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[PP-F01] Unmasked (Mari, Itzal)

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Dark Emilia.jpgThe darkly dressed girl stood on the outskirts of the tenth floor. An orange cursor spun curiously above the slender figure. Strands of long black hair hung down and a set of piercing violet eyes stared out from where she sat. This player typically was hiding behind her cloak but today she had plans the required for her to show herself. Required wasn't the best word, but it would help her argument considerably. 

Opening her HUD, the player would send a message to a player that had helped her out quite a lot recently even if she didn't know it herself. Mari had suggested that she tried making friends and Hidden could honestly say that she tried. Yuki was far too bubbly, Crowzeph a disappointment, Raidou was his own kind of strange and Assassin really wasn't a friend.

With her message sent, she would sit on the ground and hug her knees. Despite her usual attitude she was terrified. Her emotions were bubbling and her heart panged with its own silent fear. Before now, she was constantly hiding behind her own cloak, concealed from the rest of the world. 

Her breathing became uneven. There was no going back now. Without her cloak she felt completely different. Her actions could be placed onto a face. The world could see her for what she truly was and she would be judged for it. Just as she had been judged back in the real world. Today they would face the root of her own problems, her previous actions and the APD. Killing two birds with one stone, she would attempt to clear her name as well as begin making her move on Laughing Coffin. 

'What if they don't even listen to me? What if they just arrest me and call it a day? I'm not sure I could evade Hestia, Itzal, and the rest of the guards even with Mari's help. Would she even be willing to help me out against that many opponents? Would she just ditch?

The girl would close her eyes in an attempt to calm herself. She couldn't back out now. This was her shot at earning her place back within the good eyes of Aincrad. Unless this were to happen, she would be forever wanted by the criminals and so called 'heroes' of Aincrad. 

Quote

To: @Mari
Hey Mari... if you don't have anything going on, I am planning on approaching the Black Iron Palace on the first floor to speak to the APD. If you could meet me at the teleport gate on the first floor at noon that would be great. Thanks!

 

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Itzal walked into the town of beginnings, staying against the walls and shadows whilst blending in with the crowd after having sent another group of player killers back into the prison where they came from. This was the second batch of escapee pkers he'd found and quite frankly this was getting a little ridiculous and out of hand. Hestia was in charge of the 'police force' of Aincrad, having been the founder. And although he didn't agree with her regarding many areas, ESPECIALLY her defending Hirru's action of aiding the floor boss against the players on the elven floor, he knew that she could do better than this. So what the hell was going on with her? Was it like she just suddenly vanished into thin air or something? He just couldn't understand it. Giving a hand signal to Aldion to keep watch outside, he ducked into a player owned food store, leaving the black raven to fly to the edge of the roof and watch for anyone coming in who was not wanted. Itzal strode his way up to the counter, the shop falling silent as everyone watched the black warrior. To them, the silent, confident and swift way he walked was almost unnatural. And that feeling was only heightened with the shadow like mist covering his face to all who weren't whitelisted.

The shop owner, a player by the name of Maria, turned and nodded to him with a smile. "Aaah, back for more Are? One moment while I pull it out of stock." Itzal merely nodded as he waited patiently, conscious of all the eyes, both player and npc, staring at him from behind his back. If he focused, he was pretty sure he could hear some growling too. He'd gotten used to it, so it didn't bother him. If anything, it just made him ready for another fight. It wouldn't be the first time players attacked him for being so shady, suspicious and 'arrogant' as they put it. Maria however was an honest soul. When she first saw him she knew he just wanted food, and even threatened to beat him into the ground if he missed a meal. If anything, it was a nice break from the usual attitude and treatment he received. She came back with his daily rations, plus a pastry on the side. "There you are! Make sure you rest and eat, not while you're walking, running or assassin creeding!" Itzal couldn't help but chuckle at the last part, which brought a wider smile to her face as he waved goodbye as he turned and left.

The second he was out the door he felt Aldion land on his shoulder and lifted some of the bread from his rations for the raven to eat. He then put it away and made his way towards the Black Iron Palace. The place the 'Aincrad Police' were supposed to be guarding on a daily basis ever since Hestia turned it into a prison for player killers.

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 Mari knew that orange players had a tendency to blatantly ignore the fact they were unwelcome in towns. Mari disliked it greatly, but couldn't  exactly fault them. Many Pkers didn't have a way to eat or travel. Mari however - just sucked it up. She refused to go into towns. Refused to go into safe zones. She committed an irreversible sin. She deserved that exile. Why should a murderer live with the same luxuries as the innocent?

So, with that knowledge; Mari wrote a reply to Hidden.
 

Quote

Hey.

I'll be outside the safe zone, there's a large boulder beneath a tall tree along the path out of the Town of Beginnings. I'll be waiting there.

xx
Mari.



With that message sent Mari sighed. Seated upon the rock she used to meet countless others. Why do people always insist on trying to get her into safe zones? Still... this message meant that Hidden was working in the right direction. Mari had heard from Crozeph that she still had her temper. But No one could change overnight, hell even Mari still had a bit of a temper. But at least Mari had stopped pushing others away. Had began to learn to trust them again. Sure - it may be her downfall. But Mari was trying.

She propped her legs up onto the rock, shifting into a cross-legged position. All she had to do was wait.

