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    Crossing Trails
    • Discussion Thread


      Richter had been on the train for a long while now. He felt that he was kind of getting a little sore, even as he changed the positions of his legs every now and then. The seats were soft, but after a while the softness just seemed to give away to the wooden frame underneath. It was probably an entire day of train riding from Crossbell to Heimdallr after all, only prolonged by all the stops in between. First at Garrelia Fortress (where there was a strict warning about disembarking; only authorized people allowed, no pictures allowed. A scary thing that your average tourist hears when coming through from Crossbell). Then later on at Celdic, and finally Trista, before the last leg of the journey to Heimdallr.

      But as he was sitting, waiting for the train to drop off and pick up passengers at Celdic's small station, something unusual happened. An announcement came over the speakers.

      "Please be advised; a special express train will be coming through the station at high speed. All citizens and personnel are to clear platform one immediately. Repeat: All citizens and personnel are to clear platform one immediately. We apologize for any inconvenience."

      Richter looked up from his book. A book mostly about Erebonia and its traditions and customs, and looked out the window.. His finger adjusted his glasses as he looked through the pane, spotting several military-looking people in grey uniforms directing people off of the platform. Moments later, there was a rumbling in the station. The train seemed to rattle, like if there was an earthquake. Obviously, the Bracer tensed as the rumbling increased. And then the eardrum-piercing noise of a horn filled the building before a massive blur of scarlet blazed through the station. A train painted all red.

      "Chancellor Osborne?" Richter murmured, asking himself. Was he going eastward to Garrelia Fortress, or Crossbell? As quickly as the train entered the station, it left at the same speed, with the rumbling fading away like a distant memory, and the military moving away, allowing people to return to the platform. "Huh..." Richter sank back into his seat, glancing down at the book in his hands. He'd lost the page he was reading.

      "Did you see the Eisengraf?" An old man, a new passenger, sat down across from him. He seemed somewhat well off, with fine clothes and a cane. Though he didn't have the air of a noble, as he smiled at Richter. "You look like you're coming in from Crossbell, judging by that book." He motioned at it. In response, Richter lifted it up and glanced at the title, Erebonia: An Introduction. He smiled at the man, "Good eye." He said, nodding once, "Is that what the train's called?"

      "Yeap." The man said, long and drawn out, "The Eisengraf. Means uh, the 'Iron Count', I think. It's the Chancellor's personal transport." He added on, saying it quite proudly, as if he'd built it himself. Richter nodded once, then returned to his book, trying to find the page he was on. A few moments later, another announcement came over the PA system.

      "This is the final boarding call for all passengers going to Trista, Heimdallr. Please head to platform two immediately. Repeat: This is the final boarding call for all passengers going to Trista, Heimdallr. Please head to platform two immediately. Thank you."

      After several more minutes of people piling onto the train, there was a final announcement before it set off. It slowly chugged out of Celdic station, gathering up more and more speed until the trees and fields outside started whizzing by. The man and Richter engaged in a few minutes of small talk. Nothing much, really. Richter just told him about Crossbell. He seemed curious, and the reason he gave was that he'd never been. At the end of the conversation, however, it seemed that he'd made up his mind to visit Crossbell soon.

      It seemed that the journey would progress smoothly... but that was wishing for too much, apparently. The train seemed to hit a snag somewhere on the tracks, and it began rattling. The book almost fell out of Richter's hand, and his glasses became disheveled. There was a murmuring from the passengers as some of them jerked and shook in their seats. The scenery outside began going faster and faster, until it was all a blur. "Wha-what's going on?!" The old man held on to his seat to prevent himself from falling off. Richter shot to his feet, standing up and tossing the book back on the seat. His glasses was quickly tucked away into one of his pockets as he got out onto the aisle, the jerking of the train forcing him to grab on to the back of a seat to steady himself.

      Something was wrong; the train was going far faster than it was supposed to.
    • Celdic – a pleasant town for the most part. The Grand Market had provided numerous offerings. Trinkets and baubles, fresh produce straight from the farms, from livestock to the finest fruits, sweet pears and tart apples. There had been a few interesting bits of Sepith and Quartz, somewhat obscure arts that captured her attention for a moment with their novelty.

      But her time there had met its end. It had been some time since she had last seen another Bracer. Not since the Legram division headed up to Bareahard. A small pursuit the task had been, though the keepers at Bareahard were intent on keeping the Bracer presence out of their noble and verdant city. Bareahard … for all its splendour, for all its fine marble and stone houses, its cobblestone paths and grandeur … it was an insufferable place at the best of times, just like its people. Kim could respect a noble as a person, but the way the Bareahard nobles treated their commoners was irritating, to say the least, cruel and horrid at the most. She had pickpocketed a few valuable trinkets during her stay there. Despite the attitudes of the Bracers towards thievery, Kim saw it as a lesson, and a way to kick it to the nobles.

      Her claimed goods had been more than sufficient to see her off to Celdric, and then on to Trista and ultimately, Heimdallr. Kim paced up to the Celdric train platform, glancing down side to side along the stretching sprawl of timber tracks. They began to shudder and tremble and the sound of the oncoming train became more audible. The train came up with a mighty whoosh, before screeching to a stop before her.

      She boarded as the doors opened, finding a seat at the back of the carriage. Her eyes drifted to the outside, gazing to the platform and listening to the announcements made.

      “This is the final boarding call for all passengers going to Trista, Heimdallr. Please head to platform two immediately. Repeat: This is the final boarding call for all passengers going to Trista, Heimdallr. Please head to platform two immediately. Thank you.”

      Her eyes began to drift as the train slowly moved. She hadn’t slept for a while. The day had her mostly running around and getting things sorted before the train left, talking to people, asking them about news, sending messages back to Legram. They were all small errands, but tiring all the same after a full day. She yawned and rested her head back and against the window pane, eyes fluttering shut.

      Her fingers curled into tight fists, and she listened to the steady whirring of the train as it quickly rolled along the tracks. A tick and tick sounding at even intervals, and the smell of metal and old upholstery wafting into her nose. Perhaps not the most ideal spot for a nap. A girl of noble birth as she was could have slept in a comfortable bed, freshly clean and made, back in Legram, instead of sleeping like the homeless might, stealing moments on the train…

      Though, it seemed her moment would come to an abrupt end. Her eyes jolted open as the train began to rattle, and the smooth motion of the train turned tremulous. He gaze shifted to the outside, observing the blurred and shaken image of the tree flitting by in an instant. She turned forward, hearing the murmurs of the other occupants of the train. Each turned to each other curiously and Kim steadily rose to her feet, absurdly balanced and poised, despite the unsteadiness of the train. She pushed forward, past confused and concerned passengers, some murmuring a little louder at the sight of her standing and moving forward.

      Kim paid them no attention however. They could murmur and whisper all they wanted, but that wouldn’t make any difference. Walking onward to the next carriage, she quickly jumped the connection between the two, stumbling slightly into the next carriage. She looked up, eyes scanning the carriage, before they settled quickly on a boy, standing on his feet, moving through the carriage as she had determined to do.
    • Richter kept moving forward, using the edge of the seats to hold on as the train shook and rattled violently on the way to Trista station. He kept moving towards the front of the train. A few steps forward, and the door at the front of the car opened. A man in a cap came stumbling through. Richter recognized him as a conductor; they all wore the same blue and green uniform, with a cap that had "Conductor" embossed on a metallic plate at the front, after all.

