd prefer to let on.
Two light clinks announce Jubei's return of the swords to their respective sides of the scabbard. Battle cessated, he stands a bit taller. Twin tails swish around from side to side as he raises his left eye to Clio. "... Thanks, Clio. Got a bit more of an issue with these than the ogres." His whiskers ruffle, along with the light wrinkling of his nose. "... Yer tryin' it without the chain, now?"
Fighting in pairs was nearly always better than fighting solo. Having a second keeps your alive the second longer that you need to avoid injury, death, or worse. It allows a fighter to compliment the other, making up for missed opportunities, making up for short comings, allow for specialization.
And in this moment, for Clio, it's her time to buy that one extra second for Jubei. For all that he would easily be able to survive that moment with the Banshee, it's one less injury to bog him down for whatever greater purpose he had in Illyria Castle. Clio could afford the energy and effort. She was only making an escape. Desertion.
The flames die out, the scrapes of ethereal rags wisp away, and Clio stands up fully. The fight, or skirmish, has finished for now. And Clio immediately leans against the rampart and closes her eyes. She warches the bright glow of that eye. The power in a small nekomata is something, to Clio to get toward. That is what she'll need, at least to her, to do what she needs to do. And she can see how far she has yet to go.
"Oh, only ogres?" Clio asks with mock casualness. "Not a big deal, right?" She laughs lightly, smirking, leaning her head back against the wall, short black hair fanning behind her head.
Her smirk falls to a distant frown. "Chain's broken," she says. "Had to leave it behind so they don't ask too many questions."
A deep sigh. She has to come forward on this. At least with Jubei. It's not like he'll turn her in or anything. "I can't be with the Librarium anymore. I'm escaping."
Jubei would give almost anything to fight alongside one particular mage again. But the means to accomplish that are not currently clear to him, and no amount of soul-searching has allowed him to figure it out. For the only person who understood the Soul Eater is the one he wants to free from its tenebrous grasp.
Jubei casts his crimson eye downward at the battlefield, striding over and grinding his paw into the last remaining scrap of the banshee, pressing his toes into the hard-packed dirt. He assents, "Ogres are good at bashin' people, and pullin' arms and legs out of their sockets. The good thing is, that's pretty much their whole playbook."
Clio's admission draws his face to a similar frown, as he raises one paw to the back of his head, ruffling the hood it finds there. "... Aww, I'm sorry t' hear that, Clio." Genuine remorse weighs down his voice; even considering his history with the Librarium, it's not a joke at Clio's expense, and he's not taking it lightly. "... I know how much they meant to you."
His tails droop for a moment -- only to return to a gentle side-to-side swish as he forges a paternal half-smile. "... Good thing we bumped into each other then. I have some experience in that... escapin' business."
The cat seems open to talking about it, and at the same time, he's also walked long enough on this Earth to know that sometimes it's just 'too soon.'
Clio doesn't have anyone to fight alongside. Not anymore at least. That was her fault, though, and she hopes that maybe someday things will change. But with the core of the azure flame as poisoned as it is, she has dim hopes.
"Still a hell of a playbook. Ripping off an arm only has to happen once," she says on the subject of ogres. She crosses her arms and finally huffs off from the rampart wall.
"No, don't apologize. There's nothing to apologize for. I was arrogant to think I could change something about the way they were. I have friends, I want to protect them. But I can't do that if every step of me getting stronger also makes the Librarium as a whole get stronger." Her arms cross herself to a holding posture. She looks aside to the conflict the Banshees were hoping to interrupt. Maybe what they did spared the lives of some of the better Order and Librarium forces. Maybe not. Only time would tell and Clio hoped to be the hell out of Dodge by the time the tallys were taken.
She looks back to the cat, she smiles. "Maybe. But I've got to stick around here for a little longer in case a friend needs a favor. And by the looks of it you have a bone to pick with these faeries."
