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Cosmic Power and all that Jazz
(2013-07-10 - 2013-07-10)
No description.
Alma Hyral So skipping out on Judge Training, Alma felt terrible for the beating Riku was likely to receive later, even if they had nearly the perfect excuse for it. But there was something she wanted to do for him that she hadn't.. had the opportunity, yet. And her desire to do that became a little more urgent after the wonderful gift hed given her the previous evening.

So after a few trips through the portals, they arrived in Vieux Carré, the French Quarter. It was a gritty working class slum in a lot of ways, but it was honest. It was bombastic, and it had none of the ostentatious frills of the Garden district. The last rays of twilight were fading over the horizon, as the scattered gas lamps throughout the city blocks came on, lighting up a city whose activity hardly faded in the evening hours. Even now, women were lowering down baskets from the second floor apartments for grocers to make the last deliveries of the night. People started to get off work, and began to head for the taverns to celebrate their little triumphs of the day, or drown their sorrows in the night.

The streets were still full, and the smell as they walked by the ports was cloying, mostly that of sickly sweet rotting bananas from the largest user of the docks, the Fruit company. This was mingled with the smell of baking French bread, and the smaller restaurants serving boiled beef.

It wasnt long until they made their way up Rampart street to the junction of St. Peter.. as they walked, they heard the steady plodding noise of horse hooves upon the cobbles. Absent were the sounds of the sleek roadster. That was a luxury none this side of the city could afford. However, the further they travelled, the more the /sounds/ of the city changed. The blaring of trombones, trumpets and the baritone sax, the percussion of the drums..

Theyd come to Congo square, where Jazz music flourished within the city. The band within the gazebo was piping out the melody of the Sugarfoot stomp, by Fletcher Henderson, performing a cover of one of the more famous songs. An upbeat tune which had some in the square set to dancing, while others lounged around to simply enjoy the tunes.

The portal had changed Alma's attire to something less anachronistic to the era. Perhaps sensing her tastes, it put her into modest tan pleated skirts, which went just past the knees, and a tunic top. She had on a cloche hat, with matching colors.. the portal's magic didnt seem to know what to do with her hair. It was too long for the bobbed look, so it kept it up in its bun, below the hat. The worst of it was that it had put her in black shoes with wide heels... she had no idea how to walk in heels. Shed only stumbled.. several times, but surprisingly never fell.

As they arrived at the square, she took some time to listen to the band play the chorus of its current tune, before giving Riku a sidelong glance, one of her arms tucked squarely under his, offering him a wry smile, "Worth it? Remember, one blink for trying too hard. Two for not enough."
Alma Hyral Riku recognizes New Orleans. He's been here before, briefly but has not had nearly as much time to languorously take in the scenery. He needs it as well, steam is still attempting to leak from his ears from not attacking Angantyr on sight.

Something cold and angry gradually uncoils from his ribcage as they walk around the city. There is a different pace here, a different kind of life. One that was still unmarked by the heartless, at least for now. Riku pulls a hand through black hair. He had manipulated the portal magic just a bit so that he fit into the surroundings more easily. He'd never used to think about that.. but a lot about Archades was paying attention to the details. They will get you every time.

The shades were anachronistic and so he tucked them away, eyes cloudy white with tinges of amber as if blinded. He just trusted that nobody would be paying enough attention to care. It was an affectation, a point of self-consciousness that he allowed himself.

Riku pulled at his bronze vest over a careworn shirt, his clothes tan and beige and entirely commonplace and lower-class. He took the brown cap off his head and examined it for awhile as they walked before putting it back on his head. He took a long time to finally relax into the music and the pace of the surroundings.

Eventually, gradually he let himself relax a little bit at a time and enjoyed the music as they listened to the band play in the square. "Yeah." he says softly. "I needed this." he smiles back at her wryly. "It's not too bad." he teases her. "You know. As attempts go."
Alma Hyral Alma had no idea how to manipulate portal magic yet, so it was automatic, it chose for her. She gives Riku's ebony hair a ruminative look, deciding she liked his hair no matter what color it is. But most of all, she'd decided she likes his eyes. During their first few meetings, shed coined /Amber mode/ in her head to describe whenever Riku went all angry and growly at her. Itd happened more than a few times, most of the time she deserved it.

And despite the connotations of what it meant, it didnt bother her anymore. Shed come to accept it was a part of whom he was. Whether his eyes be azure, or amber, or even tinged with milky white that made them look like cataracts.. she was just happy to see them.

"Howd you get your hair to turn black? Did the portal do that on its own?"

She might have ruffled it, except hed been particularly dodgy the last time she tried. Instead she gets into the rhythm of the music.. a hand even tapping lightly at her side. She didn't tap with her foot because well.. heels, she'd certainly fall, she was sure of it. And she didn't need anymore help being awkward.

