Episode 34

Within the side yard of the single story ranch style house, a faint breeze barely swings a steel plate target in the makeshift training field. Standing out in a clear, grassy area under the shade of a tree, Dretphi carefully lifts a long, broad, two-handed sword up. She readies herself, and performs a series of swings, cuts, and lunges. The drills play out slow, purposeful and allowing her body to experience the entire motion of the weapon. She mentally reviews every movement between the sword and herself, occasionally pausing thoughtfully with a misstep or adjustment. Many minutes pass, and she slows her training regime to a stop, lowering the blade down to rest down on the ground. Freeing a tense, stiff hand from the handle, she wipes the beading sweat off her tan forehead and leads blonde braids back past her ears and over her shoulders. She rolls her shoulders in a stretch, and leans her upper body out forward, back, and side to side, flexing herself free of workout tension. Gazing back down at the old two-handed sword, she rolls the blade. A beam of sunlight through the tree's shading canopy highlights the many nicks, scratches, chips, and dents across the old, inscribed metal. Underneath the scars of many battles, flashes of sun reflect out from the faint series of orderly, tiny grooves layered upon the blade.

A mixture of frustration and determination flushes Dretphi's face, and she tightens her grip upon the two-handed sword's handle with both hands. Hoisting it up, she points it out in front of her, angling upwards. Straightening her posture, she closes her steely gray eyes. With flits of contortions twisting her focused grimace, she stands still and silent, attention solely somewhere within herself. Seconds of body straining concentration later, a faint trickle of red glow flows within the many small channels upon the blade. The crimson energy travels from the handle up the blade, branching light up from the central pathways and pouring out on the dull edge of the battle-worn weapon. Dretphi breathes carefully, slowly, fully lifting and lowering her chest. The red magical energy graces the middle region of the sword, and progress wanes drastically. Years of untold damage upon the physical blade hinders the flows, often halting it completely at marred junctions. Dretphi strains her grimace, gritting her teeth, and curls her upper lip in sneering fits. Frustration pushes out in grumbles, and she winces sharply against new trickles of sweat. The magical flow stymies and deadlocks against the unyielding obstacles from age and battle. Her grip fluctuates between tensing and relaxing, the strain of effort clashing with the need for calm and focus. Bach's voice sounds out behind Dretphi, apologetically. "Hey! Um, Sorry for taking so long to get out here. Sotalia had a question-"

Cocking his head to the side, his tone down shifts to curiosity. "Uh... What are you doing?"

Springing her steely gray eyes wide open in surprise, Dretphi shudders away from her prior thoughts. Crashing back to awareness of her surroundings, her posture snaps rigidly straight, and the red flow upon the blade retreats back to the hilt. Wisps of stray energy vent from the edges of the sword, dissipating into a thin haze in the air. Within the awkward silence, Bach approaches cautiously, scrutinizing the blade carefully, and meets Dretphi's glance of fading surprise. "Is that a flow blade?"

Blinking off the hints of embarrassment lingering to her normal calm facade, Dretphi smiles slightly. "Oh. Yes. An old flow blade."

Bach steps closer to the side of the blade Dretphi holds up. Examining the weapon, a grin grows with his interest. "Wow! I didn't know you had one of these. Oh, man... It's been a while since I've seen one. I mean, the last time I remember seeing one, it was way back in school."

With excitement bolstering his smirk, he glances up to Dretphi. "And, the collection they had on display was locked, sealed, and guarded by some really humorless people. I've actually never been this close to one before."

Pride widens Dretphi's smile, and she loosens her grip on the handle, moving a hand to support the end of the blade. She presents it at level and shows off the sword. Bach inspects it with respectful restraint tempering eager intrigue, and Dretphi warms her smile. She rolls, rotates, and angles the sword following cues from Bach's attention. Seconds of investigation later, Bach nods and stands back with an impressed grin. "Now THAT is a pretty amazing thing to have. Just the way they are constructed and the materials used are so fascinating. THE example of a non-magical magical weapon."

Dretphi delightfully nods and gazes upon the battle scarred, two-handed sword. "It was my mother's first flow blade. Flow weapons are her favorites. Gifted this to me to practice with."

With a mischievous smirk, Bach lifts an inquisitive eyebrow at Dretphi. "Despite the wear and tear... I bet it still could do some serious damage when charged up."

He shifts his blue eyes over towards the thick steel metal targets off to the side, hanging and chained to supporting posts. "So... I mean... could you...?"

Eyeing the sword briefly, he glances expectantly to Dretphi with an encouraging grin. "If it's not too much to ask?"

Dretphi bites her lower lip, rests an embarrassed grimace upon the sword in her hand, and sighs sadly, pride faltering. "It... Is..."

Bach blinks blankly and awkwardly stumbles upon his thoughts into a sincerely apologetic tone. "Oh! Ah- Uh- Um... I'm sorry. I didn't know, and I apologize for bringing it up and-"

Dretphi secures her grip onto the sword, lowers it out of the way, and waves a hand at Bach, pausing his rambling. "NO. It is nothing bad. It is..."

