2021-03-12: Cool Air

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<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.


    Inner Buckeye Station is a clean, proper, functional town--the very model of what Galadian patronage can do for the disposessed of Celesti. Anaheim Shipping and Freight spared no expense in restoring the city's railways, and with them, the rail lines connecting Guild Galad to the surviving cities of that dead nation. Trade can resume. Life can slowly return to normal.

    Or so goes the Anaheim party line.

    House Anaheim is one of the richest of Guild Galad's Great Houses, with holdings in mining, manufacturing, and shipping--all vertically-integrated into a seamless pipeline. The current head of the household is Jacob Anaheim, a man more commonly and deferentially known as the Master. Somewhat lesser-known is his only child, Noel Anaheim--fourteen years old, and the heir-apparent of the Anaheim corporate empire.

    Weeks ago, ARMS helped foil a second attempt on the Master's life, and in doing so, earned a degree of grudging respect. Previously, he's made no secret of his opinion--an armed paramilitary force with universal jurisdiction is a disaster waiting to happen. Now, he has entrusted them with a mission of grave importance.

    "Ah, there it is!"

    Noel Anaheim stands on a newly-rennovated train platform, surrounded by a protective cordon of Anaheim security--distinguished only from Guild Galad's constables by the family's emblem on their black coats. He has his father's blue hair and stern-looking features, and his mother's eyes. He wears a custom-tailored silk suit, brocade vest, and sash--all brightly and tastefully-colored. He grins broadly as a train steams towards the station.

    The train in question is a great steel behemoth, a line of over twenty cars pulled by a broad-bodied locomotive. Thick clouds billow from its smokestack as it approaches the platform, only to trail off as the engineers apply the brakes. Bright gold letters spell out its name against the deep forest-green of the locomotive's paint job:

    Dianbai Guang

    It's one of the more famous of the Galadian trains, a stalwart workhorse that hauls passengers and cargo to and from Buckeye Station. It's swift and dependable, but it's a far cry from the more luxurious accomodations afforded House Anaheim's members when traveling abroad.

    As the train pulls to a stop, someone steps through the cordon of Anaheim guards. Ida Everstead-Rey is dressed in civilian attire: boots, light leather gloves, dark blue slacks, and a long wool overcoat with the insignia of her own House embroidered on the breast pocket. She's wearing her hair in a braid that reaches almost to her waist; this may well be Boudicca's doing.

    Ida stops to consider the train, for a moment.

    "Quite the statement you're making, Young Master," she says, to Noel.

    Noel turns to his new bodyguard--one of them, anyway--and smiles. "The Dianbai Guang is a good train," he says. "It's solid, reliable. I still have a model of it in my room."

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Fondness, Ida thinks. She can't blame him. But that's not the only statement Noel is making. He and his protectors aren't the only people on the platform. A conductor in a spotless blue uniform emerges from the foremost passenger car, bows to Noel, and says, simply: "This way, please, Young Master."

    The boarding process is quite Galadian, despite this being Celesti territory--efficient, and prioritized by traveling class. The Dianbai Guang's passenger cars likewise vary: the first-class car holding Noel and his entourage has plush, comfortable seats, plenty of leg room, and storage space in the for coats, gear, and other accoutrements. With less emphasis on total passenger capacity, there's room for people to spread out and socialize. A pair of stewards stand ready with a supply of hot and cold beverages.

    Once all the passengers and crew are aboard, the train's whistle sounds, echoing across the Buckeye Station flats. In the cars ahead, stokers monitor the half-dozen Dragon Filaments keeping the steam boiler running, and the power cells keeping the Filaments charged.


    The Dianbai Guang motors on as night approaches. A thick blanket of clouds has fallen across the badlands, blotting out the sky, and soaking the earth with rain. The train has slowed considerably, but it's still making decent progress. And better to be safe than sorry, with such important personages on board.

    Noel looks out the window, frowning. "Is this seasonable?" he says, turning to his bodyguards. He honestly doesn't know.

    "It's a bit early," Ida says. She has a cup of tea in hand, and is putting every drop of training to use in drinking it elegantly. "But not completely unheard of. I'm sure they're keeping watch for flash floods."

    "At least the homesteaders will appreciate it," Noel says. "I've heard they've been... suffering more than usual, lately." He lowers his voice. "I've heard there's something out there, picking them off." Genuine anger flashes in the young man's eyes. "And we've done nothing to protect them. It..." He pauses. His breath hitches. "It isn't right."

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Eleanor Klein finds the statement of picking this train interesting--but she has some insight into the sorts of statements that someone this young might already start making. She's sympathetic, admittedly--particularly given that she's had to deal with the Master herself...

But she's not going to say that, she has manners.

But here and now, one Montgomery Curie is also on board, with very little difficulty in drinking tea elegantly at all. He sits near Noel, and considers his anger. The way his eyes flash. It isn't right...

"Well," he says, "You know my view on that." And Noel probably does, though others may or may not. Eleanor finds that what she could say about this is a little fraught; she's been doing a lot of socializing herself, making a point of getting to know the train workers a little, paying attention to the details--the potential entry points.

"It certainly wasn't projected," Eleanor comments then of the rain, thoughtfully before she takes another sip of tea. But the homesteaders...

"There's some belief," Montgomery says, "That it's only a set of rumors. Until there are more sightings, there are many who refuse to allocate the resources." He may be saying this for someone else's benefit, though.

"But that may change soon," he says, looking to Ida. Eleanor nods to that. "Hopefully," she adds, and looks out the window, frowning. There's something... '

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.


Zhang Xiumei hasn't spent much time in Guild Galad. Generations ago, her ancestors left; they were from deeper in the city, where opportunities were limited. They kept their name and some of their culture, even after they immigrated. The Zhangs made a name -- and a company, with a presence and a sales tactic -- by emphasizing Galadian heritage and their family traditions, even after they lived in Meria Boule long enough that no one alive had ever lived in Guild Galad.

She doesn't know what to think of it, now. There is a strange sensation, at she glances at Noel Anaheim, from a distance. This is the sort of thing her family wanted to get away from. But, on the other hand, this isn't how her family ever thought they might come back.

She has a tan coat on, worn over a white button-up and a brown-red vest. A ribbon at her collar is tied neatly, and she has a small leatherbound ledger clutched in one hand. She looks around, with a pleasant smile on her face.

And it doesn't even flicker when she sees Montgomery Curie approach. But, internally, she says: 'Oh.' Because she made her decision -- after getting advice -- and it's to accept what she has, to be happy with it, and not push herself to do something she thinks would be wrong.


<Let's kill the motherfucker,> Varius says inside of her mind. <This shit's easy, kid.>

"Varius," Xiumei whispers harshly, under her breath.

<Varius, we can't just kill him! We should lock him up!> Avile says. <It would be easy. We just weld a train car door shut and-->

"Avile!" Xiumei whispers a little louder, with a half-whine.

Then, she looks up -- and she glances from Noel, then towards Eleanor -- and then she takes another sip of her tea. She sighs; her glasses droop down her nose, reflecting the light and hiding her eyes. "...Do the rumors say what it might be? I doubt the reports are reliable."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine had been told that they would be escorting the Master's son aboard a 'train'. She had never seen one before. A series of metal capsules, sent hurtling down a set of rails... on its face, it was strange. She didn't believe such a thing could be possible. ...Despite all of the other fascinating and usual things she had seen on her travels.

Fast forward, then, to when ARMS arrives at the platform. She offers a polite, cordial nod of greeting to their young charge and his retinue. She doesn't anticipate or expect any of them to respond, but it is the polite thing to do. Her attention turns, then, to the train.

"Ah... so this is a 'train'..." Clarine murmurs. "Is such a thing really capable of such speed?"

As it turns out, it is.

At present, Clarine sits in a seat by the window. To the average viewer it appears to be empty, left vacant at the request of ARMS, but Clarine is there, her focus turned intently toward the outside. The train has slowed since... but it's still remarkable to see the world fly by.

"Such fascinating speed...! It is relaxing, in a way..." Clarine murmurs. "It is impressive to think that people created such a machine..."

Her attention soon drifts over to Ida and Noel as they speak. ...It seems they're taking about the Drake. Her expression dims at the topic of conversation though she brightens up, just a little, at Noel's response.

"This young man... he would appear to have a good head on his shoulders..." Clarine observes, to those who can hear her. "I hope he can continue to maintain these views."

<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Clarissa Arwin has, by and large, kept out of the way of things. While she's put on one of the fluffy blue and white dresses she's worn around Klein Manor, she's off towards the rear of the train car, looking quietly out through the window as the scenery scrolls past. She's seated, paying only passing attention to a cup of tea.

