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Phoenix

Return of the Emblem Chapter Nine: Consolidating Forces

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Veronika

"Their discussion certainly isn't important," Veronika said, frowning at Robin a bit. Clearly she hasn't actually let the issue go if she's willing to bring it up again so quickly. "Anyway, from the information given, I like our chances of winning personally. I have to wonder if going to this man's manor and killing everyone inside wouldn't bring negative attention from the local authorities though," she said, putting her hand on her chin.

Connor

"Sounds good to me. I can't remember the last time I ate actually..." Connor said.

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<So it's not the organization exactly, just a cult that answer to them huh.> John thought. <So apparently this is the norm of the region, having to use other people to deal with what they want. Not that surprising there, but this is quite a difference in giving them a girl subject to whatever they do to her to ensure loyalty. I suppose that's how this cult goes. Too bad.>

Is that group really determined to do what it takes to win followers? Sophia thought, a little horrified. And then this cult... what could they possibly be doing to that poor girl? That's...

And so they entered the Wardroom. A few sat down, to which both did the same. A few talk ensued, and then the shooting incident just had to be mentioned again. At least it was just Robin informing Zach about it.

<I suppose that issue will never be dropped.> John noted.

And now there was the subject of whether to attack them or not. Well, time to see how this pans out.

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"Yeah fighting a dark avian sounds... eeeeeh not fun." She was about to go on and discuss, well, ask more about combatants like nadya, but a random Bert appeared, looking like he might wanna talk about something. "Heya Norbert~! Were ya gonna join us in the ring? Or were ya just gonna play it safe like?"

"Haha... I'm sure it'll all be fine. If we go in, eat and leave quick enough before they can connect the dots, we could avoid all accusations. Then again, you could just be honest and not cause any more unwanted trouble. Not that I'm picking sides or anything..." The bard scratched his head and followed Gabbie and Connor, wondering what what they wanted to discuss, though he figured it was something important, otherwise they wouldn't bother. Right?

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Gytha nodded when Veronika brought up another reason they shouldn't bother with fighting this cult. "Aye. Don't want t' be on th' wrong side o' th' law, especialla while we're harborin' in their port. Seems t' me whoever attacks th' other gets in trouble with th' law. So, why should we fight this'un ourselves? Let's just tell th' authorities about this. Zachara can give his testimona n' give o'er those papers as evidence. Then we won't get in trouble, they will n' we can avoid fightin' 'em in their territora," Gytha reasoned, "Not like we're in Ursium with those crazy Wrathites."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For an instant, Norbert's pride flared at the challenge, but it subsided a millisecond later. "Actually, I don't think I'll enter. I'd rather be sure of my payments without the risk of losing what I've already earned, personally. If there wasn't a price attached to it, I'd enter but I'm not much of a gambler," he answered before moving on, "I stopped by to talk about something else, though. I just finished talking to one of the guys who work here and-- No, that'd take to long. In short, the arena is run by Ursian and Neviskotian nobles who live here. They also run the law enforcement around here so they're very used to getting what they want. As it turns out, the governor's looking for a pegasus to buy. I've already had two guys ask me about Riz though only one of them tried to buy her from me. Just wanted to give you a heads-up about that in case someone starts harassing you about selling your pegasus."

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Robin shot Gytha a look of utter disbelief. "You don't care about anyone elses rules or feelings. You're just siding with them not because you would rather leave a girl to die at the hands of a cult!" thought Robin.

"Why do we not ask the local authorities then? I doubt they would stand idly by as a cult willingly killed a child. However, I believe that, if Zach is telling the truth, to stand by and let another die would be akin to shooting them in the head. It would be murder, and I am not a murderer."

---

Fred sighed as he continued to sweep the floors of the arena. This was ungodly boring work! He wasn't even sure what he could do about it to escape! He couldn't stay here for sure, but he had to figure out something so that he wouldn't have to lie to his children one day about being 'a cleaning technician' just so they wouldn't tell other kids he was the guy cleaning up the messes in the arena.

Edited by Snowy_One

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Veronika

"Why didn't you bother contacting the authorities about this before now? If saving this girl was a priority of yours, I think that would have been a logical course of action," Veronika asked Zach, looking at him skeptically. Maybe this story about this 'girl' is just bait to get us to go in- I was about to advocate going in myself. Perhaps this is just a very intricate trap...