The band finished its tune, to applause from its grateful audience within the Square, before switching to something a little more subdued. A tune known as Just a Memory, by Paul Whiteman, as the horns began a softer, at times piping in with something mildly whimsical to keep the undertone of the song joyous, despite some parts of the refrain being decidedly melancholic.

"Well.." She grins impishly at him, "Im not /done/. The trying too hard part might come later. You know, as thanks for your painting of my world." But she remained decidedly cryptic on that subject.
Alma Hyral "Then I reserve judgement as to whether I should just tip you over as you totter around and run the opposite direction." Riku says teasingly, his shoulders relaxing and eyes automatically scanning the crowd. There wasn't anything that really drew his attention he just didn't like being blindsided so completely and utterly.

He'd had a little too much of that lately.

Riku rubs his hands, the fingerless gloves stained with black smears but it looks no more out of place than dirt or oil would. As it matches his clothes, it just blends into the overall impression. "It's a trick someone taught me. She thought it would help me do what she wanted if I didn't stick out." he shrugs the question off. "I've got it in my journal somewhere. Maybe we'll see if we can translate it to the way your magic works."

He looks off to one side as the melancholic refrain of the music tugs at him and.. the events of earlier today and earlier times before that.. just make him sigh quietly. Frown slightly, lost in thought until he pulls himself away from them. "I did it as much for myself as for you, Alma. You don't need to thank me."
Alma Hyral "And then I'd cheat, probably as an excuse to get rid of these uncomfortable things on my feet." She teases in reply, smiling at him, she notes him scanning the crowd, as that smile grows a little more wan, and she just murmurs, "Hey, relax.. no heartless here tonight. No eldritch horrors. No evil mad science. Just you, and me.. and the music."

She'd gesture idly towards one of the women in a more flamboyant flapper look, "Well, its worth a shot, if nothing else it'll let me see a whole different side of me. Then I'll probably laugh, wonder why I ever wanted to change anything, then just take it as a learning experience."

She turns suddenly to stand in front of him, smiling cheerfully, "Oh no, none of this. I'm doing it because I /want/ to do it for someone I /like/ a great deal. I don't feel /obligated/ to do it to thank you."
Alma Hyral "Like I said. You are a horrible cheater." Riku tries not to scan the crowd /again/ just after she says that. The flamboyant woman lugs her intended victim out into the center of the square and there is /something/ like dancing involved although it seems more than a little jarring from the lady's enthusiasm.

"Well. Since you are taking great pains to be sneaky, I won't ask. I'll just.." he takes a breath and lets it out slightly between grit teeth. "Trust you." a snort. "Like you did." He seems still very reluctant to say this, but also is trying very hard to mean it.
Alma Hyral "Some people earn their agility through years of training. I was too sickly for that. I mean look at me, do you really think Id be able to ever be /athletic/? I have terrible asthma anyhow, which.. really, you don't want to see me running if I dont have a healing spell active. So I cheated, learned to manipulate gravity. Just not in the /Ooo, scary black magic, gonna crush you with it/. None of that stuff." She teases again, "Besides, Ren cheats all the time, with those runes of his."

She just smiles at him, though perhaps in a more wan fashion, though perhaps as a nod to that trust, she just states, "I promise, it wont be like last time.. I.. figured something out. Though I can't say it will be as impressive as what you did.. without that."

She watches the more flamboyant woman enter the square, and start to dance in a way which was /far/ too enthusiastic for the music at hand, she gives him a sidelong glance. "Care to give it a try? I promise you, I won't flail too much. Though I'll have to take these things off.." A quick glance to her shoes, "..Yeah, /that/ wouldn't be disastrous."
Alma Hyral Riku looks momentarily stricken and instinctively pulls back from Alma as soon as the 'I promise, it won't be like last time' strikes him like the glancing blow of a sledgehammer. His eyes widen and then narrow as he clamps down on his self-control.

He takes a small breath when he realizes he was /not/ breathing for a few moments and attempts to play it off as having never happened, turning his head to watch the woman for a while to prevent himself from saying something immediately stupid.

Riku gives Alma a sidelong glance, then extends his hand. "Yeah." he says after a moment, teasing. "Faram, Cosma and all others save the universe from pointed shoes."
Alma Hyral When Riku pulls away, she gives him a concerned look, and then she realizes immediately what she said that was.. entirely foolish. She takes a deep breath herself, Cosma, she did /not/ want to give him that impression, she did /not/ want that to happen again. It might.. doom.. a lot of things, she had high hopes for.

But when Riku tries to play it off, the concerned look melts away, she decides to play along, despite realizing his concerns.

And then he surprises her by offering his hand, she'd actually expected a rejection. As she takes it, her other hand extending down to gather up her shoes, leaving only era appropriate hose underneath it. She didn't mind, dancing on the dirt would be an interesting experience. "Pretty much, given that I'm always down on myself whenever I'm in them."

