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Finding Grace; Personal Saga | Grace
Topic Started: Jan 2 2018, 03:29 PM (380 Views)
Shinaki Honjo
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This was probably the longest Shin had remained in one place. Truthfully, she had left quite a few times, but her feet led her back here with a reliability she was unused to. What was it about Grace? For all intensive purposes she should have disliked this place, but she had learned to never judge something based on one thing, even if it was a really annoying thing. Juch had brought her here and shared with her all his wealth. She had been to all the parts of Querenci, and even the space station Kettle I.

When that lost her interest she had gone with Daji to see the snow in what was the former St. Vincent. She had traveled now through Judif, seen the castle in Eri, and the fanciest of armors. She had played at Beerus’ mansion and eaten tons of good food. She even traveled into Biscopo and seen the beautiful northern cities that had survived the Reaping without too much harm, to the cities that had already been rebuilt such as Kaino, though its tourism business was very slow now. She had worked construction for a day further south, and all in all disappeared a bunch at a time. She ended up back in Querenci without realizing it and always landed back on Daji’s doorstep.

She was getting antsy again when she suggested he travel with her this time. Her feet were practically itching and this time she wanted to go where he wanted least to go, directly south. He likely agreed to ease his own worries but Shin didn’t mind. They traveled south, taking zig zags through the beautiful forests that had barely been touched to the well worn paths of pilgrimage to the Western Temple.

Somehow she took them safety pass it with a wide berth, though still close enough that the stronger psychic energies could be felt like a soft pressure. She seemed to notice it, sticking her nose up like an animal catching a scent, but in the end she looked back down to her feet that led her away from it. There was something more interesting than the Western Temple, something or someone she wanted to meet more than the beautiful Sun.

Daji had explained about Grace. She didn’t really get it all the way, and he had to explain it more than once. The planet was sentient, and all the psychic ley lines were due to the power of a Titan. She knew what a Titan was from her time on Kanassa. They were the strongest telepaths ever after all, but they flew much too close to the sun. That made sense to her. In some places the psychic fields felt almost as strong as the Forest of Illusion. Something had to be empowering that.

And yet, she didn’t feel any sentience. She was used to telepathic forces, ghosts that lingered in the forest, spirits that were strong enough to touch the living, but she did not feel anything like that on Grace. There were beasts like the creature in St. Vincent, though none of its power, but she could not find some overreaching connective force. In fact, the world felt disconnected, like the energy had turned into a fog instead of a carefully nerved map.

If she had come here before the Reaping, things would have been different. Before the events of the war that tore Biscopo apart and turned Malifore into dust, there had been connection. Grace was the planet and thus connected with everything on it. What few people knew was that after the Reaping, she had disconnected from it entirely. She had taken a human body and become mortal. There were clues of course, like the fields, but most knew of Grace’s ridiculous whims, and no native would ever believe she would step down from her godlike position.

Shin couldn’t sense Grace to the point she almost didn’t believe what Daji was saying, and it was probably why she made him explain it so many times. She knew her shishou was not a liar, and actually knew quite a lot about Grace and everything going on, so that left her with quite the mystery. It stayed on her mind as she traveled, but before now there was no real place to go to solve it. Her feet didn’t lead her to Sun, because Sun didn’t know anything either. They didn’t send her to the Northern Temple because the clues there would not be anything she could put together towards Grace. Maybe towards what had actually happened, but she didn’t actually want to know what she would find out there because it would tie to Yan Cass.

Today was different however. She didn’t realize it, that was not a part of her ability. She was always able to find the right path to whatever she wanted, so long as it existed. It worked at a subconscious level however, which meant that it didn’t always lead her to what she thought she wanted or even knew she wanted. While the mystery of Grace lingered on her mind, she had no idea that the mystery would be solved today. She had no idea where they were going and that added to the adventure!

The Holy Land was a beautiful place, untouched in many places. At the southern point were the mountains, and traveling through them added to the majesty of it all. At the top they could look down on everything...but there was nothing to see further to the south. Even the mountains still in radius of Grace’s destruction had been shattered and crashed down to smaller mounds and broken rock. The skies were still a little darkened here, and the ground below was nothing but sand and ash.

”Wow,” she let out, pressing the side of her hand to her brow to block out non-existent sun. ”The desert?” she asks, completely ignorant to what had happened despite the many hints. Such information didn’t really stick with her until she needed it, and she didn’t need it even now. Before Daji could counter she was hopping down the mountain and towards the Deadlands.

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Daji
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Shinaki was... well, even now, the Kitsune found her hard to describe. Free-spirited, a quality he appreciated, though that quality made her give in to her wanderlust a lot more frequently than he might have liked. He enjoyed seeing new sights and exploring new things, just as she did, but it was like Shinaki Honjo refused to grow roots anywhere--like it would be anathema to her being, her freedom being more important to her than Daji could ever understand. That's what she had wanted, wasn't it? The strength to be free, to go wherever she wanted, whenever she wanted, regardless of circumstances. In the time since they had met, he had finally managed to teach her the basics of martial arts--at least so far as he understood them--so her safety was... well, it would be wrong to say that he wasn't worried, but at the same time, he felt more confident that she would, at least, know what she was doing in a fight. She had the ability to find things, anything she desired, even if she did not know herself what it was that she wanted (usually food), and as far as the Fox was concerned, that ability seemed to see her safely out of danger about as often as it seemed to get her into trouble in the first place. Slippery, that one.

This time, she had managed to surprise him. Even when his sense of hearing, scent, and sight were keener than hers, finding her walking towards his dojo and house, again, was something that had taken him a little off-guard. She kept coming back, almost as bewildered as he was, which meant there was, indeed, something that she still wanted on this planet, if not of himself. There were still things to teach her, of course--she was not a Shinobi, yet, not by his own standards--and yet it wasn't his teachings that she wanted. A traveling companion, as it would turn out, was what she ended up realizing she wanted. She wanted to travel across the planet of Grace more, to see it all before she finally quit the planet. He had thought her long gone before she showed up at his doorstep, but he never allowed anything other than a warm smile to greet her, followed by a cup of tea. If nothing else, Hayami's teachings in brewing the stuff were finally rubbing off on him--and certainly with Shinaki Honjo, they both seemed to learn something whenever they travelled.

Despite his preparations, however, much to Shinaki's immediate chagrin, it wasn't until they had followed her seemingly-sentient feet that the Kitsune's mood had started to veer more towards alarm and concern, rather than the usual joys of exploration. For Shin, she was always happy to be somewhere new, somewhere exotic and surprising, but Daji knew what direction they were going--he had long since figured out how to navigate by Grace's lights--the road south leading towards two areas he would rather they never travel. Even as he tried to explain things--things about Grace and Ninjitsu, but mostly Grace--it was clear that his concern kept growing as they travelled, finding it difficult to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature when they were so clearly headed for places that should not be so casually strolled up to.

The first of those areas was the temple in the West. Sun's home, her solitary vigil, still stood firm towards the shore of the continent, yet the Kitsune managed to breathe a sigh of relief when Shinaki's feet pointed elsewhere, away from the Titan's abode. He still needed to visit her again, his mind still lingering on that painful loneliness she suffered through, despite the resolution of her cause. She did it out of love for another, Grace, but for want of someone else to talk to, to be with, her personality had turned almost cold. He had never gone back, not since that day... and it was because of that day that he still felt the hesitation in his body from going back there. He could visit her at any time--Winter was setting in, and now that the harvest was over, there was no reason to tend to the land--but he kept finding his own feet planted to the ground.

Would she even welcome him? Or would she kill him for returning? That fear gripped in his heart for long moments until the path turned away from the temple, easing up on the weight in his guts, and yet he was not happy--it still left another unresolved task in his mind, something that he would need to face again in order to truly move on from that day. The day that everything changed--the air had smelled strange after that day, the planet had an odd shift to it, and even as the Kitsune had adapted to it once again, it was clear that something had changed. He knew not what it was--only that it had. Had the destruction of Malifore reflected a change in Grace's attitude as well? It was hard to say--even Juch did not seem to be fully in control of what Grace did or said, only that he could hear her.

The psychic energy of Sun alone... it had noticed Shin's change in mood and stance when she had felt it too, so far away from the temple, yet she picked up on it like a hound, much like Daji had done when he had first sensed it. The psychic leylines of this world were due to the power of a Titan, namely Grace, and guarding those leylines also meant that Sun could tap into them--but he knew just how powerful Sun was. It wasn't a matter of if she could dig into you, but when. Even as they turned the corner away from the temple, the Ninja Master paused in his trek for a moment, turning towards the Temple--as if he could see it straight on from here--and contemplated sending a short message to Sun. She was powerful enough to receive it--there was no doubt to that. So he merely told her he would return eventually--to expect him soon. He did not specify when--only that he did not forget her.

Shinaki continued to lead the way, the pair of them making camp when the darkness set in, allowing Daji to keep practicing his cooking and using his ninja arts to provide what they needed--sometimes it was water, other times it was food, or a camp fire--but oddly enough, they were not beset by the creatures of the land. They were able to hunt a few times, yet the more dangerous creatures seemed to give them a wide berth; Daji decided to count his blessings rather than regret the lack of combative moments to teach Shinaki further. If she was to travel so much, she would need as many lessons about wandering the galaxy as the Kitsune could provide, anyway. Her senses were alert, that much was certain, as if she were searching for something, searching for some... clue? Hers was a mind difficult to pin down, much like her feet.

Their travels took them through the southern mountains, and Daji felt his mood begin to decline again, knowing what was on the other side of them. He grimaced lightly as they walked along, Shinaki pausing here and there to look upon the wonder of the mountains, yet Daji's mind was focused on the solitary thing before them--inescapable nothingness to the southeast. He pushed his perceptions as far as he could in that direction, and as before, there was nothing: no life, no nature, no thoughts. Only the domineering absence of anything and everything there, like a gap, a wound, in the world. As they reached the top, he found himself grimmer still, looking down towards where their road continued on, looking on the desolation of the Deadlands.

The scar that once was Malifore, a strong civilization unto itself, the pride of the southern side of the continent--wiped out in a single instant. Destroyed by the wrath of a deity that was not to be trifled with, annihilated in retaliation for hubris and pride. He stiffled a sob as he looked upon it, a blanket of grey ash and bland dust--there was no life out there, no oasis, no plants, no animals, no people. He pushed his thoughts as far as he could, and yet like an empty ravine, all he heard were echoes of his own voice. Even the mountains that had stood, tall and strong, had been shattered by Grace's overwhelming power. What once had stood, strong, proud, stable, had been cowed in an instant...