With a self-reflective roll of her steely gray eyes, she groans out her frustration and wrestles with the words. "A personal... Deficiency... of Ability."

Spotting the cautious confusion upon Bach's face, she sighs into a weak smile facade, her tall stature shrinking slightly. "I have troubles flowing the blade."

Concern giving way, Bach nods and dons a supportive smile towards Dretphi. "OH! Okay. Huh. Yeah, hey, I actually might be able to help you there. I mean... If I'm not overstepping any boundaries or anything."

Dretphi perks up, eager, and reassuringly shakes her head. "You would not! I have not explored outside help before..."

A smirk cracks from the corner of Bach's mouth, and he lifts an examining brow. "Ah, proving something to yourself?"

Grumbling against her pride, Dretphi nods slowly, acknowledging the truth. Bach rocks his head sympathetically, shrugs his shoulders, and tugs at the corner of his mouth, glancing down at ground. "Yeah... I understand THAT. I may be able to help, but..."

Furrowing his brow, he grimaces awkwardly. "I, first, need to get an idea of how you actually use a flow blade."

He lifts his head back up and notices Dretphi presenting the sword handle first to him. with both hands, Bach carefully grabs hold of the two-handed sword and hoists up the mass of the blade. His body slightly teeters, sloppily finding some kind of balance, and Dretphi readies to catch him with a guarding hand. Bach tightly smiles, chuckles at himself, and steadies himself. Standing off to Bach's side, Dretphi demonstrates a proper stance for large sword wielding. Bach roughly mimics the posture and positioning of the arms. Dretphi quickly averts her gaze, forces a humored grin off her tan face, and observes Bach with a supportive, calm smile. Drawing in a long deep breath, Bach exhales slowly and closes his eyes. Moments pass in silence. A flow of red rises up the blade. Crimson energy branches throughout the tiny channels and ducts, and wicks out towards the edges of the blade. The magical energy reaches a quarter way up, the pace drags. The flow encounters different nicks, scratches, dents, and chips, each barrier visibly impeding. Bach furrows his brow, cocks his head to the side, and contorts his light tan face. Watching wide eyed, Dretphi sways between excitement and intrigue, and squints at the struggling threads of crimson light. The red flow retracts from the edges of the sword and retreats back down the finer pathways. After a minute, the flow returns back to the hilt, and Bach relaxes with a surprised flutter of his eyes. "Okay! Wow! That was NOT easy."

Pulling her head of platinum blonde braids back slightly, Dretphi blinks in honest shock. "YOU had DIFFICULTY?"

Bach nods, collecting his thoughts, and glances up toward Dretphi, eyeing the sword briefly. "OH GODS, yes! The wear and tear makes it tricky, but..."

He shakes his head and rolls the tension out of his shoulder. "DAMN. The channel material it has is NOT the easiest to get through. I mean, the resistance isn't the worst. BUT, the capacitance you have to overcome is SIGNIFICANT. It takes a lot of raw power to fill it up."

Loosening his grip of the sword, he shifts his hands, supports it by the flat of the blade, and offers it back to Dretphi. "Your mother certainly gave you a real challenge right there. I'm certain you can do it. But... Gods... That's like teaching someone to climb with a sheer a cliff face to start with."

A strong hand grips onto the handle of the sword, and Dretphi hoists the tip upwards and narrows her eyes at the upright blade briefly with a slight sneering frown. "That is a..."

Her steely gray eyes search her mind, she settles upon the specific term. "VERY... appropriate description of her teaching style."

Studying Dretphi's expression, Bach pivots slowly towards the open backyard field, surveys the forest line bordering, and cracks a smile. "Well, there's a few things that can be done."

He turns his head towards his shoulder at Dretphi and smirks genuinely impressed. "You've done a REALLY good on your own, especially with what you have been working with."

Dretphi blinks a moment, a hint of color in her cheeks. Scratching the back of his head of longer brown hair, Bach ponders out loud. "But... I think the first thing to do is to get you something that's actually approachable to train on."

Furrowing her brow, Dretphi gazes over at Bach and rests the blade flat on her shoulder. "What would that be?"

Bach glances back with an eager grin. "Oh, just a larger version of the small magical training focuses. A staff of sorts. They're sort of like magic flow puzzles and training tools that a lot of mages have to keep in practice."

A spark of excitement lights up Dretphi's eyes, and genuine interest fills her voice. "Can you create a staff?"

Pointing over to the forest, Bach rocks his head side to side, deliberating. "Well, I figured while we are doing laps, we could swing by the forest and look around for large tree branches. Those usually work pretty good."

Dretphi tilts her head to the side, puzzling, and lifts an eyebrow with a thought. "Does it need to be a branch?"

