Xenia

25 August 2016 01:00 am
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Many minutes later, the Archons and Luminaries begin to return to the Metropolis. With Black Perfection and Moralus instinctively triggering the repairs from the battle with Noxias, they head toward the Archives. Archons and Luminaries are mingling casually, curiously interacting as they fly, hover, or walk.

Hatrus turns around, seeing Nymphaea and Solan are far behind the group. Domina catches his gaze: "Are you two joining us?" She yells out.

"There's something I'd like to do first," Nymphaea calls back.

Domina nods and rushes to join the others heading back to the Archives.


Both Nymphaea and Solan fly toward the Lake, Nymphaea landing at the water's edge with Solan standing a few paces behind her. Both now wear the clothing of their passive forms, but neither is very concerned they might face confrontation. Nymphaea moves her hands in intricate curving motions and something takes—a blue lotus, one of the two lilies she is able to create without the help of Esoterra. She steps out onto the Lake, her abilities supporting her weight on the water.

The air grows cold. The calm obsidian mirror that is the Lake ripples briefly as Fearus hovers out of it, arms folded, eyes untrusting. For a moment, hovering above Solan and Nymphaea, he simply stares. Then he says, "I'm not accustomed to foreigners lingering without supervision." The last two words are cold, almost defensive.

Nymphaea looks up at him, considering thoughtfully. Solan instinctively tenses up, but knows it is unlikely she will have to interfere. "I'm just leaving this here," Nymphaea says simply, indicating the softly glowing flower in her hand.

Fearus raises an eyebrow, looking carefully at the object. "Shall I treat this as a gift? Or a bribe?" He asks, sneering.

"Neither. A reminder."

Fearus' lips turn into a scowl: "A reminder?" He hovers lower, slowly approaching the two. "Do not presume to think that reminders are welcome here. It is by Terminus' will and his alone that you are even allowed to be here. You will find that I have considerable sway over the Avatar you inhabit." He pauses and turns to Nymphaea specifically as he lands right in front of her: "Phobos may be your lapdog where you come from, but in here, you have no power over me."

Nymphaea smiles gently, retaining her composure as always. "Phobos knows when to pick his battles. It just so happens that fighting me is pointless most of the time." She pauses, wondering whether to continue. "He is not my lapdog; he is my ally. It's not about what you love, it's about how you love it. And I can’t love better without understanding the arguments against it."

Fearus raises an eyebrow. "Cunning. I can respect that. Phobos, I mean."

"As you should. He is your nigh identical counterpart. Regardless, this reminder isn't for you. That carries the distinct air of a threat, and I do not threaten. It is for Terminus, to remind him that Noxias is worth fighting."

Fearus pauses, not quite expecting the reply. Though he and Noxias are close in spirit, almost like brothers, Fearus takes issue with Noxias' very existence. A life of guilt, a life of regret, and the fear of looking forward to same, is not Fearus' idea of the ideal life. His tone softens and he exhales: "I must apologize for my part in all of this. I do not trust easily, certainly not the way some of the other Archons in the Soul World may." Fearus says, thinking about how easily Moralus and Domina have allowed such a deep interaction to take place between the two worlds. "My inability to trust comes from a place of protectiveness over Terminus. I suppose it would not be a great leap of faith to take into account the fact that if you really wanted to hurt Terminus, you would have already done so, and accept the reminder with thanks."

Nymphaea lets out a pleasant ringing laugh. "Phoenix is quite bad at being nefarious in practice, and it's not for a lack of imagination. We are here to defend all parts of Terminus that are quintessentially his, including you. Noxias, however, is not, because he is completely unfounded, especially where we are concerned, and he embodies only the negative aspects of guilt and regret. I suppose you could argue that he can act as a morality police of sorts, but there are other, more positive forces here that can do that job better."

Fearus nods: "Despite my disagreements with Hatrus, Memorius, and Domina, they do have their moments of effective policing. I am certain you already know of the bond between Moralus and I… yes. We are much more effective at policing than Noxias can even hope to be." Fearus turns around, slowly hovering in the Lake.

