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Big Eyes, Small Mouth (BESM): Monster Academy - Chapter 6c Christmas at the Academy

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For whatever reasons they had, about half the older students of Yokai Academy didn't go home for Winter break. Darrik of course had a Christmas break alone with Jezebelle. Aria had been told to remain on campus by her Mother, and Eri and Lumah had likewise recieved similar instructions.

For Eri, the snow blanketing the ground actually wasn't due to her powers, and made the place feel abit more like Home. Lumah had been given special dispensation to go to the School's vast library and read as she liked by the Headmaster himself. Aoi too had signed off on it, telling her to learn what she could and would.

For Aria, it was a time to truly take stock. The last month and a half was calm and quiet, yet on alert for the Shinigami threat that had never reared its head again. She had the room to herself, and indeed much of the campus was deserted. Now was the time to do whatever she wished.

Darrik of course had gotten a letter from his grandfather telling him to remain at school, The Valley was in turmoil, and would only dispirit him. Instead he had Jezebel there to keep him company, and of course the Ravenwitch, Rubi had agreed to teach him abit of magic he didn't know, since he'd helped so much before.

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The letter was on the floor at the moment, with a Santa hat on top of it. Darrik had been quietly moody and bothered by the vague contents of the letter, despite the chance of being trained by Ruby. The Raven Witch, though her nomenclature as such was not generally used. Ruby's young prodigy as a witch at 18 was considered frightening by many to say the least.

Still Darrik had simply been feeling a little melancholic until Jez had appeared to cheer him up in a red half a Santa suit. The following activities left no room for feeling anything but pleasure, even though sex and a fair bit of foreplay were off-limits. It didn't mean that Jez couldn't run her hands all over him in ways that made his nerves burn, and that Darrik couldn't have his hands make her nipples stiff as rocks.

Even when Darrik got embarrasingly erect, Jez simply rubbed her rump against him to make things worse. But it was fun in a strange sexy way, so he dealt with any teasing good-naturedly. No one teased like a succubus, after all. Finally, they cuddled in a content ball, and the thought that his meeting with Ruby was soon was far from his mind at the moment.

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Lumah had chosen to fix her attire to match the season by augmenting her usually sober black uniform with a red necktie, gloves and socks. Between admiring the snow's subtle effects on the world and its sleepy, almost fairytale-like splendour and keeping her nose in the books, she often wandered about reading as she walked. Avoiding obstacles and other people by luck and preternatural awareness more than skill, she herself seemed to touch on the otherworldly, perhaps fairy aspect of winter.

With each passing passage, page and book the world of the campus and the Human world it mimicked seemed to make more sense. This would be fun.

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Erilynn was out, her attire had not really changed, a tshirt and jeans were all she really wore today. She wandered about the campus, this scene had not been around for a while, at least she didn't have to talk to the Dryad about this. Eri wandered about with her picture pad and took some sketches in charcoal, she had survived her embarrassment and was enjoying the scenery.

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There was a knock on Darriks Door that stired him from his reverie, Jezebelle still laying beside him on his bed, her tail brushing his leg. "Mustn't keep your other tutor waiting. "Don't worry, when you come back, I'll be here, with a surprise." Outside Rubi sighed. She'd wanted to go to tokyo, but Marus had asked her to teach Darrik some more advanced magic.He was two hours late, and she already knew it was because he was with his girlfriend, being happily teased by a succubus, which only made her jealous.

For Lumah, The day took a new turn when she found a page out of place in the book she read. It felt of old magic, of a powerful grimore, and it spoke to her, not in words,but in a feeling that reuniting the page with it's book was a task she needed to do.

Eri's book was soon filled with scenes of happy couples walking about in the winter wonderland, and she heard "You're a really good artist, Erilynn." Standing behind her was a large, brilliant white wolf, with sky- blue eyes. "And like me, I see you're at home in the cold." the voice was strong and decidedly male, and sounded perfectly human despite coming from the jaws of a wolf.

