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  #76  
Old Nov 4th, 2023, 12:50 PM
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Naga-ShiNaga-Shi was content to let the others do all the talking. It would have been easy enough to simply glide into the background while everyone else celebrated this fortunate reunion. Harleen and Anais were safe, Darla was already showing signs of recovering under Anais’s care, and even Aurelia emerged from the smoldering tavern hardly any worse for wear. Things could have gone better, things could have more closely followed her plan, but such rumination would do no good now. The die had been cast and every good gambler knew that the outcome was immutable. Shi couldn’t change it, Shi could only play the hand that was dealt. Anais mentioned Bea and that the woman gave chase to Sally. The brief and seemingly innocuous comment would not go unnoticed by Naga-Shi. It was something small and subtle, but it would do much to deflect suspicion further down the line. Even distracted as she was, the nature witch loyally guarded the naga’s terrible secrets. The subtle and unseen act of kindness was an ointment on the sting of betrayal in the shapeshifter’s unknowable heart.

In stark contrast, Aurelia emerged from the bar with a bottle in hand, already drinking. Her drinking had been a primary contributor to the plan’s failure, yet now she spoke with a bottle still drawn to her lips, seemingly ignorant to irony of a confession that betrayed the fact she’d no intention of learning from her mistakes. Then again, if Aurelia chose her words as carefully as Naga-Shi did, then perhaps it was intentional that she offered a compliment rather than an apology. It ultimately didn’t matter if Aurelia couldn’t or wouldn’t change, it was on Naga-Shi to take her, or leave her. Both of them had experienced enough of being left behind in their lives.

Naga-Shi was slow to stand, her serpent eyes finding Aurelia as she finished with, “I see you. Okay?”

The naga reached out and took the bottle from her with a knowing smile, as if she knew everything would be okay from the beginning, as if everything had gone perfectly to plan, even when all signs of the contrary still weighed heavily on her and all those around her. Shi brought the bottle to her perfectly painted lips and took a long, slow swig, letting it burn all the way down her throat and settle into her empty stomach before rocking the neck of the bottle between two fingers, letting the liquid slosh around inside, studying it as Shi mused, “Everyone has their own ghosts Aurelia. It’s not everyday we must face that which haunts us. Today you came eye to eye with one of those ghosts.”

Shi stepped in closer, placing the bottle back into Aurelia’s palm with one hand, while her other took clasped her forearm, giving it a subtle, but comforting squeeze, “And you didn’t let it claim you. That’s all a reasonable person could ever ask.”

Naga-Shi had always been a tough nut to crack. The mask Shi wore was near perfect, but not without flaw. Aurelia had seen it crack before, worse, she’d seen it break. Something powerful and sinister hid underneath the veneer of a clever con-artist and while Aurelia didn’t know from where this terrible might came from, whether it was a blessing or curse, whatever Shi was, Shi could unleash a storm that few ships could weather. Aurelia had seen the storm before, she knew the warning signs, and looking at her long time friend now, she saw those signs. The tightness of her stance, the stiffness of her supple joints, the twinkle in her eye, Shi was in pain, Shi was fighting back the mounting pressure of the terrible venom within. If left unchecked it would explode into a vindictive fury the con-artist would no longer be able to control, only direct.

If Naga-Shi still struggled so, that meant the source of the affliction had not been dealt with. Since Sally Slither was gone and the danger had passed, it could only mean that the people around her were at least partially responsible for perpetuating her suffering. Naga-Shi was intentionally distant, Shi kept herself at arms length with everyone, played the role of someone none of the others would even desire getting too close to, but in this moment, Shi found herself a victim of her own success. Anais and Darla were preoccupied with each other, Aurelia was busy drinking, and even Harleen left the naga’s side for Aurelia. Aurelia understood how the con-artist felt in the brief moment they shared.

Naga-Shi cared for the group, wished to protect and nurture them, but knew Shi could never really, truly be one of them.

The answer to the second question came as the moment passed. It was a small thing that only the scoundrel appreciated. As Naga-Shi released her, having given her words of encouragement, Shi took two steps back, even as Shi turned to look at Anais, Shi kept her flank to the scoundrel, kept her in the corner of her eye. Shi refused to turn her back to Aurelia, refused to let her out of sight for too long. Shi anticipated Aurelia’s inevitable betrayal and Shi would only open up when Shi either felt that such a betrayal was avoidable, or was worth the risk.

“Now,” clapping her gloved hands together with a show meant to bring attention back to her before offering one to Darla and the other to Anais, as if Shi was in any position to lift both to their feet, all the while looking through the duo, “As the wise oft say, even a fool has enough sense to get out of the rain.”

OOCNaga-Shi Attempts an Emotional Support Roll with a 7!

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  #77  
Old Nov 14th, 2023, 10:42 AM
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Harleen's heartfelt apology was brushed off as quickly as it had come as Aurelia shook her head, grinning.