Nevermind that she looks every bit the part of a young noblewoman. She's taken this entire mission with more than a little discomfort - less out of dislike for a person than for the way it makes her feel.

I feel, she reflects, like a thug. Like a hired gun no different from Rupert.

At least Montgomery's a familiar face. With a glance down the length of the car, she watches a moment as Eleanor and her betrothed banter with Ida and their young charge. For just a moment she catches Montgomery's eyes to flash a quiet smile.

"They seem to be engaged," Felius Arwin observes in a quiet voice, across the table from Clarissa. Unlike his ostensible sister, he did not change into anything nice. Felius never does.

Clarissa dips her eyes to her teacup and presses her lips together. "Eleanor is better at these sorts of things than I am."

"You're uneasy about it." Felius doesn't blink.

Clarissa Arwin does not tell lies. "I am," she concedes in a low voice, sipping her tea and leaving it at that.

Felius doesn't pry. He's a smart guy.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel Armitage is of House Valeria so it's natural that she's going to be in the first class cabin with the hob nobbers. She even has little minions named Hob and Nob though, really, they're more like support animals that sometimes she uses for mass destruction.

"It isn't right," Marivel--in her MArie Valeria guise, her body shrouded in her heavy red jacket, says. "But this is Filgaia. There is much that isn't right about Filgaia."

She crosses one leg over the other. "ARMS is always available to assist but I shouldn't want the populace to dependant on ARMS. It doesn't make for good infrastructure. One day you'll be in a position to help them far better than any agent of House Valeria."

"Of course, such lofty dreams of youth is common to young nobles but doing right by the people isn't just an ideal, it is work. Tireless and backbreaking."

She glances to Montgomery for a moment before focusing on Noel.

"Are you the type, Young Master? How is your back?"

You can practically hear the capital M. Such sharp focus isn't uncommon from Marie or Marivel but she isn't one to shy away from compliments either when difficult jobs are done.

<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

"Well," says Venetia Vuong with a hand on her hip, "if it isn't my old friend, the Dianbai Guang."


Venetia Vuong is occupying an entire couch with her entire body. She has been doing this for almost the entire trip. One might ask, would one not become tired of lounging in a vaguely langorous way on your side while eating and drinking snackies? One is asking a ridiculous question. Of course not. Perhaps if she starts getting rib cage adhesions but they will be in Guild Galad by then.

Venetia Vuong has rarely travelled first class -- and never on this train, before.

Venetia raises a fingertip to rest on her lower lip as she considers Noel's question. Some part of her is tempted to discourse and to ramble. And yet, she thinks, gazing upon Noel, what would this do? Will I persuade him to change his views? To work towards something different? Or would I crush the green shoots of political reform in their first blooming? And for that matter, what of the boy himself?

Should people matter at all? Venetia thinks to herself. Do any of us matter? Most of us will be dead in a hundred years. Even Marivel keeps shoving her scrawny neck into incinerating light rays. In a million years Filgaia will still be here, even if it has died. Geology will continue to occur, perhaps until Filgaia is a single uniform stone.

"Is it anything concrete?" Venetia asks aloud, before indicating she would like more of the cheesy chips, please. She is at the point where she can do this by raising an index finger at one of the cabin attendants. "Rumors are like urine: Only useful when carefully managed."

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"Do you carefully manage your urine, Venetia?" Marivel asks, possibly ruining entirely her friend's previous concern for her well-being.

<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

"You're lucky I checked my gun," Venetia tells Marivel.

"(We're just kidding,)" Venetia tells Noel. It is a lie

<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Clarissa, catching the edges of that, momentarily looks completely scandalized.

<Pose Tracker> Tio has posed.

    Tio looks a little... different than usual. Instead of her usual bright yellow mission gear, she's wearing a new outfit. A dark blue dress that falls past her knees, with black leggings and solid black boots. Her hands are covered in black gloves that end at the wrist, and she wears a simple silver necklace that falls under her dress. Her Mana Egg and Chakrams are no longer visible. Her antennae most certainly are: Tio is not hiding any aspect of her mechanical form right now.

    She's also been in a bit of a mood, as one might guess, since that trip into the place of Kamui's memories. She's been quiet, and morose. She hasn't been asking questions as much. And she'd insisted she join this mission, as a membner of ARMS in her own right. Not merely as a follower to her Master. Overall, it's been a weird week.

    While Tio is sitting near Eleanor, she's still keeping a bit of a space. She's trying to be professional. Her sensors light up every so often, as she scans for enemies approaching. As a result, she's not being particularly social. Still, she completely bypasses talk of urine, and back to the comment of something preying on the homesteaders. "...If it is a threat to the homesteaders, should it not be eliminated? Or are you hoping some drifters will solve the problem for you?"

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    "Woo! This one's a beaut!" Gwen marvels at the Dianbai Guang like it was a particularly large metal horse, stopping short of just coming up and examining the exterior like it was a workhorse. It wouldn't be too far off in terms of a parallel comparison. While not as fancy as some trains Gwen has witnessed, it's the sort that one could depend on to cross these sorts of terrains, without much, if any, fuss.

    And it's definitely an upgrade from 'sleeping in the Gear' as far as accomodations go. There's no tea service function that can be installed in a Gear that'd be worth the pain and cost, as well.

    So later, when they all board, Gwen definitely indulges as much as is polite for a bodyguard, her grip on her teacup not as fancy as Ida's or Eleanor's, but unusually practiced for someone of her station, despite her leather gloves. Her outfit is clean and crisp, a white blouse, dark pants, and a vest, as well as her usual turquoise earrings. (Thankfully, she took those off before going on that secret scouting mission in Luca. Maybe that's why it ended so badly. All her luck was gone!) The odd part is how she is wearing a black cap inside. Scandalous! Lan's warm hat is secure in Gwen's gear for now.

    Something is out there.

    Gwen, turning from her view out the window, looks towards Ida, mouthing the words 'dragon?', trying to confirm if this is indeed what Noel may be referring to.

    "The situation'll resolve itself soon," Gwen assures, with a nod at Noel and a smile for Clarine. "The concern is real nice of you, though, Young Master."

    She raises an eyebrow at the mention of 'rumors', looking utterly lost, but with enough sense to not flat out ask.

    Oh god is Janus going to show up, hasn't he moved beyond train theft at this point?

    To deter her sudden flare of irritation, Gwen has taken two pastries, making short work of them, though she does choke when Marivel asks about Venetia's urology management. "*coughcoughCOUGH*" She drinks her tea a little less gracefully now, clearing her lungs with a sigh, her eyes watery. "Whoo."

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    The train trundles along the tracks, even if it is slowed by the torrential rains.

    Unlike some of those present, Avril travels by rail simply as a means to reach Guild Galad-- that, and the nagging sense that she ought to be aboard the train (to reach Guild Galad?), for some reason. When Gwen had mentioned she had intents to travel similarly, well...

    It's been a long journey from Spira, made all the longer for the work that was necessary with the Skadi. The Gear has been left behind for now. The battle with the White Knight had not been altogether kind to it, and the repairs will take some time.

    In the meantime, Avril sits in the train car, reading a book placidly--


    Had been reading a book, placidly. Currently, the one and future queen of the Veruni is slumped against the window, out like a light. ...Well, it has been a long journey.

<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

Trains are a new experience, and Azoth moves through the cars in enthusiastic exploration. He bounces and smiles at everything, pausing to scan and listen to the internals, and generally learn him a thing or several dozen about trains. But two hours is a long time, and even more so to an artificial intelligence running rapid calculations. Eventually, the data he can grab plateaus, and he takes to sitting by a window to gaze as the world passes by under the rain.

He has, however, taken to conveniently and hopefully inconspicuously seating himself nearer Tio, because she has visible antenna and lighting sensors. But in a group so large, it's going to be a lot more difficult to start comfortably beeping or discussing similarities.

But, then again, she's yet another mechanical being who doesn't hide it. As lax as Azoth's become about his own 'secret', perhaps he hasn't become lax enough.

"There are some problems it wouldn't be practical to solve yourself," Azoth says concerning the issue at hand. "But resource management can be useful, right?"

He stares at Venetia an extra moment, opens his mouth, then shuts it. Hungry for information as Azoth is, he doesn't even know where to begin asking about what she means by that.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Noel is at least four years Montgomery's junior, but one thing is certain--the two know each other well enough that Noel feels comfortable speaking his mind around him. "Only a set of rumors," the young man says, his face tightening. "How many people have to die before--" He lets out a breath, trails off, and looks at Ida. "You have my apologies. That was unseemly. Do you... know anything more?"