      "E-everyone remain calm! Remain seated!" He stuttered out, loudly. But people couldn't hear him. The noise of the train itself was overpowering his voice. Richter could barely hear him, even as he was so close.

      "What's going on?!" Richter asked him. The man took a while to process it, and then shrugged, shaking his head. "I don't know! I'm sure the engineers are working it out. Just remain calm, and go back to your seat! I'm sure this will all be---aa...!" In the middle of his sentence, the train car screeched, and began tilting to one side as the train rounded a bend. It wasn't a particularly sharp one, but with the speed it was going, it was enough to tilt the car significantly. The conductor fell over to the side, while Richter used the opportunity to push past him and jump haphazardly into the other car.

      It was another passenger car, with all of them gripping on to their seats. There didn't seem to be any obstacles in here other than the odd angle of the tilted train car as it continued to go around the bend. He kept going, passing through car after car until he came to the front, where the engine and the engineer was. A small gasp escaped his lips as he saw the scene before him. There was an orbal telephone hanging on one of the walls, off the hook, with a voice ringing through it. And before him, on the floor, was the train engineer, in a pool of blood.

      Richter quickly reached down to check his pulse. The man's skin was already pale and cold, and no matter how hard the Bracer tried, he couldn't find any trace of a heartbeat. Richter pulled his hand away, and looked up at the controls. They seemed bent, with sparks coming from under the panels here and there. Utterly ruined. The last thing that caught his attention was the phone, with a panicked voice still crying through it. He reached out, grasped it and put it to his ear." "Hello?"

      The voice on the other end, a female voice, responded. "Oh, thank goodness! Someone's there, who is this? Is Harmon okay?!"

      "Harmon...?" Richter glanced down at the dead man. He decided that this wasn't the time to tell her. "Listen; I have to warn the stations at Trista and Heimdallr; the controls are smashed. This train is going to go through them at full speed--"

      "The trains don't go through Heimdallr!" She cut him off right there, "The trains stop at Heimdallr. It's going to crash into the station! You have to stop it before it reaches Trista, otherwise it'll endanger people on the platforms there too!" He glanced out the windows, seeing tiny silhouettes of buildings in the distance. The train was coming up on Trista, and fast.

      There should be an emergency brake to the left, hidden in a panel below the floor. It's a a sudden stop, which means..." In Richter's ears, the voice trailed off as out of the corner of his eyes, he saw the door swing open. A man in a navy blue cloak entered. His eyes were strikingly blue, and his hair was bright blonde. Richter's eyes widened as the man lifted up what looked like a heavy metal pole and then brought it down. The Bracer dropped the phone, dodging out of the way. The pole slammed into the box of the orbal phone, completely wrecking it in a single blow. The voice from the other end warped and then died out.

      The man didn't miss a beat, swinging horizontally to try to catch the dodging Richter. With limited space, he couldn't do much more than raise his arm to try to block the blow. It hit his forearm, hard, but all that prompted was a wince. The Bracer then charged forward, punching the man in the stomach with his free hand, and pushing him back through the doors into the previous car, ending with both of them tumbling to the ground. The car behind the engineer's car was sort of a room for storage; mostly for tools and whatnot that belonged to the engineers and conductors. Richter quickly got up, trying to head back to the first car to attempt to pull the brakes. When he got up, he saw a young woman with long, black hair standing there, at the entrance; presumably someone else who came up to find out what was going on.

      He didn't ask, it wasn't the time. He quickly went back into the front car, holding his arm close to the chest, as if it were broken. He stepped over the body, knelt down and got to the panel in the floor, unlocking the latch and lifting it up to see the red-handled lever. As he reached for it, he could hear the footsteps coming up from behind.
    • Her eyes widened, settled on the bloodied body lying still on the ground. She had seen the blue cloaked man walking through the carriage just ahead of her, a blonde man carrying a large pole. At first she had presumed it was one of the workers on the train, but as they came to a stop, things took a turn for the worst. A runaway train and what Kim could only think to be a dead conductor meant bad news for every passenger there.

      She cursed under her breath as the large man began to swing the pole, the boy from before in the path of the attack. She pulled her great sword from its sheath and pattered forward on her feet. With a feminine grunt, she swung her sword. It cut through the air, though it appeared the man was quick enough to catch the falling blade with the metal pole. The sword clanged loudly against the metal and rebounded back.

      Kim regathered her footing, eyes settled on the man as she took a more cautious stance, her feet moving and prowling. He came closer and she lured him back. The pole shot out for a heavy swing, cutting audibly through the air, coupled with a loud grunt from the man. Kim ducked just in time, and the pole smashed into a window, shattering it to pieces and spilling shards of glass onto the chairs and floor. She lunged forward, sword swiping horizontally, connecting with the man’s elbow, only to yet again find the sharp sound of steel on steel. The fabric of the man’s shirt tore, revealing a metallic attachment to his arm.
    • As the sounds of fighting exploded behind him; most likely between the girl he saw and the man who tried to bludgeon him, he gripped the red lever and pulled. It creaked, from lack of use. The rusted length seemed to warp under the pressure as he pulled it all the way up. As he did, the sparks started fly from the base of the lever, and the train jerked abruptly as it lost a chunk of its speed, screeching to a halt as it neared Trista station. The steel wheels shrieked and sparked as they ground the rails, throwing the inhabitants of the train forwards.

      The train was decelerating quickly; it wasn't going to barrel through Trista station anymore, or crash into Heimdallr. Now all that was left was to catch that blonde guy. He got up and headed back into the previous car, where the girl and the man was fighting. From his observations, the man seemed to handle his weapon as if he were wielding a sword, parrying and dodging and then trying to counter. The girl herself was quick on her feet even while wielding a greatsword. He would be impressed if they weren't pressed for time, and his entrance was noticed by the man, who was looking from both Richter to the swordswoman, pointing the pipe at one and then moving it to the other to keep them both at bay.

      Sirens started to fade into hearing range in the distance. Probably the army.

      And then, as quick as a flash, he pushed his cloak aside, revealing an Arcus unit attached to the left side of his hip. Richter's eyes widened, and he was about to shout out that he had one, but the warning was too late. The man's hand was engulfed in a bright white flame, forming into a fireball in his palm, which was slammed into the ground. There was an explosion of bright white, meant to temporarily blind, followed by the insides of the car being engulfed in a thick, black smoke from the explosion. When Richter waved through the smoke, he couldn't find hide nor hair of the man who had once been there. He was gone from the car. There was no telling where he went. The two were pretty much guarding both doors.

      Richter made a grimace, mostly in disappointment, but there was still the lancing pain in his arm. The man did quite a number on it; he wouldn't be surprised if it were fractured or broken. He cursed under his breath. The sirens grew closer, and within a few seconds, the doors were thrown open, and men in grey military uniforms wielding rifles and pistols stormed into every car. Before long, Richter and the woman were ushered out of the train with guns at their backs, their arms raised. He hadn't even shared his name with this lady but they were being arrested together, apparently.

      As soon as they were outside, Richter noticed at the military was helping other people to disembark as well, some of them looked injured and most looked shaken. When he looked at the train itself, he that it had stopped at least fifty or so meters away from the station proper.

      The two were taken near the station, where they saw a woman in the same uniform, with icy blue hair, standing next to a woman with frizzled blonde hair, strikingly blue eyes that frantically searched the people disembarking. The woman with blue hair walked up to them with the blonde in tow.