Edited by -Cynthia-

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With a sigh Zach started to explain "I couldn't, Cervantes has the local government on his payroll for years now. If I'd even tried going to them with this evidence I'd be turned back over to the cult. The only way they could ever be persuaded to help us is if we could somehow pay them off. Even then they would just turn a blind eye and not help at all."

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Seeing as she could not find Shadrak anywhere, the troubadour merely walked around the ship sighing dejectedly at every turn until the announcement that Raquel had summoned her mercs reached her ears.

Then she met Zach. Who was friends with Robin. Chelsea turned her back to the reuniting pair and prayed to Mercy that everything would work out alright.

And the situation was explained to everyone. Apparently a cult that specialized in taking little girls was ordered by the group that was after them to go... after them. Chelsea decided to finally talk after staying quiet.

" The girl really isn't our problem. I mean, you two can go off and rescue the kid if you want. We're more worried about the threat that is this pedo cult. They could kill us, and we have to deal with them before we go acting like heroes."- she addressed to both Zach and Robin.

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"T' be honest, we're tryin' t' protect Raquel. That means keepin' encounters with these sorts o' people t' a minimum. N' not bein' able t' ask fer th' authorities' help sounds pretta convenient," Gytha replied, becoming a bit suspicious, "Though, if they realla won't exercise justice by protectin' the ships that harbor in their ports -- which would discourage other ships from harborin' n' that's not good fer them -- n' ye realla can't go t' 'em with this problem...th' best action we can take is t' strike b'fore they do, aye. But th' obective won't be t' save anyone, mind ye. It's t' protect Raquel, so ye'd have t' take care o' that yerself."

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Once the move to the boardroom was made, the new mage began the discussion by asking if there were any questions before the commencement of planning. Of course there would be questions. Blake had no idea what the 'major issue' was, to begin with. Luckily, that was answered for him because Gytha and the new guy began a spat over whether or not to attack the group of 'unsettling' cultists. There was also apparently an abused girl inside their base, which was a local manse, according to the man, who believed that that would be enough to motivate them to action. The mariner essentially reiterated that it was not Raquel's problem, which, from what the situation sounded like, was exactly the case. Robin began muttering, most likely out of animosity.

Then, Bogdan spoke about how if they left without repairs, the Utka would be vulnerable to attack. The apparent suggestion that they'd might leave without repairs implied that said cult was to attack them. Which changed things drastically. It was the problem of their group, now that Raquel's life was being threatened. The real matter now was to decide whether or not they'd risk the escape at sea, or opt to launch a direct attack on the enemy. Reign suggested that the mercenaries should eliminate them, if they had the means to. Blake, to be frank, agreed. It was the perfect opportunity for such a strike.

Gytha backpedaled and said that the group was unlikely to be attacked on the port, while the fire sage forged on with plans to kill the whole community within the manse, which was a bit... bloodthirsty. Veronika brought up the issue of legality, which, now that the swordsman thought about it, drastically hampered an assault on the cult. Good Gytha immediately chimed in, and the two women, along with Robin, all asked the mage -According to Gytha, his name was Zachary- why he didn't go to the authorities with the evidence. Zach's answer was corruption. Convenient enough. Finally, Gytha restated that the cultists weren't their problem, until proven otherwise, but once they were, a direct strike would be best. Alright then. It appeared that it was now his turn to weigh in.

"I apologize for my tardiness," Blake said, "But does anyone have an estimate on the number of combatants within the cult? I'd like to see those before I pick a side."

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Meeting

Reign was going to mention the possibility that going to the authorities could very well backfire, but Zachery himself addressed it, though only the version concerning him going by himself. He wasn't convinced that this Cervantes fellow had the entire government in his pocket, but the risk of involving the authorities wouldn't save them from the cultists' eventual response, and their one potential advantage in this fight, the element of surprise, would be lost.

