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Mickey Flash

Secret Weapon

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Rev stood outside of The Tree of Memory, her cloak draped over her arm.  She didn't feel the need to hide herself here.  As a demon she doesn't need many clothes, and the weather at the bottom of the mountains of Kinumo was very warm for the demon species.  Compared to her cloak she wasn't wearing much, and the full set of her tattoos could be seen on her olive green skin.  She also had large protruding horns and a very long pointed tail... but what demon didn't?  She was just glad to finally be at the end of her journey back home, no matter how much she was dreading seeing the family.  The air smelled of home, and the Tree was as magical and wondrous as she remembered.  

She stood at the entrance of the gigantic tree, where a tunnel had been made to go out the other side.  There were different levels to the Tree, with locked doors and mountains of knowledge.  She'd studied in the Tree many times.  And she'd barely scratched the surface.  You had to have express permission by the guardians to get to see the different levels of Tree knowledge.  She hadn't went past level one.   

All of these memories were rushing past her mind, flashes of times she'd opened a locked door for the first time.  Or when she was dared to try to climb the tree to the top.  It was fitting, because it was called the Tree of Memory.  It suddenly hit her that she was looking up at the Tree from the stairway below, not moving, and her mouth hanging open.  She looked around to see if she knew anyone from her past, anyone she might be obligated to speak to.  There was no one she could see, and she slowly walked forward.  

That was when she remembered she wasn't alone, and she didn't even turn around when she said, "Come on Ascytale.  Let me introduce you to my home." 

Spoiler

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Pictures retrieved from the internet.  

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Black butler, Kuroshitsuji, Snakeascytale


 

In all his travels, Ascytale has yet to encounter such a giant tree before. He has to tip his head all the way up just to take in the whole majestic breadth of it, hair falling over his eyes as his chin juts out into the air.

Well, won’t you look at that.

A sight for sore eyes, wouldn’t you say?

The vision sparks a memory long since buried, deep in his psyche: the feeling of soft, weathered hands on a young smoothened forehead, the sound of clear rivers tinkling over warm stone, of laughter ringing over green fields.

Now, now, that’s enough recollection, Stranger.

Shaking himself out of the reverie, Ascytale looks towards Rev and tilts his head in curiousity.

"Come on Ascytale.  Let me introduce you to my home."

His lips twitch at the way she is almost unheeding of his presence, upon seeing the Tree of Memory. “Lead the way, ma’am,” he tells her, quietly trailing after her as they move on closer towards the giant structure.

 

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Rev heard his words and stopped in her tracks.  She turned to him with an irritated look on her face.  "You know I don't like being called 'ma'am,' Ascytale.  Just call me Rev.  Ok?"  She huffed and moved forward again, not willing to have this conversation with him again.  She'd swear that he wasn't trying to use manners, but to aggravate her to death.  The more time they'd spent together, the more he'd reminded her of her brother.  When she was young her younger brother had always been following her around and nagging her.  He'd also somehow made her feel bad about treating him like an irritating brother, by giving her the silent treatment.  This made her wonder if maybe she'd been too harsh.  Demons usually were very harsh.  Tough love was the way every young demon was raised.  But her brother's strangely gentle behavior had shamed her angry words and rash actions.  

Ascytale wasn't just like her brother, because she didn't get the same gentle nature vibe from him as she did her brother.  But he was more quiet than she was used to.  She turned to him now, feeling the need to fill in the silence with conversation.  "This tree is the Tree of Memory.   We come here for all the big celebrations, and soon there will be a celebration.  You can tell because I see some decorating being done."  She gestured to some demons and even a human or two decorating the giant tree.  "And as we go into the tree you will see there are many levels and many doors.  Each door has access to some of the greatest knowledge known in the world.  The higher up the tree, the more rare the knowledge.  You have to earn the right to go to the higher levels.  I've not actually gone very high myself, but I left here when I was really young."  She grew quiet as she walked forward into the tree.  She had been overtaken with old memories herself, and she rubbed her arms as she stepped into the dimness of the tree tunnel. 

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Black butler, Kuroshitsuji, Snakeascytale


 

Ascytale cannot stop the upward twitch of his lips when the woman whirls around to glare at him for the moniker he has bestowed on her. He had forgotten just how enjoyable it felt to tease someone who would not mind his shenanigans much, like siblings would often act. He can’t quite remember the last time he’d been allowed to do such a thing without severe repercussions.