...and it was so hard not to blame himself for it. Even after all the talks and the lessons, it was still so hard not to think, if he had done something different, this could have been avoided. If he had let Finn go, no one would have died that day. But this was the future he had chosen... and now, to look upon it, he so desperately wished he had taken the alternative. He took a deep breath as he closed his eyes, standing upon the high peak, collecting his will before they inevitably travelled the course of their journey. Whatever reason Shin's feet saw fit to bring them here, it meant there was something worth finding... somehow.

Shinaki raised her hand to block out the sun, looking across the horizon upon the desolation, wonderment in her voice as she remarked upon the desert before them. She began to hop down the side of the mountain towards it, eager to look upon this new place she had never before witnessed, before Daji could even reach out to her. She bounded and leaped, looking towards the horizon that her eyes were always glued towards. The Kitsune took one step forward before he flashed into disappearance, the rapid speed he suddenly pushed out until he managed to arrive in front of her, placing a hand between her breasts to halt her, a serious look upon his face.

"Shin..." he started, his face grim as he looked over his shoulder towards their destination. Was this necessary? Now that she had seen it, she would never relent in her need to explore it, not until she found what it was that she wanted--even if she didn't know what it was--which meant turning back now would be more difficult than pushing ahead. That was never the question--the lesson was what was important now. "This isn't a playground--it's not just any desert. It's a graveyard," he said, gesturing towards the Deadlands with his other hand before it reached into his bag. He produced two shawls and veils for them to wear, protection for their heads and eyes against the heat of the Ki-induced sun above them. The sky was a little dark, but it was important to convey this lesson all the same.

"Here, wear this--it will protect your eyes from the light reflecting off of the ground, as well as your head from the heat. This... this is what people call the 'Deadlands'. All this... all you see before you, it used to be a thriving civilization. There used to be trees, rivers, plants, people, cities here... and it was all wiped away in an instant. By... by Grace herself. See how the sands look oddly colored? They don't look yellow or brown or white--they look grey. Those are the ashes of the dead and destroyed--make sure you cover your mouth as well, so you don't breathe any of that in. It might be toxic," he explained as he removed his hand from her person and put on his own ninja coverings upon his head, masking all but his animal eyes.

"These lands... people say they're now cursed, imprinted with the last wishes of those that died. Mirages will try to play tricks on our eyes, the wind will make us hear things... we may even be attacked here. Here," He said, pulling out a strange rune that she would not have seen before--no, a pair of them. He affixed one to the collar of his travelling Kimono while placing one on the collar of her jacket. "If we get separated, use some ki on this and make the hand gesture for 'friend'. Follow the path it makes--it will lead you to me. And... here's a spare rune for water," he said, passing her a far more familiar rune, meant for making fresh water for drinking. It was the desert after all.

"I know you're eager... but this place is dangerous. When you're ready, we'll go forward."

WC: 2111 / 2111 / 3136
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Grace
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The tide came and then it left, wetting the bare feet of the mortal woman. Grace’s black hair draped over her body and was the only covering for her. She was bare to the world and did not show shame just yet. There was no cold around her to make her shiver, save the cool of the waters that touched her toes. The sands that she sat down on were nice and grey and she didn’t take much thought into why it was that color at first. Actually, what was she thinking about? In her mind, she was picking up from the very last thing she did and that was annihilate an entire country of folk. There were many innocent that paid for mistakes of their leaders and that was how war was.

Grace sighed it all out and there was a few tears that dripped from her. These mortal feelings, damn them. Alas, that was the past and she couldn’t dare dabble in that for too long. For now, her body rose from the ground and sands dripped from her bare skin. There was a reason she wanted to become mortal and shed herself of her former skin, but unfortunately she was foggy on her previous motives. Her green eyes searched the waters for any sign as to why this was the option she chose. Could the water tell her? Grace moved a little closer to the water and looked down towards the reflection. This was the second time she was able to see herself and it was very weird seeing herself outside the Astral Realm.

This was the original body she held before being turned into a planet by her father. “Huh… I’m still fuzzy on why I wanted this. Really want to say it was to avoid responsibilities and something childish like that. But, there just feels like there is something a little more.”

Her eyes closed and another deep breath came out of her mouth wedging her lips open. The sands danced around her and her presence of ki became thicker and more apparent within the Deadlands. It definitely would not be hard to pin point her because she was the only thing alive around here. She was feeling every ounce of her body and soul and seeing just how big she was in this body. Grace could feel that she had retained a lot of power that she absorbed from the countless that had died on her body as a planet.

She stopped exerting her power and presence though, simmering down to a calm state and doing so calmed the sands that started to whip around her. “I recongnize… someone is on the way that I know.” She could taste Daji’s presence, but that wasn’t enough to lure her toward him yet. Even with curiosity ripping at her mind, she retained control over it. Pride made her think he’d come to her instead. Would he?




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Shinaki Honjo
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Shin noticed it, Daji’s concern and almost panic. Despite how it sometimes seemed, she did have a good amount of empathy. She could sense his anxiety and it sat on her back like a weight, and yet she knew this was the right thing to do. Her feet had led her to Daji before they started itching for the south, and had done so almost immediately upon finding him. He was meant to be coming along with her. It was what she wanted, and since it wasn’t forefront on her mind that she really wanted a traveling companion, it was probably something deeper.

Her normally loopy brain began to put the pieces together. She remembered clearly what he had said about Grace, and the event that had disrupted the planet as a whole. This wasn’t something she could always say. Her mind was an infinite storage system of information. Everything she saw and heard and felt was stored down to the most minute detail, and with her psychic abilities sometimes that was lifetimes of memories from other people. If she kept every single memory she came across, she would probably go insane. Her airheadedness was its safety setting. Her mind stored everything, compressing it from her forefront thoughts, and gave her access only to what she needed. This, once again, was a bit more subconscious than she liked, but she had grown used to it.

Maybe she was naturally airheaded as well though. She remembered all these details about Grace from Daji and the other people she had come across on her travels but she didn’t put together where she was going. She was more concerned with Daji and the sights she would otherwise miss if she focused too much on the end location. It was the journey that was often more important wasn’t it?

So she sensed his anxiety and chose to ignore it. She wasn’t good at comforting people, especially when it came to worrying. She only worried about serious things and in those times it was only quelled by action and trust. Daji would have to trust her, and so far he was doing so, but it seemed to make his anxieties worse before better. When she walked ahead of him her face scrunched up occasionally to shake them off, and then she usually found something else to catch her interest to ignore them once again. He wasn’t making her anxious per se, it was simply uncomfortable because her friend was uncomfortable and there was nothing she could do about it. The best she could do was keep her upbeat demeanor, which was perhaps easier than it should have been considering.

She kind of wished she had left him behind to a point, but had to keep herself from snickering at the fact that this wish did not align with her truest desires. How sneaky.

He stopped in a step around the same time she felt that particularly interesting energy. She wanted to go that way, but she trusted her feet much more. Maybe they could stop there on the way back, because she heard it too, soft and still, his message to Sun, though the reply he received in turn was hidden from her, though she knew one was made.

It was a simple reply. All Daji would feel was warmth. There was no clear answer as to whether she actually wanted him to return. The warmth was not welcoming per se, though it was not a warning to her flames either. It was the soft kind of warmth that comforted you on cold morning, like sipping tea or moving into a more heated room. It did not beckon him, but it was meant to put him at ease. Like Yan, she did not blame him for the events that transpired during the Reaping. She saw into his mind so deeply, she knew his intentions had not been for harm. He was like a child led astray and she could not fault that, even if he kept her from properly punishing the true criminal.

She wanted Icarus to come back quite a bit, but that was an entirely different matter. Daji was...kind, and she recognized it, but she did not need him. Truthfully, she had bigger concerns, problems that lingered after the Reaping, and ones he might be able to explain better to her after this day, because there was still somewhere more important for them to be.

The night passed on, and their journey continued and it seemed like Daji’s anxiety had finally passed, putting her in an even more chipper mood. Seemed was appropriate though, because as they continued south it welled up again. It finally came to a head when they reached the edge of the mountains. His anxiety switched to being completely unsettled but this time she did not completely catch it, her focus so fixed on the sight before them. She called it a desert but she knew that wasn’t the case, which was why she so wished to explore, and in the end went ahead before Daji could stop her.

Well, she thought before. He used all his speed and ability to pop in front of her, his palm planting between her breasts and a more serious expression on his face than she had yet seen. Her smile vanished in an instant, as she looked at him with serious eyes. He explained his trepidation, and her own hand lifted to cover his and it was as if all her childlike wonder had vanished and she had finally grown up. It was not his announcement of what this place was. She didn’t have much respect for the dead. It was almost a look of judgement on her master who had followed her all the way here and now tried to stop her by treating her as a child. She was an adult, even if she didn’t always seem as such.

Her gaze softened as he moved to explain, though she took the veil reluctantly.

”Daji…” she says after a moment. ”You’ve kept company with a God of Destruction. This same wasteland is what St. Vincent’s would look like if Whis had not smoothed it over.” It was a hard truth, but she could feel guilt woven in his words and she didn’t understand it. St. Vincent’s was much more their fault than the wrath of Grace against people who had gone out of their way to betray her. Sure, this was larger scale, but death was a part of life, in whatever shape it came in. In this world, people that could slaughter an entire continent, an entire world, in the blink of an eye were normal. What happened to Malifore was just another page in that book.

”In the Forest of Illusion, tricks and sounds can become very real very fast if you do not have the mental fortitude,” she continues, giving him another pointed look. ”I lived there. If there is anything I have, it is mental fortitude,” she says before shifting her gaze to the side, ”even if it doesn’t seem like it.”

She knew he would turn around and explain he knew this about her, or whatever, but that she still needed to be careful, so she took his runes and fixed the cloth over her face to quiet that. Her feet were still itching, telling her to rush, as if the path would close up if she didn’t, but before she could say anything else or adhere to them, she felt it.