She idly traces a circle in the air, a ring of sigils appearing for a ghost of a moment. "But if, when we both need to go, you can give me a hand or a paw or whatever with getting out of here, I'll take any friendly face right now." She looks at him, she knows that Nine has been among their ranks. She can see that the end was not found in that Japanese forest. She knows that wound can still fester. And what a wound it can be.
"I still owe you a night looking at stars."
Other fighters tend to greet Jubei with disgust that a -cat- could possibly stand against them as a worthy foe. And yet, it only takes a few minutes with the feline warrior to understand that his hopes, desires, and interests are just as fully realized as any other martial arts master's.
He also has the full range of facial expressions one would expect from a wise old uncle or some such, right down to the furrowed brow he presents to Clio while nodding in assent. One paw rises to stroke at his chin, showing the cat to be deep in thought -- and yet, he seems to find no fault at all in her logic.
Denying the NOL its opportunity to grow stronger is, naturally, a -huge- part of why he hasn't just turned himself over to their mercy as one of their 'enforcers,' as so many others on the bounty list have. Not to mention, what the malicious bastards did to his -wife-.
"... You could say that. From what I know... defeating the fae here only reminds them to constrain the battle to their own realms." He, too, finds his gaze drifting over to the conflicts waged by the Librarium and the Order. "The Castle is growing more powerful by the minute. And when it reaches its apex, the fae are gonna make their move. Much as I don't like it, the Sacred Order needs the Librarium's help to stop 'em."
Jubei draws in his breath, his paw dropping to knead along his left shoulder. He rolls his arm around in its socket, wincing in mild discomfort. "... When this is all over, sure," he answers with a smile. "Stargazin' sounds like a nice change o' pace. I'm sure lookin' forward to that."
Jubei turns his eye to the castle, squinting somewhat. "... Lookin' up at the stars reminds someone o' how tiny they are, and yet... somethin' like this castle gives people the power to change so, so much." His tails swish back and forth more swiftly. "... Balance insists on keepin' that power -out- of the hands of people who'd use it to put a brand new star in the sky."
Clio's first encounter with the great warrior Jubei wasn't so much involving fighting as it was a purchase of Ramen. Secondarily, she had been well aware of him through various sources and reputation. She had one goal that night, make certain the cat didn't pose a threat to an entire restaurant full of people.
The only thing the samurai wounded that night was Clio's perception.
She knew why the NOL wanted Jubei's weaponry, and the cat himself. Protection was a front. Power was the purpose. To grow in power. Power to, in the end, control. Clio felt deeply that there was a difference between being the light to guide humanity through darkness and being the fire that burned anything that stepped out of line.
Then again, some things should be staying in their lanes. Clio steps closer to Jubei as she watches the conflict. "You say The Castle like it has a mind of its own," she says, "Not doubting you. I wouldn't be surprised if it did."
"And yeah, the stars can do that. A lot of tiny. But tiny doesn't mean things don't matter. A lot of people would step on tiny things if they can get away with it." Clio watches Jubei, his squint, trying to read his expression. Not sure if she should lean toward cat judging, or human judging. Realizing the answer is probably both or neither, she relents and gives up on the matter. "Question is, who isn't going to do that? The star thing."
Jubei offers a grandfatherly smile in response to his analogy of the Castle to a living person. "Oh... have I?" He strokes at his cheek for a moment, offering a faint shrug of apology. "S'pose it's more that there is a great confluence of powers that I don't know a whole lot about. I just know it's... a great power, and nearly unlimited potential, for whoever happens to be in the right place at the right time."
It's not clear whether Jubei had meant anything with kneading his arm back into his socket, but as he doesn't really speak to it... it's probably just that the cat's old as dirt. The samurai might have something to say about that, if Clio's question didn't catch the samurai's eye. Perhaps if he didn't slowly start to frown with the implications.
Jubei finds himself looking back towards the castle, his eyelid drooping, his ribcage heaving out a sigh. Who wouldn't raise a star... indeed?