‘Tis a sad thought, Stranger. I would have thought our banter would suffice for you.

You don’t count.

The pair continue moving towards the giant Tree, Ascytale rather content to gaze upon it in silence when the quiet is broken by Rev’s explanation of her home, the decorations and the upcoming celebration and the levels and doors of the Tree of Memory. It’s all rather nostalgic, how she speaks of the place, and an unfamiliar warmth sparks in his empty chest.

"And as we go into the tree you will see there are many levels and many doors.  Each door has access to some of the greatest knowledge known in the world. The higher up the tree, the more rare the knowledge.  You have to earn the right to go to the higher levels. I've not actually gone very high myself, but I left here when I was really young."

He hums, watching the way she rubs up her arms as they move towards the darkness of the interior. “Interesting.” He does not think asking about why she had left early on in her life would be welcome, and so he switches to another query; he can ask about the tree’s levels soon enough. “What celebration is coming?”

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Rev was snapped out of her reverie by Ascytale's question.  "Hmm? Oh.  Yes.  Uh, I don't really know actually.  There isn't any holidays going on this month."  She was suddenly curious herself, and as she walked thru the tunnel and out to the other side of the tree, she asked the nearest demon, "What are the decorations for?"

The demon wasn't one she knew, and she could tell by the short, stubby horns that they were young.  He looked at her in a superior way, though.  And she knew that he felt more powerful than her, since he held all the knowledge.  She sighed, having forgotten how this little part of the world sometimes acted.  She had gotten used to the rest of the world, and how power might not be everything.  It was freeing when you didn't have to worry about being the strongest all of the time.  

"I guess you're not from around here," he stated with a sniff.  Rev frowned at him, and her horns lowered.  This was something she'd learned long ago, and the old habits were coming back to her.  The lowering of her horns drew attention to them, letting him know that she was older than him.  Therefore she could wipe the floor with his tail, and there wasn't much he could do about it but grin and bear it.  He was startled for a moment upon remembering his place, and hurriedly finished with, "Someone from the Bleater family are getting married in a couple of days.  Her name is Flasa, I believe."  He bowed and walked away quickly, not liking the look on Rev's face. 

"Huh," she said, straightening her head and staring off after the demon.  "Flasa's a cousin of mine," she told Ascytale.  "She's getting married.  Well, how the time flies."  She shook her head, wondering who the guy was.  She hadn't really liked her cousin much, because she never stopped taking an opportunity to rub it in Rev's face how she could control her powers better than Rev.  She shook her head, and a small thought crossed into her mind that the family would be distracted with this upcoming event and not worry too much about her being there.  This was a good thing.  She liked that she wouldn't be getting all the unwanted attention.  "Let's continue, shall we?  Stick close to me when we start walking the path to the lifts.  Bandits have been known to steal from lone travelers."  

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Black butler, Kuroshitsuji, Snakeascytale


 

Ascytale watches the exchange between Rev and the horned man with mild curiosity, distracted as he still is by the sprawling vertical expanse of the Tree and the kaleidoscope sights within his line of sight. When the other demon shuffles away, he glances at his companion, observing the play of emotions on her face without so much as a word to shed light on it.

"Flasa's a cousin of mine. She's getting married.  Well, how the time flies."

That lackluster response is rather telling, but he chooses not to pursue it in lieu of shrugging casually, shifting his gaze back to the dust trailing behind the man’s departure. Rev then advises him to stick close to her as they continue on, and really, he has to interject here somewhere.

“Bandits? I would have thought there would be militia to do their rounds here,” he murmurs, rubbing his chin in thought. Are their ways so archaic that the inhabitants of the Tree of Memory cannot protect their own roads?

Bandits won’t be a problem, will they?

No, of course not. You dare doubt us?

Nevertheless, Ascytale nods in assent; the horned woman would know this place best of all, as her hometown. As they fall in step together walking down the paths, he broaches another line of inquiry. “Tell me, what sort of knowledge can you gain as you ascend the Tree?” Perhaps he could make a living out of it, rising through the levels, moving ever upward.

