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The Wills of Women
(2013-01-30 - 2013-01-31)
Beneath blue skies, during a rare respite from the shadows plaguing Fluorgis, some of the Shard Seekers come together in the garden, and Lenn and Raiya show their determination to move forward on their own paths. As the bonds of trust between these different friends grow, so too do their prospects of success. But where does this road lead for the motley crew?
Ivo Galvan These days, dark clouds often shroud the skies above Fluorgis, filtering the desert sun through a melancholy haze. Not today. The winds from the east have revealed the heavens, if only momentarily, and a blissful blue reigns over the City of Fountains, a welcome respite from the dispiriting weather. Ivo, blue cloak laid out beneath him, gazes up at that sky, arms folded behind his head upon the now-neat grass of the lovingly maintained Shard Seekers garden. No playful light sparkles in his eyes; no mischievous smile upturns his lips. Eyes gentle, expression soft, the swordsman is lost in a reverie.


He had heard: their hapless chief, though forgiven by all for his wanderlust, chose to stay and fight with them for Fluorgis, against his own deepest wishes. Confused but not reluctant, when challenged by Legion, he chose his vision of knighthood over that of adventurer, and sacrificed his dream willingly, if only for now.

"'ve shown me up again."

The image of Reize calming Priel and Lily down when they first arrived in Fluorgis, while Ivo himself stood alienated off to the side, returns. It's true that he presumed too much: Reize's selflessness isn't a consequence of not having desires of his own. But that light, that radiant light, and the fighting spirit to perservere for all his shortcomings--

"I told you... there's a reason you're the leader."

Murmuring this to himself, Ivo smiles at last, ever so slightly, and recognizes at last what he's feeling: humility. He's struggling, too: he wants them to be a Clan, and wants to protect Fluorgis, but he can't bear the hopes and dreams of others. Unlike Reize, he's comfortable staying in a single place. The realization that so many possibilities are pinned to the shard-seeking device, however, when his initial conception of it was a gimmick to keep them together-- it took the trust of his friends for Ivo to admit to his own shortcomings, and unwillingness to carry such a burden.

"I'm going to do it for you."

But he, too, can sacrifice. After all--

"Let's clear this sky, and banish the darkness."

He's a knight. ...... Technically.

Rising to a sitting position at last, Ivo's smile broadens, returning to its usual affable state, and he stretches his arms up. It's about the time that other members of the Shard Seekers might be getting back.
Leida Despite the early time of year, the heat of the desert never truly fades, a constant dry breeze wafting in from the endless sea of sand sapping the moisture provided by the uncontrolled flows of water that criss cross the entire city out of the air and replacing it with a harsh blanket of torridity. This city was an /oven/.

Fortunately, the well built walls of the Shard Seeker's home kept most of the sun's blazing assault at bay but the wind and sand always managed to find their way inside. Thus when the princess awoke a hour prior, she found herself already drenched with sweat, much to her dismay. It seems not even sleep can keep the heat entirely at bay.

Her sing-song hums echo through the enclosed area at the back of the gardens designated for personal hygiene. The rank smell and sticky coating of perspiration is gone now, having been thoroughly scrubbed away and replaced by a wonderul aroma of flowers and herbs hand picked from the garden. They were good for more than just looking pretty!

The princess' ensemble of old shirt and belt are back in place before she walks out; the little escapade with Reize's towel malfunction made her rather wary of relying on them to protect her modesty even for the short trip between the pool and the dorms. Her hair is still wet, though that is to be expected considering its sheer volume, and the girl idly runs an ornate comb through the long locks as she pads absent mindedly across the garden.
Lenn Lenn is wearing, unlike her usual, a fairly close-fitting, light set of clothes, that are a bit sweaty, despite the winter's chill. She pants... and practically falls into a seat. "Wooo..."
Raiya Fujihara The balance inbetween protecting the hopes of dreams of others against pursuing your own is an arduous task. Many try to walk that balance and fail as one dream is sacrficed so that another will live. That can sadly be the way of the world and this is a notiont that Raiya Fujihara is all too familar with. There would be no comfort that she could offer Ivo.

As those were times in which they all lived.

