[Plot] TEP: Oil and Water

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swaswj

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Continuation from "The Emperor's Pleasure: Hero Treatment" for Aelflead Kirastes, Keydis Lysistrata, and Red. Relevant posts quoted below:

The Geamhess cut gracefully through the sky, wispy clouds parting around the figurehead of Serpens before being drawn toward the humming engines under the protruding wings. Royal and beautiful from the outside, equally immaculate within. The forty-eight guests inside, renowned warriors and heroes from different battles and sponsors, were tended to night and day. The feast of that first night was the largest and most opulent, but none of the guest wanted for wine or spirits, and the tables were always filled with bread and fruit, cold cuts and cheeses, decadent and yet easily preserved. It could easily be mistaken for a pleasure cruise, despite the dire circumstances that had drawn them all together.




Everything is shrouded in thick white vapor, so thick that she can't even see her hand in front of her face. Wind rushes past, tugging at her hair, pulling her clothes. The metal beneath her feet hums, and that hum rushes through her entire body. The smell of the air, crisp and clear and with a hint of sea-salt, mingles with the tang of metal and oil. It's an indescribable rush, and she leans forward into the gale, holding her arms out to the side.

All at once, the mist breaks around her. She squints against the brilliant sunlight, a giddy grin spread across her face as the wide, blue sky opens up before her. Wisps and streams of cloud trail from the bow of the ship and the balloons on either side. She giggles, eyes bright and merry as she stands alone atop the airborne vessel. Even standing still, it feels like she's soaring ahead at a breakneck speed, basking in the warmth of the sun, reveling in the pull of the wind. Her dress whips and whirls wildly.

"What are you doing--?"


With a start, Keydis sat bolt upright, laboring to catch her breath, regain her bearings. Her skin glistened with sweat in the dim light. Her stomach lurched and Keydis clutched at her left arm, biting back a hiss of pain as her fingers tightened on the mangled flesh. Slowly, she pieced together where she was, aboard the Geamhess, heading to Pelagia. Aboard an airship, like the one… Keydis scowled and forced herself to her feet, stumbling in the dark. There was someone else laying down nearby, asleep, their breathing calm. Red. Slowly, Keydis fought down the panic, sitting back on the mattress. Now that her eyes were adjusting to the darkness, she could make out the shape of Red's body, turned away from her and facing the wall. However spacious the rest of the ship was, the sleeping quarters they had been given were tiny. Letting out a held breath, Keydis sat back on the mattress.

The specter of her dream memory gradually faded and Keydis loosened the grip on her arm. Most of the time, she could keep the panic down, but each time she woke up on the airship, it returned in full force. In the dim room, Keydis traced her fingers over her left arm, wincing even at the light touch.

The corruption of Caeancora had once only covered her elbows, coating them in a violet, metallic substance, a calling card of the vistra she had defeated. On her right arm, it had spread slowly, claiming a millimeter at a time, leaving the skin at the transition red and sore. Her left arm, though, had nearly been overtaken. Most of the limb, from wrist to bicep, was covered in Caeancora's plating, with deep veins of cracks exposing raw, red flesh. Keydis reached under the cot for gauze, pulling old dressings away before beginning the daily task of wrapping her arm tightly. Moving slowly, trying to avoid waking Red, she pulled her long red sleeve over her bandaged arm. After that, she slid into her smallclothes, put on the rest of her clothes, and finally donned her armor. Lastly, she pulled the leather straps tight over her right arm, flexing her arm once they were in place.

Keydis grabbed her sword and then stood, placing a hand against the wall to steady herself as nausea and dizziness washed over her. Pausing only to give her companion one more look over, Keydis slid open the door and stumbled out into the hallway. She carefully closed the door back and tried to regain her bearings. The main room of the ship would be loaded with food, every hour of the day, but eating would have to wait. Instead, the brunette wandered down the carpeted corridor, looking for somewhere with room to stretch, exercise, something that didn't require a lot of thought.





So early in the morning, much of the Geamhess' passengers were still asleep. The relaxed atmosphere of the ship made nights, for most at least, restful and fulfilling. And while there were clearly some unfortunates among the Geamhess' number who found themselves trapped at the, "uneasy," portion of "uneasy peacefulness" for one reason or another; they were few in number, so finding a place that required little thought was an easy task in the morning.

Surprisingly, on such ship designed with comfort in mind, there were very few places with significant room to move, save for the ship's deck. Because the vessel had been built for carrying passengers in massive number, much of it's space was dominated by passenger rooms save for a few, and one in particular that boasted especially ornate double doors.

