Migratory Patterns

Elly talks to Haru about her plans to move from the Sleeping Knights to Plant Hwyaden. More importantly, there is the matter of the greatest stories yet to be told.

Baroness Wake
Castle Eas

    It is a short time after Elly's birthday, which was happily mixed into the memorial celebrations as a very small side event. It suits her to avoid a distraction from something so important. That it just happens to be small each year is no accident. Besides, the orphans give her cute little celebrations all month long, which is wonderful. And yes, Elly does not like to think of getting older. In any case...

    The sun has risen and Elly is in her usual place. Haru can find her easily enough, sitting on a solitary bench up on a hillside, overlooking the small village of Eas. She sits her every day to great the coming of the day in prayer. As often happens, a few children join her here. What is new is that several of their parents do, as well.

    Shortly after sunrise, they go about their days. The children to the small branch of the Links that exists here, the adults to their work. This leaves Elly some time, waiting for Haru to arrive. She has sent him a message to join her if he can find the time. As usual, the message nearly falls over itself to excuse him if he has matters to attend to.

    Waiting, in truth, is Elly's newest super power. But she must move, lest it become a weakness. And so she sits here, thinking, and watching the crows of Eas. Their large population is much more welcome by all, now that Elly has bought them additional seed and taken the small steps needed to protect her people's gardens.

Castle Eas

Haru is making his way through the hillside. The young man has never been much of a morning person. He has always been an industrious one. This is one of the few places he can collect dew from the plants that appear blessed by divine forces. Perhaps it is the connection this land has with one of the Goddesses. Perhaps it is a natural phenomenon. He lacks the Herbology skills to figure it out on his own and the collaboration required to tackle this particular mystery. His handling of the dew into vials is slow, with plenty of spillage. Haru never had much in the form of gathering skills. He did not invest in combat, not initially. He only came to become the force he is today by willpower and determination in the face of the war against the Palace Lands. He was a crafted. He is a crafter.

"You look funny," says a child skittering away from Elly's writing place. "Did you lose your eye? Did a monster get it?" So honest. Perhaps that is why Haru likes children. He offers one a weak smile, "I gave it to one." The child looks like Haru said something dumb. "Why? Thats dumb." His blue eye flicks from the child to where Elly is, then back to the kid. "Maybe it is. Adults do dumb things all the time in the name of sacrifice." Its a big word. Sacrifice. "Whats sacrifice?" the child asks. A child without parents. "I'll tell you when you are older," Haru cops out. "But I want to know now!"

Haru is the adult, so applies his authority by walking away, towards Elly. Though there is a phrase of lament as he says to himself, "You already do."

A book. Writing. Is it time for paperwork? Has he gotten his done for the day? A pause of consideration as Haru approaches Elly. "Reflecting all your great deeds in a memoire?" the Artificer asks, grabbing a seat to the family member.
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas


    Elly gets distracted from time to time. As focused as she was on the interaction between Haru and the child, it was not the words that she was focused on. It was everything else. Also, feigning that she did not hear is simply polite.

    "Good morning, Haru!" Her words are bright and warm, like the sunlight that has just started to banish the wisps of fog from the far side of the area. "Nothing too grand today. I have come to a conclusion, though, and there are things in my mind that it is setting loose. I fear if I do not capture them carefully, I may lose something precious. The memory is a precious thing, we must be active in maintaining it, don't you think?"

    She looks to the bench, then up to Haru, "Care you to join me? Or would you prefer to go for a stroll, instead? There are many paths higher or lower here that I use from time to time. To gain perspective and direction."

Castle Eas

Haru is akin to a lingering shadow in contrast to Elly's bright dawn. The coalfire brush strokes of the shadows escaping the light of dawn. He looks muted and subdued while altogether resolved to rage against the dying of the dark. "Its a precious thing," Haru says on the topic of memory. He does not look directly at Elly when he talks. His one blue eye is fixed on the way the light gently basks the landscape. Something altogether nostalic in any world. "It is fragile and hard to hold on to. While blessed with the ability to return, we could lose them forever. I don't know what fate is worse: Death while keeping your soul." A breeze accents the point, "Or life without it."

