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When Melissa entered the elevator she noticed in place of buttons for floors there were an up, down, left, and right arrow. Above the doors were 4 grayed out dots, and one lit up on on the left, which seemed to indicate that there were five floors to go through.

However as the doors shut and before Melissa could press anything the elevator began to move. Beyond a slight shift in motion she wouldn't be able to tell it had began its ascent as the elevator was entirely silent.

Within a blink of the eye the second dot lit up. Then third, fourth, and fifth, indicating the elevator was moving at high speed. However, despite hitting the last the doors didn't open. She could no longer feel it moving and yet, when all the lights grayed out, the door opened up into a single room.

A musty smell hit her nose for a moment before being replaced by a woody smell that, if Melissa knew her resins, seemed to be the smell of frankincense. As she stepped inside she would feel a tingling as though the air was filled with static and, if she tried, she found she could not speak with the angels anymore.

The room was rather spacious, and lavish, with a massive wooden desk across the room from the elevator. Mauvache herself sat on a chair that looked almost like a throne. Even sitting down she gave the impression of being incredibly tall as she sat with her hands folded under her chin and her eyes fixated on where Melissa emerged from.

A bookshelf was behind the woman and to the left of the room Melissa saw a red velvet Victorian style sofa. If Melissa looked back more she could see a fireplace on her left right next to the elevator door. Which, as it closed, resembled a regular, wooden, door. Despite the fire going Melissa felt a slight chill in the room.

"Hello, young lady." Mauvache said. "I say, your group seem to be an awfully curious bunch. Coming to me so soon like this. But I cannot say I do not enjoy some company. Come, sit, and tell me what you came to me for." she indicated a chair in front of the desk. One that was notably lower and less extravagant than the one that Mauvache sat in.

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“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
-Matthew 7:7 (NIV)


How many familiar and yet uncomfortable feelings was Melissa greeted with as she entered Mauvache’s chambers? The first was the overpowering scent of frankincense, something she’d experienced enough times during nativity for it to be permanently scarred into her brain. She remembered one time she wore it to school on the last day before winter break and, by the end of it, had given herself and everyone else around her a terrible headache. Thankfully, it had only been a half-day or she would have been even more mortified than normal then.

The second was how casually Mauvache had ignored her apology. That one had even more recent memories to look back on. Was she supposed to repeat herself, like she had the other times? Or was this a tacit acceptance, that she was so forgiven that to even mention it again would be yet another slight? “What do you think?” she wondered to herself, hoping that Zadkiel and Sandalphon might provide some sort of recourse for dealing with this, but that led to a third sensation with those same “familiar and uncomfortable” descriptors: She was alone.

Not literally, of course. Mauvache was still right there, after all. But amidst the heavy cloud of frankincense was something else -- there had to be -- and whatever that something else was, it meant she was facing one of the most important conversations of her life so far without the guidance of beings she had, in such a short time, come to rely on. Even besides the idea of constant companionship, her angels were with whom she had discussed and cataloged all her questions. She remembered most of them still since most of them had been weighing on her mind since she even found out she could make such an opportunity, but it was the principle of the thing. Even if she didn’t need to call on them, the fact that she couldn’t was still suffocating.

And in the midst of all this was Mauvache’s invitation. Melissa was told to sit, and so she did. She sat in the way she did when feeling especially overwhelmed -- with her hands clutching her knees, which themselves were clamped together, trying to give herself as small a silhouette as possible. “Thank you for seeing me,” she managed. “I don’t know about the others, but something like this doesn’t really happen often, and since our last meeting got interrupted by those sharks, I’d like to know as much as I can. Last time I asked what you did to me, and I think I’ve mostly got a handle on that now, but you didn’t actually answer the question, so did you know what was going to happen, or did you choose me for some other reason?

Already, Mauvache was smiling. Well, she had been smiling before, but now she definitely was, if that made sense. “My my. Well, as bothersome as it may be I must answer with another question. What reasons do you think there may be?”

Um,” Melissa said. Her momentum had been thrown almost immediately, and she shrunk down even further. “I guess back home there’s a weird category of statistics called ‘intangibles,’ like, sometimes a duelist just always seems to draw the right card at the right time, and while it’s definitely just luck, because it’s data you can analyze and start to plan for it. So my guess would be you think I have intangibles. It’s either that or you thought you could tear off a piece of ADMIN with you, and there are a lot of reasons I don’t want to think about that.

She chuckled, eyes not leaving Melissa for a moment, expression, from what she could see, not changing. “Well, I suppose intangible is a good word for it. But you certainly have something about you that I believed would be of great help.”

Is ADMIN okay, then, without whatever functions Zadkiel and Sandalphon were providing? Are everyone else’s worlds okay in their absence?

“Now that is certainly an interesting question,” Mauvache said. “One with some rather… complicated answers. I suppose to make it simple, it would be right to say the world likely will barely miss their absence.”

Okay,” Melissa said. It didn’t actually make anything simpler, but also Melissa got the sense that she wasn’t going to get anywhere trying to push the issue, and she had bigger things to move on to. “I mean, I’m not sure I can say the same the other way around. There are a few things I don’t think can be replaced even in a place such as this…” Almost instinctively, she brought her hand up past her heart -- pausing there for just a moment -- and up to her crucifix necklace. “My faith, for example, is important to me. Not many people here seem to recognize it, and I get the sense the ones that do were summoned just like me. I met someone who tried to compare it to a great dragon. Is that the dominant religion here then?

For a moment, so brief that Melissa very nearly didn’t notice it, Mauvache’s eyes flashed something fierce, but when she blinked and leaned back, the change was gone. “Why, yes, the Great Dragon, who saved a war-torn world from… tearing itself apart. Though He may be gone, He still is honored, and He looks after the people here.”

I see. So I assume you’re sympathetic to my need for specific sacraments to be performed regularly then? I mean, I’ve accepted that I probably won’t get to mass anytime soon, but additional, smaller ceremonies besides that, I mean.