Double doors that were cracked open enough to grant a purview of the room beyond, and bid the sounds of a woman's voice, heavy and somewhat breathy, counting to escape from it.

Further inside of it, this room boated relatively high ceilings compared to the rest of the ship's rooms though not much more than a meter. Every wall inside of it painted with exquisite craftsmanship so that the artwork shimmered softly and seemed to move across the interior. Glossily finished tile made up the entirety of the hard floor inside; and atop it a figure clad in a black cloak, who's dark scarlet hair followed her fluid, spinning movements like a ribbon following a stick.

Aelflead it seemed, was having just as much trouble finding peace on the Geamhess as a certain brunette.
*This is mainly a character-development piece. Consider it a success if these characters don't kill each other.
 
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Keydis Lysistrata

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It was eerie, moving through the massive airship with empty hallways. What few people were awake didn't cross her path, and for several long moments, Keydis felt her mind drifting, recalling the biting chill on her skin as she wandered the similarly empty hallways of the derelict Promoveo, haunted by memories of its long-dead inhabitants.

Her feet came to a stop in front of the double doors, and Keydis stood there staring blankly into space before her mind finally caught up to her senses. Someone awake, and alive. Keydis pulled open one of the doors, smirking as she recognized the woman inside. The brunette strode in like she owned the place and roughly slid the door closed behind herself, watching Aelflead's movements curiously, seeing what she could glean from the movement and motion. Despite their foray into the mysterious temple not that long ago, Keydis still didn't have a good measure of the spurii's capabilities, except to say that Aelflead was frighteningly strong.

"Avé, Kirastes," Keydis called out, laying her sword by the door and her coat of blue-violet scaled armor next to it.


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Aelflead Kirastes

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Aelflead's head turned in response to Keydis' call and recognizing the other woman's silhouette, she dinner from last evening and the events of their second meeting came to mind.

Each time she’d proven herself capable, appreciatively task oriented -even if irresponsibly so-, loud, and that “extremely tactless” was a nice way of describing the brunette’s social ability.

Aelflead's dark lips turned slightly downward. Hm, I didn't peg the loud mouth an early bird. She thought, watching the woman draw near from her peripheral.

"So you can say my name," The spurii responded dryly, gracefully finishing her last movement in a complex stance that left her balancing on one foot. “Sgt. Hook." After a beat, she took a deep breath and released it with her stance, ending in a neutral position.

Now closer, Keydis' strides having cleared much of the circular room already, Aelflead's form came more clearly into focus. Her curly, scarlet hair had clearly grown longer since the last time they'd met, leaving little evidence of the hell flame that'd sheared it during the Black Portal, as it was hanging free of the thick braid she usually kept it in or the ornate ponytail she'd worn on the day they boarded the Geamhess.

Her clothes were more like normal though; save the absence of the dark, silver-trimmed cloak she always wore, her baggy grey pants and simple seaweed colored bandeau were part of her typical attire. Despite this normalcy, something seemed... Off.

"What'd you do, find the itinerary?" She asked pointedly, flipping her hair away from her eyes and tucking straggler strands neatly behind her left ear.


Occultus' Shoud is still active.
 
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Keydis Lysistrata

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"Too much of a celebrity to associate with common folk, demon-slayer?" Keydis could only sneer at the way Aelflead had been snubbing her since they arrived on the airship. The spurii was probably infuriating to most, but to Keydis it was a familiar kind of bluster, and while that was something that usually made her want to knock heads together, she had seen that Aelflead had bravery to go with the bravado. Skills, perhaps less so, but certainly valor.

The reference to the vistra within, to the hooked barbs of the inhuman arm blades, that immediately set her on edge, inner malice bubbling up and corroding away at the good will that had built up toward Aelflead. For the moment, Keydis maintained her composure, but…. "It's Keydis. You can pretend to have forgotten the name, if you want, but I'm only going to warn you once: if you bring up the 'hooks' or the monster inside again, you're going to get a real close look at both." The steely look in her eyes showed that she was dead serious. After staring Aelflead down for a suitable time, her muscles relaxed and she shrugged. "Even if that doesn't scare you, I figure you owe it to me after I saved your ass."

She had, after all, yanked Aelflead to safety before she was crushed by a falling meteor.

The brunette began to pace around the room, mentally mapping the number of steps. "Did you ever clean up that travesty of a sword?" she asked.


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Aelflead Kirastes

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So we have something in common then.