Her enthusiasm for the idea of dancing had been muted before, not so much now. A moment later, she was pulling him out further into the square, as the band picked up and the horns starting off by playing a melody which was decidedly more cheerful, the Riverboat Shuffle. And suddenly, she realized that she knew no era appropriate dances except one.. the most simple one, the waltz, which didn't really seem to fit the energetic nature of the tune.. But even so, she looked to Riku for guidance. After all, it was appropriate for him to lead anyhow, and she'd.. follow along.
Alma Hyral Riku looks surprised and then a little grateful that Alma doesn't point out the painfully obvious. And since he had already said that he was going to trust her, he doesn't say anything else even though a part of him flinched away from the idea like it would burn him.

He tried not even to think about it, stuffing the idea in a box and shoving it away from him. "In them.. out of them.. I think the down on yourself is part and parcel with the whole magical girl thing." He smirks at her. "Celestial Sparkle Girl Alma, I think the anime would be titled."

And Riku didn't really know how to dance, but his agility keeps his feet from getting entirely in the way and being observant counts for something as well. So after a number of horrible missteps and some brief confusion, they are off and across the courtyard.

At which point Riku attempts to nearly swing Alma off her feet as he grins and speeds up to the level of the song. This is completely NOT going to be hilarious and or a disaster. Or both.
Alma Hyral "Oh come on! I don't sparkle unless Im in a cheerlea.." She swallows at that letting the words die in her throat with a look of chagrin, then through clenched teeth, she enunciates each word, "..I don't sparkle! I really don't! And I have no transformation sequence into a skimpy outfit, I cant be a magical girl anime lead!"

But then all of that painful awkward gets shoved from her mouth into her feet as Riku starts to lead the dance. He was a natural, given his agility, and the powers of observation. Alma was /not/ a natural. But believe it or not.. she kept up, to some extent. There were a few points where she wasn't able to follow along gracefully, but she had in fact been practicing. Between the most /basic/ steps with Rena and her advancements under Annias tutelage, her totally secret friend who only pretended to bully her now. She could at least now pretend to be an amateur.. even if she'd never have any real talent.

So she only stumbled a few times, but didn't fall. At one point it was only because Riku had a pretty firm grip on her arm. She laughed musically when he swings her around, and back out by one arm, and back in closer to him. They speed up to the level of the song, which leaves her breathless, and a little more awkward in keeping up with the steps. At that point Riku might feel a niggling sensation of holy magic in the area. This was cheating move to reduce the inflammation and dyspnea in her lungs, but an entirely necessary one given her overall lack of athletic ability. It was only at the tail end of the dance that she actually stumbled harshly enough to fall, and whether he caught her or not, she was breathless, and laughing.

She didn't care if she was any good at it. She was just having fun.
Alma Hyral Painful awkward is painful. Although someone stepping on your feet with bare feet is much less unpleasant than with those heeled shoes. Thank anyone available for small wonders. Even with mistakes and some nearly tumbling onto the ground (Riku only held up by Alma and momentum at one point) they enthusiastically take to the dance.

As a young active male with abilities just this side of superpowers, he doesn't notice the strain until Alma began to flag, and in this case, cheat with the quiet use of some mild healing magic. Then he is paying /very/ close attention and the fun and lighthearted dance becomes.. very eerie for about the span of five seconds of so.

Riku was not repelled by magic of an opposite nature to his own. He was in fact very attracted to it in a way that made his smile predatory and sharp. It caught him off guard, having lowered his defenses in the spur of the moment. In just the two enjoying themselves and his fingers tighten on her hand. As she stumbles harshly he grabs her and pulls her back upright with a commanding jerk, smiling into that breathless laughter with all the amusement of a highwayman. It's an abstracted look. A look of sophisticated bemusement that jars with the rest of him.

He reached up to tuck a strand of hair back behind one ear and the expression ran through shock, then frustration and guilt before settling on vague annoyance. He closes his eyes for a moment and when he opens them again he sighs very, very softly. "..Maybe I should go." he shakes his head slightly. "No." he steadies himself. "I'm not going to ruin this for you."

Alma had to deal with fear and the lash of light energy. Riku was thinking that maybe that would mess with your head less than wanting to eat your date. He shoves the spike of self-loathing and self-pity into a box. He forbids himself from opening it again. At least until Christmas.

"So. What foot-injuring thing do you have planned next?" he says with strictly enforced cheer. He was NOT going to botch this more than he already has. He just was NOT.
Alma Hyral During those five seconds, Alma didnt sense anything, nothing at all. She didnt note his predatory smile. He pulls her up when she stumbles, and she's just laughing.. like the oblivious little fool that she is. Or just a lovelorn one.. She doesn't know that hes covetous of something more than her attention.. Until.. his statement, until his annoyed look.

Until he states that maybe he should go.

She replays the whole thing through her mind, wondering what happened.. and then realizes it all of a sudden, as her expression becomes one of desperation. "No, no.. please don't.. it was my fault."

