Episode 14

A historical documentary plays on the living area television, cutting between long explanatory dialogues and reenactment sections. Occasionally, a head turns to watch a brief segment before returning back to current projects. Aristespha flips her long, silvery blue hair back with a sigh and sorts through another stack of paperwork upon the coffee table. Lifts the stack up, she places it in another forming mass next to her on the couch. While resting upon a nest of pillows on the other half the couch, Cideeda squints her emerald green eyes and focuses upon a small patch of torn fabric on her body suit. She carefully weaves a needle between the fibers around a tear and cinches the edges closer together. Dretphi sits on the floor nearby in the middle of five baskets, each with a name written on the side. Plucking an article of clothing off the top of the large pile next to her, she briefly examines it and tosses it to the matching basket. In the main part of the kitchen, Sotalia slowly traces a fingernail along the text in a notebook, pouring full attention into each word. She eyes over at the various alchemy instruments and ingredients along the kitchen countertop and bites her lip with frustration. Grumbling to herself, she scrutinizes her notes further. The kitchen door leading to the garage opens, and Bach backs in with a laundry basket in his arms. Pivoting once clear of the door, he continues into the living room with a grimace upon his face.

Dretphi glances over curiously to Bach as he places the laundry basket down. "Any success with your clothing?"

Bach immediately shakes his head and snorts as a reflexive chuckle forces its way out. "Oh... Not really. I mean, the duster is salvageable. But... The shirt is a total loss. And the pants..."

Kneeling down next to the laundry basket, he rummages through the mix and pulls up a pair of very holey, burnt pants. Dretphi's steely gray eyes follow the length of the pants, and she blinks while her mouth twists faintly in disapproval. She holds her face, covering her mouth, and nods in agreement. "Yes. Those are rags now. You will need a new pair."

Tossing her dark red, shoulder length hair back, Sotalia lifts her head away from her notebook and gazes across the way to see the hole, burn ridden garment hanging from Bach's hand. She rests her hands on her hips, rolls her golden eyes, and cracks a smug grin from the corner of mouth. "Rags?! Come on, don't you recognize designer clothing when you see it? I'm sure some teenagers would pay top coin for THAT."

An entrepreneurial eyebrow perks on Cideeda's face, and her eyes flick up from her repair work. Examining the pants, her mind churns on an idea, and a scheming smirk grows on her mouth. "Hey. Fold those up, and put them with the bot's head."

Bach swiftly turns to face Cideeda and tilts his head in mild confusion, narrowing his eyes. "Are you actually going to try to sell my holey burnt pants?!"

Cideeda shrugs and focuses back on repairing her suit, dragging a threaded needle up off the body suit. "Hey! You'd be surprised what sells. Again, I don't make the fads. I just sell to them. Anyway, Steve at the game shop put me on the local aethermail list, and I just found out a fandom convention is happening in a week and a half."

Aristespha pauses from calculating numbers on one of her tablets and leans back into the couch cushion. She lightly taps the tablet stylus to her lips and glances through thoughts in her head. "You know I haven't been to a decent convention in years. I actually wouldn't mind going."

Bach thinks for a moment and nods with flits of memory brightening his face. "Same here. I haven't been able to afford to go to one for a really long time. Used to be a lot of fun back in school. Perfect break from everything."

Dretphi bounces her intrigued stare between Cideeda, Aristespha, and Bach, curiosity growing with each second. "I have never been to one of these conventions. Heard of them. Never gone. Would not mind going."

Sotalia glares at the others through the opening to the main kitchen. Her jaw hangs open in astonishment, and she poses incredulously towards the discussion. "You all DO realize, we literally do what those people obsess and act out at those places? Right? They fantasize about our actual profession."

Cideeda perks her brow and narrows her gaze at Sotalia. "This one is a general fandom convention. They have a little bit of everything. So, the whole adventurer fandom thing is only a part of it."

A devious grin creeps onto Cideeda's face as she continues describing. "I mean, this is a larger one. It even has a large ballroom just dedicated towards all the various vendors of small, unique items that many claim to be of a magical nature..."

Briefly, the cheek around Sotalia's eye twitches as the corner of her mouth draws upwards. Shaking her head away from the temptation, she brushes stray locks of dark red hair over her swept back black horns and quickly redirects part of her attention down to her alchemy project. Cideeda pushes up into her pillow covered seat upon the couch and widens a toothy grin. "And, the writer and artist for a particular series is on a few of the panels."

A few moments of silence loom in the air. Expectant members of the group watch and wait attentively with gazes towards the kitchen. Staring down onto the counter top, Sotalia goes through the motions of combining ingredients into the glass bowl. She bites her lip and contorts her face against her winning desires. "Well... If you all want to go, I'm... Not against going. You might want to check with Sebastian."

Bach rolls his blue eyes and laughs. "Oh, he'll go. Hell, he probably could be in the open. We'll just say he's a hologram or magical illusion."