Aelflead met the other woman's gaze evenly as it turned harsh, then shrugged. "Hmph. Ensure your tongue is limber enough to pronounce my name proper when you address me, and I'll do my best to remember yours." She said, the closest to an apology the redhead would give.

Then after taking a deep breath, the redhead began to move again. Sliding the ball of one foot away from herself and across the ground, she shifted her center of gravity and began flowing into a new set of slow, deliberate movements. As she did, her breathing became almost melodically regular like the beat of a drum. In and out on a steady beat.

"You mean that hunk of ruined metal covered in hell flame?" The spurii asked, closing her eyes as she moved. "No. I'm an engineer, not a metal worker. Magic or otherwise, that thing is just a trophy right now."
 

Keydis Lysistrata

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"What's ruined about it? Made of metal, wasn't it?" Keydis asked, smirking and swinging her arms to loosen up. "Only known a few gearheads and every one of 'em wasted perfectly good steel. Wood snaps and burns. Leather frays. Minerals crack and shatter. But steel? If it dulls, sharpen it. If it bends, straighten it. If it breaks, heat it up and reforge it." To her, it was as plain as day.

The brunette was a bit of a hypocrite, since she still had the hilts of two swords she had broken and never forged anew. That was matter of practicality, though: they had broken because dahlitium and bigatium weren't strong enough.

While she was speaking, she began her own exercises, ones that were rigid and sharp. The motions were taught to her by her adoptive uncle, Havital, a combination of training from the Conexus and some fighting style from Boreas that she couldn't pronounce. There was no art in her movement, and even from the first steps and punches one could see the shadows of her tenacity.

 

Aelflead Kirastes

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"It's Auritium, and if you can do something useful to it you're welcome to it. I don't like having to deal with swords much anyway." The redhead exhaled and turned slowly on her heel, shifting to her other foot and so that she faced Keydis.

Quietly, she watched the other woman for a moment in between her careful steps. Then, her nose wrinkled.

"What are you doing?" Aelflead asked with some level of annoyance, her right eyebrow arching till it fell under her cartilage bangs as she spoke.
 

Keydis Lysistrata

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"Wait, are you trying to give away your sword? Or asking me to work on it for free?" Keydis asked, laughing harshly. "I can promise you, my sword is better than whatever you're packing, even assuming I give the thing a full restoration, demon-slayer or no. If you don't believe me, we'll put it to the test, assuming I can find a damned spot to set my anvil on this luxury barge."

Keydis continued moving, still sharp in her motions. "As for this… same as you? I'm stretching. Letting off steam. I don't like being on this floating death trap. When I signed up for this, I thought we'd be on the water. The capital's supposed to be under the water, not in the sky." She quick-stepped forward, delivering heavy haymakers to the air with both hands and then following up with a crisp roundhouse. "There's no name for it, if that's what you mean.

"Not going to pretend I'm a halfer or anything, but I was raised by an enlil. My 'uncle.' Adopted me when my parents died. A full-blooded Borean, made the trip to Terminus for the Vis only know what reason. He brought some kind of raptor's martial art with him, and when he joined the Conexus, he married it with the stuff they train in there. Then when I started getting in fights all the time, on account of this," she went on, pointing at her red-dyed bangs, "he changed it up to suit my 'gentle' terran fists."

As she continued moving, some of what she was saying became clearer. Many of the movements were easy to imagine being performed with open talons, instead of closed fists. There was a definite ferocity in the motions, as well, even when going through the motions of a non-lethal take-down such as a guard would use.

Keydis grinned at Aelflead, coming to a stop. "What about you? Doesn't look like your run-of-the-mill braindead exercises. You got any technique behind that brawn?"


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Aelflead Kirastes

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Cut off before she could answer the brunette's first question, Aelflead stood still while Keydis explained; frozen in the end of one movement while she listened, she watched the woman move with focus, taking in her words coolly until she finished.

"Gwddfoiwb tyagleu rhwbeua,*" Aelflead said, her left eye twitching slightly, then dropped her stance, making a triangle with her index finger and thumb and pressing her palms downward together, and stepped towards Keydis. "And I can show you better than I can tell you."

With this said, the redhead raised her left palm up and out with her right hand held inwards, both chest level and set her feet shoulder width apart. Relaxed. "What made you wanna dye your hair? It doesn't grow that way does it?"



Literally: Tide-Breaking Palm
 
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Keydis Lysistrata

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Keydis frowned at the velen-speak. Every time she heard it, she was sure that the entire language was a joke made to mess with other races. How could all those sounds possibly form anything comprehensible? "Normally I'd say none of your business, but what the hell. Show me this 'gwiffy igloo ruby' and if you can win a sparring match, I'll tell you." The brunette put up her arms, a no-frills defensive stance. She wasn't planning on doing anything fancy until she saw more of Aelflead's technique.

