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Despite the complications the weekend began with, and the fact that Solan was nearly limping around now, Sunday was beginning well. Phoenix and Zargathe had gotten lunch in Alexandria and headed to D.C. to search for Vulpix and Ponyta. The pair laughed and scrambled around the now-closed botanical gardens, attempting to get close enough to the greenhouse to catch their intended target. It was when they returned to the mall and decided to sit on a bench and take a break for a while that things began to go downhill, and no one even sensed anything…

Eventually Zargathe suggested they move again, but Phoenix insisted on sitting down and finding a place to eat dinner before they returned to his house.

"Eos, maybe we should just do fast food," Nymphaea suggests, biting her bottom lip. Aura had finally noticed that Zargathe was getting antsy, and they were all picking up on the changing mood.


"Why on earth would we do that? We've come all the way to D.C. to spend the day and we ate fast food last night after we left the memorial. We should eat somewhere we can't when we're not in the city."

"I think Zargathe is getting impatient."

Eos huffs. "Well he wouldn't offer any input. He says he doesn't care what we eat, but he doesn't want to take the metro, so it has to be nearby, and he doesn't want to spend too much money, so it has to be cheap. You can't find that near the mall. This place is a tourist trap. Mmm, how about there?" She points to a place on the projection.

The Luminaries nod in relief and Eos offers the suggestion to Zargathe. His reaction is unfavorable. "Okay, so anywhere within the vicinity of Anacostia is off-limits," Eos rolls her eyes and continues searching.

A few minutes later, Zargathe lashes out and the Cloud swirls. Ignis' eyes flash as she turns her attention to the Cloud and Eos sighs in annoyance. "No, no, you said you didn't want to go there," she says. "What about… here?"

Again, he responds in the negative. "What the hell? He said he didn't care, and yet he has fifty limitations we have to abide by?" Ignis says, eyes narrowed and cheeks red. She flicks her hand at the Cloud and a jet of fire shoots right toward it.

"Ignis!" Aura rounds on her. "That was not a good idea. Now he's walked away."

"Good," she retorts. It will give us time to think.

But Eosphoros is already flustered at the now time-consuming and would-be simple task of finding a restaurant, and Ignis' anger fills the room with a stifling heat, making it difficult for any of them to think or concentrate.

"We should go to the balcony," Aura says, hoping they will all cool off once they are in the fresh air.

They rise and take flight, and Zargathe's Cloud swirls again, indicating his return. A defeated energy emanates from it and Eos is taken aback. It's not energy that she can accept or process. Esoterra frowns but interacts with the Cloud in Eos' stead, putting logic to the situation. She doesn't like his words, but none of them can disagree that he is much more competitive and methodical about the game than Phoenix is.

Ostensibly, their interaction is peaceful, but with every comment it is slowly escalating. The other clouds begin to move, obscuring the sun, and the sky darkens gradually. "No," Eos mutters. She rises a few feet off the ground and closes her eyes, meditating. Her body glows the color of a daffodil, but the sun does not brighten in response. Aura grows warier with every moment, especially seeing Eos unable to connect with her element.

Ignis snaps at the next comment he makes. "That's why he stopped playing Resident Evil 6 with us? We were the ones who offered him breaks while he got frustrated. Even if we were annoyed at all, and that was in any way directed at him not doing enough, that's exactly what he's doing now to us. Not to mention he seems not to care remotely that Phoenix shredded her legs to pieces yesterday." Before anyone can stop her, she throws a fireball at his Cloud and crosses her arms resolutely, daring anyone, especially him, to cross her.

It is no surprise when his fluffy cumulus Cloud goes cumulonimbus, towering vertically and gathering moisture. The rest of the sky is fully dark and it begins to rain in the distance. Lines of worry are etched onto Aura's face. She knows she has to take action—Eos' inability to connect and Ignis lashing out with flame isn't doing them any good.

Aura takes flight and hovers into the sky, slowly moving her arms in low sweeping patterns in an attempt to maintain the air pressure and prevent the warm, moist air from rising. But there is only so much she can do.

Ignis stands now in her armor, flinging flames at the Cloud. It is all Phoenix and Zargathe can do to keep their voices low so passersby aren't privy to their drama. She has taken over all interaction and is far too angry and involved now to help Aura control the air temperature.

Eos is pallid, having lost all of her usual glow. She falls to her knees, watching the heated the argument, helpless and at a loss. Ignis' heat laps at her like flames licking the dry ground. It doesn't feed her as it might if Ignis was feeling determined and she can't rebuff it either. Naturally their relationship in the world tends to be stable, as the sun is fire, but more than that, it is nuclear fire fueled by different elements than those that fuel Ignis. But Eos is burned out and Ignis is out of control.

Many things happen when the next words come out of his mouth: "Throw what away?" Ignis hears exactly what she wants, what she expects to hear. In her mind, there is only one possible interpretation for what he said, and her mind is strong enough to transmit its will to the other Luminaries right now. A whisper carried on the backs of the trees in the Forest confirms the thought… "He thinks there is nothing to save, nothing to discard, nothing at all. Nothing isn't good or bad… it's just… nothing." The Luminaries shiver.

And with that shared interpretation, the Cloud sucks in all the air surrounding Aura. She clutches at her throat, normally so at home in high altitudes, but now unable to breathe. The Cloud expels the air in a violent whirlwind that strikes Aura squarely in the chest and she falls. Eosphoros's eyes roll in the back of her head and she faints.

Esoterra jumps from the balcony and falls fast, opening her wings and summoning strong vines that cradle Aura in midair. She pulls the vines up and carries Aura's prone form back to the Palace. Nymphaea rushes to Eos' side and kneels down, moving her now straw-colored hair to her lap. Ignis' rage still burns but she holds her hand at seeing her fellow Luminaries fall.

"Solan, we need to go," Esoterra says, walking past them toward the skylight.

Solan nods and does her duty, forcing Phoenix to get up, to remove herself from the situation and walk away. Ignis' eyes glow like coals in a dying fire.

Rain still falls when they're all inside, but it is not Nymphaea's rain. It is sadness, tears inside a body that had to make a tactical retreat for the sake of self-preservation. Nymphaea and Esoterra lay the two passed out Luminaries on Aura's bed. The remaining four are silent for a moment, letting the irrational argument that had quickly spiraled out of hand sink in.

"Solan, we have to get back to his place. The car is there. That is our priority right now," Esoterra says gravely.

Solan nods somberly.

Nymphaea lets out a short breath. "He's going to back away again after this. Every time we argue or disagree, he decides the current state of our relationship is a bad idea."

Esoterra shakes her head. "We can't worry about that right now. Ignis needs to cool off and we need to get out of D.C."

The rain lets up some, but it still falls lightly. Zargathe's Cloud settles down slightly and makes contact. He offers an alternative explanation for his words, one that wasn't seen amidst the chaos. It makes sense, and the Luminaries accept it as truth, but the damage has been done. Eosphoros wakes up and comes back into the meeting chamber first, but Aura is out for a few hours, leaving Phoenix mute and emotionless on the way home and throughout dinner.

She passes through the hall later, breathing laboriously, and takes her seat. The Luminaries attempt to talk to Zargathe about the argument, about everything that was said in anger, and possibly not meant, but he has no intention of talking. They are weary, impatient, and frustrated at his lack of desire to reconcile.

The night ends with Ignis, with forced smiles and an uneasy parting. Nymphaea was right: his retreat is imminent.
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May 2017

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