    "The rumors," Ida says. "I've been keeping an ear to the ground, yes." She nods once, to Gwen, confirming matters. "Depending on whom you listen to, the entity in question is is a Metal Dragon with some sort of invisibility cloak, or a Reaper so fast and merciless no one has seen it, or some sort of unholy biological weapon unearthed from a lab in Celesti somewhere. It is in fact draconic in form, but its very nature makes it extremely difficult to catch. The process is ongoing."

    Ida meets Noel's eyes. He reminds her of herself when she was his age. Life in the upper class had done its level best to wring every last drop of non-performative empathy out of her, but it had to work for it. Ida wasn't a desperate, dessicated husk until she was old enough to leave home. It's been a long journey, restoring herself.

    Marivel says what Ida is thinking, more or less. Noel turns to her, and does his best to look as stubborn and bull-headed as his father. "My back feels quite well, thank you," he says. Noel's face softens. "Lady Valeria. Your people saved my father's life, twice over. He and I have our differences, but..." He trails off again. Still unwilling to say the word 'love'.

    For a moment, both Noel and Ida look at least moderately scandalized by Venetia's comments. Noel coughs. "Ah, well--" Noel says. "Perhaps you can tell me more about yourselves? Who would like to go first?"

    He's looking at Tio. And Azoth. Mainly Tio.

    Ida swallows, softly.

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

It sure has, Avril Vent Fleur, it sure has.

Ashley Winchester is... also present. Sort of? Kind of?? It's been a very long few weeks, and this talk of an actual dragon flapping around Aquvy, burninating the countryside (as dragons do) has only added to the pile of Stuff To Shoot. Can they make friends with a dragon? Probably not. Not without, like, making it not a dragon.

...Which honestly defeats the very fundamental purpose of even having a dragon friend. Bah!

But at least they're back on Filgaia for now. A confrontation with the incarnation of an Archipelago's original Sin looms on the horizon, but it's a Tomorrow Ashley Problem. Today Ashley's Problem is...

Uh. Guarding a train??

Considering he turned into a walking apocalypse the last time he ran into the Master, he's pretty sure that there's nothing to hide from the man's son. Still, Ashley seems to have dragons on his mind, as he stares out the cabin window.

"...It'd be cool to have a dragon friend," he wonders aloud. "But I guess I'd need to learn how to jump better first..."

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Montgomery goes on unaware of Varius and Avile's designs. Eleanor also goes on unaware of their designs. It's probably for the best.

For her part, Eleanor is dressed in button-up with tie and jacket with skirt, and Monty in an outfit mostly in blacks of refined (but Sylvaland) style.

But Eleanor does look with some interest to the exchange with Marivel while pretending not to... and then glances at Venetia at the line about the gun. "Oh yes, they're good friends," Eleanor lies(?) pleasantly. It is like she and her fiance don't even hear the more indelicate parts of the exchange, and neither even blinks. ...It's a little more work for Eleanor, though.

She has worried a little over Tio on the trip thus far, fussing now and then to ensure her outfit is right and she's doing well. It's almost overbearing. She's worried about her! ...But by contrast she mysteriously hasn't been around Xiumei as much thus far. On this trip, anyway. But surely she's not avoiding her.

Mony, though, shakes his head at Noel. "It may be unseemly to express it openly, but I think your anger is appropriate." A formal way of saying it, but one imagines this isn't the first time Montgomery has enabled Noel's feelings about something like this.

"We can count on Ida to keep track of a lot of things," Eleanor says, apparently proud of her friend's informed state. But... telling about themselves?

Eleanor mysteriously doesn't look over at Avril much. She does however say, as Noel looks to Tio...

"Would you be comfortable with that, Tio?" she inquires. No pressure, her tone says. She can certainly dominate attention herself if necessary when it comes to conversations.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"I understand. Believe it or not, I was in your position once upon a time. How you navigate that tumultous sea is up to you. But I would not have you be unprepared simply because I'd rather be polite." Marivel is pretty direct on that front. "I appreciate that you are taking the challenges that will be your challenges seriously. Less work for the rest of us, you understand."

She leans back and crosses one leg over the other. She cracks a smile at Eleanor. "Sure are." Ws Eleanor even talking about her and Venetia? well, Marivel is going to ACT like she meant Venetia and herself there.

"I wonder if they're speaking of the Drake, but it could be plenty of things, I suppose. Draconic entities are a dime a dozen lately."

She looks to Azoth.

She stares at Azoth.

And then she says, "Beep." at him. And then. "Boop."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Gwen smiles at Clarine, and so Clarine smiles back.

"...I do hope so." She murmurs after a moment. She really does... and, for the best. To become a dragon... it's one of the worst fates imaginable for a Seraph. She could only hope they could be saved from that fate...

One way or another.

She looks around at the others. Her gaze, briefly, lands on Clarissa. She had noticed that she seemed a little uncomfortable. Clarine can't quite place why... but even so she offers her a small, encouraging smile before looking back toward Noel.

...It seems like the conversation has turned toward talking about themselves. Clarine is subtly glad that she can dodge this potentially awkward line of conversation, by virtue of being imperceptible.

Not that she's entirely opposed to the idea, but... it's convenient, sometimes, to be able to dodge it.

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

There is a glance from Xiumei to Eleanor. They haven't been able to talk much. Which, maybe, sits poorly with her... but she is good at hiding it behind smile and extra helpings of professionalism. She tells herself that she isn't being fair, to be made.

So Xiumei makes a face at the mention of urine.

"Well... statistically speaking, rumors in aggregate can give you a sense of what a group of people have seen. Comparisons can let you determine the probability that something is true," Xiumei says. "Or... not true, but in a significant way. There were a few papers written on it, in developing marketing--ah, I'd looked at a few of them."

She didn't involve herself too much in the Zhang Great Seas Company's marketing, but she had to know the basics of advertising. In this case, though, she doesn't see much in Ida's rumors. She looks down, with a frown, and shakes her head.

She glances away from Venetia -- and then she looks at Tio. She blinks once, and then she opens her mouth, but closes it after a moment. She wants to ask if she is okay, after the previous week's journey...

...but not here, not now.

She does look at Azoth -- and smiles at him. She waves her hand once; she recognizes him, of course. She remembers when Varius spoke with him. Her own conversation was briefer. "Hello, Azoth," Xiumei says, pleasantly. "It's nice to see you again. Ah--our shared acquaintances send their regards."

Varius and Avile, of course.

Then her eyebrow twitches when Marivel beeps at Azoth, and her efforts to play it subtle vanish into so much smoke. It's made worse when Avile starts laughing inside of her head.

<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

Venetia regrets checking her gun. She looks towards Azoth, towards Gwen, and she explains with a certain air of defense, "They leach it for nitre. It goes into gunpowder and the rest restores tired soil. I hope I haven't ruined firearms and agriculture for you."

Both Noel AND Ida seem scandalized. Venetia deeply regrets checking her gun, even if, real talk, this one's all on her probably getting too comfy. She shifts around, and while she does not exactly sit upright, she at least elevates herself to 'relaxed half-recline' as opposed to 'full lounge power' as the topic of what-it-might-be out there floats around.

"For myself I am mostly a scholar from down in 41 and I ran across Marivel and her merry band a few times, and I opted to sign on when we were in a particularly difficult patch," Venetia says with a smile towards Noel, folding her hands on her knee. (And then she glances towards Azoth, then Tio, for a moment.)

<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

"Ooh, resourceful!" Azoth says to Venetia with a genuine, delighted brightness. But maybe it's easy to be impressed when he's unaffected by any agricultural implications.

At Noel, Azoth puffs his cheeks a little. "I don't think it's unseemly to get upset about people dying." The rules of the nobility must be difficult to understand, Azoth decides, because their priorities make no practical sense.

Oh no Noel's looking at him. He points at himself, then Tio, then back to himself and glances around to see if maybe there is anyone else who might enjoy speaking openly about themselves available.

Oh no Marivel's looking at him.

Oh hey Xiumei's looking at him! Azoth smiles brightly and waves back. "Tell them I said hi, too!" Although, they can hear him now. But there's no need to call attention to that.


Azoth gives in, looking down in embarrassment and responding with a genuine digital beep boop that could only be produced by electronics.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    'It'd be cool to have a dragon friend,' says Ashley.

    ".... Yeah..." Gwen's face falls, realizing she *still* hasn't talked to Lombardia. "... though I 'spose it'd depend on the dragon." She gives a small grin towards Avril, sleeping yonder.

    It was a good thing she was able to convince Avril to come along, if she was tired enough to catch a nap here.