Daji would probably feel it too. It was like a beacon in the dark, but the ki itself was not something she had felt before and yet something that felt very familiar as if it were on the tip of her tongue. Grace was in her original body which was human but not the type of human they knew. She was something prehistoric now, and her ki felt different, wrong to a nose that was so used to oranges smelling like oranges. That familiarity that Shin could not place was a feeling that the planet itself had, in the ki ball of sun and the life that spawned naturally across her. Grace had been this planet, and even now that she wasn’t, her presence lingered in it like the scent of a past lover. It was only something a lover would recognize, as it was soft and almost discreet, hidden in the waves and the wind. Now Grace was releasing it in its purest form and like a diamond cut, it was almost completely unrecognizable, so it stayed on the tip of the mind. Any resident would know it and yet placing how they knew it would be something almost haunting.

’That’s it!” Shin let out, and before Daji could stop her again she was running. Her feet barely touched the dead ground as she headed towards the water. They were not too far from the coast despite avoiding the Western Temple. Somewhere in the mountain trails they had ended back towards it, and the sound of waves would carry soon enough. Grace was still quite far away however, a good bit further to the south, but with nothing to see in these lands but death, ash, and sand, the snake would not get as easily distracted.

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Shinaki’s logic was hard to ignore or avoid—she was right in that regard; he knew the God of Destruction, Beerus, his attendant, and a few other people of unbelievable power. It was hard not to admit that the events in St. Vincent’s had been very similar to what they were looking at now, right down to the ash on the ground and the foreboding feeling in the air. If anything, it was just a bigger version of the devastation that Beerus had unleashed upon the creature that had been assaulting their minds so powerfully… in a way, he could have blamed himself for that, too, since he had not been able to find a conclusion that did not end in everyone’s death. So then… why did that feel so different than this? Why did the Deadlands weigh so much heavier on him than St. Vincent’s? Was it because he saw what happened first hand, or because he had been fighting against that which was destroyed later on? What… no, even he couldn’t grasp what she was trying to imply here, shaking his head to clear the confusion from his head.

She certainly looked a little cross with him, and her expression looked that way, at least a little. There was more to her expression as well, obviously, but looking into her eyes, he didn’t see resolution or serious consideration—she was irritated at him for stopping her, or maybe there had been another reason. He felt like that simply shouting up to her would not have gotten her to stop so he could give her what she might need for the trek ahead, and yet maybe that was the issue—that she had trusted him to go with her on this journey, only for him to get in the way of her progress. Was that it…? Was he just holding on too tightly to her…? Even the Kitsune was not sure, trying to grapple with these thoughts and emotions so suddenly, but she moved on with the conversation all the same, speaking about the forest of illusion and how the place had definitely hardened her resolve. Tricks of the wind and eyes weren’t going to work on her, and the Fox Master felt almost embarrassed at that fact—if anything, she was probably far more prepared and toughened against what they might face than he was. Behind his own ninja veil, he locked his jaw and grimaced hard—not at her, but at himself.

She was right—there was no real cause to worry so much, not when she had already been through so much, but then… then why did he feel this foreboding sensation, even still? He looked out towards the ashen desert and felt something weigh his guts down like a rock, an unspoken trepidation in his sixth sense regarding this place as a whole. She might not have seen it as a sacred or cursed place, just another road to travel upon… maybe she was right, that there was no cause for concern, but he could not shake the shiver that tried to tingle up and down his spine and tail.

He wanted to explain more, opening his mouth to do so, but she took the veil and runes from him without another word, affixing the cloth around her face and head for protection—though he was not sure if she was just doing it because he asked or if there was another reason. He didn’t want her to get sick breathing the dust of this land in, and he nearly said as much—and then the tingling across his mind could be felt, a familiar type of sensation as he felt someone’s spirit energy spike up dramatically. The presence was not near—they were closer towards the coastline towards the south, a fair distance away—and yet the power of the presence was enough to alert their senses like a giant beacon, signaling to others where the presence was located at. The Kitsune found himself honing in on it, quickly, before it started to fade downward again, not necessarily alarming, but considering his every impression of the Deadlands had been just that—everything had been slain and destroyed—he was surprised to sense anyone out there in the first place. He felt stunned for a moment… not just because he felt something out there, but…

…it was familiar, too. Something about the spirit energy felt… ancient, foreign, exotic, and yet there was this familiarity with it that left him trying to figure out who it was. What it was. It felt like a human’s power, and yet it was… grander than that. Like there was something else added on top of a human being’s spirit energy that was amplifying it, honing it into something new and unknown. But there was something else to it as well; a quality within the aura felt like something he had sensed on Grace every day he had come here, a familiarity with it that felt like something he was used to, and yet now that it was amplified and focused like this, he looked upon it with new eyes. What… what was this sensation? He tried to run through his memory of people he had met… and even then, the closest power he would have said would have been Sun’s, and yet even this was… it was somehow different than Sun’s as well.

Was… was this another Titan? Another guardian? Or something else? He wanted to continue to examine the power with his mind, but like a dog-whistle, Shin found her something—she pursued it like a wild animal, bounding and leaping down from the mountains until her feet landed upon the sand and ashes, dashing across the ground in an ever-growing, if thin, cloud of dust in her wake. He did not bother to ask her to wait or delay; the power they had sensed was lowering again, which could mean any number of things. If the spike in energy meant someone was being attacked, then they could not delay at all, and to be out here, in the middle of the Deadlands like this… maybe there was a survivor, by some miracle, that was crying out for help.

Shin would soon find her Sensei land upon the sand next to her as she ran, his feet moving almost in time with hers, his nose and mouth moving in perfect unison to keep his body moving at this speed with an almost effortless air to it. There was no reason to speak now—by Shin’s expression and exclamation, she had certainly found a ‘something’, and by the way she was moving, her feet were certainly being drawn to it, whatever and whoever it was. And if there was someone out here that was in need of their help, they would need to make haste—but the energy had already gone lower than his senses could easily pick up, but now that they knew the direction, there was no need to constantly look upon their compass.

”Follow the coastline—we cannot afford to get lost at this speed,” he shouted over the sound of their rushed breathing and rapidly-moving feet, the Kitsune managing to stay upright in his posture despite his feet sliding around a little due to the sand. It was like a natural phenomenon, like the sands were trying to grab hold of their feet and pull them into the depths of the sands—but Shin’s steps were too light, and Daji moved with merely the touch of his toes upon the ground, and while the soft ground made swift movements difficult, they had trained on this exact same terrain for many, many mornings and afternoons before—if anything, they would be used to this type of terrain by now.

And thus, they followed the coastline as they ran, their only company the roar of the rising tide as it came onto the shores, crashing and clashing with the sands of the dead and destroyed. They ran for a long distance, knowing their direction yet not entirely the distance—and thus, where the sun had began their trek high in the sky, the Ki-infused ball of energy that granted heat to these lands began to set in the distance, casting them in an orange and red light, lengthening the shadows around them and casting odd—if not harrowing—forms upon the ground as they made their way. It was not until the last rays of light were beginning to fade in the horizon, the day giving way to the dark night, when the Fox’s keen gaze beheld a pale figure in the distance, near the shore. He pointed the woman out to Shin, but his student moved with a drive that seemed to defy all forms of pathfinding—her feet knew where to go, pointing it out to her just seemed like a waste, almost. As they approached, it was clear the woman was bereft of clothing—her body was bare to the world, save for the hair that clung to her body. He felt his breath catch in his throat for a moment as they drew closer…

She was… beautiful. It was hard to ignore her radiant, natural beauty, particularly with the way she was dressed (or lack thereof). Already, it was hard to ignore her, and Shin would likely feel the same way as well, but as soon as they were within shouting distance, the Ninja Master shouted out towards the woman. ”Are you okay?” he asked the woman they were approaching, and only until they drew to a close did their feet finally slow, the Fox’s legs and sides beginning to burn from the strain of moving so swiftly and for so long. He was not completely winded, but it was clear he was not quite used to going so far, so fast, so abruptly. He should have made Shin stretch a little first…

But there would be time for that later. ”Miss… what are you doing out here?” he asked the woman as he caught his breath, stopping just outside of arm’s reach as he walked around the woman in order to meet her eyes with his, to take in her face and gaze and find out who she was and what she was doing out here. ”Are you alright?”

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There were two, she knew that already, but the closer they got the more she could realize the two. They were all gun-ho and rushing toward Grace like she was some kind of beacon and it made her wonder how did her power feel to them? The sun gave up the chase with them, but that didn’t stop them from making it to her. Grace didn’t move a muscle yet and waited on them to get to her. It was a long road, but she was there still after all of their trekking. As Daji closed in on her, Grace didn’t know what to think. She could remember him, just like she remembered anyone that lived on her planet.

She enjoyed him and it was for such a childish reason. Grace started to think maybe this was the main reason she had become mortal. His presence gave her butterflies as if it was a celebrity that approached her and easily she turned to face him with her emerald colored eyes falling into his gaze. He asked her if she was alright… what was she doing way out here. He asked again if she was okay and she finally just let it all out. She fell onto the ground, knees imprinting into the dead sands before her hands did and she allowed a wailing to break from her lips. It was such a whine. “I forgot how to fiiish! I’m still hungry!! That bastard Yan left me to diiiie!”


She started beating the sands and almost like a baby, no more like a baby, she started kicking up and rolling in the sands. She was immediately child-like. “I’m still naked! I’m still confused! I don’t remember why I am in this body, and I feel…”

Her voice had gotten deep and filled with comical sorrow. “GUILTY!” Human emotions after not having them for centuries were such a pain and it was hard to keep it all in. She didn’t mean to ruin the majestic moment of them discovering a woman of an ancient race of people, but that was the realism of it. She was a bit childish and then came another moment. Almost like a switch, she realized and remembered who was in-front of her and she gasped to bring-on the change in her attitude. “Innocent Ninja Fox. You were my favorite during the whole Reaping. You were so confused, I liked your drive though, even if you started off working for my opposition.”

Subtle hints were being dropped as to who she was without giving him or her a name. As she did so, Grace’s gaze moved over to Shinaki and her head tilted. “Hello? I don’t think we have ever… met? I don’t recall you being on this planet before. You must be new.”

Grace finally stood up and dusted off the sands once again. There was still a bit of pout in her lips as she looked toward the waters. She wasn’t lying about being hungry as the trumpet of starvation echoed from her stomach in an embarrassing fashion.




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Daji looked like he was about to say something, but he too was cut off by the sudden eruption. Grace’s power wasn’t even all that strong. It wasn’t weak either, probably around the same as Shin and Daji, which all in all, was on the weaker side in comparison to the average Gracelander. The point was that it didn’t have to be strong. Truthfully, Shin wasn’t all that enticed by the strange feeling of the aura or who it might be. She was excited she had found her mark after so long traveling, and that it had appeared with the perfect timing to shut her master up! This had to be her power in its full swing avoiding lecture and serious conversation!