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Rev expected Ascytale to follow along blindly, but he did not.  Then she wondered why she would have thought that.  He wasn't the type to just stand by without asking questions about things, or just blatantly questioning her and her motives.  At first she'd found it extremely annoying, not wanting to have to explain herself all the time.  She wasn't a teacher and didn't have the patience for it.  She was a demon after all.  But then she'd started to wonder at her own reasoning for doing things, as she had to explain them to him.  She'd had to think out her responses, which made her think over the reason and rhyme for why she did what she did, and things she'd taken for granted before.  It was a new insight, and she now begrudgingly answered his seemingly nonsensical questions.  

He'd first asked about the bandits, which she realized when she thought about it was something that an outsider wouldn't know about.  And then before she could even explain the bandits, he'd went on to ask about the tree and the knowledge gained from different levels.  She decided to answer the tree question first, although a little absently as she turned over in her mind how to best explain the bandits for this demon village.  

"The types of knowledge in the tree are vast.  Every subject that you can think of, we have work on.  The study of all types of things, from medicinal remedies to the study of creatures.  We also have rare books with power.  Magical potions and spells, maps to buried treasures and weapons.  Pretty much anything you could want to know about pretty much anything."  

She continued walking down the path, getting closer to the mountain and the danger of bandits.  Now was as good a time as any to explain a little about their culture.  "The bandits, well they are usually made up of some of the members from the Assassin's Guild that we have in our village.  Members of the community pay a toll, or a tax if you will, to the guild members as they go through, paying for protection of their village.  Anyone not known by the guild pay a much heftier sum, or might not be allowed to travel through at all.  It depends on their intentions."

"I used to be well known in this area.  I had lived here for many years.  But I have been away for many years as well.  I don't know if I'll be remembered.  And the guild usually don't show their faces.  They wear scarves, or masks, to hide their identity from others.  This is for the town's protection, so the guild members can't be compromised from outside parties that may know that they guard the entrance to the village.  This means that I might not know or recognize any of them either."

She sighed as she walked, absently kicking a rock that was close by and sending it flying off into the distance.  "The Assassin's Guild are made of some of the best assassins on the planet.  Most are demon, but some are of other species.  You have to pass through many life threatening tests to be included.  I wouldn't want to have to fight them with an army at my back, let alone by myself.  You have to know someone, who knows someone to pass through to the lifts without much harassment.  I have a bit of coin to give, but not much.  When I lived here, not much was required.  But I don't live here anymore.  We'll see how much of a welcome I get coming home."  She said with a shrug.  

The lifts could be seen in the distance.  If they could see the lifts, that meant for sure that the assassin's guild could see them.  She began to tense, as she heard rustling in the trees nearby.  The birds stopped singing as well, and she could feel the tattoos begin to ice up on her body.  She could almost feel the eyes on her, watching her every move, and knew they would be confronted soon.  

 

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Black butler, Kuroshitsuji, Snakeascytale


 

"The types of knowledge in the tree are vast.  Every subject that you can think of, we have work on.  The study of all types of things, from medicinal remedies to the study of creatures.  We also have rare books with power. Magical potions and spells, maps to buried treasures and weapons.  Pretty much anything you could want to know about pretty much anything."

Something awakens in Ascytale’s chest at those words, or perhaps it is merely from the other voice in his head, but it is a restless and greedy thing. It urges him to take what he can and horde them all to himself: a treasure trove of peculiarities, an expansive pantry of trinkets he can collect like flowers in the palm of his hand.

Why, I do believe we have found a similar goal to work towards, Stranger.

He cannot help but agree.

They continue walking down the path, and Rev tells him about the bandits, about her extensive period of time away from her home, about how her people may no longer recognize her after so long. It explains her behavior with the other demon earlier on, but it does not explain anything further about her past, or whatever she expects to encounter from these so-called assassins. The dearth of his given knowledge is not something that settles well with Ascytale, but what can he do? His companion does not know much either.

This is outrageously frustrating, you understand.

Calm yourself.

He has very little money in his own pocket, having had no need to care for anything or anyone other than his own self. Does he need to shell out what little he has simply to pay some possibly horrendously expensive toll fee? Ascytale rather thinks that—

The world quietens but for the strange rustling of the trees, and his ears prickle with tension. The voice growls in his head.

Someone is there.