But he agrees to stay... And she just looks very chagrined.

Shed made herself prey to the dangerous predator, for just a moment. And it was only by /his/ self-control that she was probably still alive.

She felt guilty, she blamed herself.

But when he asks what to do next, she puts on a cheerful smile, like nothing had happened at all..

"Let's.. Let's go someplace secluded. I think its time I gave you your gift."

Nothing could possibly go wrong, right? It certainly wouldn't be foot-injuring if something did. It'd be heart-stopping.
Alma Hyral Riku equally looks very chagrined. He takes in a deep breath and tries not to grit his teeth. They just let it fall by the wayside as if it didn't matter.

And maybe for just this second, it didn't. "And now I'm even more convinced I should run the other direction." but he says that more in jest than anything else, to get the focus away from the stinging halfmoons he'd almost dug into his palms to get himself to stop.

"If you were anybody else, those words would make me very nervous." he teases her again and looks around at the square, absenting himself from the courtyard and looking for a place they could meander out of the sight of people for awhile.
Alma Hyral "If I were anyone else, you'd probably be happier.." She smiled, despite the self-depreciating statement. "...but let's see if I can show you at least one of the benefits of dating me..."

As they make their way out of the square, and off to a more secluded part of the French District, they found themselves at a deserted lot. Alma looks it over.. not exactly the place she was hoping for, but itd do. It was at least clean of refuse, and probably was going to be used for construction. She led him out into the middle of the lot, then stood off a few paces from him.

"...Alright. Now.. here's the thing, unlike with your beautiful painting, there will be one difference to this..."

She smiled, almost nervously,

"...whatever you do, don't touch me, until its.. all over."

..she didn't want to say what she hoped he would do once it was finished. First she'd have to get through this without him wanting to eat her.

And then, if he doesn't protest, she walks a short distance away, closing her eyes, and concentrating.

Like with the Song, it takes some time for her to get started, as she focuses on what she's doing, allowing her self-control to relent... and the yellow corona around her springs into life a moment later. A soft radiance, yet still one that might attract attention, while her eyes are still closed, she rises only a few feet off the ground.

Within the air, there's a shimmer before small distortions start to appear in mid air, above them, around them, then at all angles, but unlike when the darkness start to bleed from the walls, these instead seem to have a prism effect. The ambient light of the moon, the stars, even the street lamps being filtered through each of them to create a rainbow effect with a myriad of colors.

But only for a moment. Abruptly, his vision shifts, and instead they appear to be standing within a dark void..

The darkness might be momentarily comforting to Riku, because she was actually bending the light, creating a wide area where there was absence. A true void of it.. But Riku would recognize that right now it was an illusion. He was still standing on solid ground, something about it had very real dimensions.

Still she concentrates, her nails digging into her palms, as a bead of sweat appears upon her forehead... Her voice sounds.. serene, though slightly pained.

If you trust me, then close your eyes.. as to create, there must first be a beginning.
Alma Hyral "Yes, Magical Sparkle Princess." Riku says with a complete lack of contriteness. He crosses his arms firmly across his chest, tucking his cap in the crook of an elbow as he continues. "But if this turns into a one-upmanship contest. I am not quite sure yet whether we both win or both lose."

Riku eyes the hovering astronomer, ignoring the tickling feeling at the back of his head telling him that she'd go down very easily. It was the abstracted reasoning one might give someone felling a deer. They wouldn't suffer. It just had to be a clean, precise movement.

So much ignoring.

That aspect fades back into the white noise seething at the back of his head and it's something like relief that he focuses on the prism effects springing from moon, stars and street lamp. There is a moment's disorientation and he looks around at the illusory darkness with raised eyebrows and the beginnings of amused disbelief when her voice caught his attention. Riku frowned slightly at the pain in it, but kept the concern out of his mind as he closed his eyes.

Yeah. You know what that light would do to you if it hit straight on?

Yes. Yes I do.

Riku tells himself to shut up and trusts that Alma is not going to (intentionally) hurt him. This.. actually takes a lot more than he thought it would and he stares at her, teeth grit and arms crossed with the idea that this was a very, very bad idea up until the point he just thinks 'the hell with it' and closes his eyes anyways.
Alma Hyral Despite the sheer intensity of her concentration on maintaining whatever she was doing, she still dared to speak to him.

Hardly. If I went that far, then I'd hurt you, and in doing so hurt myself.. no. This is painting a very different picture.

She doesn't look, she just trusts that he closed his eyes. Or maybe she can sense it, who can tell in this little universe she's creating?

And then it came, and for a moment, the brightness was so overwhelming that Riku could feel it, see it even behind his closed eyelids. But it was a just a trick of light once again, one which she shaped around him, so that it only filled the outer dimensions of the place with light, then inwardly, leaving just a little Riku shaped hole within it.