      "Kimberly... Yates, I presume? I am Captain Claire Rieveldt of the the Railway Military Police." She looked at the young woman incredulously, "But I don't know your friend here, so I'm going to assume he's from out of the country. Crossbell, most likely." She glanced down at his arm, which he was still holding against his chest, and then signaled a nearby soldier. She asked him to seek out a medic to help Richter's arm.

      Richter was about to respond to her, but the frizzled blonde spoke up. "Is Harmon okay? The engineer! He's my brother! Is he alright?!" Richter looked down briefly. One of the worst parts of the job as a police officer was telling someone that they'd lost a loved one. "I'm sorry," he responded, and she looked at at him with pleading eyes.

      "You were the one I talked to on the phone..." She recognized his voice. And he nodded.

      "I'm afraid that the engineer is dead."

      The blonde recoiled in shock and fell completely silent. The brightness seemed to fade from her eyes. "No, Harmon..." She whispered out. As if on cue, two military medics carrying a stretcher with a covered body emerged from the front car. The blonde lifted her head and dashed towards them, crying out her brother's name. No matter how much the medics protested, they couldn't stop her from grabbing the bloodied cloth and lifting it to reveal the engineer's face. Her face seemed to grey at the sight, with her shoulders dropping, her brows lowered. "This isn't my..."

      It wasn't hard to pick up what she was saying. Claire had been observing her, and when she confirmed that it wasn't her brother, she sighed and shook her head. "It looks as if we have a lot to talk about, Ms. Yates, and Mister..."

      "Everhart. Richter Everhart."

      Claire nodded once, and smiled, "Very well, Mr. Everhart. I have some work to do. After your injuries are seen to, I have to speak with the three of you to get your reports." As soon as she walked off the scene, two soldiers came up to Richter and Kimberly, presumably to keep watch over them so they won't run.

      "Well hm..." Richter said suddenly, a bit awkwardly, "I didn't think my first trip to the Empire was going to be so... eventful."
    • She held her ground, watching as the armed man found himself trapped between two. She glanced over to the boy, noting the way he held his arm, slightly limp. He was in pain, she could see, likely a strike from that overgrown meathead’s pole. She turned back to him, her sword held out with both hands, feet spread apart and ready to attack.

      She heard the sirens in the background and cursed mentally. By the sound of things they would be there soon, whether there was time to give them the slip, she didn’t quite now. But she certainly hoped to avoid them. Spending time answering questions and interrogations wasn’t Kim’s cup of tea. She had learned that in her earlier years with the Bracers, and often tried to defer that task to her comrades.

      Looking at the man, they were almost in a deadlock, but the man moved suddenly, flipping his cloak aside to reveal an arcus unit. Her brows tensed and jaw clenched. She made to move forward quickly, before the man could act, a shirt grunt bursting from her lips as she did. But, as quick as Kim was, she had not been quick enough. The man raised a white glowing hand into the air, bright fire danced along his hand in hungered flickers and the hand smashed into the floor of the train, causing a tremor, a blinding white flash, following by a thick haze of smoke to veil all visibility.

      Kim shut her eyes and threw up her arms to shield them, sword still drawn in hand. She coughed and stepped back and away from the source of the smoke, shaking her head and staggering as she moved until finally she could breathe. When she finally looked up, soldiers had burst in through the doors. Military men garbed in grey, wielding rifles and handguns. Their boots stormed along the metal floor and commands were called from the outside.

      Kimberly found herself staring down the barrel of a rifle, then looked up at the soldier aiming it, giving him an unimpressed look, before decided sheathing her sword and raising her hands. A gesture of surrender, and not one she particularly liked, considering the circumstances. But the sooner she could found herself out of the wreckage, the better. She walked out of the train with a gun held to her back and arms raised steadily in the air.

      When they were outside, Kim’s gaze turned from right to left. She saw a station just barely at the nose of the train. A sign reading ‘Trista’ placed only a short distanced away. Her lips thinned. She looked around for the blond man in the blue uniform, eye scanning around, even looking over the features of the grey clad soldiers, but finding no one that resembled the man. It was a wonder what the purpose of high-jacking this train was.

      Moments later, they were approached by two women. One among them was an icy blue haired woman. She had a slim figure, yet a strong and robust posture. Something about her was familiar, though it didn’t come to Kim immediately. The other woman beside her was blonde and blue eyes, with a frantic look to them. Kim stood quietly in wait.

      “Kimberly... Yates, I presume? I am Captain Claire Rieveldt of the Railway Military Police.” Claire Rieveldt, suddenly she remembered. Kim had seen the woman before, though not so up close or personally. Most people knew who the Ironblood of the Railway Military Police was. At least, as a Bracer and noble, she knew …

      She returned the incredulous look with a short nod and a flat look of her own. Captain Claire Rieveldt, the Ironblood … Kim had a hard time believing that she wouldn’t cotton on to who Kim really was. From what she had heard, the Captain had a brain sharper than a computer. That … and the look she was give, the way her ‘name’ was said … Kim pursed her lips.



      “But I don’t know your friend here, so I’m going to assume he’s from out of the country. Crossbell, most likely.”

      Kim turned to the boy beside her and said nothing. She didn’t know anything about him. Not his name, his age, where he was from. Though, from what the Captain said, she would now presume he was from Crossbell.

      “Is Harmon okay? The engineer! He’s my brother! Is he alright?!” The other woman asked, her face riddled with concern, eyes pleading. The body… Kim looked away, down at her feet, up at the Captain. She wasn’t quite sure where to look, until the boy spoke.

      “I’m sorry,” he said.

      Kim looked to him, feeling as though maybe she should have said something then, but she knew there was nothing she could say.

      “You were the one I talked to on the phone...” She recognized his voice. And he nodded.

      “I’m afraid that the engineer is dead.”

      “No, Harmon...”

      Kim fought back a cringe when the stretcher came out, carrying the bloodied body that was likely to have been Harmon. She watched as the woman unveiled the remains of her dead brother. She shook her head and swallowed, feeling almost a sense of guilt, and certainly pity.

      “This isn’t my...” the woman said.

      Kim looked up, lips parting, before closing promptly. She turned back to the Captain.

      “It looks as if we have a lot to talk about, Ms. Yates, and Mister...”

      “Everhart. Richter Everhart.”

      Kim nodded at the Captain.

      “Very well, Mr. Everhart. I have some work to do. After your injuries are seen to, I have to speak with the three of you to get your reports.”

      More soldiers came, though Kim gave them little attention. She wasn’t surprised more guards came, she’d adjusted to that sort of treatment well enough. It was the arm that had captured her attention. It looked as though there may have been a break or perhaps a dislocation, which came to no surprise considering the size of the pole the blond man had been swinging.

      “Well hm...” Richter said suddenly, a bit awkwardly, “I didn’t think my first trip to the Empire was going to be so... eventful.”

      She looked up at him, with a small, yet soft sort of smile. “Well then … you’ve never been to the empire. It always eventful.” Her eyes lowered back to the arm. “You look pretty banged up…” A hand slowly reached out, soft fingers touching his arm. “I could heal it for you … while we wait. There’s no telling when the medics will get here …” She glances around, eyes settling on the groups of injured passengers awaiting treatment.
    • "You could do that? Didn't take the girl with the giant sword as someone who was also a medic." He joked, but he held his hand out to her for her to heal. In doing so, she closed her eyes as a bright blue light and warmth emanated from her hand over the fracture. "So that was... the Arseid style of swordsmanship, yeah?" He asked, but it was mostly to himself.

