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Avvercus

A Divine Deployment

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Hell

Smoke, fire, unbearable heat, the taste and smell of burning sulfur in the air. That was hell, right? The fading screams of men echoing in the distance to be quickly swallowed by some new horror. This is how the devil’s domain is described, is it not? Yet, blood still pumped through a strong and desperate heart. The ache of flesh and pleading demands of overworked lungs pressured a frantic brain. These human sensations were not phantoms, so he must still be alive.

This was earth, and he still fought to stay there.

They all fought to stay there.

His men and their families. The enemy and theirs. The reason they were here to kill didn’t matter, not now. In the fury of flinging flechette and leaping lead, all anyone cared about was the next breath they took, the next pull of a trigger, and the final exhale of those that would see them bleed.

That was his squad’s duty. To locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and close combat. Sergeant Hudson’s duty, however, was somewhat different. He was to ensure mission success, first and foremost. As well, he was to keep his Marines alive and bring them home. Professionally, of course, the mission came first. But in his heart, the flame that pushed his worn down knees on and on as they carried a full combat load up a flight of shoddy stairs, the men under his charge were more important than anything in the world.

The door gave way under the rage of his boot. Immediately, a hammered pair of 5.56 NATO rounds left his barrel and found their home in a terrorist’s chest. The muscle tore apart, ripping a red gushing hole where his heart once thumped. Human and Ak-47 hit the rooftop in sync. Hudson now had a secure perch from which to watch his squad and issue orders. His chest hit the stone, and his rifle rested on a bipod as he got into position.

“Sarge, perimeter secured, over”

“Copy. Wilhelm, Loc, start pushing. Don’t limp dick it, we need this section secured yesterday.”

“Roger”

“Roger”

The static of the PRC-152 radio whispered into his ear moments before the sound of crashing wood and barking M4 fire reached his eye in the sky. A glimpse of movement caught the corner of his vision.

Sniper

Crack! The 7.62 round exploded against the roof a few feet from his head. Adrenaline instantly pumped, but training and experience kept his hand and breath steady. A calm, easy squeeze of the trigger dispatched the would be grim reaper. As long as his idiots didn’t fuck anything up, today would be easy.

~

Easy, yeah. Nothing’s ever fucking easy.

Bang, you’re fucking dead Taylor. Do it again fucktard. Check your god damn corners or I swear we’re going on a 6k right fucking now.

Some boots just refused to learn in training. Luckily, combat made them learn fast.

Check your corners, physically sweep your rifle, left to right, eyeball the ceiling. It was a mantra, every new room was scanned quickly, efficiently, and any haji lying in wait were put down.

This Haji, and this room were different. His cadaver clutched a ghetto-fied switch. The wires running from it to every corner of the room made his blood run cold. He’d heard about this shit. The fuckers were turning entire blocks into IEDs. His squad was in the kill zone right now. If the suicidal bastard had flipped the switch…

He moved. He had to secure it, call in EOD, get his guys the fuck out of dodge.

Suddenly, the room went sideways. Eh? What? He was on the floor? The Marine’s ears rung, and sounds of shouting Arabic were lost on him. The shattered flak jacket plates oozed crimson from gaping bullet holes. Bloodshot eyes peered through dusty combat goggles. There, a Haji pointed his now empty weapon in the Marine’s face.

Check your god damn corners

Right. The fucking corners. Shit.

A gurgled roar accompanied by spraying life-nectar and encroaching darkness to his vision cried out. He pulled the trigger with what little he had left in him.

One, two, three… Four…. Five….. Did he have any rounds left? Did he kill the fucker? He didn’t know. Everything was dark. He had to have, right? If a Haji got a hold of that switch…

For God and country. That was a common slogan amongst his peers. Hudson wasn’t ever much for the God part. He defended the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. That was his oath. But...if there was a god, any god...he’d get on his knees and suck the biggest dick right now. He had to get up.

Wilhelm was fuckin’ 18, kid didn’t know his ass from his face. Mom sent him comics in care packages for fucks sake. Emmerich was gay, everyone knew it. No one gave a fuck, he kicked ass. Smith ever shut up about opening a bakery. Donnel...well, he was just weird.

The fuckers wouldn’t last a day without him. God please, let him get back up. Please, please. Let him get the boys home safe…

~

Ha, it’s always fun to see the unpious types crumble in the face of death. But you...you’re different. Not your own life, but the life of your comrades is what you seek to preserve. Interesting. Very well, I shall give you a second chance, provided you are willing to serve.

Don’t fuckin’ care what you want me to do. I’ll deep throat a cactus if you let me get up.

That would be entertaining in its own right, but I have a more...fitting purpose for you to fulfill. We shall speak more in time. For now, prove your tenacity. Show me more than a willingness to prostrate. I will be watching...Marine.

Thus, twas divine whimsy what sparked the chaotic scene suddenly visited upon an unrelated healer on a distant world. Without warning, a body appeared on her table, his screams fading as blissful unconsciousness blanketed him like his own blood.

Edited by Avvercus

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Life was an amusing thing, kind in it’s cruelty. Whimsy of the Gods and Goddesses made reality their playground, and often the humans viewed as pawns in their games of fancy. Each individual could surmise at some point the Deities would find it fit to indulge their desires with their lives. The woman who resided in the shop was no different.

Once upon a time, in a land far away, perhaps even in a galaxy far away – Her life had been turned upside down. Where there had been technology and a sibling, there was now nothing but a shop full of herbal remedies and the soft scent of sage. Pale flesh and pale hair adorn the crown of the woman who hums softly as a spoon stirs the tea, clinking against the sides of the teacup before setting gently upon the plate to the side.

“I wonder…” A gentle voice, lilting and upbeat pauses in hum, a sigh escaping. How many times had Rin spoken to the walls, her rose gaze lingering on each as she questioned then. How many times had she begged them for answers, and yet they had offered her none. “If ...I’ll ever see them again.” Rin sighs against the warmth of the cup as it is lifted to her lips, the liquid warm and inviting, soothing as it fills her senses. Five long years had battered and beaten her hope into nothingness, rose hues closing against the discomfort that settled in her chest.