Furrowing his brow, he glances around the living area. "By the way, anyone know where he is?"

With an unamused expression seeping onto her face, Aristespha lifts her arm up and points her finger in a sweeping gesture towards the outside. "He's outside trying to spy on THOSE adventurers. Nothing to speak of at the moment. Thankfully, they're staying on their property."

Groaning and shaking her head, Sotalia pours a vial of liquid into the mixing bowl. "Gods, I still can't believe they picked the one place next to us."

Dretphi dons a stern frown and flings a bundle of clothes into a basket. "That was not a coincidence. Previous seasons, they kept adventurers in dilapidated places. That house is generous."

Crossing her arms with a twist of her mouth, Aristespha eyes Dretphi with a confirming nod. "I thought about that, too. We are going to have to be careful if they are around. We really don't need to give them any material they can put on the show."

Sinking down in her pillows, Cideeda finely maneuvers the needle through another section of the body suit's fabric. "Well, hopefully they'll find something else to do, and let us actually enjoy the rest of the week off. I'd like to see if we can get the plasma projectile cannon and minigun working."

Sebastian's ethereal form passes through the sliding glass door and coasts into the room. "Hey. Anything new?"

Bach sets out the last article of clothing from the laundry basket and glances up with a grin at his brother. "Up for going to a con in a week and half?"

Sebastian excitedly twists himself mid flight to face Bach and halts his drift through the room. "Hell yeah, bro! It's been FOREVER since I've been to one. Damn. Been so busy between getting a group together and chasing Noxian the last few years that the opportunity never came up. But... I don't know how much I'll be able to enjoy it. Being a ghost and all. But, I'll make do."

Staring at Sebastian, a smile forms on Aristespha. Sebastian lands his feet onto the ground, pivots in place, and spots Aristespha's attention. His translucent blue eyes search the immediate area, and he raises a curious eyebrow at her. Aristespha grins and gives Sebastian a sly wink. "Of course you'll make do. Guess who's going as a magical interactive illusion to the con?"

Standing in thought, Sebastian his mind mulls over the idea. With a growing heroic smile, he puffs out his chest, brightens his visage, and puts on his best hero pose. "Hello! Welcome to the insert convention name here! I'm your friendly interactive illusion, state your command, and I will try to comply."

He releases the pose, places a hand on his waist, and scratches his chin. "You know... That could actually work. No one would even bother to question such a thing. People will just assume it's just some kind of thing you'd see at a convention."

Chuckling to herself, a sly, toothy grin grows on Cideeda's light brown face, and a greedy glint sparks in her eyes. "Also, we'll only have to pay for five passes."

Sebastian glances thoughtfully at Bach, crosses his arms, and searches his mind. "Is it strange that I'm honestly looking forward to seeing how much I can fuck with people in this form, bro?"

Bach shrugs and holds his hands up indecisively. "I mean, I don't know, man. Might as well have fun with it? It's not like many people get a chance like this. Enjoy it while you can?"

Calling out from the kitchen, Sotalia huffs with a faint tint of a grumble highlighting underlying frustration. "Aristespha! Okay. So, I'm at the last part of this potion. Just to double check, it's seventy milliliters of the cherry flavoring? Correct?"

Aristespha blinks blankly and shudders her head. She quickly snaps her confused gaze towards Sotalia. "What? No! Twenty milliliters of cherry flavoring! Where did you get seventy from?!"

A long silence lingers. The sounds of notebook pages flipping back and forth break the quiet. Sotalia mumbles out loud and leans very close to her notebook. "But... I wrote down seventy for some reason. Why the hell would I write seventy, but it actually be twenty-"

After another long pause, she growls out. "Oh gods dammit!"

With a quick, violent flick of the wrist, Sotalia whips a small plastic pen at the lid of a nearby garbage can. The pen bounces off the open lid into the plastic bag. Groaning to herself, Sotalia pours twenty milliliters of cherry flavoring into the mixing bowl. She sniffs up some semblance of pride and calls out to the team. "Hey! Next time we go shopping in town, let's pick up some decent pens."

Bright columns of light pour through the forest canopy onto the mossy ground below. With the gentle wind, small patches of underbrush shake the remaining beads of morning dew, and the light sways along woodland floor from the fresh, green branches above. A fvalian woman in a plain green blouse and dark blue skirt follows behind an emin woman wearing a form fitting gray t-shirt and shorts. Both maneuver through the trees and brush and trudge towards the edge of the forest. The fvalian woman forces a whisper towards the emin woman. "Tassilda?! How close are you going to get?"

Tossing her long raven black hair back, Tassilda glances her light blue on black eyes at the fvalian with a confident, smug grin. "As close as I can, Deedri. How close did you get?"

Nervously flexing her clawed fingers, Deedri gazes over her shoulder and points out a spot quite a distance away. "Over there. I just watched them briefly yesterday before they called us in for individual interviews."