      It felt as if she was pouring warm water on the injury. Briefly, there was a sharp pain as the bone mended, and after a minute or so, the light faded from her hand, and he could move his own arm with out much difficulty. "Thank you."

      This happened as soon as the medics came over. Who watched what was happening, then inspected his arm, thanked the girl for saving them some work, and then left to tend to other injured passengers. While they were waiting for Claire to return, Richter asked the two soldiers who were looking over them if they could retrieve their luggage. They were allowed, and the men were friendly enough to even offer assistance. Richter breathed a sigh of relief. Not everyone in the military were hardasses after all.

      When Claire returned, she told the three (the blonde included) that they were going to the Railway Military Police's Headquarters, which was of course in the capital of Heimdallr. They were ordered to get into Claire's orbal vehicle, which was like a humvee. Richter and Kimberly were put into the back seats, while the blonde took shotgun, and Claire got into the driver's seat. The half-hour ride was mostly quiet. They first passed through the quaint town of Trista. There was mostly a single main road going through the town, near a park that had smaller roads leading to the different schools. There were lots of students gathered about to watch the happenings. A good few of them looked like nobles, dressed in all white, while the rest were dressed in red and green.

      The road from Trista to the capital ran alongside the train tracks all the way up to the vermilion capital. Both sides were lined with lino trees; tall trees that bloomed large, white flowers. The blonde had her eyes out the window almost all the time, her mind far away.

      "When we reach HQ, we'll have your reports. No need to be frightened, none of you are arrested. There are a few others we'll be interviewing as well. Not just you three."

      They reached the entrance to the capital, and immediately it looked as if the car was enveloped by red. Almost all of the buildings were built with red bricks, and had red rooftops. Few were built with dark grey stones. They entered the massive Vainqueur Street almost immediately, with orbal vehicles running up and down. In the distance, the silhouette of the giant Valflame palace rested against the blue skies. They turned off the main road, and found themselves right in front of the giant building that was Heimdallr Train Station. It seemed as if it were more of a complex than a station. The building seemed relatively new, too. The scarlet bricks were bright, almost blinding.

      Claire got out of the vehicle, and ushered them all into the beginning, followed by some others who were brought here on other humvees as well. They passed over the hub of trains on a raised walkway, and Richter saw what the girl meant by saying that "the trains stop at Heimdallr". It was indeed the central hub. More than ten tracks for each train, with a single one cordoned off. The Bracer assumed it was for the Chancellor's personal train. There was no way for them to go through. All the trains stopped there, picked up and dropped passengers and went back along their routes.

      They kept going until they were in another part of the building, a place with many offices and different rooms. At first, they were brought into one room, and asked to state their names, occupations and general idea of what happened. The first one was the blonde girl.

      "Uh... my name is Lilac. Lilac Caine. I work herein Heimdallr Station as a Station Operator, my job is to help establish communication and co-ordination among trains and the station." She took a deep breath, composing herself "My twin brother's name is Harmon Caine, he's a Railroad Engineer... his schedule had him operating the train that goes from Heimdallr to Crossbell and vice versa during the day shift for the next few days. The last time I heard anything from him was when he called me from Crossbell this morning... he said he would see me soon..." After Claire calmed her down a little, Lilac began recounting the events, saying that Harmon had called her about the train going haywire, and then she heard a struggle. After a while, she heard Richter on the phone, and told him how to stop the train.

      "I commend you on keeping a level head." Claire complimented, "However, I'm afraid I'll have to be the bearer of more bad news." Lilac inhaled, preparing herself. "Harmon Caine is suspected of being in league with the noble faction, who are getting more and more extreme lately. As a result, the Imperial Railway Corporation has decided to suspend you from your duties as Station Operator. You are asked to remain in the Heimdallr until further notice."

      Lilac looked shattered. She sank into her chair, her eyes downcast. And she seemed to shrink on the spot.

      Next it was Richter.

      "I... ah... " He removed his eyes from the depressed Lilac, "Richter Everhart, from Crossbell. I'm a Bracer--"

      "You are aware that Bracer operations are looked down upon by the authorities in most of the empire, correct?" Claire cut in, speaking somewhat coldly.

      "I'm... aware of that now."

      "Very well. I will warn you that Bracers are treated as Jaegers within the empire. They are no longer officially sanctioned in most areas. As long as we find no evidence of Bracer operations, you are free to do as you wish--all within the city of course. Like Ms. Caine and Ms. Yates, you are also confined to Heimdallr until further notice. Now, please continue."

      "I... see." Richter breathed, this wasn't really what he wanted on coming here. He was hoping for more freedom of movement. Still, the capital was where he was headed. He'd figure that he'd dive right into it. Right then, he explained what had happened from the moment he got onto the train in Crossbell. Everything went smoothly right up until Celdic, where he described the Eisengraf and then what happened after the train had left the station.

      When he described his attacker, Kimberly intervening, and the disappearance, Lilac winced as her eyes shot up at him. Her tear-filled blue eyes muddled with utter confusion.

      "Thank you, Mr. Everhart. And next is... Ms. Yates. Or should I call you Lady Arseid? A Bracer out of Legram; daughter of the Radiant Blademaster, Viscount Arseid, the ruler of the hold. I wanted to clear that up before we begin."
    • “So that was … the Arseid style of swordsmanship, yeah?”

      She looked up at him, blinking a little as the warm blue light emanated from her palm and coalesced around his arm. Arseid style was fairly distinct, known for its quick footwork and powerful swordsmanship. Anyone that knew anything about a sword and its technique could pick it out from a mile away.

      “It is …” She pulled her hand away and the light slowly began to fade.

      “Thank you,” he said.

      She smiled and nodded in reply, before standing up, seeing the medics arrive just as she had finished. She stepped back, allowing them room to inspect the now healed injury and likewise smiled in response to their thanks. The boy – Richter – had asked for his luggage, and the soldiers aided him in retrieving it. Kim herself hadn’t carried much. She had money in her pocket and her great-sword, which typically proved to be enough for her travel. Though the soldiers had confiscated her sword for the time being. Her back felt so bare without it… but it seemed to be returned to her shortly, as they were set to travel to Heimdallr.

      ***

      It had been some years since Kim had been to Heimdallr. It hadn’t changed a great deal from what she remembered. There was an array of red brick homes and a certain extravagance to it that most other cities failed to replicate. Upon entering Heimdallr, it didn’t take long to reach the railway station. A large and multi-layered structure it was, comprised of bright scarlet bricks.

      They were led into the building, through offices and various layers and departments. They reached one room among the offices and were made to state their details. Kim listened in as the blonde haired woman began to speak, explaining the situation regarding herself and her brother.

      “I commend you on keeping a level head.” Claire complimented, “However, I’m afraid I’ll have to be the bearer of more bad news.” Lilac inhaled, preparing herself. “Harmon Caine is suspected of being in league with the noble faction, who are getting more and more extreme lately. As a result, the Imperial Railway Corporation has decided to suspend you from your duties as Station Operator. You are asked to remain in the Heimdallr until further notice.”

