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No title.
(2013-02-08 - 2013-04-15)
No description.
Faruja Senra Faruja Senra's week, as seems to be typical these days, has been horrible. Giga Flared in the face, and then dealing with the mess beneath the local traverse town church (again) has the rat in need of some relaxation. Thus, he is at his favorite cafe, the WildKat. Mostly due to it's rather charismatic owner, and the quality drinks it serves.

Thus, Faruja has tea. While it's not quite BATTLE TEA, it's more than good enough. He's sitting near a window looking out upon the town itself, the ratling's legs crossed and tail flicking lightly in between sips of warm liquid. If only he had some company! Faruja finds himself thinking after the good fire magess of Valkyri, and how she so bravely took blows for him. A frown comes to his muzzle. Hurt on account of /him/! Cue guilty rat.
Maira Funny, Maira was also thinking about Faruja, and hoping that he didn't feel too badly about her defending him. He'd done the same for her many times! He was injured, how could she let him be hurt when he was injured? She couldn't have known just how out of this world powerful Makenshi truly was.

Still, she hopes Faruja is doing well and has been staying out of trouble, but she seriously doubts that last bit.

Lo and behold! As she walks into the cafe her eyes settle on him, her plush lips curving into a warm smile as she crosses the room toward him, examining him to see if he is alright for hugs!
Ivo Galvan Ivo, in contrast to his friend and ally Faruja, has been exposed to little physical danger as of late, but his youthful features show signs of extreme fatigue, his usually curious gaze dimmed and affable smile somewhat subdued as he enters the cafe. Hands slipped into his pockets, white and navy blue scarf wrapped about his neck and shoulders, the knight-errant's posture is a little less poised, his pace more listless. Stuck in Fluorgis working day and night in the depths of the city on the Fire Crystal, the Shard Seeker swordsman has had little time for rest, let alone adventure. Though his work is secret, the whispers on the wind persistently suggest that the shadows over the City of Fountains are dimming the Crystal's light, threatening to short-circuit Fluorgis's power source. Even if that's not true, those rumors produce fear and uncertainty.

That makes Ivo's work all the more desperate. But at least with a moment to himself, he took off for Traverse Town under the pretense of securing more supplies for the group, what with prices in Fluorgis so high. It's not such an urgent task. What's most important is that he energize himself somehow. So the first stop is the cafe. Last time he was here, it was pleasantly relaxing.

He pauses to hold the door open, and seems a little more refreshed already as he turns to broaden his smile at the woman with him. "After you, sensei," he says gamely. At least the playfulness in his voice can't be suppressed by exhaustion. He ran into Raiya at headquarters, and she's joined him on this little stint.

Only once he turns does he see-- Maira and Faruja in a passionate embrace!? Ivo's eyes widen slightly. "Faruja!" he calls, sounding slightly alarmed. Could this be a terrible misunderstanding? Could Ivo be about to display some unexpected-- "For goodness sake, man, when are you going to let someone else take a hit?" He's grinning, his tone one of fond bewilderment. "You look like you've come out of the oven. What happened to your face?" Oh, right. Faruja was beat up the last two times he saw the Burmecian too. "This is a bad habit of yours."

And Ivo knows bad habits.

"Hey, Maira," Ivo then says, turning his grin to the lady mage. He's straightened his posture by force of will, pushing back his fatigue. "Good to see you. You've met Raiya-sensei, right?" What's this? No flirtatious banter? Is he behaving himself?

He /must/ be tired.
Faruja Senra Faruja's bandages look fresh, and there may even be a little bit more burn damage than usual. A touch of fatigue is in his eye too, maybe even a gray fur or two visible if one really looks. Stress and recent happenings as well as a Giga Flare are a good way to age prematurely!

But no rib brace, at least. Despite everything, the sight of one Maira has the rat standing up. Very nearly does he knock over his tea!

The ratling very simply walks up, and offers his arms. Ahh, but he could use a friend, and a hug!

"Dear Maira, how are you? Lord bless my friend, doth thy wounds mend?" His eye wanders that head of hers! The ratling still remembers the horrible scalp wound she suffered!

Earperk! A voice hits the rat's ears, and the Burmecian turns. At first, a look of intense irritation is given Ivo. He's the one who, however indirectly, had him extorted for a love letter! It lasts all of five seconds, before it melts into a fond smile tinged with concern.

"Ser Galvan, good 'eve! And Lady..." Asteria? Fujihara? Given where they are, and her attire he plays it safe. "Fujihara. An honor as always M'Lady. Come, Ser and Dame, join us! The pleasure is all mine!"

A bow to the pair, and he'll gather seats for all three of his friends. "Let us just say, good Ser, never underestimate the power of ruthless men and Nu Mou with impeccable aim with spells of fire."

A brief glance is given to Maira, guilt clear in his features. "...So many seem to tell me. Unfortunately, others seem to take blows for me oft these days." Hati too. Frown.

"I trust overwork touches naught upon thy brow?" There's no sarcasm in his voice. He knows Ivo being tired when he sees it.
Maira Seeing Faruja's arms open, Maira happily steps into them, though she keeps her embrace gentle, as Faruja is obviously either still injured, or injured again. Likely, it is both.

Maira shakes her head a little, though she is obviously grateful he is still in one piece. "Faruja, you really should take a bit of a rest...yes, yes I'm fine. Still a little woozy sometimes and I get some headaches, but mostly I am much improved," she informs him with a smile.

Ah! Another familiar voice! An Ivo voice! Maira is immediately conflicted, her insides tying themselves in a neat little knot. "Ivo! Good to see you--" she begins, then balks. "Y-you look terrible...are you alright?" she asks with genuine concern.

Oh, wait, he wasn't alone! Maira turns to greet Raiya, her smile warm for her, though growing shaky as she takes the situation in mind. Ivo and Raiya came together. Maybe they are...on a date. "Hello Raiya! It is nice to see you too! ...You look much better than Ivo, have you been beating him up?" she asks, taking a seat once Faruja offered. He probably even pulls her chair out for her. Cause he's a TRUE KNIGHT.
Ivo Galvan Ivo can feel Raiya's sharp gaze on him, carefully maintaining his smile, and thereby doing his best not to reveal that the presence of his sensei might have something to do with this unusual good behavior. Teasing comments he could make to Maira scroll through his mind, which regretfully he pushes aside. Distracted by this, he only catches Faruja's baleful stare at the tail end of it, his eyebrows lifting -- but when the nezumi smiles, Ivo grins back, a little more amused than before. Was he indirectly responsible for something? If he's forgiven, then it was probably funny. He'll find out what it was, and have a good laugh.