Bach shrugs his shoulders with his arms out to the side. "Well, no. Not really. So long as you can lay down some basic magically conductive material in the object and embed a few little magical augmentations, it'll work the same. But... I thought it'd feel a bit more personal using something unique. I mean I could use the broom in the hall closet, for all practical purposes."

Seconds later, a suspiciously sly smirk creeps up on Dretphi, and she grows a small grin, biting her lower lip. "Curious. Would Sotalia USE the broom to clean up after herself then?"

Opening his mouth, Bach lifts a finger up in response. His thoughts stall out the words. Closing his lips tightly, he gradually wags his finger up and down with his thoughts and entertains a reserved smile. "That... Hmm... Now, I'm tempted to actually do that."

His blue eyes meet Dretphi steely gray eyes, and he lifts an eyebrow with a mischievous grin. "So... I'll test the process out on the broom first. It has been awhile since I've made one after all. I mean, I wouldn't want to accidentally waste any choice materials we find."

Dretphi dons a tight, guilty smile, nodding in agreement. She steps over to the trunk of the shade tree, sheaths her two-handed flow sword, and leans it securely against the trunk. She signals Bach, and the two start jogging laps around the large backyard field, moving closer to the forest tree line.

From the high ceiling roof, bright sunlight glows through the frosted skylights and mixes with the illumination from rows of light fixtures, spanning the lengths of the support framework above. Between large, open areas littered with stalls packed full of merchandise beneath distracting advertisements, wide aisles of products and goods upon shelves link the spaces. Near the front of huge windows of the structure, long row points of sale stations flicker with idle status lights and too few employees. Customers of all kinds wander through the massive grocery market. A constant ambient music wafts around the background from above and frames the din from shopping activity below. With one hand, Sotalia pushes a wire frame shopping cart in front of her and thumbs through a scrolling list on her aetherphone. "Okay. We are looking for a VERY PARTICULAR brand of ice cream for Aristespha. She has it in bold letters on the list."

Bach and Dretphi each peek over either side of Sotalia's shoulders and study the picture on the display, an ice cream carton with fanciful Evuukian writing on it. Bach squints briefly and nods, lacking full confidence. "Okay... I'll see if I can find something that looks like it. To be honest, I can't even read Evuukian letters that well."

Perking her brow, Dretphi studies the image on Sotalia's phone. "What flavor is it?"

Bringing the phone close to her golden eyes, Sotalia takes her hand momentarily off the shopping cart handle and brushes her dark red hair out of her view. "Let's see... Coffee, green and black tea, dark chocolate... Swirled in a rich cream..."

She tilts her head to the side and cracks a sly smirk. "You know, I might have to get a carton for myself."

She guides the shopping cart around a corner into a long aisle of glass door freezer units. Down the cool aisle, a variety of frozen treats flood the icy shelves, prominently showcasing their contents to prospective buyers, colorful packaging enticing passersby. Small signs upon boom mounts on top of the freezer units display advertising bullet points in different languages, bright stickers highlighting the many specials. Near the other end of the aisle, a grath family stands around their loaded shopping cart. The two grath women stoically observe the pleads of a young grath boy and girl. The raven haired grath woman shakes her firm stare between the two, uttering a few words in grath, and glances to the other grath woman. With a simple confirming nod, the other woman resolutely agrees, shaking a few strands of chestnut hair forward, and addresses each child with a similar dialect of grath. The young girl with flowing black hair and hazel eyes gazes pitifully up towards both women. The boy with light brown hair and the similar hazel eyes glances over to the girl, ponders quietly a moment, and very nicely asks, blatantly begging in tone. Both women exchange stern glances. The dark haired woman crosses her arms, and the other places her hands on her hips. Both level their maternal stares upon the children, simultaneously shake their heads, and voice clear denial. Sotalia snickers quietly, and Dretphi cracks a humored smirk. Searching for an answer between the two of them, Bach whispers to both. "So, what's going on over there?"

Rolling her golden eyes with an amused smile, Sotalia surveys the nearby frozen treats through the freezer windows. "Oh, the kids are trying really hard to get their moms to buy something."

With a tight smile, Dretphi shakes her head slightly and scans another frosty refrigeration unit. "The dangers of venturing close to this aisle."

A grath man, carrying arms full of grocery items, rounds the corner, walking up to the two women and two children. The two mothers stare expectantly towards the grath man. The boy and girl spin around and beam up with brilliant hope and anticipation. The man blinks his hazel eyes, carefully places the cooking supplies from his arms into the cart, and awkwardly surveys the situation before him. Wandering his gaze between the mothers and the children, he furrows his brow and quietly assesses. Both children unleash a spree of pleas and latch onto the man's legs. Dretphi briefly glances over and returns her attention towards searching the frozen shelves, sneaking a bite of the lip under her reserved smile. "Unfortunate timing."