      Kim looked up between Claire and the woman, remaining silent in the moment. There was nothing for her to say on the matter, but she could see that the woman was clearly distressed by the situation. The pole wielding maniac … was likely to have been her brother. Kim couldn’t imagine what was running through Lilac’s mind then, what sort of situation that put her in. Kim’s eyes lowered, and she gazed down at her feet.

      The boy broke the silence. “I… ah… Richter Everhart, from Crossbell. I’m a Bracer—“

      Kim looked up at him. A Bracer … she should have suspected as much. His general demeanour suggested he was no Jaeger. Though his initiative indicated he was more than an ordinary civilian. A Bracer from Crossbell … Her lips thinned and she folded her arms instinctively. She listened closely to what he had to say on the matter, though he had little more to say than what Kim already knew. He clearly wasn’t from Erebonia if he hadn’t already known the current situation regarding Bracers. It was largely why she travelled independently these days, despite her place among the Legram Bracers.

      “Thank you, Mr. Everhart. And next is… Ms. Yates. Or should I call you Lady Arseid?”

      Kim’s features stayed still and impassive, though she cringed a little inside at the name and title. Lady Arseid… It felt so unnatural on her. Though she had indeed inherited the title after her mother’s passing.

      “A Bracer out of Legram; daughter of the Radiant Blademaster, Viscount Arseid, the ruler of the hold. I wanted to clear that up before we begin.”

      “Call me Kim.” She replied, her folded arms tightening, closing herself of to the woman. “Nobody’s called me Lady Arseid in years and I prefer it that way.” She stared into the woman’s cold eyes.

      The Captain appeared unfazed. “If that is your preference. May I ask what brings the you to the capital?”

      “Travel,” Kim replied simply. “It’s been years since I last visited Heimdallr.”

      “Since you became a Bracer.”

      Kim nodded her head. It wasn’t long after she had joined the Legram Bracers that a small division had made way to Heimdallr, relaying information to the remnants of an older squad. She’d stayed a little while in Heimdallr, but business soon had her setting off toward Roer. It felt so long ago.

      “Please relay the events leading up to your capture.”

      There was a moment of silence between them, but Kim began to explain what she had seen upon entering Celdric station, just what had occurred. The unsteady nature of the train, moving at uncontrolled speeds. The blond man that had come in attacking with his pole, and the dead man on the ground. The arcus unit and the smoke …

      The post was edited 1 time, last by blackbird ().

    • Ah, so she's a Bracer too... Even though this information was revealed afterwards, Richter felt a little more relieved that she had his back on the train. Even though the culprit escaped, the train was stopped and hundreds of lives were saved. That's what mattered. And a noble too? Daughter of someone they even talked about in Crossbell's Bracer guild... known as one of the strongest men in Zemuria. Though he probably still can't measure up to Cassius Bright; the one they spoke most highly of in any of the guilds he's visited.

      As Kimberly described what had happened, as well as their attacker, Lilac sank and shrunk further into the seat, as if she wanted to disappear from the world.

      After Kimberly had finished her story, Claire nodded once, smiled as thanks and then closed her eyes briefly, as if processing all the information. "Thank you for all your help." She exhaled, glancing once at Lilac and then proceeding to address the other two. "I believe this might be of aid to you both. Since you are to stay in Heimdallr by the RMP's request, I'm not one to pull the rug of hospitality from under you." She lifted her hand, and a soldier that was standing nearby came forward. He presented Richter and Kimberly with a card, as well as an elaborately designed brass key. The card had an address on it.

      "22-23 Alto Street...?" Richter read it out loud, looking at Claire quizzically. She only nodded once in response before standing up. "You can take the tram outside the station to reach Alto Street. All three of you are feel to leave..." with another glance at the downcast Lilac, she added, "...whenever you feel the need to." With that, she left the room. With the door slightly ajar, one could hear her talking to a guard outside. "Please see to it that Ms. Caine receives a hot cup of coffee, thank you." To which the soldier responded with a quick, "Yes, ma'am."

      Richter looked at Kimberly, puzzled, and then looked back at the little card with the address on it, his fingers playing with the large brass key. "Want to come along?"
    • Kim noticed Lilac’s shift in seating after she had finished saying her piece. The woman appeared dishevelled, and who could blame her. How stressed would she be … to think of what her brother may have done. Kim pursed her lips, and her expression softened slightly. One had to wonder why … what was going through Harmon’s head.

      Moments later, after the Captain’s command, a soldier presented both herself and Richter with a card and key. Kim flipped it over in her hand, thumbing over the white card and the brass key. She observed the note and stuffed it into her pocket. The Captain explained that they could take the tram to their accommodation and dismissed them promptly.

      “Want to come along?” asked Richter.

      She looked up at him, a little surprised by his question. And seemed to take a moment to think on it. He was a bracer … though not one she knew well. From Crossbell …

      “Sure,” she finally said, rubbing the back of her head as she did. “I guess we can help each other find the place…” She began to walk beside him adjusting her sword more comfortably into the scabbard.

      They left the building rather silently, the tram stop only a short distance away, with a bell ringing loudly, passengers alighting from the tram, others boarding and just as the crowd had cleared, they too entered. She reached into her pocket for loose change and paid the tram operator for passage

      “Will the tram go by or near Alto Street?” Kim asked.

      The tram driver was a balding man, with white hair and a thick moustache, face littered with wrinkles and eyes drooping. He looked up at her for a moment before nodding, though he gave no verbal response.

      Kim stepped deeper into the tram. Most of the seats appeared to be taken, so she took a place by a pole near the front and looked out the window, into the vast sea of red brisk and uniform homes. A pretty little mosaic it was, with the royal palace looming in the background. Valflame palace…
    • The tram slowly started trotting along its tracks, making its way along the roads. It went over a long curve as it crossed into Vainqueur street, and kept going, the wheels clicking on the tracks. Richter couldn't help but feel a slight bit nervous; especially after what had happened this morning. He stood up next to Kimberly, holding on to a strap that was fastened to the ceiling.

      Judging from the sun as well as overhearing some murmuring, they were in the late afternoon already, going to the evening. The sun was already low in the sky. It would be a few hours until it set completely.

      The tram stopped at the center of Vainqueur street to drop off passengers, in front of a large building that seemed like a mall or similar. The street itself was lined with different stores too. Everything from clothes, groceries, even restaurants to orbal equipment and weapons. One building stood out in particular. A thin but very tall white building, with the words "Imperial Chronicle" engraved above the entrance. The place that handled the newspapers that was distributed around the empire, most likely. There was even a radio tower atop the roof. Probably for broadcasting that Imperial Chronicle Radio station he'd heard about, even in Crossbell.

      The tram then made another long curve into a narrower street. This time with nothing on its right but a man-made waterway, with a narrow street and rows of houses to the left. As they headed further and further down this path, the sounds of the bustling city seemed to fade away into the distance, the cacophony honking and murmuring of Vainqueur and the station now something so far away.

      The tram stopped. "All for Alto Street." The bald driver said abruptly and gruffly. Kim and Richter, as well as a few other passengers disembarked, and finally got a good look at the street they were sent to.

      This place, this Alto Street, seemed far removed from the rest of the capital. The noise, the hustle and bustle wasn't here. The houses were made of dark grey brick and stone, rather than scarlet bricks. Though their rooftops were all brilliantly red, reflecting the orange-red glow of the setting sun. There were mostly houses here, a lot of them with very small "front yards" that allowed some flowers and plants. There was one in particular that stood out... mostly because of its lack of plants at the front.