With a quick roll of the eyes, Tassilda quickly turns her attention away from Deedri's spot and focuses ahead to a patch of grass behind a concealing, short shrub. "Come along now. I want to get a good view of these practice exercises you saw."

Glancing to Tassilda and behind herself, Deedri reluctantly sneaks along. She carefully squats down and settles next to Tassilda, carefully peeking over the very top of the leafy plant. Tassilda guides a finger in front of Deedri and leads her gaze to three people standing in an open field. "There they are. Both the mages and... The intern? Interesting. I wonder what poor examples of spells they are going to teach that... Intern."

Shaking her head braided multi-colored hair slightly, Deedri frowns faintly, and her auburn eyes remain fixed to the targets in the distance. "I wouldn't call him an intern. At least, don't treat him like one. I think it's just some title they're using for paperwork reasons."

Lifting an intrigued eyebrow, Tassilda draws the corner of her mouth to a side smile on her light gray face and her eyes shift over to Deedri. "Really? That is how they even referred to him. And, I haven't seen anything to the contrary. Is there something you haven't told me?"

Deedri blinks in surprise, pivots her head at Tassilda, and quickly shakes her head. "No. It just doesn't make sense to me. From the information Samantha gave to Chad, he just joined recently and never completed school. But... Somehow he put up that barrier the military had to blast off.

Furrowing her brow, she contorts her fair tone face between flits of confusion and puzzling. "I mean... That magical barrier didn't dissipate! The concrete around the anchor points shattered, and it continued to exist after that weird magical cable was pulled off!"

Narrowing a curious stare at Tassilda, she inquires with her long fluffy tail idly wagging. "Have you ever known an intern to do magic like that? Because, I sure haven't."

Tassilda's eyes drift away from Deedri back to the three in the field and guide the rest of Tassilda's head along. Her expression wanders between thoughtful quirks as her mind ponders recent memories. Pulling a few strands of her black hair over a swirling horn, she squints her light blue on black eyes into the distance. Seconds later, her eyes open wide, and activity in the distance seizes her full attention. "They are practicing magic. Good. I wonder what..."

Fighting down a reflexive snarl of her upper lip, she draws in a long breath. "She... Is capable of."

Deedri concentrates out into the field and squints her auburn eyes. "She's pretty good. She's been practicing a fireball spell a lot, but it's strange. She's direct casting, but there's something else going on. Even with my mage sight I can't tell what exactly is going on from this far away."

In the distance, Sotalia stands with her hands out around a glowing, orange-red orb of flames. While she grimaces and her posture strains, the fiery ball fluctuates and gradually changes colors to an orange-yellow hue. Dropping her head down, she exhales dramatically and lets her shoulders droop. Bach steps up to Sotalia's side and motions with his hands at spots of the orb, calmly explaining. Initially, Sotalia drifts her glare away from Bach. An indignant pout manifests throughout her body language, and her hands slowly slide the orb away. Bach pinches the bridge of his nose, shakes his head, and sighs to Sotalia. Tassilda notices Deedri's furry, tufted ears perking and flicking minutely. Leaning closer to Deedri, she whispers curiously. "So... What are they talking about?"

Deedri squints her auburn eyes and deftly aims her ears at the distant conversation. "He's trying to get her to use her mage sight spell. But... She says she can't while focusing on casting this one. He just offered to... Hold the spell for her?"

Tassilda blinks hard, cocks her head to the side, and mumbles in confusion. "Hold the spell? How does he expect to do that-"

Bach slowly extends his arms out, positions his hands at the ready around the flaming orb, and talks while craning his head around to gaze at Sotalia's face. She eyes Bach with a defiant flash in her eyes. A long sigh escapes her, and an appreciative smile grows from the corner of her mouth. Pivoting around towards Bach, she carefully maneuvers the orb of flames between Bach's awaiting hands. The fiery ball momentarily shudders when Sotalia pulls hands away. It stabilizes to a gentle hover, Bach guides the magic to an easy viewing level. Shaking the residual flow from her hands, Sotalia stretches her arms back, walks around, and works out the tension in the rest of her body.

Staring wide-eyed with her jaw creeping open, Tassilda blinks blankly at the display. Deedri glances over to Tassilda, raises an eyebrow, and twists her mouth. "So. He's the intern. Who never finished school. And, just started adventuring with a group a few weeks ago."

Tassilda slowly nods and searches the scene before her for hints of explanation. Closing her mouth fully from a gawk, she collects her composure and hums with a contemplative grumble. "I think I understand your suspicions, QUITE CLEARLY now."