“Ah, does no good to dwell.” A gentle chiding, as the woman moves towards the table, setting the cup upon the well rubbed wood. Her lithe form settles into a wooden chair, carved for her by the local woodsman in exchange for healing his sickly child. In another world, Rin would have to hide her abilities – hoping to never have them noticed for her own safety. She was tied, bound from using them for fear of being hunted and persecution. A fateful accident, however, had seen her waking in a strange, foreign land that magic ran rampant in, a place that she could settle into without fear of pitchforks and torches.

It was silent in the shop, but a moment later there was a bustle of noise that caused the woman to startle. Her teacup crushed beneath the man who suddenly filled her table. “What?!” Her form jumped out of the chair, her alabaster form panicked as she tried desperately to make sense of what was happening. The flashes of read caught her attention and immediately a gentle utterance of a curse was heard as the woman tugged at the jacket in an attempt to remove it. Rin could tell the man was from the military, of Earth…home…But she didn’t know how to undo it. It was stuck there, but his bleeding was of great concern. Without knowing how bad his injuries were, she couldn’t…

If she didn’t, however, it was clear this man would die. Rin was always eager to help, her abilities lacked in everything but this kindness. She stood and immediately lay her hands upon the man, pulling his wounds into herself. The bullet wounds misplaced from him and placed themselves upon the woman, staining the white sundress that complimented her alabaster skin, crimson blossoming across the fabric as a scream of pain left the woman’s maw. The pain that transferred was too much, it built on her with no adrenaline to follow, and she found it too much to bear. After the wounds had fully transferred, her body fell to the floor, unable to handle the wounds as they healed from her form as well.

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Creaks and groans filled the otherwise silent room. As the displaced warrior stirred, the table he occupied cried out in protest at his weight. Blinking cobalt eyes a few times, the Marine became fully cognizant and immediately rolled to his left, falling off the table into a kneeling position, where he raised his empty weapon and began to scan the room.

The first thing that he noticed was the temperature change. From the 140 degree weather of the desert to something far more comfortable and temperate, he felt like a an entire burning ball of fire had been lifted from his shoulders. Next, the man noticed the earthen scents of herbs, spices, and cured wood. This was not an Arabian home. At that thought, Sergeant Hudson suddenly realized he wasn’t dead. He wasn’t dead, and he wasn’t leaking his life’s fluids all over the beautifully veneered floor.

A shuddering breath left his chest as he turned to scan the rest of the room for threats. What the hell was going on. His sharp eyes caught the sight of a pale hand on the floor, peeking around the edge of the table. The fingers were curled slightly, as though the person lay limp. Moving in a crouched combat glide, the man circled the table with his gun trained on the unknown.

A woman, stunningly alabaster, lay unconscious. Her snowy dress was stained as crimson as his uniform, and the Marine immediately moved to her side. He saw her modest chest rise and fall evenly, and knew she was still alive. Combat Lifesaver training kicked in, and his M16 was left to hang against his chest on its sling as his hands were relieved of his flame retardant gloves. Then, those same hands went to work on what they had been drilled to do countless times.

His battle hardened palms swiped down both sides of her dainty neck, armpits, and the inside of the stranger’s supple thighs as he checked for major bleeding. His hands came away clean, so he knew she wasn’t bleeding out still. Next, he gently ran his hands through her ivory hair, checking for head trauma. Again, nothing. The woman didn’t seem to have any immediately life threatening injuries then.

Hudson hesitated for a moment before taking the next step. He stared at her face, studying it. She looked asian, which her body size and shape agreed with. She was pretty, almost intimidatingly so. Was this a test from that God? Was he being watched and silently judged? Fuck it, didn’t matter. An injured civilian was an injured civilian and he wasn’t about to leave her without medical care.

The tactically blackened blade of his K-Bar didn’t glint in the light as he slipped it under the hem of her sundress and sliced it open from the collar down. Her soft, pearly skin blended in with her undergarments so well he almost didn’t notice them at first. But then again, that’s not what his eyes were trained on nor was it what he was looking for. Perfectly white skin, unsoiled like her dress met his lapis lazuli gaze and he frowned. No injuries at all? What the hell?

Hudson began to puzzle his situation. Where was he, who was this woman, and why did her clothing look like she’d been shot when she was perfectly fine. His knife hovered over her chest idly as he was lost in thought. Maybe it would be a good idea to explore more of his surroundings and get a handle on the situation. Or perhaps he should wait for her to wake and just ask her directly. Decisions decisions...

Edited by Avvercus

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The floor was a veneered mahogany, well polished and cared for. Barely any scuffs along the floor except a lightened path near the door and a matching countertop to the side. The whole of the shop smelled of chamomile and cinnamon. Rows and rows of books lined the left side of the shop, the back wall covered in bottles of various substance as well as herbs. Small drawers filled with spices and ingredients shadowed the counter. A small ladder in the corner gave example to how the woman of short stature would reach the taller shelves, where the more precarious, bubbling potions seemed to sit.

Atop of the counter was a row of books and candles, each inscribed in a foreign language.  The stained glass of the front door and opening of the shop filtered in the noonday sun in a spectacle of oranges, pinks, reds, and bright blues. They glittered across the shine in the floor like the northern lights, and the gentle rustling of a living tree that existed in the right hand side of the room would bring attention to the stairs that went up half of a floor, with a doorway behind it. Presumably, either stock or a room of sorts. Aside from the table behind the counter the place was spartan of furniture. A small kitchenette behind the table was the only evidence of someone living there.

