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Star Guardians: A New Era

Skillfulness

Well-Known Member
Only in darkness can the light shine brightly.

✩ ✧ Star Guardians: A New Era ✧ ✩

Sign-up Thread - Discussion Thread

Leona
Athembury City - Shoping District

Leona looked around at the displays she had worked on all afternoon. While she had also clearly sold flowers and bouquets to people throughout the day at the flower shop, her pride and joy was in setting up the shop for the following morning. She had more than a dozen tables setup with a beautiful variety of bouquets. The shelves and windows were lined with smaller groupings of flowers and specialty sales. It wasn’t just flowers for sale here, but some other fun and unique plants. They had a section for things like fertilizer and pots as well and they even had a small area where they sold tools for further helping people maintain their little green friends. A shelf near the service desk had numerous books to help people care for their plants. It was a lovely little shop.

Working here was perfect for Leona. It didn’t take up too much of her time, but was enough for her to afford a modest apartment. The owners were incredibly kind and Leona learned she had a knack for customer service. Plus she loved the plants--tulips were her favorite.

In about five minutes her shift would be over and she could start the second half of her day. Patrolling the city took a good number of hours, but as team leader she needed to take the initiative. Especially since the sightings of void had started to increase enough that the regular citizens even noticed something wasn’t quite right. Her second job, though entirely unknown to all but a few, was her more important one.

At the strike of 6 p.m., Leona locked up and started packing things away in the shop, counting money, etc. On weekdays they closed earlier. Zelgar was hiding in the back room so she opened the door and he pounced out immediately, chasing a small fly that flew out.

“Oh Zelgar don’t break anything!” Leona called out. He was good about being careful when it came to staying out of trouble, which included staying hidden. Once Leona finished up he dutifully hopped into her oversized tote, curling up in the bottom. She smiled down at his furry figure while she walked out of the shop and towards the park.

————————————

Athembury City Park

The park was nearly empty when she reached it. Leona had made a short stop at the local sandwich place for her dinner and it was just after 7 p.m. when she arrived at Athembury City Park. With it being late into the fall months (something Leona needed getting used to her first few years on this planet) it got darker out much sooner. The encroaching darkness drove people away. The park was near the edge of town, which is what drew Leona to it in the first place. Last week she had overheard a couple that said a large, wild bug flew at them aggressively so they had to leave. This was a very big clue that Voidlings could have an open rift nearby.


Leona made right for the edge of the park and pulled out her phone. She kept notes of which areas she had already patrolled. She felt good about the progress she had made so far. Some of her team had volunteered to help in their free time too. Working together they would find the rift soon, but tonight she was on her own.


A chittering reached her ears. It was the familiar chirps of a small Voidling nearby. Leona crouched and started pinpointing the location. She slowly moved towards it, eyes peeled for movement. Zelgar popped his head out, resting his chin on the edge of the bag. As she wove through the thinning trees, the sounds got louder and she froze. That sounded like much more than one little Voidling and she didn’t want to risk walking into something she wasn’t prepared for. She took a moment to think about her next step.


Leona took in a small breath and focused to fly to the top of the trees. Now she could see out much further and the sight made her gasp. Just at the edge of the trees, where a seemingly endless field began, she saw what they have been searching for. A purple glow shone through the darkness. There was a strange, lighting-like energy seared across the ground crawling with little green and purple creatures she knew as Voidlings. Taking a moment she guessed there had to be over fifty of the creatures of darkness. It would be an impossible task for a lone Star Guardian.

Quickly she removed her phone and took a snapshot of her map app, using another app to mark a red X where she was. Then she sent out the picture to her Star Guardian team with a quick message.

“Found the Void rift, come assist ASAP”
“Alright Zelgar, ready?” Satisfied with her plan Leona began her Star Guardian transformation. Summoning the power of Starlight, she spun while hovering in the air. Zelgar leapt up with her, the two of them enveloped in yellow light. First her physical appearance changed, hair becoming golden. Then her clothing transformed into her magical armor while Zelgar morphed into her sword and shield, both adorned with a four-pointed star emblem. Still hovering in the air she took a quick overview of the battlegrounds before diving in towards a Voidling near the edge of the mass of bugs. She stayed under the cover of trees and used her sword for a Sun Strike, the weapon glowing bright and slashing through three of the creatures easily. Hopefully she wouldn’t be overpowered before her team arrived to help.
 
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Monster Guy

Fairy type Trainer
Conner Waters
The Beach


Out on the waves, keeping his balance on the board, as the large waves took him up into the sky. Conner had a look of pure delight on his face. "Yahooooo!" The young man shouted as he rode the wave. Surfing was his passion. He loved the thrill and the adrenaline rush that came from riding the big waves until they crashed onto the shore. It helped him get his mind off the stresses of life. His parents would no doubt prefer he bed studying right now, but there was plenty of time for that later. Besides, he was never going to be as successful as Arianna, so why should he bother putting in all that effort if they were only going to bring up how much better his sis was at everything. Better to focus on what he was good at, like surfing.

Even Chesi, his familiar, enjoyed jumping around and slashing in the water. The small Dolphin knew to stay hidden when she needed to be. However, sometimes she liked playing in the water with her human companion.

He spent a few hours on the beach, but the sun was beginning to set. Now seemed like a good time to start heading home. So, paddled his way out of the water, and onto the shore. He dried himself off with a towel, put his tank top on, then packed up his surfboard and other things into his cool blue car. After that, he hit the gas pedal, and started to make the drive home. Chesi flew away, and kept hidden, but made sure to be nearby in case Conner needed her.

On the way home, Conner stopped somewhere and got himself something to eat for dinner. During the drive home, his phone pinged. Once he got to a stop light, he checked the notification, and saw it was from Leona, his Star Guardians Captain. She never sent a message just to casually chat. Conner's face lit up. "Ooh, looks like we're in for some action tonight!" He might be coming home late because of this. He was sure he would never hear the end of it from his parents if they caught him. He didn't care, it would be well worth it. So, at the first available opportunity, Conner made a turn, and headed for the park.

Athembury City Park

The park was devoid of any other people when Conner arrived. Since there weren't any people nearby, Chesi took the opportunity to come down from where she was hiding, and hover over Conner's shoulder. "Leona needs our help. You ready girl?"

Chesi responded with an affirmative squeak.

"Great! Now, where could she be?"

It didn't take very long to find out why Leona had summoned the guardians here. He started to hear chirps that gradually got louder and louder as he got closer. Soon he saw them. A lot of those green and purple little bugs scurrying across the floor. Conner grinned.

"Hell yes! Let's do this Chesi!" Conner closed his eyes, and summoned the power of starlight, and started to transform. He spun around as he was enveloped in water. Gradually the water formed into different parts of Conner's Star Guardian armor. Then, his hair turned blue, and he opened his eyes to reveal that they had turned blue as well. Finally, Chesi transformed into his trident and floated into Conner's outstretched hand. When his transformation was complete, Conner struck a pose at the end. "Alright!"

