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Dustin

[PP-F4] Reopening old wounds

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Dustin wakes up in an empty room, turning and seeing that picture of his little brother smiling so brightly wasn’t there. He had barely even made it to the inn before collapsing in the check in area, and before that, he had spent days searching for that one person. The one who baited Dustin and Kadin into that ambush two years ago, the one Dustin plans to get rid of first. Apparently, he likes to prowl around shops not too far from where Dustin decided to stay. Finding new victims to bait and rob, just like Dustin and Kadin, but this one appears to be alone most of the day, unless he gets a bite.

Dustin reaches in the closet and grabs a brown cloak, one he used to wear all the time, and throws it over his shoulders so it covers his whole body, and then he pulls the hood up to hide his face.

Today’s the day. I’m gonna finish this once and for all. He walks down into the lobby, dropping a small sum of col on the check-in desk. “Room 5 is vacant again.” He explains, not stopping to wait for the stupid questionnaire they always do at placed like this. It would only waste his time and now that Dustin was doing what he wanted to, time was very important. Walking through town, Dustin watches as the people pass by. None of them know the atrocities of this world, but all of them keep moving. The darkness is covered up, and some of them just live their lives hoping their friends come back from their missions, bringing col or food or items back so they can keep ignoring the fact that their contribution matters. They’re scared because they know death is the end for both worlds. There’s no escaping this place unless you play the game. His eyes land on the slender man, keeping an eye out for anyone who doesn’t frequent the area.

Dustin approaches the man, who tries to grab the attention of the passers by to put Dustin on the spot. “Hello mystery player! Would you like to accompany me on a quest I’ve been having trouble with recently?” He shouts, but no one even gives him a second glance. Dustin’s hand firmly wraps around his bicep and lifts it, pulling him towards the front gate of town, not far enough to be obvious he’s taking him for a very specific reason. “Yeah, I’ll join you, just gotta tell me what quest first.” He says, pulling the man out into the field and towards the nearest wooded area.

Once Dustin was sure he was alone with this person he activated his strongest sword art, and under his cloak, his hand started to glow. “I have no idea how strong you are anymore... but I’m pretty sure this’ll do significant damage to you.” He draws his fist out of his cloak and it slams right into the player’s face, throwing him across the small area right into a tree. “Where’s Greil?” Dustin’s words filled with anger and hatred as he watches the man’s HP drop to the red, leaving just enough to be able to make it back to the town without dying. Dustin draws his fist back again and smiles. “You do know I could kill you and just go to any info broker in this area. I don’t need you alive for this.” He explains.

Pretty soon the criminal spills the beans and Dustin steps back. “Go on, get out of here.” Dustin says, gesturing in the general direction of the town. Tears start to roll down his face as he punches the tree. The purple window reflects in his watery eyes as he reads those stupid words. Turning sharply and falling back, he slides down and opens his menu.

Spoiler

To: @Jinx

Message:

I found him, meet me on floor 4

He closes his menu and stands up walking towards town once again, pulling down his hood and walking to the teleporter. Of course it had to be floor four. Doesn’t matter, he’s done. I’ve got to make sure he never does what he did to Kadin to anyone else.

 

Edited by Dustin

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Knock, knock. 

Arabelle rapped her knuckles against the front door. She stopped after she felt she'd made enough of a ruckus to wake someone from a deep sleep. Stared intently at the door - was practically glaring at it, Claude might have pointed out if the scout didn't already have his attention trained elsewhere - and waited. Her senses were pricked for any signs of movement. Zilch. Nada. Nein. She won't accept this. Not after coming all this way. The small purple-haired girl banged a clenched fist on the door with enough force to make the slimes in the nearby enclosure jump at the sound of it. Then she stopped and listened.

She half expected to hear the same commotion he had caused when she first visited his house - trying to tidy up for an unexpectedly early visit, she had supposed - but she was met with nothing but the sound of the slimes bouncing about in their little farm and the rustling of leaves as a small brown ferret poked its head out of a nearby pile.

Arabelle stepped back and inhaled deeply.

HellO frOM thE OthER SIiIiiiiiI

She spun around and marched back to Claude. 

Dustin wasn't home. Today marked the third day in the row. She hadn't seen nor heard of him ever since he one-shotted that quest mob and walked away without so much of a word. Neither had her beloved guild leader, Hei, Saphira, or - heck - the Other Girl. So they all had the idea he might be missing. Most probably.

The small purple-haired girl jumped up and seated herself on the fence beside him in silent frustration. She had shooed him away earlier. Appearance's sake. She thought an ounce of betrayal had flashed on his face for a split second before he left her alone and went to play with the slimes. Okay, give the poor guy who put up with all of her crap some credit. He had found Dustin's stock of hay in the backyard when they came over to check on his house two days ago, so he decided to assign himself the task of feeding the neglected "mobs" since there was nothing else to do. Lucky things. She watched him, out of the corner of her eye. Was he mad? Annoyed? Jealous? She wouldn't put it past him. 

But there was no sign of that when he tilted his head up to look at her. "You okay?"

Strange. She swung her legs. Turned her head and watched the bigger slimes bully the smallest one of them away from its share of food. Dejected, Mr. Fluffy bounced off to the far side of the enclosure only to perk up as the scout tossed it the rest of its share as soon as it was far enough away from the others. Claude was keeping an eye on the lone slime. Probably found it unusual, having never owned a slime farm before. It... did put a smile on her face.

"Honest answer?"

Arabelle looked down on him from her perch. Twirled a finger around her hair. Her fingers curled over the top of the fence and the small movement drew his gaze downward. Considering. Hesitating. Kind of made her want to pat his head like she would with a little kid and tease him. Modesty was not a prevalent word in her book but it was in his - most of the time. 