Mauvache raised an eyebrow. “And what would that entail?” she said. “What would you need, from me, for such a thing?”

Melissa perked up. This, at least, she could respond to easily. “Well, there are seven sacraments in Catholocism -- that’s the sect that I follow. Most of them I don’t need to worry about because they only happen once and I’ve either done them already or not anticipating needing them any time soon. I’ve already been baptized and confirmed, I’m not nearly ready to receive holy orders or get married just yet so that just leaves three: the Eucharist, Penance, and, should I start dying while I’m here, Anointing the Sick. All of them need someone else to perform them, and all of them have a whole ceremony that they’d need to know.

“Ah, and we've come to the crux of the matter,” Mauvache said. “I’m not sure we have anyone who could be considered a priest in your world here.”

You’re right, and I don’t think there’s anyone to ordain them here even if someone was willing,” Melissa said. “But they can still be done with some validity with just laypeople. I’ll just have to remember to run to Father Gregory as soon as I can should I get the chance to go back home.

“Ah, Gregory, what a coincidental name,” Mauvache muttered. Then, to Melissa, she said, “I’m sure that you could find some willing of those who come from worlds… similar to your own. Though I’m unsure I should be the one to ask.”

I met Salvo,” Melissa said, affirming the first part of Mauvache’s statement. The second half, though, she dodged with “I can at least type up the steps to the ceremonies if you want to at least look at them.

That smile was back. “You don't have to worry, I can… find the information just fine. After all, I had to look into many worlds in the first place.”

Okay,” Melissa said. “Speaking of Salvo, she seems like the type to get a lot of attention and…” She immediately wilted. “I’ve started to notice a lot of attention my way from other people as well. I got a lot of stares as I made my way into the arena. Is that something that’s just going to happen? Does that happen to everyone you’ve called here?

That smile was even wider. “Well, it may not be the same as one of my Arena fighters but you all are in some way famous.”

The answer struck Melissa right in the gut. Which was weird given her current, odd ambition of participation in Blue Yonder’s entertainment club, not to mention her current fame for, you know, being instrumental in saving the school that one time. In fairness, this time was a little bit different. This time it was at the whim of someone else. Of course she would help. She had the ability to, after all, and no reason not to. But it was still something to think about, what exactly the reward was. “How long do you expect us to be here, anyway? When exactly is the job done?

“Well, that's not entirely up to me. After all, I'm still finding where this began.”

Melissa nodded, sighed, and stood up from her chair. “Alright,” she said. “Thank you for being so accommodating in the meantime. I had other questions- well, the angels had other questions, but we’ll have to find some other way to get those to you. I might just come back a different day so we can try again,” she said. “Right now, I guess I should probably get home before someone does something stupid with that Slakoth that just showed up today.

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Tomorrow, tomorrow, we love ya, tomorrow.

The next day seemed to be a rainy one. It wasn't a storm or anything but a light drizzle that fell down at a consistent rate. Each of the squad would find, when they woke up, a message sent from Mauvache.

Good morning, or afternoon if you're that type, to you all. Do not worry there is no problems to deal with, at the moment, this message has a different purpose. As a new group to this place, and this job, I thought it might be good for you to have a bit of a training session with some of your seniors. You're free until the afternoon to do as you wish but I want you all to come to the Arena at 4 PM for this training session. Benjamin will show you the way, be sure to thank the poor boy he's had a time of it, and the other squad will meet you there.

It seemed that the start of the day would be free of any sort of work or distractions beyond what the group wanted to find themselves.

Seemed being the key word.

For while it was still morning the doorbell would go off. And whoever it was on the other end would keep pressing it every few seconds until someone opened the door. Upon which they would be greeted by a bright eyed and wide grinned young lady holding a pad of paper and some sort of pen. "Goooood morning!" She seemed to be perfectly happy despite having been rained on. Oddly the pad, which was decidedly paper, didn't look to be wet at all.

Spoiler

So yeah, free day for first part, but a mysterious woman totally none of you know at all is at the door so whoever wants to answer it can get lines from me (also be sure to say beforehand in chat if you want to be the one)

 

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With the day having passed, Fen woke up in her room to see that there was a message from their employer. Glad that there was no imminent danger threatening the city they found themselves in, Fen muttered to herself, "hm, training sessions..." The girl hadn't known much of their seniors up to this point, only Salvo and Natasha, and wasn't quite sure what they were going to be trained on. Her first thought was combat, and Natasha certainly looked capable and Salvo certainly had the air about her that some of the more fiery guild members she had known had. Fen as well didn't consider herself a perfect combatant, so she figured more practice would only help. Though, the thought also briefly entered her head that the training may be for some of the more esoteric and strange, foreign devices that were in this world. Fen's cooking session yesterday had provided her more insight as to how the "stove tops" worked, though she knew that this wouldn't be the end of her difficulties in adjusting to these non-magic technologies. 

All the same, while Fen was trying to figure out what to expect and what to do with her free time, the door bell rang. And it kept ranging. Already pretty much up and about, Fen saw herself downstairs before opening to the door. A woman, bright in disposition in spite of being rained on, was there to greet her. Taken aback by the enthusiasm of the woman Fen said, "uh, hello - Good morning?" 

"Oh there you are, I was wondering when someone would answer. Do you mind if I come inside? It's raining and all that."

"Oh, um please." Fen stepped away from the door, gesturing her hand into the hall behind her, "come right in. Do you need like, a towel or something?"

"No, that's fine, I don't mind getting a bit wet it's just harder to talk in the rain." She turned towards Fen and took a step closer. "You're one of the new ones right?"

"Oh, uh, yes. I'm Fen, Fen Yi. Pleasure to meet you." Fen gave a small bow to the woman. Curious about the woman herself, as she had referred to her as one of the "new ones" the girl couldn't help but wonder if she was apart of the training session for later. "Do you also, like, do this kind of work?"

