2019-06-03: The House Always Wins

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  • Log: 2019-06-03: The House Always Wins
  • Cast: Ivan, Seraph Amaranth, Talia
  • Where: The Moonflow
  • Date: June 03, 2019
  • Summary: Talia introduces Ivan to Ammy (Katherine), who recently had a very distressing experience. Ivan responds poorly to change, and picks a fight with her house.

===============================<* The Moonflow *>===============================

The Moonflow is a large river that bisects Spira's largest island into southern and northern halves. Strange flowers called Moonlilies grow on the Moonflow's banks, attracting pyreflies that gather on its surface at night, making the water sparkle. Although a beautiful area, the weather tends to be overcast more often than not, the souls of the dead providing the most reliable source of illumination.

The primary method of crossing the Moonflow is aboard a shoopuf - an elephantine creature that can swim across the expansive river. The crossing service is funded by the Temple of Yevon and is free of charge.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wcVnJQ-FN4
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

    What's the weirdest thing Talia and Ivan have seen in their lives??

    Because the last time Talia left the Festina Lente, Katherine Weaver's so-called boutiquerie of fabulous seamstress and tailoring, it was a fairly ordinary building, if extravagantly sunny with large skylights and an overhang of flowers and other such loveliness that shines near the Moonflow.

    ...

    ...

    And now, by the time they both arrive, they're seeing a literally quavering building bundled up in a building-sized plaid blanket, with two windows 'drooping' as if they were sad eyes.

    Oh no, even the Festina Lente itself is afraid!

    ...

    Yeah, this is the kind of weirdness Talia's used to, isn't it...

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

In a way, the new normal of Ivan and Talia's relationship is to meet, hang out, and half-talk their way around their current issues. Today, at the Moonflow's Shoopuf station, Talia ran into Ivan. It was after he told her that he would try to talk to Lubov, and after she screamed at him, and they somehow had to walk back to a normal place.

Which led to a fateful question: 'Want to meet my girlfriend?'

It seems better than dwelling on the fact that, not so long ago, she yelled at him on the Thunder Plains. She leads the way through the Moonflow... and then comes to a stop, as she sees the house resided in by Katherine Weaver, fabulous seamstress, who is -- secretly -- Seraph Amaranth.

"So, the Festina Lente is her house! Our house? I stay over a lot," she says. "And we sort of talk like I live there, no? Which is nice--and scary, sometimes--but also nice! It is a magic house, no? It's lively and colorful, and--"

Talia rounds the bend, to see the house wrapped up in a blanket and looking sad. She opens her mouth, then closes it.

"You see? Magic house."

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ivan is not great with change, and particularly not with this change, where Talia, who used to be the only person in the world who understood his choices, is now on the opposite side of the big divide between him and everyone else in the universe, and does not understand him at ALL, and apparently lives a new, better life, in a magic house, with someone who -- if they're living together!! -- is basically her new family. Ivan seethes at the weepy-looking house, but only when he thinks Talia isn't looking. It is right to fear him, if that is indeed what's going on.

"It's great. That is a super great magic house right there." His tone does not sound as nasty as sarcasm, but it certainly doesn't sound sincere. He's just sort of putting out a lot of weird mixed energy as he tries to bite back a tide of like flagrant open bitterness.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

    The Festina Lente catches a gander at Ivan and quivers even deeper under its blanket. Ivan can literally see a trio of arcing sweatdrops fly out of the... back of its... storm drain?? The more he seethes, the more terrified the house seems to be... you can see thick blue lines of sorrow hanging in thin air as a miasma of sadness builds up!

    When they enter, the inside is... well, it's much the same as it is outside. What's once a wonderful parlour of fashion and loveliness has gone into a sad disarray! The mannequins are all displayed in depressed poses. One of them is curled up in fetal position; the other is doing the 'how could you do this to me' hand on her forehead as she leaves her mannequin-husband, doing the classic pose only known as the 'orz'.