      In the exact middle, right in front of the two, there was an even narrower road leading up a small hill, possibly to more houses. At the corner of the junction, soft music emanated from what seemed to be a cafe, named Etoile. As they were looking at what laid before them, Richter saw a man walk by them. He smiled and tipped his hat.

      Richter narrowed his eyes and stepped forward. "Excuse me," He stopped the man, who whirled around to look at him. "Could you tell me where 22-23 Alto Street is?" The man stroked his short brown beard, smirking almost playfully.

      "Yeah?" He responded, "Right there." He pointed at the building that had no plants in front of it. It was larger than the rest of houses, taking up two spots. "Been closed for a while, now, though."

      "Alright, thank you." The Bracer responded. The man waved and walked off. Richter's eyes followed him until he was out of sight, before turning back to Kim, moving closer to her. "We're being watched." He said bluntly, "It's most likely the RMP. That guy was one of the soldiers that pointed a gun at us on the train..." He trailed off, turning to look at the building that was pointed out. "Let's go."

      He marched onward, toward the building. Right on the wooden front door there was a sheet of paper pinned to it. It was a paper with the imperial symbol, with a long set of paragraphs underneath it basically describing that this was the property of the imperial government. And to seal the deal, the Chancellor's signature was there too, right at the bottom. Right above the door was a thin metal bar protruding, which made it seem that there was a sign hanging there.

      Either way, Richter pushed the key into the lock, and there was a resounding click. He pushed the heavy thing open, revealing a dark room that was only illuminated from the light of the open door and windows. There was very clearly a large counter in front of them, probably used for reception. The opened door was like shining a spotlight on it, and that very obvious emblem that was on the counter, facing the door. The emblem of a gauntlet in front of a shield. The emblem of the Bracers.

      "Oh..." Richter said under his breath as the realization dawned on him. This was one of the old Bracer guild branches in the capital. Why did Captain Claire send them here? Is this a place one could easily keep tabs on? Either way, they were here, now.

      He stepped into the place. In the dim light, he could see that it was all still relatively new. Just a light layer of dust covering some things. There were noticeboards stacked away in the corner behind the counter, and an orbal radio on top of it. Next to them was a door, presumably leading to a basement of some sort. To the right of the entrance, there was a flight of stairs that lead upward. On the wall, near the entrance and the stairs, were some light switches. Flicking them on and off seemed to do nothing.

      "No power... maybe the controls are in the basement. " He murmured to himself before stepping further inside, dropping his bags on the counter and then heading towards the next door. He was right, in that it lead down to the basement. It was like a flight of stone stairs that lead down into a dark abyss. He inhaled, his Arcus unit glowed under his clothes, and his arms and legs were engulfed in flickering flame, which provided light. He descended into the darkness with his makeshift torches. A few seconds later, a grating, rough mechanical sound was heard from the basement. The noise was enduring, going on for several seconds before finally evening out into a quieter whir that blended into the background. As soon as it did so, the lights all came on on the ground floor. There was another whir, followed by a click, the sound of a pump.

      Richter emerged from the basement a few moments later, closing the door behind him as he shielded his eyes from the bright white artificial lights on the ceiling. His next step was to check upstairs. The lights on the ceiling there were much less harsh, giving off a soft yellow glow. A more welcoming experience. There were two toilets and showers. As well as two rooms that held three beds each, along with tables and chairs. As he stared at the neatly made beds in one of the rooms, he folded his arms. "Looks like we'll be staying here for a while."

      The post was edited 1 time, last by insaney ().

    • Kim’s mind wandered during the silent travel, her eyes trailing over to the royal palace looming over in the distance. Absently, she stared at the colossal structure. Perhaps her plans weren’t ideal … turning up at Valflame palace could cause her more problems than she could possibly tend to on her own. Just one visit… Her gaze trailed down to her feet and her grip tightened around the pole. She looked up at Richter for a moment before turning back down. She wondered how long the RMP would decide to keep them on a leash.

      The ram came to a stop, breaking Kim from her thoughts. “All for Alto Street.” She turned up and straightened herself out, thanking the driver as she filed out among the other passengers.

      There was a strange sense of silence subduing the street. Just the slightest sound of flowing water that came from the waterway at the other side of the street. She looked up and down the street. More red brick houses, with small front yards along one side. One slightly distinct with its bare exterior. There was a café, and a few other small amenities to the street. She began to search for numbers indicating the residents of each house…

      A man came by, and Richter had asked where to find 22-23 Alto Street. And the man pointed to the house without the plants. Kim’s gaze drifted over, eyeing the building a little more closely.

      “We’re being watched.” Richter said.

      She turned back to him, raising a brow. Watched? Had he been talking about that man? She had a mind to turn and take another look at him, but knew better than to do so.

      “It’s most likely the RMP. That guy was one of the soldiers that pointed a gun at us on the train…”

      He did look familiar, now that she thought about it. Looked a little different in a suit, rather than a military uniform. They really had a mind to keep the two under thumb. It was a wonder just what the incident with the train was really about. They had asked much but said very little, aside from what was mentioned about Harmon…

      “Let’s go.”

      Kim following along behind him over to the door, which had a letter pinned to it. She looked over the letter from behind him, nothing of particular interest, mostly detailing the ownership of the property. The door read 22-23. Richter opened the door, and the drabness of the dwelling hit immediately. She stepped inside, following behind the boy, careful not to touch anything and very deliberately staying in the light of the open door.

      Her eyes looked over the counter covered with a thin layer of dust, the Bracer insignia ornamenting the front. An old Bracer establishment… Kim wondered just how long the office had been out of commission. It couldn’t have been long ago, considering the still relatively new condition of the furnishings. Though, her thoughts drifted more to why they had been sent here of all places. Put on lock-down for being Bracers, then sent to lodge in the Heimdallr division’s old office. It was far from coincidence, and Kim couldn’t help but think that Captain Claire may have had more intention regarding them than just keeping them out of trouble. Bracers were known problem solvers. Even an Ironblood could make some use of them.

      “No power… maybe the controls are in the basement.”

      Kim turned back to Richter and nodded her head. “Okay …” She stepped toward the windows, pushing the dark curtains aside, allowing natural light to filter into the room. She pulled up the window, and a soft breeze and fresh air pushed into the room. After opening both windows, the lights turned on and Richter emerged from the basement.

      “Looks like we'll be staying here for a while.”

      She looked over to him, and leaned against the window pane. “I wonder why they sent us here … both of us …” She looked around again, before her eyes settled on the Bracer insignia. “An old Bracer office? There’s got to be more to this than just keeping an eye on us and keeping us out of trouble …”
    • Richter folded his arms at her words, leaning back against the wooden counter. He nodded once as he processed them, thinking. He went through what happened today in his mind, trying his best to think about what was said, especially by Captain Claire. Why here of all places? He repeated in his mind. There must've been something she was up to. And as he thought of that, he pictured her charming but very knowing smile in his mind.

      He shook his head, maybe they planned to use the two, somehow. Either way, one thing was for certain, he was tired. Maybe it'd be best to think about this in the morning? The streetlights were starting to come on outside as the sun began to dip behind the buildings. A bit early for sleep. But after all that had happened, he was drained. "I'm gonna probably get some shut-eye..." He said, and as he admitted it, a yawn escaped his lips.

