Foreign Flowers

Intermission 1 - Arrival

Takes place between Mission 13: Broken Birthright and Mission 14: Grey Men
At first, they weren’t as awed as they made their way into the headquarters, after all, the decor might have been alien, but it was still a normal house. It wasn’t until they crossed the doorway into the living room that they realized how different they were from their hosts. A beautiful display on the wall, showing images unlike anything they’ve seen before, as they walked with their hosts further in, the smells from the kitchen was uncanny and the various gadgets present around the room surprising.

“Well, sorry they’ve had to split for now, but they gotta report to the boss” the elvaan smiled at the two girls as the rest of the team went into the meeting room “I’m Raf, my job here is getting information and analyzing it, and I guess take care of the house” he extended his hand, seeing which of the two girls would take it.

The smaller one, small like a child, leathery wings on her back as tiny as that of a moogle’s, a long tail ending in a spade, was the one to take his hand “I’m Shilleka” she said cheerfully. Her grasp was firm, excited, something about it betrayed more force than her simply physical strength.
“I-I’m Kalis” she took his hand awkwardly, unsure about her grasp. For good reason one might say, her armored hand was as dexterous as a softer hand, her unsure grasp could easily have crushed his hand weren’t she as careful. Yet the metal plates felt strangely warm, radiating warmth like skin.
“Well, now that we know eachother, how about I show you the base a little bit? There’s quite a few other areas but I think right now you wanna rest up and make yourselves at home so I’m going to show you the living areas, how about that?”

“Yeah” Shilleka was excited “This place is so different!”

Kalis hit her sister lightly on the arm “Don’t say that…”

Raf shook his head lightly “Oh, don’t worry! We’re travelers, everywhere we go it’s different” he waves them over “Come on”

The trip started right where they were, in the living room “This is the living room, it’s pretty… Living-y I guess. Can’t say it’s anything spectacular for ourselves but” he pulls out his comm driver, taps a few buttons and the sound system turns on “But between the TV, which is mostly recorded stuff, the radio and the two remote desktops we got” he pointed each space-age marvel to the girls as he mentioned “It keeps us entertained between missions”
The girls, having never seen any of those, from boxes which played unusual music on their own and the screen that shown images much akin to a scrying pool to the machines that, according to Raf, could think on their own and respond to your actions.

Their next stop was the kitchen. The girls were amazed at all the different tools used for cooking, and immediately split to check on different parts by themselves. Raf followed Kalis who headed for perhaps the most dangerous gadget, the fridge. She opened it (with an agility that Raf did not think someone who wasn’t born in that body could have, opening the door with her left hand she didn’t even touch the fridge door with her claw’s blades) and started staring inside “I-is all that… Food?”

“Yeah it is- Hrm, it’s our sort of food, though, I don’t know if you can eat it. Sorry about that, we’ll have to wait for the science team to give an answer” he looks at the fridge again, then at her. She’s picked up a bottle full of semi-artificial orange juice, sniffed at it, staring at it for a long moment, and put it back, a weird look on her face “Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to go into town for some food for you as soon as I can”

At about that time Shilleka let out a startled yelp, causing both of them to stare in her direction, only to observe crimson flames reaching up to the ceiling. A rapid application of ice magic followed by the youngest girl breaking down in laugher “How… In the name of the great overwatcher DID you set an electric oven on fire?” she just looked at him “Really, you just made lightning catch on fire, how’d you do that?”

“I-I don’t know I just pressed a button and another and-“ she was flailing her hands around, still a cold mist around her fingers.

The tour through the first floor was rather fast, and with little of interest (or well, little of interest which did not involve breaches of privacy) in the second floor, Raf took them to their rooms “And those are going to be your rooms, they’re kind of bland right now, but whatever help you need to get them set up”

Both rooms looked the very same, a bland room, unfurnished aside from a table integrated with a console, a single bed facing a monitor, a foldable chair made of metal and a simple bathroom. Kalis walked into the room, looking quite happy. Shilleka ran right after, jumping on the bed “Yay~ Look at this, sis, it’s so fluffy!”

Kalis was a fair bit more gentle, while her sister was jumping on the bed she sat down gently “Relax, Kalis” Raf smiled at her “You’re not going to break anything”

“Hrm…” she did sound greatly self-conscious “I don’t know… I feel like I might hurt someone at any moment…”

Raf just walked over, scratching behind his head “Hrm… Well, why don’t you take a bath, relax a little, warm up” he points to the bathroom “Get changed too, I’m not sure we’ve clothing for your bodies but I think I can manage something” he starts heading out “Make yourselves at home, because it is!”