The Hagakure tells about a Lord Naoshige, a figure well-known to the samurai of the day. Upon his wall there was one maxim: "Matters of great concern should be treated lightly." By deliberating upon matters of great concern during times of peace, understanding can be attained at an unharried pace. Complex topics can be reduced down to simpler components, handled accordingly, and reassembled into a whole.
Jubei has given this matter much thought.
And her question is answered with another question.
Jubei pulls his gaze away from the castle, sweeping it back and forth until settling it upon a small chunk of wall that's been loosened from a prior battle. He crouches down, digging beneath it with the tips of his claws.
"Hypothetical question for you, Clio," he begins, lifting the ten-pound stone from the ground. He examines the stone, turning it over and about in his paws. "Let's say that every five hundred years, this rock will grant you godlike power -- anything you can possibly imagine -- for only fifteen seconds, before it winks out for another five hundred years."
Jubei looks up at Clio, his face curiously devoid of either frown or smile, of nuance or expression.
"What would -you- do with this gift of infinite power?"
"Magic, leylines, works like a formula but way, way bigger," Clio mutters, watching the fight, watching the people charging against each other, faerie and flesh and whoever wins will probably fight whoever is left standing that isn't them. all for a piece of where everything comes together.
"The NOL uses Ars Magus to give their troops a leg up. Let them use magic, chi, by way of formula. Lets them do things they normally couldn't." Clio rubs the back of her hand on her chin, following her line of sight from the concerned cat and up to the castle. "But someone who isn't trained with it, it can just blow up in their face. Wonder if this'll do that, too. Depending on presses the shiny red button."
Clio rubs her head with a groan. This whole thing is a potential disaster just waiting and goading and wanting to happen. But now Jubei's asking hypotheticals and Clio's starting to feel tired with pain and adrenaline leaving her. She crosses her arms at her stomach and looks at the rock.
"Five hundred more years of youth and life to think about what I want," she options with a shrug. "I don't know. There's a lot of shit with that. I don't want to try and do something sweeping and fuck up. I might just have to be selfish. Get something just for me. At least then I don't accidently monkey's paw everything."
Jubei understands magic a bit more than he lets on. He tended to pick up some things from daily life with perhaps the most powerful magician who had ever lived. The Nox Nyctores -- kin to the Dream Blades Musashi strapped over his shoulder -- are like the Ars Magus on magical steroids. And yet, the cat nods attentively -- knowing full well the value of talking oneself through a complicated issue.
After all, the issue isn't the nature of magic, per se, but rather what despots and would-be overlords would do with such an enormity of power.
Jubei does not contest the young woman's assertions. In many ways, he agrees with her -- even the silent claims made in a physical sense. The constant pressures of war are taking their toll upon his body, and he would want nothing more than a nice long nap in the sun atop a bed of fluffy green grass. But that luxury will have to wait.
No -- what interests him now is Clio's answer to the question he posed. And his eye lights up with alertness, his mouth curling into a smile, his tails swinging side-to-side.
"There is... a lot of shit with that..." he agrees, his fur ruffling about from a stirred-up breeze. "But the bigger fish to fry -- the one that used to keep me up at night -- ain't just -what- the wish would be, but what would happen -after-. So you're granted five hundred years of youth and vitality. Will you guard the stone for five hundred years till its power is renewed for round two? Will you let someone else take their turn...?"
Jubei tosses the stone into the air for a moment, his paws straining as the heavy weight thuds back down into his paws. "What I'm gettin' at is... you're sittin' here strugglin' with this choice. I wanna hope that the person who wields the power of Castle Illyria gives as much thought as we are."
The cat's whiskers droop.
"Personally, I'm not really sure it's the place for mortals to be makin' big choices like that, yeah?"
Clio can understand the experience of others underestimating knowledge in things. Her style, her demeanor, it doesn't always remind people that she did in fact go through the Military Academy. And that she did fairly well. And her former position attested to that.
A position she no longer holds.
She has to shake her head, looking back to the cat and his stone. "Questions like that are hard," she tells him, "We don't know what we'd do until we do it. We can say all sorts of things. We can tell ourselves we'll be good. We'll be heroes. We'll be whatever. But until it happens, you don't really know."