    Gwen has to stop herself from speaking up as Ida presents what the rumors are, disguising her open mouth with a cough. "A--ah yes. Totally what I've heard, too."

    Listening to Noel, however, does cause Gwen to stifle another urge: to sweep him up into a hug because he's trying so hard to be polite but he's still a child and he's so _adorable_ aghghghgh

    "You're so-- polite," Gwen manages, nipping the urge back with a big sip of tea. "You're hitting that age, I see. Where a boy sees his father as human, and decides what sort of adult they wish to be!" Just like one of Gwen's one-gella novels! A coming of age story, where the young boy must decide whether or not to pilot his father's gear!

    Gwen refilles her cup. "Ahhh, okay, that makes sense," she says, gesturing to Venetia. "I just thought Mariv-- er, Marie, was just bein' Marie."

    Ah yes, the young master wishes to know about them! Which is kind of him, considering what he's already learned, but he's naturally settling his eyes on Tio and Azoth!

    And Ida is nervous, for some reason! So Gwen comes to Ida's rescue!

    "I'm Gwen Whitlock, Super Courier!" she says, raising a finger. "And... uh." What would actually be interesting to a boy his age? ... Clarification: what is something she can openly talk about that he'd find interesting? "I have a Gear."

    Why are Marivel and Azoth beeping at each other, is this a special code

<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Desire plays a big part in driving Clarissa - the desire to do the right thing and to help the world be a better place. As she looks down into her teacup, she finds herself doing far more math than she'd like to get to that little spark.

The look Felius is giving her is as neutral as it always is, but Clarissa's learned how to read him by now. She glances aside for a moment, realizing that Noel's attention is on Tio and Azoth and that she, for now, seems to have escaped scrutiny. Pale blue-green eyes drift back to the silent man across from her.

"I sometimes wonder," she says in a voice quiet enough to try not to go all that far beyond her table, "what Mother would think of my decision to do this. Whether I'm really making progress towards our dream. We spent so much of our lives searching, and there's still so much of the world left to search. And sometimes I wonder if...."

She trails off, pursing her lips and looking down to her tea again. The cup doesn't have anything to say in return, save to share a wavering glimpse of her reflection tinted in the pale tan of tea with milk.

Felius is only slightly more forthcoming. "What is it that you want?" he asks simply, canting his head to the side.

"To leave Filgaia happier and more beautiful than when I got here, when it's all said and done," she answers immediately.

"That's something to measure, isn't it?" The stoic young man's tone is as infuriatingly opaque as it always is.

"I suppose it is...." Catching Clarine flashing her a smile, Clarissa glances her way with a little blush and a dip of her head, otherwise unsure how to really engage with the situation.

<Pose Tracker> Tio has posed.

    Tio appears to have drawn the attention of the young master in question, and she looks directly at him, then to Eleanor when she asks. "...I see no issue with it, Master." She sounds... a little tired, still, which may indicate lots to Xiumei: Tio has after all said that she does not get tired.

    She can tell she's drawing attention from most of the room, honestly. She can also tell Azoth is there. Her sensors can't tell her what he is, but he is very definitely someone. She nods her head and is about to speak-

    When Azoth beeps electronically and Tio's eyes widen and she turns to face him. Her sensor antennae start flashing with multiple colours of light, and she relaxes a little. She starts producing a simple light signal, that might get across even if she can't interface directly. A simple 'Welcome'. She will have to speak to him later.

    She returns, seemingly a little buoyed. "My name is Tio. I was constructed as a combat automaton, but I do not know when or where." She paces her speech, but very clearly does not stop to breathe. "I am told I was the host of the Claw of Valmar until my Sister, Master and the others in ARMS. I have been living with ARMS and with Master," she nods to Eleanor, "since my awakening. They have been introducing me to Filgaia." Another beat. "I have discovered I enjoy horse riding, and the presense of my friends, Sister and Master."

    She seems almost finished before her entirely truthful and factual summary of her short live goes. "Last week I found out I had another Sister, fought her, spoke to her, and had to bury her in the same day."

    She has stil not learned how to read the room.

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    Avril wakes with a start, straightening to blink, bleary-eyed at her surroundings. "Are we..." she begins to say to Gwen, before realization settles itself heavily about her. "...Oh, we are still traveling. I had begun to wonder whether we had arrived," she remarks, glancing the once out the window. Then, her eyes widening, she reaches suddenly for--

    ...her book, which has started to drift perilously towards the floor.

    Some of the conversation about her begins to congeal into understanding for her. She glances again towards Gwen, slipping her page marker into place and tucking it to one side. Introductions appear to be happening. This young man is, to Avril's advanced sense of social propriety... probably someone important.

    "My name is Avril Vent Fleur," she says, and coming in a bit late to the party, so to speak, glances the once at Gwen as Gwen mentions she has a Gear. Ah. So that is the topic at hand.

    "I, too, have a Gear."

    Someone else might have panicked, but Avril instead sits as primly as one might at a dinner party, apparently completely composed in spite of having been very very asleep just two minutes ago. Some skills can be taught. Others are learned.

    There is a moment's pause. She looks over at Azoth and Marivel, and tilts her head slightly to the left.

    "Why are the two of you making beeping sounds? Is that proper?" She doesn't sound accusatory so much as she sounds... honestly curious. Is that what people do at a time like this?
    Even now, Avril has some... gaps in her social knowledge. Five thousand years is a very long time...

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"It's pretty appropriate," Marivel says. "You shouldn't be afraid to give it a try sometime. I believe wholeheartedly...that you too can beep and boop, Avril...!" She clenches a gloved fist in determination.

Similar beepboops come from within Marivel's robes and Hob and Nob float out and swarm Azoth, getting right up in his face with big sharp-teethed smiles. Hob tries to lick Azoth's face while making electronic chirping noises at him.

"I like Venetia a lot. She's truly someone special." Marivel says. "Even in a sea of remarkable people."

Marivel looks to Clarissa for a long moment but doesn't press too far. What she wants to say to Clarissa is something she'd like to say to Clarissa privately and she just hasn't had the opportunity. She cracks a small grin at Xiumei but doesn't send any kind of goofery directly her way.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    "I know," Noel says, to Monty. In that moment, he looks at him with an almost fraternal respect--this sort of talk has happened time and time again between the two. "Anaheim... doesn't see those farmers. Not unless they're turning a profit. I tried to speak with Father, but he wouldn't have any of it." So there's at least a little of that backbone Marivel's looking for. "Thank you," Noel says, to the Crimson Noble. The smile on his face is a small thing, but it's bright, and full of deterimnation.

    Ida sees it, and dares to hope. She also thinks of all the terrible things that can happen to Noel before he so much as gets the chance to make a difference. Then there's the matter of the workers' dignity and empowerment--it can't all come from the top down, that's missing the point--

    "I see," Ida says, as Venetia explains her reference. "I admit I never studied that part of the old recycling systems in great detail."

    "Void 41," Noel says, after a moment. His smile turns regretful, but it doesn't quite lose that hopeful spark. "Welcome, Miss Vuong."

    Pause. Gwen calls him polite. Noel smiles very politely, and responds with a very polite "Thank you." As the others begin to exposit, he gives them genuine attention. "It's... rare for me to encounter people from outside the nobility, you understand," Noel says, once Gwen and Clarissa are done speaking. "But the stories you're all telling are--"

    beep boop

    Noel's eyes widen. He stares at Tio and Azoth for a good few seconds, before turning back to Ida, his reference.

    "...She's telling the truth," the heiress says. Her eyes darken. "Though--I didn't know about your sister, Tio. I'm deeply sorry."

    "Yes," Noel says, taking the cue and turning appropriately somber. He looks at Azoth, then, and not even the grimness of Tio's report can completely dampen his enthusiasm.

    "Are you a mechanical person, too?" Noel, apparently, thinks this is awesome.

<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Clarissa can feel Marivel looking at her. It's enough that she actually shrinks in her chair slightly.

When she is eventually asked to introduce herself, it actually catches her by surprise. She does so politely, but in relatively few words, for her.

Felius doesn't bother. He's Felius. There is a long, awkward silence when he's expected to fill a hole in the conversation.



<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    "I know," Noel says, to Monty. In that moment, he looks at him with an almost fraternal respect--this sort of talk has happened time and time again between the two. "Anaheim... doesn't see those farmers. Not unless they're turning a profit. I tried to speak with Father, but he wouldn't have any of it." So there's at least a little of that backbone Marivel's looking for. "Thank you," Noel says, to the Crimson Noble. The smile on his face is a small thing, but it's bright, and full of deterimnation.