"Oh, no no no, I'm not too interested in the fighty magic pew pew stuff, I'm just here to discover all sorts of things." she waved her notepad, "which is why I'm here. Most journalists stay away from the new ones for a bit but I don't see why. So....I figure I'd learn every little thing I could before them. Smart, right?" she winked.

"A journalist?" The girl's eyes lit up for a second. A journalist meant there was publicity to be had. And more publicity meant more people would know who they were, and that meant that they would get more jobs. And more jobs meant more money to - Her eyes then became contemplative for a moment as she remembered that she was not currently doing jobs for her guild, nor did she have much of an idea how her payment worked. So she wasn't quite sure how important people knowing who they were was, but the woman had come all the way here to interview them before anyone else, so it would be simply rude of her to just decline. Not that she minded anyway. "Well, I can't really speak for everyone but if you're here to talk to us or something then, well, I don't have any problem with it."

"Ooh, perfect, perfect." Then without missing a beat she put pen to the notepad and looked up at Fen. "So, first, what's your squad name? Who's your leader?"

"Oh well I'm a part of Ch-...eh?" The girl blinked for a few seconds as the question actually settled in. "Squad name?"

"Well, yes. The name of your squad, you know, this group you're in. You...do have a name, right? All of the others have one I thought it was the first thing you guys do."

"I uh...can't say we've talked about it, or anything..." The girl thought about it for a moment, before saying, "I'm not even sure if we've all talked about anything together..."

"Oooh...." The woman's eyes glittered at this. "Is there some in-fighting? Arguments? Love triangles?"

"Ehh?" The girl thought about it, surprised by the woman's sudden barrage before saying, "no? I don't really think anyone like hates or argues with anyone here...we just don't really talk all that much. Or well, I haven't talked all that much to them, I guess some more than others?"

She pouted a bit, clearly disappointed, then said, "Well, then I don't suppose you know anything...spicy about them?"

"Not really no? Sorry." Trailing off, trying not to leave the woman disappointed the girl said, "but uh, one of them is a zombie and the other's a fish, man, person. That's not, particularly normal where I'm from so I don't know if that's of uh, interest to you." 

"Well, given the dog, I shouldn't be surprised by anything...." she tapped the pen to her chin a few moments then said, "Well, how about yourself? Got anything that people wouldn't expect about you?"

Fen thinks for a moment before saying, "I think I'm like, pretty normal? I make ice." The girl created a ice knife in her hand, absentmindedly tossing and catching it as she added, "and I do a lot of cooking. Well, I haven't gotten to do much since getting here and there's all these weird devices I don't really get." Pouting a bit she added, "also we froze the giant monkey and the road sharks vanished so I couldn't even make anything out of them."

The girl stepped even closer, too close for comfort, and followed up with another question. "Make anything? Like what? A coat rack?"

"Eh?" Fen backed up a little bit before adding, "oh uh, no. I don't do like, crafts with them. I just cook them. Like, I could've used the shark innards for dinner and maybe used their bones for a broth." Thinking for it a moment, the girl dismissed her knife before saying, "oh but if it's a coat rack then," extending her hand out she created an ice coat rack. "I can do that."

She looked over at the coat rack, then back at Fen, and grinned before stepping closer again as though covering the distance Fen made. "You're strange, that's perfect! People love strange!"

Awkwardly smiling, only slightly moving her head back the girl said, "uh, um, thanks?"

"You and me should go somewhere when you got a chance so you can tell me all about it." The woman thought a second , looking away, then said, "maybe sometime later, you might have a chance to get something juicy from the others in your group by then, yes, that'd be perfect...." With a gasp the woman stepped even closer, practically nose to nose with Fen, eyes glittering in excitement "I'll give you my number and you can tell me whenever you find something interesting out!"

Giving a bit of a nervous laugh with an uncomfortable smile on her face the girl said, "uhh, okay. I'll uh...be on the lookout?" Thinking about it for a moment Fen looked upward, pondering, "I wonder if they like spicy food."

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Have mercy on me, Oh Lord, a sinner
Wipe away my transgressions,
    and let me be reborn anew in your glory
Help me turn away from sin
    and move towards your eternal light.

Lord, perhaps I am weak of faith,
    but I need some reassurance
    that your light shines here as well.
I am asking for your help tomorrow
The tasks I am meant to perform
    are slowly becoming clear to me.

Zadkiel and Sandalphon were quiet even after Melissa left Mauvache’s room and returned to the apartment. It was only that night in her dreams that they even spoke again. They did not bother to manifest. Instead, Melissa found herself alone on a beach, kneeling on the shore doodling in the sand with her finger, and the conversation was punctuated by the waves crashing in.

Did you get to hear anything in there?” Melissa asked.

No, was the reply. We did not spend our time idly, however. We have been working on the task you assigned to us, and we found new questions to explore in future meetings -- if Mauvache permits such things.

I- okay,” Melissa stopped drawing and watched as a wave came in to take all her progress away. The answer shouldn’t have surprised her, but she had still been hoping for something, like… Well, “coherent” was the wrong word. Especially after coming back from Mauvache, the angels’ response was direct and comprehensible. It was so to the point, actually, that Melissa was pretty sure there was a deeper meaning they were hiding behind it all the same, though instead of trying to dig in, she instead followed the path of least resistance. “What else did you want to ask her?

We wanted to ask if there was something similar to ADMIN on Prana.

The response physically knocked Melissa back and she just managed to catch herself, ending up in some sort of reclined position, propped up by her hands, arms rigid. “Do you want to be rid of me?

Far from it. There are several reasons why we do not, even putting aside your initial kindness to us. We desire to know because it simply interested us. If something like that existed, it would be interesting to study. We similarly wanted to know if there was a way to access the assembly code of your watch or any other sort of documentation. It is true that we dismissed it as primitive, but that does not mean it is not interesting.