The woman’s breath was gentle and paced with no signs of stress or any indication as to what might have caused the blood that had stained her clothing. The fabric had soaked all of it up, and had left the pallor of her skin bared to the man with the large knife. Her clothing gave way, to the modest undergarments that covered her body, and her alabaster skin was free and clear of any wound or obstruction. The ground beneath her lithe frame was stained ruddy, given how long she had lain prior to waking. Now that the man was awake, and her wounds had healed, it was unlikely that she would sleep much longer.

However as the man pondered his situation, the woman beneath him gasped suddenly, drawing air into her lungs as she recovered from the most brutal healing session she had ever undertaken. Rose colored hues pried open, peering up at the blonde haired man that seemed to have found it fitting to remove her clothing. Rin made a noise of surprise, her cherubic features wore an expression of shock as she lay bare before the man. Pink tinged her cheeks and ears as blood rushed to her visage, a suddenly rolling from her form as she put distance between them and stood, pulling the sundress tight about her wide-hipped form.

“Excuse you?!” She practically shrieked, her voice high in tone and demanding as she grabbed a throw blanket from the chair, tugging it around her as she pulled it tight to cover her body.

“The hell do you think you’re doing!?” Rin screeched again as she danced around the room, bare feet gripping the polished floor as the tendrils of her hair whipped about in her flurry.

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Hudson’s eyes went wide in at his patience’s surprise revival. His knife rose to chest height defensively, with the point aimed towards the source of sudden movement. She was very much healthy, and very much alive as she skittered about and made use of her voice. The Marine’s brows knit as he came out of his surprise almost immediately, casting a deadly look as sharp as his blade towards the stranger.

Quick and deft on his feet, the man’s boots thundered across the floor while he remained low to the ground, causing potions, books, and other loose objects around the shop to shake and jitter as though caught in a small earthquake. His left hand, darkened by dirt from a long week out of the wire, covered the much shorter woman’s mouth as he none-too-gently shoved her against the tree growing through the building.

His K-bar pressed to her throat like his body weight pinned her to the bark; Not too violently, but with enough pressure to let her know the situation was serious. His breath shuddered as he forced it to keep low and even, billowing across the delicate skin of her face slowly. Her frantic, ruby eyes caused him to note she was albino. It would explain her hair and complexion.

“...Listen closely, because I will only say this once. I don’t know where I am, who you are, or how I got here. I don’t know if you are a threat or if there is a threat to me outside this room. I am going to remove my hand, and you are going to quietly convince me I am safe and tell me where I am. If you raise your voice again or make any sudden movements, I will slit your throat. Do you understand?” Hudson whispered calmly, without an ounce of malice. His voice was gruff, sounding as though he rarely used it unless he was yelling.

Edited by Avvercus

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Rin was caught off guard by the sudden rush of the man. He was so spirited for a man who had been laying on her table bleeding out only moments prior. As her form backed up, pressing harshly into the tree that grew from the shop floor, Rin let out a gasp of air against his hand. Hot and humid as he stared at him in awe struck fear. Her brother had always told her she should study a means of defense, but she had always ignored him in favor of helping those in need instead. Air was hard to pull into lungs that were thick with discomfort and pressure, and ruby gaze widened as the knife pressed against the delicate tendons in her neck. A soft whimper could be heard, should Hudson choose to listen.

The bark of the tree dug into the thin blanket, therefore into her skin as she tried to shift subtly to ease the pain that radiated from her left shoulder-blade. Surely she would bruise later, but that was a concern not pressing at the moment. A thin line of crimson accented the dark blade that threatened her very being.

And then, the man spoke. This confirmed her suspicions about his origins, at least, and she makes a soft noise of agreement from beneath his hand as she stares up at him in confusion and fear. Sharp breaths finally manage to pull themselves from her throat as lungs find the ability to fill to capacity once more. However, his thunderous movements had caused a chain reaction, the bottles that had been haphazardly stored upon countertop rocked back and forth before two of them tipped and fell to the floor, spilling across the wood as the glass shattered. Noxious dark clouds rolled from the area in which the two substances met, boiling into the floor. Rin made an urgent noise beneath his hand, a pale, petite hand pressed against his jacket as she motioned as best she could without moving too much, hoping he would follow her gaze to the noxious liquids that were forming a deadly gas, one that was going to fill the room quickly.

As the man’s hand lowered, Rin gasped for air before she huffed at him.

“Of course you’re American.” She huffed, before motioning ever so slightly with her chin. “We need to get out of this room. Those fumes will kill us if we stay here. I will answer any of your questions outside, unless you want to choke on noxious fumes.”

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If there’s one thing Hudson learned after so many years dancing with death, it was always trust your gut. Right now, his gut told him listen to the girl.

He didn’t enjoy the whimpering. Though it told him she feared death, and therefore could be threatened into obedience, he didn’t like the look that blossomed in those eyes. They were soft and warm, like her body beneath his touch. Gunny always said he had a soft spot for women and it was gonna get him killed someday. Well, he’d already died once… Round two didn’t sound so bad.

He didn’t speak a word before he took a step back, pulling the woman with him while sheathing his knife and wrapping an arm around her waist without thinking about it. Her feet left the floor as he booked it for the entrance, covering his face with his arm and skirting around the poisonous smoke that was rising. Luckily, her front door was ever so slightly ajar as he hit it with one shoulder, saving it from breaking as the pair burst into fresh air.

His Beretta M9 left his hip holster and found its way into his steady hand as he continued to run, analyzing their surroundings with the quick mind of a military man. There were countless potential hiding places for enemies. Behind trees, on the other side of softly rolling knolls in the distance, around the back of the sleepy house they’d just left. But, logic told him the likelihood of alerted adversaries not waiting outside at the ready was unrealistically low. With that, he slowed to a stop once they were a safe distance from the house.

His gun was put on safe and tucked away, and he finally let loose a heavy sigh as his body relaxed. He set his mysterious company down and tried to get a sense of his geographical location based on what he saw. Nothing specific came to mind, but it was damn sure obvious he wasn’t in the middle east anymore. If he hadn’t literally spoken to a god before all this, he’d be racking his brain trying to make sense of it. Her comment on him being American made it obvious that they at the very least were not in America.