Conner flew into the air, and charged right into the fray. He attacked the creatures by summoning a water jet from his trident. Knocking back a few of the creatures with the strong water pressure. "Yo! Leona! Riptide, at your service!" He gave her a quick salute before heading back into the battle.
 
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Vern

Why not both?
Clare Grace Walker
Demacia - Residential District --> Athembury City Park


After the school day, Clare returned to an empty home, which wasn’t unusual. Her father was rarely home so early, and her mother had a habit of buying groceries around this time — why she chose it, Clare never knew, but it suited her just fine. It wasn’t that she disliked her parents, per se, but when they were absent, she felt a lot more free, like chains had been lifted from her shoulders.

She ascended the stairs to the second story of their house, where her room was located, and changed from her school uniform into a casual t-shirt and pants. Her room was fairly sparse, nothing more than a bed, a desk, a chair, and her wardrobe — all coloured a muted combination of greys, blues, and browns. Recently, she’d bought a dart board and hung it on the wall at the foot of her bed. Her guitar was propped up against the wall by her wardrobe, and she gave it a few cursory strums before setting it aside.

“Lu Chien!” She called, looking around the room for her familiar. There was no response, which was typical, but it was worth a try. He was probably asleep somewhere, and it wasn’t like he needed her to remind him to keep hidden.

She allowed herself to fall backwards onto her bed, letting out a tired grown — school never failed to drain her of all her energy, as well as most of what little motivation she had. I wonder how long it’s been since I last enjoyed a class… shaking her head, she cut herself off before her thoughts drifted too far in that direction. Things aren’t like that anymore. You have a reason to wake up now. Keep it together, Clare.

Clare wiggled backwards, propping herself up against her pillow. With a wave of her hand, a small purple film appeared over the dartboard — as she’d leant the hard way, her needles had a tendency to pierce through the fabric and damage the wall behind it, so some sort of protection was necessary. Using her own shield power to fulfil that end killed two birds with one stone — maintaining it for extended periods of time was always a problem for her, so this gave her an opportunity to practice that as well as her marksmanship.

“Lu Chien!” She called again, and once again received no response. Occasionally, when it tickled his fancy, the snake would carry the dartboard in his mouth and fly around the room, giving her a moving target, but it appeared he wasn’t feeling up to it today. Sighing, she called five needles into existence above her head, directing them towards the dartboard with her finger. “One, two, three, four, five…” all five of them hit the board dead center, bouncing off the shield and falling onto the ground, disintegrating into nothing.

It occured to her that there was homework she was supposed to be doing, but she decided to leave that for tomorrow -- or at least after dinner.

///​

“Hey, Lu Chien,” Clare yawned, “Do you remember what that squiggly thing next to sin(x) means?” She’d finished dinner and retreated to her room, not wanting to spend too long in her parents’ company — today was one of those days. Her familiar had decided to show himself after being bribed with a piece of chocolate, and was now looped over her shoulders, staring down curiously at the algebra worksheet on her desk. He wasn’t exactly helpful, for obvious reasons, but it felt good to have someone to talk to.

Her phone buzzed.

Feigning indifference — although she wasn’t sure who she was acting for, really — she reached over and picked it up, in time to see the text: “Leona: Found the void rift, come assist ASAP.” It was followed by a map marked with a red ‘x’. A smile crept over her face. “Well, what are you waiting for?” She said, standing up and stretching, causing her companion to slip off her neck and fall onto the floor, “No time to lose.”

Clare made her preparations quickly — first slapping a post-it note saying “practicing, don’t come in” on her bedroom door, then locking it and opening her laptop, instructing it to play a pre-recorded loop of various guitar solos. Then, she opened her window and jumped out, using her flight to slowly descend to the ground. She could see her parents having a hushed discussion in the kitchen, neither of them looking up to see her sneak out onto the road, with Lu Chien looped around her neck, his form hidden by the jacket’s hood.

///​

It didn’t take her too long to reach the location Leona had marked, having made a beeline there after finding a place secluded enough that she could take off without being noticed. It wasn’t hard to see the source of the commotion — a familiar figure dressed in gold was already engaged in combat with a swarm of dark shapes, glowing sunlight lighting up the park in the waning light of the evening. She’d gotten here just in time to see Riptide — one of the newer members of the team — transform, strike a pose even though nobody was watching, and dive into the fray.

“Showoff.” She muttered to herself, more jokingly than contemptuously. Smiling, she took a deep breath and gave her animal companion a pat on the head, “Let’s not keep them waiting, Lu Chien.” She hovered in place for a bit as she initiated her transformation, her clothes shifting into her guardian outfit, and her hair and eyes turning purple. Lu Chien gave a gleeful hiss, evidently excited by the prospect of battle.

Approaching the fight, Clare arced around to land besides Leona as a few voidlings screeched in pain, their insect-like eyes punctured by her purple needles. “Hey,” She said, giving her leader a friendly wave -- Riptide seemed to be a little distracted by beating up insects, and it wouldn't be good to interrupt someone in the midst of battle just to say hello. “Is there a plan, or do we just kill whatever we see?"
 
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VampirateMace

Internet Overlord
Masaru
Pellico City (Alley)


Masaru stood against the wall in an alley, glancing out every now and then, as a tourist haggled with his buddy Hodge. They were just close enough for him to hear the conversation. The man was obviously skeptical and asked, “Well, it's not a real Magirotex is it?”

“That's what it says,” argued Hodge. Masaru yawned, moving fakes one at a time was boring, but relatively safe as long as they stayed away from the authorities. Which is why it was good to have a look-out, the roll he was fulfilling right now. He glanced behind him at Hodge and the tourist. The tourist wavered and looked around, then finally sighed, “Fine, I'll take it.”

Hodge counted the money as the guy walked off, then slipped into the alley opposite Masaru. He handed him a couple bills and slipped the rest into his coat pocket, before suggesting, “Guy almost walked away from me.”

“Eh, it happens,” dismissed Masaru, “just let it go if they do. Don't do anything to give them a reason to call the cops.” He pulled out his phone and checked the time, then he reached down and picked up his backpack, “But, we've been hanging around here long enough. I think the newsstand guy is getting suspicious, and I need to get get going anyways.”

“Man, where do you keep disappearing to?” asked Hodge. Masaru slipped on his backpack, somewhat carefully since his familiar was riding inside, “I'm just meeting a friend.”

“Since when do you have friends besides us?” asked Hodge as he started to walk away. Masaru turned back, made a rude gesture, then waved goodbye.


Athembury City (Bus Station > Athembury City Park)

It was already getting dark as the bus pulled up to the station, the breaks hissing. Masaru waited while other people started filing off, mostly orderly, but there were always a few impatience pricks in the bunch. His boredom was interrupted by a soft chime, and quietly he slipped his phone out of his pocket. The notification on the screen showed the start of a text from the team leader, indicating the location of rift. Perfect, looked like things tonight wouldn't just be a boring search mission.