...You shouldn't forgive him, Faruja.

"I've learned to fear fire," he says nonchalantly. "Particularly at close range." He casts Maira a sidelong glance, some of that sparkle returning to his eyes. Ohh, he can't resist, can he. It's like an extreme challenge: teasing Maira so obliquely that his sensei doesn't notice.

Maybe he has a death wish. That would explain a lot.

"Ah, well, that's..." Seeing the both of them so concerned does make him feel better, even if he should be ashamed to be showing his weakness. He should have known better: even if he tries to look cool, there's no hiding the dark circles under his eyes. "I look terrible? How cruel," he replies divertingly, his irrepressible grin failing to sustain his mock woundedness. "Whereas you look lovely as ever." Maira's question to Raiya surprises Ivo, and seems to impress him, his eyes lighting up before he covers his mouth and feigns a cough to hide his amusement. "That's right," he confirms. "Sensei is a believer in tough love." He opens his mouth as though he has more to say, but visibly restrains himself, and instead looks toward his teacher. "Raiya, may I get you some tea?"

Better quit while you're ahead, Galvan. ...Or at least, have a head.
Raiya Fujihara Faruja and Maira were always pleasant company to keep. Raiya smiles easily and quite naturally towards them. "Please, Raiya will suffice. I hold no landed titles to my name." She was still Crescent Asteria, but she was not about to ask everyone to call her by that. Maira's inquiry of whether or not she was the reason Ivo looked the way he did catches the samurai off-guard. Something apparently has caught her tongue.

This malady is quickly healed when Ivo makes a smart comment of his own. The hawkish look from before is replaced to that one of a coiled snake. Ivo and the others might even swear that her hand flinched juuuuuust slightly closer to her sheathed katana. "Apparently not tough enough. I shall have to remedy this next time."

The offer of tea does defuse the ticking time bomb for now. Raiya nods her head in affirmation. "Yes please, and we have known each other long enough that you already know how I like it." The blonde ronin freezes and shoots a dagger towards Ivo. " my tea." Asteria coughs into a clenched fist as she seats herself without further adieu. It seems that Ivo was just as much a bad influence on her as vice-versa.
Faruja Senra Faruja's hug is warm and close, almost one reserved for family; her kindness drawing many an inward comparison to his dear departed mother. He's also quite happy for the lightness, his burns quite stinging even with Hati's burn ointment. Pulling away, he pulls out a seat for the woman, truly like a proper knight! Someone should be taking notes~

"Physician, heal thyself, is it? Yes, dear Maira, I am well overdue for such rest. Of the body, at any rate, far too much for my mind to yet still." The local church's problems, Burmecia and Cleyra, Alexandria, Fluorgis, his rather tangled love life and personal attachments. Poor rat's utterly swamped!

Reaching into his robes, he'll hand over a wrapped pouch of herbs. "Steep these in hot water. They should help with the symptoms. However, they will likely make you drowsey, 'tis best to take before the night's repose."

Don't worry, Ivo, all will be forgiven when he finally catches you alone! The rat owes the Knight-Oh-So-Errant a good beating and/or duel for the dragon-related suffering in his life. His real wrath is reserved for the dragoness, however.

But never let it be said that he's not willing to step up and set things in motion. "Quite. Fearsome, flames. Or worse, flames of the heart, and those amongst us that would toy with them." Ivo gets a meaningful glance despite the rat's cryptic words, one full of quite a bit of barely contained rage.

"Resting is for those within the Lord's embrace." The rat finally quotes concerning his own, and Ivo's injuries/tiredness respectively. There's simply too much to do.

A small nod, and a smile from the rat, his previous foul mood towards shoved aside. Raiya is always pleasant, when not plotting war. The Burmecian even has the decency to turn aside and cough himself at Raiya's 'correction.' Ignore the slight blush to his features.

"Mayhap I shall join you in educating our dear mutual friend, hmm, La...ahh, Raiya. I do believe it shall be most...enlightening for him, would you not agree?" Oh, Ivo, you're now doomed.
Maira At Ivo's teasing comment, Maira does indeed blush. She remembers quite well the incident he is referring to, even if no one else would! Though she blushes, she meets his eye, determined not to look away. She's not sure why. It is the same instinct that tells you not to run from a predator--you don't want yourself to be seem as prey.

Still, she is grateful the conversation moves on! "I'm sorry Ivo, I mean you look tired. Very tired. You haven't been sleeping much. You could probably use some potions and some sleep," the healer in her informs him.

And if orders are going out? Maira orders some tea too.

And a scone. And one of those cookies. And a muffin.

She intends to eat /all/ of them.

Maira looks back to Faruja now, taking the packet of herbs. The mage brings it to her nose and gives it a discerning sniff. "Birch bark...valerian...chamomile...hmm, and a bit of something else...licorice root?" she asks. Healer talk, GO!

Maira is a bit more observant than she use to be when it came to flirtatious talk (Ivo is completely to blame) and the banter between Ivo and Raiya does not go unnoticed. Oh...oh maybe they really /are/ on a date.

Maira suddenly feels very small. Looking toward the beautiful, graceful, and so...ladylike samurai, Maira cannot but feel she has been pushed to the wayside. After all, why would Ivo want her if he could have Raiya?

Maira looks down at the table, very intently, trying to push those thoughts away--she can feel sorry for herself later.
Ivo Galvan Ivo senses imminent danger, fight-or-flight instincts activating as soon as Raiya's expression becomes a little more predatorial. "Not tough enough..." he murmurs under his breath, grin turning lopsided, gaze nervously averting. A shiver goes up his spine -- but is it fear? Maybe it's better not to ask.