Spoiler


General
Level: 73 | HP: 1490  |Energy: 146




BATTLE COPY
Mari    [H:0/0/0] - HP 1490/1490  | EN: 146/146 | DMG: 19 | MIT: 43 | EVA:3 | ACC: 4  | BH: 72 | BRN: 24 |BLEED: 24 | FLAME AURA: 15 |

SKILLS
Rank 5 Weapon (+5 DMG)
-Weapon Mod: Precision (+1 ACC)
-Weapon Mod: Ferocity (+1 DMG)
Rank 5 Charge (+5 Damage -1 ACC)
Charge Mod BULL RUSH: Successful charge stuns target 1 turn
Rank 5 Light Armor (+25 MIT)
Light Armor Mod Athletics -  Gain +1 base damage and +30 HP when wearing light armor
SURVIVAL
Rank 5 Battle Healing (5% of total health rounded down start of each turn)
Familiar Mastery Expert - +1 (*Tier) Damage - +9 Damage
 

EQUIPPED
Name: 
Bleeding Lance| Item Type: 2H Assault Spear Tier 3
Enhancements: 
Bleed 2 | Damage 1
'Bleed Damage of 24 for 2 turns on a roll of 8-10'
'Burn Damage' of 24 for 2 turns on a roll of 8-10 - Unmitigated

Name: Beacon Necklace | Item Type: Pendant | Tier 2
Enhancements
  +3 ACC 

Name: 
Infernal Shadow | Item Type: Light Armour | Tier 3
Enhancements: 
 +2 Eva | +1 Flame Aura
'Effect: Prevent (6 per slot * Tier) damage per slot from successful attacks against you. Successful non-critical attacks against you deal (5 per slot * Tier) unmitigated burn damage to the attacking enemy.

 

 


@Hidden @Itzal

Edited by Mari

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Having received a reply, the girl would stand and brush any dirt that stuck to her pants from sitting down. In one final attempt to clam herself she took a deep breath. The musty of smell of the tenth floor almost burned in her nose, but she was used to it as this point. 'This is really it. Mari is already waiting for me.'

She took a look at the Teleport Crystal that now sat in her hand. For one final practice run she looked to the water and tried to force her mask back on herself even without her cloak. "I-I demand to s-speak to Hestia or Itzal!" She shook her head. 'Maybe I'll do better once I get there?' She held out the crystal in front of her. "Town of Beginnings!" 

As the blue light signaled her arrival, she immediately activated the hiding skill, brushing past the guards and people within the starting city. She knew they wouldn't really enjoy her orange cursor and she honestly had different things to be bothered with at the moment. Escaping at the front gate to the city, she would stop hiding. 'At least it'll be a lot easier to get to the Black Iron Palace. One downside of the place is that it isn't in a safezone but that means non-player guards won't even touch us.' 

Following the path, her eyes would search the idea for the description Mari left her. With only a couple of minutes or so of walking, she found the orange player sitting atop a rock. Gulping, she would have to force her legs forward before stopping several meters before she reached the rock. "H-hey.... I'm here." Hidden would say trying to muster the confidence she wielded when hiding behind her cloak.

Hidden would subtly gesture to herself as she told the other player, "I figured they might accept me... i-if I had nothing to hide." It probably would seem like an odd thing for Mari but she was trying her best and it was what she managed to come up with. If she was being frank Hidden was afraid to be exposed out in the open like this. She felt as if any and all eyes that scoured her body were in sour taste and they would immediately make fun of her for being small or something like that. Just like back in school. 

"The APD has their base or whatever in the Black Iron Palace. It's also where they throw the criminal players they capture in." She almost wanted to finish with, 'and we are walking right in to be thrown in there. If it is the same Itzal that I met that day he will throw me in there without hesitation.'

@Itzal

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Fortunately for Hidden, it most certainly wasn't the same Itzal.

The time she was thinking about was in fact actually his second to worst period of time in aincrad. The scout was furious with the frontliners for aiding not just the event boss during the fallen event, but also the floor boss against the players. In addition, Hestia demanded that they pretend that the frontliners weren't on the verge of defeat, and instead make them up to be invincible gods who could smite the bosses on their way to victory. And last but not least he had Aereth betray him. It would be an understatement to say that he was not really in his right mind during that period. However that was in the past, and Itzal had enough time to think everything over. He wasn't going to jump the gun any more, and instead give players a second chance... But only if they wanted it.

By this point Itzal was walking into the Black Iron Palace, his hands in his pockets and Aldion keeping a careful eye on everyone. He was still sticking to the walls and the shadows, all with his hiding skill active, but the guards were trained to continuously use their searching skill to spot any infiltrators so he wasn't going to get by so easily. "Huh? Hey you there! Stalking in the shadows! Stop and put your ha-" His voice cut off when he saw who it was, and instead switched to a growling as he glared at Itzal. "Oh, it's you. What the hell do you want now?" "Is Hestia back?" Are asked simply. He didn't even wait for a reply, walking past the guard and into the prison. As he walked through, he could hear the yelling and jeers and threats directed at him as he passed cell after cell after cell. He knew she wasn't back. She'd been gone for a while now. He was just doing a new routine check of his to make sure no one had somehow snuck out. Using his searching skill with every mod he had available, he scanned the area and was satisfied that everyone was still in their cells. Everyone except Pinball of course. Though he kind of felt like Hestia had something to do with it. They both seemed to know each other.

Aldion gave a caw before ruffling his feathers uncomfortably. Itzal nodded. "Sad sight indeed." This only riled up the pkers even more but Itzal didn't react to them. Instead he just walked back outside and left, leaving the guards in a particularly bad mood. They never liked him, seeing as how they couldn't exactly control him. Hard to force a level eighty three player to obey laws you make up just because you don't like how he handles things. Itzal wasn't worried about that. He was content that he kept the city safe without resorting to murder...

@Mari

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Mari pushed herself off the rock, a little surprised to see Hidden well, not so hidden. "Ah." Mari exclaimed as she approached. "No edgy cloak today?" Mari asked with a wry grin. "I think it's a step in the right direction." Mari said with a small nod, "Although if I were being picky I'd tell you to straighten your back, pull your head up. You're..." Mari folded her arms as she regarded the long haired girl. She looked so timid and closed off. "From what I hear, you've been quite the brash and outspoken girl." Mari teased. She had heard about Hidden from Yuki and Crozeph. 

"So why should that change when you're not wearing your cloak?" Mari paused. She was probably being hypocritical. Mari was always a little more nervous when she was wearing something different; her gala dress for starters - she almost hated the idea of others seeing her in it. "I get that its hard." Mari said sympathetically. "But - you're trying, and that's all anyone can really ask, right?" Mari reached out and gave Hidden a small squeeze on her bare shoulder. "No one said the path to redemption would be an easy one. You're gonna have people denying you every step forward you take. You're gonna have people who will always wanna put you away - who will believe you can never be redeemed. But you're trying. Remember that. Yeh?"