Riku might have had the discomforting thought that he might have just experienced the illusory version of the Big Bang for this entire area. An explosion of light and life so intense that it created, all that exists..

If it were real. Was this real? Could she even make it real? Even for this small area that was probably about a hundred feet cubed.

Shes still silent, if Riku ventures to open his eyes early, he might see something interesting..

If he doesn't, then she remains quiet for about thirty seconds, before stating..

...You can open your eyes now.

He appeared to be in space. But space wasnt the same dark void as before. It was like looking at it through the lens of a high powered telescope. There was darkness, certainly.. but there was also light, everywhere. There were multicolored nebulas suspended in the dark, with dancing fingers of cosmic space dust reaching towards them.. there were stars.

Hundreds of stars. It wasn't like seeing them while actually being in space, or through an atmosphere, but seeing them once again through a very high-powered telescope. He could make out the details of each. Some stately and yellow. Others wavering, ancient reds. Then white dwarfs which threatened to collapse upon themselves with age. If he looked closely enough, he might even notice small specks, at this range, of planets orbiting around each. And amongst them, were constellations.. eighty eight of them to be precise, though it would be difficult to count them. Some looked close, others distant. They were in all directions, all dimensions. Even below him, despite him feeling the lots solid ground beneath his feet. But as a sort of highlight effect, to make them stand out, she'd actually joined the constellations, so that each and every single one appeared as they would in a textbook, or on a website. Pointing them out to a curious stargazer who couldn't imagine the lines conjoining them without aid.

And even the stars were moving, rotating. The universe felt very much like a clockwork one, with its revolutions upon revolutions. Its rotations unto rotations. Constantly in motion. Constantly moving within its patterns. All moving in fast motion.

But right in front of him at the center of it all, was a world. A world with it's blues and greens and dull browns, and large white billowy masses of clouds, one he could make out all the details of. If he looked closely, he could spot the continent to the East that Archades sat upon, and Rotating in orbit around it were two moons.. one blue in hue, the other decidedly dull and grey, but he could make out every detail of them. Every crater, every sea. Every little intricacy which made each unique.

Before he could even move, a comet streaked by him. A little mass of ice, trailing fire and light behind it as it skirted off the atmosphere of the World of Ruin.

....this is, the best representation of the universe I can currently create.. before.. the darkness. I know not if the World we live on existed before that.. but if it did, this is what the heavens looked like.
Alma Hyral Light.

Riku had a very bad moment of paranoia and fear. That much light would annilhilate him. It was an odd thing. When it was weak, he would be drawn towards it and burnt and repelled as it got stronger. He had trusted someone and had gotten annilihation as a reward. He couldn't even comprehend what it was. It was just a blast of light and he threw his hands futilely across his face and flinched back from it.

Fear. Rage.


It figures, is the thought that crosses his mind bitterly before the impact.

And he waits..

And waits..

Riku opens his eyes before she starts talking, waiting for the strike that never comes down. Just the creation of cosmic space and the stately turn of a clockwork universe. Promptly he trips over his own feet and falls down with a thump onto the starfield, looking up and around at the illusory images which blaze almost eye-defeating in some places and hazy and dull with distance in others.

"Wow." he lets out a small startled laugh when he recognizes the world of ruin, reaching out a hand very tentatively to the world as a comet blazes past. Something cuts across his vision, a slash of dusk brilliance that brings another stinging slash of bitterness and anger. He tries to locate the twilight tracer but it has disappeared into the rest of the universe. If it even existed at all outside of his own mind.

Riku closes his eyes again, overwhelmed by the detail and the twilight slash and the turning, spiralling universe. He just covers his head with his hands for a minute ot two, and gradually pulls himself back together to peer at it all in wonder, squinting to try and take it all in as best he can.

"..Its amazing."
Alma Hyral Fortunately, even if she were making it real, it was only for a small area. It would have likely hurt, very much so.. scoured, and scathed certainly but it wasnt even /close/ to the same scale of that which had created the actual universe.

He'd see great clouds of multihued dust dancing within the otherwise dark void, forming, congealing. All moving in fast motion, as if billions of years were passing in the blink of an eye. The dust having the appearance of being molded by an ephemeral hand into gas clouds, and then into the stars.. then further gas clouds were molded into the planetary gaseous bodies which orbit the stars, which then in turn were molded into more solid planets. These pinpricks of light changed in color so rapidly, with the stars which were moments ago newly formed already appearing ancient, while some of the planets took on the appearance of blues and greens which seemed indicative of life. Others began this way earlier, and became instead bright red, or brown over time.. as if life had come, then faded away with the passage of time.

Alma lowers herself down to the /floor/ of this little universe, the light around her still glowing with all its radiance. She might have offered her hand to help him up when he stumbles, but she just smiles patiently instead.

