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Thread: And the Walls Kept Tumbling Down

  1. #1
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    And the Walls Kept Tumbling Down

    But if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?
    And if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like you've been here before?

    It was impossible to escape the noise of Algade. No matter what far-away corner of the city people sought, there was always a melody of music, laughter, and muffled chatter just on their tail. In fact, one could stand on the other side of the great wall and still hear the sounds as they spilled from various shops and inns. Though the frontliners had only cleared the floor recently, there was some novelty about being half-way to the top. Perhaps that was why so many players had flocked to the city, making it the second most populated location in the game. With so many people, escape from such ruckus was impossible.

    But there was one spot where the the roar was strained to a mere murmur. In a neighborhood dominated by shops open predominantly during the day, a rooftop lurked high in the shadows. By no means was it a sizable platform, and the countless potted plants that were scattered about did nothing to make it appear larger. Wedged against one ledge was a small wire table, flanked by two chairs of the same material. And that was where she waited.

    The woman sat slightly forward, perched on the edge of her seat, with her right arm propped atop the table. Silently, she peered over the roof's edge, watching the street's few inhabitants mill about. Many, she noted mildly, walked arm in arm. Whether they were friends or lovers, it was impossible to determine. Yet their simple closeness stirred something within her, and after only another moment, she pulled away. Now settled deep in her chair, with her arms crossed against her chest and her blue eyes closed, she was invisible from the world below. As invisible as she had been for the past six months.

    Earlier that morning, she had emerged from the shadows for the first time. She had spoken with Baldur, who she had not seen in over a month. And she had spoken with Icarus, for whom it had been far, far longer. When was the last time? the girl found herself musing. Once or twice, she had aided him in small projects when he had expressed concern for his or others' safety. But that had been shortly after her hiatus, so perhaps as far back as five months? The thought bothered her, though her impassive expression revealed nothing. That had not been fair of her.

    So after their meeting, she had asked the blue-haired man to join her in this place of quasi-solace. He had agreed, yet part of her wondered if he would show at all. Or would he stand her up, not unlike what she had done to him so many times before?

    A warm breeze swept across the rooftop, and for a moment, the rustling of leaves rose above the city's noise.
    Althy's Judging Admin
    To try or not to try. To take a risk or play it safe.
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  2. #2
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    Icarus didn't spend much time in Algade so it was no wonder to him why he couldn't find the designated meeting spot Lessa had passed over to him in a private message. Repeatedly, he had to open his map screen to keep track of where he was going and if he was turning down the right alleyways, if only to keep himself from wandering into an area he didn't want to be. They all looked the same to him; small streets lined with shops peddling small trinkets and other less than worthwhile goods.

    The aimless, extended walking throughout town led him into his thoughts and that was the one place he didn't want to be right now. At the forefront of his reverie were the faces of Gloriana and Honorable, twisted in the pain and horror he imagined they endured in their last moments. Lurking just behind them, however, was the perfected face of Lessa, soft smiling against the veil of strength she masked herself with. It didn't matter which illusion took center stage in his mind's eye, he felt the caustic boil of scathing anger swell within him. It thoroughly intoxicated him; Icarus was drunk on a volatile mix of rage and, and more potently, sadness.

    Why had they been so foolish? Why would they put themselves in such danger, knowing that this was more than just a simple game? How could the just leave him behind like that? He felt so alone and perhaps that was the reason why he was meeting with Lessa at all, despite the fact that he half expected her not to be there when he showed up. It would take all ten of his fingers and some of his toes to count the number of times she had left him high and dry at a rendezvous. Still, all of that which raged inside him, that tossed and turned his emotions about like a brooding storm, mellowed at the sight of her the other day in the Himawari Cafe.

    She was still his friend and he would be better off to remember that, regardless of his current turmoil.

    He closed his map for the final time before looking at the building right in front of him. This appeared to be the place that Lessa had mentioned to him but judging by the "CLOSED" sign hanging on the front door, it seemed like he had been led astray once again. However, as Icarus took to scratching his head through that full mess of blue hair, he panned his sight around and happened to look up to catch a glimpse of a blonde head of hair retreating back over the rooftop ledge.