Mari pulled her hand away and placed them on her hips. "So, where's this place you're meant to be taking us?"

@Hidden

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Her gaze followed as the orange-haired player swung down from her rock, landing on the ground a few meters in front of her. As the girl laid eyes on her, she wanted to hide her face from the girl. If Mari started talking bad about the way she looked too she doubt she'd ever take the cloak off again. 

 Mari approached her slowly with a grin. "No edgy cloak today? I think it's a step in the right direction." Hidden's embarrassment and worry vanished if only for a moment. The dark-haired girl beamed at Mari. "I was hoping that if I show that I was willing to change then th-" 

She found herself making adjustments to the extreme as Mari told her to straighten her back and chin up. 'I'm not sure if she's acting more like a mom or a dance coach' she would think as Mari finally trailed off with her words. Hidden would intertwine her fingers as she bore her eyes intently into Mari's. Her cheeks returned to their normal slight flush from embarrassment.

 "From what I hear, you've been quite the brash and outspoken girl. So why should that change when you're not wearing your cloak?" Mari would ask her. Hidden would lower her head, staring shyly at the ground. "Well.. without my cloak its different. I-I..." Her voice trailed off. 'Without my cloak... everyone sees me for who I am. Some random small girl that should hardly be given the time of day.' she finished in her head. It was difficult for her to even think about voicing it. "Everything is different without my cloak." she would state with her eyes adverted from the woman. 

 "I get that its hard. But - you're trying, and that's all anyone can really ask, right?" Hidden would almost flinch as Mari placed her hand on Hidden's shoulder. "No one said the path to redemption would be an easy one. You're gonna have people denying you every step forward you take. You're gonna have people who will always wanna put you away - who will believe you can never be redeemed. But you're trying. Remember that. Yeh?"

Hidden wiped the tears that threatened to form in her eyes. There was no way that she could allow herself to break down on a day like this. "Yeah, I know i'm trying. I've tried to be nice to everyone I meet but..." Her voice trailed off again. It was difficult for her to be nice to others. It wasn't in her nature. Her nature was to push others away before they even have the chance to hurt her. "I guess today we will find out if this world cares that I'm trying?"

She offered Mari one last shy smile before allowing her eyes to turn back towards the Town of Beginnings. "So, where's this place you're meant to be taking us?" Hidden would gesture in the direction of the Town of Beginnings before replying, "The Black Iron Palace. Its currently the jail for criminals that the APD captures. Luckily for us, it isn't a part of the safe zone and there is a gate on the side of the city directly into it."

Hidden gestures for Mari to follow her, keeping her form tight as she began to walk in the correct direction. She tried to keep her breathing calm but she was pretty terrified. Not only was she not wearing her cloak, but she was using a different tactic then ever before. Making amends with the enemy instead of just forcing them to submit. 'Doesn't help that we are walking straight into enemy territory. Even Mari could be in danger at this point...

As the pair finally reached the gate, she hesitated as she placed her hand on it. "Are you sure you want to help me with this? As soon as I open this gate and we walk in then we both might be attacked depending on what mood they're in." She took a breath before looking back at the door. "I've made up my own mind. This is my path forward." Hidden pushed open the wrought metal gate and stepped inside.

Her eyes moved to the guards that had been sitting down at a table standing near the entrance conversing with eachother. The two of them turned their attention to her. She stepped forward and they began to walk forward to her cautiously, hands resting on the hilt of their weapons. She stopped as they stood a few meters away from them. One of the guards spoke up in an intimidating tone. "This here is the Black Iron Palace. Currently its purpose is to house the criminals of Aincrad. State your business! I'm doubting anything good coming from a lot like you." 

Hidden waited patiently for the guard to finish, figuring it would be the polite action to take. She wasn't the best at this and had sat in a few restaurants as of recent to try to pick up on some manners that had been lost to her. In the real world she never spoke with anyone so she hand't learned back there. "I demand... I want to speak with either Itzal or Hestia. It is of the u-utmost importance!" She told them. 

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Silently slipping by the guards again, he ignored their growls and mutterings as he made a sharp turn into the alleyway. He didn't want to have to wait until he'd made it out of the city or something to actually eat his meal, so he'd just go ahead and eat on the rooftop or something. Running up to the side of the building he ran up the wall and grabbed the structure's window sill, careful not to disturb the potted plats that were put there as he hauled himself upward. Grabbing the edge of the roof, he pulled up onto the rooftop and moved to sit at the edge. Given the time of day, the taller buildings would still cast a shadow over a small portion of the roof. So he moved to the section of the roof which hugged the wall and sat down, Aldion landing beside him. Eager to have more of that bread. Itzal pulled the meal from the menu: a small chunk of bread for Aldion, a deli sandwich, a water cantine, and a pastry. Just to make sure he couldn't be disturbed he went ahead and activated the hiding skill as well. Unless players deliberately tried to find someone lurking in the shadows on a rooftop he was pretty much guaranteed to go unnoticed.

Holding his sandwich with one hand he took a bite out of it and leaned back with one arm supporting himself, hearing the guards mutter to themselves. "...You know Aldion... I'd bet there's a lot of people out there who wished they could have just lived in this world and stay away from the real world. But the honest truth is we brought reality with us. Everyone still grabs for power, treats others poorly, and tries to act like the boss of everyone else... Even I'm doing that now, at least a little bit. I wonder what will happen when we all get out of here. Unable to physically do the amazing feats we've always done..." He paused a moment, letting Aldion caw in confusion as he didn't truly understand just yet. Itzal took a drink of water when he heard a voice from down below.

