Mana P4y1s12

Mana: And so it was written: Pokiehlember 4th, Year 1, Undine's Day. In the gloaming fog of the Shade District - departing, if I'm correct, from Kuro Kuro Carceri towards the Dreaming City below.
Mana: The Black Caravan has pulled up to the city recently, and it's straw-hatted, thick cloaked travellers are resupplying from the markets, haggling over food, cloth and the exact price of jet-black arrows.
Wilhelmine pauses at sight of the travellers, but pays them little more mind than that. She's not done with her own plans for the day, and moves forward with purpose.
Mana: The Dreaming Pine. The proprietress smiles as Wil enters, ringing a tiny bell, and instantly the windows shutter up, the vast array of jewelry splaying out on trays and in opened displays, wall-panels sliding back to reveal thin, polished glass panes.
Mana: "You rather seem as if there's good news to be had."
Wilhelmine tilts her head, feeling around in her pockets. Toth has the needle still, right? Right. Oh, there should definitely be some ramifications in Salamander that she should clean up, too.
Wilhelmine stands at the entrance, absent-minded in her own thoughts until after the windows shutter up and Erufee speaks. "On several counts."
Mana: "You've unpinned Vush, at the very least…"
Mana: "And we have those scorpions skittering about, distracting the Empire."
Mana: "All good things. Shall I loose you something from my collection, then?"
Wilhelmine: "It's what I came for, yes - though I seem to have already come across some Quicksilver."
Mana: "So you have. Then, I suspect you'll be after… Lodestone? The killing star?"
Mana: "Anglesite, maybe…"
Mana: "Crystal lead… certainly would look good on you, but I think it'd need pairing with the right metal…"
Wilhelmine: "Anglesite. I have enough killing as it is."
Mana: She sashays over to a cabinet, pulls a necklace away from black velvet - it bears a huge, single piece of anglesite crystal, crescent-shaped, etched with dense knotwork that catches the streaks of yellow running through it. The chainwork is mostly brass, well-polished, but something about the color suggests an unusual alloy.
Mana: "Not too ostentatious for you, I hope. But I think the weight would be born well."
Wilhelmine: "I'm not too concerned with appearances. I'll adapt to make it work. May I examine it?"
Mana: "Naturally." She gently hands it over.
[OOC] Mana: Volition Testament - Dark Force, Zombie, Deprotect, Danger, Spiteful. W: Wisp, Gnome. R: Shade.
[OOC] Mana: Oh, and Esoterica, of course.
Wilhelmine gives a rare grin. "This - this will do. You have a knack for suggesting just the right thing."
Wilhelmine: "Can I ask you to examine a piece? I obtained some Pyrargite recently - haven't worn the thing - but it seems different since when I got it and now."
Mana: "Certainly."
Wilhelmine hands over the Disaster Crescent, and quietly adds a comment: "At this rate, I might just obtain a full personal collection. A-herm."
Mana: "…How odd." She picks it up, walking over to a table, examining it underneath a loupe.
Mana: "Bring me another one of my Pyrargite pieces? I'll be needing to compare, I think."
Wilhelmine scans the selection and brings one over.
Mana: An unimpressive ring, but it'll do - she takes it, compares, and makes a low, thoughtful sound.
Mana: "…It's not just your piece. Something's gotten into the crystal."
Wilhelmine: "Not just my piece, but - 'the crystal.' Singular."
Wilhelmine: "Pyrargite as a whole?"
Mana: "Well, two thus far…"
Mana: "…Let's see a few more."
Mana: She points - here, and there, to other points throg
Mana: …throughout her store, I meant to say.
Wilhelmine nods and retrieves them. Curious, indeed.
Mana: "Pyrargite. As a whole. Minute flecks of red, too small to be seen. Mostly on the edge. Vanish on agitation, disappear soon after."
Mana: "And if we…" She removes the pyrargite proper from one of the pieces, setting into an orrery-like machine, twisting it about, letting it slowly rest and calibrate…
Wilhelmine: "Any implications? I only just received the piece."
Mana: "There's a story that says that the power of jewelry is… light, or fire, if you will - stolen from the spirits, and buried within the mortal firmament."
Mana: She pauses to inspect one of her other pieces, her own Calaverite - "…Not that we've seen any spirits around in a while."
Mana: "It's a vague feeling, but some of the power has been pushed… out of the crystal. It's still there, it's just being drawn in from further."
Mana: "I suspect a spirit has sunk its teeth into the doctor star."
Wilhelmine: "Hm. Can it sink its teeth into any others?"
Mana: "Seems unlikely. It's Salamander, were I to make a wager on it."
Mana: "Things among spirits tend to be… evenly divided."
Wilhelmine: "If this continues, though - well, seven gems, eight spirits. Unless one has sharp enough fangs to pierce that eighth one."