"There's only one way to answer that question, you know?" Yeah. Without being an insensitive jerk. The question of whether she was stalling or what words she wanted to hear this time lingered in the air, but went unasked. Claude met her amused expression with a wry smile of his own. Then she let the silence on her end drag on for too long and he turned flustered. "Ah! I didn't mean to be rude or anything. I just thought - we've been talking for so long now that it's practically a given already. If..." He trailed off and looked away awkwardly. Like he was considering whether to drop it entirely. Then - she didn't know what went through his mind - he was looking back at her, decidedly embarrassed at his next words but determined nonetheless. "If we were to get along, I want us to understand each other... Speak to each other more. That's what we agreed on."

Cute.

"Yes... we did agree on that. So,"--Arabelle tilted her head. She swung her legs and leaped off the fence, dusting her skirt and spinning around to face him. Silently, she inclined her head to the large empty house. The corners of her lips pulled up into a crooked smile.--"Tell me something nice in return, okay?"

Claude blinked. He pulled away from the fence and trailed after her; she had told him she would be taking the lead this time. "What do you want to know?"

Not much needed to be said as they circled around her favorite guildmate's house; they came here with an agreement already in mind. Three days of no Dustin, and Arabelle was playing detective - whether Claude liked it or not. Naturally, that included poking around the outside of his house... the only area most closely associated to the missing person which they had access to, the only place most likely to provide some clues or leads if ever - and also, quote unquote "he could just be conked out in there somewhere!" She glanced back once again to see her scout sending off a PM to his guild leader. So he was officially a missing person now? Were they going to send out search parties? Somehow, she doubted the rest of his guild would actually be bothered outside of "keeping an eye out" (like that ever worked)... unless it was an order from the leader herself. The small purple-haired girl paused to consider and pulled up her message window to notify Stryder as well. 

"I'm simply curious," Arabelle finally answered. Her expression betrayed no emotion as she peeked into the main bedroom's window with Claude's record crystal in her hand. "Someone doesn't just completely disappear. push everyone away, and turn unresponsive for days just like that without reason. I don't have any hints as to what it is, but I have the strange feeling that it needs to be discovered and put at rest as soon as possible or something undesirable would happen. A... sense of urgency?" She turned back to him - finding him listening intently to her like he always did when she talked - and quirked a hollow smile. "So I guess one could say that I'm kind of concerned."

The way she described it seemed familiar. Oh man. She'd bet her money on it if you asked her to. This was a Pinball situation. 

"Yeah. I am too." He ran a hand through his long hair. Frustrated. He wasn't finding anything of note and neither was she. "I hope it isn't anything too bad."

"Like I said. It's definitely something of the sort."

Arabelle let her ashen gaze to wander the inside of the empty bedroom for a moment longer. Then she spotted it. A picture on Dustin's dresser; one she had seen when she snooped around his room maybe a few weeks ago. The brunet smiling beside a smaller boy. She never saw the real person but he was apparently important enough to earn a place in a picture frame - where she and the rest of the guild didn't. The amateur detective wouldn't call it a lead. But it gave her an idea. She snapped a picture and watched the image load into the film reel of the record crystal.

"Hey, Claude." The small purple-haired girl looked over her shoulder and smiled. She dangled the crystal with its menu open - and right in the center of the film reel was a picture of her that she didn't remember posing for. Her next words sent heat rushing to his face. "Did I ever tell you how much I love you?"

~~~

The Monument of Life loomed over her, an ominous figure in the darkened iron halls. Writings lined the stone slab. Some were crossed out with etches beneath them. She silently perused each line, lingering particularly on the names of the deceased. Sad sight. Not only that, but also the things at its surroundings. People came by to learn of a friend's unfortunate demise and to mourn. Offerings were arranged neatly in front of the pillar. Players had turned it into a memorial of sorts. 

"...Not here."

So assuming she heard things right amidst the noise of that event battle... that left only a few options. Her gaze fell to the flowers and the lit candle at her feet. The scent of vanilla wafted up and into the air and she raised her head to watch her scout solemnly light another out of the corner of her eye.

She'd bother him later.

Arabelle inched to the right. When he rose to his feet, she reached out and gently tugged on his sleeve - a rare quiet attempt at prodding him to see if he was still alright. Tilting her head at him, she pointed at a name slightly above eye level.

Kadin
Player-Killed by Greil

~~~

Crystals hummed to life, lighting up the dim underground hall. They breathed in the scent of ash and old books, and regarded the rows of cardboard boxes stacked on shelves with brazen letters fixed to their sides with the same morbid awe they always had whenever they entered. She led the way and strained against the heavy wooden door as she pushed it shut and flipped a lock.

"...I suppose it's appropriate for Fione to say 'welcome back,'" she murmured. Quietly. Dreamily. As if she were speaking to herself more than anything. She glided past the shelves, silently indicating the long wooden table at the end. Her pupil-less red eyes searched the labels on the shelves until she stopped at one. 'G.' Then later on, she would drift past a few more and pull a box out of another row. "But many have said this place doesn't exactly feel welcoming. Perhaps it's the idea of being underground... perhaps it's the idea of  being surrounded by all of this. But please be assured. No one else was present when Fione opened the door. Take a seat."

The young woman followed shortly after. She set down a cardboard box. Sifted through the papers arranged neatly within and pulled out the ones of interest, laying them on the table. Then, politely waving away any offers to help, she went back for another. And as names, places, events appeared and connections made themselves evident, she came back for another. And another.

Still, as they exhausted all options, there still remained a disappointing amount of unanswered questions.