Aristespha stands up from the bench seat next to the picnic table near Bach and Sotalia. Moving to a spot next to Sotalia, she catches her attention and points at each other's eyes while explaining. Sotalia nods attentively after each key point in Aristespha's instruction. Aristespha stands right beside Sotalia and gestures towards the flaming orb Bach maintains. Both Aristespha and Sotalia close their eyes with Aristespha's cue. Opening her violet glowing eyes first, Aristespha attentively observes Sotalia. Initially struggling, Sotalia manages to open her golden, glowing eyes and keep them consistently bright. Bach tows the flaming orb closer and hovers it conveniently in front of Aristespha and Sotalia. A minute of debate later, Bach flares his eyes to a bright blue. The fiery ball's color changes slowly from orange-yellow to bright blue-white. Sotalia and Aristespha scrutinize each second of the transformation, and Bach pauses at moments to rotate and adjust the orb's position and aid in the demonstration of the process. The magic shrinks down into a smaller ball, and the waving flames wane into a thin jet veil that coats the surface of the orb. With a final nod from both Aristespha and Sotalia, Bach swings the orb away from Aristespha and Sotalia. Aiming towards a large boulder in the field, Bach flexes his hands and the magical fireball darts across the open field,exploding upon impact with the boulder.

Tassilda sits back upon the forest floor, straightens her posture, and crosses her arms. Drawing in a slow, deep breath, she exhales just as slowly. "What... Just happened... There?"

Deedri drops down from watching over the top of the shrub and gazes uncertainly at Tassilda. "I don't know. I didn't catch anything he did there. That may have been direct casting. Maybe some form of it that I've never seen before? It's too far away, even if I did use my mage sight. I would guess it's just too fine of spellcrafting to really observe from this far away."

Furrowing her brow with her thoughts, Tassilda places a hand upon her cheek and rest her face upon it. "Maybe..."

A devious grin widens from the corner of her mouth, and she gazes eagerly at Deedri. "Regardless, I believe WE WILL be visiting this spot quite a bit more often in the future."

Deedri musters up a weak smile and darts her eyes nervously around before settling upon Tassilda. "O-Okay. I don't have any problems with that."

A thickening front of clouds coasts overhead, occasionally obscures the sun, and casts down patches of shadow upon the large field. Sotalia, Bach, and Aristespha stand near the wood plank picnic table. Sotalia interlocks her fingers, flips her hands around, and stretches her arms out with a content grin beaming on her face. "Well, I think I'm getting the hang of all this low level stuff."

She slyly flicks her eyes to the side and gazes at Bach. Gently narrowing her stare, a sinister motive tinges her emerging grin. "Maybe someone will teach me that wonderful disintegration ball spell in the very NEAR future."

Averting his eyes to one side and then another, Bach dons on a wary smile and uneasy chuckles. "Ah, you know... All in good time... Right? How about we sure up those low level basics and then cover some slightly more advanced topics. Then, we'll DEFINITELY get to THAT spell."

Sotalia pivots upon on foot and faces Bach. Concentrating a glare upon Bach, Sotalia frowns with simmering disapproval and breathes out a low growl of building frustration. Bach blinks uncomfortably when Sotalia places her hands on her hips and postures with obvious irritation. He glances over pleadingly to Aristespha and motions with his eyes to Sotalia, trying to maintain an honest smile. Aristespha rolls her violet eyes and steps in to stand between the two. "Bach. You should teach her the spell..."

A smug smile pushes the frown off Sotalia's face, and she poses triumphant and satisfied. Catching sight of Sotalia's posturing, Aristespha flashes a wicked smile and turns her attention upon Sotalia. "BUT. Sotalia. You need to get MUCH better at controlling your magical energy flows, first."

Sotalia immediately snarls her lip, crosses her arms defensively, and turns her head away with a pout forming quickly. Aristespha claps her hands together, and her expression brightens while glancing between Bach and Sotalia. "And, I have a way of helping you learn and teach a valuable skill that is normally reserved for medical mages."

The pout on Sotalia gives way to an unamused expression, thinly veiling her developing interest. Returning her gaze to Aristespha, Sotalia awaits with an idle shift of her weight to another foot. Aristespha smiles and gestures with her arms for both Bach and Sotalia to come closer. "Since we have three major magic users in the group, with different levels of magical energy reserves, I think it would be prudent to teach you two about energy transfer between people."

Sotalia perks a brow and cracks a smile. Unfolding her arms, she places her hands on her hips with an eager pose. "Girl, now we're talking. It's about time! I forgot how many times I've asked you to show me that."

She narrows her stare quickly at Aristespha, and her smile fades with recollection. "And... I almost forgot how many times you said you were too busy to show me."

Aristespha maintains a happy grin and nonchalantly holds her hands out to her sides with a dismissive shrug. "Well, things have changed. We have some time now. Also, we have a third mage in the group which will make this a lot easier to teach."

Bach scratches the back of his head of longer brown hair and pounders out loud with a glance towards Aristespha. "Okay. So, why does a third mage make this easier to teach?"