She points to the castle, hand sweeping over to the fighting. "All this? And the thing with the command gear? Your hypothetical rock? We don't know what's going to happen until we have to make that choice. And guessing what the other person is doing with it is why it happens this way."
Clio's fingers twitch and drum on a chain that isn't there, trying to clink and click the metal that should be, but is broken. "It really is all about choices, isn't it? But if it isn't for mortals? Who gets to choose? And who chooses who gets to choose?"
She nods. "So yeah, maybe I just keep that rock for another five hundrd years. Then the next time the power comes around I just tell the rock to eat itself. No one gets that power."
There's certainly a lot that could be said, there. Clio's first answer reminds him a lot of his brother Tomonori's approach to complex situations -- the idea that you won't really know what will happen until it happens. Not his philosophy, but... an understandable one.
The samurai cat nods, enigmatically. He's listening, and not judging. Even as the conversation tracks back towards the here-and-now of Castle Illyria, Jubei's expression remains passive, neutral -- focused more on Clio's thought process rather than the actual answer she wants to give. His questions were meant to provoke thought, not to supply an answer to a question he'd already answered for himself decades ago.
What is surprising, though, is Clio's answer.
His eye widens, his jaw parting ever so slightly with surprise.
And just like that, the surprise fades into a warm grin.
"... An interestin' solution to an eternal problem." Jubei twists himself to the side, allowing the rock to slam into the earth with a heavy whump, his fur blown about by the sudden rush of air filling the void left behind. "Tough equations can only be solved by those who have mastered easier ones. And since we got your answer for the easy one... we get to think about the hard one now."
Jubei spares a glance at the NOL forces locked in battle -- the telltale flare of Ars Magus weaponry being put through its paces. He begins to stride toward the castle, his blood pumping with an anxiety not so dissimilar to Clio's. "I don't have an answer to who gets to choose, aside from... whoever gets there first, and can hold onto it the longest.."
As he walks, his voice is more than loud enough to carry, though his faint, distant smile might be missed.
"What I do know, though, is that we can't tell the castle to 'eat itself' without the world feelin' the loss. On the plus side... we got some more time to think about it."
Jubei's left paw occasionally drifts towards the lower of the two swords. He may be walking with the pace of an unhurried senior citizen, but he's ever mindful of the threat of a surprise visitor.
"So. Destruction's not an option here. How do you keep somethin' safe for five hundred years, Clio?"
Clio has seen enough of the way people act compared to the way they say or claim to for her to hold any opinion but the one she has. And she does favor colors similar to Jubei's brother. Strange, the cycles and patterns in the wheel of fate. Even with great differences, sometimes the similarities can cloud.
She grins toward Jubei and shrugs. "It's a rock. And yeah, well, if mortals can't make that decision, I can't just leave it for immortals to make that decision. Immortals suck at making decisions. So, get rid of the damn rock."
But then Jubei continues, shifting from metaphor to a very real reality that is standing all around him. The Castle. She looks up at the structure, the grand stage for all this. Where Mab is rousing her forces. Where a dragon lay. She frowns. But as she does, she looks down to her hand. Sparks of indigo flame dance from finger to finger before she waves them out.
"There's a dragon inside of it," she says of the castle. "Leo Whitefang, sacred order leader, he's a good guy, you'd like him. There's a dragon in there. And a lot of this is going to end up with a big ass fight against a big dragon and other things. I think destruction is very, very much an option if not an eventuality."
She taps herself on the forehead, shaking her head with a disgruntled sigh. "But, if that doesn't happen, I don't know. Nothing short of, say, growing a big ass forest so no one comes looking for it. Maybe set up shop and just, use it like a castle?"
Jubei smiles at Clio's blistering assessment of immortals' lack of judgment. Having fought the so-called God of Destruction -- the impetus for his own self-imposed exile -- he cannot help but comment, "Truer words have never been spoken." Even if he might raise a fuss about -other- immortals' judgment, it's true in at least one case -- and that's sufficient.