The grath man gazes down, between the children. Lifting his head up, he checks the stern expressions upon the two grath women. Each perk inquisitive eyebrows in return. The raven haired woman resets her crossed arms, and the hazelnut haired woman sways her hips, placing weight on her other foot. The grath father reluctantly sighs, gradually kneels down, and places a hand on a shoulder of each child. He explains calmly, sharing his attention between both, and presents a simple question. Both children go silent, glance over to their mothers, and return with honest shakes of their heads. The father shrugs, elaborates further, and gives an acknowledging nod to the mothers. Both women agree with a similar gesture. Grimacing faintly, the grath man watches the children lower their heads sadly and ponders to himself, his hazel eyes searching. Holding up a thought with a finger, he winks to the two grath women behind the children. Sotalia perks an intrigued eyebrow with a curious smile and lowers her voice towards Dretphi and Bach. "Oh. I think dad has an idea."

The father gets the attention of the two children and proposes a solution. The children's minds ponder the proposal, and both exchange wary, uncertain gazes between not so secretive whispers. Both mothers forcefully flatten amused smirks and present stoic fronts watching the children reservedly pivot around. Each summoning up their young composure, the boy and girl both gaze up to their mothers. The boy warily asks, and the girl waits in anticipation. The two women dramatically mull the question over, dragging out the silent debate, and a sly glint appears in their eyes. The raven-haired woman loosens her arms, leans forward to both children, and aims a judging stare at both. Stating her demand, the children fight to hide their cringes. The chestnut haired woman nods in total agreement, wags a point over to the kids, and states her own request with a firm tone. The children quietly process the terms, deliberating the pact's worth against the costs during grimaces and sighs. Seconds later, both nod resolutely to each other and determinedly announce their acceptance. The parents gesture the children away, down the aisle. Rushing down in glee past a few freezers, the boy and girl nearly skid to stop and excitedly gawk at the selection of frozen treats. With the children debating their options, the grath mothers and father share stifled snickers and humored chuckles, whispering satisfied. Sotalia grits her teeth briefly in amusement and shuffles down the aisle, checking another freezer unit. "Hmm. I don't know. Cleaning up the yard would have been a deal breaker for me. Sounds like a lot of work for just one box."

Shrugging her shoulders, Dretphi opens a windowed door and reaches inside. "Depends on the yard."

She picks up a box of frozen fruit ice cream cups and shows it quietly to Sotalia, hints of guilty pleasure sneaking out on her tan face. With a glance, Sotalia shakes her head with a sly smile. "Well, I'm certainly not going to object."

Kneeling down, Bach levels his head towards a row of frozen products and squints at the selection. He gazes up towards Sotalia. "Okay, I think I found the brand over here. What did that box look like again?"

Sotalia steps over, squats down, and taps a long, black nail on the glass. "There it is."

Cracking a smile, she narrows her gaze at Bach. "We really need to teach you some basic Evuukian and a few other languages."

Dretphi eyes Bach with a lift of an eyebrow and neutral expression. "Grath would be useful."

The children finally cease their discussion, agree upon the one item, and retrieve it from the freezer. Hurrying over, they excitedly present their choice to their awaiting parents. The mothers and father inspect the item. All permit it into the cart and usher the children quickly away from aisle's cool influence. Bach stands up, stepping clear of the opening door, and Sotalia rummages for a carton inside. Walking back to the shopping cart with a sigh, he ambivalently shrugs. "I know I should learn more languages. BUT, you have to understand. I BARELY passed every language class I took..."

Averting his face away from Dretphi and Sotalia, he grits his teeth briefly. "And, I REALLY TRIED."

Bach glances over his shoulder towards the departing grath family clearing out of view and returns his attention back to Sotalia and Dretphi. "I mean, the most I ever retained was bits and pieces of history and culture. Even then, there's still things I don't quite know. For example, is there any standard structure with Grath family houses? I never found anything official."

Dretphi eases a few stray platinum blonde braids over her shoulder and pulls her mouth to a side with a slow shake of the head. "Many tried to implement structure in early practice. No structure was agreed upon. No official structure since."

Watching Sotalia place the evuukian labeled carton of ice cream into the cart, Bach quizzically gazes over to Dretphi. "So, pretty much whatever the members of that house decide?"

Dretphi nods with a slight smile. "Houses are for flexibility. My house, Veranattin, formed between my birth mother. My birth father. My two house fathers. They served together in the military. Adventured for years. Never felt good about separating."

Sotalia grips onto the handle bar of the cart and pushes it forward down the aisle. "I always thought that was a really nice reason to stay together. You share your lives for that long and gone through so much, why stop?"

A vague twist of Dretphi's mouth that settles into a small, awkward grin, and she rolls her steely gray eyes and sighs out tinges of sarcasm. "My mother thought my house fathers would starve to death without clean clothes if they did not continue together."

Noticing Bach's blinks of thought, she tilts her head to the side and gradually shrugs the shoulders. "They concurred. A doctor. An engineer. Both intelligent, excellent fathers..."

She furrows her brow and grimaces upon the choice of words. "Unfortunately... Both require domestic guidance?"