Riku would notice one other quality about her that was different. Instead of pupils in her eyes, the same sigils which he had seen make up her offensive magic turned and rotated in her vision, taking up the sclera and the irises, the pupils. It dwarfed out the entirety of her eyes.

She lets him take all of it in, the serenity on her expression flinching only slightly as she notes his reaction to the comet.

So she waits, she waits. She doesn't comment, she doesn't embarrass him, she lets him compose himself.

And then after his comment, she laughs light-heartedly, and it sounds lilting, more musical than before, but already she seems tired, maybe even a little diminished by the effort.

To quote the song, You ain't seen nothing yet.

And then she moves a hand. And it's like the universe is the surface of a touch computer, or a cell phone to her. She rolls her hand across the heavens, and the World of Ruins rapidly rotates away, instead Riku now has a nebula in front of him, in its hues of purples, and oranges, with dancing plumes of dust, just surrounding her.

She rolls her hand again, and theres a constellation of a celestial chariot, all joined together for his benefit. She then abruptly rolls her hand, and it zooms in. It was a stately solar system, with a yellow sun, still joined to its sister stars which now appeared above and below it, joined by translucent beams of light..

Revolving around it was a very different planet, and if Riku did indeed have enough ranks in Ivalice lore, in particular the geography before its fall hed recognize..


And then before his eyes. Two afterimages of the same planet appeared on the same revolution. And she gave him a patient look, allowing him to take in each,

Do you know why there are so many different worlds from Ivalice?

A measured pause,

...because they came from a different time, or maybe even alternate realities. I plotted their trajectories.. all to the same world. The same revolution. The same solar system. Just at different points in the revolution. Different days upon which they fell. Different calendars and time tables. But the same world...

And then, she raises both her hands to the heavens, and thirteen constellations in particular, stand out, becoming animate representations of each of the Zodiac, Cancer the Crab, Pisces the Fish, Libra the Scales, Gemini the Twins, Leo the Lion, Aries the Ram, Capricorn the Goat, Taurus the Bull, Virgo the Maiden, Scorpio the Scorpion, Sagittarius the Centaur Archer, Aquarius the Water-Bearer. And finally, Serpentarius the Serpent, from the apocryphal Zodiac. Each of these animated creatures with glowing blue outlines, dripping with light energy that looks not unlike fallen stars as they descend, all come closer, surrounding the solar system, as giant representations of themselves. Each moving in a fashion that denotes that they are in fact, the lifelike representations of themselves.

...and this is why all versions of Ivalice have the same Zodiac. Because they see the same stars, have the same star charts..

She gives Riku another serene look,

Im not an artist like you are.. I can only create what I already know. What Ive memorized.. as it is. I can only duplicate the order of creation. So..

And her voice turns impish,

I can't really one up you.

She looks abstracted as she looks into the distance.

I can only show you that it all has purpose, that it all has order. That its all there for a reason..
Alma Hyral Riku was already overwhelmed by the complexity of the design. The intricate manner of the memorization and the radiance of Alma and this clockwork universe in so many shades. Comets and nebulae and cosmic phenomena. He was knocked a little off balance both mentally and physically. Even though Alma lets him compose himself, it's not enough time to take it all in. It's too much, illusion battering at him at every angle.

And then she pushes even harder unintentionally, the world of Ruin rapidly rotating away as she manipulates this space with the ease of a touchpad. The stars dance and spit, a nebula dancing with hues of purple and orange. He has no time to process it before it is now the chariot. One of the joined together constellations.

Perspective changes again, lurches sickeningly to a stately solar system joined by beams of light. Alma gives him a patient look and his blood starts somewhere to boil. The serenity began to grate at the back of his mind like sandpaper over a too recently closed wound.

Riku stares at the interposed afterimages, listening to Alma as she talked with the glassy daze of a sleepwalker. The zodiac animates and descend in streams of light energy that make him twitch and flinch away. The light flickers across his glassy eyes, that energy and something contemptuous and annoyed looking out of them as she gives him another serene look. Explains how everything has a purpose. That there is a reason.

That set it all off. Even if unintentionally. The rule of the universe is the rule of clockwork fate and the gods as well.

And something cracks inside like splintering glass. It sounds so smug and self-satisfied in his ears. He buries his head in his hands from the overload, unable to cope. A woman in tune with the voice of the universe. Pretty easy to believe in good things when you tell yourself everything has a reason. Pretty easy to explain away anything. What he should do is put her in her place before it was too late. To rend the ghosts of her pretty universe and show her how ultimately /FUTILE/ her little venture is and how she will die for walking this path, horribly and by inches, at the hands of those who would use her gift for their own selfish purposes. Riku shudders at the image. Alma passed from hand to hand until she is withered and worn out, reaching too far and too often and at last, her last drifting tether to reality fades and her mind is utterly destroyed.