"You didn't put us through a thing Harl; Sally was just being Sally, as always... and believe me, from where I'm standing, all the headache was worth it to see her get humbled for once." Aurelia glanced back at the door, sighing. "The rest is gonna take some work... but there's plenty of ready hands. We'll get the bar back in ship shape in no time."

At Darla's response to her inquiry, Aurelia attempted a sneer, but seeing the halfling out of harms way made it difficult to hide the genuine relief flickering below the surface.

"Worried? Nah, I know it takes more than an explosion in your face to take you out. Hell, I'd almost call it good luck; Anais is primo nurse material, and a few bumps and bruises on me isn't enough to compete. Guess I'll just have to get a little... messier, next time." Her eyes had shifted to Anais by now, following her movements as the witch righted herself and turned her attention to them.

"How 'bout you? You got anythin' that needs kissin' better?" Aurelia looked to the other woman silently for a moment, not so much at a loss for words as at a loss for understanding. Of herself. She was jealous of Darla, there was no lying to herself about that now... but normally she'd be fighting for her place. Trying to compete, regardless of the condition of the competition. This time though... she felt hesitant to escalate things. Why?

"Hard to say... I'm a little numb. I'm sure there's a few spots that could use your attention... but you might have to go looking." She smirked. "Still, I DID have to run in and save Darla's ass. Probably inhaled some smoke too, in case you felt like checking." She winked at Anais, supple lips slightly pursed as she blew her a kiss.

The exchange with Naga-Shi that followed shortly after brought Aurelia back down to earth a bit.

"Everyone has their own ghosts Aurelia. It’s not everyday we must face that which haunts us. Today you came eye to eye with one of those ghosts. And you didn’t let it claim you. That’s all a reasonable person could ever ask."

Truthfully, she'd offered up small encouragements to Shi in the place of any kind of apology or ownership of the mess. In return, Shi had offered up reassurances in the place of outright forgiveness... and in a way, that was fine. Aurelia had never been apologetic about who she was, and it never felt necessary for either of the women to forgive the other over their flaws, simply taking them with the boons. Even so, there was a rift, and while Aurelia felt like things were okay between them, she was just perceptive enough to know when the conwoman was pulling away. Shi wanted everyone in the group to be happy and healthy, but she didn't factor herself into the equation... and maybe she felt like the rest of them didn't either.

But then, how could they if Shi wasn't willing or able to offer up all of herself for consideration, right? Maintaining a gulf, and in doing so, hiding away the parts of yourself in most need of healing: a self-defeating cycle. Not that Aurelia was one to talk when it came to sound decisions regarding the maintenance of one's mental health.

"As the wise oft say, even a fool has enough sense to get out of the rain."

As Shi beckoned the group back inside, Aurelia nodded, finally turning her attention on the newcomers.

"Chip and... Bee." Aurelia pointed to one after the other, testing her memory. "Thanks for the help... and for not attacking us. I don't know how much of the bar would have been left with uh..." Aurelia gestured to Bee, her meaning plain. "Anyway, yeah. Name's Aurelia. I feel like we've got a lot of story swapping to do, but priority one's gonna be to lay low... maybe you can hunker down here for the night at least. Harleen obviously gets final say, but helping us clean up a little wouldn't hurt your chances." Shrugging, Aurelia turned and joined the others.



In the process of relocation inside, Aurelia had stalled outside in the rain for a few extra moments, letting the sobering effects of the cold water wash over her before she followed. As soon as she found a decent moment to approach Naga-Shi again, the scoundrel put down her bottle and pulled her partner subtly out of earshot of the rest of the group.

"Hey, look. I don't know what I interrupted downstairs, but..." Aurelia glanced over her shoulder at Harleen before continuing in an even more hushed tone. "... nice. You guys deserve it... so I'm gonna HOPE the weird vibe you're doing your usual damn best to hide from everybody else is my fault, and not because you don't think Harl can... "handle" you." She mimed brandishing a set of fangs, smirking. "Shi, you gotta trust Harleen with the bad just as much as the good. I get that's a tall order overnight... but me? I've already seen you at your worst, and I'm not going anywhere. So, until you feel ready to let Harl open up the floodgates, you'd better know I've got your back, and I'm not just gonna let you implode. Let me be an outlet somehow. Let ME be the useful partner once in a while. I PROMISE I can handle it."

Aurelia fell silent, realizing she'd been talking way more than she meant to. After a beat, she shrugged apologetically.

"Okay, last heart to heart you'll get from the party girl tonight. Scout's honor."
Rolls & Actions

Aurelia has officially advanced again! Putting it into a +1 to Heart... consider it an investment into future intimacy.

Per Naga-Shi's 7 on emotional support, Aurelia will open up a bit and mark XP. She'll also respond by offering Naga-Shi emotional support in return. Aurelia will spend 1 string on Naga-Shi to add +3 to the roll.