Sotalia snorts with a smirk as she scrolls through a list mixed with pictures on her aetherphone. "Given the stories I've heard from you, that's a really nice way to put it."

Bach pulls a corner smile and quirks his brow at Dretphi. "Yeah, I remember you telling about how you nearly stabbed your house father with a sword, because he didn't listen to your birth father's warning to get back from the training area."

Dretphi sighs out some stale embarrassment and trails to a grumble. She grimaces, closing her eyes. "Such traits have presented themselves in my two brothers. Occasionally. Thankfully."

The shopping cart rolls out into one of the wide, main walkways, perpendicular to the aisle, and Sotalia turns to the right. Spotting an item on the phone list, she shows the screen to Dretphi. "I think that might be on the other side of the market."

Dretphi squints her eyes briefly and pivots around, facing down the long run, and scans the aisle signs ahead. "Believe that is correct. Want to check the vendors in the market. See which ingredients I can get fresh."

Gazing between Bach and Sotalia, she rests her hands on her hips. "Meet up near the checkout?"

Sotalia nods and drives the cart forward with a spark of determination. "Sounds good, girl. We'll try to finish the rest up quick."

With a brief wave, Dretphi departs, her pace hinting excitement. Watching Dretphi move quickly away, Bach realizes the growing distance between himself and the shopping cart and speeds over to keep up with Sotalia.

In the main walkway of the large grocery store, Deedri walks next to Tassilda pushing the shopping cart. She checks over the contents and idly bites a claw tip in thought, nodding slowly. "I think that's almost everything. I think a few cans of different vegetables is all that's left on the list."

Sliding her auburn eyes over towards Tassilda, her furry, tufted ears droop slightly. "And... Well, the things that Veevi wanted."

Tassilda removes her stare slowly from an advertisement display and indirectly glares towards Deedri, narrowing her light blue on black eyes and furrowing her brow incredulously. Sighing with the hint of a growl, she remains facing forward, pushing the shopping cart along. "If THAT miserable wretch of a creature wanted her pastries and sweets, she could have been dropped off with us. Instead, she's going with Chad on some errand he failed to tell us about."

She quirks her brow and flicks her eyes over to Deedri with a snide smirk framing her commentary. "If I had my guess, it would be the great quest to find the trashiest alley to explore themselves in. Her native environment, something that is most comfortable for her."

Deedri tries in vain to maintain a respectful smile. It quickly crumbles to an awkward smirk. A long sigh escapes her lungs, and she faces forward, averting her eyes away momentarily. "Well, I still think we should get what she requested. Maybe she'll be more cooperative... with a good faith... gesture?"

Catching a glimpse of the unmoved expression upon Tassilda, Deedri's tuft-tipped ears droop to the sides of her shoulders, and she stares ahead in defeat. "Oh well. I guess it's for the best then. She asked for a lot of really sugary and fat heavy things. Even if they are the light and diet versions, I don't think it really makes that much of a difference. Especially, when you eat so many of them."

Flicking up her gray brow in mild surprise, Tassilda's interest piques sharply, and a devious grin creeps out from the corner of her mouth. "REALLY? Well, in THAT case, I think a bit of goodwill MAY actually be in order. I wonder how the packaging differs between the regular versions and light versions? They may be labeled ambiguously. Mix ups do happen."

Lifting her head up, she reads an overhead sign and turns the shopping cart down the next aisle. She snaps her full attention upon the nearby shelves of canned goods. "Okay. What exactly did we need down this row, again?"

Stepping into the mouth of the aisle from the main walkway, Deedri watches Tassilda kneel down, examining an tall array of large, stacked cans. Flicking her fluffy tail, she wanders her idle stare down the aisle, searching all the way towards the other end of the shelving row. "Um, a few cans of carrots, corn, peas, and-"

Sentence trailing off, her auburn eyes spring wide open, jaw drops, and tail fur frays out. Blinking in surprise, Bach momentarily grits his teeth, locating Deedri at the opposing end of the aisle. He notices a pair of familiar, swirling horns cresting above the top handle of the loaded shopping cart, recognizes the emin woman behind attached to those horns. Bach and Deedri exchange awkward nervous stares. Unaware of her distant surroundings, Sotalia's attention remains upon a selection of canned vegetables next to her entrance of the aisle. Bach cringes towards Sotalia, and Deedri grimaces towards Tassilda. Both search frantically for a solution, silently exchanging tense, uneasy glances. Eyes dart around, and heads search the area, disaster looming and counting down.