    Katherine herself is bundled up in the center, in a similar plaid blanket as she lets out a sizable, snotty wail as she honks on a handkerchief--

    Then she spots Talia and--

    oh no

    OH NO

    -OH NO-

    A customer!

    panic panic panic, Katherine's violet eyes flit left and right. She's an average-height woman with similarly, vibrantly purple hair clumped up into two ponytails and wearing--

    Wearing dove-print jam jams right now, with fuzzy sandals. But that's not customer-facing wear, oh no!

    She takes another gander at Talia and Ivan and then does the only thing she can:

    Stick her thumb into her mouth, and -blow- on it like a balloon.

    A cartoonish 'POP!' noise follows the crescendo of helium filling into the air, and the twins are briefly showered in confetti as the lighting ratchets up to '11/10 Happy' with glitter and glamour dazzling everywhere.

    (BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-mMieINFZc )

    The mannequins are back to being glamorous and happy! Doves are-- are flying out of the corners of the house.

    "Hello, and welcome to the Festina Lente! I'm your host, Katherine Weaver, the seamstress of dreams! May I grant you a happy boost today?!"

    Katherine pauses.

    "C-convincing, right??" she desperately stammers out. Then she looks down at her jammy-self and spins as a cloak wipes over her, then is suddenly in a fancy white and blue gown with a red sash. "C-c-convincing!"

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"I feel like you are angry at me and taking it out on the house," Talia says, idly, as she approaches. She walks up to the door and pats the doorknob once. "It is okay, Festina Lente. This is my brother. He is grumpy, but in time, he will come to love you too. Please do not get your drainage system clogged again."

Her expression starts to shift after she enters, and sees the mannequins -- normally for Katherine's outfits -- on the floor, bent over, and looking depressed. It begins to sink in that something must have happened, which is confirmed by suddenly spotting Katherine in her PJs and moping.

She starts forward... but then the seamstress blows on her thumb, and glitter flies everywhere. She giggles into her hand -- giggles, like she's a younger and happier person, which might sound weird to Ivan -- and then looks up with a bright smile.

It's not entirely convincing, but she will give her that.

"Very!" she says. "Hello, Kathy! Ah, I am sorry to have come home with a guest, but let me present..." She turns, motions to the side, and wishes a little that she had a drumroll:

"My twin brother, Ivan!"

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

    A little dove lands by Talia's shoulder and rattles on the world's tiniest snaredrum for a drumroll.

    Magic house!

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

"That would be an incredibly petty and childish thing to do and I can't believe you would accuse me of that," Ivan grumps, unconvincingly, before shooting one last 'I'm watching you' glare at the house before they head inside.

The interior is just as downtrodden as the exterior, until its occupant -- is this pajama'd woman the fabled 'Ammy?' or uh, the fabled 'Katherine,' at the moment? -- realizes there's company and injects aggressive amounts of cheer and fabulousness into everything.

Ivan turns to Talia, baffled, as their surroundings transform from tragic house to party house. "...what elemental did you say she was, again?"

Talia is laughing and seems delighted in a way he's not sure he's seen her since the pre-assassin days, a fact which Ivan absorbs with a series of tremendously conflicting emotions, with the one closest to the surface seeming to be a form of... grief. Yeah, well, that's not very mature, is it? Just don't ruin this for her, Ivan!

He realizes he's being introduced, and turns back to Ammy--Kathy--whoever she is! First, he tries not to glare at her. The result is that he spends a few moments staring at her with an intense look of what appears to be concern, like she's missing a head and he isn't sure how to tell her. Then... he tries... to smile....???? nope his mouth is just kind of squishing up tighter into a grimace.

"...hi. Cool house."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

    "I--I'm an elemental of happy," Katherine squeaks out to Ivan as she tries to swan by Talia's side but the movements are a bit heavy today. She can only suppress her emotions so much, though, so there's very obviously a needy cling to Talia's arm as she hopes Ivan doesn't tear her head off for physical contact bwaaaa must look good to sibling

    She clears her throat and bows her head gently, putting on that very well-practiced smile again.

