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 A Search for Answers (Arty)

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Scion

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PostSubject: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Wed Jul 03, 2013 2:07 am

“Package for you, sir.”

Conrad Streiber, singer, guitarist, pianist, and self-styled music master of the Dresden underground was leaving his psychiatrist's office after a very, very strange visit, when the eleven-year-old kid shoved the envelope into his face. “Danke,” Conrad said, distractedly as he took it. What the hell is this? he thought to himself, wondering if it could be connected with the previous day's events. As he thought to himself, he noticed the kid hadn't left. He sighed, dug in his pocket for a 2-euro coin, and tossed it to the kid before walking away down the street.

He opened the envelope while walking toward the practice space leased by fellow Geistweissager member Heinrich. Inside he found an intercontinental travel voucher, a folded letter, and a roughly teardrop-shaped flake of some strange, rigid red material. Before considering the odd additions to the envelope, he turned into an alleyway to read the letter:

I do not know your name, only your face, and of the power you wield. I do not know how much you understand, but I do know that you have questions, and I have answers. Come to Karakura Town, and my employee will find you, and lead you to me. The scale is your pass. No harm shall come to you, and hopefully you will find what you need here.

J


“Well that was helpful,” he said to himself. He dug through the envelope again, and pulled out the travel voucher. It included a one-way open-departure plane ticket to Tokyo and a pass-card for a maglev to the Niigata Prefecture station. No information on this Karakura mentioned in the letter. The red scale (now correctly identified as such) went into his jeans pocket, and the papers into his jacket. Then, he continued on to the meeting with Gestweissager.

- - - -

Two days later, Conrad debarked the train at Higashi-ku, as per the instructions in the travel papers. Also per the instructions, he had temporarily taken back the red scale currently being used by Heinrich as a truly excellent guitar pick. Not in the instructions was the fact that he had brought his band with him.

“So, how do we get to Karakura anyway?” asked Josef, the drummer. “We're going to be late for the festival!” Conrad had used the lure of a genuine Japanese music festival he had found during research to get his bandmates to join him in Japan, to 'sample some ethnic sound', on the proviso that the next ethnic sound research trip was Rio de Janiero, which hurt no one's feelings. Still, Karakura was said to be a great place for the Japanese music scene, so it fit. The other members of Geistweissager did know Conrad had ulterior motives for visiting Japan, but they left him be about it largely. They looked around the station for a bit, until they found a dour-looking man in a suit and sunglasses holding a sign saying 'KARAKURA'.

“Conrad Streiber?” the man in the suit asked the group. His accent was strange-sounding- British maybe? Conrad thought.

“Yes, I'm Streiber. Are you our ride?” asked Conrad. He held up the red scale.

“I am. Come with me, please,” the driver said in English. American English at that, explaining the accent. Conrad marveled at the fact that he was a German touring Japan, and had communicated about a third of his trip in English already.

So, within three hours, Conrad was standing in front of a very dingy door in a very dingy part of town, having abandoned his friends in the town square with promises to return later. The driver had dropped him off in front of this building, which admittedly, for a dojo run by a super-powerful demon killer, was pretty unimpressive. But, appearances are deceiving at the best of times, as he had recently discovered. So, as instructed, he knocked three times and entered.
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Wed Jul 03, 2013 10:55 pm

Three Days Before

James sat in the back of the bar watching the young man on stage belt his heart out on the microphone, honestly this German boy had some talent in the music department, but that wasn't the reason he was in the bar that evening. He had received a call from one of his oldest friends still alive about a boy that had a powerful feeling around his person, so far this woman was batting a thousand when it came to judging a humans' potential for power. Again though, one person wasn't enough to normally drag the old dragon so far from his territory, it was the way the old woman had described the power radiating from him that impressed him.

His power is strange- it's constantly in a state of flux, like a flame in the wind. There's direction to it, like it follows his thoughts, but he has little control of the power he has, and no knowledge of what he's capable of. His power is under just enough rein to keep him from hurting himself, and that can change in a second. James remembered the phone call he had received late one evening as he sat in his study looking over the maps he had drawn in the early days of his exile. To the best of his knowledge he had awoken somewhere in modern day Wales, but it didn't matter at the moment as he walked back to his desk and sat down in a large wing back chair and pulled up his computer. Quickly he arranged for a few things. First an Open-ended ticket leaving from Dresdon to Japan as well as type up a short letter explaining as much as he dared to this young stranger.

But the screaming of the crowd suddenly brought the old dragon back to reality as he had to fight his instinct to come out swinging. He could feel the young singer's power, the old woman was right he did certainly have power, but no idea how to properly control it. Walking up to the bar he motioned for the kid behind the bar, “You know that kid singing up there, like where he is staying?”

“Yeah him and his band are renting the small loft above the bar for the weekend, why you a promoter?” The kid grinned, “Because if you are I have-.”

James cut him off, “No, I am not a promoter, I am a teacher.” Reaching into his pocket James pulled out an envelope and handed it to the kid. “Make sure he gets this and its still sealed when he does.” To give the kid a little incentive James lightly carved a small trench in the bar. “If he doesn't I promise you I can hunt you and your family down; trust me I am the wrong person to cross.” Finally James reached in his pocket and pulled out a wad of euro's “If you can promise me what I've asked then this is all yours.”

The kid nodded and took the bills without question his face white as snow, “Yes...yes sir.”