There were other things said as well that he didn't quite agree with, so he decided to get that all out in the open, and maybe clear up the things he was hearing that didn't sound accurate. "Going to the authorities about this is a bigger gamble than setting that whole mansion on fire and running back to the ship. Besides, 'getting them in trouble' is not going to stop them from trying to kill us. You turn in those records and you prompt an investigation into these so called 'mercenaries'. Meanwhile, they come at us full force while their leader tidies up the mansion for the guys looking for the girl. We can't possibly beat them that way, and that's assuming we don't have 'bad guys' mixed in with the regular ones." Next to Robin's comment. "Dramatic much? 'Sides, he didn't say they were going to kill her. Isn't she their 'goddess' or something?" The next one was for Zach. "You can't buy'em all off. Everyone has a price, but ya can't always meet it. If we had more time, we could probably use that to our advantage." And the final comment was for Raquel. "I don't think you have to worry about the Leverager. The captain's got that covered. As for that girl ... do you want to save her from them, or not?"

Raquel put her head down. "Of course I do. These people are as horrible as Sardis and his people. I'm committed to defeating all of them, so I can't really justify running away from this, just because we might not get any new information on the real enemy. No, that's not right. They are the real enemy. They all are." she realized.

"You say 'defeating' like you plan to put them all in prison. Doubt that's gonna work out." Reign commented. Raquel put her head down even further.

"No, I mean kill them." she admitted. It was a painful admission for her to have to make, but she didn't see any other way of putting a stop to them. They were everywhere, had every resource imaginable, it seemed, and they weren't going to stop hounding her until she and all of her allies fell or surrendered. I feel so sorry for her right now. This isn't the kind of person she is, but she's got to be in order to survive. I hope the Raquel I knew survives this. I don't want to see her become like me or ... some of these other people. Reign thought to himself.

Restaurant

"That's called starvation." Gabbie teasingly chastised Connor. Frankly, she'd had the experience herself, not recalling her last meal and only knowing for certain that she might have eaten in the last twenty-four hours. That was always a strange feeling of forgetfulness. With that, she put her hands on Connor's shoulders and steered him into the restaurant, expecting Davod to follow. "Come along, men. There is much food to be had~"

Inside, there were too many tables to choose from, and a whole bunch of locals, mostly rexian. It was more neatly arranged than a dingy old tavern, but the inside still looked old. They could polish the place up all they wanted, but it was still an ancient old building as far as Gabbie was concerned. An A for effort, though. She kept steering Connor by the shoulders until she settled on a table. "Okay, now I cross my fingers and hope." A rexian waitress was already on her way. She only seemed to be carrying on menu with her, though.

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Addressing Blake's Zach said "I honestly don't know exactly how many there's going to be there, if I had to take a guess I would say about twenty through twenty-five combatants. Give or take a few of course"

With that out of the way he listened to what Raquel's friend had to say about this situation. 'Note to self, he goes on the list of people I like........ Throw Raquel on there as well for what she just said'

'Man this is gonna sound cliche as hell, oh well"

"If you go through with attacking them I'll stay with this group afterwards and do whatever you ask of me Raquel, I swear this on my life. I'll take care of the girl myself if need be but that road can be crossed when we get there."

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Veronika

"The matter still remains of how we're going to deal with the authorities afterwards. If they were taking money from the cultists, that only makes them more likely to persecute us...for mass murder. Do we have some sort of plan for what to do after we kill them?" Veronika asked.

Connor

"The human body can actually go for weeks without eating, it's thirst that will kill you much faster," Connor said to Gabbie, realizing he was quite thirsty as the waitress walked over.

Nadya

"So when's this tournament? What are the rules? Do I gotta fight any bird people?" she asked the receptionist in quick succession. Maybe I can get the big prize with some good plannin'...this group isn't bad in a scuffle.

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"Hmm..." That was distressing news for Aneda. Why would they want pegasi? I mean I know they're useful... well actually that'd be why. She nodded her head towards Norbert. "Thanks for the heads up, Norbert. No one will lay a finger on Hannah! She's MINE I tell you, MINE! Hahaha!" And of course, Aneda began to show her zealous affection for Hannah again. In public. Good heavens, how indecent. She was also waiting for an answer from the guard to Nadya's question as well.

Davod followed Gabbie in, who seemed to be guiding Connor like he was lost or something. He couldn't help but chuckle a little as he went with em. "Place seems pretty nice on the whole... I wonder what they've got."