Aristespha gazes over to Bach with a sly, ulterior motive hinting through the positive facade. "Because, with your ability to manipulate low level energy flow, I fully expect you pick up any lesson I give very quickly."

Turning her attention to Sotalia, she perks an amused eyebrow. "Then, you'll be able to help Sotalia get ALL the practice she will need."

Sotalia stares back sternly to Aristespha. The two lock eye contact for seconds. Aristespha maintains a stoic, unmoving front, and peers right through. Sotalia breaks off the staring contest with a huff and sulk. "Damn it, girl. You KNOW I'm getting better at that."

Placing a hand on each of Sotalia's shoulders, Aristespha lowers her head slightly to look Sotalia in the eyes. "You most certainly are. Just keep in mind how much more you will be able to accomplish with your massive reserves of magical energy when you learn proper energy control. I think I know a simple enough way to demonstrate the potential that will certainly motivate YOU."

Wrestling between a grimace and frown on her light tan and dark gray face, Sotalia subdues her surge of pride, cracks a reserved smile, and sighs. "Okay, girl."

She waves her hand out and perks her brow expectantly. "Let's see it!" I'm curious as to how this is supposed to motivate me."

Letting go of Sotalia's shoulders, Aristespha steps back and holds an open palm up to both Back and Sotalia. "Okay, you two. Put a hand in mine, and get ready to cast a spell."

Flicking her violet eyes up to the dark skies above, she twists a smile on her ivory face and twitches her very long pointed ears. "I think the storm is going to hit soon. So, let us keep it simple with a light orb spell. I will compare the energy efficiency between how you two cast spells."

Both Bach and Sotalia rest hand in one of Aristespha's. Closing her eyes briefly, Aristespha reopens them with a glowing violet light. She turns her head to Sotalia and stares down to her hand. "Go ahead, and cast."

Sotalia watches her hand and deftly gestures out very small motions with her fingers. In mere moments, an orb of light appears above her hand. As it hovers above her palm, Sotalia dons a prideful smirk and lifts a smug eyebrow. Aristespha grants a reserved, acknowledging nod. She shifts her attention to Bach and calmly explains. "For you, I want you to keep on casting that specific light orb spell of yours, until I tell you to stop."

Bach simply shrugs and blinks his eyes to blue glow. Stares down at his hand, a glowing orb manifests in a swift swirl of faint flow and floats above Bach's hand. He plucks the glowing orb away with his free hand and releases it in the air nearby. The process repeats for the second, third, forth, fifth, and sixth orbs. Sotalia slowly removes her hand from Aristespha's and crosses her arms to defend her pride. Bach continues to create the seventh, eight, ninth and tenth orbs. Squirming while resettling her crossed arms, Sotalia tilts her head indignantly and gawks with her mouth hanging open in confusion. Removing the eleventh orb from his hand, Bach blinks at the small swarm of prior light balls around him and searches for an opening space nearby. He squinting around at the lighting, shrugs, and flicks the orb in hand towards the tree line. He sends off the twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth orbs off roughly towards the tree line. One orb drifts over a low, short patch of bushes, and drops sharply behind out of sight. Sheer astonishment flushes away Sotalia's pride and indignation. With the faintest whisper strained to a higher point, she dramatically mouths to Aristespha. "Really?!"

Meeting Sotalia's shock, Aristespha slowly nods with a satisfied smile on her face. Bach readies for the sixteenth orb. Aristespha calls out quickly. "Stop there. Thank you. That is sufficient."

Bach glances around, blinks his eye back to a normal blue, and nods. Aristespha narrows her full focus upon Sotalia and hammers the point with a lower tone. "All he cast used the same amount of energy YOU used."

Tapping her long nailed fingers on her arms, Sotalia fights flits of discomfort and processes the demonstrated implications. Bach gazes up at the darkening skies as the lighter clouds retreat from the darker, heavier variety. He fans away most of the orbs nearby and snatches up one to wield. Aristespha's eyes dim back to normal, and she drops her hands to her sides. "I hope that was informative for the both of you."

She glances over to Bach and rests her stare on Sotalia. Briefly squinting her golden eyes at Aristespha, Sotalia releases an accepting sigh and nods a few times with an uncomfortable smile. "Yes. It was."

An eager grin cracks and her confident aura surges back up to the surface. "So? What about this energy transfer skill you are going to teach us?"

Aristespha spots a drifting light orb and gently coaxes it into her hand. "Let us go inside, first. It will take time to explain the basics, and I do not want to be interrupted by the rain."

Bach and Sotalia agree. Bach and Aristespha walk towards the house, using the light orbs to illuminate the way under the dimming light. Sotalia starts to step along, pivots, and snatches a drifting light ball nearby. Tagging behind the other two, she studies the light orb, fighting between her curiosity and practically using it for light. From the distance, a loud rumble of thunder rolls over the area and motivates the three to rush through a sliding glass door into the ranch style house.