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Lumah turned the page, back and forth. It was difficult to tell whether the feeling she had, this feeling of being tasked, was a proper one or some form of magical compulsion. And she of all people was well aware of the mystifying properties of ancient grimoires. Her finger traced the lining of the text, observed the grain of the paper and the texture of its ink. It seemed to call out to her, to want to be complete. A pang in her heart felt the same pain, the same considerations.

She tried to gently check the page for signs that it could be removed or somehow pried loose from its current, but erroneously placed tome. Perhaps with the page removed from its current prison, she would be able to tell whether the book was cursed, infused with a spirit, or somehow else affected. If it couldn't be easily removed, she felt it might be a clear sign that it was separated and imprisoned for a reason.

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Darrik flushed a little. Normally he wasn't that tardy. Or tardy at all, even to something as this. Yet it seemed things could just vanished away in Jezebelle's company. Immediately, he pulled on his shirt and sighed. I really am in love with her. In any case, he quickly hoped the Ravenwitch wouldn't be too cross, pulled the door open a little and then stepped around and through. "Ahem. Sorry, Ruby."

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Erilynn turned quickly and held her tablet to her chest, "b..big." She flushed, "er, yes, I uhm, am." "I mean in the cold, you startled me..." she bowed, "apologies for the response, I can be a bit skittish at times, are you another student?" Eri questioned innocently, her large eyes soft and piercing against the white backdrop, "you caught me after I ran out of paper..."

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Rubi looked at him. "It's okay Darrik. I secured one of the training rooms the Headmaster set up, with shielded magic generators." such things had been made necessary by Darrik's little decision in the Gym. She led him there, making sure he had his staff and smiled as she shut the door, turning on the program. "Now Darrik, tell me, what do you really know of magic?"

The page came out easily at least at her touch and spoke of various monster races, and near the end, it spoke of them as ingredients. It didn't feel malicious, but magic seldom did.

The white wolf bowed his head and smiled. "I am a senior here at the Academy. Forgive my rudness, I am Kiba Date." The wolf became a man dressed in a simple tee shirt and jeans, much as she wore. "If you like I'd be happy to get you more paper so you can continue your art, if you wouldn't mind me sitting with you for a time. There's few people here, most of them couples who'd not be allowed in their respective homes..And all of them are truly scared of the cold."

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"I wouldn't want to trouble you, I have more in my dorm," she thought a moment, shuffling a little. "I mean, well I guess you could join me if you want, I don't mind, though I might enjoy drawing a wolf, I don't really have one." She wasn't sure of the situation, she fumbled her way as she attempted to socialize, while her voice was impossibly pretty, her words were fuddled.

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Darrik smiled, easily getting into his feelings and understanding of the subject. "Simply put? One of the most powerful forces of the universe. Primal, ultimately, which thus requires a strong will and a strong mind to use. And no matter what type one chooses to call it, regardless of the so-called light or dark charges? Magic is inherently neutral. No true good or evil in it, except what the bearer uses it for. 'Divine magic' is no less easily abused than magic of darkness, and even a spell that rends the mind can be readily be justified if used on a true monster."

He certainly didn't mean yokai by that word.

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Aria was in the soothing gloom and coolness of the dormitory basement. There were lots of boxes around...good surfaces to string webs from. She'd made a fairly standard 'tent' style web to sleep in...more comfortable than a school bed, and infinitely more private. It was almost like home. But even here, dissatisfaction gnawed at the jorogumo. For a year she'd walked as a human, crawled as a spider, learning the campus, learning its students...but what did she have to show for it? Everyone else had made friends, had places to go...had grown in that year. She still felt like a first year though, troubled and nervous and alone in a strange place. Oh, a familiar place, yes...but still strange. No, she was still a stranger. That was the truth of it. She'd never really made herself part of the school. She'd never embraced it, so it hadn't embraced her. She was still lurking in the cracks, looking in.

And it wasn't making her happy.

Spider-folk were different from most yokai, Aria had been told. The other animal-folk were aggressive. They lacked patience, and cunning, and because of that had been chased into the parallel World of Monsters ages ago. The jorogumo were quiet, and subtle. Dangerous in their own way, but content not to hunt, but rather let their prey come to them. Every spider was at the middle of a web, not just of silk, but of information. Every strand of a web conveyed a wealth of information...the slightest breeze, the changes of temperature, and the precise location of struggling food. The jorogumo extended that concept and built networks of information. Solitary creatures, they were vulnerable to the packs of other monsters, or humans, who might prey on them. They made up for that by being aware. Only by knowing everything that was going on around them could they be safe.