    Ida sees it, and dares to hope. She also thinks of all the terrible things that can happen to Noel before he so much as gets the chance to make a difference. Then there's the matter of the workers' dignity and empowerment--it can't all come from the top down, that's missing the point--

    "I see," Ida says, as Venetia explains her reference. "I admit I never studied that part of the old recycling systems in great detail."

    "Void 41," Noel says, after a moment. His smile turns regretful, but it doesn't quite lose that hopeful spark. "Welcome, Miss Vuong."

    Pause. Gwen calls him polite. Noel smiles very politely, and responds with a very polite "Thank you." As the others begin to exposit, he gives them genuine attention. "It's... rare for me to encounter people from outside the nobility, you understand," Noel says, once Gwen and Clarissa are done speaking. "But the stories you're all telling are--"

    beep boop

    Noel's eyes widen. He stares at Tio and Azoth for a good few seconds, before turning back to Ida, his reference.

    "...She's telling the truth," the heiress says. Her eyes darken. "Though--I didn't know about your sister, Tio. I'm deeply sorry."

    "Yes," Noel says, taking the cue and turning appropriately somber. He looks at Azoth, then, and not even the grimness of Tio's report can completely dampen his enthusiasm.

    "Are you a mechanical person, too?"

    While Azoth is giving his answer, possibly, Noel turns to Ida and mouths the words 'Claw of Valmar?' His eyebrows shoot upwards.

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

"Miss Vuong is very talented," Eleanor chimes in for Venetia's benefit(?). She was definitely referring to Marivel and Venetia earlier. Definitely.

Montgomery likes Noel, and there are reasons for that. "And that's why your new ideas will do good in Guild Galad," he answers about how his father wouldn't have it. Eleanor, in the meantime, glances back at Xiumei, and gives her a small smile, looking back at her for a moment. Maybe she has been avoiding her a little but you wouldn't think it from that look.

"That's true," Eleanor agrees with Xiumei about rumors. "They can be very useful that way."

Beep. Beep. Eleanor doesn't sweatdrop, but she thinks about it.

Instead, as Tio relates her story, Eleanor reaches out to set a hand on hers, and squeeze it. "And we're glad you're still with us," she insists.

Avril asks about beeping. Montgomery joins in glancing between them. Hmmm.

He also notices Clarissa's difficulty, though, and while he isn't going to call her on it, he does look her way for a moment with something almost nice in his expression, with a nod to Felius subtly.

"And oh yes," Eleanor mentions about the nobility, "We could tell you all sorts of stories about trade contracts or who's wearing what this week but not much about the world as a whole."

A mechanical person... Well. Uh.

Eleanor lets Tio answer that if she wants.

<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

Tio's light signal grabs Azoth's attention. He stares, and then he smiles gratefully. He tries to mimic her light signal communication with the flickering of his glowing eyes to return the greeting. There could be a lot to talk about -- but later.

Not that Tio is shy about talking now. It's... impressive, might be the word, to Azoth that she gives so much data without hesitation. This is an automaton who operates with little to hide. But 'Master'? Azoth glances to Eleanor as Tio points her out. Is he judging this? He doesn't let his face say.

But the story becomes more somber, and Azoth frowns a little. "That's a lot of data to process and make calculations on in a short amount of time. I'm sorry, Tio."

He smiles warmly at Hob and Nob, accepting their affections and nuzzling back into them with his own beep-chirps in response. There are advantages to having his nature more open, as Marivel seems keen to encourage and demonstrate. After a moment, Azoth glances to the two small bots, then to Tio, giving a small gesture of his head. Perhaps Tio herself could use the supportive companions right now.

"Yes," Azoth admits to Noel about being mechanical, and he's even smiling, still! Gwen's attempt to rescue him bought enough time to get to this point. It even becomes a more playful grin for Avril. "It's pretty proper, I should think." Back to Noel: "I haven't ridden a horse yet myself, but I have discovered the presence of friends like Tio. And singing!"

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

"I... I will," Xiumei says, after Azoth's beep. "Um... um, I hope everything's been well with you! I--er--I'm sorry about my boss." She sounds like she maybe has said this before. She glances once at Marivel. She smiles -- it's genuine, if also genuinely exasperated.

She looks at Tio -- then blinks when Tio is very forthright. Her eyes widen a moment; they're on Noel not a moment later, to measure his reaction. She starts to wilt a little bit. He doesn't seem entirely bewildered. Perhaps, even, impressed.

She smiles back at Eleanor. She even hesitates a second -- and then there's a brief, worried glance at Clarissa. Xiumei takes a deep breath, then she looks at Noel.

"I'm Zhang Xiumei," she says. "I'm a member of the Agile Remote Mission Squad." Because you always say the full name, then the acronym. "I help ARMS with their supplies, provide support for their logistics, and participate in combat missions. Previously, I was a clerk for my family's company."

The Zhang Great Seas Trading Company. They did business with Guild Galad, importing expensive relics to buyers in Meria Boule and Sylvaland.

<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

"Thank you, you're very kind, and I appreciate your hospitality," Venetia says to Noel with a dip of her head. It might stand out to some that she didn't say 'sir', but then again, maybe not. She does not say much in the interim after that because she is given a thin-sliced potato with horseradish and cheese. She has had like four of these already. She will probably have one for breakfast, if nothing intervenes.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine listens as Tio recounts what had happened in Neo Arcadia. She still hasn't forgotten the promise she made that day. She is glad, at least, that Tio seems to have recovered well enough. It is a heavy thing, for anyone to experience.

She listens as the others speak of themselves, and finds herself pleased that Noel seems to be taking to them so well. It makes things a fair sight easier than if he disliked them. She does not know the Master very well, but from she did know, the idea that they were escorting his son did not offer her much hope.

For the time being, however, she turns her attention - while still remaining largely alert for signs of potential trouble - back to the window, returning to appreciate how the world passes by them.

...Not that the terrain itself is particularly pleasant.

<Pose Tracker> Tio has posed.

    "Thank you, Ida." Tio says quietly, before nodding to Noel. "A mechanical person is an approximate term, yes." At least that term recognizes they are people. When Eleanor squeezes her hand, Tio looks to her and smiles softly. "Thank you."

    She turns to Azoth, who is ready to call her a friend already, and smiles, especially as he returns her light signal. She also watches Hob and Nob as they float around. "Perhaps when we are done here, I might be able to introduce you to Nyx." Tio says, happily. "She is also mechanical, but she is a very sweet natured horse."

    There another pause those, as she turns, and looks directly at the light Seraph, and she skips another logical step. "Clarine, do you not feel like speaking?"

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    The Claw. How is Ida supposed to answer that one? If all else fails--and all else fails in short order--she can fall back on one of Aunt Anna's tactics. "...I can brief you on the details later, Young Master," she says. "This is not the place for it."

    "All right," Noel says. He takes a breath, and readjusts his public face. "That's why I have to keep looking outwards," he says to Monty, as if no awful revelation had shattered the mood. "How else would I know about this 'Drake' monster, otherwise? Or that the College of Mineralogy was still trooping steadfastly along, despite everything?" Yep, Venetia, he's on to you. "How would I make my own professional contacts in other nations?" As Hob and Nob approach, he smiles. "Are they yours, Lady Valeria?"

    And then Azoth confirms. Noel is speechless for a moment, looking between the two androids. "I--I'd heard legends of mechanical people--that the Zeboim made them, long, long ago. But I never thought I'd actually meet one--"

    "Now you have," Ida says, with a grin. "Two of them."

    "Singing," Noel says, his eyes positively lighting up.

    Outside, the rainfall begins to turn into a downpour. The steady hammering of raindrops underscores the conversation.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Noel pauses. "...Clarine?" he asks, after a moment.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

n "Some people are better at business than dealin' with people. Some are good at both, like me!" Which likely explains so many of Gwen's important life choices.

    Tio explains her origin and story, as well as her connection to Valmar. Gwen gives the woman a blank look, somehow just attributing the woman's antennae and flickers to some sort of fancy device.

    Then Azoth reveals he is of the same.

    "Wuh..." Gwen is the one who looks shocked, peering in at Azoth. "Wait, you're mechanical too? Both of you are? Man..." She squints back at Marivel. "..... You're.... okay no, I *know* you ain't." She's seen Marivel die, and that didn't look mechanical at all.

    It's enough to make a courier eat two more pastries, which Gwen does, as others talk.