As the field darkens and the stormy clouds completely coat the sky above, two figures rush across the tall grass. Drops of rain fall upon the area, and their march speeds up to a full charge. The soft patters of water surge into a pounding torrent that obscures the view of the wooden picnic table. Only the light of the orbs shines through the gloom and haze as they descend upon the wood plank table top. The two figures arrive around the blips of light. Balls congregate into the arms of the figures. Some light orbs disappear completely and a few dim underneath clothing. The two figures dart off back into the tree line, with dull specks of light tracing their sprint and journey into the forest.

The rain pelts the side of the sliding glass door, and soft patters resounds into the living area. Dretphi aims the remote at the television and flips through the wasteland of channels, only pausing briefly check for anything of value. With a sigh, she drops the remote onto the coffee table and sinks into the couch cushions. Cideeda slowly blinks her emerald green eyes, fending off a wave of drowsiness. She stretches out her arms and legs out, narrowing her distant stare in thought. Glancing over to Dretphi, Cideeda perks her brow and flicks her furry ears towards Dretphi. Noticing the attention, Dretphi narrows an expectant gaze. Cideeda simply nods and presents a sly, toothy grin. "I think it's time. I'll get the adapter cables, you get the television ready and clear the area."

Dretphi smirks confidently and springs up from the couch. Cideeda pulls herself off the couch and darts into the hallway. Seconds later, the faint sounds of shuffling and rummaging carry into the space from the archway leading into the hall. At the dining table, Aristespha, Bach, and Sotalia sit around on one end. Sebastian hovers overhead and splits his attention between Aristespha's lesson and Cideeda and Dretphi's new project. Sotalia concentrates with narrowing golden eyes and presses her open hand against Aristespha's. She contorts her face in genuine struggle, and her eyes faintly illuminate a golden light. Calmly observing Sotalia's antics, Aristespha keeps her hand in place. After tense, strained seconds, Sotalia carefully draws her hand away, and a small ball of magical energy emerges from Aristespha's palm. Pulling her hand further back, a grin of sheer accomplishment flashes onto her face. Her fingers curl around the energy ball, and she hoists the prize into the air, beaming proudly. "YES! Finally! Wow!"

Letting the tension leave herself, she calms down with a long exhale. "THAT was much harder than before. Holy shit, girl."

Aristespha smiles satisfied and glides her hand over to secure a mug of tea. "Hence the difference between a cooperative and an idle energy transfer. Your body and mind naturally want to avoid leaking magical energy everywhere. So, when you are not actively willing it, magical energy will tend to keep to established flow routes and avoid deviations. Also, established flow routes are typically the path of least resistance in comparison."

Lifting the mug up, she slips the hot, steaming brew. With a calm grace, she places it back down and continues her explanation. "There is another type of transfer. That is confrontational energy transfers. Those are the type made when the mind and body are on a full active defense. We will cover those another time. For now, you can practice the basics. If you need more of a challenge, you can use magical energy insulation techniques from basic spellcasting to put up a more active defense."

Behind Aristespha, Cideeda skips through the hallway archway and hauls a metal suitcase covered in game and gaming company stickers. Withdrawing her head from behind the walled mounted television, Dretphi nods at Cideeda and returns to her work behind the screen. Sotalia swings her intrigued gaze at Bach and radiates a superior arrogance through a cornered smile. "I'll have you know, I was top of my class in all my spellcasting courses."

Holding her open palm up towards Bach, she concentrates a golden stare upon. "I'll just use a number of those insulation tricks, and maybe a few of my own, to make it challenging to you."

Bach tilts his head to the side and meekly shrugs at Sotalia. "Umm... How about we just try a few of those cooperative energy pulls? Maybe a few idle ones? I mean, let's make sure we know what we are doing before making it needlessly difficult."

Sotalia narrows her incredulous gaze at Bach. Her smile morphs into a devious, amused grin. She provocatively stares, propping her chin on her hand, and giggles with a patronizing tone. "Aww. Are you too tired? Did those little light orbs run you out of energy today?"

She exaggerates a mocking sigh and rolls her golden eyes dismissively. "Well... If that's the case, I guess I understand..."

A faint disapproving growl rumbles up the back of Aristespha's throat, and she glares at Sotalia with a sharp frown. Just as she begins to open her mouth, Sebastian zips down next to her very long, pointed ear and whispers with a smile. "Wait. Look."

Blinking to awareness, Aristespha notices an odd, wry smirk hidden in the corner of Bach's mouth, away from Sotalia. Placing an open palm against Sotalia's, Bach smiles smugly. "Okay. I'll humor you."

Sotalia grins eagerly with a competitive glint in her ear. She rolls her shoulders in a stretch and settles into her seat ready. She focuses on her and Bach's hands. "Whenever you are ready. Don't hold back, because I want a challenge."