The Marine’s kevlar, rifle, and flak jacket all found their way in a neat pile on the ground at his feet, still stained with blood. Finally getting a quick glance at himself, he noted that there was enough on his uniform in general that anyone that saw him might think he was a zombie. He gave his unfortunate company some attention after that, taking in her shockingly pale visage with a measure of awe. He’d never seen an albino in person before, and found her rather beautiful. Then again, he’d always been a sucker for monotone.

“I’m sorry… For all that back there. I thought you were injured because of all the blood, so I was checking you for wounds. My name is Sergeant Seth Hudson. If you could tell me yours and where I am and how I got here, I would really appreciate it,” he said like a man who was unused to speaking softly. His hand was extended, coated in dirt, blood, grease, and all other manner of things one would find on a working man. That hand was filthy and rough, but it was also big, strong, and sincere. A good hand worth shaking, all in all.

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When the man stepped back and further manhandled her, Rin let out a squeak as she was easily lifted from the ground. Unable to protest, she merely burrowed her face into his shoulder to protect her own nose from the rancid stench that was threatening to overwhelm them. Her lithe form burrowed, seeming to tuck even further as he hit the fresh air, hoping that the blanket would somehow restore any modesty she hoped to keep.

He would find the winding road outside the house led into a forest a ways further down, the road not being well travelled, but travelled enough. Her shop was at the tail end of a little village, where those on their journeys would stop for tonics and salves that might keep them alive while they prowled the forests or searched for adventure even further on.

The grassy hill into the town was devoid of cover, rolling in greens and the bright colors of the spring flowers as it led down to the outer houses and buildings. As the man finally came to a stop and released her, Rin’s bare feet touched the ground with a relieved sort of noise. Perhaps if she could gain purchase, she could flee the madman. As he disrobed the outer shell of his uniform, Rin danced a bit – unsure. Leave this man to fate and run towards the village? Or risk remaining and seeing what damage he could further cause?

Her desire to do good always won out, On-Wa had always accused her of having no self preservation. Besides, she did not want to run screaming into the village in nothing but a blanket…She had to live among these people. A scowl found her visage, however, creasing her brow as she glared at him when he offered his hand.

“The blood was yours.” She huffed, unable to help herself. His hand was given a dubious look, clearly she desired not to touch him – but the sincerity in his voice made her reconsider. Her small, petite hand was dwarfed by his as she took it, giving it a small shake.

“I am Rin, I don’t know how you got here. You just showed up on my table. You are in the land of Seinaru Forven. Which, I’m guessing was an accident. You’re American….that much I can tell. Military of some sort, but you’re in a completely different land now. One where magic and fantasy run wild.” She offers as her hand falls from his.

Her rose gaze flickers to look over her shop, as smoke billows from beneath the doorway with a gentle sigh.

“Well, that’s going to take several hours to dissipate.” Reluctantly, she shifts the blanket to pull it across herself, tying it off to the side like a sarong. “Luckily for us both, I have a smaller building in the back we can use.” With that said, the woman begins her movement, away from the Marine and circling around the shop. The shop is encircled by the forest along the back, the thick trees providing shade as she motions to a small cabin – no larger than to have a small kitchenette and a cot. It had been built for the very reason for which they were going to use it now. Provided Seth followed, of course.

Her bare feet seem unbothered by the harsh foliage and thick pine needles as she steps over them carefully and opens the door. Inside it smells of cilantro and fresh lemons, the woman moving to put a kettle upon the stove as she light a fire inside of it.

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The stool was incredibly sturdy. It didn’t seem cut or treated. It was as though the thing had simply grown into the shape it now took, a surprisingly comfortable homey little thing just tall enough for the six foot Marine to be comfortable perching upon. Well, as comfortable as he could be at the moment. He stared at Rin putting a kettle on the stove a few feet away while in heavy thought, turning over everything in his head a few times. A fantasy land? Magic? If one asked him if he’d ever believed in something like that, he’d probably had said no simply off of virtue of having never seen it. But, seeing his current situation, he’d probably change that answer.

The mysterious god that had answered his plea must have sent him here. For what purpose? Why directly in front of this person? What of his men and the battle they had been in? There were too many unknowns he couldn't quantify, so the man did the best he could and shove it all to the side. Live in the now, work towards the future. There was one thing he could learn about, at the very least. With a small huff, Hudson stopped impersonating a statue.

“You said the blood was mine. What happened to my wounds? Why were you covered in my blood?” the man finally spoke up, glancing down at his flak he’d placed next to the stool.  The air in the kitchen was pleasant, and helped keep the warrior calm and relaxed. His mind jumped to several conclusions for his question, but he ignored them all, waiting for an actual and direct piece of information from the first source.

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While Hudson marveled over the construction of the stool, Rin was busy dropping herbs and spices into the water that was set to warm over the small stove. While it was clear this place was used rarely, Rin sometimes enjoyed the simple quiet that it could afford one.

At his question, she turned, pale rose gaze taking in his visage – and what a handsome visage it was. A squared jaw, the most marvelous blue eyes that sat beneath a mane of gold. His features were certainly …fascinating, and they didn’t do anything to her womanly instincts, none at all! Perhaps her stomach flopped once or twice, now that she had a moment to take in the appearance of the stranger that had upturned her home.

“I healed you, of course.” Rin states after his questions filter off, as if there was no other explanation. “That’s how your blood ended up on me.”

She is quiet a moment longer, before setting a steaming cup of warm, honey sweetened tea in front of him as she rummages through yet another cupboard, pulling out a small batch of cookies.

“The Woodcutters wife made these for me. They’re quite good.” She sets them in front of him, the ginger cookies rich and heavy. Rin settles in a stool opposite of him as she lifts a large ceramic cup of tea to her own face, blowing on it as the smell of clove and chamomile fills her nose before taking a sip.