At least he has his out, when Raiya accepts his offer. He might not be at True Knight level and pulling out people's chairs, but he's getting tea for a lady, so at least he can maintain his knight-errant status -- if more errant than knight. As soon as his composure returns, however, his teacher makes an-- unusual slip. Ivo pauses, his expression growing very still. It turns out he doesn't need to say anything-- even /more/ surprisingly, Raiya fills in the blank. The mere fact of acknowledging the alternate interpretation of her words causes Ivo's eyebrows to shoot up, though he puts all his effort into keeping the rest of his face unmoved. Most likely, he's fiercely repressing whatever follow-up he wants to offer. But then again, there's something a little too fixed and distant about his gaze, as though he too is embarrassed by Raiya's slip.

"Of course," is all he can say in the end, his tone a little ambiguous, not turning back to look at her, before going to get the tea ... and a scone ... and a muffin ... and a cookie. He returns renewed, smiling and mildly amused, even looking a little less tired than before. "A woman should have a healthy appetite," he remarks approvingly, though maybe it's just his way of teasing Maira as he sets down her requests before her, and then begins to serve the tea. He's re-entered the conversation in time to see Faruja's dubious look and comment about flames. "Flames of the heart? If you're having indigestion..." Yeah, Ivo, you're just asking for enlightenment. But his smile wavers slightly and his flippant comment dies out when he sees Maira closely inspecting the table before her. While he tends to read people all too well, the emotion on her face isn't one he recognizes, and that itself makes him feel a bit uneasy.

"...Yeah, I am tired," he says instead, his voice softening. "You're right, Maira... it's been a while since I took a load off." Shoulders slumping, he smiles at the fire mage, no longer playful, no longer trying to push through his fatigue. He sinks into a seat at their table. "Anything you'd prescribe?"

He considers a joke about tender, loving care, but for some reason, his heart isn't in it. Probably just too tired now, he reflects.

Flames of the heart, huh...?
Raiya Fujihara Raiya has come a long way from when she first earned the title of 'Crescent Asteria'. In those days, there was only war to plot and a war to fight. There was still very much a war going on now, but there were also...other things to be concerned with that the Asteria of old would not have considered.

The differing responses to her lazy tongue causes Raiya to grimace slightly. Quite obviously, they both noticed the implications of what she said. How foolish of her to say anything at all, but it was better to head Ivo off at the pass than to let herself be ambushed. Raiya does not blush at her own words though. It was indeed an unfortunate thing to bring up in polite company. However, she was not ashamed of her actions as both a samurai and as a woman.

Maira does get a sympathetic look though. The Wutai ronin was a proud warrior, but she still had eyes to notice her unfavorable reaction. She all too well knew of Ivo's flirtatious history with the other woman and the complications that were present. "Maira," begins Raiya. "How have you fared as of late? Keeping Avira safe I hope?" She asks with a demure smile on her face. Yes, bringing up Avira was not probably the smoothest transition in the history of social awkwardness...but Raiya was trying to be tactful now that she had already foolishly mispoken once.

The arrival of tea gets a simple, courteous nod from Raiya. Very good, Ivo.
Faruja Senra That is a lot of food. Someone's hungry! It actually has the Templar smiling a bit. A healthy appetite means someone's recovering! Beneath the table his tail sways gently, contentment clear in the motion should anyone be familiar with his kind's physical expressions. One can tell a lot by looking at a nezumi's tail, after all.

"Ahh, my my, Maira you are a Dame and a scholar true! Much so. A touch of pepper and extract of sugar cane to go down that much more easily." The woman gets a look of even greater respect. So much as he respected (and feared) her powers of fire, the signs of a fellow healer gain her all the more brownie points. Could anyone really fail to like, or even love, Maira?

"Good, dear Ser Galvan, our mutual..." Pause. What /was/ Priel anyway? "Associate needs learn a touch more respect for delicate matters and less outright greed." Comes the Burmecian's more direct response. Tired himself, he leans towards the more blunt military line. His regard for the man does brighten though, if in sympathy. "Difficult times, my friend. Let us all perservere. And rest while we can."

Sipping his tea, the rat closes his eye. Far too much has happened for the rat as of late, and so little rest. Teeter. Slowly, the Burmecian leans towards Maira. Tilt!

Maira will find herself supporting a lightly snoring Templar, the nezumi finally succumbing to fatigue, warm tea, and the simple joy of the company of friends. It says much of his trust of the woman to use her as a pillow so as his head rests on her shoulder. Even his tail is wrapped about one of the magess' ankles!

"So warm..." Mumbles the ratling as he drifts off to sleep.
Maira All Maira can think is that Katyna must be right.

At least until food arrives. Momentary reprieve from gloomy thoughts by the presence of food. In this, Maira is a simple creature. She eats happily, simply smiling at the mention of her appetite. She must have an insane metabolism. After all, she runs hot. She has to fuel that inner flame with /something/.

When Ivo asks her advice and seems to be serious, Maira gives it some thought. "Well, I'd need to know more if you are sick, but by the looks of you, you just need sleep and a few healthy meals. Lots of greens, some beets, red meat...bring some of your color back," she observes, still holding the little pouch of herbs Faruja had given her. These would come in handy later when she tried to sleep.

Maira looks up to Raiya then, the shadow of a smile returning. She doesn't dislike the samurai, no matter the circumstances. It simply doesn't seem to be in Maira to hate someone. Envious, yes...

"Heh, she's been working very hard for the Hades cup. I'm making sure Angantyr doesn't work her too hard though," she replies. She looks down again, her brow drawing together at the mention of Angan, another knot in her stomach.

This is /really/ annoying.

"We had a run in with a very...bad....guy," she begins, failing the use of her mental thesaurus. "He came for a guest of ours and he almost destroyed our HQ completely--that's how I got wounded, if you were wondering," she says, quietly, giving Ivo a brief look. No, he hadn't asked about how she'd almost been blown up by a laser dragon!

Maira looks over then, finding that Faruja is tilting toward her, falling asleep. She blinks, then giggles lightly, putting an arm around the rat knight to help support him. It is a sisterly affection. "Poor'll have to carry him somewhere to sleep later Ivo," she tells him. Obviously. He does so love to carry people, doesn't he?
Ivo Galvan Ivo smiles with a hint of amusement at Raiya's silent nod of approval. That tends to be the extent of the praise he gets, so, being him, he enjoys whatever he can get. Somehow even being praised by his sword tutor makes him look a little mischievous, like he's getting away with something. Then again, every second she isn't reaching for her tanto, he's technically getting away with something.