To the question at hand, the silver haired young man puts a hand on the bench while still standing, "I'd prefer to stay like this, if for a time." Not walking or sitting. Standing. "My own mother called me a sensitive child," he tells Elly, "but managed to say it in such a way that it was a gift, not a curse. So every now and again I have to stand still to make sure I can still tell if I can feel the world around me or if my need to constantly press against the stimulation has left me unable to sense it any longer." His hand grips the bench. It releases. Not unlike Uta's stress ball, yet different. "Its ironic when you think about it. In order to fight against the source of discomfort we draw ourselves into conflict which causes more comfort. My father used to say it was needed to toughen your skin." He grips. "As if the gifts we were given were a curse. And the cycle would continue. A curse or a gift? A gift or a curse?" He releases, "The two truths i uncovered are this: it is what it is." A faint, painted on smile, "And aproximately zero people want to hear a young man lament about his angst. How are you doing today?"
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas

    "I'm not entirely sure, really. The whole soul matter. When last I studied it, we were clutching at quantum mechanics to explain that remarkable experience we call consciousness. I rather like it, even if I'm not entirely sure what that says for where we are now."

    Elly is rather informal. Her posture, always deliberate, is softened. The guard, as it were, is lowered. She's a woman at ease in the very seat of her power, after all. Though it may seem a bit odd that the seat of power is just a bench where she prays with children and watches birds each morning. That she has a bag of seeds to scatter for them does put her into the pigeon lady group. And not even a gray hair on her head yet!

    "Who and what we are is a gift," Elly points out gently. "Your mother's insight rings true. And indeed, sometimes we just have to accept that we are as we are." A momentary pause, as she flicks her gaze over to two crows making something of a fuss in the skies above. "And yet, we could be so much more, if we continue to strive for it."

    Gaze back to Haru then. Sharp. That sudden, deep focus that presses the entire universe outside of her reach. All there is in that world now is the man she looks upon.

    "I am doing well. Better now, that you are here. Clarity draws near, sometimes too near for me to focus on it. Until someone more important than clarity helps me see it. Oddly enough, by not being so focused on it. And I am always willing to hear a lament from you. Though I know it will not last long. You are, as you put it, inevitably going to push against the world."

Castle Eas

"Indeed," Haru says as his time for platitudes comes to an end and a time to focus on the day at hand draws closer. "What is the thing you are working on that requires another set of eyes," he says as the silver lining of his monocle glimmers as if the metal itself has become embellished in a damascus pattern that slowly moves like quicksilver and coal. "So that i may put this 'enhanced awareness' called sensitivity to use," he quantifies where he stands on the matter. His mother, often right. Who one is, is a gift, even if the world tries to make you believe otherwise.

A hand gestures, "Its funny when I think about how Strange Moods work now. People like you and I obsess without the metamorphasis effect. Have adapted to living in various states of self-awareness and compensation to it, not unlike someone living in chronic pain becomes self-aware of the triggers and coping mechanisms to the point that they use it as a super power." He says, in short, "One of my irons in the fire is catalyzing. Enchanting. Liquid."
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas

    Elly watches Haru curiously. There's a sort of study she puts into it. Her focus remains, as if to prove that point. She can shut out the world remarkably well. So well, that a crow, who had been lingering nearby, has grown somewhat impatient. Impatience breeds boldness, in this case. With a mix of jumping wariness and avian confidence, the large member of the Corvidae family ends up on the bench, pulling the bag of seeds and then dropping it to the ground, where seeds spill out.

    With a squawk of either triump of vexation, the creature leaps from the bench to the ground, where, in moments, it is joined by several of its peers. After some sorting of things, they generate a pecking order, as it were.

    "We have gotten used to many strange things since finding ourselves here, haven't we? For amusement, I like to imagine how confused I would be back there. You know, the other night I had a dream where I was roaming the castle, desperately trying to find my apartment keys. I couldn't find my purse anywhere! Then I woke up, very confused."

    She laughs gently at herself, shaking it off. Again, she returns to the moment. With a most aware flick of her toe, she sends the seed bag flying several meters away, spilling its contents everywhere. This action does cause something of a stir among the wildlife, but it diverts them safely away, as well.

    "Well, a few things. The first is an idea I had about books. I remember when I was young, we had books that came with vinyl records. These records were something like an audio book, but included sound effects. It made the stories come to life. As I was remembering that, it occured to me that someone with your gifts might be able to do something far better. I would like to make a book in which images move, sounds play, scents waft, and textures and the like may come to life. I want books on architecture to generate small earth-enchanted forms that show how a thing could be built. Just add mana, and you have the most powerful tools for sharing ideas that have ever existed in this world."