The two girls looked at him as he left, Shilleka smiled widely before immediately bouncing off to clean herself, while Kalis sighed and looked upwards in thought. She let the force of gravity drag her down as she fell on the bed with her arms and wings spread out, closing her eyes “Home… Ahahaha… It’d be good to have one, yeah… Gotta make sure- Yeah, have to make sure I’ll have one”

Intermission 2 - Useful

Takes place between Mission 14: Grey Men and Mission 15: Stalwart Scales
“We can’t be seen!”

“No, you can’t! Do you want us to be leeching off of them forever?”

“N-no… No of course not! But…”

“Don’t worry, sis, it’s safe. It’s just a courier job”

Kalis and her sister were arguing, mostly out of Kalis’ worry, as Shilleka wanted to actually acquire a job. Despite their rather sensitive situation, with Kalis being a Lightbearer and them both living with, sincerely, aliens, neither of them felt comfortable simply taking advantage of their host’s kindness and wanted to help. Kalis unable to leave the headquarters lest she be discovered now argued over Shilleka acquiring a job as a courier in town.

Kalis looked out of the window, pacing around a little bit, fidgeting with her new clothes. They were a little poofy, a simple shirt colored white with red lace in the back to tie the opening for the wings, a rather large jacket the color of roses and with a very faint pattern of the petals of the same, all coupled with a long four-layered skirt in multiple shades of salmon that seemed to miraculously never tangle itself with her armored legs. Stretching her wings and sighing, she looks back at her sister “Okay… I guess… I’m just a little jealous”

Shilleka was sitting on a desk, she wore a long shirt, crimson colored and with black patterns, long enough to reach her knees, a vest dark grey with dark green highlights, jet black hotpants and light clawed gauntlets made of plastic-ceramic alloy. Gently fluttering her wings and swinging her feet, she smiles back at her sister “Don’t worry, sis. It’s just work, I promise I’ll make sure to make up for both of us”

Kalis went up to her sister, hugging her, wrapping her completely with her wings “Alright, sis… I wish I could help you out there but… I guess I’ll just figure out something to do here. Be safe, okay?”

Shilleka held her sister close “Don’t worry, I will”

Kalis stood at the door for a while, watching her sister flitter down the road “She’ll be okay, she won’t attract much attention” Raf pat her on the shoulder “I know you’re worried, though”

“She’s responsible, she’s an adult now, isn’t she?” Kalis crossed her arms “Still… She’s my little sister, so I worry” she turns around to look at him “Say, hum… Isn’t there something I could do?”

“Really, don’t worry, we’ve got automated maintenance…” he looks at her for a moment, something on his mind “But, well, how about we go over some cooking? You can help with housekeeping, doesn’t looks like it but those things pile up if you don’t do it daily and, the base’s rather large”

Kalis smiled, and followed Raf into the kitchen. It was something she could do, it should be useful. Her fist lesson was operating safely the instruments in the kitchen, so unlike they were to what she was used, not like she was used to kitchen implements.

Raf was very helpful, he’d maintain a close watch on her while letting her act. She, on the other hand, was putting her heart into it making sure to do things with perfection. After she got a thorough briefing on the implements, they proceeded on to making some actual food.

As the party was out on a mission they’d prepare a good post-battle meal, a lot of energy and a lot of food. Raf managed to leave most of the work up to her, it took her a long while to get a grasp on the food, it involved a lot of taste-testing spices (which led itself to a somewhat cute scene wherein after tasting fireseed powder she proceeded to bristle her feathers in a very catlike fashion) trying to match up tastes.

While she was busy cutting onions to be used in salad, Raf came closer, instinctively putting a gentle hand on her wings to move them out of the way as he came closer “Hold on, you don’t want to use this knife for it you’re going to murder those onions” he noticed she seemed to freeze for a moment “Something happen?”

“N-no! Hum, at least I don’t think it did… Anyway, what do you mean?”

“This is a bone cleaver it’s likely to just turn it to juice, here, use a nanopoint knife” he said, pulling out a longer sharp knife.

It took them a while, but they finally got all of the food ready, now just waiting on stuff to cook. Being that it’d take almost an hour until it was ready Raf dragged her over to the living room “Let’s watch something, you did good so you get to choose”

“Uhn, I don’t know how this even works…”

“Well… Let’s see… What sort of stories do you like?”