Emotional Support: 15

If Naga-Shi opens up, Aurelia will regain her spent string.
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  #78  
Old Nov 14th, 2023, 02:01 PM
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Anais had been thinking that after everything that had just happened—the close calls, the injuries, the emotional wringer folks had been put through—that a rain check on Darla and Aurellia's contest might be called for. Maybe they could just cuddle up a bit tonight and see where the morning took them. But the way Darla looked at her after that kiss. Mercy me. It sent heat pooling at the bottom of her gut. If Darla had shoved her down right there, Anais would have enthusiastically welcomed it.

They did have a bit of an audience, though, and while Bee and Chip didn't seem to mind, let alone Harleen, that would not necessarily hold true for any random passersby. So Anais reluctantly disentangled herself from the halfling, leaving the warm print of her hand against her back and a dark-eyed look in the eyes as a deposit for later. Then she met Harleen's impish grin with one of her own and a waggle of the eyebrows. "There's a lotta that goin' around, hey? And Honeysuckle, if you do a burlesque night, you'd best sign me up." Her smile softened. "Some mint, a bit of sage to clear out the Sally Smoke, and you'll be back in business."

Anais used Shi's hand to steady her as she stood up, her legs a little weak from supporting Darla and also from Darla in general. She then used the grip to pull Shi into a tight hug. "You're my hero, you know that?" she murmured in Shi's ear. "Could'na done this without you most of all." Releasing the hug, she rested her hands on each of Shi's shoulders and looked her in the eyes. Robin took advantage of the opening to twine himself around Shi's ankles and let his fluffy tail brush against her. "I know that, even if no one else does, an' I hope you know it, too." Then, knowing that Shi could only swallow so much love and support in one gulp, she cracked a smile and let her hands drop. "Now you gwon in and leave this fool here in the rain. I gotta thank them what's let me help Darla."

Stepping out into the rain, Anais turned her face up and closed her eyes, letting it kiss her face all over. She heard Aurellia hesitate on the threshold and said, "Don' you worry about me, Aurey Apricot. I'll jus' be a minute, and then you can help me warm back up." She turned her head towards her and winked. "Dealer's choice."

When she was definitely alone, save for Robin, Anais let her shawl drop to the ground and spread her arms to welcome the rain into her embrace. It lavished her with attention, plastering her clothes to her body. "This is my thanks for healin' Darla. Have what you'd like." Rivulets of water caressed her body, tracing her curves on their way to the ground. Anais chuckled in the back of her throat. "Thanks, yer sweet."

Anais reached down the front of her top and pulled out the photo she'd liberated from Sally, a fleeting smile crossing her face as her fingers brushed over Darla's key. Wiping the moisture from the photo, Anais studied it again in the neon glow. There she was, standing on a prismatic balcony, tears on her face. "If I c'n ask another favor," she said to the rain. "Take some comfort to her, wherever she is. Somebody out there is thinkin' on her." She hummed a little song in the back of her throat before picking her shawl back up and tucking the photo into one of its pockets. "...like I could've walked on the sea, if you'd just noticed me, waiting in the rain..."

Anais walked back into Harleen's, soaking wet and dripping, a broad smile on her face. Normally she'd feel a little bit bad about tracking in so much water, but they had to clean up anyway, so really it was like she was already helping. Seeing that Aurellia was having a little talk with Shi, Anais sauntered over to the bar, hips swaying, and perched herself on a bar stool near Harleen. "Now then, Honeysuckle, we've both gotten some sweetness tonight—I won' deny it and you shouldn' try—so pour me somethin' to loosen the lips and let's gossip like we don' have better things to be doin'."
OOCAnais is also trying to provide some Emotional Support to Shi and got an upbeat. If Shi decides to open up, Anais will take a String on her.

Also, while I'm at it, I might as well make it official: Anais is Smitten with the woman in the photo, because not only is she glamorous and beautiful, but she clearly needs someone. "What is a clear challenge to being with them that you're overlooking because of your naivete?" you ask? Well we can start with the fact that the woman doesn't even know Anais exists. In any event, she gets a String on Anais, wherever she is.
 

Last edited by Kaigen; Nov 14th, 2023 at 02:02 PM. Reason: Adding a link to the dice roll
  #79  
Old Dec 6th, 2023, 12:01 PM
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Home sweet home...
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Ha-Ha-Harleen's Place

Bee and Chip were startled by Aurelia's thanks. Or the fact she remembered their names at all!

"Thank hyu for not stabbink us from above. Iz appreciated! Better to make new friends than new injuries," Bee slapped Aurelia on the back, and her teeth rattled at the price of the oni's friendship. "Besides, you kicked our boss butt! Ve alvays vanted to see that happen!"

Chip nodded. "It wash a dream come true."

"We will do our best to show ve are guud help. Thank hyu for givink us a chance."

Bee offered a bone-crushing hug for Aurelia, and whether or not she accepted, still didn't spare her from the second hug that came from Harleen when her and Anais both tended to the pink gnoll's worries.