"Fione doesn't have every piece of information at hand." she admitted quietly. tucking a few stray locks of violet hair behind her ear. "With Aincrad's current technology and no progression on the matter, gamewide surveillance is impossible. Not even networks of spies entirely dedicated to their... 'profession' can reach the same level as they would in the real world. Frankly, Fione thinks it's for the best."

Clouded red eyes dropped down to glance through the documents on the table once again. Laid out in front of them were the puzzle pieces. Not all of them. But if put together, they could have a better idea of the bigger picture. Or if everything they learned even fit into the big picture at all.

"Fione doesn't have everything needed," she repeated. "But for the sake of learning the truth behind this, Fione will find the rest herself."

~~~

"Any rooms available today?"

Mid-morning. No Claude; his demanding hag of a guild leader wanted him somewhere else today and he had went off after telling her to stay safe, much to Arabelle's disappointment. She had her fill of Mishiro's free coffee. Some conversation, too... and the small purple-haired girl may or may not have just told her best friend that her guildmate disappeared. And she earned a sympathetic look. Or empathetic. That wasn't good. She wasn't as pathetic as that dull girl at handling people like this. If she found him today, she could say with her usual confidence that it wouldn't devolve into a complete disaster... which she assumed was what happened to her friend and her unrequited/requited love turned crazy murderer thing last November. But Arabelle didn't betray her feelings on that matter. Not when Claude was there. Mishiro had kind of asked her to keep it a secret. Even though her scout had told her on many occasions that he wanted them to be honest with each other. 

Whoops? 

Either way, she got her free dessert privileges back. So that was a plus. She got two for herself this morning.

...but somehow, she already felt extremely worn out.

What do you mean Room 5 is available?!

Lady Luck was messing with her once again. There was no way Fione would have been found out; she trusted that her info gathering skills were top-notch. Which meant that Dustin - who spent the night here and apparently had been doing the past few days or so - chose this exact day of Arabelle's planned confrontation to go... somewhere. Wherever. But she wasn't completely out of guesses. There was this player killer dude named Greil (what the hell kind of name was that?), inextricably linked with her missing guildmate. And one of his guys was around here. Coincidence? She would say 50-50. It was better than giving up.

Arabelle maintained her innocent expression. "Right then. How lucky of me~. One reservation, please."

The small purple-haired girl dropped the key into her inventory and made her way to the shops where Greil's PK bait guy was known to hang around in. Wandered around. Walked up and down the streets. Considered buying an ice cream for herself then decided against it. She was on her amateur detective job, dammit! But PK Bait wasn't there. Went on vacation? Cute, but unlikely. Her information was up to date. So... that most likely meant he got his catch earlier. She checked the quest bulletin and the immediate establishments surrounding it. Then spun around and meandered over to the outskirts of the town.

"Hello!" she greeted, catching the attention of a group of players idling about. A pleasant youthful voice and a cute smile was always a guaranteed snare. "I'm looking for my friend, have you seen him around?"

Repeating the process until a player passed by and confidently gave her an answer with no nonverbal indications that they were making it all up... it was almost too easy. PK bait guy left with a guy in a cloak. Then he went running back to the safe zone without said guy. She flicked her friend list open and scrolled down, finding Dustin's name still listed in it.

Bingo. She didn't even need to ask about the cloaked person's whereabouts.

"Dustin really is an old-fashioned sort of guy, huh?" she mused with a small smile.

Arabelle returned to the teleport plaza and set her destination to Floor 4.

Edited by Arabelle

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Dustin was sure the stares he could feel on him had something to do with his temporary orange cursor. He didn’t care. He felt no guilt or regret for what he had done, and would gladly do it again. Only reason it’s temporary was for a momentary lapse in his vendetta, one where he realized Kadin wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to die and especially not at his big brother’s hand. You always cared about everybody... didn’t matter what they did. His hand rests on the glass in front of him, as he stares through the liquid and the ice sitting in said liquid. On the table sat a necklace he often wore under his shirt. A small golden sword with a black blade, just like Kadin’s. The warmth of welling eyes and the chill of a cool tear rolling down his cheek kept him distracted from the thought of how much Kadin would hate him for what he’s about to do.

But it was something that needed to be done. He couldn’t just let more and more people die.

He couldn’t let anyone else feel what he’s feeling right now.

Rage festered in his chest as he kept staring at the necklace. What used to be fond memories only brought him pain. He was ready to throw all of what he had found away, and was willing to if it meant getting rid of this horrible person. The guild, his friends, his teacher. They were all supposed to hate me... why don’t they? Why are they still keeping me from doing this? Why am I stuck feeling like I’d rather have them around than do this? If they’d just leave me alone forever I could have done this a while ago. Just then a familiar face walks up and sits a drink in front of the boy. “It’s on the house.” He explains, his long red hair falling just into view under Dustin’s hood.

”Can’t get anything past the all knowing Roger can I?” Dustin asks sarcastically, smiling up at his old friend. “I always forget how many taverns you own. It’s gotta be ridiculously expensive, you should really see someone about your problem.” He chuckles for a moment before the moment passes and Roger heads back to the bar to tend it. “Maybe I should see someone.” He laughs at his pain for a moment more, then he grabs his necklace and stands up.

As he steps out onto the street, he looks around. Crowds had formed on either end of the alley the entrance to the tavern was tucked into. It was pretty early so most people would be looking for quests, and the NPCs filled the streets to keep up appearances. Quickly and quietly Dustin jumps up to the roof of a building in front of him, slipping in the snow and stumbling a bit, but he sticks the landing. Walking over to the edge over looking the main street, he sits and dangles his feet over the wall. The people here are so naive to think we can settle down in here. They have no idea what’s truly out there. Sorrow and death. Hatred and suffering. Fighting and killing. But it’s not all bad, we can have lives here, but we can’t just fall into the status quo and hope that the people who don’t will save us. Everyone’s contribution matters. He grabs a pebble he had kept from the first quest he ever did and looks at it, before he draws it back and throws it out into the town.