“The world you’re from – I imagine the same one I once came from – you believe there to be no magic there?” A white brow rose. “That’s just silly. There was magic, though sparse. Here it runs wild, like a dog without a leash. You’ll find things are different, muchly so, and I have yet to find a way to get home, so I’m afraid I can’t offer you my assistance in that regard. I looked, for quite some time when I first arrived, but found none of them suiting to my purposes, or safe enough to risk.” Rin sighs then, a gentle sound as she shakes her head. She rises once more, leaving the soldier to contemplate her words as she disappears behind a curtain to find another sundress that was not so ruined.

“How did you get here, do you know?” Rin questions finally as she emerges, the sundress nearly identical to the last.

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Hudson wanted to interject, ask questions about this ‘healing’ and why it involved her unconscious on the floor, but he let it go. If she wished to talk about it, she would have gone into detail. Instead, the man remained silent and studied his savior while listening to her voice.

Savior. The word stuck, and he suddenly realized this adorable little woman in white had saved his life. She turned him from a bloody, shredded ball of meat into a breathing man with a healthy heart that yet beat. The tea and cookies was left untouched for several seconds while he memorized her face. The soft, delicate lines framed by pure white, centered with dazzling ruby and sporting a lively character that made him want to smile. He’d been nothing but trouble for her in the short time span they had known one another, yet she showed nothing but hospitality with a side of amusing attitude.

Definitely a good person. A good woman.

By the time Rin returned, Hudson had wolfed down his cookies with the zeal of a starving man, and finished his very relaxing drink. He closed his eyes, allowing a small smile to creep onto his steely face before a satisfied sigh opened his smalt gaze back to the still woken world.

“I believe you.”

The words were genuine, given in a tone that was almost soft for the man. He didn’t add his reasoning for his faith, that he’d already had enough evidence to change his perspective.

Hudson glanced at his watch, noting the digital timekeeping device had frozen. Nothing more than a keepsake now, eh? Though, it was odd for something digital to simply freeze like this.

“A rookie mistake got me killed in battle. I talked to a God, and he sent me here I guess. To you. To someone who could and would save me,” he replied with a dreamlike tone that said he still wasn’t quite used to the reality. Oddly, with the subject brought up, the man didn’t thank her for saving his life.

“The cookies were delicious, thank you. If it isn’t too much trouble…” he hesitated for a moment, unused to asking others for anything if he wasn’t demanding it by virtue of rank, “Could I have another cup of tea?”

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“Mm. Such as things are.” Rin commented idly in regard to saving his life, waving it off as though it was simply nothing. Truly, aside from the blinding pain that had overwhelmed her initially, it was an act she would happily do again.

“Oh? A god spoke to you?” Her eyebrows raise as she glances at him, not in disbelief, but in momentary awe. What she knew of deities was thin, but she had always viewed them as blind to human plight, using people as pawns for their games rather than offering anything of substance. Crimson gaze would narrow ever so slightly, before a gentle sigh erupted.

Moving towards him, Rin took his cup, pouring another cup of tea as she set it back down. The shack shook, the tea sloshing inside of the cup as she did so, her achromatic gaze shifting towards the thick trees that surrounded the cabin. It was about that time, yes, however, her guest was likely not to respond well to the intrusion.

“Mister Hudson, please remain calm…there is—“ And she never got the rest of the words out, for out of the foliage stomped a large, terrifying black dragon. Purple light shone from its maw, magic storing behind it as it followed down the long neck. The underbelly of the creature was a softer, lighter tone of charcoal, and the main scales sparkled like micah in the midday sun. While Rin knew the intimidating creature meant no harm, she was certain her company would not see it the same way.

The creature stomped towards them on four, clawed feet, nearly as big as the cabin itself. It’s wings, clawed and thorned, shook with another roar as it folded them against its back, the spiny ridges along it rising in a menacing display. The creatures eyes were like fire, bright and orange as it assessed the cabin for a brief moment, before wings flared out once more, it’s tail thrashing about, the spiked end clubbing the ground impatiently.

 

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“Thank you”

Genuine gratitude without a smile. That expression had faded quickly and wasn’t likely to reappear easily. Hudson took in the aroma and the feeling of warmth between his hands as he cradled the refilled mug. For a moment, it almost felt like deployment was over and he was about to head back to...an empty house. He never felt the same joy the others did when it was time to return to American soil. He loved his country with all the patriotism any military man should have, but there was little there to anchor him and make him feel at home.

He didn’t feel the first quake, but noticed the liquid in his cup shake, little ripples racing across the mirror surface like a bad omen. He certainly noticed the second, and definitely recognized something crazy was happening when the dragon appeared.

Hudson didn’t play video games or read comics or anything of the like. Rather than indulging in fantasy, most of his free time was spent reading up on philosophy and military history when he wasn’t running or lifting. Rather than get excited like someone with such a background might have, Hudson nearly shit himself.

Rin’s words didn’t reach his ears one bit. His mug was set down and his M16 was in his hands before he consciously decided it to be the best course of action. With hours and hours and hours of practice, he had a fresh magazine loaded in less than a second. The fire switch was flicked from safe to burst, and a single squeeze of a single finger set off an event that would lead to one hell of an adventure.

BANGBANGBANG

Three bullets fired off in quick succession. The sound was loud and sharp, hurting the ears of any unused to it. The 5.56 NATO rounds slammed into the dragon’s chest scales, flattening against them before bouncing off at high speed. Immediately, the terrifying purple gaze of the creature snapped to the source that dared sting it. As the maw began to open, flickering purple arcane flames that licked about its lips like an opening furnace, Hudson’s eyes went wide and he realized he’d made a terrible mistake.

“We should run, shouldn’t we?”