Nymphaea inclines her head slightly and bends down to put the lily on the Lake's surface. The moment it touches the Lake, ripples extend outward, and a faint glow briefly emanates from the lily, barely illuminating the inky water. She appreciates her handiwork for a moment and begins to turn, stopping short when Fearus speaks again, looking over his shoulder:

"If Phobos ever does act out," Fearus says, his form halfway in the Lake: "understand that he means well in a world where most don't…" And with that, Fearus offers a subtle nod of respect to Nymphaea and Solan, before completely submerging himself in the Lake.

Nymphaea shuffles her wings and hovers just off the Lake, hardly disturbing the water below. Solan follows suit and the two fly back to the Archives to join the others.

The lily floats, calmly, atop the black calm waters of the Lake.

When they arrive, the others have already gathered and are mingling. Lusos is standing, somewhat awkwardly facing Eosphoros. When he catches sight of Solan, the faintest green glow begins to emanate from his form.

Esoterra and Black Perfection are staring at the Spire, discussing the merits of a central and interconnected soul world hub, as opposed to the more fragmented 'shards' found in Phoenix's world. Aura, Moralus, Eos, and Memorius are sharing a warm laugh, enjoying the various instances in which their Avatars felt led astray, when the hopefulness of progress was right there in front of them.

"I think it's perfectly natural for them to lose hope once in a while." Memorius says. "Life is not without its challenges, and each of us have in a way been brought forth out of some necessity. The loss of hope can sometimes bring a sobering reality… one which can actually help prevent future mistakes." She leans forward: "If you don’t completely give up first." She says playfully motioning toward the Lake.

"I'm not sure what you mean," Aura replies, her forehead creasing slightly.

Memorius points to the Spire: "What happens in your world when Phoenix loses hope? What's it like for you specifically as the representative of that concept?"

"She… doesn't. Phoenix's world has always been built on the idea of an infectious, infinite hopefulness."

Memorius raises her eyebrows: "Do your energies fluctuate then? Or are they always at the constant, dare I say, 'infinite' level?"

Aura laughs. "Of course they fluctuate. In fact I am often the first to go down in battles that concern all of us. But I embody more than hope… there is also empathy and trust in others. If hope suffers, it is usually because of an internal rebellion against empathy, or when that trust falters. But I have Nymphaea feeding me always. When I am weak I feel a certain necessity pulling me back. She is, perhaps, more powerful than any of us, because she has the love of a lifetime behind her, and every indication that more will follow in the future."

Memorius pauses for a moment, suddenly feeling… old. She looks down for a few seconds of silence, and then looks up into Aura's eyes. "I think that's the beauty of your world. The fragmented nature prevents cross-contamination. Your energies do not fluctuate in the day to day, whereas mine are intrinsically tied with the rest of the Soul World. Everything flows through the Spire. And though I do wear them proudly, I still have my own battle scars which have impacted how I operate. Cineris' birth, the Second Zero Hour War, every death suffered by Lovos prior to his regenerative abilities, they've all left a mark." There are tears in her eyes when she adds: "That said, in the core when you peel away all of that, you are left with what YOU are: infinite hopefulness. You would get along very well with my daughter." Memorius says with a smile.

Moralus, who has been following along silently, jumps into the conversation: "It's very interesting that you have a direct link between empathy and hopefulness." Turning to Memorius, he continues, "I don't quite think it works the same way with us. We all feed and cross-pollinate one another in some way or another. It probably explains the resilience in Phoenix's world when it comes to broken empathy, or lapses in hopefulness." Moralus pauses and then adds, "And that is why you were worth it. That is...one hundred percent why you are one of the few remarkable people that has somehow managed to keep their empathy and hopefulness coherent in an otherwise incoherent, and at times, disappointing world."