After he got off, he started jogging towards the park marked on the map. It wasn't too far away, and there was no point in trying to find a open locker or an isolated place to transform at the bus station. Mere blocks away he'd have more privacy, especially this time of day. He slipped off his backpack and unzipped it part way, letting his dragon familiar slither out. The wiggly snake-like body flew just behind his shoulder as ran.

As he approached the field, he could see two others had already joined the leader. He stopped and looked back at Forge, “Guess we're here. Let's do this.”

Forge flew closer, encircling Masaru as he was sheathed in golden starlight. The light quickly turned orange and fiery as his clothes transformed into Star Guardian uniform. The dragon rose, becoming thinner and darker, then falling into his hand in the form of a whip. The flame like energy died down and Masaru cracked the whip, along which flames flared to life.

Flying in, he was just in time to hear Clare ask it there was a plan. He swatted back the nearest void beetle thing with a lash of his whip, leaving a scorch mark on it's shell. Then he commented back, “I don't know if Leona has plan, but killing them all sounds like a fine plan to me!”
 

Skillfulness

Well-Known Member
Leona
Athembury City Park


Leona danced around the edge of the swarm. She kept her shield at her left to defend herself from that side while she made wide, sweeping strikes with her sword on her right. So far she had saved herself from getting surrounded, but it wouldn’t be long before she needed help. They continued pouring out of the rift, tens at a time. As she knocked back another scampering Voidling, a jet of water appeared and took out a wave of enemies.

"Yo! Leona! Riptide, at your service!" The blue-clad, blue-haired Riptide, a.k.a Conner, gave Leona a salute. He flew into the fray, trident in hand. The young Star Guardian had nearly a year of experience and was doing well. He had exuberant enthusiasm for the calling, but could be cocky at times. His water abilities could be useful in crowd control situations such as this one. Leona was grateful he was here for helping close the rift as not everyone was able to come out to help on every fight.

A moment passed and Leona sensed a new presence nearby, announced by a spread of purple needles.“Hey,” Clare said, giving her a friendly wave. “Is there a plan, or do we just kill whatever we see?" Leona bashed another pest with her shield, stamping it dead with her boot. Clare also proved to be a valuable member of their team. She was determined, driven, and focused. Leona was worried she had some deeper seeded worries that plagued her, but she was still waiting for the appropriate time to approach the subject

“I don't know if Leona has plan, but killing them all sounds like a fine plan to me!” Above them, Masaru joined the group with a flick of his flaming whip. The newest, but not the youngest, member of the team occasionally had issues following orders, but Leona hoped he would grow to respect her decisions. She understood about earning respect. He was a decent battler so there wasn’t too much of an issue if he went rouge during a fight, for now.

“Alright team!” she hollered above the buzzing and chirping of their adversaries. “I want Masaru and Riptide handling the Voidlings while Clare and I get close enough to close the rift. If anyone sees Candy Witch show up, have her handle damage control and Riptide switch to focus on healing and protection while we close it. Let’s go!” Clare had been around to close a rift or two. Given the number of void pouring out, it would be best to close it quickly and next time they found a rift she could help another member get experience. In this case, she didn’t want things getting out of control.

Shield forward, Leona dashed through the voids, trusting that her allies would protect her sides and rear. She slashed to her sides and watched her peripheral for Clare, making sure she stayed close. While it wouldn’t be difficult to reach the rift, it got incredibly risky if one wasn’t prepared. As long as Conner and Masaru took care of the swarms, Leona and Clare would be safe enough to use their Starlight magic and close off the rest of the voids. Once it was in sight, Leona signaled to Clare for her to take the left side of the rift while she ran off to the right.

Up closer, the rift sparked with dark energy. Streaks of lightning-like power rippled at the edge and within the rift was a dark, purple void. It looked like all the science fiction depictions of space with swirling nebula in multiple colors. A rushing sound surrounded the opening and a slight breeze rushed around it, seeming to come from all directions. It was unnerving being close to the source of such dark and evil creatures, but it was a necessity. Star Guardians were the only ones capable of closing these portals.

“Alright Clare!” Leona shouted over the sound of the rift’s energy. “Signal when ready. Riptide and Masaru, watch our backs while we close this sucker!” Leona threw her shield over the shoulder to give additional protection to her back and steadied herself. There was no specific instruction to closing a rift, but she preferred to touch the emblem on her chest to focus her Starlight powers. For now, she held her sword ready to fend off Voidlings until Clare gave indication that she was also ready.
 

GoldenHouou

antagoonist
Miu Meizhu
The Candy Witch
Residential District, Athembury City


Though it was only early evening, Miu’s apartment complex was in a lull. Her kitchen looked unused, and her living room downright uninhabited. Beige throw pillows sat in a neat row on a large sofa, with nary a crumple in its cotton cover. The TV was plugged in, but turned off as usual; its only sign of life was a bright red dot of light, clearly visible amidst the surrounding darkness. The curtains around the house were closed, and the apartment basked in dusk.

The only sounds in the lonely three-room apartment were the steady tap of a pen upon wood, and the occasional rustle of plastic.

Behind the closed door of her room, Miu sat idly at her desk. The lights were turned off, but a small lamp illuminated the mess that occupied her table; piles upon piles of books and booklets lay strewed on the table, covering a variety of subjects. It was two weeks’ worth of homework, and save for math, she’d done none of it. She’d always found an excuse not to. Voidlings, usually.

Miu stared at the open history book in front of her, hoping she could be fighting Voidlings right now.

Truth be told, Miu used to love school back at home. But the things taught here... they were all either too simple, or of no use to her later on. This whole planet was so backwards. They hadn’t even invented their first flying car yet. Not even one!

With a soft sigh, she reached for the bag of cookies resting against her pencil case. Mint chocolate chip, her favourite. Perhaps with the power of sugar, she could get herself to read at least a little more.

But as she slipped her hand into the bag, she did not find the baked goods she was searching for. What she pulled out instead was a cross between a panda and a hamster, desperately clinging onto half-eaten cookies.

“... Maru,” she stated in her usual, deadpan tone, “...Were you eating my cookies.”

Maru seemed startled by the accusation. He started to stuff cookies into his mouth as fast as his small paws would allow, until his cheeks were round and swollen. He shook his head, showing off his now-empty hands as if to prove his innocence.

“Oh.” Miu contemplated for a while, peeking past her familiar to find the bag empty. Her tone did not change to reflect her words, but a more acute observed might’ve noticed her brows furrowing a tad. “I wanted some...”

Maru looked at her for a moment in remorseful silence, then started to loudly try and regurgitate some of what he’d stolen.

Without so much as a blink, Miu dropped him back into the empty bag and returned to her homework.

--​

Athembury City Park

An hour later, she’d forgotten all about reading.