"Oh..." Faruja's comment about their mutual 'associate' causes Ivo to purse his lips, perhaps to hide his smile. Of course, he should have guessed it was something Priel did. "Yes, well..." But he can afford to dodge a straight answer this time. Faruja looks to be on the verge of passing out. Ivo's smile turns affectionate as the Burmecian slumps onto Maira. "No fair," he says lightly. "I'm supposed to be the tired one." Ho ho, how should he follow this up? Maybe 'Is she? Your other shoulder's free, right, Maira?' Or perhaps, 'Sensei, are you warm too?' Or... uh... actually... upon reflection... let's not.

"Yeah, I haven't been eating well," he concedes instead, smile softening again. "I haven't been back to headquarters often enough to cook... and engineers have a way of devouring whatever they can get their hands on. I'll fix that." Ivo still hasn't seen Cid Previa take a break, and is beginning to suspect the crazy old coot is a machine himself. "Angantyr?" That's an unfamiliar name. "Who is that, Avira's boyfriend?" Ivo sounds highly amused at that prospect.

Oh, Ivo, you're the worst.

Maira's expression is getting weird, and the swordsman finds himself increasingly troubled. When she brings up the attacker, Ivo's eyebrows shoot up. "What? VALKYRI HQ was attacked? How did I not--" He cuts himself short, and then slumps. "Right," he mumbles. He's not usually so out of the loop, but being cooped up all the time will do that. "If there's anything we can do to help--" he begins, straightening. The Shard Seekers and VALKYRI may be rivals, but after working together to acquire the Desert Rose, they're hardly antagonists.

But then he's thrown off. "How you got--" Urk. Already caught flatfooted by what he's missed, there's no way he can maintain his cool when he realizes he's missed what's right in front of his face. Maira just gives him a simple look, but Ivo flushes, visibly embarrassed. He could make an excuse -- he was distracted by Faruja's wounds coming in, after all -- but that would just be stupid. "I should have asked," he says apologetically. "You've had it rough too, Maira." Maybe she'll forgive him after the pastries. "...I'm glad you're alright."

At least Maira seems to brighten a little at Faruja's naptime. The sound of her giggle causes Ivo to smile naturally, and he leans back in his chair, recovering and relaxing a little. "As long as I don't have to run," he replies laconically, reaching up to loosen his white and blue scarf, before his smile widens. "There," he adds softly, seeing the affection back on Maira's features. "It's better to see you smiling. You've been looking a little worn-out yourself, Maira." Staring at the table and all. "Is everything alright?" He glances at Raiya, in case she's figured out what's up with her.

Terrible. He's just terrible.
Raiya Fujihara My, my. It seems that their polite Burmecian companion was more tired than he had seemed. Raiya would make sure that Ivo follows through on carrying Faruja back. The exercise would do him well despite him being tired. She was still his teacher in the end despite their close relationship.

The talk of VALKYRI HQ being attacked causes a grim look to appear on Raiya's face. "Foul news for my ears. Was is that strange man who attacked Avira and I?" A noticeable injection of actual anger of perhaps frustation had entered the samurai's voice.

"This world seems to be increasingly ever filled with bad men. One would be hard-pressed to find an actual good one, I'm afraid." Another side-glance is offered towards Ivo and Raiya's expression lightens somewhat before darkening again when Ivo begins his further interrogation. Her eyes narrow and the slightest shake of her head is given before she now turns to Maira.

"Tell me Maira, have you ever been to a place called 'Kosta Dell Soul'?" Raiya seems to think a change in converstaion from talking ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS is in order. But will Ivo notice? The slightly pained expression on the samurai's face shows that she is less than optimistic over this prospect.
Maira At mention of Angantyr being Avira's boyfriend, Maira becomes quite flustered. "No--I mean, maybe. I mean...I don't actually know, it's very complicated you see. She has....a few..and I'm not...nevermind. Angantyr is--well he's a good friend to us both," she replies, unaware how completely transparent her thoughts are.

Seeing Ivo embarassed though, that is a rare treat! "Oh, its okay! I'm really fine. Our roof just kind of...well some of it sort of fell on my head," she says, shrugging a little. "We've all been working hard, haven't we? Its a busy time," she says, taking another bite of cookie. Does she look worn out? Likely. She's been a little more troubled as of late, something she's not grateful for in the least! Such seemingly silly things.

Maira looks up to Raiya, summoning what she hopes is a courageous and not at all hurt smile. "You'll have to look after Ivo, make sure that he takes some time to eat and rest--at least in between beatings, right?" she throws in a joke at the end, so as to feel a bit less wretched.

At mention of Costa Del Sol, Maira blinks. "Oh, yes, I was there once. Beachy place, warm and sunny. Reminds me I still need to learn to swim. Angantyr is going to teach me," she comments with a nod.

Ivo Galvan "Good or bad, at least I'm not ugly," Ivo says with mock nonchalance, but he's smiling, half because he knows he deserves to be given a hard time and half because he knows how Raiya feels about his character, and her trust still humbles him. There are others who trust in his good nature as she does, of course, but she was one of the first to voice it, and she states it so straightforwardly he still hasn't gotten used to it. It's hard to hide that he doesn't believe it. But he tries.

But maybe he should question his own worthiness a little. He looks a little blank at Raiya's warning gaze. Asking Maira how she's doing is the wrong tack? Perhaps he was too indelicate. Still, if Raiya's picked up what's eating at Maira, Ivo still can't figure it out. After a moment, though, Ivo nods slowly and falls silent, letting her change the subject.

Maybe it's, you know, a feminine problem.

Being quiet gives him the opportunity to enjoy Maira being flustered, though there's little sense of triumph considering he was the one embarrassed moments ago. "Avira has a few what?" he chuckles. It's fairly clear from his expression he'll never believe for a minute the VALKYRI leader has any genuine love interests. "Sparring partners?" But Raiya seems to really want to move the topic away from relationships, for whatever reason, so he doesn't push any farther. Still, who is this Angantyr character? This sounds humorous, Ivo thinks from his lofty position of emotional distance.