She took off, and it wasn’t long before Daji was by her side bringing a veiled grin to her face. When he said to follow the coast she turned her head to give him another pointed stare. Her? Get lost? If anything they would get lost if they followed the coast when her feet told her differently, but she grinned again at the thought of it and much more enjoyed the view rushing by.

The whole world here was mauled, and the coast was no longer a clean beach. It was a swamp without the plants and wildlife. The ground was super uneven, and pools of water carried farther than the waves. Grace’s explosion had decimated everything, even the coast, and rocked the very world they stood on. Without her to guide it, and Yan not giving a fuck, this led to massive tsunamis that reshaped the coast and brought it much further inland even as the ocean beckoned it back. Lakes were made, the ground was pushed up into new dunes. It was a little mazey.

They probably would have been better off traveling further inland, but Shin wasn’t having it now. While her wants did drive her, she would never forget the journey, and watching the sky change color over ocean and wreckage was beautiful. This was her whole purpose in journeying. She was able to trust her feet to lead her where she wanted to go, but the whole concept only worked because she wanted to walk. She wanted to run, and travel, and explore. That was what made it all worthwhile, because the end result was rarely something that lingered nearly as long, though there were exceptions.

Eventually, there Grace was. She hadn’t moved from where her energy set off, the snake could tell. She had likely felt them and yet did nothing to prepare herself or move towards or away from them. Shin slowed before Daji who still rushed to get close, to make sure the woman was okay, but for Shin the curiosity was simply growing. Why had her feet brought her to this naked woman covered in the dead? It was rare her feet led her to strangers, because even her subconsciousness could not predict how relationships would form, but here they were and here she was.

She let Daji handle it, falling back into a walk as she surveyed the coast in case there wasn’t a massive shark out there that would taste better than anything else she had eaten in her life. It didn’t look like it though. There were fish, but none that called out to her senses.

Almost reading her mind, the woman’s delicate demeanor slipped away as she fell to the ground. It was a pose of absolute crisis, and yet the mind reading came in her next words: I forgot how to fish. Unfortunately, the snake could not focus on that very important statement because the former deity’s next one was to call Yan a bastard and accuse him of leaving her to die.

It was a lucky thing Shin was behind Daji. After hearing it was Yan, every time her master had brought up his warden she had carefully moved the conversation away from him and onto something else. Whereas normally she would be filled with questions about her master’s relationships and the people close to him, under Daji’s radar she completely avoided talking about Yan in length. She also boredly ignored Juturna’s chatter about her former captain. She heard his name spoken in many circles, and it was why fundamentally she should not actually like this planet! But she did everything else on it, and he was gone and avoidable, so she didn’t have to think too hard on it.

But this was probably the last straw. She had been so excited to come here, to find the treasure at the end of the rainbow and it turned out to tied almost directly to Yan Cass. Her face dropped into a dull disgust as if someone had just explained how wonderful poop was. Grace wasn’t even talking positively about Yan but there he was again, in her space like a leach. Maybe she should just leave this dimension after all. It had been her idea to come here, but when the monkey said he had beaten the game here, reached his max level and was bored with it, she did not believe him. Now, everywhere she turned was his presence, touching anything interesting or important. No wonder he was bored.

Grace’s sudden shout pulled her out her haze, and she shook her head to escape the expression, trying to refocus. The girl was literally having a tantrum in front of them, kicking up what had once been people and rolling around in them. It was kind of hilarious. If it were just normal sand it would be merely entertaining, but the dark twist on it made Shin actually laugh. She couldn’t help it, though she covered her mouth afterwards knowing Daji probably wouldn’t appreciate that.

Luckily, Grace’s attention suddenly shifted back onto Daji, her plight forgotten for just a moment. She knew Daji. She knew who he was and what he had done in the time he was most ashamed of. Did that mean she was some leftover member of GRIME, some unworthy survivor? But that wasn’t right either. She was talking like she wasn’t used to being human and it reminded her of Juturna. An android? But she had a aura…

The snake’s head tilted down to her shoulder as she went over the possibilities when Grace addressed her.

”Not really,” she says with all the nonchalance as if she were talking to a merchant in Querenci and not some strange woman in the middle of nowhere--no better yet, in the middle of the biggest piece of death and destruction this planet had witnessed in this lifetime.

”I’ve been here a few months. Long enough to max out Juch’s credit card,” she explains, not realizing Grace would know Juch as well, though it was certainly possible. He was the mayor person, very important. Surprisingly, she did not know Juch’s connection to Yan yet, or she might have jumped ship a long while back.

Saying this brought a realization to her however and her head slowly tilted to her other shoulder now. ”Have you been here since the Reaping?” That couldn’t be right. That had been months ago, and this woman was complaining about not having any food, nor knowing how to get it. There was no way she could have survived here that long and yet...She seemed fixed here somehow. She seemed to fit when everything else was ash. At the same time she looked positively lost.

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Daji failed to notice Shin lagging behind him for the longest moments, mostly due to his fascination and focus on the nude woman before them. He had halted his progress so close to her--not quite close enough to touch--but it was clear when she turned to face him that something was amiss. Her eyes were beautiful yet piercing, and she held a beauty to her that was both ancient and... somehow nostalgic. It was a hard sensation to grasp at first, and he did not have long to dwell upon it.

The woman immediately fell to the ground, wailing in what was clearly some form of enraged sorrow, like a child's whine, yelling that she had forgotten how to fish--Daji opened his mouth to say he knew how to fish, but there was no interrupting what was being said--and that she was still hungry, cursing Yan for leaving her to die, which caused Daji's ears to stand a little higher in surprise and his eyes to widen. How did she know Yan Cass? It seemed like so many people knew him, or knew of him, and yet he still wasn't being given time to absorb all of this--this--

The woman beat the sands with her hands, kicking up and rolling in the filth of the dead and destroyed. He grimaced hard at the display, the anxiety in his gut building up as he had no idea how to control this woman in her tantrum, trying to follow everything that she was saying. She was naked and confused, no idea why she was in 'this body'--which made the Kitsune even more confused--before she roared out in a sorrowful wail of feeling guilty. There was a laugh behind him, and Daji felt his head dip a little in embarrassment, a grimace spreading across his hidden mouth as he looked out the corner of his eye towards Shin--just for a moment--before looking back towards the woman they had found.

Like a light switch, her demeanor immediately changed, suddenly wailing one moment and then calm as a breeze the next, calling him the Innocent Ninja Fox. She stated he was her favorite during the Reaping--he tilted his head at this, wondering how this woman might have known about that--even though he had been working for her opposition. So... so she wasn't with GRIME, but then... who was she? Where did she come from? Had she once lived here, where Malifore once stood? Had she been on of Juch's birds? Had she been working for Yan? Had she been here during the Reaping? How in the world did she survive in a place like this if she forgot how to fish?

His head was starting to hurt...

The woman's attention turned towards Shinaki before he could respond, but then again, the Fox Master was far too disoriented and confused to try and speak a question anyway, all he could do was just ride this wave of seemingly unrelenting nonsense. His student responded, that she had indeed only been on the world for a few months, long enough to--Daji's head hung down a little more with a sigh again, realizing she was far, far too liberal with Juch's money--but she asked the question that hung on his own lips instead.

"That... that can't be right. She would have starved to death out here if that was the case," the Kitsune answered for the woman they had found, but talking still left the now-rising woman naked and hungry. She had complained about both, so he was going to see to her succor. He drew out a winter cloak from his back, thick leather with fur edges, and proceeded to wrap the item around the woman's shoulders so it would cover her all the way down to her ankles. It was not quite cold here, nor was it terribly windy, but it would do for now. For the next part...

He pulled out a smaller satchel that was attached to the side of his pack, untying it before handing it to the woman they had found--inside was still half a loaf of bread, several strands of jerky and ham, and half a wheel of cheese. He also offered her his waterskin so that she may drink from it, and if she took them to eat, he would make sure to take a look around, then up towards the clouds. Now that he was seeing this place, instead of focusing dead ahead, it was clear that this area of the Deadlands was moist and absolutely miserable. The darkening of the skies, along with an approaching group of dark clouds from the south... well, that meant they would need to go further inland, lest they be caught in the storm.

If anything, he needed to find them shelter for the night so they could rest and find out what they could from this woman. But he still couldn't shake what she had said to him. About Yan, about himself... who was this woman. Why did she feel so familiar, like she had been all around him--

Even Shin would notice Daji's form stiffen so suddenly, his ears and tail freezing in place for a long moment as his eyes went wide with an idea, or perhaps a realization. His mouth had suddenly went dry, but... no, there was no way. There was no... way... no way it could... could be... he shook his head ever so subtly before he slowly looked back towards the woman that they had... rescued?... before looking towards her square in the eyes. He had never seen a woman like her before, and she seemed so... regal, almost. It couldn't be...

"Are... are you... Grace?" he asked, barely enough wind in his lungs to voice the question properly before he took in another breath of air, realizing he had been holding it for a long moment--too long of a moment--leaving him to catch his breath again before he took a small step back away from the woman. Nothing like retreating, but definitely taken aback. "How... how else would you... would you know about that? How else would you..." he said, trying to piece it all together, but it almost felt like a leap of faith for a moment before he shook his head. He couldn't think like this.

"Shin," he said, immediately turning towards Shinaki for want of literally anything else to do. "Can you take care of her while I look for shelter? I don't... think we'll find any out here, but there's a storm coming and we will need to find her someplace warm and dry..." he said, cutting himself off when he saw something in Shin's eyes--he wasn't sure what he saw, but there had been... this was not the usual 'hey, I found something cool" face that Shinaki usually made. This was something more...

He couldn't put his finger on it. He shook his head again, trying to make sense of all of this. "N--nevermind, I'll just..." he started, tapping one of the runes on his obi--this one glowing a dull yellow--before he made a hand gesture and placed his hand on the ground. For long moments, nothing happened, but then he pulled his hand up from the ground, and as if he were pulling a root from the ground, a formation of rock and stone sprung up from the ground. It was... well, it wasn't pretty, but it was just tall enough for the three of them to stand in and sleep in for the night, facing away from the approaching storm.

"I'll... start a fire," he said, still trying to come to grips with everything--he needed something to do to take his mind off of it and try and... and try to put things together. He pulled out the second set of wood from his pack--they had used the first one last night--before working his tools to start a small campfire for them.