“I like hearing about the heroes of old, actually”

Raf nodded, putting some thought into it he pulled out a half-documentary-half-fiction movie about the medieval era, which should be similar enough to what she likes “There, Tales of Farewell Point” he sits down “Not kidding, you did good there you know”

She sits down beside him, taking as much space as three people with all of her feathers “Thanks… It’s good to do something useful. But I never saw stuff like that before… you sure it’s going to taste good?”

“Oh, be brave, we won’t know it till we try it, right?”

“Ahaha, yeah” she stretched her hands forward, and suddenly stopped, staring at them “Uhn…”

“What is it?”

She brings her hands closer to herself, inspecting them. Passing one hand over the other, she extends her right hand to Raf “Look, feel it”

Raf raises an eyebrow and passes his hand over hers, feeling it. There were definitely a few grooves in the metal plating, in particular those felt like cuts “Did you hurt yourself while cooking?”

“No, it didn’t hurt or anything. I wonder if my plating isn’t sensitive…”

Raf made a scrunched up face, and then started to gently caress her hand “Well, can you feel this”

Kalis, at this point, had pulled her wings closer to her body “Y-y-yes!”

“Well, see, you’re sensitive enough” he then held her hand more firmly “Just that kitchen knives have a gift for cutting your fingers without you feeling it, you’ve gotta be careful!”

“Ah!” it sounded relieved but for entirely different reasons “Okay, I- I was worried for a moment” she reacquired her hand, now unsure of what to do with it

Raf just stretched himself, looking at the screen “Well, now we just wait for the ding, really”

“I… I guess, yeah” she said, unsure, but still, she stared at the movie that was starting.

Intermission 3 - Having Fun

She was sitting in the couch, looking uneasy. She looked around, fluttering her wings slightly, then turned her attention to her claws for a moment.

“Are you sure you’re alright, Kalis?”

“Ehn? Y-yeah I’m just… I wasn’t ever, I don’t know, this… Out of stuff to do before”

Raf, who typed at the ghostly visage of a keyboard, tilted his head to the side. He didn’t quite understand how someone couldn’t be used to running out of stuff to do in their day, but he figured it was perhaps cultural. “Well, it’s not like we don’t have anything to do” he waved his terminal away “What do you normally do on a free day?”

“Hum… I… Haven’t really had a day I wasn’t busy trying to scrounge up some food…” she had a weird look, a mix of confused and happy “Hrm… But I would always look at the rich people around me… They’d go shopping buying clothes and things. Go to the theater or circus or the library…”

Raf smiled to himself, he had completely forgotten she had such a terrible background given her usual cheer. He stopped to think for a moment “Well, we can’t quite go out, but” he walked around and sat on the arm of the couch “Thankfully in the future you can do a lot of stuff at home. Shopping won’t quite work but, what else have you always wanted to do?”

“Hum… I’ve… I’ve always wanted to know what the theater is like. I’ve seen the Two King’s Festival before, I wonder if it’s anything like the dances there?”

Raf grinned, and pulled back the arm of his shirt to reveal his comm driver, and started tapping away at it as the living room’s light dimmed “Well… Can’t promise I have something from your own culture but, you know, aren’t exotic things extra exciting?” the area in front of the couch seemed to extend forward much in the darkness, the echo of a cheering crowd in front of them “So how about one of my favorite shows? It’s about a story from my homeworld”

Kalis was in awe as the illusions around her made it seem like she was in the middle of a great crowd, watching a show unfurling on the stage. A light pitter-patter like the sound of rain on a wooden roof echoed “W-wow… This is… Amazing!” she looked around “Does everyone have this where you come from?”

Raf scratched behind his head “Not quite… Terra Nova likes giving their explorers a comfy base, though” he points to the stage as the sound of a guitar’s chord plays, in there it is a single person, in colorful clothes, tall as one could be, extremely heavy and muscular build, body covered by dense white fur, he’d look like a caricature of a brute in a performer’s outfit if he didn’t have a strange flair of authenticity to himself “This is the tale of Estrela Prata, pretty much how my planet ended up figuring out people existed out there in space”

“Really? Like us right now? Did you have people like those, ilithid or-“

Raf chuckled “Ilirian and, nah, we had a war going on planetside, still going on actually” he sat beside Kalis “C’mon, take on the spectacle”

They watched the show unfold, a most amazing and extraordinary tale. Kalis was excited watching, cheering as the situation progressed, wincing in sympathy at times of pain. As the show came to a close she was still excited, grabbing hold of Raf’s arm as the lights came back on “D-did you see that? When they fought the mage there? And the part in the forest, that was scary-“

A light chuckle coming from a distance called out her attention, sitting at a small coffee table near the entry was Shilleka, staring at her sister excitedly chirping at Raf “Having fun the two of you?”