Miu sat sideways on a giant lollipop, breezing over treetops as fast as her transportation would allow. She’d fallen asleep on her homework, waking up to a missed message from Leona. She’d found a rift. Hopefully, Miu wasn’t too late; the chirping was loud, and the glow intense. Aside from Leona, their leader, she was the most experienced member of their team-- and therefore, she should have been the first to show up and set a good example. That’s what she usually did, too. This level of negligence on her part was unacceptable.

By the time she arrived, the others were already in the fray. Leona and Clare were pushing their way through to the rift itself, while Masaru and Riptide were keeping the monsters at bay. She sped up toward them, jumping off her lollipop to swing it at an approaching swarm. There was a series of disgusting crunching sounds as the bugs’ shells shattered upon impact, but Miu was already preparing another attack.

“... Sorry.” She said to the two boys behind her without letting her focus sway from the voidlings. All the while, she was conjuring colourful candies all around her. “Late.”

With that, she fired off a round of her explosive candies, dyeing the sky in all the colours of the rainbow.
 
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Monster Guy

Fairy type Trainer
Conner Waters/Riptide
Athembury City Park


As the battle continued on, and Conner stabbed Voidlings with his trident, more of his teammates showed up to help. First there was Clare. Conner didn't really know too much about her, but she seemed cool he guessed. Then there was Masaru. Conner had respect for him, as he was the only other guy in. He wasn't a bad looking guy either, he definitely had nice abs that was for sure.

“Alright team!” Leona hollered above all the noise. “I want Masaru and Riptide handling the Voidlings while Clare and I get close enough to close the rift."

Conner gave a thumbs up. "You got it!"

"If anyone sees Candy Witch show up, have her handle damage control and Riptide switch to focus on healing and protection while we close it. Let’s go!” Then she and Clare took off to close the rift.

Conner's heart sank. While he didn't mind being the healing and support guy sometimes, he enjoyed beating up voidlings much more. He secretly hoped Candy Witch wouldn't make it there in time. She was a child! Yet somehow, she had more experience than everyone besides Leona. She never failed to flaunt that fact. At least that's how Conner perceived her. He couldn't stand people who thought they were better than everyone else.

But she wasn't here now... He was all alone with Masaru, staring down a bunch of Voidlings. "You ready to do this, handsome?" He asked with a smile and a wink.

But before Conner could even do anything, Candy Witch showed up. Conner didn't even acknowledge her presence...

He flew up, and raised his trident. Conner summoned a large tsunami behind him. Then he flew on top of the wave, and surfed it. "Surfs up dudes!" He exclaimed while making a hang loose gesture with his other hand. The powerful wave crashed onto the ground, and washed away a bunch of voidlings. It also may have gotten some people wet in the process.
 

VampirateMace

Internet Overlord
Masaru
Athembury City (Athembury City Park)


Masaru lashed his whip back the other way, catching several voidlings with the attack, knocking them back about half a foot and leaving a trail of scorch marks along their shells. They could easily corral groups of these weak enemies into one area for mass destruction. Meanwhile Leona issued her instructions, which included him and Conner continuing to kick these thing's asses. That was fine with him, he shouted back confirmation, “We're on it!”

Then he smirked and replied to Conner's flattery, with shameless puns, “Of course I'm ready cuddlefish, but I think I'm about to get too hot for you to handle.”

He snapped his whip, causing it to wrap around one of the bugs and tugged, squeezing the life and goop out of it with a pop. Effective, but a little slow for dealing with a horde. Changing tactics, he grabbing another with his whip and slammed it into a group. Then a series of crunches told them another combatant had entered the area, and glancing that way he could see Miu wielding a giant lollipop, who excused herself for being late. He smiled, “At least you're here now!”

With all this he lost track of Conner's activities, only becoming aware of them again as a wave crashed down over the immediate area, drenching him and putting out his whip.

“Guuuh! Damnit!” shouted Masaru as he stood there with a much less intimidating steaming whip. He channeled his anger into his Bonfire power, setting it off early so that flames merely licked all around him, not catching any teammates or enemies at this small size (most had been washed away anyways to be fair), but drying his outfit and reigniting his whip.

“Watch what you're doing!” he complained to Conner, before charging on one of the remaining groups of voidlings. He summoned his trio of will-o'-wisps as he did this, sending them forward into the group, and following them in with a round merciless slashes from his whip. Chunks of charred bug flew flew left and right.
 

Andydemon

Nanomachines, Son!
Lamb & Wolf
Athembury City


It was yet another lonely night, Lamb sat atop the hospital roof, listening to the machinery inside, the beeps indicating that one still clung to life. She knew she was going to hear the familiar sound eventually, the one the living called a flatline. She found the setting to be ironic. Hospitals are a place that is meant to save lives, yet so many people die there. Lamb had to give them some credit though, they at least also make sure those that can't be saved die peacefully.

Wolf on the other hand, was pacing along the roof impatiently behind her. He was waiting for someone to try and escape their fate, someone he can chase and drag to the other side himself. For them, it wouldn't matter that they already died. Their journey to the afterlife would be a painful one. Thinking about this, Lamb did wonder why anyone would try to escape what has already come to pass. Haunting a location doesn't grant you a second life, it's just lingering in denial, unable to truly reach out to loved ones left behind.

Lamb couldn't help but pity them, she understood their loneliness all too well, she and wolf were the same as them once. Only allowed to meet those who had died, existing only as a shadow to everyone else. The brief time she spent with those she escorted to the afterlife wasn't nearly enough. Even after being given a physical form, she felt....feared, shunned, and alone amidst a sea of mortals. Was this what it meant to try and defy one's true nature? Had the First Star intended to play only the cruelest of jokes on her from the star?

Lamb was broken out of her musings by the sound of Wolf sniffing at the air. Perhaps he had found someone that didn't want to go just yet, that he may chase and show the folly of that desire, or so Lamb thought until he noticed lights in the horizon. Lights she knew weren't normal by any means.

"Lamb, I smell them again! The Void things are back!" Wolf growled eagerly. "We must begin the chase!"

"I see, Dear Wolf." Lamb responded as she stood up, barely taking her eyes off the direction she saw the lights. "We have found our prey. Time to begin our hunt."

And with that, Lamb swan dived off the hospital roof and was engulfed with a light, the bandages around her left arm vanished as an elegant white bow materialized in her hand, the gown she wore faded away revealing her goat like lower half, the beautiful white fur traveling up her body to replace the gown, until her entire body had taken the form of a white bipedal mammal. Over her chest, a breastplate formed around her, covering her upper body as if to protect her before topping itself off with a light blue emblem.

Once her transformation was complete, Lamb's slow fall stopped into full on flight as she soared towards the location of the Voidlings like a comet through the sky.

Athembury City Park

Once they arrived to the outskirts of the park, Lamb and Wolf saw that a fight had already broken out. It seems the other Star Guardians had arrived to fight off the bulk of their prey.