    A pause and she smiles. With a playful wrinkle of her nose, she also says, "I'm going to switch guilds, too. I want to make things, Haru. Or, more accurately, to inspire others to make things. I intend to be part of Plant Hwyaden. I will get them to open up and share what they know-within reason-with others and expand their knowledge on all fronts, to improve this world for everyone. And to build such a power that will make others think more than just twice about invading our lands."

    A longer pause. And seriously, she asks. "Do you think I can do that without leading us into some dark place? I have some concerns with myself. My tendency to think I know best is a worry."
Castle Eas

What Elly says to Haru rings quite true. They have become accustomed to many strange things since living within Elder Tales. Haru remembers that feeling. The idea that 'this is normal' that goes against the voice screaming that it is not. "I've had that dream before," the young man tells Elly in solidarity, "where I was standing at the balcony of the tower residental floor. My hands are on the railing of a balcony, but it feels like I am looking outwards from Aincrad. Its not the city anymore, but Alne and Yamato. I think if I turn around I'll see the open air bath. The living room. But instead I see the landscape of one of the floors. Sometimes it is the fifth. Others, the tenth, but I end up looking for that path back like a phantom limb."

Haru is not a physically expressive person. His posture is upright, regal. His expression is always forward, and a painted on mask of resolution. Even his tone leans stoic. So its the words he picks that provide the nuance to the life of an imperial doll. "I bet many of us feel that way, even if we don't talk about it. Those of us that still remember." A pause. "Or can remember." When a virus isn't scrambling your brains.

The shift to the topic of books lightens the weight of the conversation. Haru adores literature. "Yes," he says, "though the use of enchanted liquid is quite broad and so I would call on someone with scripture to work with it. June comes to mind. As for the content, that sounds quite lovely. We live in a magical world, it seems odd that we don't use it the same way the technology was used in our own." A finger taps against the bench he lays a hand on. Then there it comes. Logistics again. He can feel that weight slowly start to come back. Who would be need to 'inspire' to get buy-in to cover the skills required. Commitment to contribute the labor. Logistics for the materials. The strategic dots connect across a wire so thin and fragile it may as well be straw. When it is asked 'how come we havent done this yet' he knows why.

Then Elly makes her case for moving guilds. Haru can't tell if that message added to the weight or not. His body has stopped, but his mind went on, and it didnt reflect long enough to know if it is pushing against the pressure or not. "I think you need to go with support," Haru says with a slow blink of his blue eye, "with perspectives that keep your greatest strengths from becoming a cancer." He doesnt mention the retirement. People like Elly and Haru don't retire. They rest. The rise like the phoenix from the ashes until they burn out again. And again. And again. "I have been considering similar things with Silver Sword," he looks to Elly for the information in confidence, "in my months as a leader, I have concluded that it is not a good match for me." The silver haired man looks back across the landscape. "There is nothing wrong with Silver Sword nor the Alliance. Nor with me. Our methods do not match. Try as I might, a dragon cannot become a tiger."

"I do not think it is a coincidence that Helba, myself, and now this are all occuring," Haru intones thoughtfully, "even the disagreements of the freedom of information from my dear sister. I think we can do better. After all, what better way to ressurect a burned guild than with the power of a Phoenix?"
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas

    There is that moment where Elly has to allow her mind to drift. The strange thing about this level of social control is that she finds herself deliberately directing her attentions away from the moment and into the imagery. The imagination must be allowed to place her into the dream image that Haru paints. It tickles at something familiar. She cannot color in the gray spots accurately, of course, but she weaves it into something she can comprehend.

    "You know, I really am not terribly interested in returning. Or, more accurately, I have no desire to leave at all. Not for myself. But I know Tae wants to go home again. She has family there, and a vibrant social life. I am trying to give her healthy outlets here, as well. But... there is still that part of me that misses some things. That wonders if my people are safe. I hope my brother's family is doing well."

    A sigh. The real world is put away with some effort. She allows it to show. Even for her, it is not so easily set aside.

    That Haru speaks of moving guilds builds some excitement, though. She does not reveal just how happy that makes her, because that would be too much. Enthustiastic Elly is, after all, rather over-the-top. But the smile and the warmth of her tone show plenty.

    "There is no one I would rather have working with me. And, as for Silver Sword, I said little, but I've been curious for some time. You see what could be and it made me wonder if you were truly happy there. I imagine, though, that you will want to ensure the Tournament is handled successfully first."