That distance keeps getting compromised every time Maira shows a hint of strain about her smile. Ivo's uneasy intuitions grow in intensity. This is bizarre: he can't read her expression, he doesn't know what Raiya's trying to tell him, and he doesn't know what this feeling is. Is it just that he's tired? He's totally off his game. When was the last time he felt so out of his depth? Too weary to hide his emotions, Ivo looks at Maira in visible confusion as she speaks to Raiya, saying nothing. The fire mage seems really out of sorts. Maybe he should take her back to the chocobo races. Or maybe--

"Ah, Costa," Ivo says, relaxing in his chair again. "Once we banish the darkness from Fluorgis, we should gather there for a celebration." Now that's a lively thought. Distracting himself from his unease, a little of the sparkle returns to his eye. "I hope both of you are--"

Who is what now?

Thump-thump. Ivo's heart skips a beat, and there's no longer any denying this unease. What bursts into his mind is not the mental image of him embracing Maira in the water during their ill-fated lesson, but the kiss at the chocobo circuit. That was just a moment of passion, though, right? That was something nice and charming. It didn't have /consequences/. It didn't change anything. So why are his lips tight, his brow furrowed? Ivo looks as puzzled as he does displeased, even if only for a flash before he instinctively forces the emotions from his expression.

"Does he have a ring of fire resistance?" It's a joke, more intended to cover up Ivo's momentary lapse than anything, but, conveniently, it's also opposing that displeasing outcome. "I'm still looking for one, but once I find it..." He shrugs good-humoredly, electing to trail off, looking back at Raiya. "I'm a worse teacher than I am a student," he asides, by way of explanation.

But inside, his thoughts are tangled. 'Once I find it'... then what? What's he trying to do, anyway? Keep things interesting, right? Have fun with everyone, right? But that somehow doesn't seem quite so honest when he feels-- less distant from the situation. Ivo often feels the desire to free himself, but rarely the urge to grasp hold of something slipping away. And grasp hold of what?

He's not sure what to make of it.
Raiya Fujihara Raiya, the stoic samurai, is true to her namesake for the next few moments. There was tea to be enjoyed and some of her own thought to be considered. She was aware of both Maira and Avira's affections towards Ivo. Back before things got complicated, she was going to spoke to both Ivo and then those two about it. Raiya's own intrusion into these relationships would make her a hypocrite to speak to them now about such things. A glance is afforded towards Ivo inbetween sips. But, perhaps she should still say something to Ivo about it.

In the end, the samurai sighs to herself as she bares witness to Ivo's internal turmoil. It seems her younger companion is still confused about what he does and does not want when it came to things. He was also still quite clueless in picking up that he, or his implied preferences, was irking Maira. Vapors from her tea are breathed in once more as Raiya loses herself in self-contemplation for a time.

"Ivo, would you mind a word in private?"
Ivo Galvan Even as Ivo runs his mouth with a light tone, keeping the conversation going, his intensifying unease intertwines with a worry that he, too, is a hypocrite. But he's not sure what /about/, which is what bothers him more than anything. It's like he wants something both ways -- but what is it he wants, in the first place? More possibilities, is the usual truth, not that he shares his oft-scorned ideal openly: a flourishing, wide-open world, without violence or destruction. But now there seem to be some possibilities he doesn't like, that have nothing to do with anyone getting harmed. Possibilities like... Maira kissing some other guy.


Oh, right.

/That's/ the hypocrisy.

Ivo, having lapsed into silence, slowly looks toward Raiya, and he looks a littler paler than before. He was already pale from fatigue, so it might not be too apparent, but-- perhaps he just got a little less clueless, just a little. His teacher times her question well. "Not at all," he says, a bit weakly. "Pardon me, Maira," he murmurs. It could just be exhaustion that makes his smile falter. He rises, and follows Raiya's lead. He's still in a bit of a daze.

It's not that he understands Maira's feelings yet. But if he admits to himself that he's feeling a little possessive of the warm, kind, trusting fire mage, then-- at the very least, his behavior is unfair-- and his distance, insincere.
Raiya Fujihara Raiya does not lead Ivo very far. They only make it out of eyesight from where they were once seated before she gestures abruptly towards an empty booth against the wall. Whether or not Ivo complies with his teacher's wishes, she takes a step closer to achieve conspiratory distance between them. "This is a talk that I meant to give a long time ago." The blonde sword-fighter begins with grim determination in her voice as if this was a pre-battle speech. "Ivo, what I speak of next might not seem like a matter of grave import, but it is."

A pause.

"You are aware of the effect you have on women?" Raiya begins with a severe look aimed at Ivo. She seems to be watching him like a hawk again. Or maybe perhaps..a vulture.
Ivo Galvan Ivo, a little out of sorts, blinks as Raiya steps close, and for a moment is awkwardly still. He hasn't been this physically close to her in a little while, and it feels good. So why, then, does there now seem something vaguely wrong about the fact that it feels good? Isn't it harmless? He must have crossed a line somewhere, but... where was it?

The older brother to so many in the Shard Seekers, Ivo's persistent confusion makes him feel a lot, well, younger than he has in a long time. He's getting the sense there's a whole side of the world he, for all his roving curious vision, hasn't seen. And that -- rather than any enforced self-discipline -- makes him obedient. He's silent. Whatever she has to say, he'll listen. It must be serious if she--


Ivo stares blankly at Raiya.

"The... effect..." His lips slowly start to twist into a grin, he slowly begins to lift his hands, palms out. Like, this has to be a joke; he should play it off somehow. But, no, it isn't, and anything clever he might have said dies away, and his hands lower, and his grin disappears before it fully forms. "Of course," he instead states, meeting his teacher's eyes straightforwardly. "I don't have any pretentions about being anything special, but... I know how to tease, and charm, and embarrass, and delight. I can ruffle women's feathers. It's interesting to do, and makes them interested in me... and eventually, it gets them to trust me." Testing boundaries, pushing them just a little bit, never too far. Keeping it fresh, keeping it fun, a little risky, but never unsafe. The bad boy who isn't really bad. "Because I... don't want to hurt anyone." Only once he says that does Ivo's clear-eyed gaze cloud, and he begins to look uneasy again.