Raiya steps out into the garden herself, dressed from head to toe in clothes that would be unfamiliar to those who have seen her around before. Her purple and black ornate kimono was gone and replaced by a military styled, long white tunic and black baggy trousers with gold embroidery. Overtop this, she wears a polished set of silver scaled armor that protects her torso as well as her shoulders. Her usual arm and leg guards are present as is her katana and sandals. Finally to complete her martial appearance, the samurai wears a fancy silver scaled, open-faced helm on top of her head that causes her long blonde hair to tumble out the side of it.

The ronin solemnly continues to walk further into the garden where she discovers that she is not alone out her. A stoic expression is displayed on Raiya's face as she plants the base of a wicked looking polearm into the ground. She offers a small nod of her helmeted head towards Leida and Lenn whom she fairly unaquainted with. Ivo gets a slightly longer nod from the armored individual; however, her grim demeanor seems to be unwavering for now.
Ivo Galvan His resolution made, for now, at least, the weight feels lifted from his shoulders. Ivo runs a hand through his dark hair, leaning on one hand in a half-reclined seated position, and his smile broadens as Lenn emerges looking as though she's been for a brisk run. "Are you exercising, Lenn?" Ivo's eyes display their usual mild curiosity, as whenever anyone behaves outside the norm. "How admirable. What brought this on? Making sure you'll fit into your wedding dress?" Since apparently the secret of the betrothal is out, now Ivo can tease her all he likes -- or so he imagines. "I think Leida's in the bath, but if you'd like to-- oh, there she is. Not too hung over, were you, Princess?" is his casual greeting, smile broadening into a grin as he raises his hand in salute. It's unclear whether 'Princess' is an official title or a nickname.

His composure and mood restored, no doubt Ivo intends to indulge himself by messing around with the two eminently teasable Shard Seeker lasses. But the arrival of Raiya on the scene is-- well, let's just say this is more than 'outside the norm'. "Raiya-sensei," Ivo murmurs, rising to his feet, his grin receding as his eyebrows lift, "you..." Maybe he was about to say something flippant. When he sees her grim expression within her helm, he hesitates. He returns her nod, and he stares at her face for a lingering moment before abruptly averting his eyes. His brow is slightly furrowed in thought. He has to admit, some of that conversation remains a little hazy in his memory, but--

"Are you preparing for... your campaign?"

He looks back at her, smiling slightly, eyes softened.

"It's... a little sooner than I'd hoped."
Lenn Lenn says, "Actually... it's a few things... I want to get stronger. So I can do more than just patch people up... that I can help defend this place, too... and when we've won, and Reize goes on his adventure... I can keep up with him.""
Leida The realization that she is not alone in the garden causes a predictable overreaction from the princess as she snaps out of the eternal haze of daydreaming that seems to make her utterly unaware of her surroundings half the time. Her surprised gasp carries through the garden as the girl jumps a little but she quickly exhales upon seeing the pair of familiar faces. And, one not so familiar.

Leida's head tilts to the side as she peers at the armored woman standing grim-faced and serious in their garden. Ivo's reaction eases her fears that this person is an intruder and the faint tingle of recognition touches her mind. However, the addition of the title 'sensei' causes her to pause, as she didn't recall teaching that word to anyone but Percival.

Nervously, she peers back at Ivo, putting on a pouty face at his teasing. Infact, she'd had possibly the worst hangover in her short life, no thanks to him. "U-um... Ivo-san, who is this?"
Faruja Senra Faruja has had a rough time of it as of late. Between the two extremely dangerous Hades Cup bouts, and the attack on Valkyri Headquarters while he was visiting, the Burmecian is still quite injured. With three of his ribs unhealed, and his left leg still mostly unusuable, he's forced to hobble about on a cane; gold tipped, and baring devotional symbols of Ajora. Light robes cover the ratling as well, given the weather. Stepping into the garden hopefully for a bit of peace and fresh air, he's greeted with a crowd.

"My, my, my." The wounded Templar mutters to himself. Noting the grim-faced Raiya, he reflexively tossed a salute followed by a chest-crossing. He'd never seen her in armor in the few times he'd laid eyes on the woman. Nor with a polearm. /That/ gets his interest. Quietly, he makes his way to a chair, sitting with a grunt. The others get nods and chest-crossings. No bows, owing to the leg. Otherwise, he chooses to watch events unfold until he has a good idea of what's going on. The word 'campaign' drifts to his ears, and he only watches more intently.
Raiya Fujihara The armor that Raiya wears is the ornate armor of the Crescent Unit. While it appears to be properly taken care for and polished, further examination would reveal that the armor is ill-fitting in certain area and appears to have seen its fair share of abuse despite Raiya's care for it. Her halberd-like weapon, on the other hand, is in much better shaped and looks fairly new in contrast. Her cruel-looking weapon was polished to a dangerous gleam to match that or her silver armor.