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The warmth of his coat touched her and she smiled to match its heat. Her emerald eyes bounced between the two of them, but really at the moment she was feeling the coat and realizing how naked she had been. It was only then that embarrassment filled her for the moment. Earlier she was bare, and there was no shame in it initially. But then people were present, now she felt that she was a distraction even though that was not the case. The anxiety washed over her features and as it did she barely heard how Shinaki responded, but she got the general jist of it. The girl was new to the planet and thus Grace did not know her. That was fine, all she needed was one familiar face and that face was extraordinary confused until he seemed to have come to a certain conclusion. That was all after she was offered food and drink which she gladly took with happiness blessing her facial structure. “Thank you,” she said while sipping water and nibbling on the food she was given, all while going to a sit down onto the sand ashes. While she did that, she noticed the change in Daji. It was conviction to knowing who she HAD to be even though it was still confusing as to how she could be the living planet he has heard so much about.

She had to answer though, and truthfully as now was not the time for mind games. She nodded the moment he said her name. “I am Grace.” It was said simply but it was all the confirmation he needed. She wasn’t the one telling him and whether he believed it or not came from his own head. He’d be in confliction with himself rather than with her, all she did was authorize what he already came to conclusion about. Afterwards she looked around to take note of the storm looming over them. That definitely was not good at all. In her past life, in the body that she was in now, she could freeform teleport throughout the galaxy, but as it stood now she was too weak to perform such a feat. As she had gathered on her travels from planet to planet, as a planet, people were able to perform this action almost at will and it was very common.

“Can either of you teleport?”
Even so, if they were to teleport they would miss out on the adventure. Grace started to remember details about herself slowly, and the addiction to exploration and adventure was one of them. Sure they could teleport to safety immediately, or they could explore more and get into absolutely anything and anytime and anywhere. They would still need a destination, which Grace did not know of at the moment, but nonetheless Grace was fine with either decision.

“If not that’s fine, I can do for a walk to stretch these legs.”
She finished pretty much everything but the wheel of cheese and stood up slowly, and dusted off the death sand particles.

“Though I am weary of how my status would be. Last I remember I was considered a war terrorist… a really bad girl.”
Grace looked toward the now lit campfire and the shadows danced around her facial features. It made her slip into an absent minded state, only to be disturbed by someone else’s words.


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Shin passed Daji a pointed look as he tried to answer her question instead of letting the person who it was addressed to. They’d seen way weirder things than people surviving a few months in the desert, and her intuition was pretty good when she tried at it. He went further as to offer Grace her coat, and of course she used this as an excuse to not answer Shin’s question making the snake a tad bit frustrated at the kitsune. When he gave the woman her food, she was just about to smack him, but she took a deep breath and sighed it out.

It was no good turning on each other now but she could not shake a sense of annoyance. She wasn’t new here, but they both wanted to write her off as such. The woman in front of them was behind the times, fixated on an event that happened months before. Because Shin wasn’t there she was almost excluded from the conversation entirely. No one liked that.

And then Daji took a leap. He looked an absolute mess and then he asked if the woman before them was Grace herself. That couldn’t be right. When he said it, the information on the tip of her mind registered. Grace did feel a bit like the planet, but that wasn’t enough to jump to such a conclusion. This woman was weak, helpless, and naked. She wasn’t used to a body when Grace took hosts regularly.

There was a lot running through Shin’s mind, but Daji did not wait for the woman to answer, almost as if he did not want to know it. He asked if Shin would take care of her, but must have noticed her cynicism because he quickly took it back like he did not trust her, making the snake’s expression grow even colder. She let him do as he wished and looked back to the woman in front of her. She said she was Grace, confirming it like she was telling a child yes, the sky is blue. Despite Shin’s coldness to Daji, her gaze was already lighter on the potential liar before them. Grace hadn’t done anything really wrong yet after all.

”I thought when Grace had a temper tantrum…” Shin trailed off, gesturing to the land around her and accusing what Grace did to Malifore as a tantrum. To her that’s what it was. Grace had had all the power in the world, literally, and she childishly took out everything because some went against her. Shin didn’t fault such a thing, quite the contrary, it was just a giant switch from a girl rolling about in dirt and sand.

Grace asked an important question however, if they could teleport. They could escape this place with the right amount of energy, return to the warmth of Querenci with not a lot of trouble. Before Daji could reply however, Shin’s thoughts were in his mind, clear as if she were speaking while completely isolating Grace out. If she was a Titan, she could probably chisel through it and hear the snake, and perhaps that was another test.

”We cannot bring her to Querenci.”

It was a simple fact. They didn’t know who this suspicious woman was or what she wanted. If she was Grace, she was indeed a war criminal who had unleashed hell and fury on an entire continent. They could not risk her temperament in Querenci, especially while neither Juch or Yan was not around to quell her. Shin quite loved Jantellovene, but the woman had a quick temper and too much pride. She would not deal well with the childish woman before them, and that could spell dire consequences. Until they knew what she wanted and what she was capable of, they could not bring her anywhere near Daji and her employer’s home.

Of course, if she was all powerful she could threaten them and make them take her there anyway, but that was not the air this girl was giving off. No, she appeared weak, and helpless, the exact opposite of the picture Shin had of her. The only thing that was on the mark was her childishness. Gods tended to be childish in her experience.

”It’s not as bad as you think,” Shin says, watching her closely now with a calm gaze. ”The Reaping ended with the destruction of Malifore, Grace’s doing. The pieces of GRIME in Querenci disappeared and it was rumored survivors of the war in south Judif gathered at Port Delona only to realize there was nothing left of their home to even rebuild from.”

All this knowledge was true, but it would probably be another shock for Daji to hear it from Shin. How many times had she asked him what had happened with that confused look on her face? Now it sounded like she knew far more than him. She hadn’t been acting though. When she asked she sincerely didn’t remember, but every answer he gave registered somewhere. She had never needed to know the full story until now though, and like a light switch, she easily used his stories along with many others to piece things together.

”They retreated to the last known GRIME territory in North Judif, St. Vincent’s, but the God of Destruction recently did away with them as well. If there are any members left of that faction, they are too weak to do anything of importance,” she continues.

”After Grace’s appearance in Querenci and Juch’s choices, Biscopo cut ties and trade with Querenci, but once the result of Grace’s actions were understood, Biscopo moved back into their place of respecting Grace as the planet, and someone they had no power of, with hopes she would go back to sleeping. Grace’s physical presence would not be welcome there. They would all flee from her like she was a plague, and in a way she is.”

She paused, scrunching her nose as she remembered. ”Judif and Valir still see her as an almighty and righteous god, and while the loss of life was horrendous, god is just.” She said the end with some codescension but it didn’t seem to matter too much to her and so she focused back in on Grace.

”I obviously don’t believe you,” she says with a look of almost apology. ”If you know Yan, Daji’s warden, you could have easily gotten such information from him.” This was the first time Shin had said anything about Yan before. She brushed past him in conversations and never asked about him. He had been irrelevant to her, and yet her tone now was simple, like the idea of Yan telling anyone about Daji was a distinct possibility. It could strike him as a tiny bit odd considering him and Juturna had only told her good things about him, or he could write it off as how Shin thought about people in general. A secret is only kept when the other person is dead, or something like that. It was possible this woman was close with his warden. Really, there were a number of options, but she had said she knew Yan, and Yan knew everything that had happened to Daji during the Reaping. Yan knew everything that had happened during the Reaping.

”Explain yourself properly,” she says, this time seeming like a kind adult asking a child to explain what was happening when they were babbling nonsense. ”Tell us how you got here, why you are still here, and what you want from us. If you are Grace, feel free to try and prove it.”

At the end, she offered a weak smile of encouragement, before shifting her gaze to Daji with a look of warning. If he gave Grace another excuse not to answer her, she was going to use everything he taught her on his face.

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He hadn't wanted to hear that answer--the woman's reply sent a shudder through Daji's body as he tried to spark the wood with a fire that would keep them warm for the night, fumbling with his tools for a moment as he tried to calm himself. What--what was he supposed to feel right now? His emotions were rolling through him like a storm, and he tried so hard to get a grip on the situation. Fear, surprise, disbelief, wonderment, confusion, discovery--anger, sadness, trepidation--everything seemed to run through him like a torrent of punishment that it left his mind reeling for a moment, and if Shin was paying attention to his mindset, it would be obvious that Daji was anything but in control of himself at the moment. He focused on the campfire, something that should have taken him a few seconds to create, only for it take several minutes due to this condition.

The rest of Grace's questions went unanswered--certainly, Daji could have used his teleportation rune to get them to safety, rather than squeezing out a barely amicable existence here in these wastes as it was, but for some reason, he was too focused on his own emotions, what he was supposed to do, what he needed to do, and this damnable campfire. His breathing was ragged and irregular now, not entirely noticeable, but at the same time, Shin likely would not have seen him in such an anxious position. He was hardly in a position to respond to the woman's statement of being a terrorist--a really bad girl, in her own words--as he kept his eyes focused on the wood in front of him. He didn't even take the moment to acknowledge Shin's expression at him due to his distraction.

Oddly enough, it took Shin to help him calm himself--not from her actions, but from the mental communication in his head. When she whispered that statement into his mind, his whole body froze, as if realizing the same thing he did as well. This was a woman, apparently given to her own emotions as this, that had the power to... to wipe out civilizations in the blink of an eye, just like the devastation they were standing in now. He shook his head, seemingly unprovoked, before Shin would get a response back from him.

There's... there's no where we really can take her, is there? his mind whispered back, hoping Grace was not listening in on their mental communication as he shuddered to think what might happen if they took her... anywhere with them. The more physical silence between the three of them started to grow into a form of awkwardness, and just as Daji lit the campfire to life, breathing lightly into the fire until it took hold of the kindling and fuel, Shin began to speak up, a calm gaze upon the one woman that claimed to be Grace.

The Kitsune suddenly found himself thankful for putting something akin to reason into the situation. Not from the situation as it was now, but rather, spelling out the situation after the Reaping had occurred. Shin was catching the woman up on everything that had happened since the terrible incident, since he had ventured into that temple with Icarus and Finn, only for the mission GRIME had given them to fail, and his own imposed mission of saving people had failed. He had wanted the truth... and now, he was getting it. He was suddenly regretful for even wanting to know in the first place. Someone as childish as this... with the power she wielded.