    "I've heard a lot about you. One of our first meetings, Talia commissioned a travelling cloak for you, I believe..." Katherine smiles towards Talia in turn.

    "But, it's nice to finally meet you in person!" Oh no he's grimacing

    help talia help, the look on Katherine's face is not subtle.

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia looks at Katherine, and it's abundantly clear to her -- probably through exposure -- that she is nervous. She reaches a hand out, patting her on the shoulder, and doesn't protest taking her arm in the slightest. Talia just turns a little to face Ivan.

"I did! The weather-proofed one," she says. She sent it back; it was before she vanished, the first time. It was, all told, the last gift she ever really had a chance to get him.

"Happy elemental," she adds, too, after a moment. "This is Katherine Weaver! Her secret alias is Ammy, no?" she says. "And... this is the Festina Lente! She makes some of the best clothes I have ever seen."

Talia has been suspiciously better dressed in the last few months.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Listen, though! This isn't how it was supposed to turn out! Or maybe it was, but not like this! Ivan and Talia were stuck in a bad situation for a long time, but they were always eventually going to run away! If only Ivan hadn't messed up the first attempt and let himself get scared off from trying again... if only Talia hadn't vanished... if only Ivan hadn't given up while she was gone and decided to be a weapon instead of trying to be a person all alone. Eventually, somehow, they were supposed figure out the solutions to all of the obstacles and get up the courage and run away! And then they were going to have all kinds of adventures and figure out what it was like to be free, and who they were when they weren't killers. Maybe they would even find their mother somewhere in there and find out that it was all just a misunderstanding and she'd cared about them all along! And THEN Talia could meet a quirky Seraph seamstress who lived in a magic house, and happily start a grownup life with her. Ivan could have handled it then, because he'd be a real, complete person too, and he'd have also found all sorts of other things to be about!

... but now! Instead! ...that's never going to happen... none of it is ... he's just cut out of the story, and left behind.

"A happy elemental..." he echoes. "I guess you don't have to tell me if it's a big secret or whatever."

He looks about the house at all the jubilant evidence of seamstressing, morose. So that cloak came from Ammy, huh...? "Nice to meet you. Thank you... for the cloak...?" It's tough to get the words out because he knows he's saying them all in a really inappropriate and unwelcoming tone of voice! BUT HIS VOICE WON'T SEEM TO GET ANY NICER. HE'S SO DAMN SAD RIGHT NOW. "Uh, how did you meet?"

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

    There's a dreadfully important message regarding assassins that Katherine has to tell Talia like -right now- but she's not emotionally ready and also the most gauche thing you can do when receiving in-laws (she's hopeful OK) for the first time is to immediately lay out your -problems- out in the open. What's he going to think if the first thing out of his mouth is "assassins are after me now, they found me"??

    (The truth is probably somewhere between 'oh, so business as usual, huh', given his line of work, not that that's at the periphery of Ammy's conscious thoughts.)

    The shoulder-patting comforts her enough to carry on, though.

    "U-uhm..." Katherine tilts her head, sighing very silently with a delicate smile. "Well, you already know 'Ammy', so I suppose there's no point in hiding it. I am a Seraph of Darkness, Amaranth. But, ah..."

    She bobs her head.

    "I do prefer Katherine for my day to day. It is, how do we say... an important identity to me." As far as she knows, neither Talia nor Ivan use psuedonyms in their line of work, at least not to the degree she does, but...

    She puts her hand to her cheek and says, "Oh! That's no problem at all. If you need any other clothiery or other tailoring business, you only need but ask."

    Then Ivan asks how they met, and there's definitely a 'GULP' (that's the dove on Talia's shoulder gulping) as she says...

    "Aah... Talia was performing a derring-do at a Glenwood noble's manor when she swept into my life, elegant and winsome as always?"