“Your time’s coming.”

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The bed Jinx had been 'stealing' was, as always, extremely comfortable. The guild-master had continued to let her stay in his home, and the girl had been more than abusing the privlidge, not that she knew she was abusing it. She had woken up a few hours ago, but continued to stay in the bed with a notepad and pencil. She'd been writing notes about her 'build', ensuring she had a plan for when she became stronger! As she wrote, a low hum emerged from her throat, a happy little song to celebrate waking up this morning. Some mornings were harder than others and...

She was distracted as a message arrived. Probably from Stryder asking if she was awake. He was doing this more and more recently, as opposed to bariging in. It was nice of him. She frowned a little as she saw who it was from. Dustin, someone who had said several times she was his favorite, and the warm feeling bubbled in her chest as she opened the message. 

Spoiler

To: @Jinx

Message:

I found him, meet me on floor 4

Jinx couldn't unsee such a message. Nor all it implied. Him. There was only one person Dustin had been hunting for, wanted to find for so long. Greil. Jinx's eyes never looked away from that message as she opened her inventory, and flipped through her items. She had to...! Had to act! In those few seconds, her mind crystallised, and everything just clicked inside of her head. In the moments she sat there, reality itself became too clear to the girl. Having 188 IQ did that to ya...

Greil had killed Kadin. Dustin was very angry about said action, understandably so. Dustin had stated his desire to acquire revenge many times, and given his temperament and enjoyment of combat. The resolution to the conflict would be a physical one where...

Her mind froze as horror entered her eyes. There was only a single way this would end if Dustin was left on his own! She had to go now! The girl charged out, smashing into the door as she ran to the teleporter! It didn't take her long, and soon she found herself...cold!

The 4th floor was snow! And the girl wasn't wearing her armour, she was wearing a plain white shirt, and pants. She clutched her arms, shiving almost instantly as she looked around, the cold wind lightly moving her hair. The girl looked across the streets, and she couldn't see Dustin. She took a deep breath, and her mind numbed itself down as she opened her her message options and slowly typed one back

Spoiler

To: @Dustin

Message:

On the floor, where are you?

 

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Snow. Arabelle hated snow - when she was no longer playing in it or throwing snowballs, anyway. It was cold and she had to wrap herself up in layers upon layers of clothes and back in the real world, it meant lots of mowing. She let out her breath in a small white puff and shivered when a particularly cold breeze passed her. The small purple-haired girl tightened the red cloak around herself and curiously eyed a few passing players. There was a small group of them. Let's try something! 
 
She pulled the hood over her head and promptly faded from view.
 
It had been nice of him to craft her a cloak that looked almost exactly like his. 
 
She circled round a group of players. Her movements were silent. She kept her steps soft, light, and slow. No one noticed her. This was kind of fun! Arabelle nodded to herself, only to notice the edges of the hood flapping into her vision. Okay, serious question: how did these guys even see? The small purple-haired girl tilted her head, thinking. Then she decided it was a matter for another day and strolled up to a stack of conveniently-placed crates, using them as leverage to hop onto the nearest building's rooftop.
 
It had been a simple matter, asking where the guy with the very conspicuous orange cursor went, but she quickly found that she didn't even need to talk to anyone. A quick glance around and she already spotted said orange cursor resting atop a certain player's head. He wasn't even hiding at this point, but the amateur detective grinned and internally congratulated herself at having found her favorite guildmate with a series of totally smart guesses! She hopped onto one roof. And then the next.
 
Her cloak flared behind her as she landed lightly behind him. 
 
Arabelle stared at his back, considering her options. Most likely, he would be jumpier and more on edge than the time she visited his house. He'd pulled out his sword back then; he might actually swing it at her this time around. Not in that way. Unfortunately. Jokes aside though, Arabelle was annoyed. What was all that talk about liking her for? Some closure thing that they only ever did in the movies? You know, that thing where the protagonist goes around and does all that he wants to do before doing his noble self-sacrifice shtick.
 
She quietly stepped closer to him.
 
"You know, you should keep a better watch of your surroundings."
 
She held out a hand.
 
"Especially when you have a murder plot brewing."
 
--And she shoved him off the rooftop with a sudden strong push.
 
[I CAN HaNdlE This beTTEr thAn YOU EVEr did, sHiRo-Chan.]
 
The small purple-haired girl landed gracefully beside him and pulled off her hood. She looked down at Dustin, smiling in her usual manner as she ticked down his offenses on her gloved fingers. "No messages. Not even the slightest acknowledgement that you were seeing what I sent you. What, don't you know how weird I felt? I felt like some desperate girlfriend! You weren't even in your house. No one knew where you were. Clearly, you've been planning this for a long time already. I mean, not the sort of thing you'd do on a whim, right? Well, none of us were informed... or no one told me anyway." She crossed her arms, tilted her head up, and narrowed her eyes. Her foot tapped against the ground. "I suppose that thing you said about calling on me if you were ever in some sort of trouble was limited to Pinball-only problems. Psh. I honestly would've felt much better if you just cheated on me or something."
 
She allowed him enough time to dwell on his crimes. Then Arabelle helped him up.
 
"I can confirm though. Greil is here. Do you know the exact coordinates?" She tilted her head and gave a wry smile. "Don't give me that look, I had to look around for clues. I know who he is, what he did, and what he's been doing the past year." He killed Dustin's brother. And he did jack sh*t the past year or so, which meant he wasn't too big of a threat to either of them. Altogether, a terrible person. The scum of society.
 