“Well?” He gives Rev a pointed look. “What do you suppose we must do? You’re the host here, my friend, and I am but a mere follower in this case.” Despite his outward calm, his skin is already hardening, ivory scales ready to spring forth to defend their owner. Ascytale gazes up at Rev with slitted yellow eyes and waits for her spoken choice; without it, he is quite prepared to lash out at any hostile souls around.

 

Edited by vielle

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On 5/17/2019 at 5:52 AM, vielle said:

“Well?” He gives Rev a pointed look. “What do you suppose we must do? You’re the host here, my friend, and I am but a mere follower in this case.”

Ascytale's voice, though not spoken loudly, had given Rev a fright.  Her tattoos were glowing bright already, and she didn't need to be startled anymore.  She placed a hand on her chest to calm her heart, and looked over at him in irritation.  She did a double take, as she noticed his eyes looked more snake-like than usual.  He must feel the tension in the air, and was taking a cue from her.  

"We're going to wait.  See how we are greeted.  If things start to look worrisome, then we break out the bad ass."  She could see more movement in the trees and she knew they were being followed.  The assassins weren't even trying to hide it.  It was a sure fire warning to turn back now if they had any nefarious plans for the village.  The closer they got to the lifts, the less open the path was.  It was now surrounded on all sides by the trees.  There was plenty of hiding spots for assassins to hole up.  

Rev decided she was tired of the game they were playing.  She stopped walking, and stood with her hands upon her hips.  "I'm ready to pay the toll.  I have family in Kinumo.  I'm here for a visit.  There is a wedding for Flasa Bleater coming soon.  I am her cousin."  

One of the assissin's came out of the woodwork, and he motioned for others to take Rev and Ascytale by the arms.  Rev didn't struggle, and hoped that Ascytale wouldn't either.  "I know Flasa's family," the assissin in the scary looking mask said, "and I've never seen you."

"I've been away.  I came back for a visit," she retorted honestly.  She didn't know how the assassins could do it, but it was never a good thing to lie to them.  They always seemed to know when you did.  

He motioned behind her, letting her know he was referring to Ascytale.  "He's not family.  What is he doing here?"

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Black butler, Kuroshitsuji, Snakeascytale


 

He would’ve thought they’d all just jump in straight ahead into a physical confrontation, but perhaps he’s overestimated his companion’s inclination towards violence. Or perhaps, well—she’s merely exhausted as a result of their journey.

It’s a shame; we could’ve done better, Stranger.

Taking a quiet moment to commiserate with the Voice, Ascytale looks over to Rev as she explains who she is to Flasa Bleater and what their purpose of entering is. They would’ve both been better off without agreeing to pay the toll, but then what?

We might as well follow what she wishes, knowing she knows more than we do.

In all things, however: Ascytale is calculated. He feels the men move forward to touch him, and the scales disappear under smoothened flesh. The slitted irises fade from view. If smoke and mirrors is what’s needed, then he shall be ready for it. Despite the tension in his shoulders, Ascytale does not fight the hands that hold him down, hands that do not know the beast growling silent under their grasp.

"He's not family.  What is he doing here?"

His mouth twitches under the shadows of his hood as he focuses on the masked man, his eyebrows wanting to climb up to his hairline in bemusement. Ascytale resists the urge that screams havoc simmering under his skin and adopts an innocent face; he draws upon what little sprig of adolescence still rests within the empty hollow of his chest and summons up an expression that knows naught but what is good and kind in the world as he raises his head into the light, allowing them to see the youth of his face.

“I’m her traveling companion, sir,” says he with a voice pitched higher than his normal speaking tones: the voice of a boy, because that is what he is, stripped down in the end. “P-please don’t hurt us; we just want to extend our well wishes to Miss Bleater on her wedding day and then be on our merry way?” He allows the end syllable to curl up as if in question, as if in doubt of the sudden circumstance.

Exceedingly masterful, Stranger. Why, I’m tempted to fall for it myself.

Quiet, you.

 

Edited by vielle

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Rev heard Ascytale's pitiful mewling, asking not to be hurt, and she almost snorted aloud.  It wasn't too long ago she remembered the snake man killing raptors right along side her, and his sad eyes and high pitched voiced was contrived to make himself look weak.  He was probably thinking they would regard him as such and underestimate him.  It was a sneaky and manipulative ploy.  She could admire his attempt at doing so, and if she wasn't so obviously, and dangerously, a demon she might have tried it herself.  But they knew she was strong, and it would have been a wasted effort.  They also could sense lying, and Ascytale's "please don't hurt us" whining smelled of deception.  She wasn't even an empath demon, and she would have been suspicious.  