    Slumping in a chair, the courier sighs. "Alright, alright, if we're bringin' mechanical people into the mix..." She begins the arduous process of unbuckling her glove, which she then tugs off by biting onto a loose leather fingertip, revealing the gleam of a metallic hand, underneath. She wiggles the fingers upwards. "I... have a prosthetic ARM." Which sounds like she just said 'a prosthetic arm', which, while still impressive, is not the same as a 'prosthetic ARM'. "... Just... don't get the idea that this is representative of the entire world, Young Master. However, if things do happen, I admit it'd likely help cut down on the confusion. Though, uh." She presses the her right lether glove under her armpit and tugs off her left glove, with comes off much easier, revealing a pale pink human hand. "Lemme just clear that part up, eheh. I'm just an ordinary person! With..." She squints at her hand, quickly realizing her nails are, unfortunately, still not fully grown in.

    She quickly hides her left hand, cheeks burning. "So, uh, yeahhhh! Eheh..."

    Tio asks about Clarine, and Noel looks summarily curious. ".... Oh, ah." Shooting a helpless look towards Clarine, Gwen shrugs. "... So, uh, yeahhh. More surprises! We all kinda know each other."

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.


...Might not realize that Azoth is trying to be incognito about it and may just figure Azoth is shy and she's just trying to be EXTRA FRIENDLY to the robots/robot adjacent types so they can hang out and have robot adventures together.

...Or maybe she's just a troll. But in practice, it's probably a bit of both columns. She doesn't seem to mind Xiumei apologizing on her behalf, nor does she contradict the apology, but she seems to have some genuine smiles for Xiumei. If genuinely mischevious. No sass is expressed just yet. She seems to have gotten it out of her system with Noel.

"I didn't build them, if that's what you mean, but they do look after me." Marivel says. "Sometimes, they have time to look after others."

She nods to Azoth as if by way of explanation. Hob and Nob wiggle happily at having MECHANICAL AFFECTION RETURNED. They just sort of linger in Azoth's space for the moment. Eventually Nob floats over to Tio, though, and tries to lick her cheek. They're more like animals than peoples.

"Of course, Tio and the rest are pretty far beyond them, but that's the difference between 'school extra credit' and well..."

Is she...joking about the school extra credit?

It's not exactly the story, but it is essentially accurate.

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Eleanor doesn't seem to blink about Tio calling her Master, though she doesn't hold herself particularly apart from her either. She's used to it by now. But she smiles back at the thanks, something warm. Meanwhile Montgomery simply answers Noel, as if the Claw of Valmar weren't a thing that exists and is troublesome, "Indeed." He might even be proud of him in that way you can be of a slightly younger--well, maybe more than slightly now--friend.

But Eleanor hears Xiumei speaking up, and she beams at her introduction. "Yes!" she enthuses about how she helps, "We're very lucky to have her--I haven't ever met a more talented administrator! And she's very reliable on the battlefield, too."

At that exact moment Montgomery's expression is obscured by his sipping tea.

Uh. Clarine. Eleanor laughs politely, but a little awkwardly. "...Ah, yes, our friend Clarine! A wonderful person, and also..." Pause. "Quite invisible to most people, I'm afraid. It's a magic thing, you understand." Pause. "Honest, this isn't a sorcery joke this time."

Montgomery lifts an eyebrow.

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

Xiumei blinks, as she hears the rain start to come down harder. She glances at the window -- and Clarine, who can she see perfectly well. "It's... really coming down out there, isn't?" she asks Clarine. Which, to Noel, may well look like she is asking a question of someone who simply isn't present. She blinks her green eyes once.

Then, she glances at Eleanor -- and she flashes a bright smile at her for a second, before she looks back at Noel. She nods her head, once. "It's, ah, a pleasure."

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Dragon friends... would definitely be cool.

Also cool: rain. Or rather, the sight of rain pitter-pattering gently against the window. Ashley continues to stare into that soupy storm, and is briefly transported back to a score of sleepy, rainy afternoons where only the most dedicated of regulars would drop by the bakery for their daily bread. He and Marina practically had the whole place to themselves, then. They'd make some hot cocoa, grab some of the pastries that would have otherwise gone to waste, and just... had a cozy little snack, just the two of them.

It was so much simpler back then, huh...?

There's a beat as Ashley stares again into the storm.

"...Weird. Was it supposed to be raining today...?"

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    Marivel says that it is proper, and Azoth agrees. "Is it, then? Very well." Avril pauses, regarding the both of them in turn. Ever so slightly, she smiles at Marivel.

    Naive and a bit clueless about propriety in general, yes. Naive and clueless about Marivel's... Marivelness...
    Not so much.

    Instead, she asks after Azoth, "You are a machine, then?"

    Before raising a hand towards the floating machines as they drift by. "Oh, hello again Hob, Nob."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

"It truly is..." Clarine replies, looking away from the window toward Xiumei. "I have not traveled much in this area. Is this much rain common?"

And then Tio asks her a question. Clarine offers her a smile.

"Ah, no, it is merely that... the young man, Noel... he lacks the Resonance necessary to truly see me. To him, I am as an empty chair - my voice as a whisper on the wind..." She explains. But it's too late - Noel has already heard her name, and now he seems confused. ...Unfortunately, she can't exactly explain the situation for herself. Thankfully, Eleanor comes to the rescue!

She could briefly become visible if she wished by reverting to her light-ball form... but at the moment she doesn't feel like it, so instead she decides to make her presence apparent another way.

One of the nearby lamps brightens briefly for a moment as if in acknowledgment. It's not a bright, unpleasant light - just an extra bit of pleasantness. Sourced from her power, it doesn't strain the lamp, either.

<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

Enough people had figured out what Azoth was that the secret, at times, seemed not a secret at all. But then it's apparent that not everyone had. He rubs the back of his head, smiling at Gwen nervously. "Ooh, uh, sorry. It never came up?" Neither did the details of her ARM arm. Azoth listens with curious interest. He's getting a lot of data today.

Give data, get data. That seems to be, more and more, how it works.

Azoth smiles at Xiumei. "You don't need to apologize for her. I get the impression she knows exactly what she's doing." He's not one to argue with results, even if the calculations haven't caught up yet. "It has. And with you...?" But there are knowing glances between her and Tio, and Azoth guesses she may have been present for these heavy events. "If there's anything I can help with..."

Don't make promises you might not be able to keep, Azoth. (He will always do this.)

The mention of a potential mechanical horse friend has Azoth's eyes bright and his entire attention captured. His pupils dilate as he looks to Tio not unlike a puppy in the presence of a glorious treat. "Yes please."

Noel name drops the Zeboim era itself, and Azoth doesn't offer any particular reaction to that. He gives a nod to Avril as well, scratching his cheek with a nervous smile. "Yeah. I thought I was alone in the world for a while," he says instead. "So I used to think it was best to keep quiet."

As the rains get heavy, Azoth tilts his head with a curious beep. "Is it safe to continue travel at this speed...?"

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"If it's just rain and not some kind of awful assault, it should be safe." Marivel says to Azoth. "But honestly if it was Odessa I would've expected someone to appear out of nowhere and start calling us names."

<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

Venetia finishes her potato.

This gives her a fork with which to extemporize. "The phenomenon is complex and originates from Lunar," she explains to Noel. "If you spend long enough in Clarine's company you would come to perceive her more clearly, like focusing a telescope or using a stereoscope without getting a headache."

She has to speak up a little more. Looking at the roof, she says, "Well this train probably weighs thousands of tons, but it certainly is pouring down out there. Sometimes you get these dense spots of intense rain in any storm. Or so I hear."

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    "...Invisible, hm?" Noel glances at the conspicuously empty seat, and blinks several times, as if expecting a person to materialize now that he knows she's there. She doesn't, of course. But his gaze flicks up at the light as it blinks. He looks back at Eleanor, apparently satisfied with her explanation.

    For now.

    "She complimented you earlier on your good sense," Ida says. "I can relay her words for you, if you like?" A glance at Clarine. This might be handy unless she decides to use that lamp to communicate in code.

    "...I've never heard of such a thing," Noel says, to Venetia. "There's so much out there I hadn't the slightest clue about..."

    Then Gwen does her thing, and Noel turns to give her ARM the same awed attention he gave to Azoth and Tio. "How did you--" he says. "That's your arm..."

    "We're a rather eclectic bunch," Ida says, smiling warmly. She gives Avril a little wave of the hand, silently grateful that neither she nor the younger woman have been placed under the microscope. Ida at least has the advantage of being a known quantity in Galadian upper-class social circles--the eccentric member of House Everstead-Rey who went out into the world and became a Gentlewoman Adventurer. Avril doesn't have that.