Arabelle hid her hands behind her back.
 
 "So? What are you planning to do with that guy?"
 
Spoiler

Stealthing

ID: 124002 | LD: 14

 

Edited by Arabelle

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Dustin watched the rock fall down into the middle of town, it having gone surprisingly far. Huh... I guess I’ve just gotten stronger. He looks down at the ground, before all of a sudden he hears a familiar voice behind him. His eyes fill with dread before a hand pushes him off the building and he comes falling down along with some snow that falls with him. The landing wasn’t nearly as painful as it looked, but the chill of the snow bit his side in an aching manner like that of his father’s home town. Her feet fall next to him, and he just lays there, motionless in the snow. She’s got a point. It’s not something I’m proud of, or wanted to do. It’s something I had to do. If I told you all what I planned to do, you all would’ve hated me. Hell... Eatos called me a child. He listened as she explained further, before waiting for a bit.

Damnit... why’d you have to follow me here? Why’d you have to come and get me? Why’d you have to tell me everything? I could’ve just disappeared, and never looked back. But no. You had to come and take away my closure.

She helps him up, and he stands the rest of the way to his feet. How was he supposed to disappear if she was right next to him. “I’ve been where he is before.” He grips the necklace around his neck. “Ironically, Kadin would’ve loved it.” He chuckles before letting go of the necklace and turning towards the girl. She had already asked another question? “Simple... I’m gonna kill him.” He looked her dead in the eyes. His words were filled with a tone not one of the people he had ever spoken to had heard before. The usually happy go lucky boy was in his revenge state of mind, and his voice had lost all the life it had in it. His eyes only filled with sorrow and despair, his voice only carrying a hint of anger.

He was the spitting image of a washed up has been.

His mind was replaying the sins he had committed, with commentary from his favorite person in the game. A few phrases catch his attention.

“I felt like some desperate girlfriend!

“I honestly would've felt much better if you just cheated on me or something."

He took a sharp breath in, like a silent gasp, and he turned to her. Are we official now? Like... and actual couple? He takes a gulp, steeling himself and walking up to her before placing a gentle kiss on her soft lips. It wasn’t a way to make up for what he did, but more of a way to say...

”Sorry...”

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The cold wasn’t fun to stand in, and the 4th floor…The girl shivered. The 4th and 5th floors were NOT places she enjoyed. The girls arms wrapped around herself, as another wave of shivers ran through her. She stared at the menu, waiting and expecting Dustin to reply. But the longer she stared at it, nothing. She tapped her foot against the snow…Where was he! And why…

Her mind completely dulled, as she went recalling information. Namely, the fact that buried within her inventory, was a jacket. She threw it over herself, and while it didn’t keep her warm, it did prevent some of the cold. She slowed her breathing, and her mind began to start up. Whirling through information about what she did, and didn’t know, about Greil and why he might be on this floor. There was hundreds, upon thousands, of possible realities that…

Her mind was halted by the muffled noise of someone crashing into the snow. While it was muffled, thanks to her earmuffs, it had been impossible to miss. She turned around, to see some sort of movement near the building. Figuring there was nothing to do until Dustin messaged her back, why not check it out? The girl moved forwards, a slight-skip in her step, and turned the corner…

Her eyes locked in on Dustin and…Arabelle??!!! What was she doing here! The girls face lit up entirely upon seeing the other girl in her guild. She’d really enjoyed spending time with the scythe-user, and she was rather smart. Giving her a ton of useful advice. Before she could process more, Dustin…kissed Arabelle? The girl tilted her head.

Were those two…a couple? You didn’t just kiss anyone, even Jinx knew that. Since when? Then again, she had vanished for months so…She continued to stare at the pair from the side of the building, forgetting to walk up to them as her mind began to process and filter everything that had transpired before her.

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The corners of her lips pulled up into a hollow smile.

"That's fine," she responded easily. "I know he's weaker than you. But tell me - can you kill him without destroying yourself in the process?"

Arabelle tucked her hands behind her back. She took a step back. Then another. The emerald green ribbon waved gently with the cold breeze that passed by as she leaned back against the wall. Not even a word about running away? She felt as if she'd just devolved even more into the 'desperate girlfriend' trope with that tirade of hers going unanswered. Her smile faded at her dissatisfaction, leaving her blinking up at him an empty ashen gaze. 

He must have misinterpreted something because, all of a sudden, he was kissing her softly. Well, it felt nice. Kisses always did, no matter who it was. She deepened the kiss just because-- and then pushed him back with her fingers curled around the tuft of brown hair that fell over his forehead.

Arabelle smiled coldly.

"Where's your apology?"

A pause.

"Lovely. Now tell me--" Her gaze strayed to the thieving little cat by the corner. She wasn't actually being very inconspicuous, and Arabelle doubted the Other Girl had the ability to track Dustin down on her own like she just did. Letting go of Dustin's hair, she easily maintained her calm smile. "Tell me what she is doing here." 

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By the time the girl with purple hair had pushed Dustin back and he had pulled away practically giving himself whiplash, he felt eyes on his back. Sh*t. He looked Arabelle in the eyes and then turned his eyes towards the girl as best he could given the death grip she had on him. His eyes fixate on the strand of hair she was holding, and his hand formed around the hilt of a broken blade just above his butt. Thoughts of cutting the hair and running from them both had flooded his mind and it was obvious he was leaning towards it. As she released him her question pushed him back upright. Now! Right foot left foot, rapid succession! Move it Dumbass!

But running hadn’t worked before. It just made them so angry when they found him. That’s why he didn’t want to be found. “I was trying to avoid her.” He explained. It wasn’t fair of him to do so, but he was telling the truth about it. “Although, I did sort of invite her.”