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Twenty to twenty-five strong, more or less. A bit less than what Blake was expecting, but the enemy still outnumbered them. At their peak, Raquel's group had around twenty or so combatants, and since everyone scattered, it was unlikely that they'd be at full strength by the time the assault would likely occur. Which, with the blessing of the merchant herself, would in fact occur. The main issue now, before strategy discussion, was how to avoid the wrath of the authorities, which they would certainly draw after killing their benefactor. Well, he had an idea for that, as well.

"Maybe, when we attack the manse, we can don hooded cloaks, as to prevent identification?," Blake suggested. "Then, after the deed is done, we could just don them back into town, dispose of them in a deserted area, and return to our ship, undetected." He could speak strategy later.

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"I don't want t' fight in a cloak," Gytha bluntly complained, "Maybe we could just tell 'em th' truth: we were stoppin' this bunch from makin' this port less popular since they wanted t' set th' ship ablaze."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"It's not a problem," Norbert replied, waving it off, "I just thought I should warn you. Well, have fun." With that, he turned and began walking away from the arena again, leading Riz by her reigns.

Edited by Mercakete

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Meeting

"It sure would be nice if we could pin this whole thing on the organization. I doubt they'll be on our side if we tell them that we killed them to make sure they didn't kill us. Even if they acknowledged that we saved that girl, they'd still probably detain us so they could investigate for themselves. That would take a long time." Raquel commented, still sounding a little depressed from before.

"I think we can get away with a preemptive strike if we get someone to vouch for us ..." Reign commented, slowly shifting his gaze toward Captain Bogdan. He didn't move his head, but his eyes met Reign's in short order. "Of course, then we'd need to make sure no one else could say they saw us at the estate, either. Hate to dress up in dark robes myself, but it's the easiest way for you guys to do this without being identified. Your ... group kinda stands out."

Restaurant

"Several weeks sounds loike a long toime ... and it is, but you'll probably spend the last week wroithing in pain and barely able to move and I hardly count that as living, heheh." Gabbie replied. The waitress smiled at the conversation, figuring they were pretty hungry.

"Hello, there. Welcome to 'Anton's'. I'm Neela, and I'll be serving you today. Now, I'm sorry, but there's only one menu available right now." she began. She shied up a bit as she placed the menu on the table for the three of them.

"I'll start off with some water, regardless. The food can obviously wait~" Gabbie spoke up, alluding to their talk a moment ago. This was a bit of fun she hadn't been expecting.

Arena

"Theeee-next tournament is tomorrow. They wanted much larger fights, so you'll have to enter in teams of three and split the prize money, I suppose. Not a bad deal, though, since you can also split the entry fee as well. You enter as a unit, after all. 'bird people' aren't outright banned from entering tournaments, but the warrior's guild likes to keep things fair. Speaking of which, you'll have to submit to a strength assessment test if you haven't, already; very short and it keeps us from pitting the strong against the weak." the receptionist explained.

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His fellow Anima mage, as Zach could now tell he was one thanks to his rather substantial Aura, seemed to defiantly be on the right track with the cloak idea of his.

"I think his idea for the cloaks is actually a very good one, it would be much easier to escape afterwards as well with them. The only problem is, what to do with those that ride mounts into combat? Could we still bring them along with us or would that cause too much attention?"

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Veronika

"Isn't a large group of people in dark robes traveling around somewhat suspicious? I suppose if we do it after sundown we'll blend in," she added afterwards, thinking the plan through. Using Captain Bogdan as an alibi seemed like a solid idea.

Connor

"I'll have water too please," he said, beginning to look through the menu. "Some of these dishes look familiar...others seem like they're probably Rexian. I'll go for one of the Rexian ones, might not get another chance to try," he remarked.

Nadya

"Hmm teams of three...might be able to make this work. Where do I go for this strength assessment test?" she asked the receptionist, running through the list of Raquel's mercenaries in her mind, trying to remember who seemed the most effective in combat.

Edited by -Cynthia-

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Aneda piped in, "Is there a deadline for the assessment? If we can get teams of three and whatnot I'd like to think it over a little instead of barrelin on into it, ya know?" She really wanted to go team up with Faatina, she knew she was good in a fight, but was picking favorites better than picking what works?