“Oh, sis! You’re back already. If I knew you were coming early I’d have waited for you”

Shilleka waved a hand “I just arrived, don’t worry” she went over to the sofa and sprawled on it

“You look tired” Raf looked at her “Something happen?” he didn’t really hang around for the answer, going towards the kitchen

“Uhn… Not really, the boss said I have a special delivery to do tomorrow so I should get some early rest…” She pulled something out of her pocket, and handed it over to her sister “But I got you this!”

Raf returns, bringing three cups of juice, handing one to each sister and taking a seat “What is that?”

Kalis shown Raf what she was holding, it was a small sculpture of a two twined flowers, made in crimson glass, one flower was a larger one with a lot of tiny petals, the other was a rather small flower, twined in the other, almost as if holding on to it “This is a kalis flower and a shilleka flower”

Raf blinked “Oh, you’re named after flowers. That’s pretty cute actually”

Shilleka chuckles “Yeah we picked those names because, well. When we hatched the only thing that was really around were those flowers”

Before Raf could question more, Kalis asked him “Do we have a case or something? This is so beautiful… I wanna be sure it’s safe”

Raf smiles, suddenly not so much more interested in questioning them anymore “Let’s go look for one”

Interference – Special Delivery

Shilleka took a few deep breaths as she stepped inside the alley. It was raining, she was wet, she had hurt her arm, some of her clothes thorn, the box she was carrying large and she didn’t quite know what was in it, but she regretted taking this special delivery.

She paused to take a breather and rested against the wall, looking down at the ground. She stared at the wobbly reflection on a puddle, and suddenly she looked… More confused, more unsure. She looked around herself in confusion, then down at herself, and finally at the box.

“Did you bring it?” a deep and menacing voice spoke, a lysmaker stared at her with all four eyes, arms crossed.

She meekly raised the box at him, not sure wether that was what she was supposed to do or not.

Intermission 4 – Cooldown

Takes place between Mission 16: A Queen's Crown and Mission 17: Path of Diplomacy
She sat the veranda in the back of the base. Eyes closed, feeling the wind on her wings, still shaking. The cool breeze of the sunset washed over her as she hesitantly moved a hand to her head, slowly passing her hand over the bronze circlet in her head, getting used to the odd feelings of it.

She opened her eyes, noticing only now that he was sitting there across the table, in silence. “I shouldn’t have let her go”

“You’re both adults now, she had the choice on what to do with her life. And you were still there to save her before anything happened”

“She… She could have died. She could have been taken… Anything could have happened to her…”

“But it didn’t. Know why? Because you’re always watching for her even when she’s away”

She sighs, stirring a cup of orange juice as she had been doing for a while now “But is that enough?” she sounds sad, and she is “She is all I have… We’ve been together since we hatched… Alone, outside the city walls, abandoned, she’s always been the only I cared for. And I’ve let her down, let her suffer”

Sighing, Raf looks up at the clouds “I miss the rain sometimes. Could really use it right now” he looks back at Kalis “You are two wild flowers. Sitting here on base all day, you’re like a caged beast, about to go crazy, you do in a day what I couldn’t do in a week” he takes a deep breath “Do you really believe your sister would rather stay here cooped up than try to help you too?”

Kalis looks at him, hesitant “I…”

“What you feel for her is very much what she feels for you, you know. Could stand to sit idly while you could be helping her? I know you can’t even now”

“I… I guess you’re right but… What is really best for her?”

“Why don’t you ask her when she’s up, then?”

“What? No… She probably doesn’t even wants to see my face now…”

Raf sighs deeply “We really could use some rain now, yeah…” he turned to say further to Kalis but was interrupted.

“What is special about the rain?”

“Well” he smiles “Back at my homeworld, people are a little different when it comes to dealing with eachother” he spreads open his arms “To share emotions and feelings, we can do something different. We are all bound together, you know, we share of spirit and emotion as long as we are connected by water”

“What?”

“Imagine if you could… Not know, but feel what those around you feel as well. When they’re happy, you feel their happiness, when sad, you feel their sadness. Their love, their hathred, all those emotions in a cloud around you”

“That sounds… Scary”

“It’s why most of us end up ignoring it somewhat, but we are used to it, we like it. As long as we’re bound by water, we are closer together”

Kalis looks at him, pensieve “D-do you think, maybe… You can help me and Shilleka like that?”

