Five students sat in a small circle in the emptied library. Yesterday they were normal students, about to graduate from the Takahashi Institute that had been their home of the last several years. Today they were all fortunate to still be alive. Now they were trying to figure out what to do next.
"It's not that simple, Bianca," Josef responded to one of her suggestions. "What are we going to do, pick up a few guns and blast every Peccavii in the Universe? By ourselves?" Marjus countered, "Not by ourselves. We'll have some assistance from the Church; Brother Tymora and Takahashi are meeting with us tomorrow before graduation--" Josef interrupted him, visibly agitated. "Assistance? Marjus, it's a small miracle that we weren't killed last night. Hell, it was a miracle that Sam was the only one who died when--" No one interrupted Josef, but the look on Bianca's face was enough to silence the room. After a few uncomfortable seconds, she spoke. "So what do you suggest then? That we just go on with our fucking little lives as if nothing ever happened?"
It was Claudia who came to Josef's defense. "Of course not. What they've done... what they're doing, is inexcusable. I wasn't targeted by them like you and Josef were, but I'd like to see them pay for their crimes all the same. So many students were killed... and others joined the enemy, brainwashed or corrupted." Isaac chortled. "Brainwashed my ass. They're the enemy now. No mercy." Bianca nodded in agreement while Claudia continued; "But right now we're in no condition to go after them. Sure, they've retreated for now, but they did so with fewer casualties, and we're no great heroic adventurers that can just march in and beat them effortlessly. They'd be ready for us; we'd all just get killed. We need time to think this out rationally, rebuild, and make plans. This goes far beyond the walls of the Institute."
Josef and Claudia had been rivals for years at the Institute, but ever since he'd helped protect her during an earlier attack, they'd begun to put aside their differences. "Exactly. There's no point in throwing our lives away. People died protecting our lives last night; you'd have that be for nothing?" Bianca scoffed. "I see. I guess we're just too different. You still have something to live for. But I'm not leaving to go perform around the systems and accumulate fame and fortune, Josef, so don't expect me to feel the same way." Josef hung his head. "I understand... and believe me, I want to help. I just... can't, right now. I need some time to think about this, and figure out what I want to do. I mean, we're just about to graduate here..."
Bianca closed her eyes, resigned. "Fine, if that's how you feel... don't expect me to stay in touch though. I'm getting the fuck out of here as soon as I graduate." Marjus chimed in, "That's probably a good idea. It'd probably be too dangerous to stick around anyway." For once, they were all in agreement. Josef added, "Bianca, have you seen Mubwin since last night? I think she and Sven..." Bianca nodded in response. "Mubwin's still around campus. I guess she wasn't implicated in the attack, but we can't trust either of them now. In fact, if you're not going to stick with us, it'd be better if we just split. They'll definitely be after me again because of what happened, but if you stayed away, I think they'd leave you alone." "I see..."
The meeting ended soon after. Isaac and Marjus said their farewells and left to meet with Brother Tymora; Bianca also rose to leave. "Well, this is it then..." "Yeah..."
Josef thought for a moment. "Look, in case something happens, will there be a way I can get in touch with you? Maybe someday..." his voice trailed. "Yeah... I'll make sure Tymora leaves you a contact in case you ever need it." "All right. Take care of yourself, Bianca..." "You too."
Josef and Claudia watched her leave. It was the last either would see of her for five years.
Personality: Josef Friedrich Clements and Claudia van Eybler both graduated with top honors from the Takahashi Institute, despite the traumatic events of that year's final week. While Bianca, Isaac, and Marjus disappeared from the public eye, the two of them went back to the lives they'd been destined to have since childhood: as virtuosos in the field of music, they quickly became well-known throughout the Democratic Union, giving performances on several planets while still in University. They also grew closer together, love blossoming into a spectacular marriage during their fourth and final year. After graduating from University, the two moved back to Josef's home system, where, wealth and fame already accumulated, Josef was on his way to becoming a well-respected member of Parliament in the Democratic Union just as his father was.
But... he never forgot what happened at the Institute that night. He never forgot seeing fellow students die, seeing people he once called friends join a group bent on bringing ruin to the world. He never forgot one friend who turned nearly mad with the desire for revenge. Claudia never forgot either, and little by little they began to prepare, discretely transferring wealth into holdings that could be accessed and used outside of public knowledge, uncertain of who might still be watching them.
Finally, they retired to their home one night, and after a long talk, they both came to an agreement. Several days later, contact was made, and the destiny of Josef's life of wealth, fame, and comfort began to change.
| Standard Normal human strength.||Agility:|
|Superior This fighter can dodge, weave and move |
with the grace of an Olympic gymnast.
|Standard Normal human endurance. ||Mind:|
|Superior Highly educated and ingenious. |
A smart cookie.
Surprisingly, they still didn't see Bianca for some time after making contact. While they were assured that she was alive and well, it was someone else who would come to visit them.
"So, how do we know we can trust you?" Tanin was an imposing presence in any room, especially now that he contrasted with the luxurious refinements of the Clements estate. "Bianca said that you both were involved in the Second Night of the Raven, but the three of you split afterwards. What made you decide to contact us after over four years?"
Josef was a little intimidated, but answered plainly and truthfully. "We weren't ready, then. Now we are. Nothing life-changing happened; we always wanted to help, we just didn't have the means."