"First to five sound good? Blocks excluded, obviously." It was a common schoolyard rule, counting any clean hit or knockdown as a point. Most such sparring matches avoided hitting below the belt or in the face, but Keydis had taken -- and returned -- more than her fair share of dirty blows growing up. She sized up Aelflead, unsure what to expect.


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Keydis Lysistrata

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Keydis didn't flinch. No commitment. Just as quick as Aelflead, the brunette deftly slapped the punch aside. Her smirk widened as she caught the change in the spurii's posture. It was like the crack of a whip, the testing jab transitioning in an instant to a wicked hook kick. Instead of going for a dodge, Keydis planted her feet and roughly slammed her elbow into Aelflead's sternum! The blow stole the strength out of the kick and forced her back. "First point," Keydis taunted. Aelflead was already moving, though, regaining her balance and rapidly stepping back, dipping to the side when Keydis rushed in with a pair of punches.

Aelflead circled Keydis, blocking an off-center punch from the smaller woman before stepping in with a series of rising kicks. Keydis blocked the first one to her thigh, barely caught the second aimed at her waist, but the third kick landed high on her shoulder. Keydis grunted and fell back several steps. "Point," Aelflead retorted in a laconic tone, both women circling each other again.

For her part, Keydis never stopped smirking. "Hope this shit works better underwater, it's pretty limp so far." Then they were moving again. Aelflead darted in quickly, weaving in feints, spinning from one attack to another. Keydis chased after her step for step, seemingly void of subtlety yet giving Aelflead no room to breathe. "Point!" Aelflead growled, twisting around a punch to backhand Keydis across the jaw. Immediately, though, Keydis slammed a knee into her stomach.

"Point," Keydis retorted smugly. The sparring grew fiercer on both sides. Again and again, Aelflead's attacks were blocked or slapped aside, but again and again, Keydis found the spurii dancing just beyond the reach of her fists. With adrenaline pumping and wholly fixated on the flashing, spinning movements those fists and heels, Keydis could feel her left arm burning underneath the layers of bandages, but she had yet to notice the horns peeking out from spurii's red hair.



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Aelflead Kirastes

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This exchange went on for what felt like hours, though only seconds had passed, each blow whiffed and shunted away, shrinking their worlds smaller and smaller, until the room and everything else turned to background noise.

Sarcastic quips continued in a steady stream from Keydis' mouth, each one met with silence from the near constantly spinning redhead until; like a peg stopping a gear, a solid hook from Keydis caught Aelflead in the stomach before her another one of her veiled kicks could land.

Aelflead stumbled back, her momentum stolen by the blow, and Keydis capped her teasing off with another smug, "Point," and resettled into her simple stance. Though in the space of the breath it took for her to speak, Keydis cockiness was briefly replaced with confusion because Aelflead's eyes were significantly more on fire than they'd been at the start, and her skin had also gone from a natural coffee brown to surprising dark green.

Before the laicar could part her lips to question how she'd missed the transformation, this new green entity with black burning eyes and horns was rushing towards her.

Aelflead lead her charge into Keydis the same way she'd started. With a sharp cry heralding a lunge in the same form as before. So Keydis braced to deliver the woman repeat of her first attempt, but the jab never came, and the hook kick didn't follow.

Instead; Aelflead dropped and spun, kicking the blacksmith's legs from beneath her. Then, before she could properly fall, sent her flailing across the room just like the night the two had first met; but this time with a rising palm strike instead of a sloppy drunken hook.

Keydis smacked up against the far wall with a hollow Thunk and bounced off. To her credit, she hit the ground feet first and her grin had devolved only to a chagrin cringe, not a grimace.

"Alright, fuck that one stung." Keydis quipped, unsure of where the floor was. Seemingly counting on this, Aelflead was on her again as soon as she finished speaking, and then the room was spinning faster somehow than it had been just a moment before.

From Keydis’ perspective, there was suddenly a huge weight on her shoulders and hands on her back. Then the weight was gone but the room had gone dark, oxygen had become rare, and there was an immense pressure on either side of her head.

Then she was upside down; or right side up again -it was unclear- and something heavy and wooden had slammed against her back.

A second later, and though the room was still spinning, she was not, and she could see and breathe again.

All of this was followed by an, “I win,” from a smug voice somewhere nearby.
 
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