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“Wait, please, don’t shoot at it you’ll just make it worse!” Rin’s plea was unheard, it was too late. Hudson had fired upon the dragon and initiated the beginning of what might be the most ridiculous adventure of his life to date. While he seemed to take the entirety of the situation in stride with a logic that stated the other shoe had yet to drop of him, Rin knew it was a matter of time before he came to the realization that things were quite dire.

“We should run, shouldn’t we?”

Rin stared at the dragon as it started to rear back in the telltale well that dragons had, the next moment was crucial, they would need to escape the dangerous blast of heat that was sure to sear their skin and cook them like bbq. The woman had a moment of panic, before she grasped the soldier’s hand, heading for the only other door in the shack as she bolted through it as the heat licked along her back, singe-ing her back and the hair that danced behind her running form. Small and lithe, she was agile and quick…for now. She had not the balanced training that Hudson or anyone who had been in combat professionally, but her survival instincts knew how to bolt.

Rin panted as the shack behind her crackled and evaporated into ash upon the touch of the searing flame. Of course, the dragons instincts to hunt would draw it immediately to the two fleeing figures. It’s larger gait meant it was upon them in no time at all, and Rin tugged harsher at Hudson, true panic and fear in her rose colored gaze as she tried to swallow the scream that threatened to bubble from her throat.

Her grace and ability to run were hampered as she veered into the forest, in hopes of hiding amongst the foliage and the dragon losing interest, but her shoe catches on a root, and she trips, falling face first into the dirt. Rin flails, unable to help it as she tries to pull her foot free of it’s trap, whimpering softly as the dragon roars its displeasure as it comes upon them. Harsh footsteps come closer and closer, and Rin finds herself twisting harshly as she wrenches her foot free of the root. A cry erupts from her throat as her ankle twists, but she still stands.

“Wait, look!” She points, there’s hole in the ground, just wide enough for them to slip into. It could be worse, or better than their current situation, as they don’t know what kind of creature is inside. Rin doesn’t care, she jumps, disappearing into the earth as she lets out a soft cry as she hits the ground below, rolling in the damp earth. She lays on the ground for a long moment as she tries desperately to catch her breath, her sundress ruined now with dirt and mud as her ankle throbs in protest, an angry red as one shoe lays away from her foot, though she cannot see it in the darkness.

Overhead of her, the dragon screeches its displeasure, and she can only hope that the man followed her.

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Instinct is a double edged sword.

It’s fast, an instant reaction to any situation that’s almost always better than doing nothing at all. However, instinct also comes with the ruination of human ingenuity. While a calm, educated mind might choose a far more effective course of action, instinct moves first and analyzes later. Instinct put three rounds down range with no time to hear or listen to Rin. It angered a colossal, powerful being and put them in danger.

Now, it was helping to save his life.

No hesitation, his gear was all left behind with the exception of his M16 and what was strapped to his person rather than his flak jacket. Hudson was as hot on Rin’s feet as the flames licking at his back as they fled. Heavy breathing was the only sound coming from his chest, throat, or lips. No growling, no yelling or demanding answers as to what the hell they were running from was or what Rin’s plan was. Hudson had run from danger before, and he was in full understanding of the situation. He had only to trust this strange woman or die by his own impulsive decision.

The creature’s roar sent goosebumps rippling down the Marine’s arm, and Rin’s tumble as thundering footfalls approached set his stomach on ice. As the woman struggled, he reached down and ripped at the root entangling her foot, helping his companion to her feet immediately afterward by yanking her back up with great strength.

As Rin dove for Nature’s convenient haven, Hudson’s mind raced. Trees parted, crashing to the sides as the beast bore down and it’s arcane eyes came into view once more. They blazed with malice, violence, and worst of all, intelligence. It would know if he leapt now. It would kill Rin and him both if he showed it where he was about to disappear. Instinct chomped at the bit, pressuring his feet to move. But discipline proved a steady enough hand to put the bucking bronco at ease.

Hudson’s left hand snatched something from his thigh and tossed it at the dragon’s face before he turned to make his own dive for safety. The flashbang grenade went off, it’s fuse specially cut to only delay the flash of burning magnesium and ear-shattering thunder by a single second. Blinded, the dragon thrashed in hatred and confusion. It detected no magic, what had the human done?

Hudson landed with an audible thump and grunt just as a tree fell over their sanctuary, ensuring the pair definitely wouldn’t be found by sight alone. The echoing roars and shaking stomps slowly faded as minutes ticked by while both Rin and Hudson remained silent and still.

When particles of dirt stopped falling on his face, and his strained ears could hear no more, Hudson sat up and placed his back against the soft wall. The loam was cool to the touch, and the calming smell of earth surrounding helped to put his rebelling heart at ease.

Light refused to breach the ceiling, and so no matter how long their eyes adjusted there was no seeing anything in their anti-tomb. So, the Marine reached out to his foxhole buddy.

“You alright? Didn’t break anything falling in here did you?”

The stuff surrounding them seemed to muffle his voice, keeping it quiet as his hand made contact. He felt her frame rise and fall with her breath, and knew she was still alive, still breathing. He could hear it, the soft inhale and exhale that was his only companion down here. It was as soft as she was. Too soft. He knew girls tended to be soft indeed, but this was far more than the usual. His hand twitched on reflex, groping the mystery flesh.

“Ah”

The sound was knowing, deadpan. He knew exactly what that was. No further pondering or explanations were required. Quickly, he retracted his hand.

“Sorry”

A hand reaches out, a resounding - smack - given to his hand as Rin groaned.

“Ankle is twisted.” Was all the woman offered, unable to see him but her head lifted from the dirt to peer in the direction the sound came from.

“Other than that, I should be ok…”

The smack didn’t hurt, but the meaning behind it was clear. He hadn’t meant to do it, but he couldn’t say it wasn’t an enjoyable sensation. The Marine reached into his cargo pocket and withdrew a cylindrical object. Depressing the switch, his tactical light set their little hiding hole alit with a bright white glow. After a few moments of shielding his face while his eyes adjusted, he was greeted with a suggestive sight. Rin was sprawled out with her dress hem hiked up over her waist, looking up at him with dirt soiling her otherwise pristine skin.