Wilhelmine: "And Salamander was probably the one I'd put money on to do that. Shame."
Mana: "I suppose so."
Wilhelmine: "Something to keep in mind for later, though. Thank you for the insight and expertise."
Wilhelmine: "And the Anglesite."
Mana: "There might be some way to take advantage of it. But in other ways, it's…"
Mana: "Ah, nevermind. Do take care."
Wilhelmine: "It's inconvenient for a jeweller?"
Mana: "Well, naturally. We quite enjoy magic flowing freely from the crystal to the wearer, without other intermediary."
Mana: "Spirits getting involved allows for… regulation."
Wilhelmine nods, then gives a shrug. "I gathered."
Wilhelmine: "Do take care."
Mana: and the Dreaming City awaits you.
Wilhelmine: Not that she'll stay for long. She has a summons to finally answer. Through the Vertical Market's tapestry-maze, through the cave to the Fountain of Wisp, through its busy streets to the Garden Arch.
Wilhelmine: Unless something impedes her, that is.
Mana: It's a clean trip - the setting sun paints the shadows of the Jinn gardens in deep orange.
Wilhelmine continues on. The last time she was here - well, that was probably a long time ago. If ever. Like most other things, Wilhelmine approaches the tower with a sense of distant familiarity whose exact nature always eludes her.
Mana: The tower is all smooth balustrades and open, gleaming floors, elevators winding up and down. It doesn't take too long after your entrance for an official of some kind - a tall man with an easy-going look, a long sword-of-office strapped to his back - to walk up to you. "Wilhelmine, is it?"
Mana: "The Emperor seeks audience."
Wilhelmine: "It is. And I'm aware."
Mana: "SHall we get him that, then? Come with me."
Wilhelmine: "Are you escorting me just to show me the way, or to keep an eye on me?"
Mana: "Neither, really." He leads the way to an elevator, steps inside, gestures her to enter with a flourish.
Wilhelmine: "Ah. Useless ritual and pomp, then?" She follows him in.
Wilhelmine: "There's a lot of that going on in this district lately."
Mana: "Lately…?"
Mana: A quiet laugh, as he sets the elevator to ascend - past the presses for the Ironclad, past innumerable other floors, all the way up to the top.
Wilhelmine: "Well, that's about as far as recent memory goes."
Mana: "Naturally." And at the top, double doors lie at the end of a short hallway, leading out onto the Moon-Reflecting Pool.
Mana: "At your leisure." Your escort says, waiting in the elevator.
Wilhelmine: "Thank you. You made it a more pleasant trip than I anticipated."
Mana: A gentle, quiet nod.
Wilhelmine continues onwards. Considering what may take place, she dons her newly acquired piece - the [Volition Testament] - and removes her tongue stud.
Mana: Best to look professional, after all.
Mana: The doors open up onto the top of tower of Jinn, to the moon-reflecting pool: Two steps lead down into the brilliant pool of quicksilver, that shines with a radiance from the sunset to the west.
Mana: On a throne at the far side sits the Emperor of Jinn, dressed in white, his eyebrows long and bushy, bald, smiling softly.
Mana: In the distance, out on the edge of the city, the peak of the Revolver Citadel is visible.
Wilhelmine folds her arms and stands straight - proudly, almost on her toes. "Well. I'm here."
Mana: "Welcome." The Emperor says.
Mana: "Wilheline, yes? A student of the Shade District?"
Mana: "Thank you for paying visit to my court."
Wilhelmine clears her throat. "A graduate. I've been running a tailor-shop for some time since."
Mana: "That's a rare merit. Most don't see fit to leave." He strides out across the mercury towards you. He wears rings of bleached wood, sandals of some ancient thing's bone.
Mana: "So many stars have risen in these heavens as of late. What is it you desire for Titania?"
Wilhelmine: "For it to flourish. For it to grow. For it to become what it's meant to be."
Mana: He smiles. "For the beauty of growth?"
Wilhelmine: "Not to succumb to disaster, cut short of its prime, and not to quietly stagnate in quarantine, never seeing blossom - but to endure. And not for beauty, but simply because that is what a seed is supposed to do."
Mana: He is quiet. He looks away, at the horizon.
Mana: "What good is there in things performing as they are supposed to?"
Wilhelmine doesn't make this claim with her normal stodgy, stoic mode of speech - there's a new edge in her voice and steel in her eyes. Something feels like it'll ripple out from her at any moment, and it's all she can do to keep from trembling.
Wilhelmine: "You short-sighted fool - what good is there in deviating?"
Mana: The Emperor pauses. His tone is level, but from the hesitation, you can hear him pick his way around it carefully - "The rules of the universe… and the whim of the Goddess-"
Mana: "Trap us eternally between catastrophe and eternal ice."