"They have come here as swiftly as always, here to stop the void once more." Lamb said as she hovered over the battle.

"Their chase is always sloppy, stragglers get away, only to find their way to my teeth." Wolf stated as he orbited his partner. "Will we have to chase the leftovers again, Lamb?"

"Yes, Dear Wolf. Once again, but the ones that get away are numerous. We will not be bored tonight." Lamb reassured Wolf as she perched atop a park lamp between the park and the rest of the city. There was no doubt the Voidlings that sneak past the others will come this way, towards the city, towards The Kindred, towards their death. "Those that the Void attempt to prey on. It is not their time yet, we shall not allow their lives to be cut short by such unnatural creatures. So go, Wolf, chase to your hearts content."

As soon as Lamb urged him forward, Wolf let out a howl and headed to ground level. As soon as the Voidling stragglers were within their sight, Wolf charged forward and proceeded to rip them apart one by one. Lamb on the other hand grabbed her bowstring and pulled it back. An arrow made up of light blue energy forming between her fingers as she did so. Once the arrow was fully drawn, a black and white symbol shaped like a target formed over one of the Voidlings attempting to escape Wolf.

The arrow flew through the air towards the Voidling, seemingly following the target Lamb had conjured over her prey, until it connected, striking the small Voidling dead. The hunt had begun.
 
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Vern

Why not both?
Clare
Athembury City Park


“Got it,” Clare said with a nod, readying another barrage of needles as she put herself into position behind Leona. She hated having someone else take the brunt of the attack for her, but Leona had a strong defence, and she… well, she did not. As their leader forged forwards, slashing at voidlings in front of them, Clare followed her, staying close by and using her needles to beat back the voidlings that tried to approach from the rear.

As Leona took position around one side of the rift, Clare flew towards the other, throwing out another barrage of needles to clear her path. After that, though, she’d have to rely on her team-mates to keep her safe. Closing a rift, especially a large one like this one, required most of her concentration, even with Leona’s help. She floated upwards and raised her hands in front of her face, pressing her fingers together in a vague triangle shape — different people focused in different ways, and she could see Leona raising her hands to the emblem on her chest, which was her way of doing so.

Just as she was about to call out that she was ready, a wave of water sprayed her as Conner used his tidal wave to wash away some of the voidlings — but wet clothes weren’t exactly the most pressing issue at the moment, annoying as it was. Grimacing, she pulled her costume’s hood over her head and turned back to the rift. “I’m ready to go!” She called, “Channeling now!”

Taking a deep breath, she used a bit of magic to throw up a thin shield around her. Then, she turned her attention to the rift, closing her eyes and allowing her starlight powers to flow out of her, starting to seal up the void.
 

Skillfulness

Well-Known Member
Leona
Athembury City Park


As she swung at the waves of voids, Leona noticed a bright, colorful explosion and grinned. Seems like Miu was able to show up. Hopefully nobody was seriously injured yet, she herself had only sustained a couple cuts so far and most certainly would have a few bruises. Still, she stood strong until Clare made it to the other end of the rift. She watched as Connor sent a huge wave across the voidlings and drenched all on the team but her. Maybe she would have to start bringing towels to fights in case of innocent friendly fire. Unfortunately, it added a bit of tension between the team members as well. She was about to shout to them to stay focused, but she caught sight of Clare across the chasm.

“I’m ready to go! Channeling now!” Magic began pouring from her to seal up the darkness of the rift. Leona steadied herself and touched the emblem on her chest.

“Got it, channeling to seal the rift!” she yelled back. Leona focused and allowed the starlight power to fill and overflow from her. Soon, light was shining around her and it focused at the edge of the rift. Voidlings thudded against her shield behind her and she kicked at one biting at her ankles. Come on guys, keep them off me. We have to get this closed. She had to stay focused on the starlight until the rift was fully closed.

It took a minute or two of patient focus before Leona and Clare finally got the rift sealed. She kept eyes on the team as they fought to make sure things were going smoothly and was ready to retreat if needed, but everyone was doing well.

————————————

Once they picked off the last voidling in the area, the Guardians gathered around at the edge of the treeline, back closer to the park. The healers of the team were working their magic while they circled up to have a post-battle briefing. Leona let out a satisfying sigh and smiled to her team.

“Good job today guys. We made quick work of them and we’re getting better every day. Conner, try to be more aware of your surroundings and everyone remember to keep a cool head and avoid infighting, verbal and physical. While we’re all here right now, I’d like to plan our next team meeting. How does next Thursday sound?”

The team discussed for a moment and settled on a day that worked for all of them. After they settled on a date, Leona addressed them, “Thanks again for coming out to help take care of the rift. I know your work means a lot to me and the people we protect. We’ll talk more at the meeting, but in the meantime, take it easy and keep an ear to the ground in case of trouble.”
 

VampirateMace

Internet Overlord
Masaru
Athembury City (Athembury City Park)


Now in one of the thickest patches of enemies, Masaru continued his flaming onslaught. Whip left, whip right, spin, barrage of will-o'-wisps; rinse and repeat. Well hopefully not rinse, one bath during this fight was one more than he needed. A circle cleared around him now, he took an opportunity to glance at Clare and Leona. They appeared to have made it to the rift and were starting to close it. Masaru spun and kicked the voidling creeping up on him. It toppled onto it's back and he slashed it in twain with his whip. He knew better than to let his focus lapse, but luckily these things were not subtle.

Once the rift was actually sealed they were able to permanently reduce the voiding numbers, mass attacking and picking them off until they'd properly reduced their numbers to zero. The flame along Masaru's whip dried up and he released it, it transforming back into Forge before it hit the grass below. The dragon circled through the air back up to his shoulder height. Meanwhile Lenora was passing out praise and criticism. Masaru stretched reaching his hands behind his head when in-fighting came up, “Yeah yeah.” Like Conner was going to learn if they didn't criticize his recklessness? It's not like he'd punched Conner. Seriously, he fought more with his hustling crew than this lot, and they weren't in danger of falling apart.

He pulled out his phone. The calendar was pretty much empty, as that was just sort of how hustling worked. He clicked on Thursday, confirming a lack of notes, “That works for me.”

He nodded at her farewell. He'd kind of lost his taste for the sentimental touchy-feely stuff, but getting rid of these things was important to him as well. And it seemed like the rifts had only gotten worse, at least from his point of view. “Yeah, see you then,” he agreed, then looking over the battlefield thought aloud, “If not sooner. . .”
 

GoldenHouou

antagoonist
Miu Meizhu
The Candy Witch
Athembury City Park


The number of voidlings was steadily dwindling. At this rate, they had nothing to fear. The new boys... they had done a good job.

As Miu straightened from another devastating swing, a sudden rush of cold water pelted her. She gasped, breath caught in her throat. It was reminiscent of bumping into the faucet and turning the shower too cold - except there was no option for warm water afterwards. Mistaking it for an enemy attack, Miu spun around with lollipop held at ready - only to find Conner unapologetically moving on to splash water elsewhere.