    The rain keeps hammering against the train car. Noel looks at Xiumei, then Avril, then at Azoth. "...They're slowing down," he says. "Is it just me, or has it gotten worse and worse? The rain always gets better after a while, doesn't it?"

    Noel might have the advantage of living without tons of rock and steel over his head at all times, but he's still a little sketchy about how weather works.

    "We may have to stop," Ida says, her lips thinning into a little line. Something feels wrong about this.

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

"Ah--well--all right," Xiumei answers Azoth. Then, she smiles again, and nods her head. "I've been doing pretty well. So have our friends."

She hesitates for a second. "There's something they want to ask your help with, but... we can wait a little," Xiumei says. "This might not be the best time."

Then, she looks back at Clarine -- and back out the window. "No... not at all. I would be surprised if this area gets much rain at all," Xiumei answers Clarine. "But.. it has to happen sometimes, I suppose. I hope it doesn't swamp the tracks..."

She looks at Noel, then she nods. "It's getting worse," she says. "We might need to. If the tracks flood, it could ruin the locomotive."

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Eleanor frowns thoughtfully. Not at Venetia's further explanation; that's very helpful. Not at Xiumei's response to her statements; that's nice! She feels good about that. No... about the rain, and the way it's getting worse.

"The fact that this area doesn't get rain often makes flooding admittedly a higher risk," she says, and looks... troubled.

"...I have a bad feeling..."

Eleanor sits back in her chair uneasily.

<Pose Tracker> Tio has posed.

    Tio blinks as the matter of resonance is explained to her. Somehow she missed this bit. "I see. My apologies. I did not intend to confuse the matter." Tio nods to Noel. "Clarine is a friend of mine. Of ours. She can do wonderful things with light." That seems to satisfy things, for her.

    She nods back to Azoth. "Thank you for your offer." Tio says, but she's not sure what she can ask for. But she sees his eyes go bright at the mention of Nyx. "Then I shall introduce you to her as soon as possible. She might be interested to have another rider."

    Tio looks around, and her sensors light up again. "This volume of rain would indicate rainfall of more than 50 millimeters over the coming 8 hours." The things those sensors can do. "This seems an absurdly high amount.

<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

With Xiumei's admission, Azoth's eyes glow a touch brighter. His face takes a more serious expression, and he nods. "Later, then. I'll be available." He'll do whatever he can, all while hoping that whatever they need doesn't mean he gets a hold of any incriminating information.

"Really?! I've ridden a chocobo before," he says to Tio. "But their gaits are so different, I don't know how it would translate."

Noel comments on his understanding of weather, and Azoth presses his lips together, not sure how to best field that before Tio chimes in. Trying to paint the world in indefinite uncertainties to blend in has taken practice, and her report is more 'intuitive' to a mind like his.

Azoth claps his hands together with his mouth a little 'o'. "You can tell from inside here?" He cocks his head again. "I've got a bigger margin of error..." He winces. "...But that's a lot as it is. And that's assuming the rainfall doesn't increase further."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

"That would perhaps be the most expedient way..." Clarine confirms, as Ida suggests relaying her words. Truthfully, she had considered using the lamp to communicate... but she doesn't know if Noel knows the same codes she does.

But Noel points something out - the train is slowing down. The rain just keeps getting worse, and according to Xiumei, it doesn't happen much at all here. And yet... it happens now, right upon them, and Tio confirms that the amount is far higher than should be expected. Clarine frowns. ...Indeed, this isn't good.

"I will... see if I can detect any signs of sabotage." She says. She shuts her eyes, then, expanding her senses outward - poking out for any signs of magical phenomena. If it's nothing, that'd be idea, but if not... well, they'll all have to deal with that when they get there.

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

"Thank you! I'm glad," Xiumei says. She flashes a smile at Azoth. "Later," she agrees.

The cheer doesn't last. The thought of the rain stopping the train is bad enough -- the way that Clarine reaches out mentally tells her this is serious. But it's Eleanor's reaction, slumping down into a chair, that gives her the most pause.

She walks over -- and reaches out a hand, like she plans to put it on her shoulder -- but then spots Monty. She pulls her hand back.

"Nora... is it--?" A vision, Xiumei doesn't say.

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    Zeboim, on the other hand, does trigger a response from Avril -- she glances over at Noel and ever so slightly purses her lips, as if thinking something over. Looking away after a moment, she regards instead Azoth.

    Who confirms what she has asked of him. "I see... well, I am glad it is not so. It is a sad thing to be alone in the world," she answers him, quite gravely. "I am fortunate to be traveling with others on my journey."

    She glances, after a moment, out the window. "Is this rain unusual...? Oh, but the friction coefficient," she starts to say, when Azoth remarks on its current speed.

    Ida waves at her. She looks her way, inclining her head as if to greet the young woman.

    And then stops dead, so to speak.

    "Something... is not right," Avril says, her expression growing ever more troubled.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    'I have a bad feeling...'

    Ida turns to Eleanor, her jaw tightening with sudden tension. If Eleanor has a bad feeling about this, then that means something is wrong, whether it's foul play or simply a natural disaster. Tio and Azoth provide corroborating data, and Ida's brow furrows. Avril also chimes in, and Ida takes a look around, making a mental sweep of the passenger car for points of ingress and egress. She's pretty sure she can carry Noel to safety if she has to...

    The rain is... perfectly natural in its unnatural intensity. This might be worrying in its own right. Beneath that, though, is the sense that something is at work just under the skin of the world--the magical equivalent of infrasound, something Clarine can just barely feel.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Noel, meanwhile, twists his seat so he's facing away from both of the windows. He shrinks down into it, and tries to put on a brave face. "It's nothing we can't deal with," he says.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Azoth's nervousness draws a sympathetic response from Gwen. "Nono! I mean, I get it." She rubs the back of her neck, her fingertips hitting the bristly fine hairs at the nape of her neck. "I don't go 'round tellin' people 'bout my ARM, so I can imagine it's like that for you, right? Maybe not so much for Tio, but that's okay too! So, we all now know we don't have to be afraid of bein' judged from one another. For stuff like this."
    Gwen looks back at Noel, as he mentions Clarine. "Like I said, this ain't the usual, Young Master. So don't be feelin' paranoid n' such that someone's always looking at you. People like Clarine, they ain't that sort!" Gwen smiles. Oh, right. Ragnell. "B-besides, even if one was, they'd have to deal with the possibility that someone'll see 'em, and they can't tell who can and who can't!"

    This is probably not helping things. Venetia, however, comes in with a far better explanation.

    When Noel is awed with her ARM, Gwen seems to flush with a guilty sort of pride. "Yeah, I lost my first arm when I was real young, so it wasn't like I remembered what it was like. So, when I got this one, it was like havin' to learn to live with a third arm, I guess. But y'know how I had to practice?" She loops a metallic finger through the handle of the teacup and delicately lifts. "I had to learn how to drink tea, and then *serve* it."

    The rain begins pelting harder against the windows as the train slows even further.

    While Gwen can't put her finger on it, she wastes no time putting her finger on some more cakes, eating one after another. "I swear, if that asshole comes bargin' in at this second I'm gonna punch his fishy face right in and ask questions later," she mutters.

    But this wouldn't be Janus. He was never one for subtle. He also never showed an ability for weather, and also... why would he be here, again?

    Seeing Noel there, looking away from the windows, Gwen steps closer, fitting her gloves back on as she takes a seat by him, her eyes kind. "Why don't you talk about yourself, Noel? What do you like? You said somethin' about models, right?"

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Eleanor remains in her seat, and as Xiumei comes to approach her, Monty is also putting a hand towards Eleanor's shoulder--except his doesn't pull back. He has the same question in his eyes that Xiumei does, though.

The others have various ways of sensing what's going on, but Eleanor has little that she can offer in terms of active approaches. She still looks troubled, and in fact a little queasy, though she couldn't say why.

"I see," she murmurs, "...Colors? But that's not possible, we're not..." She looks up at Xiumei and Monty, and at the others. To Noel, when he says it's nothing they can't deal with.

"I don't understand," she continues, bringing up a hand to her temple.

"Do you sense it?" she asks of Avril without looking more than vaguely in her direction, and Clarine's.

<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

Something is not right.
I have a bad feeling.
Is it--?

Venetia heaves herself upright and says, as she stretches, "I'm going to get a step ahead of the worry for once and fetch my things, change my mask, freshen up... if something does go wrong, then we just got dressed for nothing, hm? And we can all have a laugh and go back to enjoying ourselves."