But Aria was neither safe, nor happy. Was she a proper jorogumo at all?

A grim sort of determination fell over her. She'd tried it the 'right' way. She'd tried it the way her mother would have done it...HAD done it. But the story of the jorogumo suggested something that, as far as she knew, hadn't been explored. What if a spider-kin was NOT solitary? What if she obtained security not through obsessive, paranoid intelligence, but from having powerful friends who would help her in a pinch? Otherwise what was the POINT of coming to this school?

Of course, the only students she had any relationship with at all were all gone over the break, except Darrik....and he would be in training right now if the schedule she'd compiled was right.

So I guess I'll just have to meet more.

Aria carefully took down her webs before she left for the student union building, leaving the storage room as pristine as it had been when she'd found it. She would move her things back into the dorm room later. For now, she had an entirely different kind of web to make.

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Lumah wandered across the campus grounds, as if in a haze. Her mind was awash with lightning as it intricately calculated and monitored, approximated and conjectured. The page she held in her hand, this one page, held a secret - a promise, a whisper. That which was described in these pages - the first and last word of the page - would fit together with another, like links in a chain. Flecks of gold unconsciously appeared in her eyes, abated only when she came to her senses and suppressed the feeling.

Flocks of snow danced down as she stood and watched the occasional student wander by. One page hidden in a book - a book hidden among many books...the library, no doubt!

A sly smile danced upon her lips. This would definitely be harder than the sunday morning crossword.

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Kiba looked at Eri and smiled. "I wouldn't mind being sketched by such a talented artist, not at all. Shall we go to the store then?" He offered her his hand up. He was stunningly handsome, and one of the first to ever show any real interest in her.

Rubi nodded to Darrik. "Spoken like a textbook answer, with abit of your own thought on the matter. And Wrong."

"For the most part Darrik you are correct. Magic is 99% neutral. Unfortunately that one percent contains some of the most powerful spells around, and they go beyond Charge, to true Good, and True Evil in their usage, and effects. The Evil side goes beyond necromancy." She nodded. "It taints the wielder forever. Like it has with me, though I've never even cast it. Lady Aoi as an Angel Priestess knows the other side, the holiest magic, and should the two collide the end results would devastate the realm."

"Your Grandfather asked me to tutor you, and what I wish to know, is how far do you wish to go?"

The student Union hall had more activity than most, as about a dozen students were there, playing games in the gameroom, pool being most popular, and some played board games. Two young men sat in chairs by the fire, and two of the female students, freshmen from the home economics club, were in the kitchen area cooking. These were some of the misfits of the school to be sure, but in their own way, each was unique and special.

The magic of the page resonated with something in the forest surrounding the school, leading her to a small house, set alone amidst the woods. The door opened for her, and inside there seemed to be a large library of books, many radiating with magical power.

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It might seem absurd. Perhaps Darrik was simply overconfident, wanting too much to prove himself right on the subject, to have a good poke in the face of Kyohei's sisters. Frankly, whatever motivated the certain words coming out of his mouth were meaningless compared to the content of the words themselves. "As far as I can." In both directions, it was hinted unspoken.

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She couldn't help but wonder - was it larger on the inside than it seemed outside?

Magic is one of those double-edged swords, where the best and most wondrous magic comes to those who open themselves to the wondrous. She knew to set preconceptions aside, but her mind still checked at every turn what happened around her against an iron-clad set of rules on 'how the world should be'. The radiance, humming and - perhaps - even singing of the library in front of her seemed to fill her with warmth. Like a holiday with the family had been described in all those romantic novels - except the glow was magic and not candlelight.

She moved to the nearest section, her long and gentle fingers stroking from book to book in passing. Magic was wondrous, but also dangerous, she thought to herself. Did she really want to put this book together? She'd need to find out more, and for that she'd need at least another page. Would the attraction between pages, the desire to be whole, be one of consumptive hunger or the stirrings of a more gentle kind.