"Are you sure you want to help me with this? As soon as I open this gate and we walk in then we both might be attacked depending on what mood they're in. I've made up my own mind. This is my path forward." Itzal looked down to see who was talking and spotted the black haired player as well as the frontliner Mari. Or to be more specific, first he saw the two orange cursors and then the two people. He stopped his eating and stared at them curiously for a moment. "...What would those two need to go into the prison for?... They visiting someone?" Itzal looked at Aldion, but then he looked back when he heard the guards talking from inside. The answer given back to them however really caught his attention.  "I demand... I want to speak with either Itzal or Hestia. It is of the u-utmost importance!" This would be the moment Itzal dropped his sandwich with an open mouth. 'Sorry, what?!' Who on earth could possibly connect him to the prison?! The only interaction Itzal had with the prison, as Itzal, was the one time he tried to arrest Domarus and the others, as well as talking to Hestia about what they should or shouldn't do regarding pkers. No, he thought as he stood up. There were other ways to assume he could be involved. Itzal 'did' vanish, so wild stories were bound to arise at some point. That however wasn't the real problem. The issue was that someone was looking for him, and he just so happened to be right outside.

"What importance? You two turning yourselves in? You don't need Hestia for that."  the guard said simply in replied, clearly not trusting either of them. Both of them looked ready and waiting to draw their weapons at the first sign of resistance. "Besides," the other guard added "She's not even here. We haven't seen her in a while. So unless you're turning yourself, or another player killer in, just turn around and beat it." That's right, Itzal thought. They weren't going to just attack these two, even if both of them were pkers. Partly because they could be stronger than the guards, but the main reason was that they couldn't risk dying or being weakened to the point where the prisoners could just escape. They had a job to do after all, and they were short handed as it was. Deciding it would be best to be ready to move in at a moments notice, in case things started to turn ugly, he stepped off the edge and grabbed the shaft of a flag hanging off of the side of the building to break his fall, then let go and landed softly on the ground. From there he'd move along the side of the building into the alleyway, making his way to the entrance of the prison. Ensuring that he stayed in the shadows.

Hopefully they didn't close the doors, as that's how he was able to hear their conversation so far...

@Mari

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Mari placed a reassuring hand on Hiddens shoulder before stepping in front of her; Mari knew the risks. She made a promise - she promised she'd help Hidden - and she wouldn't back down from that. The guards were, well on guard as to be expected. They had two people approach the prison with glimmering orange crystals above their heads - and the guards had no real way to tell if the sign of sin was due to petty theft - or murder. "Whatever you do." Mari said quietly to Hidden, so that only she would hear. "Do not draw your weapon, don't show aggression. Even if I do, you don't."

Mari turned back to the guards. "Bold of you to assume we are turning ourselves in." Mari said with a confident tone. These men didn't scare her - she could easily take them on, but she wasn't going to. Rather, Mari planned to never draw a weapon against a player again. Even if they wanted to retaliate with violence. She had a teleport crystal ready - and would use that to get Hidden out of here if need be. "You see our crystals, and immediately go to draw weapons." Mari shrugged. "Sure, I get it - you are guards. But- aren't you also a police force? If someone comes here peacefully, are you really going to arrest them without a thought? Without due process? Tch. No wonder half of Aincrad think you're a joke."  Did Mari need to add that part? No. It probably made things worse, but Mari was never really good with controlling what she said. She sighed and bit her tongue. Drawing a deep breath.

"If it were just me - I'd fully accept how you're acting." Mari began, her voice softening. "However-" Her eyes darted to Hidden. "This girl clearly just wants to talk to someone, she's clearly afraid. She's clearly wishing to have nothing more than a discussion. Yet is met with hostility. Aren't the protectors of Aincrad meant to protect everyone who comes to seek help from them? Regardless of who they are?" Mari asked.  "What if a child came to you, alone and scared- with an orange crystal above their head, would they be met with that same hostility from the very people they sought help from? Or would they be locked away, afraid and alone?" Mari didn't mean to, but she sounded annoyed. Was this how the so-called police force acted? Hell - even Bahr was willing to listen to her, of course -when he found out who she was reason went out the window. Mari expected that of people, of her reputation, and of the wild rumors that surrounded her. But of someone like Hidden? What if Aiko had come here? Their aggression pissed her off.

"I'm Mari." That admission was bound to have a few bladed aimed at her throat. But Mari was ready for that. "Frontliner, and Guild Leader of Jacobs ladder, I'm here to ensure her safety. I don't want any violence. If Itzal and Hestia are not here, would you kindly tell us where they are?" Using her name was a gamble, but Mari didn't believe in being manipulative, besides she was terrible at lying. If the rumours of her past were terrible so be it, there were beginning to be an equal amount of rumours about her doing good - it really depended on how they'd react.

Either way, Mari was not going to leave Hidden.

@Hidden @Itzal

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The guards approached forward making her feel the need to shrink, however she managed to stand her ground. 'They're just looking at me... down on me.' Without her cloak she was hardly Hidden anymore. The cloaked cut-throat player wanted for releasing a terror onto Aincrad and known for being a danger. Without her cloak she just wasn't that girl anymore. She hated to admit it, but without it she was just another player who cowered in fear as others approached.

Her eyes widened as the guards spoke, telling her if she wasn't turning herself or another player killer in to beat it. At that moment, she was almost prepared to do just that. Beat it. She recoiled from their gaze and adverted her eyes. A quiet voice spoke from behind her as Mari brought up the rear. "Whatever you do. Do not draw your weapon, don't show aggression. Even if I do, you don't." Hidden nodded her head ever so slightly but aggression wasn't even on the forefront of her mind. She almost let Mari take the entire hold of their side of the conversation, remaining quiet as Mari ruthlessly attacked the guards with morals and politeness. To Hidden, it was spectacle to watch. Mari's words were rather effective without threatening or attacking the players. She was hardly aware that sort of thing worked. 

Mari however, in the midst of her speech gestured towards her and pinned her as the scared girl who needed help. A pout came to her face as she looked back to Mari. 'Okay okay... totally not true.' She would think, looking towards the ground. 'I'm not that afraid...'

As Mari's annoyed tone faded, it would finish with requesting the information for the whereabouts of Itzal and Hestia. Hidden looked up at the guards once more, scanning their facial expressions before it dawned on her. "They don't know..." She would whisper quietly. They only had mentioned Hestia and that she hadn't been around. She was out of the question. They never even mentioned Itzal, meaning they didn't consider him a part of the operation. 