    Huh? he mused. Could it be? The mercenary didn't have much to lose by investigating. He had already taken the time to come this far, what was a few minutes more? His leather-clad footfalls sounded softly as he walked about the face of the storefront and around the corner into a barely noticeable alleyway where a stone stairwell was present. Pressing on, he ascended the lengthy set of stairs one by one, leaving that eccentric head of hair to come bobbing into view over the dividing wall separating the stairs from the rooftop. Once he was fully on the rooftop, he took a look over the chipped stone ledge to observe the hustle and bustle on the streets below before he turned to take the rest of the rooftop into view.

    And, of course, Lessa.

    Icarus stood with the rigidity of a stone carved statue the moment he spotted the blonde. If it was not for the flowing of his bandanna flowing in the gentle breeze, you would have thought time had frozen solid. After a brief respite, the freeze thawed and a warm smile tuned up his lips as he started to walk toward her. Calmly, slowly, he moved into the empty seat left for him, his blue eyes, as deep as the ocean is wide, settled on the fair faced girl; his fluid gaze searched her features over before settling into her own wild stare.

    Quietly, as if his words were reserved for just her, Icarus spoke.

    "Hello, Lessa."

  3. #3
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    Whatever emotion it was that swelled within her at the sight of the boy, it struck her like an oncoming freight train. It was surprise that whipped her around in the wire seat at the sound of his footsteps ascending the stairway. It was excitement that caused her to leap from it to greet him, but traces of clumsy panic that made her knock the chair over. Luckily, her Aincrad-sharpened reflexes allowed her to catch the thing before it clattered to the stone floor.

    He had come. There was no reason that that should surprise her, of course. He had always come. Every time that a bout loneliness, sadness, or regret had overcome her, and she had reached out to him, he had been there. It was she who was the unreliable one. Because guilt had been the most powerful of all motivators, and on each occasion, it had reared its ugly head just before she was meant to meet him. Hell, sometimes she had already been in the agreed meeting spot when she remembered. She was bad for him. She was bad for everyone. And so she had sent him some half-assed excuse, and watched from the shadows as he read it.

    But now he sat opposite her, his gaze on hers, his expression a mystery that she found terribly unsettling. It seemed that he had fallen victim to the world's cruelty, just as she had. The game had hardened him, and Lessa was unsure whether the best thing that she could do was take his hand or take her leave.

    Slowly, she too returned to her chair, her gaze breaking away from his to stare off at some unimportant place. And when he greeted her, his voice as soft and gentle as the wind whispering through the leaves, she could only manage a rushed "hi" in response.

    The apology that she had practiced so many times danced on her lips, but the blonde struggled to find the voice for it. So instead, she dove back into the familiarity of her menu with a soft ringing of chimes. "Are you thirsty?" she questioned, selecting two drinks without waiting for his answer. A quick flurry of color wove across the top of the small table, dying away to reveal two chilled bottles, their caps removed, soft wisps rising from each into the warmer air.

    Irish red ale. Two hours ago, when she had sought it out on the second floor, it had seemed like an innocent, nostalgia-fueled gesture. Now it felt like a clunky tribute to a time when she was not such a screw up.

    "I wasn't sure you were going to come," she finally confessed, skipping the apology entirely, and simply speaking her mind instead.
    Althy's Judging Admin
    To try or not to try. To take a risk or play it safe.
    Your arguments have reminded me how precious the right to choose is.
    And because I've never been one to play it safe, I choose to try.




  4. #4
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    The throes of anger screaming inside of him died down to mild murmurs as their moments together stretched into minutes. For every ounce of belief within Lessa that led her to the idea that she was a calamitous force upon his life, Icarus knew that she was the complete opposite, although he would never be able to explain it if you asked him to. She knew a version of him that existed outside of the Mercenaries; one that was there before he ever picked up a sword to fight against the evils that consumed Aincrad. Likewise, he liked to think knew a Lessa beyond the pale silhouette she presented herself as. It was that complicated feeling that made Icarus willing to drop everything at her beck and call and seek her out, knowing full well that it was likely she would never follow through with the meet up.