She didn't want to open books indiscriminately either - that be an invitation to disaster. With the page in hand, she went off to find the next piece.

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Eri took his hand and he helped her up, she was quite the skittish beauty, quiet like the landscape of winter, her voice like a whisper on the wind, "yes, please, uh, lead on I have only really been there once." She was lying but, she wanted him to feel more important.

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Aria spent a moment outside the building door, peering in...then looked around. She spied, across the way, a pair of students talking...the boy helping a younger-looking girl to her feet. Had she stumbled? Aria wasn't sure. Two people was less intimidating than a roomful, but she reasoned that they would probably rather be alone together. But then she corrected herself sternly. If she kept deciding how other people would react before they a chance to, then she'd never meet anyone new. It was too easy just to assume no one would welcome her and never give them the chance to make up their own minds.

So she moved with swiftness belied by her ordinary appearance out to where Eri and Kiba were having their moment. If she was truly interrupting then they would simply ask her to leave.

"Hello. Is everything all right over here?" she asked.

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Rubi looked at him intently. "I'm glad you understand."

"If you'd chose one or the other, I'd have ended the lesson. You must have balance in this pursuit, else you will invariably fall." A magic circle formed on the floor, half in white, half in black. "This is the real reason I'm feared, Darrik. I have both forms."

He could feel magical power the likes of which he'd not felt even with his grandfather's anger. "now draw your Staff and focus your will. I want you to attempt to draw in this mana I'm releasing."

(soul DC 16 for success)

None of the books Lumah touched were the one the page came from, though each was filled with magic. It was on a nightstand that she eventually found the book that resonated with the page, this was it's true home.

Kiba gave Eri a bright smile, he was about to lead her off when Aria showed up. "My my, the star of the theater club's grand performance at the festival, Miss Aria." He bowed, even as he helped Eri up.

"Eri and I were just going the store. Would you like to come along?"

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Darrik raised it and focused normally, then shuddered internally as he felt the great pounding weight of the power. But slowly, with sweat breaking out, he intently absorbed the mana, will becoming utterly resolute.

Manaburn
Soul Roll

Jeremy *rolls* 2d6: 4+2+7: 13

Divine Relationship roll #1

Jeremy *rolls* 2d6: 5+5+7: 17

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Aria's first instinct was to downplay her role in the play and ask what store they were going to. She stopped herself in time though. She was being paid a compliment, the polite response was to offer thanks. And she didn't really care what store they were going to; the point was just to talk to them and try to enjoy herself in their company. So why waste time quibbling over irrelevancies?

She nodded at Kiba and Eri. "I would. There's not much to do around the school right now. And I don't know if I'd say I was the 'star,' but I'm glad you liked the play. A lot of work from everyone went into it."

Not too bad. Humble, but not self-effacing. Might sound a bit rehearsed or trite. Need to be less stiff, formal. Will come as I get more comfortable.

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Lumah carefully investigatred the book which was home to the one page she held. Rather than pick it up outright, she first read its title and checked out its surroundings - you never know when someone put security on it. Meanwhile, her mind raced at the possibilities of the entire book, if the page she held already had contained such condensed information.

If the book seemed safe enough, she would make sure the one page was safely pinned beneath a presse-papier (or another similar heavy weight) to prevent it from acting on its own, if it were able to. Then it'd be time to see what this book was about, and whether its magical properties extended beyond being a magical index...

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Rubi smiled at Darrik. "Very good. Now Darrik, Empty your mind. I will say some words, and you will say what comes to your mind, what you see when your epanded mind comtemplates the word or concept I will say."

He nodded, and her eyes began to glow, indicating the next part had begun. "Good."

(Soul roll, DC 12)

----------------------------

Kiba smiled and nodded. "Even So Aria, your work was very nice. Serena speaks highly of you, and Darrik and Yuuki. Careful, she may try to get you to join up full time:"

He looked to Eri. "I believe we were on our way to procure some more art supplies for you, and then a little modelling. Aria, of course you're welcome to come along with us." When she nodded, he smiled, leading the girls into the School's "mall" for lack of a better term. The art store wasn't large, but it was well stocked for drawing, painting, and sculpting.