Lenn gets a meditative look when talk of a future wedding comes forth. An almost wistful look cascades down onto her face before being banished by the samurai. It would be nice to have pleasant things to look forward, but Raiya was samurai. She knew better for what fate had in store for her. There were dire things at stake and she could ill-afford to daydream for any length of time at all. These thoughts cause Raiya to look to her weapon which she hefts rather effortlessly into the air with a practiced flourish.

"My name is..." A pause. "...Asteria." Raiya says in a calm voice towards Leida. "Worry not. My enemy is not here and I am also one of the Shard-Seekers." The armored woman explains simply to the Princess with her halberd still in hand.

Asteria now turns towards Ivo, her armor clinking together as she moves. Many things were said and spoken of that night. There were also many truths that were said as well. "Even before I was a Shard-Seeker, I had already committed my hand." The stoic samurai grimaces slightly. "And now I must reap what I have sewn for I cannot forget that my own war is just about to begin." Raiya had actually never stopped fighting this war internally. It was only that now she was finally prepared to face what she had once ran from.

The familiar Templar gets a nod from the armored samurai as well. It has been quite some time since they last crossed paths. But that is how fate works. One can never really know what is in store for them next.....wearing armor does help though.
Ivo Galvan Ivo is mildly surprised at Lenn's seriousness, but quickly understands why his teasing had no effect: her mind is on Reize, and her own path. After hearing of Reize's intent to leave, she surely must have begun reflecting on her own capacity to keep up with the ever-journeying boy. He blinks at the blonde elf once, and then smiles with no sign of mischief. "So that's how it is." Now standing, his arms cross. "Well, why don't you ask for some help? Lots of the Seekers have physical and weapons training. Faruja and Raiya are skilled fighters, and Skoll wields powerful magic." Lily wields powerful magic too, of course, but imagining her as a teacher is a little too comical. Whereas imagining Priel as a teacher is-- no, Ivo likes to mess with Lenn, but he's not cruel. "Leida could teach you archery. Even I have some general weapons training from the academy. What were you considering?" Looks like Ivo can be serious with her too.

Seeing Leida pout is all the reward Ivo could ask for his good deed of enabling her. He's a supportive person like that. "Ah... she's..."

Ivo's lips part, his eyes widening slightly, as Raiya introduces herself-- using her true name. His heart twinges faintly. Some part of him had already begun formulating some sort of plan to persuade her not to wage this unknown battle of hers, to stay with them, with him, and reveal the woman he knows she is. That name, more even than her armor, strikes him as the ultimate proof of her seriousness. Though he can't help but wonder if part of it is also that he liked being the only one knowing that name.

"Asteria..." Ivo's expression is now also dead serious. "Are you going to Wutai? Must it be now?" He pauses for a moment, then frowns slightly. She is his teacher, but she is also his friend, and now his ally -- and more even than that. "You know, we can support you. You're one of us now. If we can just banish the darkness which haunts this city..." But would she wait that long, with no solution yet in sight? And would she even accept their company? But the thought of watching her go--

"...You know I can't just let you leave alone."

Ivo's a little startled to belatedly notice Faruja in his peripheral vision, and blinking, he turns, only to relax a little, smiling wryly. "Ser Senra, you're a glutton for punishment," he remarks, fondness in his blue eyes. He always liked Faruja and respected his ability and integrity, but now he feels their differences have been transcended by trust. "Lenn, is there anything you can do to help him?" Faruja's probably already been healed, but the elf is quite skilled. Even if she can't fight yet, there might be something more she could do about the Burmecian's injuries.
Leida "A-ah... well..." Leida takes a few steps foward and bows to the samurai woman in a fashion that she will easily recognize as a very formal version of her own culture's customs. "It is nice to meet you, Asteria-san."