Miu huffed. "... Dummy."

There was a horrid screech from her right.

Too taken aback by her teammate's carelessness, Miu turned a moment too late - and was slashed across the face by a large void bug. She inhaled sharply, her light frame pushed off balance by the impact. Her face burned. And though she couldn't see it, Miu knew the wound bled. She could feel something trickle down her face.

She had no time to be dazed, though. Planting one foot firmly on the ground, she twisted her entire body into a counterattack, smashing her lollipop straight into the bug's side. It shattered into pieces. A similar fate awaited the half a dozen more that followed, charging at her one after another in hopes of repeating their brethren's success.

In the end, Miu disposed of them all. But her cheek never stopped throbbing, and though she was known as very expressionless, her brows remained knit together throughout the fight. It was clear she wasn't happy. Even if she was distracted, she shouldn't have let the enemy reach her. She was better than this. Someone else's stupidity shouldn't - couldn't - affect her.

--​

Once the battle was over, the group reunited. Leona congratulated them on a job well done - but also gave Conner a scolding. Miu nodded along.

"Try... not to cause trouble. Anymore... " she drawled. Her voice was as usual, quiet and monotone.

Atop Miu's head, Maru folded his little arms and gave one single, decisive nod.
 
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Monster Guy

Fairy type Trainer
Conner Waters/Riptide
Athembury City Park


His teammates didn't seem too thrilled with getting splashed on with water, but Conner was too busy fighting off voidlings to be concerned by their reaction. It was just a little water, no harm done right? As he was sparying water at the bugs, Clare and Leona were just about ready to close the rift. Once they finally did, it didn't take much longer before they finished off the rest of the Voidlings.

After the battle was finished, Leona and Conner healed anyone that might have gotten injured in the battle. Much to his relief, Leona was the one responsible for healing Miu. If he had to be the one to heal her, he would never hear the end of it from her. After that, Conner transformed back to his civilian clothes, and Chesi was a Dolphin again floating alongside Conner at his shoulder level. Now there was a briefing. Leona said they had done a good job, but told Conner to be more careful of his surroundings.

Conner was about to apologize for getting everyone wet, but then Miu had to add her two cents... Conner's rolled his eyes. There she goes again, just because she's been a guardian longer suddenly means she thinks she's better than everyone else. "Stay out of trouble? Are you kidding me? Listen child, I am sorry I splashed you with a little bit of water. But you do not have the right to tell me what to do."

Chesi made a concerned squeak, and Conner was about to leave in a huff, but Leona stopped him, and they arranged a date for their group's next meeting. Once they agreed on a day and time, then Conner left in a huff. Chesi made another worried squeak, and followed after him.
 
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Andydemon

Nanomachines, Son!
Lamb & Wolf
Athembury City Park

None of the voidlings could enter the city. Any that got close were immediately shot down by Lamb or torn apart by Wolf. With Lamb gracefully shooting each one she saw arrow after arrow from atop the park lamps she was using as a perch. Leaping from one lamp to another should the need arise to get a better eye on her prey. Standing on only one hoof the entire time yet still maintaining perfect balance, one would call her poetry in motion, a captivating blend of archery and dance. In truth, gravity just meant nothing to her, such things were mortal concerns, not even thought about by the phantom huntress.

Wolf on the other hand was brutish in his onslaught. Biting down violently on his enemies and shaking them around in his teeth with reckless abandon. Any voidlings that got too close were almost immediately pushed aside as Wolf threw his weight around, like a mythical beast slaughtering the terrified humans below them. Yes, this was what Wolf found joy in, the hunt, the chase, the kill, all provided for him in large quantities by the horde of otherworldly insects.

However, this thrill was not meant to last. Soon the tide of voidlings began to die down as the other Star Guardians off in the distance closed the portal from whence they came. Unfortunate for the two hunters as it meant an end to their fun, but necessary to ensure the world stayed on its natural course. These eldritch entities had no place in this world, nor did they have any claim to the innocent lives within it. Those lives were the Kindred's to take, but only once their time had come, and many of the mortals dwelling within the city still had long lives to live.

It wasn't long before only one voidling was left. The two of them decided to share this last prey as Wolf first sank his jaws into its flesh, and tossed it skyward, where it would be shot dead by one last arrow from Lamb's bow.

"There are no more left. Is the chase over, Lamb?" Wolf asked, albeit rhetorically.

"I'm afraid so, Dear Wolf. Our fellow Guardians have cut off their path into this world, they are gone for now." Lamb lamented to her partner. "But they will come again, and so will we."

"They ended the chase, Lamb! Shall I chase them instead?" Wolf said eagerly.

"I'm afraid we cannot do that, Wolf. Their time has not come either." Lamb answered. "Besides, they are the enemy of our enemy, even if we are not friends....not yet."

"Yet?"

"Maybe one day they will learn of our existence, seek us out, find us, and ask us to fight among them. Strength in numbers, as mortals say."

"We'll chase the void things with them, Lamb?"

"Perhaps, yet the future is not set in stone. Maybe they'll accept us, maybe they won't. We must not blame them should the latter come to pass. Few are willing to embrace death, after all."

With their task completed, and the others also preparing to leave, Lamb leapt off the park lamp in a back flip. She would not be seen reaching the ground, however, as once her hoof left her perch her body faded away, with Wolf disappearing along with her. Any who happened to see The Kindred in time before they vanished would hear Lamb's haunting giggle in the air, but all would hear Wolf howl from far away some time afterwards.
 

Skillfulness

Well-Known Member
Leona
Athembury City Park


Though it took a bit of pushing, the group figured out a date. Masaru was slightly dismissive, but cooperative when considering the rest of the group. Miu made a comment that, though true, was not helpful for the conversation. Leona was trying to get them together, but Conner took issue with the remark, understandably. Before he could stalk off, Leona made sure the date worked for him as well as Chloe and then they split from there. Sighing, she gave Zelgar a gentle pat and started her walk back home.

~ Later that week ~

Fortunately, and a bit surprisingly, no other Void incidents came up that week. Leona wasn’t getting her hopes up though. Unless another group of Star Guardians from this planet were stepping in to help with the increase of creatures, they would continue to get worse and her team needed a plan moving forward. Unfortunately, Leona didn’t really have any plans. She knew all the things she wanted to discuss at the meeting, but part of it was admitting she had no way to directly address the rifts. Hopefully, the team would have some creative ideas.

With her shift ended that Thursday, Leona hustled back to her apartment to prepare for the meeting. There was some laundry scattered about that she needed to pick up plus she had some baking to do before they arrived. Zelglar pranced about helping put stray socks into the basket while Leona worked on the cookie dough. Right as she put the first batch in, there was a knock at the door and the first teammate showed up. She led them in and made some idle chatter while they waited for the rest. Eventually, the cookies were done (chocolate chip) and all of the Star Guardian team was there.