--------------

For Lumah, the book radiated magic, but it carried no charge. The predominant thing she felt was a desire to be read, and to be whole. Careful examination found where the page belonged, now it fell to her to replace it, or not.

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When Darrik's mind cleared, he waited for the words to be spoken. Good... a flicker and image of a dream far yet to be fulfilled, to be free of the overwhelming prejudice directed towards the magi made its way into his thoughts. "Kindness and acceptance," Darrik declared. Something in him still wondered how well he was doing on that score though.

The Quality of Mercy!
Soul Roll:

Jeremy *rolls* 2d6: 6+1+7: 14

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Lumah picked up the book and opened it to its first page, reading its title and author and looking for where the missing page would fit. While doing so, she moved through the small library back towards the door. "Weird," she said to no one in particular, "I don't remember seeing anyone here - I wonder if there is a checkout for books around. Mmm, maybe it's a student library and they have left it unattended for the Christmas holiday..."

She decided she'd look around to see if there was a checkout, or at least some spot where she could register the book - else she'd be stealing it!

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Eri was very quiet, her voice was like an tiny wind as she poke, "yes...please do. come....it's good to see you again." She turned slightly pink in the cheeks and walked along with them, she was shy, she had dropped the ball in front of everyone with her performance.

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Aria walked in silence, not sure where or how to start. She'd hoped the two might take a stronger role in things. Inspiration struck as they entered the store and she looked around at all the 'art stuff.'

"So," she said to Eri. "You're an artist. What do you do? Paint? Draw?"

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behind Darrik a Magical Sigil , the one for Freedom appeared.

Ruby nodded. "Virtue"

(soul roll DC 12)

---------------

For Lumah the book's title said it all. "Summoning the Dark." It was a legendary tome, rumored to exist, that gave the reader control over the darkest arts of Magic, things that were denied by most elders to exist. It was a crime in many circles to possess a page of the book let alone a complete copy.

The more she looked around the more obvious it became this wasn't a library, it was someone's home.

---------------

Kiba let the girls talk procuring a container for his own supplies, a special ice from his homeland.

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Lumah's eyes widened in shock. "Such a legendary tome and that in a common school lib-"...the words died on her lips as she looked around her. But this, this wasn't a library - so this book is someone's possession. It seemed the shadows grew darker around her and she felt cold sweat break out all over her body. Someone's home, someone's personal copy of one of the darkest tomes ever.

That person wasn't going to let it slide one way or another. If she stayed she'd meet a bad end, and if she left she'd be found out for knowing too much.

Only one thing left to do.

Lumah sighed and prepared herself for the coming storm. She'd have to get out of here quick and take the book with her. Without the book, no one would believe her - and that was paramount to getting some protection from whomever held this book before. Especially now, in a school mostly emptied out by the winter recess.

She turned towards the door, preparing to sneak to it if possible - or break out in a mad dash if it proved necessary.

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Eri offered a shy smile, "both, actually," she picked up some more charcoals, "I actually like all arts, and try to learn and practice as many as I can, though my performance at the play showed some inexperience, I am sure I can do better." Walking further down the isle, she knelt down to look at some art tablets, "what about you? I bet you're good at more than just acting."

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Aria opened her mouth to reply, then paused. She chuckled, a little abashed.

"Now that I think about it, most of what I'm good at does come down to acting...one way or another," she admitted. "But I have a good memory, so I do well in class. And I've mastered most of the Transformations. And of course, there's weaving." Aria rolled her eyes. "Mom insisted I practice that. It's a tradition or something. I could probably write a book in a web now."

She glanced around the store, then shrugged. "And, of course, I know the school campus like the back of my hand. I don't know if there's anywhere on it I haven't managed to explore yet. Maybe airtight bunkers deep underground or something."

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That was obvious for Darrik. In the life of the mage, where creativity, willpower and intelligence were vital to mastering spells, he could pull out any one of them, but the big answer was.. "Focus."