The conversation is quickly turned to matters that she has no knowledge of nor business interfering with. Even if she is a Shard Seeker, that didn't automatically include her in each member's dealings, at least not in her mind. Seeing the serious tone from Ivo is enough to let her know that something was amiss, so the small girl merely steps aside and makes her way over towards Lenn and Faruja.

The sight of the Burmecian gives her pause and his face is quickly recognized from their meeting once before that ended poorly thanks to her own timid nature and Priel's untimely interference. However, seeing his injured as such, he somehow comes across as less threatening as her innocent concern manages to overwhelm her fears.

Slowly, she approaches the templar and gives him a bow as well. "Ah, hello. I think we met once before."
Lenn Lenn looks to Ivo, "Actually, I was wondering if you could teach me swordsmanship." She brushes some hair behind a pointed ear. "And maybe some help at training my body generally, would be nice. So I can keep up with him." She looks over at Faruja, "I could have a look, if you don't mind?"
Faruja Senra A second, 'true' name can mean many things. In Faruja's experience, it typically meant someone wanted to distance themselves from their past, for good or ill. The Templar respects the samurai woman, and until now she's come off as a wandering warrior woman of rather pleasant company. Her current demeanor suggests a woman on a mission. Connecting the two, the rat's face grows both serious and probing as he looks the woman in the eyes with his own red one. The fur on the back of his neck rises. Whatever was going on here, Faruja knows it's both important, and may even be relevent to his own concerns in the world. Ivo's words to Raiya only confirm it. Hands clasp together, unconsciously in the manner of his own Inquisitor's when she's observing an important event.

Even amidst this dire and serious setting, Ivo brings a small smile to the rat's muzzle. Damnit, Ivo, stop being so /charming/. You could be a real politician or diplomat, you know!?

"'Tis the life of a Templar. Better myself than, say, one of the Ladies Dennou or Lady Zia. Besides, it affords a touch of leave the Church and the Shard Seekers rarely allow for." Zia wasn't even in the Games. Why'd he mention her?

A glance to Leida. As she bows to him, without hiding or fainting dead away, he can't help but nod warmly. Crossing his chest in an Ajoran manner, his tail flickers welcomingly. Not that the little human Princess would likely recognize the gesture!

"M'Lady Leida, was it not? Quite. An honor, M'Lady, and may the Lord bless all that you do. Do forgive a Burmecian his formality. Templar Faruja Senra, of the Most Holy Church of Saint Ajora Glabados, at your service." It's one of the more standard platitudes, but like most of them, the rat means it. And in /her/ case, doubly so. Not to mention the formality. He does his best to match the Princess' own manners as he can while injured.

So much fussing. The crystal mage gets a nod, and he parts robes and lifts somewhat to expose the splint about his leg as well as the busted ribs. So too would onlookers see the lack of bandages there today, due to the broken ribs. Burn wounds, some old, some within the past month show on his chest. His leg shows signs of having been repeatedly broken, then healed over short periods of time. Seems the last few weeks have been rough for him.
Faruja Senra "Of couse, Lady Lenn. Thank you for your kindness M'Lady." Such a good elf-woman. He makes a mental note to get to know her better some time, while not being horrifically mauled.

His gaze returns to Raiya. "Lady Asteria. Well met." He finally adds, before glancing between the samurai and Ivo. The knight-very-errant knew her best. He'll give his two gil when he had the full picture.
Lenn Lenn frowns. "Mr. Senra. You know that I can heal these wounds without much trouble, you needn't push through such injuries." She looks at him, concernedly, before she starts to pull out crystals to start in on healing the wounded rat-warrior. "You are, after all, a friend."
Raiya Fujihara Raiya Fujihara would gladly offer to teach any Seeker who approached her about such matters. While she may be more intimidating now, the Wutai woman is normally a much less imposing presence around there. Asteria is someone who was quite serious about what she commits to which makes this current matter all that much more difficult. There was a battle to be fought here as well. The issue was that the battle for Wutai was one that first started years ago. It was only time for the next melee.

Leida's formal bow causes the ronin to turn and return the gesture towards her. "Unfortunate for us to meet in such dire times," replies Asteria honestly as she lets a faint glimmer of a smile break through her harsh veneer.