    ...

    ...

    That's not technically a lie.

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia's eyes go wide for a moment. Has... has she told Ammy that her full name is Natalia? Has this ever occurred to her? She stares at Ivan like there is a bug on his face. Then, she blurts out:

"Yes! It is something of a secret, no? You know how this sort of thing is, Vanya!" She taps a finger against her cheek -- and then she listens to Amaranth's version of how they met. She tilts her head -- and her lips quirk up into a playful smile. It might not be entirely unfamiliar to Ivan; he saw her flirt with people and sling her arm around them, in the last couple of years.

Talia does it here, though there is a warmth that wasn't there for first.

"It is true!" she says. "And then I met her as Katherine Weaver a few days later. She had this cute little shop, no? And she was very cute, so...." Talia shrugs her shoulders innocently.

"...Ah, then she saved my life a couple of times," Talia adds. "I told her all about you! Well... you know. About how one day we'd find you, and..." And things wouldn't turn out the way they did. She winces, then changes the subject a little:

"I've wanted to show you this place for months!" she says. "Aah, do you want to meet Queen Anatasia, Vanya?"

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Good, Ivan didn't want to use 'Ammy,' it's too familiar. He was going to have to ask what it's short for. Amethyst? Amaretto? Talia probably told him once but maybe he was too grouchy about everything to remember.

Derring do... what is derring do in this context?

"So the first time you met, you weren't Katharine...You were Am... uh... your other name? Your other persona?"

He's not entirely sure how the dual identities function.

Ivan shifts his weight uncomfortably as Talia mentions having talked about him. Probably she painted a nicer picture of what to expect than what they're actually having to deal with right now.

"Queen Anastasia? That name sounds weirdly familiar..."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

    "... ... well..." Katherine speaks a little more quietly for a moment, to Ivan. Vanya, his nickname is. They all have their nicknames, their true name... "Let's say that Amaranth as an existence is something I have deep regrets and burdens under, and Katherine is the way in which I'm trying to make amends for. One blouse sewn at a time, one tassel braided at a time, one happy smile on a customer at a time."

    It's, perhaps, her way of obliquely relaying the regrets of an assassin to another, without just outright saying it.

    Talia is being mirthful, and that doesn't fail to keep her cheer up though she points out about finding him and-- well, she doesn't have to finish that.

    "... I know we've just met, but I did promise that of Talia. And-- well--" she scratches her cheek. "To that end... I'd like to say you are welcome here anytime. As a house, as a home... even as just a place to stay for a moment. If that isn't too forward of me."

    Then the talk of Queen Anastasia gets brought up, and she looks to the back where a big, mature bomb plant is... is...

    Well, it's a bomb plant. It just sits there.

    But isn't it so majestic and regal?? The way Ammy's propped her on a shaded little pavilion...

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia nods her head, quickly, after what Ammy says. Her voice is a little quieter; not out of fear of being overheard, but simply because one doesn't talk about the business -- even implying it -- without keeping their voice down. "She, ah, she has some... of the experiences we did, no?"

She smiles sheepishly. A little awkwardly. Knowing even one person who experienced something like they did, in a way, doubled the size of her world.

She laughs, though, and looks at Queen Anastasia -- then waves an arm out towards the bomb flower. She has made a wooden crown, painted gold, and it rests near the pot.

"The queen!" Talia says. "She is a bomb flower. Very wonderful, no? Sometimes, she makes explosives!"

Queen Anastasia looks like a big, round metal black orb with a leaf on top. Being a plant, she really has no reaction to Ivan.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ivan didn't know that Katherine was a former killer of any kind, but it seems like more people than he ever would have expected have some sort of darkness in their pasts. He always thought the world was more cleanly cut between predators and prey.

Katherine's subtle framing of her path of redemption gets a nod of aknowledgement and bit of an uncomfortable shrug, since Ivan is alone in the room as someone not having staked out any sort of path of amends, through happy customers or otherwise.