"I'll uh... have a water as well, ma'am." He said, giving a weak smile. Way to be a sheep, Davod. Hahaha... Taking the comment in stride, Davod simply waited for a chance to look at the menu. It'd be rude to take it and/or steal it from a kid, of course!

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Meeting

"Well of course you go at night. Only reason you'd go in the daytime is if you're scheming something big. This is just a simple case of not getting identified. Aaaand I dunno ... a get-away horse sounds convenient, but you guys might be better off on foot. You guys need to find the best route--not necessarily the fastest--back to either the ship or someplace they won't be looking. Complicated ... but it beats getting 'detained', right?" he asked that question primarily to Raquel, going so far as to smile.

"If I keep breaking the law so whimsically, I'm going to end up paying for it, so yeah ... let's plan this out thoroughly this time." she replied with a nod at the end.

Raquel breaking the law? Seriously? Okay I seriously need to have a word with her after this little strategy meeting.

Restaurant

"Brave, heheh." Gabbie remarked at Connor's decision. Oh please tell me they've got something handheld ...

"Three waters," Neela quickly memorized. "Something rexian? Did you have anything in mind, sir?"

Arena

"The warrior's guild runs the tests. Their building isn't far from here, but for more last minute testing, they do it right here at the colosseum. If you want to go ahead and get that out of the way today instead of waiting until before the tournament is about to begin, you should head down there." the man replied. "It's the round building with the slightly domed roof."

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"I don't mind sneakin' in with a cloak but I'm not fightin' in it. Not used t' it n' I don't want t' get tangled n' die," Gytha put in.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As he was walking away, Norbert stopped, having heard something about the warrior's guild. Not wanting it to be drowned out by the crowd, he moved back to listen in some more, which gave him information he hadn't thought to ask about. Oh, so they regulate the participants by ability. That's good. Hmm... I don't plan on entering, but it'd be fun to see how I'd score on their test. I've heard about them but have never actually gone to one of their facilities. I should check this out. So, he left the rest of the conversation to the three women and headed for the warrior's guild building.

By air it was fairly easy to spot. Dome roof near the arena. There it is. Riz and Norbert landed in front of the building in a similar manner as before, but at a slower decline. I've heard about the warrior's guild. They test your ability and assign a number to it. It's a good way to track progress in your training. I wonder how many of these there are in the world. I should check in regularly.

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The talk went on. Talk about telling the local authorities was suggested, but then Zach had to say it was a no-go due to the Cult having some strings there.

<So going to the local authorities is not a good idea.> John thought. <I guess we'll have to take matters into our own hands then.>

This cult even has influence on the authorities? Sophia thought. I guess that could explain why they can still be around. Other than just carefully hiding their actions I guess.

Then came the talk of sneaking in, take care of the cult, then sneak back out and to the ship without arousing suspicion. It seemed to started gathering a bit of support. And yet...

<I suppose that can work. Gil is not very hard to identify, especially this far from Neviskotia.> John noted. <Although, I suppose if I were to find a way to have Gil also sneak around in the middle of the night... he could easily pull it off I'd say.>

Wait, so we would essentially try to avoid being caught after dealing with the cult? Sophia began to worry. But it's too much of a risk. Many things could go wrong while doing such a thing.

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As Aneda and Nadya discussed the prospects of entering the arena, when Norbert showed up. After a taunting challenge from Aneda to join them in the arena, Norbert eventually replied to Aneda, warning her about people looking to buy a pegasus. Aneda responded in tune with a display of affection towards Hannah, cuddling the Pegasi enthusiastically.

It seemed there was to be a tournament the very next day, with strength tests being used to decide matchups at the Warrior's Guild.

"The Warrior's Guild? Should we go there and try it out, then?" Faatina asked Aneda.

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I suppose we should get it over with now instead of doing it at the last minute...." Giving a tug to Hannah, Aneda moved on towards the indicated building, giving a wave to Nadya and the guard. "Come on, Faatina! Afterwords we can go explore the rest of the place, maybe get a few trinkets, maybe even get a drink or two! And then we can feast and be merry and all of that! If you want to, of course~."

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