She would turn, poking the side of Mari's arm. "They don't have any clue where they are.... Let's just get out of here. This was far fetched  in the first place." Her tone resembled that of someone defeated. Their purpose had been lost. Unless she found someone with a higher standing then some random guard post she would remained wanted and hated by Aincrad. Untrusted without given the chance to earn her grace back in the ranks of players. "These guys aren't even worth you time." Hidden turned, preparing to return whence they came. 

 

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Hearing the guards threatening to throw them into prison unless they didn't have a good reason to be there wasn't something that necessarily surprised Itzal. These guys tended to take their job way to seriously... And that was coming from Itzal, the rogue playing vigilante. If Mari hadn't been in that room, Itzal probably would have knocked them both on the heads from behind. Of course, even then he wouldn't have to. It wouldn't be long now before their commotion dragged him out of his "office". He was curious though, as to how they'd handle a real fight with players who faced death on a daily basis.

"Mari?" one of the guards said, recognizing the name... And not having a very good reaction to it. "The mass serial killer who fooled the frontlines into letting her in? What do you think we're stupid?!" The guard pointed at Hidden's orange cursor with a growl. "Anyone who has an orange cursor is a potential threat! She got that cursor for killing someone, and she's not the first person." The other guard took a strong step forward, over his shock at hearing that Mari was in front of them. "And child innocence? You really think we're gonna fall for that? Hestia's been nailing that wanted poster of Adrian into our heads since day one! If a child can murder without any guilt, why shouldn't I suspect every kid with an orange cursor?!" Both of the guards stood, angered and clearly tired of this. The bigger one gripped his weapon tightly, as if waiting for something. "If I were you, I'd suggest you le-"

"Oh what the hell is going on now?" From behind the two guards came another figure, wearing what seemed to be thicker and stronger (and more expensive) armor than they could ever hope to get their hands on. "C-captain! Sir! It's her, this is-" "Mari, yes, I heard you all the way down the hall. Keep this up and you'll rile the prisoners up again." The guards looked at each other, knowing that Are had started it first, but were too afraid to tell the captain. They didn't want to look like they were excusing themselves, that would just make the captain's frustration more intense. "We were just about to tell them to leave captain. They aren't turning themselves in so they shouldn't-" The captain held his fist over the guard and rammed it down, forcing the player to the ground. "You dumba**, that's not an order I gave you was it? Mari is a frontliner whether we like it or not. If they are putting their lives on the line we should do the same. Show her respect." He turned to the two of them and gave an apologetic bow. However it was very clear he didn't like the situation either, despite that he was going to tolerate it and act as a professional. "Now then. Little girl I don't know what business you have with those two players but your out of luck. Itzal seemingly vanished not long after the 'fallen event', or so Hestia says. And Hestia hasn't been around in ages. I've been left in charge for a long time now, so if you can't talk to me then there's nothing for you here."

"Well that went better than expected.." Itzal muttered. He could almost hear the heat rising off of the two guards who were likely humiliated and infuriated beyond measures at this point. Between Itzal's actions and words, and the captain making them look like the fools they were, they were bound to snap at some point. But at least the physical threat level had shot way down, so there was that.

@Mari

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"They don't? Typical." Mari turned to Hidden and offered her a smile after Hiddens nervous whisper. "It's fine. It was worth a try, you came here - with your head held high, and you tried to seek something out. That's more than many can say." 

Mari turned to the guards, her tone changing. "You're a fricken guard you should know that orange crystals very well appear for minor offences too, and repeated minor offences. Gods - I'm trying to be nice but ya'll making it really hard." Mari offered the guards a lop-sided grin. They asked her if she thought they were stupid. "Honestly, yeh. I do hope you don't treat everyone who seeks aid with such hostility. C'mon." Mari said, on purposefully avoiding using Hidden's name. "Let's go."  

Mari turned to leave, pausing only at the gnarly drawl of a deep voice. He told the guards to show her some respect, and Mari - with her typical foot in mouth syndrome had chosen to interject. "Honestly - being a frontliner alone doesn't demand respect. I'd imagine anyone who comes here to seek help should deserve some iota of respect. Regardless of their crystals. If you're the captain I'd suggest telling them that." Mari said, pointing and waving a finger in the direction of the two guards. "Although..." The bitter tone in her voice faded as she drew in a breath of warm air. Stop being defensive. Stop being this person. You're not that anymore.

"I should apologize for reacting harshly. I get how stressful doing something like this would be." Mari said softly, closing her eyes and letting her shoulders fall as she exhaled. "If my companion wishes to leave, we can., my business here is as ...her friend and guardian Nothing more." Mari looked to Hidden. Wouldn't it be worth talking to the captain? All they had to do was erase the bounty on Hidden right? If they weren't going to arrest Mari of all people on sight, wouldn't that show they wouldn't just outright arrest or kill Hidden?

@Hidden

 

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The guards seemed to get a kick out of Mari, calling her a serial killer that convinced the frontlines to let her back on stage. 'It really does seem that she did have quite the reputation.' Hidden thought to herself as the guards began to suggest that they leave. Mari promised her that she tried and that was all that mattered though the guards words seemed to piss her off. Her words only seemed to be pissing off the guard more and if she wondered if they would begin to attempt an arrest. 

Mari turned, Hidden begin to walk a few steps to distance herself from the guards when a deep-voiced shout brought her attention back to the prison. She eyed the newcomer who seemed to be wearing a higher quality of heavy armor, one that seemed could take a hit. Sizing him up, Hidden decided that if it came down that he could be taken down with Mari's help. The supposed captain of the guard berated his men for disrespecting a frontliner no matter if she was an orange player though it seemed that didn't appease Mari either. The bitterness in her voice rose as she brought her morale point into view. Mari seemed to have the moral advantage, though if the guards were afraid of orange players it might make sense. 

"I should apologize for reacting harshly. I get how stressful doing something like this would be. If my companion wishes to leave, we can., my business here is as ...her friend and guardian Nothing more." Hidden paused for a moment as her brain seemed to run at a million miles per hour. 'I want more than my bounty erased. There was more to my business here. I want my name cleared, not freed of its burden. I want him to admit that he was wrong. I want Laughing Coffin to pay. And finally, I want Adrian to have his second chance as well. This captain can't do anything like that.' 