As for the castle and its defender, though... Jubei pauses in his walk, turning his crimson eye toward Clio. "... A dragon?" From how widely he opens his eye, it seems that this is new information to him -- and he takes it with a gentle, self-effacing smile. "All this time I'd figured it was simple hyperbole."
Once again, his paw reaches up to stroke at his chin. "Leo Whitefang, yes -- a good man. We spoke just a short while ago. Wild, unpredictable -- but a warrior, through and through." His eye closes for a moment, as he lapses into thought over just how volatile a combination the Librarium, the Sacred Order, and a -dragon- could end up.
"... Yeah, I must admit, the chances o' the castle -not- getting destroyed are gettin' thinner and thinner." Jubei strokes his chin, looking up into the sky for a moment. Looking anywhere, really, except for the tide of battle.
"F'course, I don't even know if the magic's tied to the castle itself or not. It might not be tied into the Boundary at all. All feels like the same to me. What's your read on it?"
Immortal things don't usually need to care about the mortal ones. That's always been a sticking point for Clio's assessment of things. She smiles when Jubei approves of her statement, though, despite the lingering irony of age and existence between the two of them.
"Dragon," she confirms. "And it could be. But, you're a cat. I'm a witch. We just killed banshees and everything else sort of makes being skeptical a bit hard."
"Hits like a truck, too. I'll be feeling that fight for a week." She also thinks the term 'fight' is pushing the definition of what happened between them.
She walks a little closer to the fight, seeing the battle there and knowing it'll pale in comparison to what may yet come. And how her escaping is becoming less of an escape and more of a 'hand-around-to-see'. "If it does, hopefully it'll go out in a fun way at least." She has to see something good in all of this, even if in just the moment.
"Me? I don't know. It could be the Boundary. If it is, it's worse for all of us. A lot of Seithr in one place, split open at the leyline, could just eat us all. Destroy the rock, turns out it's uranium." Clio frowns and rubs the back of her neck. "I don't like this metaphor anymore. I'm hoping it's something else." but her words are doubtful.
"It ain't so much that I don't believe it's a dragon, so much as I ain't never fought a dragon before. I can only figure treatin' it like any other animal, right up to the point where it breathes fire or starts casting magic. The kinda things y'don't normally expect from a bear or a gorilla."
He chuckles softly, raising his left paw, and alternately unsheathing and resheathing the claws as if concerned about the mechanism within. "Yeah... now you're getting why -I'm- concerned about this castle. It ain't the folks we'll be fightin' so much as the powderkeg we're fightin' on top of." Seemingly satisfied, he resheathes the paw, lowering it as he flashes a grandfatherly smile back at Clio.
"So, Clio. I figure the Librarium's got bigger priorities than my bounty right now, but I really ought to not be seen with Leo and the Order. I'm gonna go on ahead to scout about the castle, see if I can't scare up some intel about this dragon and what other monsters we'll be facin'."
His expression softens a bit. "An' what about you? You gonna be alright, Clio? Lot of... big changes."
"You haven't fought a dragon?" Clio's question is incredulous, looking at Jubei as if seeing him for the first time all over again. "This is really your first dragon?" she forces a laugh, and an attempt at a casual posture. "Like the stories go. Knights fight dragons. Sometimes I feel sort of bad for the dragon. But, I can make an exception this time."
She moves her arm, placing her hand on her hip, as if uncertain what to do with her hands. "I can see it. It's dangerous. And not in the big bad weapon way." She shakes her head, then looks to watch Jubei's claws. "That really is a nice jacket," she says, holding her own hand up to look at her decidedly not claws. A little jealous over the weaponry. Her's is broken, after all.
"Don't blame you, things are going to be tense between the two with the Dizzy thing. You there, with them? The NOL'd use it to their advantage. Frothing at the mouth, rabid and heated for a fight. Be bad for a lot of people. Even if you and Leo are strong enough to take it."