"Ha!" The lead assassin roared in amusement.  His mask only covered the top half of his face, and there were eye holes cut out for him to see through.  His horns were long and curved, which showed that he was a demon who'd lived a long time.  The smile on the lower half of his face showed sharp, jagged teeth.  They were menacing to see, even for Rev who'd grown up around demons.  He was looking at Ascytale though, not her as he commented,  "You beg so pretty for a boy with scales and snake eyes.  We were watching from the trees.  We saw your little show there.  And now your all pink skinned and innocent, huh?  Want us to fall for that one?  Well it was a good try.  A skill like that would be great use on spy missions, if you're interested in something like that."  

Rev was taken aback by the veiled invitation to Ascytale.  She didn't know if he'd been aware of the high honor of being invited to train for the assassin's guild, but she was.  She had just been glad that the lead assassin had been amused by Ascytale's performance, instead of threatened.  It could have easily gone the other way.  She slid a look over at Ascytale and nodded her approval, trying to let him know that it'd be alright.  

She slowly reached into the pocket of her cloak that had been hanging over her arm the whole time.  The males surrounding her tensed up, and she slowed a little more as she pulled out a small bag of coins.  She jingled it to let them know it wasn't a witches charm, or some other piece of nasty to use as a weapon.  "I offer tribute.  Please let us pass." She held out the bag, and one of the demons took it, looking inside to see if it was enough.  He nodded, seemingly satisfied.  

The head assassin moved to the side, bowing slightly with an amused twist to his lips.  He moved out of their way, and a path could be seen to the lifts.  She tried not to look back, knowing that it would show her fear and be seen as weakness.  She didn't care how many tough things she'd seen on her travels.  These were strong, possibly magically powered demons who'd been trained to kill.  Anyone who had half a brain would be nervous about having them at their back.  She didn't look to see what Ascytale was doing, and was just hoping he was following her lead. 

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Black butler, Kuroshitsuji, Snakeascytale


 

Aw, look at that.

It works every time.

Ascytale allows the simmering burst of triumph to spread unbidden through the cavern of his chest, even as he does not let up the charade of young innocent lamb. Not only do the assassins stay their blades and halt whatever plan they might’ve had to attack them, but Rev even offers to pay for the both of them from her own pockets. All in all, a rather model example of a win-win situation.

He is almost disappointed at the lack of violence, however. It is no matter; the hunger for blood can be easily pushed down, like so many times before. He has learned to control it, despite the strenuous, altogether alluring circumstances.

I’m rather tempted to accept their offer.

And leave the lady behind? How cold of you!

He keeps the mask of scared little boy on his face even as they continue onwards through the path to the lifts, the group of assassins growing smaller and smaller until they fade in the distance, and it is only when they reach the lifts that Ascytale drops the act, allows a pleased smirk to curve his mouth. “How much did you give them?”

 

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The sound of Ascytale's voice, all smug, made Rev turn to look at him.  He had a little pleased grin on his face.  Rev wanted to smack some sense into him.  She gave an incredulous laugh, that was obviously not real.  "You think you're so slick, huh?  You are lucky they thought you funny, instead of getting insulted.  I would not have been looking forward to a night or two of torture, due to your fun and games."  She frowned and rolled her eyes.  "You play the game so well, of the innocent child.  But you're not one, are you?  Do you think you invented that game?  Do you think the men you witnessed were easy to fool?"  She snorted.  "If so, you were the one that was fooled.  They see that you're a threat.  They know you aren't innocent.  They gave you a pass.  Most likely because of me."  She shrugged.  "You don't have to believe me, but believe this..."  She walked closer to him, and looked straight into his eyes.  "You remember seeing what I can do, right?  I am one of many different types of demon, with many different types of power.  You don't want to be faced with all of it aimed at you.  And they are not all demon.  Some are devils, vampires, mages, witches, you name it.  I know you're tough, but you're one guy.  They are many."  She let that sink in, hoping he heeded the warning.  She had begun to grow fond of him, and she would hate to see him tortured and killed.  