But then... why was she here? Naked, hungry, alone? Why had Yan, his mentor and warden, left someone so important out here if she was in such a vulnerable state? Surely, she still had the power to fulfill her wishes and desires, yet she complained of being nude and famished? Daji didn't understand it, which just made his own leap to conclusions, the woman's own claim that she was Grace, seem a little more hollow than before. Were... were they being lied to just now...? It was hard to believe in either direction--none of this made any sense.

When the story unfolded itself, particularly about St. Vincent's, Daji's mind was reminded of the events that had happened there--those girls that were either controlling or defending that massive, writhing mass of flesh that was trying to assault their minds, that terrible explosion that seemed to destroy the entire thing in an instant, much like Grace had done with Malifore's lands, and the similarities seemed to strike true even more than before. He hadn't been responsible for what happened at St.Vincent's, even if Daji wished there had been another way...

So then... why did he feel so much fear here and now? Why did he feel such guilt for the state this region was in, when it was because of the actions of a few, and the wrath of the one supposedly in front of them? He pushed the thoughts aside--he pushed nearly all thoughts aside as he tried to grapple with his emotions, and now that the fire was lit, he found himself sitting on his haunches and looking up towards Shinaki Honjo as she recalled the tale. It wasn't until she finished that Daji realized that she had, somehow, managed to retain the stories he--and presumably others--had told her about those events, since she had not arrived until afterwards.

He took another deep breath, but he did not speak, instead looking between Shin and 'Grace' for long moments, his concealed face hardening a little when Shinaki stated that she did not believe this newfound person they had discovered. Seemingly with Shin's own feet and instincts--that was another piece of the puzzle that did not make sense. If this person was lying, then why in the world had Shinaki stopped with this woman, why did she seemingly not feel the itch to continue forward towards the real destination, rather than plant themselves here? The Fox Master almost held his breath, breathing quietly as the demand for explanation was made.

And when Shin shifted her gaze towards her teacher, he saw her look--she was clearly making sure he wouldn't interrupt--again, now that he thought about it--so he averted his gaze back down to the fire in front of him, not wanting to cut into Shin's desire for information and discussion. This was... this was more her journey than his--she had merely wanted a companion, and so far, he had not been doing a great job of that so far, making him regret his actions again up to this point. He shook his head in response, quietly, before removing the pack from his back and placing it inside the rudimentary cave he had erected.

Instead, he contemplated the situation with Yan, his mentor and warden. Where was he now? Surely, he had been here at least a little while ago, since the woman had mentioned him, since he had left her out here to... fend for herself? That seemed cold, even for Yan, which made the Fox think it might have been someone else, or maybe an astral projection. It was possible she was not lying about Yan, that he did leave her out here, but Yan...

Daji knew Yan would have a good reason for it, that maybe it would be up to Shinaki and himself to take care of this woman if that was the case.
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"a good man is someone who tries to empathize with everyone he meets. He doesn’t judge someone as bad just because he doesn’t understand them. He searches for the good and the bad in people, and knows nothing is ever just one or the other. He realizes that everyone has their own burdens and feelings, and does his best not to trample on them. He cares about people, because he knows what it is like to be one. He knows what it feels like to hurt, or have someone you love hurt, and does not want to cause that pain to anyone else unless he has no other choice.”
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”A good man does not pass judgements so quickly, especially without witnessing the person in question."


He took a deep breath before sitting down beside the fire once again, his eyes looking towards Shinaki and Grace once again. He had to do the right thing in this situation, even if he was not sure what that might mean just yet... Shinaki insisted that they could not take Grace to Querenci... her temperment could be a danger to those in the Holy Lands, but it was truly the only neutral territory on the planet. Any where else, she would either be attacked or worshipped, and without Yan or Juch to speak to her, they had to rely on their own judgement. But was denying her a place of safety... denying her some place safe to stay... something he could tolerate?

He did not speak up, not while Shin's question hung in the air, but now that he could look at the situation a bit more calmly, it was clear that somethings were still very wrong. Very vague. They would need to find out what was going on with all of this before they could make a decision...

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Grace reacted with gentle looks toward the snake as she felt the sense of annoyance. The former planet did indeed feel the air of doubt to what the conclusion was, her being that planet. Grace then heard Shin before the trail off and immediately knew where that was going. The guilt wave came in strong and she rode it with a facial expression that she decided to hide by looking downward. It was all a tantrum, indeed. People opposed her and so she made an example out of them. The punishment for treason was to have their entire family and friends executed after all, that was some ancient Ming Dynasty logic there. But even so—
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W—cann—her—to---renci

She winced as the broken communication ran through her head filled with static. She couldn’t make it out, but she heard the conscious voice of the woman she had just met—
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There’s---where we---take her—there?


Her wince was a bit visible, but she could tell that the psychic waves were trying to reach her mind. They were talking to each other, and from what it seemed like, they were talking about her. It didn’t matter much to Grace though, they were probably trying to figure what to do with her. Her eyes shifted over to Shin as she began to speak and it was the story of what happened after Grace had self-destructed on Malifore. She listened intently and her facial expressions were plentiful throughout the story itself.

Shin confirmed just what Grace thought, she was not welcomed anywhere, and after that she was questioned. Shinaki did not believe that she was Grace, and that made sense. Shin wanted proof and an explanation as to why she was at this spot. “You asked me if I was Grace, I simply just stated my name. It might not be common, but there could always be a person the same name as the planet itself, ya know.”

Shinaki didn’t look like the one to be fooled that easily, and she didn’t know just how well she could put sheep skin over Daji’s eyes, but in Grace’s mind there was nothing she needed to prove to them. They called out her name and probably feel the connection Grace had with the planet. It was only their conclusion to make. All she could do was confirm it. “You all came to me because there was a power radiating out here in this… graveyard so to speak, right? It wasn’t because maybe this power felt odd. Does my presence feel like the planet?”

Grace was only speculating, and this was because she had no real proof she was the planet. Okay, so if she told Shinaki that she wondered into Malifore and blew it up, what reason did the snake have to believe her? There was none, because Shin just told her this story. It all felt like a trick question and Grace was becoming anxious just because of it. So she went with the best thing she could possibly go with.

“Even if I did feel like the planet, I’m mortal now. I am much weaker than I used to be. There isn’t much I can do to prove that I am the Grace you knew, and I’d rather not waste my time proving you two that. I am a different Grace than the planet, so I’ll take being treated differently.”



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Daji’s own mind was probably his biggest weakness, and it wasn’t until now that Shin saw it in full swing. She knew he had felt guilt over what happened. She knew he over thought things. She knew he kept a montra in his head of acceptance and adaptability, but when that montra quieted, and he was left with his own thoughts they often over flowed. That’s what it felt like now. She couldn’t read his thoughts directly, but her abilities were very sensitive, and recognized the turmoil and processing his mind was going through. He was going around in circles and not moving one step away from his anxiety and pain. She had shushed him, but he hadn’t quieted, not really, not in the way he needed to.

Eventually, the montra came back to the surface, but would it be enough?

Shin was hoping her own words would get through to Grace, but they hadn’t. She was trying to help the girl. If they knew what was going on, if she answered those questions, they could help her. That was what Daji wanted, and that was what Shin knew would be easiest as things were, but Grace did not seem to want to be helped, or at least was too immature right now to understand even something so simple.

Instead of trying to answer any of Shin’s questions, Grace immediately went to play games. It wasn’t even avoidance, it was a child’s attempt to fuck with someone. Playing devil’s advocate to confuse them was really not beneficial to her in any fashion, but that’s the route she chose, and Shin blatantly ignored it. She didn’t roll her eyes, or respond in any way that the child might have wished for. Her expression stayed in that calm parental gaze, still ready to understand her if she said something that could be understood.

Shin was not rewarded for this of course. The once Titan moved on to try and tell them why they were here, an assumption that was far from accurate. They weren’t here because of her ki, they were here because of her feet, and Shin glanced down to them briefly before back to the child remaining patient, just in case there was some point to this train of thought.

Like a ship finally seeing land after a long, long journey the child said something to the point. She had focused instead on the thing Shin wanted to the least, proof she was Grace. She had added that on a whim, and now regretted it entirely, but then, she never claimed to be good at talking to children.

Her face remained as it had. She had a poker face that could destroy Yan’s as she made whatever face she needed and kept it like her own emotion, and this time it was of the understanding adult.

”Who raised you to be so untrusting?” she asks with a weak smile. That’s what the conversation had been hadn’t it? ‘Well, they won’t believe me’, ‘it doesn’t matter if I can’t prove it,’ ‘these people want something from me.’ That was the mindset this child had and Shin did not have to go into her mind to understand that. ”If you told us what happened, I would have believed you so long as it felt like the truth. Saying you were Grace didn’t feel like the truth, not necessarily because it was a lie, but because you said it already doubting us and thus yourself.”

She paused there, glancing back to Daji who was probably no more calmed about this situation than she was, only he was far more disturbed to start. There was a simple solution, maybe, and as she stepped back to Grace she rested her hands gently on her shoulders, her gold eyes fixing on hers. Strange were those gold eyes, almost like one of her siblings possessing a body. There was that same almost Lost energy behind them, but then they were somehow drastically different, much more in control without a sign of ever changing or sharing.

With a touch Shin knew her simple solution had failed. She had planned to go into the girl’s mind and find what she needed, but just from touching her she knew that was impossible. Like Daji’s, though much, much worse, Grace’s mind was in shambles. There was no straightforward path to the memories Shin sought, and finding them would instead require a more invasive skill. The snake did not use mental manipulation on many people, and when she did, it was almost always an enemy. Grace was not, and doing this to her without consent would be worse than any physical assault.

Her hand lifted, touching the girl’s cheek before smiling again. The child was a pretty girl, naked and confused, and potentially newly mortal. The words Grace has spat out in her tantrum made complete sense to Shin now, well except the Yan part and the guilty part. Either way, she had to remind herself once more, she was dealing with a scared child, physical form or no.

”You’re quite the mess,” she says gently, before dropping her hand as she turned to push her gently into the cover Daji had created. She took Grace’s hand and led her to sit down if the girl would allow it. ”If you want us to help answer the questions you rolled around in the dead for, tell us your story. We may be able to help, but if you don’t trust that we’ll listen with an open mind, we might as well part ways here.” She paused for some emphasis and then continued: ”I don’t think you really want to do that considering you’re a long ways out of the Deadlands and no one else is going to come through here again.”