Oh if there had been doubt in Harleen’s mind about how much her girls loved her, it was squashed by their words of comfort. The waterworks were back at full blast despite Harleen’s desperate attempt to fan those happy tears away. "Swear you ladies are the best thing that ever happened to me! And like, I mean that. As essential as Carrie Powderkeg was for my formative years, she’s got nothing on you girls and your big hearts."

Sniffling, she took a deep breath, and added with a peppy pumped fist, "We’re gonna be CRAZY tonight! Get some Mad Jack’s Pizza! A celebration of friendship and new meetings–" Harleen nodded at Bee and Chip, who suddenly looked like a pair of bashful children at their first day of school, shrinking under her attention. "--and new opportunities." It would’ve been so easy to think that Harleen was looking at her bar when she said that. Thinking about everything they went through to save it– but Anais was quick on the draw, and caught Harleen in the middle of yearning for none other than Naga-Shi.

Which was exactly why Harleen jumped and fluffed up the instant Anais called her out on it. Them waggling brows that Anais used like a weapon sent Harleen into an embarrassed giggly fit. "I have no idea what you are talking about! Like, whatever do you mean, sweet thing." Her poker face was terrible, Harleen’s secret hardly kept when she twirled a curly lock around her finger. tail wagging out of control.

"We’ll talk later," whispered Harleen, eyeing the others like she were a spy with critical, life-changing information. "But ooh, girl, you will not believe what happened!"