Without a word about it or the tinge of red that rushed to his cheeks she might have noticed, were she paying attention, he reached down and tugged at her clothing, restoring her modesty before aiming his equipment at her feet. One ankle was obviously swollen, an angry bruise covering it with pain.

He then peered over her head with the light, seeing the hole extended into a tunnel of some sort. There was plenty of overhead for them to walk upright, when they decided to make their egress.

He set the light against the wall and leaned his head back, letting out all his tension with a long breath. His cobalt eyes decided to seek out Rin’s face then, regarding her with something like respect. Most women he knew would be in pieces right now, but she’d taken action and kept her wits about her.

“You’re pretty tough. How long have you been...here?” he asked, gesturing all around them with one hand.

Rin winced as she slowly moved to sit up. The fall had not been kind, and she would likely have more bruises than not after the event. Gingerly, she drew up her ankle, careful not to put weight on it in fear that she would release a sound that would draw the dragon back.

“Ten years. I’ve been here ten years.” She had counted the days in the beginning, hundreds, and then thousands, they had bore into her during her first days. Young, naive, and desperate to return home, she had travelled many a place before finally settling when all adventures seemed fruitless.

“I was fifteen, when I was ...transported here? All I remember is my brother hiding me in someone’s vacation home while he went to find food. When I woke up, I was here.” A gentle sigh, a hand raising to wipe away the dirt marring her visage. She succeeded only in smearing it, adding an exotic, wild look to herself.

“We’re going to have to wait a while. Dragons are known for sticking around an area and waiting out their prey. You just had to shoot it.” She hissed, not due to anger - but because she dared press her foot to the thick loam beneath them in an effort to gauge the severity of the sprain.

“It’s not so bad, once you get used to it…”

Hudson nodded when she gave advice on the Dragon’s habits. Honestly, he was exhausted and didn’t mind the break, be it in a house with tea or in this hole in the ground. Actually, it was fairly comfortable. The earth was soft and the temperature was nice and cool. He could see himself taking a nap.

“Twenty-five, then? Same age as me. I’ve spent the last 3 years almost constantly deployed to the middle east back in...our world. Can’t be any worse here, I suppose,” he said, sharing some small details about himself.

He ran a hand through his hair. It was fairly long for a Marines, almost 3 inches. Any more and he’d be out of regs. Dirt tumbled onto his shoulders from the fades on the side of his head. “A fuckin’ shower…” he mumbled to himself, longing to be clean for the first time in what felt like forever.

“So, you’re alone I take it? Sounds like your brother didn’t end up here with you,” he prodded a bit, letting his curiosity ease the quiet and break some ice.

“I remember...seeing men in uniform in New York.” Rin murmured, trying to move her ankle only to find a shooting pain was her reward. She put that idea on the back burner, then, and gently set her leg down once more to lay upon the thick dirt.

“I had a shower.” She jested, trying to make light of the situation before her rose gaze tried to find his silhouette in the dim light.

“You came here alone too. Maybe whatever it is can only transport one thing at a time.” A sigh as both hands rested on her face, shadowing it from view as she tried to make sense of things. “If my brother is here, I have never found him. But then, I never figured I would find magic in America, either.”

Her hands moved to hug her own shoulders, pulling tight around herself.

“Is that where you were when you showed up here?”

“Heh”

A small chuckle at the comment on the shower. He sighed when she winced yet again at her ankle and reached down to his IFAK, unbuttoning the flap and rummaging around for a moment. He pulled out an ace bandage and reached for her calf.

“Stay still. This is gonna hurt a bit.”

Shifting over so he could lay her leg in his lap, the man’s hands began to wrap her injury up with a surprisingly gentle touch.

“I used to live in New York. I got poofed here after getting gunned down in Afghanistan. That’s why I was all full of holes when you found me,” he explained, pulling tight on the wrap to compress her sprain.

“.....I’m sorry,” he suddenly said, after a few moments of silence and tying off the bandage. He left her leg resting on his thigh so her foot could hover off the ground

“If I didn’t piss that thing off, you wouldn’t have gotten hurt. Sorry…” he stared at the wall, avoiding her gaze for the moment. He felt embarrassed. Normally when he fucked up(Which was as rare as an eclipse these days), he got his ass chewed and that was that. No need to apologize. She didn’t yell at him or put any blame. The feeling of guilt hung in the air, and that word, ‘sorry’, was the only way to relieve the tension. It was a lot harder than jabbing fingers and flying spittle, that was for certain.

Rin clenched her jaw, finding the pain of him touching and manipulating her ankle nearly unbearable. Still, she offered no sound even as sweat broke out around her brow, and her breathing staggered in soft, gasping breaths.

When he pulled the bandage tight, her hand snapped out to grasp his wrist. Her grip was delicate, but firm. Hardly enough to cause him harm, or likely even give him pause, but it was a reminder, if nothing else. When he had finished, Rin found it easier to not move as she rested against him, her shoulder falling into the dirt once more as she lay back down, fighting back the nausea and dizzyness that caused the rising of bile in her throat.

When it had passed, she blinked away the tears that had threatened to spill from her eyes.

“It’s...fine.” She offers after a moment. “I can’t really blame you, being new here and all.” A steadying breath is given, a shuddering noise as it exits her lips. “The natural reaction is probably to run or shoot. And if you’re trained to shoot...On-Wa was like that too. He’d fight anything just to prove he wasn’t scared…”

Her arms fell out to the sides as she lay there, leg propped on his knee. She rose the other one to follow suit, so that she didn’t flash him, leaving her lower half somewhat draped on him. Her hands dug into the dirt as she sighed.

“Do you have any family?” She asked gently. “I don’t know if getting sent over here leaves them with any kind of closure.”