Melissa nodded, but the answer still wasn’t quite satisfying to her. The angels hadn’t provided any actual reasons, for example, save the one that they were already disregarding. Worse still, the source of her discomfort was coming into clear focus. With all these conversations they’d had over the past few days, it was weird that she hadn’t noticed it already, really, but maybe her mind had been elsewhere, or maybe her encounter with Mauvache, as she thought earlier, really put things into sharp focus. “Am I anthropomorphizing you too much?” she said. “Or… angelicizing? I don’t know if that’s a word. But is that a problem I’m having? That I keep thinking you’re something you’re not? It’s only been a few days and ‘the voices in my head’ and ‘my angels’ got interchangeable real quick.

We chose these forms based on forms already in your mind.

Sure, but I have expectations of what angels are like also,” Melissa said, “and while you’ve been my glorious protectors on more than one occasion, you don’t always act the part. I’m just saying I don’t think you have to change that. I’m wondering if that’s a me problem.

Another wave swept the shore, and while Melissa pulled her hands back in front of her and returned to a neutral posture, the voices said, We have endeavored to be courteous guests.

And I want to be a courteous host!” Melissa shot back. “I mean, I guess that was why I wanted you to talk more outside of these dreams you’ve been giving me. You’re just as lost as I am, after all. I don’t know if Mauvache is going to want to see us again anytime soon after I talked her ear off about the sacraments I can’t do, but I can try to find you the things you need. I can try to make you more comfortable.

She reached out with a finger and drew an arc in the sand. “I don’t know if you’ve probed my memories enough to find this, but this is an old shibboleth of my faith. If the person you’re meeting with sees this and does the same, it means they’re among friends. It was necessary when it was created -- it’s just symbolic now -- but I would like to put it to you as well.

Slowly, the image of Zadkiel materialized before her, and, with its leg, added a mirror of Melissa’s arc, completing the ichthys fish. As soon as it was completed, a wave came in and wiped it away, though Melissa could still see a faint outline where it had once been. “Tomorrow, if we have time, we can start looking for these things you want,” she said. “Or anything else.

Thank you, the voices said, and Melissa’s dream slowly faded away into the void of sleep.


“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.”
-2 Timothy 2:15-16 (NIV)

Melissa went downstairs still in pyjamas and immediately wished she hadn’t. Fen had gotten their first (that wasn’t the worrisome part) and had let in whoever had been ringing the doorbell waking everyone up. From the look of the new occupant’s demeanor and classic notebook that was drier than the rest of her person, it was clear they were some sort of reporter and, if she got her way, was bound to try and interview every occupant of the building, even probably the Slakoth if she thought it could talk (that was). She nearly threw herself into the laundry room to stay out of sight, but just managed to avoid such theatrics, and walked in instead.

You seemed to do okay with that photographer, is this any different?

I didn’t have to talk to the photographer, and they also got me about as far away as you could get from whatever was happening in that clothing store,” Melissa hissed. “And did you see how close she got to Fen? I don’t want that, especially this early in the morning.

Would you rather us speak to the reporter in your stead?

A wave of realization hit Melissa as she realized that it wasn’t so different from the photographer at all. That was right, she wasn’t in this alone anymore. “Only if you’re willing,” she said. “And maybe she’ll leave after talking to Fen. So I’ll call on you if she approaches?

With that sorted, Melissa came back out of the laundry room and made her way over to the rec room to check on the Slakoth. Breakfast would be after that. Or maybe someone else was already making it. If that were true, Melissa just hoped it wouldn’t be spicy.

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Aduain passed some time with Morgan, swapping stories about the respective missions. Enough time as it happened that he'd recovered enough nen to power his gills outside of water again. Though it took a few minutes to actually realize this. As he withdrew from the icy bath and got to hopping on his fins again it was something of a relief. Still he'd have to properly thank Fen somehow later as her quick thinking had quite literally saved his life. No gift could really pay that debt but a good meal never hurt. That was certainly something to work with. Now free to move the boy eventually withdrew from his fellow hunter and the other members of the team still dealing with the new pet.

The room he'd been given looked the same as always. Out of curiosity Aduain knocked on the wall just in case any more angry old men in castles felt like threatening him tonight. While relieving he couldn't shake some sense of disappointment when nothing responded. Knowing all these other worlds existed just meant he had a lot more places to explore after the ocean floor in his own world. But while further dimension hopping wasn't on the agenda, the fish did still have a screen to play with. Sitting down with the device the days events had him wandering over to something he could hold water in. Beds were nice and comfy as long as his gills were working. But nothing beat sleeping with that weightless feeling underwater. To his excitement there was a great offering of aquariums though at first they all seemed a bit small for a catch of his stature. But eventually the scrolling started getting him places and the tanks started getting bigger and more sophisticated.

"Wonder if I can get one the size of the room itself." Aduain mused as he continued browsing. Sure enough there were eventually things as big, and bigger even, than the room he was in. None of which the system seemed to let him buy. If the stuff he bought just appeared in the room that probably made sense. Some scaling back was necessary. Eventually he settled on a tank about twice the size of the bed he'd been given and nearly as tall as the room. Though it seemed there were still size problems. With some frustrated swiping and checking Aduain was eventually presented with a prompt to sell his bed. Curious, he accepted and the bed in his room disappeared almost instantly. Now his tank wasn't presenting any issues and before the hunter knew what was happening it was now occupying most of the space in his room.

"Woooow look at that!" the fish exclaimed his excitement building as he checked out the features. Colorful rocks lined the bottom of the massive tank and the included rock formations provided some nooks big enough for him to hide out or sleep. The thing even had a pretty hefty looking filter and aeration system. The one thing his new bed alternative lacked was the actual water. Sitting down on the ground to think a bit the hunter eventually also ordered a bucket. For most of the early evening Aduain would go back and forth from the showers to his room depositing at most ten gallons of water at a time. It took a lot of work but that just made the completion of the project all the more satisfying. With delight he settled in for the night adjusting the air in his body to settle comfortably underwater without sinking or bobbing up. Now he could really call this his room.