Hopefully they won't target the cloakroom with a mortar strike, thinks Venetia, and hopefully it is not her FINAL thought.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine feels out. Reaching out slowly, carefully... at first, she doesn't notice anything strange. It's... completely normal. But then she reaches deeper and she can feel something, just barely, at the edge of her senses. It's hard to describe, and even harder to get a hold of - it feels like it will slip away if she ignores it for too long.

"There is... something there - but only just. I... cannot tell what it is, exactly. It... may be unrelated. I will... attempt to divine more..." Clarine murmurs. She pushes forward, just a bit further - metaphorically trying to peel it back to determine what, exactly, it is she's feeling.

<Pose Tracker> Tio has posed.

    Tio smiles. "I have not ridden a chocobo. What is it like?" The experience sounds interesting, despite the heavy atmosphere. Perhaps the Artifical Intelligence is that good at lifting. "I would like to try one day."

    "My sensors have a high rate of accuracy, but there are limits to what they can read. But it is as you say. We are nearing minor flood conditions."

    But when Eleanor seems to be struggling, Tio gets closer to her. She has no problem putting a hand on Eleanor's shoulder, because she still doesn't understand Eleanor anhd Monty's whole deal. Or Eleanor and Xiumei's. It's all good. "Master? Are you alright? Do you need anything?"

    The whole atmosphere is getting worrying.

<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

Azoth says, "Bouncy!" Azoth responds cheerfully. "In exchange for meeting Nyx, maybe I can help teach you how to lure one.""

<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

"Bouncy!" Azoth responds cheerfully. "In exchange for meeting Nyx, maybe I can help teach you how to lure one."

But the mood darkens like the sky. Azoth glances uneasily to Eleanor and Avril. There's more than one kind of sensor in the world, and those attuned to sorcery have shown their own mysterious ways of reading the world.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Noel gives Gwen a nervous but genuine smile. "...who do you mean?" he says. Apparently he's too polite and civilized to repeat the naughty word Gwen just said. "Do you have any idea who..." He trails off. Gwen seats herself next to him, and Noel all but makes himself into her shadow. "Yes," he says. "I've collected them ever since I was a boy. But please, Miss Whitlock--don't try to pretend nothing is wrong."

    "...Colors?" Ida says. Without the burden that is Xiumei's Awkward Romantic Issues, she's free to rise and offer Eleanor a steadying hand on the shoulder. She looks increasingly like she's about to be sick, even though the train is slowing down more and more.

    The stewards are talking anxiously among themselves. One of them stares out the window at the solid wall of water falling from the heavens...

    And the pea-soup fog that's rolling in along with it.

    "Minor flood conditions," Ida says, echoing Tio's statement. Her hand tenses on Eleanor's shoulder, tightening like a coiled spring. "This can't be--"

    Clarine sees it first. The skin of the world grows paper-thin, as if something were pressing on the walls of reality itself--stretching them to the breaking point. She sees the light as it filters in, but it isn't the light of the world she knows. It cuts through the fog, illuminating the passenger cabin in hues both possible and impossible. When one splits a ray of light, one creates a rainbow, but this rainbow contains colors that cannot exist. Should not exist. A violet so dark and rich it seems to make anything it touches fade, ever-so-slightly. A pale blue that is somehow giving her the distinct sense someone's watching her. Blue-yellow. The sickly, nonsensical hue of dying time.

    The train comes to a halt, but no one hit the brakes. Instead, there's a gut-churning sensation of being gripped and dragged through a fifth dimensional axis. Ida holds the back of a seat with both hands, teeth gritted, trying not to be sick. Noel closes his eyes and makes a tight ball of himself face gone pale with terror.

    When it stops...

    The Dianbai Guang sits on... something. A long stretch of pale white light, in the midst of a seething sea of color. The impossible hues that lit up the cabin--that Clarine saw before everyone else--are here, in their full, horrible glory, painting the sky. Aside from the platform, there is nothing but sky. Nothing but an endless expanse of seething alien light.

    "What the devil," Ida breathes.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine digs deeper, and that something starts to come more gradually into view. That something... it is beyond words to describe. She is a Seraph of Light - a spirit of nature who embodies light and color. But this light, and its impossible colors... it is something that runs counter to her very being.

"Ah...! W-what is...?" Clarine mutters, shutting her eyes tight and doubling over in her seat. She tries to block it out, but it is too late - it is here. It feels like that light that should not be, that feels wholly and utterly Wrong, is cutting through her very being, as if trying to overwrite everything she knows to be good and proper.

She topples forward, collapsing onto the floor of the train car as she finds herself overwhelmed.

This... is probably not a good sign for everyone else.

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Eleanor feels sick. She has been seeing what the group sees already, and now sees it more. The steadying hands on her shoulderes prevent her from tumbling over, but she still looks ill as the light changes, and the skin of the world shows.

Gripping, dragging sick colors and Eleanor does not look with terror. When the sensation stops, she just looks the same kind of queasy as before, though she straightens her back a little.

Montgomery looks around in quiet alarm, immediately stepping closer to Noel as if to shield him from... something. But Eleanor...

'What the devil', Ida breathes.

"Clarine!" She slips from her seat to kneel near her, immediately looking her over and only after a moment does she start to explain.

"...We've been shifted in dimensions," Eleanor says, hesitating or perhaps just still not feeling great. But worrying over Clarine gives her stability. "I don't know how, but..."

"We're not where we were. Flooding is the least of our concerns now."

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"Another day," Marivel says. "Another dimension." She stands herself up, dusts herself off, and asks, rhetorically. "Well dear Azoth."

Her eyes gleam crimson. "Shall we see what fresh demons await us?" And her fangs can be just barely seen past her scarf.

"Wouldn't that be fun?" Marivel pats the mini-golem on the shoulder. "If we survive, of course. If we survive."

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

It was raining.

It was raining.

The rolling fog, the otherworldly colors that seemed to strip away all physical law and ordinary reality like a veil of thin tissue paper, these shred the 'rain' like so much dross.

And when it stops, when there is nothing left but the train and those awful colors...

Ashley Winchester has his ARM in hand and a look of a dead man on his face. "Come on," he says, moving toward the cabin door. "We need to get to the heart of the distortion and destroy it. Otherwise, there's no telling how long we have, until..."



Marivel Armitage knows what he might be worried about.

(It's demons. He's worried about demons, and people turning into demons, and becoming the demons.)


<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

((no ashley, you are the demons))

(((and then ashley was a zombie)

<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

For a moment, Azoth's eyes aren't blue. They aren't even red. Or grey. They're snowy static.

He's making the appropriate noise to go along with that.

A few warped beeps twitches later, and he snaps back to attention to stare at the window with a number of glitched readings. But when in a world of unknown data, there's only one path forward.

"Oh, will it be demons?" he says to Marivel, keeping his tone light and ignoring the itch in his calculations. He gives her a softer smile. "I'll do my best to maximum our odds."

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    "O-oh." Gwen lets out an awkward cough into her hand. "You heard that? Uh, don't repeat it. Just.... an old friend of mine. Who once liked to, uh, rob trains. We've had to come to blows a few times 'cause of it." And yet, they would always find some way to come to common ground, especially when it came to asshole priests.

    As Noel crowds in and calls Gwen on her bluff, Gwen lets out a sigh. "Polite *and* perceptive on top of it. But yeah, I figured it's better to..."

    Her words fade as she notices the stewards, then peers beyond them, not daring to budge from Noel's side. "Somethin' goin' on, huh..."

    The ball that is Noel is given a cover, Gwen hunching over him protectively, her right ARM gripping the seat cushion behind his head with increasing degrees of force.

    When the rumbling stops, Gwen wretches her hand free of the headrest of Noel's seat, blanching as she sees the way her fingers had all but crushed the wood and upholstery she had grasped onto. As well as how the light glints off her hand, not at all like the dim coziness of earlier.

    Or like a place with a normal sun, for that matter.

    ".... Guardians..."

    She stays by Noel's side, attempting to give him a steady measure of comfort in a world that seems to have fallen in free fall. She sighs, shaking her head. "If I hadn't had all those bouts with the Stranger, I'd likely be needin' some management of my own," she grumbles, rubbing the back of her neck. "This ain't anything like my dreams, at least, so we can rule that guy out." But at least he was a known danger, if barely.

    To think on any of this was certain to freefail into terror. If Noel wasn't here, she might even consider it, if just to get that breakdown over and done with, instead of delaying the inevitable.

    She closes her eyes, taking a deep breath, centering herself.

    "Sorry for draggin' you into this, Avril," Gwen says softly, offering a shakey grin in her direction. "... But I think we're takin' the mother of all detours."

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    "No, I think," Avril says at last, once the initial shock of the transition has run its course, "that this is where I was meant to be..."