He would sort of shift himself towards Jinx and look her in the eyes. The emptiness inside them was all consuming, and no excitement despite seeing his two best friends for the first time in weeks. He was tired. Tired of running. Tired of fighting. Tired of making the same mistakes all the time. Tired of standing at the center of attention like this, his hand yanks the broken blade out and holding it at his side. I could get out of here. All it would take is a swift attack, and while they’re distracted I could ditch. His hands looked for something to do to escape this awkward situation. As he turns back to Arabelle, he sighs snd sheathes the blade. Opening his eyes it becomes apparent that he was sort of back to his old self. Not exactly the same, but his eyes had some sort of light to them.

”I should’ve told you. For that I’m sorry.” He gives her a weak smile.

Edited by Dustin

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Jinx continued to stare from around the corner, watching Dustin and Arabelle interact. She felt something in her chest, an odd sensation she honestly couldn't place, and dismissed it. Wasn't an emotion she needed, nor understood more than likely. She began approaching, but felt ice stop her. Not ice from the floor, but, instead, ice from Dustins eyes.

He looked, dead. There was no other way to word it, it looked as if he was a corpse standing before her. What was he, what made broken him so? Was it, greil? Had he managed to kill dustins brother, and dustin inside? Was her friend hurting that much, when she'd spent days in bed playing with Silver, Dustin had been suffering silently? Screaming into the wind where no one could ever hear him?

Jinx walked over, and pushed past her worries. With her, and Arabelle, here, surely... "Dustin, Arabelle! I-is everything...ok? I didn't realize you two were..." The girl hesitated, she didn't want to say anything about Greil so... "How long have you two been together?" Part of her was curious, part of her wanted to see life in her friends eyes. 

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He invited her?

"I see," hummed Arabelle, very calmly. So that's how it is. She ran around in what could practically have been a wild goose chase while all the Other Girl had to do was to receive a PM. Crossing her arms, she watched rather impassively as their little spy toddled up to them hesitantly. "Oh, I'm not really sure. How long do you think it has been, sugar?"

Another apology. There was much to question about his reasoning, but Dustin really did look sorry about all this. It was hard to just stay mad when she went through all that effort of finding him. 

Even though she didn't feel anything special when she did.

"You're just going to be repeating yourself over and over at this point. So, it's fine~," And right in front of the Other Girl. Arabelle pulled him down for a totally situation-appropriate kiss. She broke the kiss after a moment and pulled him down a bit further. "Just make it up to me some other way later."

Anyways. 

Stepping away from Dustin, she tucked her hands behind her back. She came here for one thing, but Dustin did for another. 

"Well, I didn't come here just to walk away. I'm still coming along. So, let's go?"

She asked, casually, almost as if she didn't know they were heading out to commit murder.

Edited by Arabelle

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Dustin turns to Jinx with no expression at all, he still didn’t know how to tell her what he planned to do today. She knew to an extent what he was willing to do. She knew he wanted to confront the guy, but he was sure she hadn’t realized he was ready to throw everything away just to get revenge for his little brother. “Yes, I’m sure I could kill him with no issue. I kill monsters all the time.” He says, before turning back to Arabelle. “And it’s not been a while, we just started ‘talking’ a few days.” He turns around and starts to walk, the snow crunching under his feet as he goes.

”I know where he is. I know exactly where he is.” His voice which is usually filled with life felt dead even to him. He must sound alien to them, they’d never seen him like this. It didn’t bode well either, he was sure if he was already this broken before even getting to the man, a fight wouldn’t go well either. “It’s a decent walk though, get out now if you don’t wanna deal with the cold.” He says in an attempt to rid himself of the worry of the two girls behind him. One of them had been through a lot with the boy recently, the other knew what he wanted to do for a while. Neither of them know how long he has waited to take the life of this man, and neither will even know the toll it would take on his mind.

”I’m sure you two would like to know the name of the man I’m hunting down...” He utters quietly, looking at the white ground before each step. No confidence, no bravado, just an empty husk that looks like the boy they both knew so well. “But it doesn’t matter, as it will be a name soon forgotten. One that has no meaning, no bearing on the world we live in.” He stops and turns around. “Soon it will be nothing more than a word and a memory, it will call to no one and bring nothing. No point in committing it to memory.”

He had to make sure they understood there wouldn’t be anything to stop him. He was telling them he knows what he’s doing is wrong, he knows it will alienate him from the rest of the guild. “The name of the man, is Greil. Remember it only for today as you will never hear of it again.” He says, before turning to the woman he so desperately wanted to see past this, 

“And he killed my brother, that’s why he has to be put down like the rabid dog he is.”

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Jinx could feel the blood in her veins turn to ice, the more her friend...the shell of her friend, talked and talked. Greil, she knew...She KNEW it...but to kill him. Even  out of revenge, she couldn't jsut stand by and watch! She...she couldn't let him do it! Her first instinct was to get help, to call Stryder.....

But she couldn't. Dustin needed help, and her...it was her job to help him. She looked at Arabelle, silently pleading for the girl to help her convince Dustin he was wrong as she reached out to touch him, to lightly grab his shirt, something...anything, to stop him.

"Dustin, you...this won't solve the problem" She said softly, the wind carrying her voice "You know that even if you, hurt, Greil...It doesn't make it better. Memories are all that we have, a-and you expect...." The girl didn't want...want him to, go too far. If he kills Greil, he'd be killing himself. And she couldn't stand by and let it happened. 

"Will this truly make you happy? You can't believe that taking a life makes you a better person, r-right?"

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Arabelle smiled.

"Is that so?"

And that was all she offered to his interesting response to her question. "Monsters," he said. That was what they all said at first. That was what some of them still said until now. Now Arabelle wasn't the sort to go on long complicated internal debates over what makes the death penalty warranted for a certain person and neither was she too hinged on morals.