It's a fairly elaborate social strategy. He figures out what people's buttons are, keeps his distance, and pushes them lightly from afar, producing effects but not 'consequences'. Right?

"That's all," he adds, a little unnecessarily, now in a slight tone of protest. Rather than defensive, though, Ivo just looks a bit confused again, like he can tell there's something off, like he knows he's missing something. "That's the 'effect'." That uneasiness is growing. "There's nothing more."
Raiya Fujihara There are times when Raiya begins to feel her age. The hardships she has had to endure has aged her more than time would have alone. And yet still, she began to feel older with each passing day despite certain indulges she recently participated in that were reminiscent of her own youth.

Older brothers don't flirt with their younger sisters. Ivo was much more akin to an older brother's mischevious friend even if he had good intentions in there as well.

"Why is a katana only sharp on one edge?" Raiya asks rhetorically of Ivo with a pat given to her own weapon. "So that it only cuts one way. What you are doing now is wielding a double-edged sword. It is only inevitable for you to one day be cut by such a blade as long as you wield it recklessly." The sword metaphor may be lost to Ivo, but Raiya was a samurai afterall. This was where her mind usually went first.

A suddenly tired looking woman sighs slightly as she adjusts her weight to her left side, her katana hanging lower slightly. "Despite your best intentions, your actions will hurt others. You must already have witnessed some of this already. Please be wary of your flirtations. As harmless as they might seem, they are your double-edged sword when you use them on those with whom trust you." Raiya looks ready to say more, but she ceases in her attack for now.
Ivo Galvan It's not always easy to tell, but the best evidence against Ivo being a womanizer /is/ his attitude toward the Shard Seeker girls: Lily, Leida, Shiki, Sassaral, and even Lenn -- though he's comfortable teasing the elf more than most, as she's a little, well, older -- are all regarded with a platonic affection. Around them, sometimes, Ivo even starts to seem dependable, every once in a while. The only women he's attracted to are the ones that, well, he's brought into the fold himself. But maybe that's the problem. Brotherly affection depends on a certain distance. There are some women with whom he wants to grow closer.

And if everything about the way he comports himself with women, the way he thinks he builds the trust he's looking for, depends on a certain distance...


What is trust, exactly? What does it demand from /him/?

" think she..."

Ivo's not quite so sure anymore.

"...And what about you, Asteria?"

It's a counterattack, but not a diversion from his own fault: an honest question, his voice very low, his eyes soft and focused on her own. He hasn't brought it up since then. So carefully, he hasn't brought it up. Training by her side, restraining himself from his usual jokes, lest it be brought up, lest it damage what they already have and confuse what they need to do-- the memory of what happened that night.

"Have I hurt you?"

He thought he'd be terrified to ask this question.

"Could I?"

But, strangely, he feels somehow-- perversely-- hopeful.
Raiya Fujihara Raiya has seen this before. An opponent attempting a late parry to turn aside her blow, hoping to redirect it. The problem is that Raiya is not going to be so easily turned aside.

"I am all too aware that my actions have consequences," begins the samurai in a quiet tone that hints of perhaps regret. "My actions have caused people I trusted to die." The suddenly morbid swordswoman tilts her head to the side as he asks if he had hurt her.

A weary hand is raised and press against Raiya's own forehead before dropping her hand back to her side. "I do not bleed so easily these days." The samurai is frowning now. "Perhaps it was wrong for me to get too close. I should have left such things for the past." Her words are strong and unpleasant. But so is her expression as if some chinks in her armor have just been realized.
Ivo Galvan Consequences, huh?

Ivo lost his mother, then his father, then his world. Somewhere, it's suspended, crystallized in time, and he drifts on without it. The people and things that might have given him purpose had verged on emptiness before the Heartless arrived, and no matter how much he cares, no matter what friends or purposes he binds himself too, it's hard to make sense of loss now. But maybe he's beginning to understand again, every time his closeness to another is threatened, when he's pushed to realize he has to make a choice about what sort of relationship with someone he's supposed to have.

Maybe it's that he always felt powerless, that his failure was predetermined. Maybe that itself became a kind of shield. But Asteria hasn't forgotten the taste of loss. Ivo listens to her in silence. Of course, she is strong, does not bleed easily. And it's not a question of which of them is the stronger. "I know, but..." It's a question of...

When she frowns and speaks, he flinches. The younger man looks briefly as though he's been physically struck, a faintly queasy expression passing over him. "Don't say that," he says quietly, a little hoarsely. "Even if it was just a dream... don't say it was wrong, don't regret it. I wouldn't want... that is, I don't want..." But he trails off. Her harsh words are terrible to him. He doesn't what he doesn't want. But what /does/ he want? Isn't he a man? Isn't this a moment where he proclaims his true desire? But he feels unready, confused, empty.


"I guess we've both got our armor on," he finally says, sagging slightly, eyes dull. "And... for good reason, you especially." Ivo has less of an excuse, and he knows it. "Anyway... you're right. I don't fully understand, but... if I'm committed to not hurting people, I need to ask myself what I really want. I thought I knew, but..."

His uncertainty seems to be worse than he thought.

"...maybe... there'll come a time when we can remove this armor," he eventually says, voice quiet, eyes averted. "...and then... maybe... we'll know."
Raiya Fujihara "Tch." Raiya intones when Ivo speaks of what happened as if it was a dream. Sure it was probably a misspoken word on his word to call what they did a dream. What happen was very real for Raiya, perhaps too real for everything that is going on in their lives.

The cynical samurai now puts on a different set of armor. A smile crosses her lips as she gestures openly with her hands. "Perhaps my tone was too harsh. I sometimes forget my own rigor when it comes to my words. I..." Raiya closes her eyes briefly before reopening them. A new surge of courage pulled from somewhere within. "This is why I worried that I had gotten too close. I should have spoken about this before that night. What you do is unfair and unkind to others." The blonde samurai tsks at herself before reengaging. "Again, I speak with an implicit stiffness to my tone and for that, I am sorry."