Raf wanted to smile more, but couldn’t quite “I… Wish I could say yes, but I wouldn’t know. I’ve seen it only works for us”

“Well, maybe we can try to see if it works?” she sounded so eager, he couldn’t say no

“Well… Let’s try something…” he looks out towards the back yard, normally this open area was used to perform maintenance on the vehicles and there was a landing pad as well. However given they were in a wild area, there was a vast amount of open space still mostly engulfed by flora. And somewhere in there, a small lake “Come on”

Raf guided her through the yard and past the landing pad, past a small drop in the terrain and into a small lake. It wasn’t quite crystalline waters, but it was still a nice lake. Raf took off his shoes and stepped on the edge of the lake “Come on, let’s try” he knew it wasn’t going to work but this might at least ease her mind.

Kalis stepped into the lake, holding Raf’s hand, and they closed their eyes, in focus. They tried for a while, to simply focus on eachother, it didn’t help, so they sat down in the waters and tried for an hour, it was ultimately fruitless, as it was fated to be, the tempestarian bonds are born of blood, but still, the attempt accomplished Raf’s goals, he knew it as she suddenly stands up, shaking the water off her wings spreading it everywhere “This isn’t working”

Raf, now a fair bit wetter than he was before stood as well. He granted himself a few seconds to be surprised at her wet form, he was prone to forgetting that her skin was hard metal plate, before smiling at her as comforting as he could be “That’s because it’s what tempestarians do, we have it easy to share what’s in our hearts” he helps her step out of the lake “But hey, you’re sisters, been helping eachother since birth… Are you sure your bond isn’t stronger than that already?”

Kalis shakes herself some more a bit “You, you’re right! After twenty years, why should I be afraid of this? I’ll… I’ll go talk to her, alright? Hum, after I dry off” she ended her phrase on a weird, almost humorous tone.

As they returned and Kalis went to her sister’s room, Raf let her go as they returned to the veranda, watching her go off with renewed vigor he snatched her forgotten drink “Worked better than I thought”

He was at the veranda still much later, when the sun was setting, staring off at the distance and the sun. “You know, sometimes I miss my home, but quite often I remember why I left” he couldn’t take his eyes off the horizon “We didn’t have a sunset there”

Kalis sat down beside him “It’s beautiful isn’t it?” he nods “Why didn’t you have a sunset there?”

“Three suns, it was always daytime”

“That sounds amazing, but kind a hard on the sleep”

“How’d it go?”

“How else could it? She was bursting with joy I was there to help her, amazed at how powerful I was… Nothing at all like I was expecting…” she sighs, looking up “Why’d I doubt ourselves so much?”

“It’s natural”

“I… I don’t know. I felt like there was this voice at the back of my mind, telling me how horrible I was, how much I failed, how she’d be disappointed in me…” she sounded more pensive than sad “Almost like a literal voice”

Raf looks at her, unsure of what to say for just a moment, and then realization dawns on him as he looks at her head. She tilts it slightly in confusion “Where’d you get that?”

“Hrm?” she puts a hand on her head, remembering she had a circlet now “Oh, this… It… Just kind of was there when I was back. I don’t know but I think it’s about as part of me as my skin”

He was right, he did remember that conversation with Sunwave “I… I see…” he was definitely worried “Kalis, whatever this voice is… Please ignore it”
She, however, was surprised. “Wait, what do you mean?”

“Well, before we met you we talked a lot with this one lightbearer Sunwave. He spoke of the crowns of the light and darkbearers” he was serious “How those… House the souls of those you’ve slain” she gasped “And how they grant you power and wisdom, whispering at your ears… I don’t know how much of that its truth and how much its faith, but…”

“So… So those people that- You mean that they-“

“Listen!” he halted her abruptly “The soul is the single most resilient matter in existence. You can’t just move it from one place to another like that, you can’t separate it from the body, at least that is what our science knows” he could not let her get in a bad funk now “So I don’t know what those crowns really are, but those people deserved the death they got, and their souls were buried with their bodies” he gently taps the single opaque grey gem set in her circlet “This here, it’s a best a copy, alright? So don’t worry”

“How can you be sure of that, though…”

“Simple, experimentation and checking. So listen here” he puts a hand on her shoulder “I’ll ask the doctor to look you over, maybe the science team up there has time to figure something out too. But on one condition”

“What is it?”

“No getting worried about it until we’re sure it’s bad, okay?”