Tanin looked around. They certainly had some means. "So, you just want to make a donation, then? Admittedly, we could always use more funds, but if that's all you wanted to talk about..." Josef held up his hand. "More than that. My family has fame and influence; with my connections, we could provide informational assistance as well." Tanin shrugged. "Again, useful, but nothing we are totally without already..."
Josef stared him straight in the eye. "All right then, Tanin. Does your group have access to the Democratic Union's Parliament?"
Tanin raised an eyebrow. "... Tell me more..."
Tanin was satisfied by the end of their conversation. "All right then, you've convinced me at least. I warn you though..." he paused a little too long in his typically overdramatic fashion. "They WILL find out what you're doing, eventually. They have eyes and ears in the Union as well, among other places. When that happens, there will be consequences. You'd have a far easier life if you didn't get involved."
Josef didn't even hesitate. "We know the risks. We've had years to consider this, and we've made our decision." Claudia nodded in agreement. "We're here today because others made a sacrifice; of course, I'd hope it doesn't come to it, but we have to be willing to do the same, if necessary."
Tanin shook his head. "It's easy to say that now. Anyway, it's your choice. We'll be in touch..."
Several months later, the haunting melody of Raziel's Nocturne echoed through the halls of the Clements residence. The lights dimmed low that night, and while Josef played and Claudia rested nearby, one other moved silently, almost imperceptibly through the house. Quietly he slipped past alarms, unnoticed until he was at the door adjacent to their room. Then, unexpectedly, he entered the room normally, making no effort to hide his presence. Josef was aware of his entry but made no movement to recognize him, the Nocturne nearly complete.
- Power: Super Speed
- Kit Power Link: Arcane Lore
The uninvited guest waited for him to finish, perhaps as a gentlemanly token of respect. As the last few notes faded into the night air, his gloved hands clapped softly. "You haven't lost your touch, I see."
"No, I've actually improved, as you will soon discover." Josef rose from his seat, already aware of who had come to visit. "I heard you'd gotten away from Bianca."
Hastur Migri smiled. "I had a little help from some old friends."
Nocturne of Violence
As the two faced each other, Hastur noted that Josef's fencing saber was at his side. "Hmm. You knew I was coming, then?" Josef nodded. "Long enough to have informed the others that you would be here tonight. Did you think your investigation on me would go unnoticed?"
- Power: Slicing Attack
- Multi Attack Attack can hit multiple times during one strike.
Hastur chuckled. "I see, now. For a moment I thought you might have been actually planning to kill me, but if you've got reinforcements coming then I suppose you're simply aiming to stall me until they arrive, then?"
Josef withdrew his saber. "Oh, don't get the wrong idea, Hastur. As much as Bianca would like to get her hands on you again, I don't plan on giving her the luxury of recapturing you alive."
At this, Hastur's amusement grew into laughter, enough to rouse Claudia from her slumber. "Well, aren't we ambitious! You know, I seem to remember that we used to be on the same fencing team at one time. What was your record against me there? I can't quite recall..."
Josef smiled. "Zero wins, seven losses." Hastur cocked his head to the side, almost mockingly. "Was it only seven? I was sure the number was closer to a dozen.... but no matter. Tell you what. As I've yet to reveal your information to my friends, I'll make you a deal. If you're still alive by the time Bianca gets here, I'll keep your little secret safe... for a while, anyway."
Josef took an offensive stance. Hastur was the kind of person who could get into your head if you let him. Josef had to make sure that didn't happen; he'd need every bit of focus he had anyway. "It's your call. If you're ready..."
One, two, three, four... Josef's movements followed no exact rhythm, but all the same it was evident that years of music had influenced his fencing skills. If Hastur was the wind, Josef was the sound floating on the wind. Claudia retreated as the two traded strikes, the echoes of parries and thrusts replacing the soft melody of the Nocturne. At one point, Hastur had considered involving Claudia to get to Josef, knowing that his time was limited, but Josef would not allow it. "As I told you, Hastur. I have improved. Focus on someone else and you'll suffer for it." Hastur smiled, continuing the conversation even as he was forced to exert himself. "Amazing... you were never this good at the Institute, but I've not heard of you entering any competitions since then. You've been practicing in secret?"
- Power: Sword Master
- Kit Power Link: Arcane Lore
Hastur would always make small talk when they fenced at the Institute while Josef struggled to keep up. Tonight, Josef was comfortable enough to reply. "Of course. I'd always thought that if I took this path in life, this skill would likely come in handy someday... that, and I rather EN-JOY it!" His saber struck true with the cadence of his words; a small cut, but a successful hit nonetheless. Hastur jumped back in surprise.
"You... aha... ahaha... oh, this is too much! It looks like I'll have to let you live, and keep my end of the bargain..." Hastur lowered his blade. "There is one other reason I came here, Josef, and before I go I have a question for you. I never had the chance to ask you that Night... why? Why not join us? You are an artist; surely you can appreciate the beauty of the Truth we represent."
Josef drew a circle in the air with the end of his saber, still prepared to strike if necessary. "I know all about your Truth, and the supposed Lies I support. The truth is... whether it's a World of Truth or a World of Lies, I can create beautiful music all the same. But what you've done is inexcusable; perhaps Bianca and the others aren't the most noble of avengers, but if that's what must be done to make you pay for your crimes... then so be it."
Hastur sheathed his sword and bowed. "If that's your answer... then I suppose I should take my leave while I can. We'll meet again soon, Josef..."