As each pair holds their own conversation, of feelings and unspoken affections, eventually the rain got the better of them all, and at Naga-Shi’s suggestion, they headed inside. Well, almost of them, but whose to argue with a farm girl about sticking around in the rain a little longer?


~~~


It was an uphill battle to get the bar back into ship-shape. Shards of glass were littered everywhere. In chairs, under tables, in open drinks. The latter earning an annoyed sigh from Darla as she had dump out her experiments.

At least three bins were dragged out. Filled up with anything that couldn’t be fixed with mint and a little polish. Harleen was down a table, three chairs, and several holoscreens, but nothing worried the group more than the ruined karaoke machine. It wouldn’t turn on. Couldn’t turn on. And what that meant for CorruLine was a question nobody wanted to answer.

Harleen broke out her old radio to change the energy of the room. You couldn’t get a signal for anything down here in The Drain– too clogged up with metal and layers of undercity dwelling– but Harleen’s collection of “the classics”, as she called them, served well to fill the room with upbeat music and a beat you couldn’t help but shake a leg at.

Together, her and her girls, plus Chip and Bee who were eager to impress, especially after Aurelia’s advice, returned Ha-Ha-Harleen’s Place back into its rightful place as a home.

“You really jumped off a three-story building?” asked Darla from on top of the bar counter, chewing on mints.

“It smaller jump from mine point ov view. Cuz I am gorgeously tall. Zo yah, I jumped.”

“Did you make it?”

Bee laughed loudly, and said, “Oh no no no. I broke three ribs. Immense mistake. Hyu vant to see scars?”

Harleen popped back out from the backroom, dressed in her pajamas, which were of course pink and patterned with sugary treats like cotton candy, lollipops, and ice cream. She found herself a cozy place at the bar, slumping against the chair as she announced proudly. "Pizzas on the way! ‘bout a thirty minute wait, they said, so like, don’t fill up on mints and bar peanuts."

Darla and Chip both paused, mid-fistful of peanuts and mints.

It was right around then that Anais sunk her water-logged self right by Harleen. Harleen was already fighting a smile, knowing exactly what she was going to ask her before she opened her sweet little mouth. It still got her to blush nonetheless. "I swear I could never play you in poker! You read me too well!"

Leaning over the bar, Harleen’s legs kicked up behind her as she searched for a special bottle beneath the bar. "Aha!" It was a gorgeous drink. Shaped like a flower in bloom, tinged with all manner of colors, and when Harleen popped its top, raspberries filled the air. "This will have you singing your secrets in no time! Nymph’s Kiss. Absolute favorite of mine."

Taking a swig, Harleen squealed at the flavor that ran wild down her tongue, and then offered for Anais to do the same. "Okay. So. What is the tea with you and Darla? Because you two were, like, locked onto each other like something out of my romance shows. It did not look like mouth-to-mouth, unless they do things differently back in the country. In which case, sign me up…"

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Last edited by Strangemund; Dec 6th, 2023 at 12:18 PM.
  #80  
Old Dec 6th, 2023, 06:40 PM
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Anais lit up as Harleen pulled the sexiest bottle she had ever laid eyes on out of her private reserve. When the aroma of raspberries hit her nose, Anais licked her lips and started drumming on the bar with her fingers. Accepting the bottle with a reverential air, Anais wrapped her lips around the opening. The shepherdess believed that anything worth doing was worth putting her back into, and that went double for drinking—her whole body seemed to arc backwards as she kicked back a healthy swig of the sweet liquor, sending a spray of water from her dripping clothes and hair downward, whereupon Robin quickly found another place to curl up than the base of Anais's stool. Her throat was still raw from coughing up Darla's smoke, and the booze was as hot as its namesake, blazing a trail down her throat that pleasantly leveled out the soreness.

Slamming the bottle down on the bar, Anais hollered a high "Hoooo~" and smacked her lips. "You sure know how to pick 'em, Honeysuckle." Her voice was husky from the drink as she passed the bottle back to Harleen. "As fer mah secrets..." She winked and tapped the side of her nose. "It ain't no secret to nobody that ah've got a good bedside manner. A bit of tender lovin' care c'n turn anyone's head." The liquor was already putting the rose in her cheeks, or maybe that was something else. "An' a close call c'n put a bit of heat in the hips, if you know what ah mean." The sultry look in Anais's eyes was an elbow nudge from across the bar.

"But what about yer secrets," she said, timing the turnaround for when Harleen was going for her next swig. "You promised me somethin' unbelievable. Somethin' about being 'swept off yer feet'?" Somehow Anais trying to sound innocent had the opposite effect. "Spill it, honey."
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  #81  
Old Dec 9th, 2023, 10:14 AM
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Naga-ShiNaga-Shi only meant to help Anais to her feet, but found herself embracing the rough and tumble country girl before Shi knew it. Anais confessed that she knew her shapeshifting friend played a larger part in their success then Shi would ever be willing to admit. A debatable conclusion to say the least. From where Shi stood it felt as though Anais had things for the better part, under control. Her conversion of Sally’s back up from enemies into companions was a stroke of brilliance that may have been what kept this conflict from turning dire. She’d even managed to use her gifts to restore Darla. Seeing Anais blossom so caused pride and hope to swell in the serpent’s chest. Anais didn’t know it yet, but she’d be the one the Naga would trust to take care of her friends and punish the wicked when Shi was gone, and today Anais proved that she was ready for the job.

Never revealing the truth but rather hinting at it, Naga-Shi smiled warmly at her friend, feeling her anger begin to subside, “Iron sharpens iron. So too is it among those gifted by the Elements, but the knife should not idolize the whetstone.” The old Naga saying usually ended with, “for it has already surpassed it” but Shi felt that would be perhaps, too much honesty for one day, so Shi thought to omit it from a phrase and instead just show her appreciation and admiration.