Taking a breath she would give the captain her most confident look and said, "You can't help me. I don't have any further business with you. I will find them on my own then." she would tell the man before pivoting on her foot. She would flip her hair in the guard's direction and slowly begin to walk away towards the gate back to the fields. As she walked away, her face reddened with embarrassment at the hairflip she used to show the guards a little attitude. 'That was so weird. Do they really do that or is that just in movies?' she would think while trying to grapple the controls to her emotions. In a low voice, she would address to Mari alone, "I'm sorry. I didn't expect this to be an utter waste of time." 

That captain didn't have connections to the frontlines so his usefulness was more than limited. Only Itzal and Hestia would be able to help her. They could have the frontlines and the APD allow her back and help get her revenge on the group that crossed her. 

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There was a bit more idle chit chat between Mari and the captain, but beyond that Itzal didn't hear much else worth noting. The captain of the guard gave a curt nod when Hidden said they were leaving, and even gave a half genuine apology that they didn't find the people they were looking for. He knew the three of them didn't care for treating the two pkers with such courtesy as that, especially after seeing the many different types of liars and murderers Itzal put away over the past few months. But in the end the captain at least understood that not everyone was like that. And while he likely wasn't sure if Mari was really trying to change or not, so long as she wasn't acting hostile, and as long as the frontliners saw fit to put their trust in her again, he'd at least treat her with some form of respect. From what Itzal got out of the conversation though, he had no doubt that Mari had some bad habits she was fighting to get rid of. But she was also a smooth talker as well. He could see her as a good negotiator if it came down to it.

When he heard them turn to leave, he shifted so that he could watch them walk away while remaining hidden in the shadows. He remained completely still so that they wouldn't notice anything. Find them herself? Well, if she had the tracking skill and either traded, partied up with or was in a guild with Hestia, then she'd certainly be able to find her. Itzal hadn't because that felt like a breach of privacy, and would also give away that they'd been in a party before when, as Are, he hadn't. However the likelihood that she'd ever track down Itzal was literally impossible. Not unless he wanted her to or he made a HUGE slip up. But if he slipped up then it would likely reveal his identity to everyone, in which case this girl and Mari would be the least of his worries.

Once they were far enough ahead where he couldn't be spotted when he moved, he ducked into another alleyway. Once there he ran towards the wall and ran up the side, scaling it quickly so that he reached the rooftop within no time at all. Staying on the opposite side of the roof from them to keep hidden, he leaped from roof to roof to keep up with them. Listening for anything else they might say to one another. However at this point they were whispering to keep eavesdroppers from overhearing them, so he'd need to come up with another method. He had no idea why they wanted to speak with Hestia or him, but he wasn't going to deny her that. Well, in a way that is. Itzal landed on another rooftop and slid to a stop with hardly a sound, immediately opening his inventory and pulling out a pen and pad. He wrote a note down and tore it off. "Aldion, mind delivering this to the girl? The smaller one, not the orange haired one." Aldion cawed once to acknowledge and flew off. The black raven flew through the air before descending down to her in a spiral manner. Aldion cawed three times to get her attention just before he reached her, and gracefully glided over to her. If she lifted her hands to take the note he'd drop it into her open palms. If she didn't, he'd fly in front of her while trying to put the letter into her hands anyway. Afterwards he'd fly in the opposite direction as Itzal as he'd been trained to do, before maneuvering around to lose their gaze and returned to it's owner.

Letter:

Spoiler

Hestia and Itzal have a substitute when the need exists.

Head to the specified coordinates if you're determined to speak.

- Are

@Mari

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Mari shrugged as they both turned away from the guards post - their slow steps slowly taking them away from the prison. "Honestly, I'm just glad we aren't in a safe zone." Mari said as she  smoothed out her scarf, continuously running her fingers through it to keep her hands busy. "It's not a waste of time." Mari said thoughtfully. "Think about it - we've really learned a great deal of information, right?" Mari offered as she turned to give Hidden a small smile.  The poor girl seemed so dejected. The least Mari could do was attempt to cheer her up.

"We've learnt that the guards won't arrest two orange cursor players - one of whom they know very well. So if either of us need to return for more information, if we're civil. We know we should be safe." Mari said as she pointed her finger between the two of them.  "We've learned that Itzal is probably a dead end - for now - and that Hestia doesn't really concern herself with prison matters anymore. So - the only thing I can think of, if we wanna contact them is if I approach her during the frontline meeting, or the boss raid." Mari didn't really like the sound of that.  "Although...I'm not fond of bringing interpersonal matters to the table when there are other matters to discuss - if its said in passing. At least Hestia is aware, yeh?"

Finally straightening her scarf Mari lifted her hand to run it through her hair. " I know ya wanna remove your bounty - but really - is that so important? It looks like they'll never follow through."  Mari was hoping her words didn't sound harsh. "And you're slowly working on redeeming yourself. That'll take time - speaking to Itzal or Hestia ... that isn't gonna change anything in the big scheme of things.  Was there another reason we needed to - "  Mari paused when she saw it.

A suspicious crow that had flapped up and around Hidden. Practically shoving a letter into her hands. 
"What the..." Where the hell had that come from? Someone had obviously followed them.

"What's that all about?" Mari said, her attitude immediately shifting. She was cautious - and annoyed. "Gods sh*t like this annoys me..." She muttered under her breath. "Some bloody edgelord can't talk to you face to face? Well, two can play at this -"

Mari placed two fingers in her mouth and gave a loud, shrill whistle. Her familiar, a large Koi fish materialized out of her inventory - its scales shimmered with shades of pristine white and bright orange. It swam around her as though the air itself was water. Mari motioned to the crow with her jaw. "Kohaku, follow that bird as it leaves." She muttered quietly.


@Hidden @Itzal
 

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As they walked away, Hidden began to become annoyed. 'I went out of my way to try to make them see me in a better light. I went through with taking off my cloak and everything. Of course those assholes decide to make my life worse and then dip before I get the chance to make it better.' 

"It's not a waste of time. Think about it - we've really learned a great deal of information, right?"