Waking up completely submerged was a feeling Aduain had nearly forgotten and while he would have loved to be lazy most of the day several things were important enough to get him to get out of the giant tank. First was a message from Mauvache. Apparently they were to do some training in the later afternoon. That was all well and good but since it was so much later in the day the fish put that on the back log. There was a much more important mission at hand so early in the morning. Breakfast!

The rain was a welcome addition to the journey as the young hunter rushed out of the building early in the morning before the others had awoken. With trident in hand there was only one task. Aduain needed to find a fishing spot. Navigating on land never was one of the boy's strong suits, much less this foreign world he'd barely spent any time in. But that didn't deter him from jogging around in search of any body of water. The first answer to the search was a pet shop not terribly far from the apartment complex. But catching fish already caught didn't sit right with the boy. If he didn't make the catch himself it wouldn't be much of a gift for the others. Still it was an acceptable last resort. So on the fish went in search of other fish, gathering curious glances from other early risers. Eventually the search bore fruit as Aduain found himself in a park with sizeable ponds.

"Where there's water there's fish!" he declared inaccurately but confidently as he took to inspecting the waters. There were definitely fish in there but there was only so much looking at them from above the water at pond's edge would do. Light refraction and all that. No the best way to inspect was to get in the water with and in Aduain went with a splash. To his amazement the fish in the pond shone with every color of the rainbow. For a time the hunter swam around with them trying to get a sense for how they moved and reacted to his presence. Naturally they were hesitant of the much bigger fish. It was only right Aduain thought for these small fry to fear a mighty shark. Wanting to preserve the beauty of the scales the boy decided against skewering his quarry and with some swift swimming of his own eventually had three of the things tails in his hand. A triumphant surfacing and shaking of his tentacles and a cheer signaled the end of the hunt as the boy began his journey home.

The others had begun stirring by this point, and unknown to Aduain even a reporter had come seeking information on the new group. Still dripping wet from the dive into the pond and the persistent rain, the hunter came in through the front door, his catch still flopping around in his deceptively strong grip.

"Hey guys! I got breakfast!" he declared unsure where exactly everyone had gotten off to. There was a woman he didn't recognize not all that far from the entrance but he made no advance to address her specifically. She wasn't part of the team so she didn't get any of the fish, that was just common sense. Besides, these fish probably had all sorts of crazy flavors for each color. Maybe the red bits were spicy. That'd be crazy and definitely not something to spread thinner by inviting strangers. For now he needed to get the food to the kitchen. A knife better served the task at hand than his trident.

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"I wonder if they like spicy food."

"Ah, well, I suppose the kind of food they like could interest some. But I was thinking something a bit more....exciting." The reporter said, frowning a bit at the unexpected turn in conversation. "Well, in any case, could you give me your hand a moment?" And, even if Fen didn't, she soon had Fen's hand in hers and raised it, or more specifically the watch, towards her face. She then typed in something and gave Fen a smile. "There, you can now contact me any time."

If Fen were to look she would find a name under a list titled contacts, which included the names of her squad members, "Julian".

"Hey guys! I got breakfast!"

The girl perked up at the sudden call and turned to look for where it was coming from. However Aduain had already made his way past and towards the kitchen. Which instead meant that when Julian turned it was just as Melissa moved into the rec room. Julian's expression turned to one of curiosity. She glanced back at Fen and said "You know, I realize I don't know what these...would you call them houses? What they have in them. Hope you don't mind if I just..." and without another word she made her way to follow Melissa into the rec room.

Once closer she called out "Helloooo, what have we got in here, hm?"

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Good morning, or afternoon if you're that type, to you all. Do not worry there is no problems to deal with, at the moment, this message has a different purpose. As a new group to this place, and this job, I thought it might be good for you to have a bit of a training session with some of your seniors. You're free until the afternoon to do as you wish but I want you all to come to the Arena at 4 PM for this training session. Benjamin will show you the way, be sure to thank the poor boy he's had a time of it, and the other squad will meet you there.

"Training?" Trevor muttered, rubbing his chin as he read this message. His cup and spoon floating nearby as the spoon stirred his drink ever so slightly and elegantly before the cup proceeded to fly into the mage's hand, taking a slight sip from it. "And with our 'seniors'...so most likely that'll be those who have been doing this specific job a lot longer than us..." Another sip taken as he sighed.

What could any of this truly mean? At the same time, do I need to worry about something as trivial as this? he thought, watching his dishware floating back to where it needed to be as his hat began to float back in his direction. Worrying about the training was not necessary, after all, it would be training with their 'seniors', which only means one thing: they could be better acclimated to this world if they fought against these other fighters. It would truly benefit them in the long run...so why worry?

With his hat resting upon his head, Trevor adjusted his clothing and began to walk out of his room...


"Helloooo, what have we got in here, hm?"

Trevor walked into the area near the rec room, seeing this newcomer arrive, as he glanced in the direction of a few of the others that happened to be up and about. "Pray tell, who's the new girl here?" he referred to Julian. "Not sure I'm familiar with this one specifically..."

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Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. 
-Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV)


It really hadn’t looked like the Slakoth had moved since Melissa had checked on it last. In fact, if Melissa hadn’t seen the telltale slow rise and fall of its stomach, she might have even thought the thing was dead. But no, it was just still asleep, as it was wont to do. “You’ll probably manage to sleep through all of this,” Melissa said. “Still, we should probably get you something to eat at some point. What do you eat anyway, berries?

Before she could finish that thought, though, she was interrupted by the reporter barging into the room. “What have we got in here, hm?” she said, and Melissa’s summoning of Zadkiel in response was practically instinctive.

In fairness, she’d had the trigger for the summon ready and waiting, it had only been a matter of time. But even then, the cherub does not manifest right away as it normally does. Instead, it seems to wrench itself out of the girl’s body, climbing out of the girl’s back and, despite not leaving a scar, of course, making an awful show of itself. At least, that’s what the girl thinks, anyway, and she tells the cherub so. We thought it important to draw their attention away from you as much as possible, is the angels’ telepathic reply, and she certainly cannot deny that.