Aura beams. It is the ultimate compliment to Phoenix's world as a whole, but she is immensely proud as their Luminate nevertheless. "I have... faith in my Luminaries to be the best versions of themselves. We are all related in a way, but some of us have much deeper connections. Nymphaea and Solan have a natural closeness. They're more like sisters than anything else, always rooting one another on. But Solan understands what causes Ignis' outbursts better than anyone else. Those two have an affinity for action. And I have more patience and appreciation for Eosphoros than some. Her heart is in a good place. She does see the bad in the world, she just stoutly believes everything will turn out well because to her, there is no alternative. And so on. We feed those who we mesh best with, and we try to temper those who get out of hand. For instance when Ignis' anger sticks for an unusually long time, Nymphaea can transform and dispel it. But, she needs Esoterra’s connection to our foundation to see where the threads of anger lie…" Aura chuckles awkwardly. "It's a bit of a… complex web."

"In ours, those sorts of pairings can also take place. It depends on the task really. But the system is designed to ensure that we can look out for one another where needed." Moralus says. "A few of us can try to take care of Hatrus' outbursts. Domina or Memorius tend to be the ones who succeed though. Thicker skin and all."

Memorius smiles: "Who said females couldn't be tough." Memorius pauses and holds out her hand to Aura: "Come, I want to show you the original Shrine, and my birthplace. The Archives have a fantastic version of it."

Aura takes Memorius' hand and with Moralus, they head to the Archives. Moralus speaks as they do: "It's also an interesting history on the direct links in our world between hope and empathy. After TrixleJN's death, Memorius was born. She was originally a coping mechanism with the loss of an OTHER, but over time, the integration became more fluid and she became more a direct representation of the hope concept, rather than what TrixleJN stood for: empathy."

As they walk by, Domina waves at Memorius. Turning to Lusos, Eos, and Solan, she says: "Looks like she's giving the grand tour. Lusos dammit, say something. You've been standing there like a statue."

Lusos turns to Domina, lips pressed firmly together in a forced smile: "It's strange with the foreigners…"

Domina turns to Eos and Solan: "You can probably tell we don’t get many visitors in our world. Though we do enjoy the energy exchange that usually occurs with resonant people, it's not every day that they take physical form. Speaking of form, those fighting styles were impressive! How does Ignis do that teleportation thing?"

Solan laughs pleasantly in an attempt to dissolve the tension. "We all have our talents, that's hers. It's more of a magic trick than teleportation though. She moves as quickly as fire for a brief period and leaves behind smoke and cinders so her opponent will focus on that instead of the point she’s headed to."

Domina frowns: "That sounds like more of a Hatrus sort of trick. I got the short end of the magic bag in this Soul World. But I make do with what I’ve got." She says patting the Gunblades to her sides. "But it makes me wonder...given the larger presence of magic in your world, what role do weapons play? Are they just tools? Or something more?"

"Ignis uses her daggers quite a lot, but she's more of an assassin in her active form than a fighter. In essentia, though, she enjoys playing the long game. If she has to go essential, she likes to watch them bleed. But the rest of our weapons tend to be used as conduits for our elemental powers, it's true. Aura has used a bow in the past," she adds thoughtfully.

Lusos nods: "I think Cineris is the one who really uses a weapon as a conduit for his abilities. The whip channels much of his energy outward. The rest of us seem to have a bit more of an environment modification ability, like telekinesis, energy waves."

Domina playfully smacks Lusos: "My gunblades are an expression of self." She says throwing her nose in the air. "My power is getting shit done when the rest of you are still busy deliberating." She turns to the others: "How do you manage to avoid analysis paralysis anyway? It's one of Fearus' more effective moves against me…"

"The same way Phoenix visited at all. In theory, Esoterra should be our leader. She's pragmatic, level-headed, less emotionally driven than the lot of us. But Aura is willing to make the high-risk, high-reward decisions that involve others. You know, the ones that lead to those adrenaline-filled, edge-of-your-seat moments we live for." A smirk plays across her lips. "That, and it helps Terminus is her sure thing."

Domina smiles: "It’s taken a long time for Terminus to come to terms with everything. It was the little digital gift that you made us that really broke the ice. That was the moment for me, where I decided to punch through despite the inner deliberation. The risk was very much worth it. I figured if the shit was going to hit the fan, it would have already done so given the turbulence this friendship originally had."