Shin took a seat next to Daji, and her hand covered his gently without her even looking to it. He would feel it then, something he was immensely used to, but only from his mate. From their touch she passed her own feelings to him. Her calmness, her confidence, her affection for him however this turned out, and her own conviction that as long as they were together things would work themselves out. He would have her back, and she would have his, and they would make it out just fine. At the end, she also passed him her feeling of hunger, mostly in an attempt to get a laugh.

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The whole... situation was confusing. Not to mention there was this... maelstrom of emotions trying to override him and his senses, a storm that was just as difficult to control as the one approaching from the horizon. It was still some ways out--probably would not be here immediately, at least not for a couple of hours or so. It was hard to judge weather here in this place, despite the lack of foliage or other obstructions to make the wind difficult to gauge. No, without the trees and birds to be his guide, it was like trying to guess a needle in water--all of his perceptions seemed to make it closer than it really was.

His eyes turned back towards the conversation at hand, Shin finishing with her questions and and request for proof, though Grace seemed to take on a more witty approach--though the Kitsune almost found it more evasive and annoying, rather than witty--stating that all they had asked of her was her name, something she had simply stated, and that there could be others that were named 'Grace' as well. A bit of heat filled the Fox's cheeks for a moment as he had not realized it himself, now he felt rather silly for just making the biggest assumption and leap in logic he had made in a long while. Sure she was named Grace, but... no, that wasn't true either was it?

Her power, her aura... it was nothing like he had felt before. It was human in form and spirit, but everything else about it felt... ancient, like she was far, far older than any human had any right to be. Just because her physical form was that of a beautiful young woman, that didn't mean what beat within her heart and soul were the same cloth as well. He had felt her power radiate before they had entered the Deadlands proper--he knew she was more than just a human that happened to be called 'Grace.' But if that was the case, why was she leading them along like this...?

She spoke up again, stating that the reason they came to her was because of her power, a signal she had made of her presence--likely in an attempt to garner someone's attention--probably--but Daji knew they had arrived in this blasted wasteland for other reasons. He was not sure what those reasons were, and he suspected Shin wasn't sure about it either, but her feet had guided them here, and Daji had learned (eventually) that when her feet took her somewhere, it was time to follow it. Had this... person, named Grace, naked and alone in a landscape she otherwise should have died of starvation in... was she the person Shin's feet wanted to guide them to?

It couldn't just be an accident or for something so altruistic. He wanted to assume the best of people, like Yan and Shinaki, but he found it hard to believe that Shin's hidden desire was to save some random person named 'Grace' that just so happened to be out in the middle of literally nowhere, nude and helpless, out of some random kindness. Shin was capable of it, but for her feet to drag them along all this way just for that? It seemed so... farfetched.

Grace spoke up again, asking if her presence felt like that planet, though even if it did, she was mortal now, far weaker than before. She had no means of proving herself to them, so she would rather prefer to be treated as a separate entity. So that either meant this woman was... maybe a piece of Grace herself, or perhaps this was the consciousness of Grace given mortal form. Daji found that hard to believe though; she felt like the planet, assuredly, and she did seem rather... odd in her behavior, yet why would a living planet relinquish its power for mortality?

It didn't make any sense!

Shin remained resolute, as if she were acting like a parent, waiting on a child's explanation for something that had happened, but after all of that, she managed a weak smile all the same, asking why Grace did not trust them--even after Daji had given her a cloak and food--and went on with her explanation of why the woman should open up to them more. The more Shin spoke, the more Daji could latch on to the explanation and find a calmer method of dealing with the situation at hand. He knew Yan and Juch were right--he shouldn't blame himself for all that had happened, and yet there was still that... lingering guilt in his heart. It was hard to shake, and now, standing in this place, standing next to the supposed woman that had unleashed this blight upon the planet, it weighed him down like a rock. He shook his head, preferring to let Shinaki take the lead until he could grasp his wits again.

That was when Shinaki placed her hands upon the discovered woman's form, looking deep into her eyes--he had only seen Shinaki try to find someone's intent and memories like this once before, and he still did not entirely understand it, but when Shin backed away quickly thereafter, it was clear that she did not find what she was looking for--at least, not without doing so more forcefully, and he felt an anxiousness in his heart for a moment... but his student did not pursue that, instead preferring to lead Grace into the shelter with the Kitsune. The fire was at a decent state now, so there would be plenty of warmth to go around for the three of them, especially inside the impromptu cave he had erected.

It wans't much... but it would be enough for the storm and for survival. At least from here, they could do everything they needed to before finally deciding to leave this cursed place. The wind had not picked up yet, which meant the storm was some distance out... but eventually, it would hit this area and drench everything around them in rain and wind. He wanted to make sure they had somewhere dry to sleep, at the very leat.

When Shinaki took a seat beside him, he was surprised to feel her hand against his--but that didn't hold a candle to the surprise he felt when her mind touched his, her emotions filling into his own. Only Hayami had done things like this with him, and his mate was surprisingly distracted at the moment--the void was filled rather quickly, as he experienced Shinaki's serenity, resolution, and oddly enough, affection. There was a comfort there, that together, student and teacher, they would figure all of this out and do the best they could with it. That was all they really could do, wasn't it? Now he felt even sillier for worrying all this time.

He managed a smile towards his student, his own emotions radiating appreciation and a reciprocation of his affection for her, though when she passed on the feeling of need--namely hunger--he found himself chuckling a little. "Don't worry--we still have plenty to eat. I came prepared, you know," he said to Shinaki aloud, seemingly unprovoked, before Daji turned his attention towards Grace.

"Let's... do this properly. You might already know this, but I'm Daji, Master of the Dojo of the Fox. This is my student, Shinaki. She has a... talent for finding things, so when she wanted to find something, we decided to go find it. It led us to you--at least for now--but like she said, it's important if you tell us your story. You feel like the planet, at least a little, but in order for us to understand what's going on--how you fit into all of this--we need to see things from your side, too," he explained, giving Grace a comforting smile.

"We want to help you--but if you don't trust us, then how can we trust you? We won't hurt you, but we can't help without knowing the situation."

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“Who raised you to be so untrusting?”
That was such an easy way to put it. Grace did not trust easy, and she had never did. That days of her trusting anyone were long over and it was a memory that she buried with years of existence. The mortal titan gave Shinaki a sense of tension at just that line. The memory that broke her final stages of trust to anyone began to replay over and over in her head and Grace’s guard had dropped, if only for a moment and it was noticeable. She huddled up a bit more into the wool she was given and almost on instinct but a tiny wall between her and the two travelers in-front of her.

The pale face of a shadowy devil was seen in Shin’s eyes, but it was only a mental noting that was attacking Grace. Shin would do well to take notice to the way she shivered to herself. It wasn’t to any cold at all. Grace wanted to give her an answer immediately, only to defend herself but lost all ability to defend. Instead, she continued to listen and it all sounded like lies to her. But what could Grace even know? She threw herself into this situation beforehand. Her devil taught her how to be a god, and at the end of the day Grace thought to herself, being god made me evil, but only because she was taught... by a devil.

Grace did doubt herself and them. It was, again, part of her nature. When Shin rested her hands on her shoulders, Shin definitely felt the tension from the woman. At the touch, the titaness could feel Shin attempt to enter her mind but immediately left. Did that scare Shin? No. Shin knew that she was too fragile and broken to traverse and just having the restraint to stop pursuit into her mind made Grace smile. Shin was being gentle, even when Grace was being annoying. She understood what she meant when Shin called her a mess.

She eventually sighed and her vision moved to Daji. He was right, this was confusing. Grace was not making it any better with assumptions being made and dodgy answers. Everything could be easy if she just admitted it all and went to trust once again. They wanted to know her story. That seemed like a decent start. She huddled up even more to herself and it was too the point where she almost disappeared into the coat given to her. This was dangerous.

“My name is Metis Grace. I can’t tell you how long ago it was at this point without looking at a few calendars but a long time ago,”
she started with a wince. Her memory was such shit and it annoyed her. It was messing with her mental. There were events that happened recently registering as past events and some events millennia ago that registered as today’s. A soft, “Oh!” escaped her lips and she was able to continued.

“My father abandoned me. He used something to turn me into a planet. I couldn’t recall why exactly. I remember all of our people were on the run and there was a sudden attack and the next thing I remember is being… everywhere but nowhere all the same. Something like an outer body experience, but I had a view of the entire planet. If I thought it, it happened. If I felt that mountain was too high it would shrink naturally. Things like that. I don’t know how, but people started to form,”
she stopped again. A break happened in her concentration on that memory and she was able to jump to more important issues.

“I foolishly made myself known and became a deity to them. I wasn’t ready for this. I was only 14 at the time I was made a planet. No guidance. Nothing. Anyway, some of the people contrasted against me and I destroyed them. All the same, I took the coward’s way out and became a mortal. I knew I was wrong. I should not have been given this power. I’m glad…I’m glad it’s gone.”
If it was possible for her to huddle up even more, than she did and most definitely disappeared into the coat. That was the best of the story she could give, all from the muddle of her mind. The wall between her and the two travelers was weak but it still was up. They would feel the sense of tension as they neared her.


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Metis Grace... that was her name, but Daji found himself tossing the words in his head a little more. Something about it had a familiar ring to it, but he... he wasn't sure why or how. Had it been something Yan or Juch had said to him before, or something another person had said? He couldn't dig up the memory now, not in their situation anyway, but he found the name sticking in his head more than it probably had any right to. It was... an odd sensation, but he managed to follow along Grace's story all the same, trying to figure out how 'long' a 'long time ago' might have been. It seemed like the girl they had just rescued--in a way--didn't seem to truly know herself. There was this... tension between them, though it was obvious why; they had yet to truly trust one another, and, well, the Kitsune would be lying if he said it was for no good reason. Grace did not know if she could trust them with her words, and Daji and Shin were still looking at someone that was either a physical manifestation of Grace--the planet's--will or just someone that had a really odd aura.

Still, the story continued, leaving Daji more sympathetic to the woman than when he had started. What... had he been expecting, being faced with someone the planet knew as a Goddess? Arrogance? Indifference? It was hard to separate what he had learned from the people and what he had learned from GRIME--in the short time he had been with them, anyway--but everything about this situation seemed so strange. She had had a control over the world--her body--unlike any other planet Daji had ever visited, but eventually, even people managed form, grow, and live on this world. They found ways to adapt to it, thrive in it, even if quite a few... well, didn't. He wanted to be angry about that... he wanted to shout at her for the people she had killed so thoughtlessly... but when she admitted she was not ready for that kind of authority or power... all he could feel was pity for her.