~

Hudson remained silent. He had no real idea how to respond to that. Was he supposed to thank her? Insist he fucked up? Say it wouldn’t happen again? None seemed right, so the man simply held his tongue on the subject. Instead, he pondered the situation. This girl was half laying on him and had her arms thrown wide, totally defenseless. Something about it seemed...was this what sexual tension was? He grunted to himself and elected to pretend he’d not just had that thought.

“No siblings, broken home. Don’t talk to my parents. So no, not really. I guess if anything, my squad is my family. Bunch of idiots make me feel more like a mother than a military leader sometimes,” he replied with a small smile. Nothing like suffering and almost dying together to bring a group of people close.

“You know magic, right? What can you do with it?”

Rin actually managed a giggle at his comment of being a mother. The amused part of her mind, or perhaps it was the delirious part - pictured him in an apron, handing out lunchboxes to each little boy as they went out the door.

She giggled louder.

After a moment it died down before she was able to process his question.

“Ah, not really. I know healing. I can heal, that’s all I can do. I can mix some mundane potions....sleep aids, muscle tonics, things of that nature.” Rin offers quietly, grimacing. She must sound so pathetic to this man.

“Probably should have learned how to use a sword, or bow, but never did. Always convinced myself I was too busy helping people with illnesses and hurts.”

Hudson scratched the back of his head and sighed in what seemed to be annoyance.

“So, you’re telling me...you’re all sprawled out alone with a strange man in a dark hole somewhere with no way to defend yourself?” he frowned at the girl, raising an eyebrow and gesturing at her totally relaxed posture.

“Is this normal for you?”

“If you were going to kill me, you wouldn’t have waited for the dragon to chase us into a hole.” Rin chided gently, closing her rose-colored gaze.

“But no, I cannot defend myself. I just.never bothered to learn.” Rin sighs then, frowning in the darkness. “I’ve never had to, not really...everyone here has been really nice to me, and in New York...On-Wa took care of me.”

“The village woodcutter and blacksmith always checked on me here, too. They kept my shop safe from any kind of raiders. So...I’ve always been really lucky to just have people around me so I never had to learn. I don’t think I’d be very good at it, anyway. I don’t want to hurt anyone else.”

“Yeah, you’re lucky. Lucky I’m not a piece of shit. Lucky the blacksmith or the woodcutter never decided they wanted to abuse your trust.” he said with a lecturing tone to his voice. Did she not realize how beautiful she was? A temptation like that could turn good men into animals. There was a long pause while he turned over several thoughts.

Suddenly, his blue eyes stabbed at her.

“Alright. Well, that’s fine. I’ll protect you. For saving my life, to pay for the damages...I’ll work as your bodyguard while I figure out what to do.”

There was no offer or question. It was a firm statement. He didn’t trust this girl to keep herself out of trouble if that was how she thought. He also was acutely aware they were both speaking English. The likelihood he’d find others he could understand in this world was probably low. This was the most logical move, and to him a very moral one.

“Maybe it’s luck. Maybe it’s divine purpose.” Her rose gaze peered at him. “Besides, what purpose would it serve them? You would abuse the trust of the person who can heal you from near death?”

Rin frowned. “That just doesn’t seem logical at all.” She sighed, before slowly sitting up. Her legs gingerly lifted from his knee as she set them on the cool earth beneath them, reaching for the walls or his shoulder as she attempted to move into a standing position.

She was able to bear weight on one leg, but not the other. It simply hurt too much to make the ankle work properly. Her naivety in her thinking showed that perhaps her brother had done none favors in sheltering her. “I won’t...disagree with having a personal bodyguard. Just no more dragons, please. It won’t hurt, and then hey, I don’t have to hurt anyone!” She grinned, though it was more of a grimace.

“Did I see that this went somewhere?”

“You think someone fucked up enough to do that is thinking clearly?” he grumbled, watching her try to get to her feet. Guess it was time to get moving.

Hudson grabbed his light and clipped it to his chest with the lamp pointed outward. He looked up at the unsteady Rin and huffed. She was the headstrong type, wasn’t she? He stood up, scooping the tiny asian into his arms as he went.

“Any weird magic shit I should be worried about down here?” he asked, taking his first step into the looming tunnel ahead of them.

Rin squeaked loudly when she was scooped up, and she stared up at him for a long moment. The longer she stared, the more her cheeks felt warm and her cheeks turned pink. HIs easy heft of her small frame made her feel...strange.

Rin wasn’t sure what to do with the strange flopping and bubbling in her stomach. She took in the hard planes of his face, the firm jaw and the determination of his gaze, finding that breathing was suddenly more difficult than she remembered.

Quickly looking away, the woman bit her lip before shaking her head as she gently adjusted the lamp to ensure he could see. Hesitantly, she rested her head against his shoulder - surprised by the strength there.

“You don’t have to carry me, you know.” She offered quietly, even as the scent of man and blood filled her nostrils. “As for magical stuff, I don’t know. I’ve never been through these tunnels. I don’t even know what made them.”

"My seabag weighs more than you, it's not a big deal," he assured, peering into the darkness ahead. As Rin adjusted the light, he noticed the tunnel was unusually straight. Actually, it seemed as though it could have been made by human design, rather than nature. Regardless, it seemed to stretch on and on with no end in sight. The butt of his rifle bounced against the back of his thigh as they moved from where it was strapped to his back, clacking in rhythm to his march. He adjusted his grip on Rin subtly, making sure not to jostle her ankle too sharply. He felt her head on his shoulder and peered down at her face, studying it yet again. Something about the dirt smeared across her cheek made him want to smile. Misery loves company, perhaps? He saw her cheeks were oddly red and raised an eyebrow. He looked back up, remembering he may or may not have weird magic shit to deal with. He wasn't really sure what to expect as far as that went, but so far he'd seen a giant dragon breath fire. That was enough to convince him he should be weary.

"You sure you're alright? Your face is red."

Edited by Avvercus

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