"It was all Eos," Solan motions toward her. "Once she gets an idea in her head, it's do or die. She'll work on it ad nauseam until it's as close to perfect as possible. No one would ever see her talent if gifts weren't meant to be given."

Lusos grins: "I need more of that sort of thing. I get too distracted easily. The motivation fades quickly. But the do or die scenario is beyond inspiring." Lusos pauses: "I don't really know when the last time I felt that was…"

Domina smirks: "Second Zero Hour War. That really was the last time things felt like they were do or die. This Soul World is amazing at creating options and opportunities. But sometimes those opportunities stand in the way of doing what needs doing because there aren't many consequences of NOT doing something." Domina frowns: "Maybe we need to tap into Fearus, convince him that something is life or death. He'll put some fire on your ass…"

Now hovering above the Soul World nearest to the Spire, Black Perfection turns to Esoterra: "It's rare that I be the one to thank others. Moralus is usually the one who takes that role, but I am genuinely thankful for what happened tonight. My proposed 'solution' to the Noxias problem was one of disconnect, which was the least preferable method. For your people to join us in the fight against Noxias is something I had not fully expected, though I suppose I knew that if that aspect of Noxias was to be exorcised properly, the world of Phoenix would play a substantial role." Black Perfection pauses and looks up to the glowing vortex of Phoenix: "There is much that I want to learn about your world… paradigms, attitudes, perspectives that I yearn to assimilate for use in this Soul World. Tonight has made me realize that you represent many values that we may have let go far too easily. Much resonated with me here today."

After another pause, Black Perfection turns to Esoterra: "My eyes, sometimes they are blinded because I am so close to this World. You've known us for some time. You met us around the time of the Second Zero Hour War. There is something that I would value your input on: How have we changed from your perspective?"

Esoterra purses her lips in a smile. "You are more cautious. You take less risks, not because it's easier not to, but because it's often logical not to. That might be inevitable with you in charge though. With the loss of ES, which was, by all accounts, necessary and good, and the changing nature of Domina, you sometimes seem lost in dealing with your… darker emotions." Her eyes flit out toward the Volcano and the Lake, in turn.

Black Perfection nods: "I’ve seen the 'benefit' they can sometimes bring. There was a time when those darker emotions were seen as the enemy. But in the last few years, I’ve come to see them as a part of this World. They serve a purpose too. Their intentions as much as they may appear malicious, can be used for the common goal." He exhales: "That said, I feel as though sometimes this Soul World has outgrown me. I find myself feeling more and more like an observer than an active participant. I find myself growing less and less able to command."

Esoterra grins and looks down just as Aura walks away, escorted by Memorious and Moralus. "You might think I should be the Luminate of Phoenix’s world. But that distinction goes to Aura. We all play a role of course, but she more or less sets the tone for Phoenix's general attitude toward life. She's idealistic and emotionally-driven as a result. I am sole resident on the other side of that scale. I am rarely, if ever, the words that come out. But I am often how those words are phrased. This world," she gestures broadly, "is self-sustaining. More than a simple conduit, you are direction. Leave it to them to react. They’ll do it no matter what you tell them. Don't command, lead. Be the part of the self that gives them usefulness."

Black Perfection nods: "Don’t command… lead." He says slowly, testing out the words, seeing how they feel. "I'd always felt like leading was White Perfection’s duty. He was what everything is leading towards."

"He's the goal. You decide what's on the road to get there. They," she gestured at the scattered Archons, "are energy, desire, determination, creativity. You are a roadmap. And White Perfection is a destination."

"You know," Black Perfection begins with a grin: "there are times when I get caught up in it all. I forget why this all matters. I forget what my purpose is." He points in the distance: "That lily may serve as a reminder. I thank you for that." Black Perfection and Esoterra take a moment, and enjoy the harmony between them, their Soul Worlds, and in the calm and peace that both Terminus, and Phoenix have found themselves in.

A perfect moment created by the right mix of circumstance, and choice. A perfect moment shared between friends who have taken their first steps together, once again…

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