“Alright team,” Leona said, standing to address them all. They were sitting at her couch and two armchairs with the cookies set out on the coffee table in the center. There was a window at the wall, the kitchen and the entryway behind her with hallways breaking off to the bedroom and bathroom. It was homey with simple decor and a handful of plants. “First and foremost, I truly appreciate your dedication to the team and continuation in protecting the planet from Void. It means a lot. Having been a Guardian for years on my own, thank you for sticking with me through thick and thin. Which brings me to my next point.

“Though we’ve been doing well, infighting is still an issue. I know we don’t have to be friends or buddy-buddy with each other, but we need to be able to work together on the battlefield. I’d like to start scheduling regular practices together. We’ll discuss a time for our first practice at the end. Finally.” Leona starts, but pauses and looks over her team. These people were depending on her to lead them. It was hard to be vulnerable for this next point, but she had to do it.

“Finally, we’ve all noticed the increase in Void incidents, including more rifts. We won’t be able to keep up with the numbers and we need to find a way to stop it, find the source maybe. I want to hear your ideas on how to address the rising threat. After we discuss this, I’ll let you bring up your own concerns and we can break from there. So, any ideas?” Leona snatched a cookie from the tray and waited for someone to pipe up. She felt like she sounded confident and not as anxious as she felt. For now, she would put her trust in her teammates, that they would be able to figure this out together.

————————————

Lamb and Wolf

As you sit, perched atop one of your usual spots on the hospital roof, you observe the city. The sun is just setting with bright light shining through the buildings and trees. With the past few nights being relatively peaceful, your guard might be down. Or perhaps you’re more alert, expecting the worse. What would happen that night though was not something you were prepared for.

Scanning the horizon, you notice a child-sized figure at the edge of the woods near the hospital. At first, it seems like nothing unusual, someone just out for a sunset stroll. However, you notice the figure is looking right at you. Once you make eye contact, she smiles, turns around, and beckons you before disappearing into the trees. You think you noticed bright, colorful hair, though it was hard to tell in the fading light. Do you follow?

————————————

Jinx

That evening you’re wandering about town. Doesn’t matter what you’re doing, just that you’re out and happen to be at the right place at the right time. You don’t realize fate had a plan until you hear a muffled explosion and a loud curse from one of the nearby abandoned warehouses. Glancing around, no one else seems to be nearby during this time of day, just around dusk. Streets empty and very few (successful) businesses in this part of town means not many people have a reason to be here. But you definitely heard that resounding boom and a voice following it, so what was going on? Do you investigate?
 

Andydemon

Nanomachines, Son!
Lamb & Wolf
Athembury Hospital Rooftop

Several nights had passed since that fight against the Void. Lamb and Wolf have been keeping to themselves as always. Having slipped out of the aftermath without interacting with any of the other Star Guardians, it's likely they remain none the wiser about their very existence, and if they do know of them, they aren't showing it. The two of them assumed the former, as a group as hard pressed for allies as the Star Guardians would no doubt seek them out, whether they will be willing to request The Kindred's aid after learning of their nature is another matter. While Wolf was content as long as there was prey to hunt down, and their always was, Lamb couldn't help but wonder what their companionship would entail. As things are now, the life of a Star Guardian isn't that different from the life they had before, even with a physical body they were still distant from the mortals, they were still alone.

However, it seemed that the two of them would have a reprieve from their loneliness tonight. For better or worse, even they couldn't know for sure.

Lamb and Wolf were perched atop the Hospital once again, watching the sun set. The day coming to an end, Lamb would compare it to a mortal's life doing the same if the day didn't return....A world were the Sun died....such a world sounds darker and lonelier than any afterlife.

After a while, Lamb's musings would be interrupted as Wolf pointed out a possible anomaly. "Lamb, something creeps nearby."

"A wandering soul? Some enjoy a walk in the cusp of night." Lamb assumed as she looked to where Wolf was facing, only to see for herself why he was alarmed in the first place. It was then she spied a small figure standing right outside the trees....and they were looking in The Kindred's direction.

"It sees us. No one can see us!" Wolf declared. It was true, Lamb and Wolf were mere ghosts right now, no ordinary person would be able to spot them without those camera contraptions they're often so fond of. His alarm was further justified as the figure seemed to beckon them over with a smile before heading into the woods.

"How curious, for them to evade our gaze...No, it would be more likely that they were seeking us...Wanting to invite us over themselves...I've always wondered why some mortals are so eager to meet us."

"Will we chase it, Lamb?" Wolf asked with anticipation.

Lamb answered by pushing herself off the roof, looking as if she was falling until her descent slowed to a crawl and her hooves placed themselves gently on the ground. "Yes, Wolf. Let us accept our host's invitation...Our new playmate awaits~"

And with that, the two of them took flight straight into the woods, once they reached them, Lamb began to perch herself atop the treebranches, leaping from one to the other in pursuit of the small figure, with Wolf floating close behind.
 

Monster Guy

Fairy type Trainer
Conner Waters
His house, and Leona’s apartment later


Conner got home late that night. It was dark by the time he made it home. His mother was waiting for him when he made it into the house, looking concerned. “You’re home late. Where have you been?”

“On the beach. The waves were fantastic, I just lost track of time. Then there was traffic, and before ya know it, it’s dark.” Conner replied nonchalantly. While that statement wasn’t entirely untrue, he left out the whole voidlings business. He would never hear the end of it if his parents knew he was off fighting monster bugs.

“It’s a school night. You shouldn’t be out this late. Did you even get your homework done?”

“Chill mom, I got this.”

“I’m just concerned. Your father and I weren’t too happy about your last report card...”

“I said I got this mom!” Conner shouted. He then mumbled under his breath. “But not all of us can be like Arianna and get straight A’s in everything.”

“What?”

“Nothing mom...” Conner sighed and went to his room. He did manage to get his homework done... Only moments before class began the next day.



This rest of the week was uneventful as far as Conner was concerned. He still went to school, went to work at the Surf Shop after school, and rode the waves whenever he had a spare moment. He only just barely managed to get by in schoolwork. His parents had a talk with him about how his attitude, and how he should try harder and if he did he could get into some big fancy university and blah blah blah. He only pretended to listen. Even if he did try harder, he knew it would never be enough for them. Arianna was their golden child. They obviously loved her more. During the entire week, there were no sightings of voidlings at all. As bad as it sounded, Conner was actually a little bothered by that. He could use something to to take his frustrations out on without any consequences.

Finally, the day of the meeting finally arrived. After his shift at the Surf Shop was over, Conner headed over to Leona’s apartment. Surprisingly, he was the first one to arrive. He and Leona talked about things while Chesi splashed around in Leona’s kitchen sink under the running faucet. Conner even got first dibs on the cookies!

Eventually, the other team mates arrived the meeting officially started. They talked about scheduling practices together. They also talked about the rising increase in rifts, they needed to find a way to stop them. Leona asked if anyone had any ideas on how to stop them.