Mari's words seemed as if they intended to cheer her up but they didn't. "Not really. All we know now is that the two people I searched for aren't going to be around. And there's more to it then just getting rid of my bounty. Nobody cares about the col. The only people that have ever attacked me for my bounty just want to be heroes. Cept' one guy who just wanted to see what they hype was." The man hadn't shown his face in quite some time. She doubted she'd see it again. 

"Even if the guards are no longer a problem, people are gonna remember me as the girl that supposedly let out a dangerous criminal. Laughing Coffin is also gonna sit pretty and the information I have is gonna go to complete waste." 

She was about to say something else but she was terrified at the sudden dive bombing she received from a random bird. She leapt back, the bird forcing a letter into her hands that she dropped. The bird took to the sky and Mari sent a... fish? After it. "Oh god I think i've had enough for one day." she muttered. 

Picking the letter up, she would read it aloud which would set Mari even in more of a blaze. "Some bloody edgelord can't talk to you face to face?" Hidden winced at those words as she remembered that she herself was a "bloody edgelord that refused to talk to people face to face". 

"E-Edgelord or not.... If this person is a supposed replacement for those two, I can't really turn this down." This was an odd encounter though. "You think who ever 'Are' is knows that guards and shit aren't supposed to be hiding and meeting people in secret? In fact... I hope they don't think they can trap us." 

Hidden set forward at a brisk pace, following the coordinates through the fields of Floor One. Due to their level, most of the monsters ran at first sight making way for the two women. As they came close to the forest, she would point at a small path in a tightly wooded area. "There. That's where the coordinates lead to. Whatever happens in there, its not going to be able to be seen by anything around. I doubt there is another entrance to it either." 

Taking a breath. Hidden's resolve would win over her anxiety and she would push forward. She crouched down so that they low hanging branches of the path wouldn't get in her hair. Entering the small clearing, she would find that her earlier statement was entirely true. There was no other exit. She couldn't see outside the trees. She stepped in further and said, "Hello?" to the seemingly empty clearing. If the player didn't show him/herself she would believe it to be a trap and prepare to fight. 

@Itzal

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Itzal had accounted for a great many things. He always had. However what he hadn't thought of previously, was a player sending a familiar to track down someone's familiar. Aldion was pretty good at keeping to the shadows, but he wasn't fully trained yet. Itzal had completed the training quest yes, but there was still much more to teach him. As a result, the koi fish wouldn't have much of an issue following Aldion, despite his attempts to shake his tail. Eventually Aldion gave up and flew to catch up with Itzal. There was, however, one benefit Itzal had. Familiars couldn't really spot players who used the hiding skill. They could only do as much as their player could, and even then if they were a specific distance away from the player the benefits didn't carry over. So Mari's familiar would be following Aldion, but wouldn't see Itzal. He of course, could see the familiar.

Aldion cawed with a bit more of a higher pitch than usual, indicating a question. Most likely the question was: "the hell do I do now?" Itzal was busy moving across the buildings, and he didn't want to risk making any noise for the familiar to catch, so he simply held his finger to his mouth to indicate silence, and gestured for Aldion to follow at a distance. And like that, he cut through the city in no time at all.

Having reached the clearing far earlier than the other two had, he pointed at a branch for Aldion to perch on, allowing him to oversee the entrance to the grove and alert him when someone approached. In the meantime, the rogue went to the shaded side of the clearing and leaned against a tree as he waited. The koi fish it seemed would wait patiently for Aldion to go somewhere. It was likely told to just follow Aldion, and not given any other instruction, so it would probably just wait there until a specific period of time passed by. No mater, the two should be here soon enough. If they didn't arrive after a few hours he'd leave and that would be that... He was hoping they'd come though. Eventually the two of them DID come, as Aldion cawed once to indicate such. Shifting now, he saw the two walk in, the smaller girl giving a rather casual greeting for such an occasion. Well, this wasn't how he wanted to meet Mari, but... Taking a deep breath, and breathing out quietly, he turned his hiding skill off, save for the untraceable mod, and stepped into the light.

"Aldion." The raven glided down to Itzal's shoulder, fluffed up it's feathers and started grooming himself. "It's not the best official meeting, but pleased to meet you Mari. You however are a new face. I'm Are as you've guessed. Before we begin may I have your name?" A username would be preferred to him, so he could get information quicker, but at the same time he wasn't going to push for it.

@Mari

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Mari couldn't help but snort -followed by an amused laugh at the almost disgusted look Hidden had given the floating Koi fish. "I know - right?" Mari said, her eyes watching as it disappeared over the rooftops. "It's almost ridiculous. Hilarious even. I talk a lotta sh*t about others, but here I am with a fish that swims through the air. I'm a hypocrite, right?" Mari sighed as she shifted her gaze back to the buildings. "Seems this Are person has a thing for parkour - seriously..." Mari sighed shaking her head. It was ridiculous. But, then again- she had an obstinately bright fish following him. Through the air so she couldn't really talk.

"I think you put too much faith in how people remember you." Mari said as the two girls began to follow at a casual pace. Hidden had the coordinates - and Mari had her eye on her familiar. "You supposedly let out a dangerous criminal, I don't mean to trivialize that but -I've taken the lives of eight people." Mari added with a heavy emphasis. Her tone turning serious. She didn't want to make it sound like it was a joke. Those lives were valuable. "And people hardly seem to care anymore. So - I really doubt all that many people are going to care about you letting some messed up kid go. As for what was it? Laughing Coffin...." Mari trailed off - she really hadn't heard all too much about them. 

"Why should that responsibility rely solely on you?" Mari asked. "You have information privvy to them - so sure, lets give it to this replacement. But what then?"  Mari knew she was probably being a little harsh with Hidden, hell - she was the same with Yuki. There had been multiple instances where Yuki had broke down - but Mari wasn't really one to mince words. "You can always teleport outta there. So this trap isn't really all that well...trap-like." 

They had made their way to the forests; creeping tendrils and vines tightened around them as the space between the trees became smaller and smaller. It almost would have been considered mythical - or calming, if not for the heavy feeling in the air. Mari felt like she was perhaps being a little too cavalier - but she just didn't feel any real danger right now. She had faced countless adversary, from both players and monsters- and there was always a certain electricity in the air. That was absent now. 