But if you found something so completely revolting -- if you hated it so much -- you would want to be rid of it, right?

"I hate the cold," the small purple-haired girl puffed. To further prove her point, she seemed to hide herself deeper within the folds of her red cloak. As Dustin started to talk (she already knew the information anyway), Arabelle made a mental note to ask that person to make her a cloak that still looked like his... but a lot fluffier. For the cold weather. "But I got this far already, all my efforts looking for you would have gone to waste if I just left~."

Before she drew her hood over her head, she caught sight of the Other Girl giving her a... look. Her pleading expression was just enough to convey the silent message she wanted to send, but Arabelle simply tugged at the edge of her hood.

What was this "better" action they were all losing their heads over? Did it taste good?

Arabelle was only interested in watching.

Edited by Arabelle

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As Dustin cuts through the snow, trudging along with his two favorite people in the world in tow, he gets assaulted by the barrage of questions (mostly from Jinx) and he gets fed up. But instead of exploding and shouting at her, Dustin just bottles it up. His anger would soon be released anyways, so why not just hold on a little longer?

He feels a tug on the back of his shirt. His fists tighten, his jaw clenches and he turns slowly. He listens to her speak, her voice soft and broken, and while he watches he can’t help but want to yell, scream, throw something. But no, she was making her case, he would have to ignore her or tell her the truth.

”I know... I know this won’t fix anything. I know what I’m doing won’t change that my brother is dead. I never said this man deserves to die.” He says, watching the two women, before turning back around. “I’m not the only one who’s lost a brother, and I know if I kill him I won’t be any better a person but I don’t care. I don’t care if you all hate me, I don’t care that I’ll become the very thing I hate the most. If I can stop him from killing even one more person I can die a happy man. I can avenge my brother and save a life.” He turns around, walking towards Jinx speaking in his angry voice. “I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING IS WRONG. I KNOW EVERYTHING IT WILL COST ME, I NEED TO DO THIS.”

His voice lowers, his eyelids fall along with his gaze as he turns around looking like he was just rejected by the girl of his dreams and she killed his dog. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell.”

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Jinx felt her heart break, could feel it pulsing within her chest at dustin. He knew, he KNEW it was wrong what he was doing. and he didn't seem to care, didn't bother him at all what the cost would be at the end of the day. How could he believe this had to be done? Suffering only brings upon more suffering in the world, and to believe otherwise was a fools game. But here stood her friend, believing that killing Greil was the right decision. A blind hunt for vengence...Did he not know the pain he'd suffer for it all?  Jinx opened her mouth to talk to him, to get him to see...

But that's when he yelled at her, so loud it made her ears ring and she flinched so hard, it almost looked as if she'd been shot. Jinx stumbled in the ice, nearly losing her footing and grabbing at her ears with her hands. Fear ate away at her. Dustin had never yelled at her, never lost his temper in front of her. And to see him like this, it terrified her immensely. It was in those moments Jinx found herself questioning who Dustin was. Her friend, her guildmate, was someone else entirely right now. 

Jinx wanted to run away, everything in her body was screaming at her to run away from Dustin out of fear of what the boy might do to her. If he was willing to kill someone, then what would stop him from killing others too? As much as she was afraid for herself...she was more afraid for others. Jinx lowered her hands, and despite the fear that danced through her eyes . She was afraid, she wouldn't lie to herself. But that couldn't stop her anymore. 

"So that's all that matters to you now...? Getting revenge? Nobody else matters to you, nothing else...?" Jinx couldn't understand, how would you lose the light so quickly? Why would you be willing to die for this...? "If you kill him, what is to stop you from killing another...? A-and what someone who wants to kill you, f-for killing their friend, their brother, their family? What right have you, t-to take away it from someone else? And what will you do, i-if someone comes to kill you...for the same reason, you want to kill Greil?"  

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"Didn't you just call him a monster earlier?" Arabelle pointed out. She didn't say anything more as he launched into another tirade, much to the visible horror of their third companion. The Other Girl was clearly not the type to agree quietly and her efforts to stop him were obviously just wearing him out further, so why was she even invited when Arabelle wasn't? She couldn't scrounge up any idea aside from their very point of conflict.

The Other Girl was the most likely person to persuade him to do otherwise -- silly and bumbling her efforts may look -- and she was harmless. She couldn't use physical force even if she wanted to. 

A subconscious desire to be stopped. To be convinced that there was another way. Probably he wasn't completely the sort of person to readily jump to murder, even if it was his brother's killer.

How... curious.

But he was acting on pure emotion now. Words and reason seemed a second priority. When Dustin marched towards them with an unmistakable fury in his voice, Arabelle wasn't really surprised. 

"That's not a nice thing to do, Dustin~. Don't yell at her." Her disconnected, dreamlike voice seemed to float over to him as The Other Girl clapped her hands over her ears. She knew how sensitive the tank was with loud noises and the least she wanted was another panic attack postponing and otherwise amusing show. "We're all still on the same side here. Right? Don't forget that.

"And you," she tilted her head at The Other Girl and gave a small smile. "Probably. But we can't spend all our time losing our heads over the 'what if's. There's too much. In the end, we'd just keep thinking and thinking and thinking--" she signified that with a small twirling motion of her finger. "--and the world will keep moving around us and we'll get nothing done at all. But what's the difference between killing person and slaying a monster? They both have their own stories and their own families and hey -- maybe one just happens to think better than the other and looks too close to us in appearance -- but they're both rotten inside and a danger if left unchecked. An unpleasant stain. It's not that big of a deal, in my opinion."