"A darkness has plagued Wutai for some time now. For even the chance to break my country free of the dark influence that besets the land, that is something worth fighting for...worth dying for." Raiya had smiled towards Leida a moment before, but now that smile was just a memory. The severity of Raiya's words are matched by her tone and her armor. It seems that she does not believe in half-measures when it comes to what must be done. Having the Shard-seekers on her side would make this task of hers that much easier. It was a burden that she was loath to share though for what consequences may come from it. The samurai takes a few steps forward and attempts to place a chaste hand upon Ivo's shoulder. "I would not want to endanger the other Seekers needlessly and pointlessly in a battle that was not truly theirs." Raiya also had a good mind into how this will end. And it was not well. "Besides, there are those who still need to be protected here."

Faruja's deference to Raiya's mission is something that wins the Templar much respect towards him. There was a time for laughter and joy. And there was also a time for seriousness. Faruja's words causes Raiya to remove her hand off Ivo's shoulder if he had let her rest her hand there in the first place. She turns towards the Faruja fully now and offers another nod. This was the first time he had met 'Asteria' so his words were not that unusual.
Ivo Galvan As Leida and Lenn move to care for Faruja, Ivo turns his smile from the Burmecian to the lady elf, eyebrows raising. "The sword? I'm still a student myself," he readily admits, particularly considering that his teacher is right there. His quick draw has been improving, though. He's become much more dedicated in his training sessions with Raiya, and doesn't make jokes about cutting off her sash anymore. Though he's also quieter in general when they're alone together, and can't seem to look at her for an extended period without self-consciously looking away. Around other people, though, his interactions with the blonde samurai haven't dramatically changed. "But I'd be happy to help, Lenn. Physical training was a requirement when I was a cadet." Not that he seems to exert himself overmuch these days. But Ivo remains in quite good shape. I mean, have you seen that shirtless picture of him and Reize?

As the chivalrous nezumi is tended to by the good girls of the Shard Seekers, Ivo turns back to his teacher. "Asteria..." He listens as she explains at last, if only in brief, and he closes his eyes momentarily. It's more or less as he anticipated, even if the specifics still elude him. He had heard of Wutai's plight, its war with Shinra and its alliance with the Heartless. His eyes open only when Raiya gently places her hand upon his shoulder, his body relaxing under her touch, expression turning gentle. He knows he can't dissuade her. But he knows enough of her attitude -- of a samurai's way of life -- and of the dangers she's likely to face that--

What if he never sees her again?

Perhaps it is the fact that he lost his family and his world. Perhaps it is that he is yet a young man, or perhaps he was simply made this way. But Ivo has a difficult time, for all his calculations, believing that there are true, final consequences to his actions. The thought of losing her overcomes that unwillingness to face finality. "The battles of our friends are our battles," he says, with a quiet firmness he rarely displays. "Whatever struggle is close to your heart, I'll definitely fight by your side."

But she's right. They can't exactly leave on a campaign, not now, not at this juncture. The shadows over Fluorgis have yet to be overcome, and clanhood is still not attained. Ivo's mind works furiously. At last, his lips show a ghost of a smile. "Share in our battle for now," he continues, blue eyes intent on her greens. "Help us overcome this challenge together. Then... we can join you, and fight as one."

He sounds calm and composed, but there is a hint of desperation in the depths of his eyes, a certain intensity that -- in his nonchalant and curious way -- is rather unlike him. Because he knows, and she must know, too, she /must/ know, that if she leaves--

He has to go.
Leida The young girl merely smiles faintly as Faruja reintroduces himself, going on about a church and his lord in the process. She quietly wonders if his lord is the same one that Percival spoke of. If not and Faruja's church was the most holy, which one was the least holy? People from these forgeign worlds believed in such strange things.

"No... no, it is alright. I am used to a certain amount of formality," she reponds meekly, staying back so as not to interfere in Lenn's work. When Ivo volunteers her 'expertise' on archery, she is forced to hold her hands up defensively. "A-ah... actually, I would not be a very good teacher, Ivo-san. I do not really know much about the subject..."

This leaves the question of where exactly her skill does come from is not herself. She knows the answer but chooses not to mention such unnecessary details, especially with the holy crusader rat staring straight at her. She self-consciously keeps from looking right at him, lest he decide to take offense at the decidedly unholy nature of her eyes.

Instead, she turns back to Ivo and Raiya, listening to their conversation. So many similar ones had occured recently. She wondered if any of the Seekers had a real idea of what it was they actually wanted from this strange little family and what they were willing to give up.
Faruja Senra Lenn's tone is one Faruja knows well. He's said much the same to so many fellow members of the Faithful. In any other situation, he'd laugh. Biting his tongue, it takes him a moment as he masters himself.