She closes her eyes and takes a long deep breath in. Narrowing a demanding stare at Bach, she growls with a hint of a laugh. "Surprise me."

Bach's smirk erupts to a wicked grin. "Okay. I'll surprise you."

Sotalia's eyes fly wide open at sudden, firm grasp of a hand on the back of her neck. She follows the hand back to Bach and starts to open her mouth. Flows of energy stir between her neck and Bach's hand. Her jaw opens midway through gritting her teeth and her lips twist in confusion. "THE FUCK-"

A cringe nearly closes one eye. Her head cocks to the side. Both shoulders tense up, and her surprise chills down the spine. She squirms in her seat, and her fingers claw up. Utter shock and childish disgust manifest into a shrill howl. "AIIIEEE!!!"

Bach swiftly removes his hand from the back of Sotalia's neck with a small orb of magical energy securely in his palm. Covering the back of her neck with her free hand, Sotalia flashes a death glare right through Bach, failing to maintain her composure between goofy shivers. "WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!"

Aristespha tightly secures her mouth with a hand and barely contains the snorts of laughter. Sebastian keeps quiet with the stiffest smile he can muster and avoids direct eye contact with Sotalia. Cideeda stares over towards the table and blinks confused, holding a game controller and its plug. Lifting her finger from the television's power button, Dretphi searches the dining table area and furrows her bewildered brow at the outburst. Grinning triumphantly, Bach displays the energy orb. "Well, your surprise, of course."

Sotalia's golden eyes flash with anger, in contrast to her awkwardly flush face. In the next moments, the rage subsides, and she settles to an amused smile. Bach's confidence degrades, and his grin decays a wary, uneasy smirk. Lightly laughing to herself, Sotalia sighs and tips her head up. "Well. To be fair, I DID ask for a surprise."

She rolls her eyes and shakes her head. "And, I did goad you. But, your master plan has one flaw."

Darting his eyes around his mind, Bach blinks bewildered and cocks his head searching for an explanation. He snaps his surprised gaze down. Sotalia deftly weaves her curling fingers between Bach's and presses her thick, long black nails into the back of his hand. She torques her hand forward and seizes Bach's full attention. "I'm the middle child between two sisters. I can take it and dish it out."

Leaning her face closer to Bach, she grins wide and chuckles darkly as a faint golden glow radiates from her stare. She points to the energy orb in Bach's other hand and gestures for its return, flexing her fingers. Bach grimaces at the annoying pain and grumbles against his pride. After deliberative seconds, he places the energy orb into Sotalia's awaiting hand. The power flows back into Sotalia's body, and she releases her grip of Bach. Aristespha rolls her eyes and shakes her head disapprovingly. "Okay. So. Are you two children done for the day?"

Settling back into her chair at the dining table, Sotalia nods simply with a content smile. "Yes, teacher."

Bach glances over while rubbing his hand. "Yeah. I'm good. No more surprises."

Aristespha props her arm on the table top and rests her chin upon her hand with a sigh. "Good. Now, I do have a question for you, Sotalia."

Curiously facing Aristespha, Sotalia pays attention. "Yes? What is it?"

An amused expression emerges upon Aristespha's ivory face, and she lifts her mug of tea close to her mouth. "So, did it feel like a bucket of ice water going down your back?"

Sotalia nods quickly and squirms in her chair at the thought. "YES! Oh gods! It felt like someone dumped everything in the ice maker down the back of my shirt."

Bach squints Sotalia and snorts with a snarl of the lip. "Oh, sort of like someone cast a freeze ray spell up your back?"

Opening her mouth, Sotalia halts, lifts an incredulous eyebrow at Bach, and pulls her mouth to a corner. "Gods, I hope you aren't holding a grudge over that. I honestly missed that time."

Bach rolls his blue eyes and shrugs. "Nah. But, I thought it might be a good point of comparison."

Sotalia returns to Aristespha with a quizzical expression. "Wait... How did YOU know it felt like ice water down your back?"

Aristespha finishes a long sip of her tea and smiles with a tinge of nostalgia. "Oh, it's something all the medical mage students would do to keep each other on our toes. If you got caught napping anywhere other than the break room, or were late to your shift because you were napping in the break room, you could expect a VERY rude wake up. Honestly, that sensation is almost better than coffee."

Placing her mug back down on the table, she gazes to Bach and Sotalia. "And, in emergency situations, that region is one of the easiest and accessible places to tap into the body's major magical energy flows. It was not uncommon for a medical mage to snag a student for energy when the situations got dire."

A stern, dark glare manifests, and her tone turns serious. "That said... I would recommend that you two stick to hands and arms for practice. You two are NOT medical mages, and neither of your energy control skills are good enough to casually play around with major energy flows like that."

A violet radiance cuts through the shadowy, cold stare from Aristespha. "Understand?"