Kalis looks worried for a moment, and then thinks for a little while, and nods, smiling at him “Alright. Alright, no worrying until we figure this out, then”

Raf smiles back at her “There, that cheer suits you better”

Intermission 5 – Training

Takes place between Mission 17: Path of Diplomacy and Mission 18: Gloryhunter

She heard a noise, couldn’t quite recognize what it was. Kalis had been busy cleaning the bedrooms when she heard it, tracing it outside. After the latest events she was wary of any weird noise, she carefully made her way downstairs, unsure really how to behave. She didn’t really know how to fight, aside from that one fit of rage, didn’t know how to sneak or anything else.

Still, she tried to as carefully as she could track the origin of the sound while unseen. As she made her way outside the sound was clearer, grunting as well as the sound of metal on metal. She crept closer to the origin of the sound, hiding on the bushes, until she could see it.

It was the training area, and the noise was much less harmful than her instincts called. Raf was training in the field, wielding his weapon of choice, two bladed tonfas, wearing simple and rather beaten up pants, a bandanna over his eyes, shirtless. He moved with practiced choreography, striking and parrying at an imaginary foe, every other strike followed by one of a myriad enfeebling spells. Kalis sit by there watching, silently, intently. His moves had beautiful form, and she hadn’t realized before that one could cast spells with such fluidity.

At some point he stops, looking around despite his blindfold. He sheathes his tonfas turns to Kalis, lifting his bandanna. “Oh, hey there!”

She’s startled at being noticed, letting out a squeal and stumbling out of the bushes, approaching him slowly and rather shyly. “Hum… I didn’t want to interrupt” she fumbles around with her words a bit.

“Ah, you wouldn’t have… Uhn” he looks at her, or her wings be more precise, they were stretched out as far as they would go, looking almost out of place with her embarrassed face “Uhn… You okay, Kalis?”

“Y-yeah!” she fidgets a little bit “I, uhn, I was, uhn, trying to find you!” not knowing where to go with her words at all, she continues “W-well… After all that’s happened and all, uhn… M-may, uhn… I was thinking you could, I don’t know… Hum…” she closes her eyes and shakes her head “H-help me train! I mean, I don’t really know how to fight proper and, well I might have a lot of energy but don’t even know how to use it”

Raf looks at her, mystified. “Well, okay, I’m not sure I’m the best for teaching you self-defense but I can try. Don’t quite have much formal combat training but mom was a Wraith herself so I know a few things”

Kalis looks around quickly, and starts shuffling slightly as she talks, intent on drawing them closer to a nearby rock they could at least sit on “Wraith?”

“Yeah…” still as mystified as ever, he at least acquires the meaning that she wishes to sit, so he just sits down at the rock beside her, a light gust of wind at his back “Yeah, a little like… Hrm… I don’t know how your people define this” he crosses his arms “Well, she is in the military, their job is mostly infiltration, taking down specific targets. Really elite stuff. I guess they’re like your Adjuticators but not quite”

“Ooh… She must have been powerful” she was feeling ever more comfortable, as if control of her wings was no longer hers, at least moving them slightly helped “What sort of stuff did she teach you?”

“Hrm… Well, mostly magic. I mean, in my homeworld there are two great kingdoms, one where there are great warriors, but magic is forbidden, and another where all the greatest mages convene, but martial skills are taboo. Kind of confusing, really. I’m from the Ethereal kingdom and so were my parents” he shivers slightly “Eeeh-“ he looks back, then at Kalis who seems even more embarrassed “Er- Well, so mom taught me a lot of magic like Vanish and even their trademark spell Darkness Angel, pretty deadly”

“O-oh” she scoots a little bit to the side “But I saw you fighting with a sword there”

“Ah, no, they’re called tonfas. Yeah, when I went to study starside, on my father’s insistence, I eventually decided to take some martial arts training. Guess I was kinda rebellious. I wanted to pick a weapon that I was at least slightly familiar with, and tonfas are a lot like mage rods”

“They’re not blades?”

“Well, a normal tonfa is a type of rod itself, hits hard, great for defense. I use the blade ones because they’re more effective. Mine is called Rail Tonfa, actually”

“I-I see”

“Well, we can start your training there, I think. Once you got a little martial training it’ll help your focus so I can see if I know some useful magic for you. Though I doubt you don’t know a few impressive ones too!”

“Ahaha… I… I never really did more than a few makeshift spells, really…”

Raf stands up “Well, we’ll figure it out! But right now I need bath, I hope you don’t mind” she shakes her head a little bit too much “Well- Also, uhn… I don’t quite know what putting your wings over another means for a valkurian, but from what I know of gria and aegyl it’s a pretty friendly gesture so I don’t mind at all. Just…” he scratches behind his head “T-tickling me with that is a real low blow, you know” he waves and leaves

Kalis, her face just gets more red.