Clawed toes clench as Lenn heals him, the familiar burning sensation of bones magically righting themselves fills his limb. Unlike his own, however, it feels more gentle. Whereas Faruja is a cauterizing action of a battlefield healer, Lenn's is that of a true White Mage, even if her methods differ.

"In more peaceful times, dear Lady Lenn, I would certainly do so. However, more than naught, circumstance forces me to battle no matter my condition. Or so it seems as of late. Worry not. I shall perservere, for the sake of such kind persons as yourself if not my own." Maybe not the most reassuring of answers, but it's the honest one.

Wutai. Faruja finds himself clenching the arm of his chair as claws grind holes into it. The rumors of Heartless abominations used openly as soldiers much like Alexandria's and Baron's practices disturbes him greatly. Thoughts of a single woman attempting a war, alone, against such forces has Light manifesting about his sharp digits in righteousness. Such would be the actions of a Templar. Only his injury keeps him from leaping to Raiya's aide. Never has his recent injuries been more vexing.

Ivo speaks, and the Light vanishes as Faruja regains his more rational senses. Hands folding once more, his body's tension slackens. Zealotry and pragmatism has always been a strange mixture, but an extremely dangerous one when properly instilled. Trained well amongst Templar and Inquisition, the rat seizes upon opportunity.

"My apologies, Lady...nay, Dame Asteria. However, as a Templar of the Holy Church, I feel my oath to Lord and superiors bades me intrude. The nation of Wutai is of great interest to the Church. Particularly regarding certain...rumors. Unfortunately, without a thorough study of the situation, I cannot say if any campaign you wish to undertake would truly cleanse Wutai of it's Daemons. Nor can I truly afford one, given the situation here, and amongst my own people." The ratling too has his own concerns. He can't just galavant off to some human civilization while his own people are at risk. The 'but' to his words might be obvious, though.

A glance back to Ivo. That intensity, that desperation...clearly the man felt for the woman, in whatever capacity. Coming from Ivo, Faruja knowns enough fo the man to realize how important she is.

"However, the Lord giveth to the Faithful and the Righteous in their time of need. The Church is neutral in all earthly political concerns. We /are/, however, interested in ascertaining the current state of Wutai's people, and seeking evidence of any acts of rumored Heresy." Voice grave, losing its typical warmth, he's all business. One Knight to another.

A hand reaches into his robes, and he'll toss a small object towards Raiya. A linkpearl.

"No matter your decision upon this matter, keep in touch, hmm?"

His voice softens as he regards Leida. Recalling Percivals words, he tries to have a 'gentle touch'. It may only be partially successful amidst the winces of injury-pain. The eyes at least don't seem to bother him overmuch. He'd made his peace with her possession some time ago with the noble Gargoyle's help.

"Then I shall do my utmost to lay claw upon when we meet, M'Lady. I do believe a mutual acquaintance is engaging you in training, hmm? Should my own skills, such as they are, be of interest to you please do not hesitate to ask. Martial or of the healing arts."
Raiya Fujihara Raiya has indeed noticed that Ivo has been more attentive as of late in their training sessions. That was perhaps for the best with the grim tidings that seem to increase everyday. Victories needed to be won and sacrifices would have to be made. There was no getting around these facts. Raiya Fujihara, Asteria, was content with this. The Way of the Samurai was not pretty, kind, or forgiving. It was the only life that the ronin knew. The life that she knew she had to reclaim.

Technically, the Seekers were the third group that Raiya had sworn allegience to even if she has been less active in AVALANCHE as of late. But it was to this first group that she swore allegiance to, Wutai, that she now had to return to. There were many things left unfinished there that still burned at Raiya. Deaths to be avenged, wrongs to be righted, and a certain person that must be killed even if it would stain Raiya's honor permanetly. How would the Shard Seekers fit into this conflict would be an interesting piece of the puzzle to reveal. And yet Fate rarely does so until the right time.