And this is all broadcast because, although Alma may not be a mindreader. These words.. images.. thoughts, reach out and try to paint themselves on the air like thrown knives, a corridor of explosive connection in a searing lance of dark energy. Riku gripped his head as his thoughts tried to go quite frankly in two directions at the same time. He wanted this. He wanted to accept this as Alma had accepted what he had given her. Wanted to be the one who, when positions were reversed, smiled and took it all in and made sense of it all. Except that implication. That everything had a purpose, was immediate and /SCALDING/ anathema. He had never liked Will Sherman's fate sight for the same reason. Because he didn't believe in fate. Because he stood in /contempt/ of fate.

And the other part of his mind started at that point of agreement and drove a point home like a spike.

That is how Light is treated in this universe down to the very basics of a light switch. It is desperately wanted and needed and praised until it's no longer needed anymore. Until it no longer becomes convenient. And then it is tossed to the side like any other piece of useless detritus.

Darkness is eternal.

Light is merely contextual.

"ENOUGH" he bellows in a slightly echoing voice. The connection snaps. Whatever light is being used, there is always darkness in the places between all of life and light in the universe. An aura of darkness surrounds him and pushes back against the illusory light. He pushes himself to his feet and glares at Alma and her serene smile. "That's.. enough for now." he says in a much quieter voice.
Alma Hyral In this state, she has greater perception than before, at first her expression just looks abstracted, as she feels him lurching before the imagery. And yet shes driven to continue.. so she only slows it down, ever so slightly.

That was hardly enough.

She didnt notice how intensely she overwhelmed him. She didnt.. until the images start appearing from him. The first hits her like a thrown knife, and in this state.. it changes trajectory, its drawn right at her it doesnt strike her as harshly as it might have when she wasnt within this state. It was drawn to her, it was absorbed. With a sizzle, a smear of darkness against her tunic, right at her shoulder. A sizzle, a scoured spot upon her flesh which became matte black.

There was a wince of pain that might not be as intense as he would expect, and the entire image of the universe around him shuddered.

He shouts that its ENOUGH in that echoing voice.

Something within her.. it doesnt offer guidance to her. It doesnt push her, it doesnt try to take control. Its just like a primal force thats just /present/. An instinctual thing, something just attempting to have her do what is natural. In this case it would be to share the song. Bring light to the darkness.

But her control.. it appears to be greater than Rikus. Maybe thats because her light is a softer light, less powerful than his darkness by far. Maybe thats because the light itself is softer, less willing to use force than darkness upon its subjects. Either way, the universe around her shatters, into multicolored shards of light.

And a moment later she falls into a heap, in the lot. She doesnt look like a radiant creature anymore. Definitely not some celestial magical girl. Her eyes are a very dull green once again. Shes just a plain girl in a plaintive pile on the ground in the middle of a dirty lot. All of her borrowed light was gone, to the point where it might as well not exist.. perhaps she even forcibly severed, or just blotted it out.. to make the breaking of the connection faster.

Shes breathing, shes awake, and her shoulder is still scoured by that spot of darkness. But she looks up.. right at him... she gets up on her hands and knees. Then a moment later, onto her legs, despite how wobbly she looks, like they might give out at any moment, not unlike an almost newborn calf, fawn, or foal.

She states to him in a very muted voice, sounding a little ragged,

"Thats...enough." She echoes.
Alma Hyral The word 'Enough' echoes around in his head for awhile. And then two words come to the fore of his mind.


He finds himself sighing.

Foolish Girl.

And.. Riku realizes, in those two words, in the intonation, the entirety of it all. He sits down, almost collapsing like his strings had been sliced. He sits almost as much in a pile as Alma was. The look of absolute horror on his face is complete and absolute. The hook on the door? It belongs to the guy behind you. The call from the murderer? It's from inside the house.

Like all fears.

It's all in your head.

Riku starts to say something half a dozen times but he just can't make himself do it. He doesn't get up from the ground even though he feels like running away. He feels like running and never stopping.

But that wouldn't do any good, would it?

Riku closes his eyes, sitting there with his head in his hands. "..I'm sorry." he manages after a long time. His voice is stricken and numbed into lifelessness. The horror is so thick in it that you could spread it and watch it set like concrete.
Alma Hyral "Don't."

But the word wasnt harsh, it was soft, gentle.. maybe even a little whimsical, despite still sounding weak, plaintive, ragged.

"Were both pieces of work. A little broken in some ways. Maybe very broken."

She smiles at him, bringing up her opposite hand, and tracing the matte black part of her right shoulder with a finger.

And then she sits down, and before he can offer a protest, she seats herself almost right on top of him, putting her left arm around him, her right arm still hanging at her side. It probably isn't limp, it just hurts to move it.

"...and you know what. I thought about this in so many ways. I thought about... why it shouldn't be. And in my head I heard my Father's voice, my Mother's, my Sister's.. yours too."