But the question falls to her, and she frowns, she looks up, and she shrugs. The wheel of fate is spinning wildly. "I don't really know," she says, resigned, quiet, "Go back to what I was doing? Wander? Might do a pit fight or two, get a disguise, earn some money. Hit things until it all makes sense again. I don't fucking know."
"Got any tips?" The one-eyed cat's response is almost immediate, and undoubtedly well-natured. He has his own thoughts about the dragon, and about killing sentient beings... But here, he is not attempting to change Clio's mind. Like she suggests, he -could- feel bad for the dragon -- and he nods when that particular statement is made. But the way in which his eye squints suggests that he's right there with her on making exceptions, even if he does not feel the need to give voice to the thought itself.
"Thanks, but... the sleeves would be a bit short on you," insists Jubei, lifting up a sleeve and allowing the mechanical paw to sag. With the cat's relatively tiny paw acting as a tentpole it becomes clear to see the firm delineation between cat and machine -- the truth behind the long sleeve really being short.
Not that Clio didn't -know- that, of course.
But the old cat's smug satisfaction does suggest he liked sharing.
And yet -- he takes a stab at what might have prompted the statement. "Some of the svartalfar carry long-bladed daggers or bows. The ogres... redcaps... one of them -might- have a chain you could use. I'm sure one of us could 'convince' them to make a donation for a noble cause...?" Even in the midst of a battlefield, there is humor to be had.
As the conversation tracks towards the uneasiness of the future, the cat's smile grows a bit lopsided. "Disguise, mm? A vigilante superheroine, bringing justice to the masses." He smiles faintly -- in a way he's actually mocking -himself-, as he's been living that sort of life for decades already. If anything, his mocking demeanor is motivated by his desire to avoid being chalked up as the uncool 'dad' figure in Clio's life.
He stands for a moment, tilting his head a degree or two. Clio in the foreground, with a clamorous backdrop of combat behind her. "... We're not destined to be bystanders, Clio. We might not know our role -- but folks like us...? We don't get to stop playing our part."
Jubei stretches his paws out to either side, before drawing them in to hang around the 'waist' of his jacket. "Follow your stars, Clio. Can't get lost if you never lose sight of where you are."
The old cat turns. He leaves unstated the idea that Miss St Jeanne is more than welcome to follow him into the heart of Illyria. Deeper -- to identify and eliminate the obstacles from the advancing legions' path.
"Tips for fighting a dragon?" Clio asks, humming, grinning, tapping at her chin. "Go for the soft bits. Everything's go soft bits. Most things hate being hit or stabbed there." She has a little laugh at that, but she's not entirely lying. She's a knight, certainly, but she's not above fighting a little dirty to win.
"I could do with short sleeves," Clio says, but she shakes her head. "Maybe if I modded my purple hoodie. That's already a bit long. . ." She hums and narrows her streaked, worn make up covered eyes. She had been crying earlier, and now it's showing by the marks on her face.
"Might, maybe, but I'd still need to put some etching down to make the formula that were on my chain. Made it easier to send my power down. I could call up a lot with it. But honestly, I think I could do more if I had my own crack at designing my own formulae." As Clio talks, she thinks, she paces, she jingles a non existent chain. She's a graduate of an academy, for all her demeanor, she was a good student when it came to things involving her methods of fighting. She did pay attention to her arcane training.
But her distraction is pulled. She looks to Jubei. He's been helpful, he's been good. She's never had a dad. And older guys that show their support. Like Whitefang, or Jubei himself, she can't help but slot them into the empty void concept that she's been raised with. "I started with that, Jubei. I just got better at it once I got some friends."
And then, he really does support her. He tells her something that she knows, and yet needs to hear. She smiles, she looks to the fight below. And she looks to the sky that isn't quite star filled yet. A laugh comes from her throat.
She rolls her arm and exhales. She looks to the back of the cat. At one time, she turned away from the one-eyed twin tail lotus. This time, she does not.
Log created on 10:14:07 05/22/2018 by Clio, and last modified on 13:06:13 05/26/2018.