Raiya looks emotionlessly at Ivo the best she can before betraying herself with a small smirking smile. Ivo was indeed maturing in his own way which was something to behold for Asteria...even if she had caught glimpses of what Ivo could be from the very start. "I shall remain as long as I can and lend my strength in this struggle." The hand which still holds her halberd lifts the weapon up before bringing it back down against the ground. The blonde samurai's smile soon fades back into nothingness. "Only know that when the true battle for Wutai begins, I must leave." Ivo joining in Raiya's foolish crusade would be something that she would curse at first, but would eventually be truly thankful for. She would hate bringing more people into this struggle even if their assistance and strength would be sorely needed.

Asteria also had a good mind on how things might end and would not forgive herself to see more of her closest comrades die because of her. There was not much room left in Raiya to witness such things again.

Raiya's dark thoughts are interrupted by that of the good Templar Faruja. She turns now towards him and smiles weakly at both his near action and his given words. Things were grim all around so it would not be surprising that Faruja could not offer official aid from his foreign church. But the 'heresy' was real. "Wutai must be saved. Even if it means saving my country from itself." The grip on her halberd tightens now as her voice deepens slightly. "The war against Shinra made my people fearful, forgetful of the old ways. Forgetful of the true strength of my peoples' spirit. I believe, no matter how foolishly, that what Wutai needs is a spark...a light. To remind them that they need not Heartless to defeat Shinra, that there are other ways. That Wutai can stand strong without blackening our own honor by bowing a knee to so-called Shadow-Lords." Once more, the halberd is rised and thumped against the ground. "Even if Wutai might perish by rejecting the Heartless, we will die as masters of our destinies...not pawns to some shadowy creatures."

Raiya then becomes silent for a moment and reaches out with her other hand for the linkpearl. A somewhat bashful smile replaces the fearsome look that she showed during her little speech. "I have spoken too much. I am not the young fool I once was. Pardon me, I must go think more about theses matters." Those might have been foolish words, but they were the words that a woman once known as Asteria would have said, -had- said back in those before times. The armored woman offers a polite bow to those around before turning to walk off. Ivo receives a glance over her shoulder before Asteria resolutely turns back around and stalks off in that heavy armor of hers.
Ivo Galvan Ivo had assumed, given her skill, Leida had some formal training in archery, as some ladies do. But had he any insight into the girl's speculations, he would wonder at the question himself. What are the Shard Seekers becoming? This motley crew, bound together by a loose common cause -- sometimes not even that -- and mutual friendship, seems to have little relevance in the grand scheme of things. Yet between each other, in their own personal lives and pursuits, these bonds may be just what they need to triumph over their struggles. It remains to be seen -- but day by day, they grow closer.

Ivo is grateful for Faruja's interjection, and intrigued by his insights. The knight-errant isn't aware that his own heightened emotions are noticable; he's not fully aware of the emotions themselves. Regardless, it appears that the matter of Wutai has been a persistent issue, and one not easily addressed. The more voices of support, the more likely it seems to him that Raiya will stay. But dressed as his teacher is, resolute as she seems, a part of him fears she will simply turn and go.

"...I understand."

So his relief is palpable when at last she smiles. The young man's shoulders sag, and he responds with a warm and weary smile of his own. As long as this doesn't have to be resolved /just/ now. As long as they have a little bit more time.

As long as he can keep all his promises.

He listens as Raiya expounds at last upon the darkness that besets Wutai. The swordsman's exprsesion is serious, and what she says to him seems both right and unchallengable, in the sense that it is her core ideal, one that has guided her, that she has nurtured in this intervening time. She is facing up to the past she wanted to bury. Belatedly, he realizes that she's displaying a courage that he as yet has not felt within himself. But his world is missing. Her world is right there. Still...

When his time comes, will he be ready, as she is?

Distracted by this thought, Ivo looks up just as Raiya turns to leave, and catches her glance. This time, he meets her eyes without looking away, expression inscrutable. Abruptly, then, he smiles. "Sensei, next time, you should join Leida and myself for drinks," he says, in a lighter tone than before. "She has a thirst for sake that cannot be quenched. I think the two of you will get along famously." Not that he would want to get Raiya drinking again. Why would he want that?

"After all, we'll... all be together, now."
Faruja Senra Slowly, the Templar smiles. "Pious words, Lady Knight. Hold your purpose tight to thy soul, for I fear your path shall set your blade upon Abyssal beast and flesh corrupt. By all means, be that Light. However, at times an ember's long warmth is greater than the brief heat of a spark." Faruja imparts finally. Cane hitting the ground, he stands slowly.