She tilts her head to the side, looking him into the eyes,

"...and maybe it won't be. Maybe it isn't meant to be. But we won't know unless we try. So I decided to just stop thinking about it.. and just to let whatever happens... happen."

She stares at him for some time, gauging whether he's still with her, if he isn't angry, if he isn't pulling away,

"Im terrible at doing things for myself... you said that. Im terrible at it. So maybe.. Id like to see if I could do something for both of us together? Something that doesnt involve trying too hard. No dinners.. no grand paintings.. no cosmic light show. No magic. No light, no darkness and..."

..and then she stops herself,

"You know I need to just take my own advice, stop rambling here like a lovelorn idiot and just stop thinking about it..."

And if he doesnt stop her, she leans in, and presses her lips against his..
Alma Hyral Riku is too locked down in horror mode to even protest as Alma sits down right next to him. He starts to tell her to stay away but the words just get locked up in his throat. He's waiting for the other shoe to drop.

He can't bear this waiting.

Just get it over with.



No understanding. No relief from the horror. Just..

Something hot slides down the side of his face. Tears of absolute confusion and rage.

Alma is saying something but it's almost as if he's afraid of turning his mental focus away from the white noise. Afraid to listen. So he tunes into the conversation a little late, blinking as she admonishes them both for trying too hard.

"I.. Alma it's.." but he can't get the sentence out. It's tangled up in his head. He's absolutely paralyzed.


Ultimate dryness.

You have a terrible track record for this, don't you?

Not exactly his voice. Not exactly his own.

Mental crash.

Riku just stands there as the voice chides him with faint bemusement.

Well. Go on.

There is not enough train wreckage left of his mind to even process that statement. So he does the next best thing. He just goes with it. Riku wraps his arms around her and presses her as close as he can. As if she were the only remaining anchor left to sanity.
Alma Hyral Its really is Almas first true kiss, and all that teenage awkwardness of having no experience with this, none whatsoever, comes into play.

She doesnt know what to do, where her hands are supposed to go. What shes supposed to do with her lips.

The thought of the tongue doesnt even enter into her play.

Maybe the fact that he barely even responded verbally disturbed her.

Maybe theres the niggling fear in her mind that this might be the moment shes vulnerable enough, that hes vulnerable enough that.. he does take her heart. And not in a romantic sense either. Even though hes done that too, without knowing it.

And she was a fool for not allowing herself to think about it any longer. For not processing, the true depths of the horror in his mind.

For not realizing she might be the only anchor left to the sanity in his mind.

...For not realizing how tenuous this connection might be.

That all it might take is one moment where she wasnt there, at the right time.. and thatd be that for Riku.

She didnt think about any of that. She didnt process the rational or the sane parts of her mind right now.

It was her first real kiss, and she was a little fool in love whose only concept of romance came from the movies, from the books, from the stories told to her by her traditional mother. But most of all it came from her unexperienced heart.

After a few long lingering moments she draws away only just slightly, as she leans back in, allowing her forehead to touch his, almost as if she were trying to anchor the turbulent thoughts in his head.. and not even realizing it. She just murmurs to him..

"Not really like in the movies.. is it?"
Alma Hyral "Not at all." he says back very quietly, his voice so quiet the words are barely a whisper even though he's nose to nose with her.

Riku smiles very slightly and leans in again, continuing what Alma pulled away from for a considerable length of time. He loosens his grip on her, pushing back enough to look into her face. He then starts to laugh. "We suck at this, don't we?" he cackles in a semi hysterical manner and facepalms.

His shoulders shake as the hilarity of it all. The entire ridiculous day, falls on his head from the height of a sodden paper bag full of fish. His rational mind is still screaming bloody murder, but he's turned the volume down so far he can't make it out anymore.

He doesn't care.

If he starts to care. If he starts to think about it, he won't be able to function.

He can't afford that.
Alma Hyral The girl is surprised when he pulls her in for a second kiss. Surprised, and elated. She entirely expected him to shove her away. To hurt her again, to keep her at an arms length as the lovelorn little fool who would probably come crawling back to him anyhow..

It would serve her right. It might even keep her safe.. well, safer.

But no, for a moment, everything is perfect, as her mind shuts off.. as she experiences that second kiss, and once hes finished, once hes lax on that grip on her again and theyre still face to face. He states that they suck at this. The statement hits her, and then her mind comes back on, just slightly. That tiny part of reason that returned processes it, and she begins to giggle.

Putting her left hand up to remove the palm from his face, "We do. We really.. really do."

And then she laughs with him, placing her left arm back around him, just laughing. Laughing until the tears come. But they arent tears of sadness, despite the fact that they should have been. Shes removes her glasses with her left hand, giving him a cheerful look. Another nod to the fact that her rational mind has quite literally /sproinged/ and a few gears busted loose when she turned it off.

"..but hey, I think we can get better at it. We really cant get much worse."

This scene contained 27 poses. The players who were present were: Alma Hyral.