      At the same time, there was a knock on the front door. The two were silent for a few moments, wondering who it was. And there was a mousy but easily recognized voice from the person out front. "H-hello? Is anyone there? I saw the lights on and..."

      Richter stepped to the door, and opened it. Before him, stood the petite blue-eyed blonde from this morning. "Ah, good evening. Come inside." Richter backed away from the door, allowing her to come in. She thanked him, and walked in, closing the door behind her. After she did, she gave a light "Hello" to Kimberly before explaining herself.

      "Sorry to barge in, but since you're Bracers... I uh... I have need of your services. I'm hiring you both to find my brother. Or find out about him. To be totally honest I think... he might have gone bad... We are distant relatives to the Hyarms family, after all... Um. Since I was fired this morning, I won't have a lot to pay you with, but I could work for you. I'm good at secretarial duties after--"

      Richter shook his head. "Hold on. Captain Claire said that Bracers can't work in almost all of the empire. She'd said that if they found any evidence we were doing jobs, we'd be arrested and tried as Jaeger Corps."

      "Then... we don't have any evidence." Lilac said slowly, "I'll work for you, for 'free'. And you'll help me. We're just... exchanging favours. No receipts or paperwork. A-and if we want to earn a bit on the side, we could take up jobs from the locals... more favours. We are good people after all...!" She took a deep breath, "Truth be told, my heart is racing, I've never even suggested err... "bending" the rules before..." She looked at them both expectantly with shimmering eyes.

      Richter stared at her for a few moments, then folded his arms and brought his fingers to his chin. He seemed to be seriously considering the proposition.
    • “I’m gonna probably get some shut-eye…” said Richter.

      Kim nodded her head and moved over to the counter, placing a palm on the dusty surface. The knock on the door captured her attention and her head promptly turned to the source of the noise.

      “H-hello? Is anyone there? I saw the lights on and…”

      The voice was familiar, and before long the blonde haired girl, Lilac, was invited into the room. Richter welcomed her inside and Kim straightened herself out, nodded her head in greeting and offering a hello of her own in response to the girl.

      Almost immediately, she began to speak. “Sorry to barge in, but since you’re Bracers… I uh… I have need of your services. I’m hiring you both to find my brother. Or find out about him. To be totally honest I think… he might have gone bad… We are distant relatives to the Hyarms family, after all… Um. Since I was fired this morning, I won’t have a lot to pay you with, but I could work for you. I’m good at secretarial duties after—“

      Kim blinked, and once again, she leaned back against the counter. Hyarms … that explained what had happened earlier that day. She pursed her lips. If it was true, Harmon wouldn’t be easy to get his hands on. What she was asking wouldn’t be so simple. Ordinarily, Kim might have been willing to help, even without compensation for the effort. But she had come to Heimdallr for a reason. And despite what she had done in the morning, despite whether she may want to help this woman, Kim had to consider her priorities.

      “Hold on. Captain Claire said that Bracers can’t work in almost all of the empire. She’d said that if they found any evidence we were doing jobs, we’d be arrested and tried as Jaeger Corps.”

      Kim looked over to Richter and folded her arms. Being caught had been the least of Kim’s worries. Bracers had been unsanctioned in a large portion of Erebonia, but that never stopped her from conducting her affairs, some – though not all – of which were part of official, covert Bracer operations. In times like these, the Bracers needed to evolve, in order to maintain any sense of relevance and purpose.

      “Then… we don’t have any evidence.” Lilac said slowly, “I’ll work for you, for ‘free’. And you’ll help me. We’re just… exchanging favours. No receipts or paperwork. A-and if we want to earn a bit on the side, we could take up jobs from the locals… more favours. We are good people after all...!” She took a deep breath, “Truth be told, my heart is racing, I’ve never even suggested err... “bending” the rules before…” She looked at them both expectantly with shimmering eyes.

      Kim smiled in amusement at the girl and tilted her head, a lock of hair falling over her face. But behind the smile was thought. It first seemed the girl was requesting an odd job, though the more she talked about it, the more this sounded like a permanent arrangement, or at the very least, something that would last longer than her intended stay. The smile slowly faded. She pushed herself up from the counter and her gaze trailed down to the Bracer emblem, she looked back up at the girl. “I might be willing to help you find your brother, but I have business in Heimdallr first.” She cracked her knuckles and placed her hands behind her back. “Do you have any idea where he might have gone?”
    • "H-hey, hold on..." Richter said as Kim seemed to eagerly accept the job, already asking where the subject might have gone. Though he immediately shook his head. Why should he try to stop Kim? If she wanted to do it... But he also kind of wanted to as well. And the way Lilac put it, sounded enticing. Like Kim, he too had something he wanted to do in the capital. But maybe he could find out about it while searching for Harmon. "I'll help too." He finally added.

      Lilac looked from one to the other, as if to say 'thank you', before she continued. "Well, I'm not exactly sure. We both live in the city, in Heimdallr. We have our own place in the Ost District. But I've never seen him do anything suspicious. The only times he's away from home for long is when he's driving the train to Crossbell and back. So... I'm not sure where he could be. As far as I know, we haven't talked to our relatives in years... Mm, but we should all get some sleep and get together in the morning. I'll be going home for now. I'll be back here, around seven in the morning. See you then." She waved them off, not giving them a chance to protest, before leaving. Even though she seemed mousy and small, she was actually quite commanding, already making a schedule for the two. Richter recalled how she was on the phone while on the train.

      Richter folded his arms, and watched her go. "So... which room would you like? There are two." He turned to Kimberly.
    • “So… which room would you like? There are two.”

      “You hesitated,” she said, ignoring the question, and instead focusing on the matter before them. “I would have figured a guy like you would have jumped at the chance to help a damsel in distress.” She tilted her head down and to the side, folding her arms again. “That much of a stickler for the rules?”

      Truth of the matter was she hesitated too, but she didn’t show it like he did. She wondered what he was really about. Knowing he was a Bracer was one thing, but apart from that, what else was there? He seemed like a nice enough guy. Whether she wanted to spend the next few days, or weeks … or however long Captain Rieveldt wanted to keep them there, was another matter.
    • "I did." He had no shame in admitting it, leaning back and folding his arms. "To be honest, I didn't come here to do any Bracer duties... Just for my own thing. But... I guess I can't stay away. Helping people has to be in my blood." He smiled a little, "Part of why I hesitated was because of Claire's warning, still."

      "But you're also a Bracer. And you live here in the empire. It must be tough." He added on, "And a noble's daughter too. I wouldn't have guessed." He chuckled slightly, "It seems there's more to either of us than meets the eye. But we can find out whatever that is later..." His statement was punctuated by another yawn. He then grabbed his bag, made sure the front door was locked and started to head upstairs. "I'll take the second room."
    • Kim saw Richter off without a word, remaining in the foyer for a moment and staring down at the Bracer emblem again. Bracers… She rested her palms along the edge of the counter again and arched her back. Memories of her comrades in Legram came back to her. What they were up to … She pursed her lips and pushed away from the counter, fists tightening. She wondered if her presence here would make any difference. Would Heimdallr really be where she needed to set her sights? She could only hope.

      She left the foyer and made her way toward the first room, pushing the door open and switching the light on to find a modest but pleasant room. The furniture was of timber and coated with a light layer of dust. She glanced between the three beds and opted to take the one furthest right, by the wall. She removed the sword and scabbard from her back, placing it along the edge of the bed and rested her hand upon it. A scant moment of sleep found her, as her eyes began to drift.