Bach and Sotalia nod slowly, wide-eyed. Aristespha returns to a satisfied smile. "Very good."

A melodic, electronic tune sounds out from the television. Aristespha, Bach, Sebastian and Sotalia turn their attention towards the other side of the space. Cideeda and Dretphi sit comfortably on the couch with game controllers in hand. Upon the coffee table, the holoplayer projects a status screen and indicator lights blink upon adapters with cables running to the television and an old gaming console. An eager glint forms in Sotalia's stare at the machine, and she slides back in her chair. "Well, that's enough training today. We'll continue tomorrow."

She rushes over to the couch and perches upon a couch arm. "I call next!"

Bach turns around in his chair, bites his lip, and faces Aristespha with a whisper. "Hey, um... Sorry, if I went a little too far with Sotalia and trying to pull energy from the back of her neck and all."

Aristespha softly chuckles and shakes her head slightly with a soft tone. "Oh. Don't worry. You have far better energy control, and you wouldn't have done anything to harm her. It takes a surprising amount of effort to disrupt major flow like that."

Glancing over to Sotalia, Aristespha smiles smugly. "Also... Someone needed to put her ego in check, and you just happen to know the right way to do it."

Sebastian leans in closer to the conversation with a proud grin. "Also, I think you had every right to show her up, bro. She called you out. And, well, you delivered."

Bach nods calmly and exhales in relief. "Okay. Wanted to make sure I didn't do anything too stupid."

Snorting with an ethereal reverb, Sebastian winks at his brother. "Hell, no worse than standing out from cover, raving like a madman, and shooting a pistol at a rampaging combat robot."

Bach groans and partially buries his face into his palm. Aristespha gently pats Bach's shoulder. "No need to kick yourself. It did that more than enough."

Sebastian leans further, partially through the table, and gazes at Bach with a sincere smile. "And you helped save our asses. So, can't fault you too much."

He rights himself and watches a video game load up on the screen. Drifting towards the couch, he glances back. "Now come on, I can't play, so you'll need to defend the family honor."

Aristespha stands up from the table with her mug. Bach pushes his chair back and joins the gathering. Watching the title screen appear, he smiles in honest surprise. "Wow! Champions of Nexus. I haven't played this since school."

Crossing her arms with a slight grin, Aristespha nods. "Yes. We found an old warehouse, and, for some reason, there was a perfectly good system and cache of games."

Furrowing her brow, she wrestles her dissatisfaction on her gray and blue hinted face. "I have been TRYING to get back to what I was, back in my medical mage school days. Who did you normally play?"

Bach scratches the back of his neck and sheepishly admits. "Um. Ionis, actually."

Aristespha blinks and angles her head toward Bach with a trailing pivot of the body. "Ionis? Really? Gods... I could never figure out his power up chain, and his energy use is ridiculously hard to manage..."

While Bach watches the action on the screen, Aristespha blinks in thought and occasionally ponders with a glance at Bach.

In a small, nicely furnished bedroom, Samantha straightens her back while on the top of a bed. Squinting through the rain speckled window briefly, she repositions her laptop and gazes at her aetherphone nearby. Howard's voice resonates through the speakerphone. "How are our adventurers settling in? Any good moments for show?"

Samantha stacks another pillow onto the bed and settles herself on top and into the pile. "They're doing just fine, Howie. And, plenty of moments when moving in."

She rolls over closer to the aetherphone on the nightstand. "We got an hour-long clip alone of Chad, Tassilda, and Trakenthin in a yelling match at who would get the biggest room. The best part I think was seeing Mordoran and Deedri working together to sneak their stuff into two of the rooms off at the end of the house."

An intrigued trill colors Howard's voice through the speaker. "Ooo. That's a possibility I hadn't quite considered yet. Let's leave it alone for now and see if something sparks. Also, is the crew enjoying their house?"

Samantha smiles and types notes into her laptop. "Yes, we are! A really good vantage point, great reception with the wireless cameras, and plenty of room for us to stage."

Howard yawns as the creak of a bed frame echoes in the room on the other side of the call. "Excellent. Truthfully, it turned out to be much cheaper than the hotels. Anything else before I get some much needed sleep?"

A plotting grin grows upon Samantha's light face. She leans in very close to the aetherphone with a suggestive tone. "Yes. Quite. One of our cameras pointed to the forest, near the other group, caught Deedri sneaking off into the forest yesterday. Then today, Deedri and Tassilda went out together."

With a sudden squeak of the bed frame, covers fluttering sound out, and Howard's voice grows closer with an anticipating breath. "And?!"

Samantha bites her lip and seductively tenses her voice. "When the rain fell, Gerald recorded them running from the forest carrying some kind of magical artifacts. They played off needing to change in their rooms to the others, but they actually were studying the artifacts."

A giddy chirp peaks out of the speaker. "Keep me updated. Watch quietly for now."

Samantha grins deviously. "Will do, as always."