Intermission 6 – Price of Power

Takes place between Mission 18: Gloryhunter and Mission 19: Sharp Diplomacy

The low chanting attracted her attention. Not nearly as paranoid as her sister, Shilleka was still curious about that unusual sound, normally their only other companion wasn’t prone to mumbling, and this did not sound like him at all, too. She carefully made her way through the house and towards the training area.

She was there, sitting, focused on the ring of energy around her. Her tasks finished much earlier, Kalis had started training again. She had noticed her sister had been training a lot lately, and she could guess a reason for that. Still, that wasn’t reason for her to be training this hard. Still, she just calmly made her way nearby and sat, watching her sister doing the gentler part of her training.

“Eh?!” the surprised interjection from Kalis surprised her sister too

“Ah- Sorry”

“It’s alright, it’s okay. I was just warming up” she looks at her sister, then tilts her head to the side “Are you sure you’re okay to walk around”

“Oh, come on sister, it was just some bruises and a bit of strain, I’m alright now” she answers in a mock-offended tone
Kalis drags her sister close, holding her with an arm “Really, then? Feeling really alright?”

“Hey, let go!” she struggles for a second “Yeah, I’m fine. What about you, though?”

“Me? I’m okay, of course!”

Shilleka makes a serious face “You sure? I mean, it’s a little early…”

Kalis lets the spell she’d been upkeeping fall off “Ah… Well…” she takes a deep breath “Well, Raf promised me that if I can defeat him today, he’ll start teaching me how to fight with the blade tonfa and…” she draws her wings closer to her body “Well, he also promised me he’d find a way to take me for a trip on the town”

“Uhn? Are you sure it’s safe for you to go out there, sis?!” she seemed surprised

“Well, he IS teaching me ways to go about unnoticed, and he said he has a special trick he can use”

“Still, you sure it’s wise?”

Kalis nods “He wouldn’t suggest it if it wasn’t! But first, I need to pass his test”

“I’m not sure you can defeat him, though. I mean, he’s well trained, probably did this a thousand times.”

She just smiles “It’s just a short duel, no offensive magic. He says if I can hold my ground for five minutes without taking too much damage, I pass, so there’s that”

“But you don’t even know how to fight without magic. What are you fighting with?” Shilleka was curious at this point

Kalis grins, standing up. With a swift movement and the glint of flashing steel she strikes a defensive stance, holding two bladed tonfas “These!” she spins them, showing off a little bit before settling into a second defensive stance “He said I’m ready to use those already”

In a mix of showing off and warming up, Kalis showed her sister the things she learned, various parries and feint strikes, mentioning at times where she’d use her magic in combination with the blades.

It was only after lunch, actually, that Raf would take her on the challenge. They set up the fight in the vehicle hangar, having moved the two large vehicles in the middle, serving as obstacles to the fight. “Alright, remember the rules, no offensive spells, defensive is alright, limited mana pool. Objective of this trial is knowing how long you can hold out in a crisis” he holds on the edges of his cloak, with a swift movement he summons a gust of wind that seems to remain on him, the bandanna still on his forehead “Longer you can go without using the energy reserves of your wings the longer you have to flee or wait for us”

Kalis nods, this was the first time she was using combat armor, a simple mageweave cover on her natural plate in the chest, pants made of the same material but rather loose, enhanced with static energy to prevent them from snagging on anything, arms bare of anything but her own plate, tonfas wielded on both hands, wings readied behind her, more worried about not hurting herself with her tonfas than using them to fight proper.

Shilleka was watching, she managed to convince Raf to. She was sitting on top of the turret of the converted convec, holding a white and a red flag. She waves them “Alright, ready, set, fight!” she shouts, bringing them both down.

The battle began on a clumsy note, Kalis, as new to fighting as she was, did not know a good approach form, leaving her side exposed. Raf initially took advantage of that only to be surprised be a powerful swat with three of her wings, a reckless and instinctive strike. A rapid sequence of movements from him, weaving around her, got him in point blank range, a direct hit aimed at the gut parried by her tonfa, a sloppy parry that she would have regretted when wielding the bladed version, but with her natural metal skin she did not even feel it.