He felt so conflicted about it all... he wanted to know, that somehow, as misguided as they were, that GRIME had a point, one that was true enough to at least be worth acknowledging... but here he was, feeling more sympathy for this woman that might have killed uncountable people rather than feel anger. He wanted to understand her--he wanted to know the truth, and now that he was getting it, it wasn't anything like he had thought or imagined. What was he going to do about it anyway? Hurt her? He... no, there was no way he could do that. There was no way he could judge her. Hadn't he done the same thing back on Earth...?

Abandoned by her creator, given power she had no idea how to use and an agency she didn't know how to be responsible with, before she finally was able to become mortal. She called it a coward's way out... it almost felt like a mirror to his own life, and faced with it, he found it impossible to be angry with her. If anything...

"I... I know how you feel," the Kitsune spoke up after a moment, after the woman had finished her story, his ears drooping a little as he shook his head. "Not... the specifics, but... well, I did some bad things before coming here, too. You'll... you'll never be able to erase the past or forget the things you did, but... there's always tomorrow, right? You can start making life better tomorrow," he said, speaking from his own experiences, his own look on life. It was so... strange. This felt like deja vu, in a way, only now he was in Yan's position, and Grace was now in his old position... well, he didn't have some magical bracelet that would regulate Grace's power, but...

Well, he would just have to make due. Maybe he could help her be a good person, just as Yan had made him into one as well.

"If... If you're mortal now, that means you'll... you'll need to look at certain things differently now. Its... generally expected to wear clothes, and you'll need to find a way to earn money for food or gather your own from the wilds. But... no, I'm sorry, I'm... getting ahead of things.

"What matters is that we are here now, and you don't need to worry. We can help you, and now that... we know who you are, we can try to help you make the best of it. But for now, just relax--we're not going to hurt you."


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Shin grinned wide when she successfully got a chuckle, though it was immediately followed by a look of challenge. There was no way he could carry enough food for her on his person, let alone enough for the three of them. (She still knew nothing about the magic science of capsules though.)

In the end, Daji calmed his head enough to explain the situation better to Grace, which was more than what Shin planned to do. The snake leaned back, resting her palms behind her in the dirt as she let the more genuine of them take lead. Daji really wanted to help this girl, while Shin was just going along for the ride.

She had been gentle. She had empathy, but that did not change her lingering almost threat. She’d be fine to keep walking, and in fact felt a small urge to do so with or without Grace’s cooperation. She didn’t care about the tension between them or Grace’s childish mistrust. She didn’t care how damaged the former planet was or the pain she had gone through. She could feel it, so was the burden of empathy, but the snake had long learned to create boundaries between herself and other people. A person could only go so far on the help of others, and Grace was a fine example of that. She had to give to get, and if she couldn’t...Well, that wasn’t Shin’s concern. Not really.

When she spoke, Shin didn’t lift her gaze from the fire, not until the sudden ‘oh.’ It turned out to only be Grace grasping her own memories, which caused the snake to smile with encouragement, but her gold eyes moved back to the flames.

In another life she might have related to Grace. A father’s abandonment was a brutal thing, but Shin no longer knew what it was like to have a father, or parents, or any kind of family. She only knew the feeling of betrayal to a limited degree, let alone the deepness of betrayal made by someone you were trained to believe loved you no matter what. To be made into something you were not, to be forced into something for your own protection...she didn’t understand that either. No one had looked out for her like that. She didn’t let them. The lesson Grace learned in this, to not trust, was something that was already burned into the snake, even without any memories to explain why.

Maybe she did relate. There was one person she thought to trust, and that person had turned on her, not in malice or hatred but with a need to protect. He wanted her to be something more for her own safety and well being, and to do that he had made himself her enemy. More than his childishness, more than the harm he caused her in this task, what she hated the most was her choice being taken from her.

It was interesting though, the idea of becoming a planet. If she became a planet she couldn’t say she would do things differently than Grace, with the sense of permanence only settling in much too late. She had played many games with people, with worlds, but she always had an exit strategy. Grace hadn’t. She made her game, and she could not exit it and start fresh. She was stuck with the mess she made for better or for worse without the knowledge on how to repair things. There was no cntrl + z or q, at least until the Reaping.

Grace said she took the coward’s way out, exiting the game without giving two shits about the people she was abandoning. She was doing the same thing to them as her father did to her. Shin didn’t know someone else had swept in to take the reins, so in her view, Grace had truly left the planet and its people to die without a single care. Her mind brought her back to Grace’s earliest words however, that Yan had left her to die, and it sent a small shiver down Shin’s spine.

Of course, Daji went right from empathy to sympathy. He ate up her words with a need to believe in them. He missed the fact that GRIME did have a point, one Grace openly admitted to. She was not ready for such power. She did not deserve it. She did not use it wisely. That was why GRIME had risen up against her, and that was why she struck them down, like a child refusing to be told she was wrong. Grace could have tried to learn from her people. She could have learned empathy while watching their struggles, hardships, successes, and losses. She had become a planet a long time ago, which meant she had a long time to learn, but she hadn’t. After ten years, after twenty, after one hundred, after a thousand, she could no longer say she was a child, and yet here she was.

Daji saw himself in her, and yet that was so far from the truth. It had taken Daji less than three years to grow up, to try and understand people, and learn from his mistakes. They were not the same. Grace was so much worse, and so much less deserving of forgiveness, and placed under anyone else she would be judged fairly and punished for it. She had already wasted too many tomorrows to look forward to the next one.

”You should go by Metis while you are on Grace,” Shin says absently, still looking at the fire. Placed under anyone else besides Daji and Shin. The snake could care less for Grace’s crimes or immaturity. It was rare she found anyone worth judging.

”You do need to worry,” she countered Daji, passing him a small look before turning to Grace. It seemed like they were playing good parent, bad parent. ”If you no longer wish to be treated as Grace, the planet, the deity, you need to disguise that. Your energy is not that noticeable like this, but there are ways to mask it completely. If you feel guilty, you need to search within yourself to understand why, and what you need to do to quell that feeling. Until then, you should not let your power to choose that be taken from you. You’re weak now. You have no real way to defend yourself from someone else’s will, so you must make sure they are not pressed upon you.”

As always the idea of freedom reigned truest to her. If Grace wanted to suffer for her crimes, she could in due time. If she wanted to search for redemption in some other way, she would require the freedom to do so. There were many people on this planet who would be very happy to make the choice for her.

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Edited by Shinaki Honjo, Jan 17 2018, 06:29 PM.
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Daji was correct in the fact that Grace did not know herself much at this point. As she spoke Daji would realize the tension began to show its holes. It was in the way she moved within the campfire range. Her shadow would show her body slowly loosening up its tension. Dealing with Daji and the way he reacted to her story made her feel a little bit more relaxed than she thought herself to be. The titan would find herself looking up to him a bit more and gauging his reaction from the retreat within her cowl, eyes of emerald dancing and twirling about for more and more reactions. She clung more to the overweighing cloth and cherished all of its heat which the cloth itself was taking from the fire.

There was another thought in her head that interrupted her story, but she was careful not to spill it out. Did it really matter if she was the real planet or not? Paranoia began to dress the woman a bit more than the cloth did as her story was told. Would they believe me? Could they? What if they ended up being on the side of the locals and just turned her in? She didn’t know them as well as she wanted to, even though she knew of Daji his intentions weren’t read. Grace did not have the psychic ability of a titan, or maybe she did but it was all static to her so she decided to ignore it.

Then Daji started to show her a compassionate aura and it caught her attention and it broke her thoughts. It felt like genuine sympathy and it left Grace confused. Did she want that? It wasn’t the point of the story. The point was to break her tension shell around them by telling them the truth and seeing how they reacted to it. If they smiled at her and attacked her, words or physically, then she would have just been left broken and more afraid. She’d no longer trust a soul for the remainder of her mortal life. But then what if they started to accept her?

How would the titan act then? She did not think that far into it at all. It was look like she was on the road to a trust being renewed and there was a glow in her features. Her story had gone to its apex and soon began to die down into silence. She took note that Daji seemed to feel some kind of relation just by his facial expressions and the way he reacted. During the moment he did not speak, she was relaxing herself a bit more in the heat of the fire and waiting on either of them to respond. Just as she went back to recall Shin’s reactions, something she watched during Daji’s reactions, he had spoken up finally to interrupt her thought process for just a moment.

He openly admitted that he knew how she felt and instead of getting defensive and moaning about how no one could understand, she was patient and she listened to him with her eyes on him. Those pea green stipples beamed at him in concentration as she wanted a small explanation to feel his side of the story, but she did not get that. It was a roundabout saying of ‘I did bad stuff too but look forward to tomorrow’ type of thing. It was better than nothing and it brought a tiny smile out of her instead of anything negative. She could also only nod at what he said and then he began to lecture her about what mortals tend to need to do.

He then simmered his talk down but reassuring her that they were here to help her and not harm her in anyway. The tension was almost gone from hearing that, her guard dropping and leaving her vulnerable to whatever they had planned for her. Grace’s eyes moved toward the sands and she thought about what Shinaki may have had planned for her. Daji was someone she had seen with the eyes of the trees and heard with the ears of the wind, but Shin was one of those people who hadn’t been part of her.

Shin knew Yan and she recalled the snake calling him Daji’s warden. How strange, did she miss that story in the wind? Grace settled everything Shin had said prior to Daji and even prior to her response earlier. She went back to when Shin spoke of how the nations treated her in their politics and religion. It was more or less expected for most of them. Now she could piece together what her titan psycho was trying to pick up on between the two. ‘They could not take her to Querenci.’ Going to Biscopo would scare everyone off if they figured out who she was, but Judif and Valir however…

It didn’t matter, what this all proved to Grace was that she needed to trust these two in order to survive here. Then again, she wasn’t going to try and survive just here anymore. There was a universe that she could adventure in. Oh! How she loved adventure back when she was just…

Her eyes snapped over to Shin as she heard the woman suggest that she go by Metis and went further as to suggest masking her energy completely. Grace could only nod to Shin, not knowing exactly what she had in mind. Grace just knew that Shin was someone that showed that she knew what to do with Grace’s trust for now. “Okay. So, can I be part of your company? I know it is a lot to ask for, but at the same time it couldn’t hurt to ask right?”


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