      Her thoughts flowed to the Valflame palace, comprised of bright red brings, grand in size and dwarfing the other structures in Heimdallr. It was the heart of the city … a focal point for all that had been happening in Erebonia. And perhaps, therein laid the solution to her problems. She tossed and turned. True sleep would not take her as long as she was wrapped in her contemplation.

      As the night became fuller, Kim emerged from her bed, pacing slowly toward the window and brushing aside the curtain. The night had truly reached its zenith, with the stars out in full force, twinkling and shining brightly above the city. Her lips thinned. And she looked in the direction of where she knew Valfame Palace was situated. The darkness shielded the image, but she knew it was there.

      She turned and collected her great-sword, slinging it over her shoulder and approaching the door ever lightly on her feet, careful not to make even the slightest sound. She had no desire for interference.

      * * *

      The streets were still, residents having turned in for the night, with only a very few commercial properties still open at these hours. As she reached closer to the palace lamp posts illuminated the paths and the city came to a more tangible life. The silhouette of Valflame came into perfect view, and Kim’s fists tightened … eyes set firmly on the palace.

      Dawn began to settle in, the stars fading from the sky and the tips of orange light flitting in from the horizon. The air was warm.

      As Kim came closer to the palace, she felt a growing apprehension, a sense of failure looming over her before she had even reached her goal. But her legs pushed her along, guards coming into view and within moments, they were staring down at her, expression impassive and waiting. She didn’t want any trouble … not with the royals, when they could be the key to success. So she chose the front door, instead of sneaking through the back.

      “Halt.” A guard called, raising a gloved hand to stop her in her place, a spear held in the other, gun at his hip.

      She stopped, staring between the two guards, both tall, with stony expressions. Hair a light brown and eyes deep blue, with red uniforms that matched the crimson palace. They looked as though they could have been brothers.

      “What business have you at Valflame?”

      There was a moment of pause and Kim’s gaze finally set on the one speaking to her. She held herself with a confident and upright posture. “I seek audience with the Emperor,” she said unflinching, as if there was no question to her being there.

      The guard’s lips thinned, and he gave an unamused expression in response. “None may seek the Emperor at this time. Not without Imperial decree.”

      “And the Emperor’s children?” she said, hopeful.

      “Not without Imperial decree,” the guard emphasized.

      Kim’s jaw tightened and a faint scowl began to form on her features. She shook her head. “This is unacceptable. Do you know who I am?” She hated name dropping but she saw no other way of getting in. “I am here on behalf of Viscount Arseid of Legram. I am his daughter.”

      The guards looked to one another as if pondering her words. For a moment, she thought that perhaps it might have worked.

      But the guard turned back to her, his face as blank as usual. “And I’m the Marquis Rogner’s long lost son,” he said unmoved. The guard beside him stifled a laugh. “No one gets in without Imperial decree.”

      These guards were painfully stubborn. Whether they believed she was indeed her father’s daughter or not, it seemed to make no difference. She wouldn’t be getting in on that merit alone. She thought about what to say next, but found that she had nothing more to say. The gates would remain closed to her, and she found herself thinking more and more that perhaps the better option would have been the less direct one. She was losing her patience.

      “Listen, I need to speak with the Emperor right now. This can’t wait for decrees or some guard’s bullshit.” She stepped forward, her finger pointing in the guard’s face, a scowl set into her own features. “This is a matter of urgency and your job will be on the line if you don’t let me through.”

      The guard’s demeanour didn’t change at all. He didn’t as much as flinch at her threat, nor did he move his spear from its path, nor did the gate shift. He said nothing, but it was clear she wasn’t getting in. She pulled her hand away and gave up on the bluff, stepping back away from the guard. She turned on her heals and made to start back to her accommodation as the morning came in. “Don’t say I didn’t warm you…”

      * * *

      She wondered what to do next. It was imperative that she find some way to talk with the Emperor. She wouldn’t give up on that goal, but the morning’s encounter had been a definite set back. She approached the door to the bracer office and as she tilted her head up, she found Lilac waiting by the door.

      “Good morning,” the blonde girl greeted with a smile and a wave.

      It had been quite early. Kim hadn’t expected the girl to arrive at such a time, before she could return, but apparently she was the kind that meant first thing when it came to morning. Kim nodded and smiled in return. “Good morning.” She approached the door and placed the key into the lock, opening the door and allowing for Lilac to enter. “Have you been waiting for long?”

      “No … I just knocked a moment before you arrived …”
    • The door opened as soon as his foot touched the last step. He was knocking on Kim's door, expecting her to awaken, but found that she wasn't inside. After searching around for her, he couldn't find her. And assume that she left last night. At that moment, he did think that she was a girl that didn't like to stay in one place for long. It was then he heard the knock at the door.

      "Oh, I didn't take you for the morning stroll type." He joked, smirking lightly at Kim. There was something behind her actions, of course, but he wasn't one to pry. He came down all the way and said "Good morning" to both Kim and Lilac. To which Lilac responded in kind, with a slight bow.

      "Good morning. If we may, let's get down to business." She put her hands together, eager to get started. Richter couldn't blame her; her brother was the subject after all. Lilac then held up a keyholder with a single key attached. "This is the key to our house in the Ost District. It's kind of like... the poorest place in the city? Though it's not bad. All the buildings are made of brick, but they're all tightly packed together, there are lots of stairs and it can be kind of maze-like. But even the smallest houses there are like mansions so... My house is deeper inside, to the right of the bar called Gamgee's Pub." She handed the key to Richter. "Please start your search there. I'm giving you permission to overturn as you wish."

      She nodded once, and then looked from one to the other. "Now," She took a deep breath, "both of you; get out."

      "Wha--" Richter protested.

      "Out, out! Shoo! Go do your jobs!" She put her hands on Richter and turned him towards the door, pushing him outside. "If you're going to have er, 'covert operations' as a guild, then I will need to make some preparations." She spoke over Richter's protests, until he was finally a foot outside the door. Before letting him go, she grabbed his shirt, curling her fingers into the cloth. Her eyes were down, staring at his back. "Please, find my brother."

      Richter quieted down at that. There was no use protesting now. Not when she could tug at heartstrings so easily. Richter glanced over at the tram. It had arrived at seven, and was set to leave soon.
    • “Oh, I didn’t take you for the morning stroll type.”

      Kim said nothing, ignoring the jest, not even looking up at the boy in acknowledgement. Though, he seemed intent enough to redirect his attention to Lilac.

      Kim stood quietly in the corner, stifling a small morning yet, but keeping herself focused on what was being said. She observed nonchalantly as the key to Lilac’s home was handed over to Richter. At the very least they had somewhere to begin, whether they would find anything there to link to Harmon’s whereabouts was hard to say. They could only really know once they started digging.

      “Now,” She took a deep breath, “both of you; get out.”

      Kim raised a brow, somewhat surprised and amused by Lilac’s forceful hand. Though part of her wished she could take a moment to rest. Kim didn’t wait for Lilac to push her out the door as she did to Richter, instead walking out at a steady pace, nodded politely to Lilac and uttering a goodbye a gentle hand patting the girl’s shoulder as she passed the doorway.

      The tram arrived shortly after and Kim boarded.