Raiya glances back to where Maira and Faruja were resting. "I know you mean no ill. I am merely reminding you that people will be hurt by your words. And some are ill-equipped to handle that. Not everyone is a veteran soldier who can take a blow on the chin from time to time." The samurai shifts her feet uncomfortably now. "And one like yourself might be better suited to care for the needs of those who have those vulnerabilities."
Ivo Galvan A small tragedy, the chasm between them, the irony of their attitudes toward that new year's night. Because for Ivo, too, what happened was more real than this, than their relation of student and teacher, than anything-- but precisely because of that, to admit it was more than a dream would be to shatter this false reality. Thinking it's Raiya who needs what they shared to be a dream, who needs to focus on war and not on love, Ivo is too fearful and too confused to declare it otherwise. Just don't say it didn't happen, he thinks, don't say it was a mistake; it can have the barest substance, as long as it stays true. But of course, it's a farce to say it's for her sake. What's he actually afraid of? If he presses her on what that night meant, and she says it meant nothing--

That thought is too awful for words. It can mean anything, as long as it doesn't mean nothing, is what Ivo thinks to himself. But that only serves to disguise that, deep down, Ivo himself doesn't know what it meant, and isn't ready to decide. That 'anything' is safest for now. Keeping it as 'anything', not pinning down what it meant, just continuing on and leaving possibilities open, is--

Unfair and unkind.

"No, I... you're right," Ivo murmurs, unable to meet his teacher's gaze, "you're right." He's silent for a moment. "I thought not hurting people was just a question of technique," he eventually says, eyes distant. "But I may be going about this all the wrong way."

He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. Fatigue, forestalled by the seriousness of his interaction with Raiya, crashes into him like an avalanche, so much so that he actually sways on his feet. Opening his eyes, he manages a slight, woozy smile. "I have to think hard about this," he says. "I may continue to make some mistakes as I figure this out... how not to be unfair and unkind." It doesn't occur to him how few people he'd take that from. He trusts Raiya's advice, and her assessment of him, entirely. "I'm a poor student, but... learning this seems what's most important." Learning how to grow up. Learning to be mature, like Raiya. To finally reach her level, no longer a young man before a grown woman.

Would he feel worthy of her then?

"I'm going to need your advice and perspective, if I fall out of line again," he manages, fading, but showing his resolution. "So please... continue to teach me, sensei."

He still has a lot to learn.
Raiya Fujihara Raiya did not want to push Ivo too hard when it came to these matters and when it came to training. There was a lot on the young man's shoulders that would have surely crushed a lesser man. However, being too much of a soft touch would not help matters either. These were harsh times in which they now lived. Entire worlds were being destroyed and new innocents were slain everyday.

Those that were left. Those who chose to fight could not fail. They had to be stronger, faster, and smarter than their foes.

And they could not be planting seeds that would in time destroy each other. The young man before Raiya could be a stalwart leader in the times to come. He could be so much more than even he might realize....than even what the samurai herself could foresee. She had to keep pushing him on multiple levels.....for her sake...for everyone's sake.

The Ronin from Wutai keeps a stern look on her face as she listens to Ivo work through what she told him. "You are not a poor student. You have already learned a lot from me." She attempts to take another small step forward and then brings a closed fist towards Ivo's chest. She then gently outsretches two finger and tries to press them against his chest while she looks up now to make eye contact with him.

"You still have much to learn from me, yes. But not all lessons will be as harsh as this one." Her fingers linger a moment before she drops them down to her side. "You are strong Ivo. But the Shardseekers need you to be stronger." Her voice drops now and softens."-I- need you to be stronger too."
Ivo Galvan Ivo could not imagine that Raiya thinks so highly of him as to envision him as a future leader. It is difficult enough for him to accept her trust in his fundamental goodness. Even if she told him straightforwardly of her high hopes, he would not be able to believe her. Caught up in fatigue and self-doubt, at first the young knight does not see past his teacher's stern expression. He is still struggling to get to the depths of her accusation that his manner towards women is unkind and unfair. Everyone enjoys themselves, right? Isn't trust built by the pushing of boundaries between people who mean no harm? Yet the memory of Maira's unhappy face from moments ago instills an uneasiness he can't shake.

Trapped between the unwillingness to place his heart in the hands of others and his inability to accept that someone such as him, whatever his merits, is ultimately lovable -- in some ways too proud, in some too ashamed -- he cannot yet grasp what it is about his social ways that hurts others. And why only certain others? Why only the women he cares most about...?

She compliments him then, which stirs the young man back to reality, and he meets her gaze, a little surprised as always. He is never able to expect her kindness, and it always touches him. "Asteria..." He has learned a lot. Even his attitude toward swordsmanship is changing. His style always frustrated him as an imitation of his father's, and he vacilated between making it more aesthetically refined to suit his own personality and trying to make it live up to his ideal. But the addition of his teacher's techniques, pursued at first to get closer to her and because it was interesting, have begun to make his fighting style something else entirely, what it could not have been before. And more importantly, though he was always diligent (however much he pretended not to be), he has come to enjoy the practice on a level he never quite understood before.

There's something at the end of this road, he knows it, but he doesn't know what. He wants to follow it. He wants to make her proud. He wants to be worthy of the trust she's bestowed upon him, and to understand what it is she sees.

Raiya may feel his heart quicken at her words, through her fingers placed upon his chest, and though his soft expression does not change as he meets her gaze, his cheeks flush subtly at the memory of a lesson less harsh. A sense of yearning seizes him unexpectedly, but just then she lowers her hand, and Ivo is left staring as her last words are spoken, quieter than before. Some part of him knows, of course, that she relies upon him. But hearing his elegant swordmistress say it makes his blood rush through his veins, feeling a heat that Ivo -- curious and self-possessed, charming but often distant -- rarely experiences.


He steps forward unthinkingly, even though the two of them are already so close, and his arms reach out as though they have a life of their own.

"...I won't let you down."

And should he be allowed to, his arms will wrap about her, pulling her close into a warm embrace, succumbing to a desire for intimacy that normally he might repress, and finding himself nestling his head next to her blonde hair.

"I promise."
Raiya Fujihara No one knows what the future has in store for them. But Raiya knows that a new generation of leaders must rise. With worlds being destroyed and innocents being preyed upon by Heartless, a new sort of strength will be needed. And should this strength faill then the future will be bleak indeed.