Where were they now? As she turned back, hopefully following the rest down the same path they had been following earlier, she recalled once again the only time her guildmate had spoken with that furious voice. Didn't Dustin say previously that he was going to kill that guy, no issue?

He was already starting to contradict himself.

What a lovely mess he had turned into.

Edited by Arabelle

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Dustin can’t help but feel horrible for what he had done to Jinx. He knew she had a tendency to panic, and yelling at her was almost as bad as attacking her out here in the field. She sat there with her ears covered as Arabelle points out what Dustin did wasn’t nice. “I know.” He says quietly. He couldn’t bring himself to turn around and face them again, because maybe if he didn’t he could go on and kill this man. Maybe if he didn’t have to see the people he was hurting then he wouldn’t hurt so bad too.

Maybe he can run.

The tank uncovers her ears and starts asking more questions, Dustin’s least favorite kind. What ifs, they make Dustin’s head spin, and he’s already in a bad enough way. Making him lose it can only make things worse. Then the last question grabs his attention and sets his focus back on the main path he had formed for himself. Arabelle had taken his side but he wasn’t sure anymore. He knew where this was headed couldn’t be good, but he wanted Greil to know what taking a life costs. Dustin hadn’t earned his way into the guild he was in, he barely knew anyone in the guild but these two here. And they felt distant.

Dustin’s mind was cloudy, and it was like he was walking through a blizzard alone in the dark. Arabelle was basically saying he was right and to keep going, and her voice felt close. Really close. Cold and empty, but close, making Dustin feel less alone in the dark, but Jinx’s voice offered warmth, familiarity. She called out from great distance with her muffled voice and weak words, but they felt comforting. Differing opinions both offered the same benefits, but in different ways. 
 

The worst part was, he didn’t know which to follow.

He opens his mouth, stopping dead in his tracks and thinking. Her question had broken his train of thought, his autopilot ride to vengeance and managed to put him back in control, even for a little. But he was sure she wasn’t going to get the answer she wanted. Neither of them were.

If someone hunts me down, I can’t kill them for doing the same thing I did. I know the price I have to pay for this, and it’s the same price Kadin paid, And the one Greil is about to pay. Violence begets violence, I know. I can’t kill anyone but Greil. I can’t just throw away lives because I feel wronged. Greil has to pay though. For Kadin, for Shino, and for Amara. Even if it costs me my life.

”Taking a life is a big deal, and it should never simply be glossed over like a bug on a windshield.” He says, turning towards Arabelle and scowling. “There’s a price to pay for every body someone drops. But Greil has taken too many lives and yet to pay the price. No one else is doing anything, they all just turn a blind eye to the killing in this world and if I have to die to let someone know it needs to stop, anyone, then...” He stops himself. He doesn’t know what to say next. Part of him wants to stop, to wrap Arabelle in his arms and ask her to take him back to his place. But instead he turns to Jinx, looking her in the eyes and then to the snow between them.

”Then I die.”

He says, answering her question and finishing his sentence in one fell swoop.

”Like I said, I know the price, a life for a life. Greil has taken three at least. Kadin, Shino, Amara, they all died to that piece of garbage, and he has yet to pay the toll.”

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Jinx couldn't believe what Arabelle was saying! Her friend, someone who she looked up to, was....supporting Dustin in his acts of murder? Part of Jinx wanted to scream at her friend, demand how she could even believe murder to be acceptable course of action. How she would be just as....Jinx closed her eyes and even made a fist out of her hands, she couldn't let this happen. She wouldn't let her friends...become killers! No matter the cost, she....she couldn't lose them! 

"B-but, it's more than appearance. Underneath it, he...he's alive...Even in the real world, if someone...does the wrong thing, the..the police...the law. If you think, killing is..." Jinx tried to calm down, there was so much she wanted to say! So much she felt needed to be said that she couldn't decide where to begin, where to start. What to even say to her friends! "Greil is a human, a-and...no one deserves to die" She said to Arabelle, more pashion in her voice than the Scythe-user would have probably ever heard, if you exclude the paniced yells the tank used to make.

Jinx hoped, maybe, just maybe, she was getting through to her friend. Getting him to see murder isn't the solution! Only for him to look her head in the eyes and admit. He would die for this. "...Killing him isn't the solution to the problem! All it makes is more death Dustin! Please...Y-you may not care, but what about us? What about Arabelle, a-and....me and the everyone else?! Do you not care about ANY of us?! Do we matter, so little to you, that you don't care how you impact us...?" Jinx was shaking, with fear and, of all things to feel, anger. Jinx hated the feeling of anger, the fire that seemed to make her entire body feel like a leaf one decision away from shattering. But she couldn't not feel it, not when her friend was about to throw EVERYTHING away. 

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What about Arabelle? What about her?

"I'd rather you don't speak in my stead when I'm right here beside you. It's a bit rude, you know?" Arabelle sighed. Because it mattered little to her. The personal life choices of her guild member who carried her through a few quests and kissed her a few times wasn't going to change the course of her life in the slightest. "And stop, with that last part. You're only guilt-tripping him. It'll be terrible either way. Besides, it's Dustin's choice and neither you nor I get to force someone's life based on our own moral preferences. Especially when they can already think for themselves. That's the worst of the worst, you know? No matter the intention. Because you're not the one in their head, and you didn't go through exactly what they went through. It's plain pretentious." -- And it's disgusting. Maybe she now knew why Jinx kept rubbing her the wrong way even after she figured Stryder wasn't worth the trouble. -- "So whatever Dustin chooses, I can get behind it."

Maybe...

This was fun enough on its own.

He's human! No one deserves to die. [] He's a monster. They all died to that piece of garbage. But taking a life is a big deal and it should never be glossed over like a bug on the windshield.

"Why?"

What was so important about the life of a killer?

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