Jeremy *rolls* 2d6: 2+1+7: 10 [Jeremy] 8:22 pm: Divine Relationship Re-roll #2 Jeremy *rolls* 2d6: 2+6+7: 15

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Eri smiled, "that sounds amazing, maybe you could show me around, maybe not your favorite hiding spots but just around mostly." She grinned, "well I think I have everything I need to start drawing more of the things I experience here, would you like something to drink? My treat." She was new, she felt maybe forming a rapport would be a good idea.

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Surprisingly there was nothing barring Lumah's egress with the book, it felt powerful yet happy, now that it was whole again.

---------------------

Kiba smiled as Aria spoke. "Id often felt as though someone was watching me, But then you watch everyone don't you Aria?" He nodded. "A good idea in some respects, as you never know who could turn out to be friend or foe. You just have to remember to go out and make sure which for yourself. And I imagine you could weave an amazing tapestry if your command of webbing is so fine."

"I'd be interested to see if there's any you know that I don't."

-----------------------------

The sigic for focus apppeared a triangle looing as though each point was tipped with a stylized eye. "Nicely done."

"Power."

(soul vs DC 12)

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Lumah sped out of the building, back to the safety of the main school buildings. She felt more than a bit confused - a book split in pieces, which must've been done on purpose. It seemed happy, not something you'd expect from a book that was on the "deny existence" list of even the Elders. For now, she placed the book in her school pack - being seen with it would draw attention, especially if the onlooker would know this book's meaning. This seemed strange, all wrong in some way.

Lumah decided it'd be a good thing not to be alone at this time, and make sure she'd get some disguise for the book. "I need more time to think...this book is dangerous, even if it seems content at this moment. I wonder who in the campus I could turn to?"

She snapped her fingers and perked up. "Once I find some of the other students, someone might be able to tell me where they'd go in case of strange happenings!" She continued moving towards the dormitories, in search of other students or faculty members...

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That of course, was obvious to Darrik. The first thing out of his mouth was: "Magic."

Jeremy *rolls* 2d6: 2+2+7: 11

Spending 10 EP to boost this to 12.

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Not used to being the object of so much attention, Aria found herself fighting an urge to distract them from herself. She nodded at Eri and agreed, "I'd be happy to. Most of my hiding places you wouldn't fit in, but I can show you some of the interesting spots."

Then to Kiba she shrugged, a little self-consciously. "Web strands don't make very interesting tapestries. But I suppose with a bit of time, I could probably do a good job of weaving with ordinary thread." She looked at her fingers, long and delicate, well suited for such precision work. His comments on spying and friends and foes she decided not to respond to. They felt a little...out of place to her and she wasn't sure what to say about them.

"Actually... a drink would be great. But if you treat me, then you have to let me treat you." She grinned.

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For Lumah, the grounds seemed wonderfully silent, and then she noticed the first raven, eyeing her carefully. It looked at her and she knew that it knew what she held in her hands. In moments another three joined clearly this was a prelude to someone else showing up.

-----------------------

With it settled, Kiba Eri and Aria paid for what they needed, then headed to the food court, and Kiba nodded "What's your choice ladies?"

--------------------------------

Rubi nodded, and looked at Darrik. " Corruption."

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What led to corruption? In many ways it was to Darrik, believing in one's superiority to the extent that it twisted one's mind. "Arrogance." Another ill self-reflection on his part, he had more of it than he cared to admit.

[Long6] 7:56 pm: dc 16 my bad

Jeremy *rolls* 2d6: 3+3+7: 13

[Jeremy] 8:15 pm: meh, I'll use DR #3 Jeremy *rolls* 2d6: 3+6+7: 16

[Jeremy] 8:15 pm: woot

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Lumah looked from one Raven to the other. In the best of cases, these were guardians of someone who'd want to keep the book safe and under lock and key. In the worst case, they might be familiars to a dark magic-user who'd want to retrieve the book - perhaps the very same from whom she had "acquired" it. This turned out to not be the best of days...

The air was heavy with the anticipation. She decided to find a solid wall for her to back up against.

"If someone's out there, show yourself!"

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