Shilleka watched as the battle raged, it was a strangely beautiful fight, Raf had skill and was dominating the fight, yet Kalis was unyielding as her skill and physique allowed, she dodged and blocked, delivering trained ripostes when possible. She made good use of her wings when he added the environment to the fight, using the vehicles as shield and uneven terrain, she used a limited gliding capacity to overtake terrain with ease. It was a good three minutes into the fight when she started using the limited mana she was allowed to, keeping on low cost sustenance, a single protect and stoneskin spell, combined with a mana drain used on him when she was deadlocked in a moment after a parry. Although as she watched, she became increasingly worried, and a little surprised.

At last, the five minutes were up. Kalis was breathing heavily, hardly standing on her feet. Raf, of course, still had much fight to give, but honest to the trial he sheathed his tonfas again once the time hit “You lasted a while there, barely a scratch you’re… Doing good but…” his tone shifts, surprised “I… Don’t think I can call that a pass, though” he says, tilting his head slightly to the side.

Kalis is a little outraged “What, why?! I’m fine!” she looks up at where her sister is watching for confirmation but she has a surprised look on her face, then she looks at Raf again and looks behind her, where his eyes are focused on. A trail of pure white plumage followed the fight, many, many feathers covered the battlefield. She swallows.

“I… Don’t think you actually feel pain on your wings, I mean…” he didn’t quite know how to say it “I’m using a normal wooden tonfa… I don’t think you’re actually quite ready to use the blade one yet… I’m sorry” he was really embarrassed
Kalis just brought her wings closer to her, looking at the damage done. In her own flurry of movements she entirely forgot about those appendages of her, easily resulting in her strikes accidentally hitting their entirely too large frame at every time. A good two thirds of her feathers were gone. It was a fairly awkward moment, she felt like she could cry, but still didn’t. That was a bad failure.

Intermission 7 - Sunbathing

Takes place between Mission 19: Sharp Diplomacy and Mission 20: Giant Killers

She carefully made her way towards the roof, wrapped around a simple coat, making sure not to be seen. Today was one of those days where the sun was just perfect, so she was taking a chance.

She arrived there unnoticed, despite the luggage she brought with her. Kalis set up a chair, an interesting sort of chair she had found in the base, one that was reclined far back, and pulled out of the bag a few a few snacks, coupled with a drink in a can, another interesting artifact of those foreigners. “Oh, right, can’t forget that” she went back to the maintenance hatch to the roof and locked it, smiling to herself.

Having done so she sits down, carefully removing her coat, stretching her wings and staring down at her armored body. She was still getting used to it, and recently she had started feeling something weird on her skin, like itches. She picks up a bottle of oil, according to Raf this was oil used in the maintenance of arms and armor, called gun oil, and starts gently applying it over herself, it was in fact refreshing. After, she just lay in the sun, feeling it’s warmth letting the oil dry.

Raf made his way up the roof, carrying a small bundle on his back. He knew he wasn’t quite supposed to go up to the roof, just for maintenance, but he couldn’t miss the opportunity. He put his hand against the maintenance hatch and it unlocked for him, he popped up his head and looks around, taking in the sunny landscape. He just stood there for a moment, looking, before finally heading up. He always enjoyed sunny days.

Once there, he noticed something different. There she was, Shilleka, sunbathing as well. She looked relaxed, armor glistening in the sun, wings spread out and floppy. He chuckles, she looks unbearably cute like that. He looks for a nearby spot and sets down his mat, taking off his shirt and laying down.

A little later, he hears a soft gasping sound, and looks to the side, seems like Shilleka finally noticed him beside her “Oh, sorry didn’t mean to startle, but you looked so peaceful napping like that”

“Y-yeah…” she looked strangely embarrassed

He, on the other hand, just smiled, oblivious as to whatever was embarrassing her “Seems like we had the same idea, great time to take in some sun” he stretches and looks up again, closing his eyes

“It… It was… A-a good time to do that, yes…”

Eyes closed, he continues “You know, there’s no sunny days where I come from” he raises up a hand “It’s always raining, every hour of every day, and cloudy”. He lowers his hand again “Which is why I like sunny days”

He looks at her, and she is truly tense, she seems like she is fighting back different reactions, fidgeting, her wings are stretched stiff. He isn’t quite sure why he caused this, though, so he tries “Err-“ he thinks for a moment “Isn’t it a little hot under that armor, though?”

The awkward silence lasts forty seconds, at the very least Shilleka doesn’t seems to get any worse than she is. However she stands up with a jolt, grabbing her jacket and throwing over herself, dashing off, face red.

Raf blinks “What…” he just stares at her run off. Then he looks up in thought again “Armor…” realization dawning on him, he slaps his forehead “YOU IDIOT”

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