Blinking when a thought hits the front of his mind, Bach points to Sotalia, swings a finger point out behind him, and nods with a thumbs up. Deedri shortly rocks her head affirmatively. Gesturing towards the cart, she pantomimes moving it with her hands and waves a hand in front of her eyes, tilting her head down to Tassilda. Bach quietly raises two thumbs up and focuses upon Sotalia. Deedri watches Tassilda cautiously, sliding around to the front shopping cart. Gently gripping the front lip of the cart's large, wire-frame basket, she slowly maneuvers the end and further obscures the crouched Tassilda from view. With a final inspection, Deedri positions herself and blocks line of sight, facing away from the distant end of the aisle. Bach steps out into the wide, perpendicular walkway, desperately searching the area. A hope of relief sparks in his face, and he spots Dretphi a number of aisles away contentedly carrying a few wrapped bundles. He aims his voice at Sotalia with a faint veneer of concern coloring his tone. "Oh, hey! It's Dretphi. Huh. Oh, I think she's trying to wave us to come over."

Lifting her head away from the product filled shelf, Sotalia spins herself around and walks out into the wide pathway. Finding Dretphi walking along, she chuckles to herself. "Well, looks like she found plenty. We better get the cart over to her, arms are looking full."

Bach weaves around Sotalia, firmly grasps hold of the cart, and motions Sotalia politely in the direction of Dretphi. "Well, after you. I'll push the cart for bit."

A sly smile graces Sotalia, and she graciously accepts the gesture with a small bow. Strolling forward out in lead towards Dretphi, she draws her dark red hair over her swept back horns and fans it back past her shoulders, a hip sway in each step. Bach turns his head down the aisle and directs a louder whisper towards Deedri. "Thank you."

Deedri's tufted ears flick back forward, and she hoists her hand up over her shoulder, revealing a thumbs up. She watches over Tassilda, blocking line of sight. Sotalia's playfully mocking voice calls out from the distance to Bach. "Well? Do you need my help to push it along? Hurry up."

Snapping his head forward, Bach shoves the shopping cart into motion. With the wheels coasting along, he fishes his aetherphone out of his pants pocket and struggles through menus. After a few seconds, he manages to stumble out a message and sends it. Glancing down at her shorts pocket, Dretphi balances her load of packages upon a single arm effortlessly and works her aetherphone out into view. Her steely gray eyes widen briefly, and she swiftly returns her phone to her pocket. With a smile, she locates Sotalia and waves happily at both Bach and Sotalia.

Deedri glances over her shoulder, gradually guiding the cart back into its original position. Mere moments later, Tassilda stands up with a few cans of vegetables in her hands. Grasping onto the cart handle, she pushes forward and spots mixed vegetables at the other end of the aisle. "Gods. I have never understood the logic behind how they arrange stock in these places. They must scatter everything on purpose to keep you in here for as long as possible."

Following along the side of Tassilda, Deedri eases out a long, quiet exhale of relief.

The garage door on the ranch style house rattles into motion and parts away from the concrete slab. The large, wide sections of the door follow along the tracks on both sides of the frame, hinging at the crest of the track. Outdoor light spreads throughout the garage, shining upon the common household cleaners and domestic tools upon shelves lining the wall. The daylight glow reflects off the dull, worn metal housing of the large plasma particle cannon and the scarred barrels of the minigun resting upon the long workbench. From each weapon, partially disassembled robotic mountings and electronic connections lay out on the wooden tabletop. In the corner of the garage, a golden magical energy barrier with rough edges faintly shimmers.

Bach kneels down and inspects the engine of his sidecar motorcycle, wiping dust and light dirt off with a rag. With a satisfied nod, he stands back up and admires the machine before him. Brushing off his armored duster, he adjusts his vest and settles his feet in his plated boots. With an eager grin, he eyes the helmet upon the motorcycle seat. Sebastian's ethereal form phases through the kitchen door, and he searches the area quickly. Snapping his gaze to Bach, he coasts over to his brother's side. "Hey, bro! What are you getting into?"

Bach glances over to this brother and shrugs nonchalantly. "Oh. Uh... I thought about riding around the back roads in the area. It seemed like a nice day to do it, and Aristespha didn't seem to have much for me to do today training wise."

Rolling his eyes towards the motorcycle with a chuckle, he shakes his head. "And honestly, brother, I'm curious if the thing is riding right. Haven't had a chance really to check it over in the last two months."

Sebastian nods in thought and drifts his attention inwards. Craning his head around to Sebastian, Bach reads his brother's mannerisms and puzzles during the wait. Sebastian's focus returns, and he meets the expectant gaze from Bach with a hopeful smirk. "You know... That gives me an idea! Bro, I need a favor from you."

Bach slowly nods his head and narrows his eyes, pulling a corner of his mouth along with the hesitant inflection in his tone. "Okay... What ever would THAT be?"

A pleading tinge colors Sebastian's ethereal sigh. "Would you let Aristespha ride along when you go out?"

Many confused blinks later, Bach cocks his head to the side and nods simply, confusion furrowing his brow. "Uh... Sure? I mean, I've got no problems with that. It's not going to be exciting or anything. Really. I'm just driving by scenery to the fuel station and taking the long way back I mapped out. Whole lot of nothing."