    Haru is, after all, not one to leave something unfinished. Her eyes shift from Haru to the crows, who are now thick on the grass. For all their usual, surly reputation, they are remarkably calm. There is no shortage. Plenty is provided to all the crows. The Baroness' Crows, as the children call them. Elly does not own them, but she clearly enjoys them very much.

    "The phoenix is just what we need, The energy, the vision, and the clarity of purpose. And you are just the person to help me remain the best version of myself, rather than a tyrranical queen or domineering task master. The one good thing I can say is that my experience in the world before this one was similar in a way. There, too, I led people who were more intelligent and skilled than I am."
Castle Eas

Returning from this dreamland back to the world before. Haru has thought about it. It may be surprising to learn that, "I would need to return, if only to protect the lives of those that live here." He goes on, "Assuming this is the same game we logged into with DIVE gear, and we are on a one to fifty time variance. That our bodies are being kept alive while our minds process things at a speed that would cause psychological damage. That we /can/ return." A tap on the railing, "Then what we have learned about Uncrowning holds true for the world we return to. There will be people in need of psychological help, economic support, social support. There will be authorities that want to condemn this precious world. Destroy those within it in a hope to cover it up or use it." Haru certainly thinks a lot. It is clear /why/ the New World Alliance appealed to him. However. "It will take strong hands capable of discovering and addressing these threads and build a bridge between two worlds. So. I would go back. So my family can atone for their sins." That again. It is a guilt and a shame that looms over him like the fathomless depts of a star ocean. One change. Thanks to Uta. A turn of the head, "And I would find all those that feel the same, under one banner. You and Tae. Uta. Gwen and the Pendragons. Shiruba. Natsume. Fukaziroh. Asuna. Soujiro. Kau." It is not a comprehensive list, but enough to make clear: He does not need to do this alone. "Feng Huang reminded me of an uncomfortable truth. I cannot redeem someone who does not wish redemption. My father may not be within my grasp to elevate beyond his sins, but my family is more than one man or woman. I do not need permission to elevate us out of our debt. I will not ask for it." There is a sizzling on the bench as his hand sparks up, cauzing the morning dew to evaporate. He raises it up and flicks the embers from his fingertips.

"That is what working with me would look like in a new Hywaden," Haru makes his intentions clear. "I will see it as a test of my ability to raise a proud group, fallen, into a functioning member of society with others I trust at my side. I am not proud that I must leave my responsibilities with Silver Sword behind to do what I feel is right for me. However. My pride is a fine cost of admission for a larger goal. I will speak to William, thanking him for the opportunity. Let the other representatives know. It would be a good opportunity to strengthen their position with a warm relationship with new guild leadership elsewhere. No sense in burning bridges when we can have strong ones binding us like functional Chaos Gates."

He spoke plenty about himself. The capstone of the topic is looking directly at Elly, "I will need your help. Neither as a subordinate nor a Queen. As a peer. I will need Uta's support. I do not want us to agree on everything. I want us to forge something greater with trust and respect to a common vision. To use the best of our methods. Unlock the mysteries of this world. Press on, be it a magitek naval force or a gate trip to the moon." Haru has this way of conveying vulnerability and weakness. Its a rare moment but even the pause says it. "I need my family for this to be successful." Just as he will need the Himekawa family to be successful if they leave.
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas

    Haru's reasoning is sound. Honestly, Elly always finds it to be the case. He puts in the thought, he builds his case, he structures his actions on a deep and powerful foundation. It is truly different than what Elly has developed into. For all her intuition, she has admittedly achieved but a fraction of what she might have with more planning and less willingness to consign her actions to the 'right moment'.

    "You have grown so much in the past year," she says softly. There is pride in her voice, but not in a way of her being deeply involved in that achievement. This pride is more akin to the sweet warmth of the sun on hair. Joy by proximity. Pride in seeing a human being she cares deeply for move to effectively take on a weight that is their right to lift. That Haru is wise enough now to allow other shoulders to share that load is an achievement worthy of praise.

    "Redemption," Elly says softly, "is not something we can directly control. As many things are not. But by the same token, there is hope still. And, importantly, this is one thing that he must decide for himself."

    The explanation that Haru makes of withdrawing from his current obligation earns a nod of approval. "That all sounds very appropriate and respectful. I am confident they will understand. We are entitled to grow. We are entitled to change. There are, of course, many things we can still work on together to set the stage for friendly relations, as well. The book, for example."

    Of course she notices the sizzling sound of water suddenly sent into the air. It is a momentary study and nothing more. The fire and the phoenix are one.