"I think we'll be fine." Mari said as she watched Hidden motion toward the small entrance.  

Mari followed suit, grumbling as twigs and sticks tore at her clothing and skin. Mari bit her lower lip when she saw the man. Dressed fully in black - resting against a tree. Smoke covering his eyes. Whoa, he really is going a little over the top isn't he?

"Well, someone has a sh*t load of secrets." Mari said as she gestured to his covering before holding out her arm - Kohaku - her literal floating koi fish returned to her side before flashing away - back into the safety of her inventory. Since, that also made total sense. 

"Sorry." She quickly mumbled. He had given her the decency of a courteous introduction. "I assume you're...Are?"

@Itzal @Hidden

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At least Mari was aware of her situation when it came to her fish, though Hidden didn't really want to talk about the woman''s strange familiar. She'd rather forget something such as that existed. Speaking of forgetting, Mari was willing to bet that the frontliners hardly remembered letting the kid out. "You're probably right. But I doubt a few of them forgot how I attacked Hirru on the twenty-third floor. Besides... there is more to everything than just clearing my name. It's probably as Aereth said with wanting my cake and eating it too... but there is more that I want than just a cleared head. Laughing Coffin did me wrong and I want them put down. I also want Itzal and Hestia to admit they were wrong and their entire police force is a sham to just rid of players that they consider to be a bother. Using their title as frontliners and their made up police force just to get them out of the way. 

Hidden sighed. She was rather biased on the matter. In her mind, her opinions were more than justified. She doubted she'd get those two frontliners to admit they were wrong, but she could persuade the frontline to take care of her little Coffin problem. Also, everyone knew that establishing a common enemy was the best way to make friends. 

"Why should that responsibility rely solely on you? You have information privvy to them - so sure, lets give it to this replacement. But what then?" Hidden stubbornly shook her head. "Gather player's using someone with more influence, knock them out and prove that both Adrian and I are more than just criminals. Even a 'psychpath' can change. Especially since he is just a little kid. To him, it might just all be a little game. He might even think he's the hero of his own story. And besides, maybe he just needs someone to stand next to him like you did me for him to realize that there is forgiveness for those who look for it."

                                       ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Within the cove of trees, Hidden turned her attention to the shrouded player who exited from the long shadow's cast by the trees. He greeted Mari, knowing exactly who she was and introduced himself as Are. He turned to Hidden and requested for her to tell him her name. She opened her mouth to speak but she held back her words. "I don't think that's how this is gonna work. I can't just go around telling everyone about me that tells me they are a replacement for Itzal and Hestia. Before anything, you are going to convince me that you really do work with the APD and that you CAN be of assistance. If you are no help, I shouldn't bother to waste my breath or time."

She took a step forward, her courage boosted by a false confidence. This shrouded guy was like her anyway, hiding in his own hood. She could deal with someone like that. "Can you wipe the slate clean for anyone that wishes to try harder? If you were given the opportunity to take down Laughing Coffin, would you? Finally, would you be willing to place your trust in the words of someone that has lied, fought, and stole to get what she wants? If you can answer yes to all of these, then I will tell you my name."

She gulped down the rising of fear as she finished her sentence. 'Was I too forward about it? Will he even bother with me now? Should I have just let Mari do the talking and just stayed quiet?' A grimace sat on her face, waiting for the shrouded player to reply. 

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Smiling a bit at Mari's comment he waved a dismissive hand at her apology. "It's fine. That was actually rather mild considering." He nodded to her. "Indeed I am." He then turned to the girl, who opened up her mouth, almost as if she was actually going to answer him. But instead, she held back and basically demanded that he proved to her that he could be of assistance before she gave him any information on her. He understood why she was saying and doing this, but... Come on, couldn't she at least give him an alias to call her in the meantime? However she took a step forward and started talking before he could request such a thing. Oh well. Then came the questions, and Itzal prepared his answers for her.

"Hestia owns the organization, so ordinarily she'd be the only one with the power to 'clear your name'. With her gone however, given enough time I may be able to... Persuade, the guards depending on what it is you've done, whether or not it was justified, and whether or not you 'regret' what you've done. Everyone who seeks it for the honest reasons deserves a second chance." Opal, Mari, Hikoru. Even Ariel in his opinion, deserved a second chance should they really want it. If they were willing to accept what they did was wrong, and seek to become a better individual, they should be allowed to work towards that. "Yes. In fact part of why I plan on joining the next raid meeting was to determine if the frontliners were capable of cooperating enough to do such a thing. You see, an old comrade of mine gave me their home coordinates. However if no one is ready to work together then it would do more damage to us than it would to them. To take down the laughing coffin requires extreme coordination, strategizing, timing, level and skill. It isn't something to be taken lightly." Yeah. He had fought at least one laughing coffin member, and that was not a fun time. They weren't your average player killers, they had some skill on them. When the girl asked if he could trust someone who lied, fought and stole he gave a hearty laugh as his initial response. "I cannot think of anyone who hasn't lied or fought for what they desire, and theft, while wrong, is easy to resolve. Murder is where the line is crossed. Murder and torture, taking advantage of the weak, abusing others. Yet even if someone has killed in the past, so long as they understand what they had done was wrong and unjustified, are willing to admit that, and seek to become better than that. I can work alongside with, and even aid them should they need it, if that answers your question."

He shifted his wait from one foot to the other, as he realized they probably knew nothing about him. "I don't really work with the APD you see. I round up player killers who either enjoy it, don't care about the lives they slaughter, or show no signs of stopping. Whether it's out of fear, anger, pleasure, doesn't matter. If someone is a threat to the players of this world, I take them down. Because not everyone has the courage to go out and grind out levels, and many of those fearful players are preyed upon. The APD doesn't care for me too much because they can't control me, but Hestia understands how I work and thus works with me despite our differences. In a sense she trusts me enough to know and act on specific scenarios, especially since I perform recon on a daily basis and thus know how to interact and react to many situations."

"Is that satisfactory girl?"

@Mari

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