Conner took yet another cookie, and happily ate it up. He had lost count how many he had at this point. “I’m totally cool with doing more practices. I can definitely use more action in my life.” He talked with his mouth still full of cookie. “As for the void, can’t we... I dunno... jump into a rift and stop these guys at the source?”
 
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Vern

Why not both?
Clare
Athembury Park


Clare let out a sigh of relief as her last needle struck home, and the voidling she was aiming at fell lifeless from the tree it was trying to escape to, hitting the ground with a soft thud. After scanning her surroundings for any more stragglers and finding none, she turned to head back towards the others.

“Lu Chien!” She called, and the snake slithered into view from god knows where it’d been, flying up and settling on her shoulders. “You find any more?”

Her familiar shook its head in response, and she headed back towards the others, walking at a slow pace. The fighting had tired her out, and already she was feeling a little shaky. There were a few cuts on her arms, legs, and torso, but thankfully nothing too severe. It had been a bit of a messy night, but in the end, what mattered was that the rift was closed. She’d done her duty, served her purpose. The thought filled her with a warmth that she couldn’t get anywhere else. She sat down on the ground next to the others and shifted back into her normal clothes, a smile — a genuine one, unlike usual — on her face.

“Good job today guys. We made quick work of them and…” While Leona passed out praise and criticism, Clare closed her eyes and relaxed as Connor healed her cuts with his magic, letting out a contented sigh and thanking him when he finished. Her clothes were still a little wet, but that didn’t bother her too much, and she thought better than to cause any conflict by bringing that up. Almost as soon as the thought crossed her mind, Miu did just that — and Connor leapt up to defend himself.

Thankfully, he’d finished with her wounds by then. Clare didn’t involve herself, deciding to let the tensions resolve themselves — she was never good at mediating conflicts. More often than not, she found herself missing the point — she’d learnt that most of the time, when people fight, they aren’t really fighting over what they say they are, and more often than not that subtext was lost on her.

The infighting didn’t bother her. So long as she could still be a part of all this, she was content. She allowed herself to float in this sense of fulfilment for a while — it wasn’t often she got to feel like this, after all. Eventually, Leona’s voice dragged her out of her reverie. “Yeah,” she said, giving an eager nod, “That works for me.”

As usual, Clare was the last to leave. She walked with Leona for a bit — even though she wasn’t heading in the same direction — and finally turned around to fly home.

///
Leona’s Apartment

As usual, the week had been uneventful for Clare. No new voidlings appeared, and while she knew, in her head, that that ought to be a good thing, she couldn’t help but spend what felt like hours and hours every day closing and reopening her phone, waiting for a text from Leona. Being at home felt stifling to her — it was like there was an invisible weight pressing down on her, like she was being crushed underneath the pressure of an ocean.

She’d barely managed to escape from a conversation about her future plans, of which she’d had none. The concerned looks on her parents’ faces refused to leave her memory, but she couldn’t quite bring herself to feel too worried or guilty about it — despite the fact that she certainly didn't like seeing her parents getting anxious for her sake.

Clare left early for the meeting, rushing there straight after school ended, but it was quite a long journey to Leona’s apartment, and by the time she arrived, Connor was already there. She helped herself to a cookie and sat down in the corner, making some small talk as the three waited for the others to arrive. Leona’s apartment was cozy, and felt much warmer and more… alive than her own home. She liked it there. As she nibbled on the cookie, the thought of asking Leona if she could come over more often crossed her mind.

After Leona finished her briefing, Connor chimed in to assent to extra practices — ‘I can definitely use more action in my life’ — and to suggest jumping into a void rift. The idea seemed a little reckless to her, but she'd be lying if she said it didn't fill her with slight bit of excitement. Normally, she would’ve just let the conversation run its course without her, but any chance to get away from the mundanity of her life was one she needed to seize — and regular practice sessions sounded like just the thing.

“Maybe we should try co-ordinating with more guardians?” Clare added, “I’m pretty sure there are others here, and if things continue escalating, we might not be able to cover everything by ourselves, no matter how hard we try. And yeah, regular practice sessions sound really great." She would've been more than happy to meet up daily, but she was level headed enough to know that that'd be an unreasonable thing to demand from the others, who were probably not as... well, they probably had a lot more stuff to do. "My schedule’s pretty flexible, so I’m free whenever… should we aim for twice a week?”
 
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GoldenHouou

antagoonist
Miu Meizhu
The Candy Witch
Athembury City Park


Conner's response caught Miu off guard. Although she wasn't surprised that he was bad at accepting criticism, she had not expected him to outright snap at her. The girl visibly flinched at Conner's sudden change of tone, a flash of fear visiting her usually expressionless features. She wasn't used to adults yelling at her.

At the mention of the splashed water, Miu brought a hand to her cheek. Leona had already healed the wound she'd sustained there, but she still felt the sting. Her other fist clenched, and she felt a lump in her throat. She was angry. She was angrier than she could ever remember being before, but she was too scared to voice it. It wasn't just about splashing a bit of water. He'd distracted her in the middle of combat. She'd gotten hurt because of him. She was good at combat! She never got hurt!

She looked to the others for help. They didn't say anything.

Ever so slowly, Miu lowered her hand. ...Did they agree with Conner then? Was it... really her fault? The injury, and... everything?

Miu didn't say a word for the rest of their meeting. She simply stood back and stared at her feet, nodding along when they settled on a date to meet again. She was afraid that if she were to open her mouth, she'd cry. She wasn't a child. She wasn't going to cry.

--​

Leona’s Apartment

Miu really didn't want to come to the meeting. She'd even thought about skipping it a few times, when the thought of having to face the others had felt too overwhelming. They all probably hated her - or worse, thought of her as a weakling. All because of Conner. She hated him the most.

Apart from mandatory school work, Miu had spent the week training when able - even more so than usual. She was trying to make sure that she'd never show weakness in combat ever again. Even if she got distracted by a horde of Conners, she'd never falter. She had to lead by example - otherwise, how could she expect anyone to follow... a child?

"I'm fine, Maru."

In her pocket, Maru nuzzled against her hand regardless. Miu reached for the doorbell.

She stayed quiet for most of the meeting in Leona's apartment as well - particularly when Leona mentioned infighting. She was talking about her, Miu knew. She felt her face heat up with embarrassment, and couldn't bear to lift her gaze from the cookie plate on the table. Maru was helping himself to the biggest one. He was cute. Eyes firmly fixed on her fluffy little friend, Miu gave a small nod. She already practiced daily, so having more practice sessions wouldn't be that big a change for her. She'd just have to share her session time with the others.

Conner came up with a stupid and reckless plan to jump into a void, but Miu resisted the urge to call it out as such. She didn't want to be yelled at again.

"More practice... is good," was all she offered in the end, voice barely audible. Miu was glad Clare seemed a bit more talkative than usual. It filled the void her silence left pretty well.
 
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