Cupping Anais’s face with a gloved hand, a thumb traced the smeared lipstick from the woman’s lips, smiling coyly as her eyes turned into brassy diamonds. The serpents gaze now upon her as Shi teased “I envy your relation to the Elements, that thanks is sufficient a price to pay.” They both knew the price the Naga paid was much higher. Shi looked at the black stain on her thumb with interest before the two women uncoiled and went their separate ways.

Inside Naga-Shi let the rest of the group find themselves. There was much work to be done, much to unravel, and the group did it best without her interference. Once again Shi preferred her place on the periphery. It was there that Shi was able to slink through the room and find the cane Shi had cast aside during the conflict. Valuable to her, it was a tool for two of her four most commonly used personas, and yet it had been useless as a tool during the events that transpired. Then again, the blame had not fallen upon the tool, but it’s operator. After all, long after Naga-Shi abandoned her cane, Bea fumbled and struggled with finding any success. Shi could blame the tool but the truth was that the fault was her own. Maybe it was Shi who was unworthy of it. So while others cleaned, fretted over the broken karaoke machine and spoke of pizza, alcohol, and gossip, the shapeshifter subtly let the cane slip through her fingers and fall silently into one of the many largest trash receptacles on their way out the door.

No sooner had Shi stepped away from her discarded item did Aurelia find her. Aureila’s aside was unexpected but not entirely unappreciated. The advice her roguish friend gave hit home. Though Shi would not admit it, in her mind Shi was already spinning another web of trickery, organizing a scheme that would allow them to keep what they had cultivated here. It would be a difficult task for roaming scoundrels such as the two of them. It was like trying to catch lightning, but thankfully, Sally had given them a lead on just how to put it all together. Shi needed more time to think, so for the time being, a little honesty would throw her friend off the trail, and allow her to avoid fully opening up to someone Shi still could not yet risk being entirely honest with.

“Aurelia...” Shi gave a softer smile that did not quite reach her eyes, “You have been a wild card in an otherwise unremarkable hand. I would have folded long ago without you, but remember even if you best the dealer, the house always wins in the end.” Shi held up one gloved finger to draw attention to her point.

“Every player eventually loses” Shi held out the flat of one palm as though offering an option, “or faces the consequences of unmitigated success.” Shi said while holding out her other upturned palm with a second outcome.

It was never true that everyone liked a winner. Sooner or later it caught up to you. Shi gave Aurelia a dissonant pat on the arm that would have been reassuring had her words not betrayed such cynicism. “The only cure is to move to another table, another game, another house. The roots we place here only make the transplant more painful for us...”

Shi nodded her head toward the bar, drawing Aurelia’s attention toward Anais and Harleen who were busy gossiping. Both appeared happy, content, and unaware of the duo’s current predicament. “and them.”

OOC
 

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  #82  
Old Jan 1st, 2024, 12:46 PM
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Aurelia had scarcely regained her balance after nearly being knocked prone by Bee before she was pulled into a spine-demolishing embrace.

"Oh-*cough* Don't... don't mention it." As Bee released her, the scoundrel's knees buckled, and she let out a few more coughs before straightening up. "If... it wasn't clear from some of that exchange earlier, you two aren't the first ex-employee of Sally to wind up at Ha-Ha-Harleen’s Place. The stories we could probably swap..." Rubbing her lower back, Aurelia's eyes fell for a moment. "But I'm not nearly drunk enough to go down that road tonight. Suffice it to say, if anyone around here's gonna pass judgement, it sure as hell won't be me."

Turning, Aurelia welcomed Harleen's tearful embrace, sparing Anais a wry smile in return for the witch's comment before following everyone inside.



Aurelia wasn't much for tidying up. Typically, the types of chaos she was accustomed to leaving behind were rarely the ones she returned to, and it was a little surreal settling into a rhythm with a broom and dustpan, collecting broken glass and bits of destroyed wood to be discarded. She kept herself adjacent to the action, listening to snippets of gossip and idle conversation in the meanwhile, but too mentally distracted to directly contribute. As she moved across the floor, her broom stopped suddenly as it met the shredded remains of a familiar coat, and Aurelia crouched down for a moment for a closer look. It was strange... in a way, Aurelia could relate to the ruined garment. It used to belong to Sally, and now here it lay discarded, torn up, secrets laid bare... but still here. Picking up the pieces, Aurelia ran her hand over the trimming of horned wolf fur, now stained with blood and ash. She couldn't really put her reasoning into words, but as Aurelia moved away from the open trash and deposited the shredded coat in a neat little pile in the seat of her usual booth, she knew she didn't want to throw it away. At the same time, she knew that she COULD throw it away. Perhaps she still would... but it was up to her, and that was enough.

Looking up from her preoccupation, the scoundrel's eyes caught Shi carefully distancing herself from the rest of them, and it was in that moment that she decided to follow up on their last exchange.

Aurelia didn't say anything for a while, simply letting her partner talk. Naga-Shi was smarter than her in a lot of ways... virtually all of the ways that really mattered anyway. Even in the matters of the heart, what little bit of conflicting perspective the scoundrel might have been able to offer up would have felt like the blind attempting to lead the blind; she was hardly an authority on the matter after all. If anything, Aurelia knew all too well what it was like, learning to leave others behind because you know it's only a matter of time before they do it first. It would probably have felt cathartic if it didn't feel so profoundly sad. That was the problem with settling down with some genuinely good people... after a while, if you aren't careful, you might forget you're the furthest thing from.

"Damn... life isn't fair Shi. Everything I ever had I had to steal or fight tooth and nail for... but when the things we really want steal US, we can't have em. Is that supposed to be some kind of joke?" Following Shi's gaze toward the others, Aurelia shook her head, smiling grimly. "Well... it doesn't matter. Not yet anyway. There's still a lot to do. Still a vengeful, power-hungry she-devil at large. Still one hell of a party to crash." She glanced back at Shi, shrugging.