Mana: "The powerful shall always rule,"
Mana: "A bold desire must always be thwarted,"
Mana: "And to fly close to the sun is to have one's wings collapse in flames."
Mana: "These are as things are supposed to be."
Mana: "How can one stand in a world like this, and not dream of shattering free?"
Wilhelmine: "How are your own actions in any way bent towards shattering free? If anything, I only see Titania plunged further straight into winter."
Wilhelmine jerks her head at Revolver Citadel.
Mana: "There are ways of things, as well you know."
Mana: "Things fall into patterns. Actions must take certain courses."
Wilhelmine: "Hm. And you're only following suit into that pattern?"
Mana: "One cannot be Emperor, you see…"
Mana: "…Without being a cruel, brutal tyrant."
Wilhelmine: "Because you can't help it. Because you're … doing what you're supposed to."
Mana: He smiles. "What beauty is there in this?"
Mana: "And yet, in doing so…"
Wilhelmine chuckles. "Aheh. Pardon my hypocrisy."
Mana: "…I am fashioning, in secret, a miracle."
Mana: "A trick. An escape. To live the same story-"
Mana: "But to have the sorrow to not be sorrow, to have wings designed to burn."
Mana: "Isn't it stupid, that I have to speak of it in such terms?" The Emperor laughs, a little, in spite of himself - almost breathless.
Wilhelmine shakes her head. "An empty, hollow world such as that - I find even less beauty in that, though. You never let me actually give an answer to where the beauty is, and I don't want my silence to imply agreement."
Wilhelmine: "In catastrophe, the beauty is in the triumph of the aftermath. In brutality, the beauty is in the kindness of the souls that still have it in spite of their circumstances. After being lost for so long, the beauty is in finally being found."
Mana: "Ah, yes. The dew after a storm. The shadow that can't exist without the light."
Mana: "I've heard of such things so many times."
Wilhelmine: "Heh. I understand your intent. But who are you to defy that?"
Mana: "Does one need a particular station to engage in defiance?"
Wilhelmine: "I don't speak of station, but of power."
Wilhelmine glances around the court. "Because you obviously have the former."
Mana: "If I can survive eight catastrophes…"
Mana: "…Then, certainly, even just this scarce power I have will suffice."
Wilhelmine: "I have to ask, though - in your miracle, will we not simply exchange our set of chains for another?"
Wilhelmine: "Chains aren't so bad. I've been in them."
Mana: "I'm chasing not freedom."
Mana: "I am chasing a world of benevolent rules that hunger not for tragedy."
Mana: "If you seek escape from your chains…"
Mana: "Isn't being Pure of Heart enough?"
Wilhelmine shrugs. "From one set to another."
Mana: "Still, I think one rule can be better than another."
Mana: "For example, that no hour can have any weight, or meaning, without a death at its terminus."
Mana: "I'd rather be well and free of that."
Wilhelmine: "The sin that Titania is forged on … the one that Joch's prophecy speaks of. Is that the final sin in your world, the ultimate tragedy to serve as prelude to your era of ultimate benevolence?"
Mana: "Of course not."
Mana: "It's the first."
Wilhelmine sighs. "And as much as I sympathize with your desires…"
Wilhelmine: "I see no reason to allow you to overwrite the laws of this world with yours. While I will search for my own alternatives, I cannot ally with yours. Until I see further reason to stray, I will act accordingly to the whims of the Goddess, and Her judgment, and openly invite disaster to befall Titania."
Wilhelmine: "I'm chained to my cause - but I see no reason to fight that."
Mana: "Ah…"
Mana: "Then, thank you for your visit."
Wilhelmine: "Unofficially, though - what tragedies have you seen for you to pursue this so heavily?"
Wilhelmine: "So I can mete out similar judgment. Ahem."
Mana: "Judgement…?"
Wilhelmine: "What else follows someone's sin? Without fear of the consequences, it certainly won't be repentance."
Wilhelmine: "And I'm the consequences."
Mana: "I fell in love, once. The rules of the world aren't kind to that."
Mana: "But that alone is small and selfish."
Mana: "The sorrow of blood and violence and cruelty. The sorrow of ambition - that to dream must have some evil in it."
Mana: "That change may only be achieved at cost."
Mana: "That all bonds must be tested."
Wilhelmine: "Hm. Does the Mana Goddess simply hold a position on a throne? If cut down, can she be replaced?"
Mana: "I do not think that this is so."
Wilhelmine: "Worth investigating."
Wilhelmine: And with that, she turns to exit.
Mana: The Emperor watches as she leaves.
Mana: Your escort waits for you on the other side - "…I hope it went well."
Wilhelmine: "Eh."
Mana: And so it was written.

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