Sebastian smiles wide and bows his head forward in relief. "PERFECT. That's what she needs right now. Just something to take her away from her own thoughts for an hour or two would be perfect. Really, bro."

Squinting at Sebastian, Bach scours his brother's expression for more information. Sebastian frowns, tugging the corner of his mouth, and sighs to an explanation. "Okay. Listen. She’s been obsessing over the whole Noxian, Orth Ridge, and Grand Library situation the last few days. Normally, she's really good about pacing herself with heavy stuff, but... THIS... This stuff hit a bit too close to home for her."

Hints of frustration snarls Bach's upper lip, and he grumbles with vague sympathy. "Plus our... Neighbors... haven't exactly made themselves easy to ignore."

With a long groan, Sebastian rolls his translucent blue eyes and rubs his ethereal forehead with his hand. "No shit, bro. I've gotten pretty good at understanding evuukian, but there were things said on that phone call to the guild office that I don't think I have the capacity to fully understand."

Donning an agreeable smile, Bach motions towards the door leading to the kitchen. "Well, you should probably check with her to see if she even wants to go."

A sly grin parts Sebastian's mouth, and he floats back towards the exit. "Oh, I can convince her, bro. I have my ways."

Sebastian phases through the kitchen door into the house, and Bach searches around his mind for the context. Giving up on the venture, he shrugs and pivots towards the sidecar motorcycle. Stepping around the vehicle, he leans over, reaches inside the sidecar, and rummages around. Reaching up to the very front, he grabs hold of an object and pulls his arm out, revealing another helmet. He carefully inspects the riding helm, checks the straps, and quells some embarrassment, brushing off a layer of dust from the outer shell. A few minutes later, the door to the garage opens and an unamused, casually clothed Aristespha exits from the kitchen, moving down the few steps to the garage floor. Sebastian hovers close to her side, and she flashes a sharply narrowed glare at him. Sebastian weathers the visual onslaught firm and stern. The couple stares in deadlock for over a minute. Aristespha closes her violet eyes, sighs deeply, and softens her apparent mood drastically. "Okay... I agree, Sebastian. Maybe a distraction would help."

Sebastian smiles lovingly to Aristespha and shrugs nonchalantly. "You know Cideeda, Dretphi, and Sotalia will keep the sword safe."

Leaning close, he squints with a hint of accusation. "And TURN OFF your phone, dear. Otherwise, you'll just obsess over stuff through it. We'll call Bach if we need to call you."

Tensing her shoulders, Aristespha flicks up a brief snarl. Drawing out her phone from her pants pocket, she exhales her irritation, holding down the power button. The device shuts down, and she nods in agreement. "Fine. I promise I will not turn it on before I get back, dear."

Granting a single proud nod, Sebastian motions towards an awaiting Bach. Aristespha follows the gesture and gazes upon the riding helmet resting upon Bach's hands. Bach smiles with blatant uncertainty. "Honestly, I got this helmet in hopes that someone else would ride with me someday... A long time ago. I mean, it should still be good."

He turns the riding helm over and inspects the interior. "And, I think it might have ear adjustments, but I'm not sure. Uh... BUT, I might be able to-"

A genuine smile graces Aristespha's ivory face, watching Bach ramble through a feasible process to accommodate her. Glancing over to Sebastian with a humored grin, she returns her attention to Bach. "I am certain it will work fine for me."

Bach blinks back to awareness, puzzling. Guiding her fingers through her long, silvery blue hair, Aristespha splits the strands into a bundle over each shoulder, lifts up both around the front of each ear, and carefully envelops the long tips in a protective, concealing layer of silvery blue. A quick, loose braid secures the fashion. Aristespha picks up the helmet, adjusts the straps, and slides it on without trouble. She gracefully walks over to the vehicle and hops into the sidecar. "Well? I'm ready."

Late afternoon light casts modest shadows from the trees arching over the paved two lane road. The rolling green hills smoothly pen in the vast stretches of farmland upon flatter fields, and the creeks in rocky beds break up the landscape monotony. Bach casually guides the motorcycle along the gentle curves and long inclines. He cruises through the shaded tunnels of spring canopy, rolls carefully over old bridges crossing peaceful rivers, and slows through the sparse, nearly forgotten intersections. Along the winding route, Aristespha's gaze occasionally fixates upon something of interest. Noticing the shift in weight, Bach gradually slows the pace and eases the vehicle closer to that side of the lane. Through the vacant unmarked roads, both take turns pointing out old architecture, random animals, and other curious sightings along the way. The shadows grow longer, the sun edging closer to the horizon.

Upon a long, straight stretch of road, Aristespha firmly pats Bach's side and directs his attention out to a section of the roadway shoulder. Signaling Bach to stop, she points out a location ahead, across from the target. Bach nods, eases off the throttle, and brakes to a halt, parking the motorcycle on the shoulder. The engine shuts off, and Bach peers out into the forest on the other side of the road. "Okay. So, what are we stopping for?"