Apologies, but Melissa is currently indisposed, the cherub then tells the reporter. We would be able to answer questions in her stead, however.

In a fairer world, the theatrics might have simply scared the reporter off, and yet she seems more intrigued than anything else. “And who might you be?” she asks. “Security? Is she a celebrity wherever she comes from? Have you had to keep people away like this before?”

The girl can practically feel the cherub rooting around in her memories for adequate answers, a process that she submits herself to willingly. It does not take too long for it to come across her entertainment duelist stint, which, combined with her triumph against the piper just before being whisked away, leads to really only one truthful answer, which she also permits. A local celebrity, perhaps, though she does not like to think so, the cherub says. As for us, our relationship to her is harder to define, though security has recently played a part in it.

“Oh?” The reporter’s eyes sparkle, catching the ambiguity. “Does that mean you care about her? Something like a knight and princess?”

We do owe her our life, the cherub says.

The reporter scoots in closer, and the girl is glad that there is a cherub between the two. “Ooh, this sounds like an exciting story. Care to elaborate on that?”

The girl wonders if it is even possible to relate exactly how she met her voices in the first place, though the cherub does its best. Our circumstances dictate that we must be tethered to something -- we are necessarily symbiotic -- and we were wrenched away from our world and tether in just the same way Melissa was. She allowed herself to become our new tether, and we are grateful to her for that.

The Slakoth in the girl’s technically lifeless body slowly opens its eyes and yawns. “Oh, I see,” the reporter says, but in a way that implies that she might not, in fact, see. “So you’re a summon?”

And it is here that the girl interjects, catching the cherub before it speaks before it can reply with more vague terms. She does not do this out of embarrassment, but to insert her own private joke. She imagines herself before Pilate. He is asking about her charge, and she has the cherub answer accordingly. You have said so, it says.

The reporter nods, satisfied. “And one that seems so… alive!” she says, now reaching out to touch the cherub (and again, the girl is happy she is not physically present) “She must be a very powerful mage, though now that I say that, of course she is. If she wasn’t, well, she wouldn’t be here, would she?” She pauses as though to consider what she has just said. “I suppose they might not be called mages where you’re from.”

In both our world and this one, the word ‘mage’ seems to mean the same thing.

She steps back and sighs. “Well, that’s a relief, It’s always a pain to try and explain something so simple. Anyway!” The reporter steps forward again, already reinvigorated. “Is there anything you can tell me about the rest of your group?”

There is a pause before the cherub answers the question. The girl realizes the reporter's angle and can tell the cherub has done the same. We can offer you no ‘drama’ if that is what you are after, it says eventually. Even if there were any, Melissa does not prefer to speak ill of others, and we respect her wishes.

The reporter pouts. “Oh, where's your sense of fun?” she says. “Drama doesn't have to be negative, it can be exciting, heart-pumping even!” But eventually, she sees that the cherub is unimpressed, and takes off with what she can get. Even as she leaves, she can still be heard muttering to herself. “Zero for two, huh?”

Melissa waited a little longer before dismissing Zadkiel, making sure to add a “Thank you,” to her guest, before looking down at the Slakoth. “What would you have said if she started badgering you, hm? Let’s actually get you something to eat.” As if on cue, her stomach grumbled. “And me too, actually.

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Fen had thought there would be a good deal of people who would be interested in what kinds of food her fellows enjoyed, herself most included. Her line of thinking hadn't gotten very far though, as the woman had grabbed at her wrist and inputted something into the magical device that rested there. Seeing the name "Julian" alongside her fellow problem solver's names, in a list called "Contacts," the girl looked curiously at it only to be assured by the woman, presumably Julian, that its purpose was as self explanatory as it looked.  "Oh uh, thanks. I'll be sure to get back to you if I...hear something?" With Julian being done with her questioning, at least for now, Fen herself still only now realized how little she actually knew about the people she was working with. She wasn't exactly sure what would be "spicy" information she would give up, but the fact remained that she had none to begin with. Yet her attention was taken by something else as she heard Aduain shout out about finding breakfast. 

As she was ready to go look at the strange fish Aduain had shown off, and Julian seemed to be ready to leave as well, Fen began to walk over to the kitchen only to look over to Trevor, who had come downstairs. "Oh, her name is Julian. She's a reporter of some sorts and was looking to interview us. She's fairly enthusiastic and interested in us, so if you have the time, feel free to speak to her." After giving her explanation Fen, bright eyed, made her way for the kitchen. 

Looking excitedly at the rainbow fish, the girl said, "oh, I've never seen one like this before." She briefly wondered if it was something like the monsters they had been fighting up to this point, but realized that if it were dead and here then instead it must've been local. While it was obvious that this world was a host of strangeness and oddities the implications of what that would do to her culinary world hadn't hit her until just this realization. "Where did you find it? Was it particularly dangerous? Oh, do you have any fish like this where you're from too...I wonder if fish from my world would be here too..." As the girl's barrage turned into her own mulling, she paused for a moment before giving an embarrassed smile. "Um, oh, sorry I got a little carried away there. But well, ahem, if you need any help preparing breakfast I'd be glad to lend my help." 

 

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The rest of the day had gone fairly uneventfully, with a couple minor points of interest that were't worth bringign up after the day in question. Perhaps most interesting was exchanging stories of her Hunter career with those of Aduain. There was no doubt about it, that the two were of the same profession, but when describing their respective worlds, there were always a few tiny differences here and there that Morgan couldn't help but notice. So even Nen wasn't unique to just world, was it? THat was certainly a most interesting fact, and perhaps one that would help Morgan with her search in the long term.

But for now, she had her quests in this world to take care of first, and she wasn't sure how long she was going to be here. Best to get comfy. Part of her imagined Mauvache had the same idea, judging by today's message she woke up to. THere was no urgent mission, but there was going to be some sparring matches against their seniors in the Arena. Though technically, everyone else in this building was already Morgan's senior, even if that was just semantics. Morgan couldn't help but wonder who this group's seniors were. Were they great warriors? Or something like that?