"They are just protecting their home.  But there is nothing more dangerous than someone protecting someone they care about.  I know from experience."  She said as she looked up the mountain.  She stepped onto the lift, and held it open.  "Well?  Are you going to get on the lift?  Or are you going to take your chances back there, with them?  They're still at the edge of the woods.  Watching us."  She motioned to the wooded area behind Ascytale.  He reminded her so much of a teen male demon.  They think they are dangerous, and know everything.  The expressions on his face sometimes reminded her so much of her brother that she was shocked by it.  This was one of those times.

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Black butler, Kuroshitsuji, Snakeascytale


 

At Rev’s words, the Voice in Ascytale’s head turns sour, turns scathing.

How arrogant the little demon is!

Hush. She does not know what we are capable enough, is all.

Despite the internal disagreement raging beneath his skin, it is ultimately the other participant that wins, and when Asyctale’s gaze turns to catch Rev’s own, it is slitted and dark, seething with contempt.

“You assume too much, poppet.” Harsh syllables roll off his forked tongue in a voice that shakes the boy’s body, deep rumbles reminiscent of earthquakes, or of death. “We know of loss. We know of fighting to protect, to sustain, to keep, and you think their numbers scare us so? It is the same with us, that fearless tenacity.” He sneers, narrowing his eyes further as he pins his gaze up at her: frigid, lifeless. “Perhaps it is you who does not understand, miss, of the ways of this world, when you think our display to be as uncalculated as those men have shown themselves to be, when you think it is merely yourself that moves others to back down. Kindly get off your high horse; it is thoroughly unbecoming.” 

With those words, the Voice sinks back to wherever Ascytale keeps it hidden, and the boy slaps his palms together, his voice returning to its youthful tenor as hemoves to follow Rev into the lift. “So! That is that! Let’s move onward; I cannot wait to see what lies within this giant tree.”

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As rude as Ascytale had just been, Rev let the harsh words just roll off her back.  She leaned back against one of the bars on the lift, her body relaxed,  letting the square cage lift them up into the air.  Her eyes were hooded, and she let an awkward moment go by before she addressed Ascytale.  "I grew up around these assassins.  I know them.  They have earned my respect.  They're mostly demons.  I am a demon.  I had to get runes carved into my skin to prevent myself from destroying everything and everyone I see.  And I'm an ordinary, run of the mill demon."  She wasn't being quite truthful about that.  She knew most demons didn't have her powers, but some had similar ones.  To say all of that to Ascytale at this moment wouldn't help her in her explanation.  "But you, Ascytale, you haven't proven anything to me.  So I'm going to sit as high on my horse as I want to."  

At this very moment Ascytale didn't remind her of her brother anymore.  At this very moment she didn't want to have anything more to do with him.  His comments actually infuriated her, though she wasn't letting it show outwardly.  She tried to give him some good advice and not only did he throw it back in her face, he insulted her while he'd done it.  "Everyone knows loss.  Everyone knows about fighting to protect themselves and those they love.  That doesn't make you special, Ascytale.  That makes you another sad sack in this hard to survive world."  Her eyes turned as dead as his had before, and her face became expressionless as she said in a cold voice, "Congratulations."  

As soon as she'd said the word, the lift landed at the village drop off, and she marched off the lift without a backward glance.  She had enough of snide remarks, attitude, and ignorance from Ascytale.  Basically, she was done taking shit from him.  

The first person she ran into was her cousin, Flasa.  Of course it had to be her.  She hadn't seen her in years, but the female looked as plain and pinched as ever.  She sneered at Rev, and asked in a very unwelcome voice, "What are you doing here?" 

"Hello cousin.  I heard you were getting married," Rev was trying to be decent, but she was in a bit of a foul mood.  

"Oh?  You heard that did you?  I guess you came home after all these years for that happy occasion?"  She sniffed.  Then a sneaky, evil look crossed her face.  "Do you know who I'm marrying?"  Rev shook her head no.  "Castien," she spat.  Rev's pale green face turned even paler.  This made Flasa's cheeks become ruddy with  pleasure.  They both stood there for a moment, looking at each other.  A battle was being waged at the moment, though quiet and secret it may be.  The two females' eyes were locked, but Rev was the first to look away.  Flasa snorted.  "Hmph, come to the wedding, cousin.  I'm sure you'll love to see the ceremony."  

 

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