    Thus far, Elly has done well to confine her excitement to something appropriate. That she gets to work more closely with Haru is a joy to her. She certainly did not expect it. Deep down, though, she did want it. She wants Uta and Haru to be close to her. To be... that word.

    That word Haru uses. Family. She knows that is hard for him. Her response to that wished-for word is so hard to control. It's as if she were wrapping her fingers around a string, trying to silence it. But it's too much. Further, it's wrong to even think of stopping it. Not now. Not this time.

    She is always herself. Elly has many aspects, but they are all authentically her. This moment, the part of Elly that is needed and correct is emotional and open. And so she lets it happen.

    The tears are sudden. So much so that she's shocked. Composure simply vanishes so abruptly. Her lips, so comfortable in their calm smile, now tremble, as if unsure just what expression is right. A knot of emotions bursts and sets her free.

    "I-I.. have wanted it. To be... family. I need you, too. So much."

    Sitting on the bench, her posture rounds as she allows herself to simply be in the moment. Overcome with emotion. Relief, joy, and a fleeting sense of anxiety that accompanies events which she had believed were simply too good to actually happen. It is remarkable how small she seems there, sitting alone on the bench as Haru stands nearby.

Castle Eas

It might be assumed that Haru would not know how to handle a crying family member. However he does. One of the little mysterious contradictions about the young man. Because one is cold, critical, and emotionally unavailable does not mean that one does not feel. It does not mean that they haven't had life experienced to draw upon.

So in that moment he does not try to fix the crying, as one might expect a 'problem solver' to want to 'solve'. He validates it, "Thank you for those tears. They, too, are needed," as something that needs to happen. That it is ok to feel overwhelmed, vulnerable, or tender. That they need to be processed in safety out here. That anyone who would dare threaten it would be repelled like a stone shelter would a spring rain storm.

The young man takes a deep breath. He lets his voice handle the parts of the silence that can be deafening to those that are always active like Elly and himself. White noise. "When I was a child I asked what rain was and my mother told me that it was the spirits above crying for us. They were not sad, not all of them. Most were filled with joy to see us living our lives. The rains guided us to what was important as it gave life to the plants below. They, in turn, bore fruit for us so that the spirits, in their love, could touch our lives with sweet fruit. Nurishing vegitables." There is a pause. "And my father went on to explain how precipitation worked."

"Both perspectives matter," Haru says, not elevating one truth above the other. Logic and creativity. Clinical Truth and Empathetic Dreams. He offers a silken cloth to Elly when the tears begin to slow. "Uta made me cry, too. I think that is a special power that belongs to family. One has to care deeply enough to draw out the strongest of emotions." Which is his way of saying that for Elly to be /that upset/ at him in Fort Ouph that she had to care about him that deeply. Haru isn't sure if he is wise or full of BS, but its his 20-something perspective nonetheless.
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas

    For a time, Elly allows herself to cry without trying to speak. There are feelings to experience. She simply allows them to happen. Relief, joy, and gratitude being some of the most powerful. There's a momentary sense of embarrassment at her outburst, but it does not last long. She cannot deny the truth in these emotions without denying her feelings for this young man who is part of her family. Part of her very self. Instead of denial, she embraces them.

    A shaky nod is all she can manage at first. It serves as both acknowledgement of what is said and acceptance of its truth. Beyond that, there is a feeling of deep warmth that Haru gave her the gift of those words.

    Then the story begins. Which starts, of course, in warmth. Haru's mother is someone that Elly would like to meet and already admires. She knows her case relatively well and part of her aches for the woman she has never had the chance to meet. Elly can only hope to follow in her footsteps. Two hearts, very different, both expressing love for the same young man in the best ways they can.

    That sweet ache and empathy for Haru's mother is punctuated by a sudden laugh. "That... sounds like something my father would have said," she says. Her last tears are wiped at with the cloth. That very gesture, done for her comfort, warms her heart. "Two sides, each with something to offer. Something of value."

    She is rather quiet. Her voice is soft and gentle. Other than an occasional sniffle caused by the tears, she is more generally quiet. The rigidity of her posture is not to be seen. She is just a woman, not overcome by her emotions, but basking in their sincerity.

    "Thank you. For understanding, that is. I know I wanted to be part of your family before I properly knew how, or what it meant. You are special, Haru. I have no doubt that your future is bright. More than just paying off debts, I believe you can make the world much better than it is. For now, at least, we cannot address the world we once knew, but this place can be more than just a training ground, but a laboratory to find the best ways of making lives better."