"I'll use Katherine, then," he says.

She gives the offer of a welcome place in her house, and Ivan bristles. It bothers him that she's saying, with earnest warmth, something that simply can't be true. Of course he isn't welcome here as a home. You don't just add a twin brother to this kind of living arrangement. He estimates himself as welcome, at maximum, as a houseguest of one and a half weeks. And that's as the hypothetical brother of Talia's stories, not as the actual akward disaster brother who showed up in Katharine's home and immediately started scowling at her. He would estimate his real self as having about an hour of welcome, if he hasn't worn it out already.

"I don't need anything like that," he says, flatly. Then he realizes how super rude that was, and mumbles. "I mean thanks, I guess." She was just being polite. Chill out, Ivan. It's a thing people say!

They direct his attention to Queen Anastasia, which comes as some relief, even if he can find some cause to be jealous even of the flower. Did it have to be a flower that can make explosons, Talia!? Can't you leave him even that! But he had some time to prepare for this, since the incident with fiends invading Luca.

"We meet again, your highness." he tells the plant, respectfully. "I like that she has a crown," he adds. That part is true. He is doing his best!! (Is this really his best?)

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Amaranth has posed.

    Amaranth is aware of how one handles the subject of wetwork and assassination, and even with that cheery, ingenue-esque nervousness of Katherine... she doesn't just blurt things out. Especially to those she's just met -- and as such, she trusts and appreciates Talia's discretion too, as she points out that she's lived the same experiences they did.

    "... the Cult caught up to me, Talia," she admits, now that Talia's seen it fit to tell that to Ivan. She's not certain what kinds of webs Ivan is entangled with, but from what she knows of Lubov... they're not directly tied to the Shadow Dragon Cult.

    "Just out there, not that far from the shoopuf station... an assassin came after me. And from what I can sense of their mastery, a senior one too. I don't doubt either of your skills, but... in the case that I... cause trouble for you..."

    But she nods at Ivan when he says he'll use Katherine, looking appreciative. Even as he says that he doesn't need anything like a home-- then backtracks half-a-step... Well, she can't exactly say she wasn't expecting that. It took her -- a very long time for her facade to crumble, to believe that there was a way out for her in any sense. She's familiar with how long and difficult the process is.

    It took her her life, after all.

    "I know. Just... keep it in mind, yes? I wouldn't say this without meaning it. ... if nothing else, from ... someone who knows what it's like to not have a home, a long time ago."

    There's a gentle smile as she gets distracted by Queen Anastasia for a moment, stroking at her lovely bulbous bomb orb.

    "Who's a wonderful bomb plant? Awww... you are, Milady," she choos to Queen Anastasia.

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"Vanya," Talia says, sharper, when he snaps at her. Before that, she was willing to chalk it up as awkwardness -- or perhaps his baseline level of grumpiness. "Remember what I said?"

That Ammy was important to her.

She glances sideways at Amaranth -- and her eyes widen, sharply. She nods, though. She can discuss the details with her later; though, really, she might have to tell Ivan about that. They are bound together, now, and if she has to fight them...

She sighs. "...We'll talk about what to do," she says, quietly. Talia looks back at Queen Anastasia -- and smiles when Ivan addresses her formally.

"She is a very distinguished noble lady, no?"

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

"I remember," Ivan says, contritely. He isn't TRYING to be a jerk, the jerkness is just overflowing out of him!

Then Katherine just drops a bomb about being the target of an assassin, herself. Shock goes over his face -- a story sort of forming on its own in his mind, that she escaped this cult and is being hunted down by them in retribution... ... though he is an assassin himself, and though he certainly has trouble with the idea of Katherine, Ivan allows himself his hypocritical loyalties.

"Do you need me to kill somebody?!" he offers.

But... somehow... somehow they have moved on from this dire news to telling Queen Anastasia how beautiful and noble she is. You... you guys, isn't this... kind of an emergency... is this calming you down or something? Hey...