The aftermath of the earlier adrenaline rush quickly gave way to dulled senses as Aurelia's tired body finally allowed her to succumb to the alcohol she'd been steadily nursing all evening. Feeling just the right kind of warm, the raven-haired coquette finally joined her friends at the bar, unperturbed by Anais' soaked clothes as she gently pressed herself against the other woman's back.

"Anaissssss... maker of friends, savior of Darlas, and our sweet, sweet heroine this evening." Aurelia nuzzled the witch's neck, the warmth of her breath dancing teasingly across exposed skin. "Much as I love how you look in damp clothes, you'll catch cold if you stay like this. I think before the pizza gets here, you should let me help you out of those and into something a little cozier..." An ambitious hand moved tentatively toward Anais' waist, awaiting acceptance of the advance.
Rolls & ActionsAurelia will attempt to entice Anais.

Entice: 7

Aurelia either gains a string on Anais, or she chooses from the following:
  • Get flustered and awkward
  • Promise something she thinks Aurelia wants
  • Give in to desire
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Last edited by Touketsu; Jan 1st, 2024 at 10:48 PM.
  #83  
Old Jan 11th, 2024, 10:32 AM
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Lovely, sweet Anais...
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Ha-Ha-Harleen's Place

Harleen wiggled in her seat, just about to pop from her own secret. "I don’t know if I should say anything, like, it could just all be in my head, or, like, I don’t know, the adrenaline– I really shouldn’t, like, put too much into because I have been wrong before and– I think Naga-Shi and I had a moment," Harleen finally blurted out, hands clapped over her muzzle to muffle her excited girlish squeals. Which no doubt would’ve have had Anais equally elated… had Naga-Shi not just thrown a pair of bedroom eyes at her moments ago.

But Harleen was oblivious to that truth. Instead she was lost deep in that dreamy moment she shared with Naga-Shi, down in her room, in the dark, with only each other’s touch anchoring them in reality.

Harleen sighed, casting a coy look over her shoulder at Naga-Shi, and said, "She came running to rescue me, no sooner after I hollered. Which, y’know, I know any of you woulda done that. But there was just something about the way she played my hero? She swept me up in her arms, held me tight, and…" Idling fingers on her lips told Anais plenty on what Harleen expected next. "I… really think she was gonna kiss me."

And then with a nod, Harleen took a sharper drink. "I definitely was gonna kiss her. Whew." Fanning herself, she added. "But she… she pulled away at the last second. Which like, fair. Place was exploding. But I dunno. Was that just my imagination? My heart turning fear into mmnNnnn, you know." She drew her finger around the rim of a glass, Harleen staring at the pajama-clad pink mess that stared right back at her from its shiny surface. "What do you think?"

"You are great at match-making! Do you think her and I could…?" Hopefuly eyes met Anais's, pleading for an answer that Anais... didn't know the answer, too. Not right now, anyway. Maybe that was why it was such a blessing that Aurelia snuck up right behind her when she did.

Harleen laughed, distracted by the sweetness that was spilling from Aurelia's lips. "Anais, you seem to have found yourself a cuddle bug~!"

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Last edited by Strangemund; Jan 11th, 2024 at 10:32 AM.
  #84  
Old Jan 11th, 2024, 11:43 AM
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Kaigen Kaigen is offline
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Anais the Nature Witch
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Shi's words had the air of something well-worn, a phrase she's uttered many times. Which is just like her. Anais was sure Shi's sentiment was sincere, but sayings were a way of slipping out of speaking from the soul, in her experience. She had a mind to produce a proverb of her own, but then she met Shi's eyes and misplaced her train of thought.

Someone had once shown off a brass dish to Anais, which had been polished to such a shine that she could see her reflection in it. Shi's eyes were even prettier than that. She needed to say something. "Well, maybe not, but can't the knife love the touch that makes it sharp? It sure would miss it if it wasn't there." The side of her mouth lifted in a smirk. "Things sure would get dull pretty quick."

Anais couldn't take her eyes off of Shi's but that didn't stop her from thinking about the lips that lay somewhere to the south of them. The touch of Shi's thumb against her own lips was electrifying, and in other circumstances she would have taken advantage of the opportunity to wrap her lips around that finger and clean that lipstick right off. But she was pretty sure Shi had just swept Harleen off her feet, and the very last thing Anais wanted to do was hurt the giddy hyena. Not to mention that Anais was pretty greedy to be luring two women to her bed already. Still, if the Naga had given her an invitation, she wasn't sure she would have been able to turn it down.

"Ah, who'm I kiddin'" Anais muttered to herself. She tiled her head at Shi, still looking into those brassy eyes. "I ain't one to settle for 'sufficient,' so here." Leaning in, she planted a kiss on Shi's cheek as a compromise between staying chaste for Harleen's sake and what she actually wanted to do. "Treat yerself to somethin' sweet for me," she whispered into Shi's ear. "Like a certain honeysuckle hyena."


Anais bounced as Harleen finally dished up her end, rubbing her hands together. She knew it. She had to take another pull from the bottle just to keep from interrupting Harleen with her excitement. By the time the gnoll was finished, Anais was making a high pitched noise and tapping her feet rapidly against her stool. "Giiiiiiirl," she said. "You could—you so could—and if y' want my opinion, you should."

Forcing herself to take a breath, she reminded herself to back up. "But maybe we're not talkin' the same thing. Could you get 'er to kiss you? That an' more. She'll treat y'right, I'm sure." She teased the neck of the bottle with her finger, getting a wistful look thinking about the moment she and Shi had just shared outside, before passing it back to Harleen. "Could you get 'er to stick around, maybe for life? That I don' know." Anais shook her head. "She ain't got roots put down, so she's liable t' blow away."