Whatever the case was, Morgan would never find out if she didn't get this new day started. And that started by getting out of bed. Even if it was perfectly integrated with the rest of her body, having a new leg still took some getting used to. The result was a bit of an uneven gait where Morgan leaned more on her already-existing leg than the bone prosthetic she'd received after her fight. She stepped out of her room, down the stairs, and was met with a bit of a stir among her group. They had a visitor, and quite a chatty one at that!

Morgan caught sight of the new arrival just as she left the rec room. Best to find out what her deal was, right? Giving her fellows a friendly wave as she walked by, Morgan gave the new arrival a closer look. She'd been talking up a storm since arriving - Morgan could hear her once she'd left her room - and was probably the same person responsible for ringing the doorbell so much before stepping in. Who was she, anyway?

The woman seemed to be in thought as she wrote something rapidly into her pad of paper. So much that she only caught a glimpse of Morgan. But, after a pause, she took a second look and seemed quite surprised. "Oh, wow, an undead! I wonder, does that girl know necromancy as well as conjuration?" The woman seemed to be mostly talking to herself as though not realizing that Morgan was more than just an animated corpse.

The comment had warranted Morgan's attention. Speculation was great and all, but a conjurer Morgan was most certainly not. A necromancer far less so. Turning to face the paper-carrying lady, Morgan clarified "I  can't  do  either  of  those."

"Oh! This one talks too, she really must be skilled." The woman got closer, leaning in so close that her face is inches from Morgan's. "Looks pretty fresh too, did you come with her or did she..." the woman gasped and looked excited as she finished her question "did she get you from somewhere here?"

Now it just felt like she was being looked down upon. Staring right back into the nosy lady's eyes and affording her not so much as a single blink, Morgan responded "My  master  was  a  man,  not  from  this  world.  And  I'm  not  some  store  item  to  be  put  on  a  shelf;  please  do  not  call  me  "fresh"  like  some  veggie  sitting  in  the  produce  section."

She looked confused a moment and then gasped "Ooooh, you're one of the people brought from...oooooooh!" instead of being ashamed about her mistake the woman just looked more excited. "That's amazing! So does that mean you don't have to be upkept with magic?"

A slow nod from Morgan. Now this conversation was going somewhere. "I  am  fully  self-maintaining."

"Wherever you're from must have some really out there magic..." she shook her head and seemed to realize something. "But wait, I thought I had a bit of info on who all was supposed to be here but I don't remember anything about someone like you."

Morgan shrugged. That was still more info than Morgan had at least, even if she herself was excluded from the list this lady apparetly had. "New  arrival.  Maybe  Mauvache  realized  she  was  one  short  for  her  group  after  sending  the  list  and  picked  me  in  a  hurry?"

"Oooh, so she made a mistake? Now THAT'S something VERY interesting..." The woman said, looking to get lost in her own thoughts.

"I  guess  so."

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Rather than be overwhelmed by Fen's excitement, Aduain thrived on it and had even been wondering what it took to really jazz some of his new companions up. All the better if fish got several of them going in the morning. The hunter had still been in the middle of searching for a knife when she'd entered and it wasn't too far into her line of questions that he found a rather sharp lookin stash of them. He plucked one into his hands and handled it without about as much abandon as he'd done anything this world. And while his motions masterfully avoided his own body with the knife's edge, they did little to inspire much confidence in his culinary skill.

"I'll never say no to help cooking." Aduain started happily as he circled back to the questions about the fish. "These crazy looking guys were just in some pond in a nearby park. Never saw anything like 'em in my world so knew I had to eat one! And they were just free pickings so lucky there." He continued as he excitedly ran the edge of the knife lightly along the side of one of the fish, the distinct sound of metal on scale getting his stomach hungrier by the second. "I'm hoping each color means a different flavor!" he declared as he slapped the fish down onto a nearby counter.

"So I know how I'd eat them. But what's your approach Fen?" The fish asked opening the floor for Fen to take over. 

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Fen put a hand to her chin as Aduain had passed on the cooking puck to her. She wasn't exactly sure how she felt about the fact that Aduain had taken these fish from a park, likely meaning they were more for display then free fishing, but her curiosity at the new and unfamiliar culinary endeavor before her made her ignore that. The girl went through her head and tried to figure out different ways to prepare fish, though with genuinely no knowledge of how the fish even tasted she wasn't sure what kind of flavoring would be best with it. To say nothing about what they had on hand to begin with. After thinking for a bit with her conditions in mind, the girl said, "well, I'd probably want to know what it is I'm working with first. So I'd just start with descaling and deboning it before trying it out raw. From there we can probably figure out what to do with it." 

Once Aduain had successfully finished the preparing the fish for consumption, the girl took a small piece and ate it. "It's...fruity? Strawberry?" The girl looked up, puzzled for a bit as she said, "well this is a first. I'm used to some creatures tasting like others - you'd be surprised how many things taste like Cockatrice - and maybe even some plants or vegetables. Usually not fruits though. Hm..." The girl tapped her chin again before looking to her fishy companion. "What are your thoughts on it?" 

Aduain listened intently as Fen spoke, saving his questions about Cockatrice for another time. The fruity fish had all of his attention. At his chef's invitation he excitedly cut a piece off and took to chewing on it to really get a sense for what he was dealing with. The strange sensation of fish flesh with an unmistakable strawberry flavor sent a visible shiver down the length of his body ending in him doing a little tap dance with his fins.

"Woah, that's weird! All the fishy texture but none of the fishy taste! We could turn breakfast into a game of guessing the mystery flavor!" he said, cheerfully eyeing the other colors. 

Fen's eyes lit up as well at the suggestion of a guessing game. "Oh, that's a wonderful idea! Making it as exciting for them as it was us would be good, but, hmmm...They might think something's off with the fish if they know it's fish and see it's all different colors. So what if we made some rice balls and filled them with this fish?"