    This time, however, she did and even if he never verbally expressed it, he was thankful.

    "Hey, you know me," he started in response to her questioning his appearance, "I'm a sucker for a pretty face." His hand stretched to frigid bottle of beer and immediately clasped its icy outer shell within the warm confines of his encapsulating fingers. The difference in temperature between his virtual flesh and the chilled bottle was barely noticeable but by no means was that any fault of Lessa's, it was simply the nature of the imaginary world around them. Nuisances like the blistering heat of the desert and the biting cold of winter became trivial.

    With time, feelings went away. With time, you became numb. Lessa, the impossible girl that she was, was one of the few that made him feel as though he could still imagine the beat of his heart thumping soundly within his chest.

    "Nice touch." His smile was vibrant as he lifted the neck of the bottle to his lips and persisted even as he took in the amber liquid swirling around within. It was a throwback to easier times and served as a reminder to the things that he shouldn't forget. By the time the bottle hit the table again, it was half empty. Perhaps he had been thirsty - or perhaps it was simply a show put on for his blonde tressed companion. After that, he idly sat and stared at Lessa from across the slice of table that separated the two of them, how little it may have been. He could have reached out and touched the quiet girl. During that time, the warming features of his boyish countenance sobered up and a splash of seriousness took hold.

    "It's good to see you, Lessa. I hope you've been well and keeping your head about you." One of us had better be.. he thought as his mind ran over the memories of the past few days. Icarus quickly slammed the door shut on those wandering emotions, preferring to put on his best face for Lessa rather than the dour one that had been regularly tainting his good looks as of late.

  5. #5
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    His compliment summoned the ghost of a smile, and though it held little humor, it was more than she had worn in some time. It almost, almost, reached her eyes.

    She nursed a sip of her own beer as he pulled from his, eyeing him over the bottom of the bottle, curious as to his reaction. His words, and dazzling smile, confirmed that she had been correct in her decision to purchase the ale, but that face alleviated very little of the stress that still weighed her. Lessa offered the other man a small nod, and tipped her drink toward him in acknowledgement. But when she placed it back on the table, the clink of glass on wire impossibly loud, it was still nearly full.

    The pair plunged into silence, their tiny sliver of Aincrad proving to provide little solace from the troubles that plagued them. Icarus wore his smile as easily as she wore her Claymore, a trait she had once admired about him. Years ago, they had been very alike in that sense, their conversations jovial, their adventures lighthearted and innocent. There had always been a threat of danger, even back then, but it had never seemed quite so pressing. Time had changed everything. The floors they had climbed, the monsters they had fought, the deaths they had endured. There was a time when the loss of her family, friends, and home had been devastating enough; young Lessa, with her wide eyes and easy-going nature, never could have predicted that things would grow much, much worse. That she would also lose the few in game comforts she once took for granted. Akihiko Kayaba had stolen the jokes from her lips, the joy from her heart, and the innocence she once wore like a badge.

    A mere husk of the girl who once called herself "Wild Rose" peered back at Icarus. His comment, though well-intentioned, had been more poorly timed than he could have known. Their silence had thrown open the rickety door that dammed her flood of memories, and she had again lost herself. Her soft smile twisted, growing sickly, before falling away entirely.

    "It is good to see you too," she admitted, her expression and tone both indicating that her words were genuine. That beautiful smile still lit his face, but Lessa could sense lingering pain behind it. Maybe, she wondered, they still had some things in common. Maybe, he was just better at hiding it.

    "I heard that the last boss fight went poorly," she began, conversationally. "Were you there?" She approached the topic without the delicacy and respect it deserved, but such attention to social norms had grown rusty after so much time on her own. And after years within the virtual world, very few had escaped the mass desensitization to such horrible things.
    Althy's Judging Admin
    To try or not to try. To take a risk or play it safe.
    Your arguments have reminded me how precious the right to choose is.
    And because I've never been one to play it safe, I choose to try.




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