She might have said more, but Aurelia picked that moment to come up and call in the offer Anais had made earlier. Heat bloomed wherever Aurelia made contact, and Anais arched her neck to give her more space to work with as she placed her hand over Aurelia's. "Golly," Anais breathed. "I knew you'd have th' best ideas." She grinned at Harleen. "I hate t' gab an' run, but this rootless girl's gotta get it while gettin's good." She guided Aurelia's hand from her waist to her thigh, then looked over towards where Darla was comparing scars with their new friends. "Darla, dearie," she called. "Aury here's gonna help me out of my wet clothes. You wanna come with." It was decidedly a statement and not a question. She grinned and licked her lips. "We c'n talk about this little bet you and her have goin'."
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Last edited by Kaigen; Jan 11th, 2024 at 11:47 AM. Reason: Spending a string
  #85  
Old Jan 13th, 2024, 10:39 AM
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Naga-Shi"Fair never truly means fair.” Naga-Shi confessed, her sly smile did little to hide the sadness in her eyes. For a brief moment Shi grieved with Aurelia. “The very idea of fair was a desperate dream thought up by the hopeless, perpetuated by opportunists. People are more likely to play our games if we tell them it’s fair, more willing to accept their losses if they feel there was an equal chance to succeed. To love. To lose. To care. To keep. None of these things are fair. The truth is far more cruel.”

It wasn’t right that others were able to lay down roots and cultivate a life for themselves beyond running and raiding. It had nothing to do with who was worthy or who was right, it was just cruel chance. Some people got a winning hand, but never people like Naga-Shi or Aurelia, never for very long. It was always a fight, it was always a heist, a gamble, or a game, and it always caught up with them in the end. But Naga-Shi knew where Aurelia’s mind wondered, and in truth the serpent was not far behind. They both had someone sitting at the bar waiting for them and neither woman could help but steal a glance in the moment.

“This is why it is important to celebrate a winning hand while we have it, but never fool yourself into thinking a winning strike will go unbroken. This is what makes today’s victory so special. It is fleeting, so drink in before it dries up.” Shi said coyly, knowing full well Shi was sending her friend off to drink more than wine.

The saucy way the scoundrel pressed herself against Anais said it all. The witch was eager to return Aurelia’s affections and was even ready to draw Darla into their fun. If successful that would leave Bee, Chip, Harleen, and Naga-Shi in the bar together. Not exactly a private scene, but perhaps too personal for the serpent’s comfort. Shi clasped a gloved hand over her cold heart as Shi watched Harleen. If Shi went to the bar as Aurelia had, it would surely lead to her forgetting all of her own advice. But would that have been so bad? To end up entangled in Harleen’s affairs, to be entangled with Harleen? The thought was met with a stab of pain as the naga was reminded of all the lives ruined by such selfish thoughts in her past. Lovers who paid the price for her greed, friends who died because Shi wanted more than what the Element’s had given her. Could Shi really add Harleen’s name to that list?

The answer was clear. By the time Aurelia and Anais had taken their leave, Naga-Shi was gone. The serpent had simply stepped back into the shadows and disappeared as a stranger exited the bar and walked off into the night, cold and alone, but reassured of her rightful place in the grand design.

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  #86  
Old Jan 25th, 2024, 02:08 PM
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End of prelude...
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Ha-Ha-Harleen's Place

"No roots, huh…"

There was no denying the truth in Anais’s words. Harleen looked for Naga-Shi shortly after Anais said that and found the conwoman already gone. No goodbye. No see you later. There was only the fading warmth of her hand on Harleen’s to swear she was here at all.

Harleen sighed, and drank a little deeper from her bottle. Which she soon choked on from the flirty innuendo passed between Aurelia and Anais.

"Is it just me or is it getting steamy in here?" Harleen fanned herself. Pink fur hiding well just how flushed her face got when she caught Aurelia’s wandering hand.

"I hate t' gab an' run, but this rootless girl's gotta get it while gettin's good."

"Don’t worry ‘bout me! You, like, enjoy yourselves! Blow off some steam." She shrugged with a sly grin, and playfully pushed that sweet liquor into Anais’s chest, before she swiped her nose with a finger. "I’ll let you know when the pizza is here, and if you are lucky, save a couple slices for you both. I order, like, five boxes. Stuffed crust. So, like, you don’t wanna miss out!"

Although she suspected that wasn’t much of a threat from how fast Darla slipped out of her seat to ‘accompany’ the pair to Anais’s room.

Injured or not, Darla wasn’t going to miss the fun, and she sure as hell wasn’t going to let Aurelia get a bigger slice of that Anais pie. "Say no more, babe. I am here at yer beck and call. Least I can do. What with you being my– ‘savior of Darlas?’" She cocked an eyebrow at Aurelia, her smirk not quite as pointed as it was earlier in the day. It was almost friendly. "You’re gettin’ handicap, though. I nearly died today. S’only fair to even the playing field."

And as if the fates themselves were answering Anais’s sacred prayer, Darla slapped Aurelia on the butt and took off with a laugh, daring the two to follow.

As for Naga-Shi, the rain continued to fall as she walked her lonely path through the flooded streets. Ignoring the passersby who searched hard and long for a place to dry their heads while she left the only place that kept her truly warm. But how could she stay? While the day’s events played through her head over and over again?

The poisoned deal Harleen made with Sally Slither.

The fire that nearly took the only home they had.

And the haunting thought that they wouldn’t have suffered as much if they were in Prism City.

"Did you hear The Party of the Century is happening in two weeks?"

"I hear Showmeister is going to show up with Glitz Kitten!"

"Pfft! That’s nothing! They say the Lady of Scales is coming out of hiding to make an appearance!"

"Do you think it is true what they say about The Host?"

"Who cares about The Host! Just being invited to a party like that is–"

"Life changing."

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Last edited by Strangemund; Jan 25th, 2024 at 02:09 PM.
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