"That's so sneaky. I love it! Though fair warning the only thing I really know how to do with rice is eat it. Might leave the delicate shape work to more experienced hands" Aduain laughed as he held his hands up and wriggled his fingers.

Fen opened her hands and showed them to Aduain as she smiled, "well don't worry there. I've got some experience with this." With their plan set, the girl began thinking aloud. "Well, first we should boil some water for the rice which means..." The girl looked around the kitchen, taking stock of all that was there. Sheepishly she turned back to Aduain asking, "you wouldn't happen to know how to work these devices would you?" 


Once done the girl went outside saying, "oh, uh, everyone breakfast is ready." Bringing out plates of rice balls, the girl spread them out across the table, before putting a big bowl of rice with a rice paddle in it in the center. After properly setting the table and having everyone else get in, with a tone akin to that of a waiter the girl said, "good morning everyone. Today we, Aduain and I, decided to make rice balls with a fish filling. There isn't a whole lot to work with in the kitchen right now and I might've gotten a bit distracted by...the kitchen...so it's more of a snack then a proper meal. I'm sorry about that, but i made more rice if you need something else to fill you up. I hope you enjoy," the girl smiled and bowed, before standing up and expectantly waiting for everyone to eat, not seeming to take a seat herself.

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Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.
-John 21:12 (NIV)


Melissa slung the Slakoth over to around her back, with the Pokémon’s arms dangling lazily over her shoulders while she kept its legs supported underneath, as she exited the rec room just in time to see Julian leave. She breathed a sigh of relief at that, even if the adrenaline from her presence still lingered on a while after that. The Slakoth helped a little with that, what with it being basically a heavy blanket weighed on top of her (how heavy were Slakoth supposed to be, anyway?). Maybe she did need a pet again.

It still had to be a communal decision, but she would see everyone at breakfast, right? She’d already mentioned the basic things necessary for keeping a pet, but it didn’t seem like anybody else had thought about it besides maybe Trevor’s no strong feelings either way. Of course, that meant she’d actually have to bring it up, so Melissa hoped there weren’t any other pressing issues.

Then she remembered the message still floating around on her watch. Right, she thought. Training. So there were other things that she was sure other people would want to talk about more than her thing. Already, Melissa could feel a pit forming in her stomach as she tried to think up a way to guide the potential conversation in a way that favored her, especially when nothing satisfactory came to mind besides just taking the Slakoth with her and keeping it constantly in view while they all ate. But there was no way she was going to do that. For one -


Melissa plopped the Slakoth down on the chair next to her as she waited for whatever Fen and Aduain had been making in the kitchen to be served. The Slakoth seemed to be comfortable in a seated position -- or, at least, it didn’t make any particular motion to complain -- which was good. At least it too could see the proceedings then, which it seemed to take in with the same glassy-eyed contentedness it took everything else. The food came soon after. Fen placed down several rice balls and even more rice and invited everyone to dig in.

Melissa clapped her hands together in a quick wordless prayer and then looked back at Fen. “Are you not eating too?” Melissa said.

“Hm?” Fen seemed confused for a second before blushing, realizing her mistake. “O-oh, my bad. It’s been a while but it still feels like a habit.” She pulled a chair out and sat down, taking a rice ball for herself.

Melissa bit into the rice ball nearest her and immediately took it out of her mouth to inspect it again. Fen had called it fish, but it clearly tasted like banana, and not even “tasted like banana” like things that said they tasted like banana tasted like, it tasted like an actual banana. It wasn’t bad -- she liked bananas -- but it was just about the opposite of what she was expecting. “This tastes…” She almost wanted to make a “this tastes fishy” joke but wasn’t sure if everyone would get it and she didn’t want to be forced to explain it. When she took a second, actual bite, now knowing what to expect, she reevaluated. “This is pretty good. Thank you both.

Then she tried to push a communal conversation. “Um, that reporter… When I talked with Mauvache, she said we were famous, so I guess that’s what that was about. I don’t do well with badgering like hers, is there, like, do you think we could put together a standard set of information or something? Like, what do we say about each other?” She gestured at the Slakoth, who was eyeing all the food on the table, though not doing anything about it, “And what do we say about this one?

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"Oh, her name is Julian. She's a reporter of some sorts and was looking to interview us. She's fairly enthusiastic and interested in us, so if you have the time, feel free to speak to her."

"Hmm, interesting enough..." Trevor mused, hearing about the fact that a reporter seemed to want to be interested in the lot of them. It only made sense, they were the new "champions" that Mauvache had brought into this great world, so it only made sense that these newbies would be the hot topic amongst the others. The young sorcerer made a note to approach this reporter when he could. After all, it could be fun.

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A few moments later...

"oh, uh, everyone breakfast is ready."

Trevor happened to be thoroughly impressed with the combination of Fen and Aduian's cooking prowess with what was given out to them. Simple, yet elegant. And as he ate it, well, it was what was expected. Or...was it? Honestly, Trevor wasn't held up on details at a time like this, breakfast was breakfast and food was food...want not, waste not, another lesson that Master Balthazar presented the young man during his tenure.

Um, that reporter… When I talked with Mauvache, she said we were famous, so I guess that’s what that was about. I don’t do well with badgering like hers, is there, like, do you think we could put together a standard set of information or something? Like, what do we say about each other? And what do we say about this one?

"A simple response to that, miss Melissa." Trevor spoke up, flashing a small smile. "In regards to the creature...perhaps it's best we say it is our mascot. During my time on my world, I have read some articles here and there, and many of them praise groups for having a lovable and adorable mascot. If we simply say this here is our mascot, then we should be perfectly fine with how things are, no?" Then the earlier comment on this was something Trevor had to think more on. "...in truth, what we want to say about each other, I'd say..."

He paused, perhaps recalling a small memory before smiling once more. "...go with what your heart says about your comrades. It may sound cliché, but let me assure you...a piece of information like that from my world is a great one at that. Perhaps I'll let you all know more about that at another time..."

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