Raiya Fujihara knew she was not one of these leaders. She was a samurai, a servant. Her destiny was to use her sword to destroy her enemies or die in the attempt. It was not her destiny to be a leader like she thinks Ivo will become. And why not? There was a nobility to his soul, he had skill with a blade, and also had a cult of personality around him. All he needed was an army behind him and the Shard Seekers were shaken up to perhaps become that one day.

But Ivo was also no perfect as no one was. And Raiya was no master blacksmith. There was only so much she could teach, so much she could forge out of the swordsman before her. And then, he would have to find his own fate.

There were grave matters that Raiya still needed to tend to; battles that needed to be fought and wars that needed to be won. She would not be able to do it alone....she would not be able to it -successfully- by herself. And yet, she felt that success was maybe not her destiny either. But what about Ivo? What about herself? What about them?

What Ivo has to say to Raiya next brings back memories and reopens old wounds within Raiya. Her eyes close momentarily as something in her wants to cherish a moment like this. That she has potentially found somone else you cared about her in a way that few did. But Raiya's eyes reopen. She could not indulge in such fantasies anymore. A hand is raised to protest Ivo getting closer, but it is half-hearted in her defense and does not Ivo from getting closer in the end.

"We are not alone," points out Raiya softly. They were indeed still in the middle of the cafe that housed Maira and Faruja not too far off from them. "And we cannot ignore Maira." They could not or atleast should ignore that she was both here and a factor in all of this somehow.
Ivo Galvan The future is open, and for Ivo, thanks to the new friendships he has found and the new possibilities tethered to them, many paths are available, some glorious, some tragic. But right now there is only the present, and in the part of the cafe the two of them have stepped into, dangerously close to where the napping Faruja and the fire mage tending to him still sit, Ivo allows himself to sink into Raiya's soothing aroma, pulling her close to him, unashamed.

'I want to be close to her.' That was all he had thought, were that impulse to be given coherent form. It was a pure desire, even innocent, from a young man otherwise so deliberate. It /could/ have been a hug between friends, potentially. But now that he /is/ close to her, he realizes that what had been a slight resistance from her, which he hadn't even noticed at the time, has been overcome. All at once, a powerful masculine urge struggles to supplant Ivo's prior open-hearted motives; the thought that this strong and admirable woman would yield to his touch intermingles with the memory of her body. It's just for a moment, but his posture subtly changes without his realizing, his embrace tightening slightly, and his head moves, cheek brushing against hers, breath warm against her hair. Ah, why must it be the women he most cares for with whom his self-control grows lax?

Well, maybe it's understandable.

Raiya's warning is thus well-timed. Ivo blinks and reluctantly masters himself, pulling away and looking at his teacher's face again, taking a step back from her body but not removing his hands from her sides just yet. "That's right," he murmurs. "I mustn't be unkind... or unfair." He pauses for a moment, then grins. "So, in the name of fairness, I should embrace Maira too, right?"

A moment passes.

"I'm joking," he assures her. "It's a joke."
Raiya Fujihara Raiya is still very much human in the end. But, this was neither the time or the place to be acting like lovebirds. Especially when there was unresolved tension and unsaid conversations to be had about this very subject with a person only a couple of feet away. Whatever urges Ivo felt would have to be curtailed until such matters were resolved one way or another. If not, they were all playing with fire and perhaps a quite literal fashion since Maira was a fire mage afterall.

The blonde samurai sees little humor in Ivo's 'joke'. His insistence that it was indeed a joke does little to help his cause too. Her eyes nearly roll back into her head at Ivo's reaction or perhaps his self-defense mechanism kicking into place. "Think about what I have said. You may be better off taking the warmer, kinder path." She says stoically as her eyes divert down towards the ground and the samurai turns to leave the cafe now, her piece said.
Ivo Galvan Ivo just wanted to inject a little levity! It's not as though the involuntary expression of physical desire is something he feels the need to cover up or distract attention from. ...Okay, it's a self-defense mechanism.

"Ah, Sensei..."

The young swordsman raises his hand slightly, hinting at his unwillingness to be parted from her, but Raiya has better sense than he does. She looks away from him and turns to withdraw, and he lowers his arm, blue eyes briefly wistful. "Yes..." The warmer, kinder path, huh? But what can he do? Is it just a matter of reading people's vulnerabilities better, of not being as mischievous with the more sensitive, of holding back his fundamental urge to make situations 'more interesting'? It feels like he's still missing something important, something that makes his relationships with women like Maira and Raiya different from others.

Somehow, against his own uncertainty, he is hopeful that there is some way to be himself without harming others, that the way he lives -- however pesky at times -- is fundamentally worthy. But what is it he really wants?

Looking from Raiya's retreating back to the table at which his friends sit, and then back to Raiya again, it is that question which stirs within Ivo again. What does he want? To return to his home world and face his fate? To shake off the shackles of his past and at last be free? To fight alongside these new friends? To learn what it is to love? Somehow, Ivo gets the sense that until his heart, wavering between Darkness and Light, knows what it most yearns for, he won't be able to be the man that any of these women deserve.

"...I'll think on it."

But perhaps it is they who will help him decide.
Raiya Fujihara Appearing flustered, unsure, or even too emotional at this junction would undo much of the work Raiya has done or atleat she thinks so in her mind. Ivo not following her was also a lucky chance of fate. They were not gone too long that anything could really be suspected and Raiya was able to plant the seeds that she wanted to.

The samurai had not even considered that Ivo would ever fall into darkness. She spoke of a more base and less dramatic choice. Her stoic sensibilities and tragic path versus Maira's youthful exuberance and happy demeanor. Ivo would most likely be able to find happiness with Maira than with her. Maybe it was for the best that she pushes him away now.

Raiya's thoughts on what must be done in Wutai were not pleasant ones. She did see any outcome in which did not end in tragedy. But there were greater things at stake than Raiya's own foolish happiness, than her own foolish life.

The ronin stops near the entrance of the cafe and turns so that she is silhouetted against the door leading outside. Thoughts of what could never be run through her head as she slowly turns and departs the cafe for good.

This scene contained 34 poses. The players who were present were: Ivo Galvan, Faruja Senra, Raiya Fujihara, Maira