"Home and thy soul shall remain in my prayers. Lord save us all, Raiya Fujihara, Dame Asteria."

A far more casual flick of his tail to Raiya is given as a goodbye, no longer intruding upon the woman's situation. She has a decision to make. The Burmecian pauses beside Ivo.

"...She is a good woman. The soul of a true knight resides within her. Your insights, as always, are unique. Unorthodox, so very different from a traditional Knight...'tis your strength, Ivo Galvan. Yet, a Knight all the same. Protect and aide. You've my confidence, as ever, my friend."
Leida The princess gives her response to Faruja's offer by way of another deep bow. "I will keep your offering in mind, Faruja-san." She pauses at his mentioned of mutual acquaintences, assuming he is referring to Percival since he's the only one currently engaged in providing her any sort of training. While she isn't outwardly showing him much fear, keeping him at arm's length via formality is proving to be the main buffer that prevents her from hiding behind Ivo like usual.

However, her unease is unable to be stemmed forever and as Raiya turns to leave she excuses herself as well. "If you will excuse me, I... I have business to attend to. Good evening." Turning away, she quickly vanishes into the building proper to prepare for the evening. Though the shops were all closed, there was much to be done in the way of chores and her own personal training regime.
Raiya Fujihara Raiya's War may end in utter and complete failure. She can be captured, branded a traitor, and summarily executed without any further thought put into the matter. The same fate would befall those who had stood beside her unless they flee like Raiya did years ago. But if they win, then both history and fate will smile kindly upon them until ShinRa makes their next move against Wutai.

The boiling point within Wutai will be reached soon and Raiya Fujihara must be there when it does. Until then, there is time for a few more memories to be made, friendships to begins, and drinks to even be shared. Ivo's proposition of the three of them going out for drinks causes the heavily equipped warrior to pause and slowly turns back around. "Another rematch then?" She asks with a knowing smile.

Faruja's kind parting words causes the samurai to offer another bow towards the Templar. Raiya cannot falter in action or speech when it comes to what she must do. And yet, it is simple affirmations of what she is standing up for with helps Raiya's resolve remain steadfast. She shoots a smile Faru's way before waving towards the departing Leida as she excuses herself now.

It is now time for Asteria to leave for real now even if Ivo's last words were rather powerful coming from him. "A pleasant thought." Raiya offers the swordsman an earnest grin before departing to go think over matters by herself. Even as she clinks away with her gun-lance in tow, the smile she was once wore quickly withers and is replaced by a look on doubt on her face....doubt on what to do next....what will happen if she does...and who will be hurt most if she doesn't.
Ivo Galvan Ivo swallows to maintain his self-possession as warmth sweeps through him at Raiya's open grin. His elegant teacher's range of expression had always been a pleasure to observe, but even since the new year's festival, he can't quite look at her face the same way. It's important to him to maintain their current relationship. He knows that what happened between them then was special, that neither of them are in a position to want anything more, and that -- or so he thinks -- she respects and forgives his own unreadiness to cast aside their teacher-student relationship. Simply put, he still has a lot to learn. Or rather, a lot of growing still to do.

Still, the desperation he felt when he thought of letting her go, that intensity of emotion-- it's almost like when, during their duel, Ivo began to feel something like what his father must have spoken of, so long ago: that 'fire' that he supposedly lacks, that pure conviction. He may always be more a man of wonder than of passions, but as long as he /can/ feel that, then maybe...

Faruja's words rouse him from his distracted state as Raiya and Leida depart. "Yeah," he murmurs. "Almost too good." Faruja's right, and that someone with the 'soul of a true knight' like her would accept someone like Ivo stunned him from the moment he and Raiya first met, and continues to. Which is probably why he slips up and says something like that, only to look a little embarrassed and grin lopsidedly at his friend. "You think it's possible to be an unorthodox knight?" he asks rhetorically. It's something of a metaphor for what he is, really, more than a literal aspiration, but it's true. Is it possible to be an aesthete and a worthy man? The more that his friends believe in him--

"...And you mine, Faruja."

The more willing Ivo is to believe it himself.

This scene contained 25 poses. The players who were present were: Ivo Galvan, Faruja Senra, Raiya Fujihara, Lenn, Leida