Aristespha twists around and hoists herself up in the sidecar, and scans the area. "I thought I saw a protellow over in this-"

Her violet eyes spring open, and she smirks eagerly. "There it is!"

She excitedly circles her finger out towards the massive fallen plant stalk laying in the woods. "Sotalia mentioned the girl at the reagent shop had heard about protellows in the area. I think it was something about one falling on a car?"

Bach briefly squints into the distance, lifts his visor up, and scours through the layers of forest. "Huh. I think there's a few more in there. But, I can't quite make them out from here."

Settling back into her seat, Aristespha glances down over the side, and spots a partially eaten protellow seed in the mix of road grit. Sweeping her arm down, she quickly snatches it off the rock speckled dirt and holds it up for inspection. An eager grin grows across her face, and she pulls out her aetherphone from her pants pocket. She glances at the lifeless screen of the phone, lowers her finger to the power button, and freezes abruptly. With a careful exhale, she reminds herself under her breath, places the phone back in her pocket, and humbly requests. "Could you check where we are? There are probably more protellows in the area that we can look for. I would love to make note of this place."

Pulling his attention away from the treeline, Bach pulls his aetherphone out. He taps though menus and a map loads up on the screen. "Okay... It's still narrowing the fix. Let's see. We took that turn… And have passed that one access road, but haven't made our next right. Huh, close to the house, actually."

Aristespha's interest piques, and she lifts her head up, peeking up at Bach's phone. "Really? Let me see."

A flash of horror splashes over Bach's face, and memory recognizes an important detail of the area. His blue eyes focus upon a particular point on the map, the very existence dictating the next right on the charted route. "U-um- I'll mark it on the map for you. It's, uh, going to be dark soon, and we should really get going-"

Suspicion drives Aristespha, and she hoists herself up from the sidecar. From a better viewing angle of Bach's phone, her violet eyes immediately notice the route back and the unusual semicircle detour. She gradually lowers herself back into her seat and points ahead with a stern stare to Bach. "YES. It will be dark soon. Hence, we should take the most direct route home. We should skip the right turn."

Moments of uneasy pondering later, a mix of curiosity and hesitance guides Bach's nod once, staring blankly ahead. He flips a handlebar mounted switch on, drops his foot hard on the kick starter, and hits the throttle. The engine rumbles to life. Holding a finger up to Aristespha, his eyes glow blue. He lowers both his hands down each side of the motorcycle just above exhaust. Flows of blue energy spill over the exhaust piping and radiate up the muffler and manifold. The constant putter of combustion disappears from the surrounding din, allowing natural ambience to reign once more. Aristespha smiles intrigued and curiously eyes up Bach. Sighing amused with a shake of the head, Bach grasps hold of the handlebars again. "I'll just say... THAT spell exists because of my brother."

The motorcycle shifts into gear and rolls up to speed. Minutes later, the vehicle crests over a small hill, and a particular two-story house appears into view, down the street. Aristespha's eyes flicker violet, and she leans forward, meticulously scanning the yard in front of the house. A devious grin creeps ear to ear, and an evil glint sparkles in her eyes. Turning her head slightly, she directs her voice to Bach. "Stop in front of the driveway behind the black SUV. There is something I have to do."

Bach grumbles uneasily and drives the stealthy sidecar cycle closer to the two-story house. "Oh, gods dammit..."

Eyes flashing violet, Aristespha gestures out an incantation swiftly and weaves flows of magic together between her hands. Coasting the motorcycle near silently to target, Bach glances over to Aristespha. "Okay... What's the next part of the plan-"

Blinking in surprise, he leans over closer to Aristespha. "The fuck is that?!"

He gawks bewildered at the four centimeter diameter, swirling rainbow colored orb cradled in Aristespha's palm. A blue flash fills Bach's eyes, and he studies the magical ball. Aristespha proceeds with the next few gestures and incantations. Finishing off the last part, Aristespha swiftly scouts the vicinity. Launching out of the sidecar, she rushes up to the back of the black sports utility vehicle and carefully pokes the rainbow orb up a tailpipe. Checking for activity from the house, she bolts away, jumps back into her sidecar seat, and throws her arm forward. "GO!"

Gritting his teeth, Bach cranks the throttle hard and steers the lurching motorcycle down the street. Some distance later, he calls out. "Okay! What the fuck was that spell?!"

Along a straight stretch of road, he glances over long enough to narrow his eyes at Aristespha. "And, what the fuck was I just an accessory to?!"

With a sinister grin, Aristespha eases back into the sidecar seat and relaxes, waving reassuring to Bach. "OH. Don't worry. It doesn't damage anything."

Bach groans loudly and furrows his irritated brow. "Well! That's a good start. So, what does it do?"

A sinister chuckle escapes Aristespha, and she shakes her head, smirking. "Oh, you will see. We might get lucky, and see it on tomorrow night's episode! This is one of my favorites from Nash."

This fails to dismiss the unease within Bach.