“Thank you.” James got up then suddenly remembered, “Also you didn't see my face if anyone asks.” With that said James would just seem to vanish from the kids sight as he used shukuchi to leave the bar in an instant, when he was sure he was far enough away from civilization he let out a heavy sight as he let his every present anger roll over him. James grinned as he felt his wings spring forward from his back and his tail unwrap from around his waist. Bending his knees he propelled himself upwards and took to the sky to enjoy the flight home the old fashion way.



Present
James stood at the front of a small class of teens in his dojo his red eyes watched them all as they sparred vigorously with their partners. He gave comments and advice when he saw them do something foolish or wrong “Fully extend your kick when you attack, you are losing most of your momentum when you don't....Block with both arms crossed to catch the attack in the center...Stay light on your feet, all of you look like stone pillars if you can't dodge attacks you will end up a punching bag.” When he heard the door open and saw the young man from the club walk in James smiled and motioned for him to come in.

Holding up his hands to get his students attention James smiled, “You are all progressing very well; for the next week I want you to all practice moving on your toes instead of your entire foot. The best way to accomplish this is running up and down stairs. Once you get the hang of the feel of what its like practice moving like that throughout the day, but do not push yourselves so hard that you hurt yourself.” James smiled and dismissed his class then motioned for the young man to follow him back to his office.

Sitting on his desk James faced the young German, “It's not everyday I have a foreigner come to my dojo, to what do I owe this honor? Are you hear to challenge me or is there something else you want?”
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Thu Jul 04, 2013 2:17 am

“Antworten,” Conrad answered in German, just out of pique. Answers. He showed the scale from the letter to the tall, thin man with red eyes and shaggy brown hair. “This is my pass, and you know my face. I'm not here to make trouble,” he said as he put the scale back in his pocket. “I just want to know what is happening to me.”

The red-eyed man leaned back. “Okay then,” he said. “Ask away.”

Conrad stopped for a moment, confused. One minute he threatens me, the next he just sits back and waits for me. This guy is not normal. And as he thought, he he felt something, at the back of his mind. It felt like a wolf's gaze, like walking into a den of lions. He felt like prey, and the predator was this man. Conrad had never felt anything like it. He shivered.

“Well, in order,” Conrad said, shaking off his discomfort, “What is your name? How did you find me? What is this place?” Conrad indicated the dojo “And what,” Conrad held up his right hand, the large silver ring beginning to glow with faint bluish light, “is this?!” He swung his arm outward, and a large curved knife, shaped like a scimitar, appeared in his hand, the blue glow expanding into a faint sheath of blue fire, like alcohol flames. “Ich drohe Sie nicht,” he said- I am not threatening you. “I don't think I could hurt you with it if I tried.” Conrad was still feeling that strange primal fear. “I just want to know why I have it.”
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Thu Jul 04, 2013 2:47 am

James crossed his arms as he watched the young man; when he shivered James chuckled a bit. The boy has enough of an awareness to feel my power, but he still has the same reaction as a mortal would have to my presence. When the young man asked for answers the old dragon stayed silent as he listened to his list of demands, he didn't even bat an eye when the knife appeared in front of him. “Well your first question is easy; who am I? I am a very old man that has seen much in his long life or perhaps you were hoping for a name.” James smirked a bit, “I could tell you my name was James or even Jacob, but they would both be a lie my real name is long forgotten by an old mind.

“Now as for your second question, much easier to answer: I got a friend that noticed your presence on a spiritual level. The fact is you're power is fluxing unconsciously every time you get up on stage and sing; power is keyed to your emotion and artists like yourself rely on that to make their art meaningful.” James grinned holding his arms up in a gesture around his office, “This place in particular is my office, now the building is a little side business I own...this is my dojo a place for kids both gifted and normal to come and learn.”

The next question was going to be a bit more difficult as he looked at the knife with an experienced eye. “Well I am not an expert in the matter, but I would certainly call that a knife...a little long for my taste, but a knife none the less.” James smirked, he was testing the boy already, was he patient enough to play this game or would his anger get the best of him?

“So Conrad, did I answer your questions?” James smirked as he sat on the top of his desk.
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Thu Jul 04, 2013 3:26 am

Verdammt, he's toying with me, Conrad thought to himself. The realization, however, was enough to clear his head a bit. He wasn't a person normally given to needless anger, and this not-quite-man did not need it. Nor did Conrad need the strange power that thrummed through his body when he brought that knife out of nowhere.

So, he breathed deeply, calming himself, and let it go with his mind and his hand. The knife vanished, folding itself back into the form of a large silver ring. As the glow died, he forced himself to look directly into J's luminous red eyes, like dying flames. Conrad shivered again, feeling that rush of primal fear, and this time something else behind it, something he couldn't identify.

“Alright then, I'll play your game,” Conrad said wryly. “Yes, it's a knife. A very big one. However, there are a few problems with that knife. For instance,” he said, trying to order his thoughts to the only one he had found that might be able to help, “it comes out of nowhere, transformed from my ring. Also it glows, which is very much not normal. And ever since I got it, I can do some very strange things that I thought impossible.”

“My band name has become oddly literal,” Conrad said, leaning against the door frame. “I see ghosts now, sometimes. And worse things.” He shuddered, remembering that day. “But in that state, when the knife comes, it's like,” he paused, trying to explain, “It's like I'm more, if that makes any sense. I can move things with my mind, take energy from my surroundings, move fast, strike hard. Which is unusual, to say the least. And I'm a judoka, so I'm familiar with the concept of energy transfer, but not quite that literally.” Finished explaining himself, he set his mind.

“Now, then,” he said, businesslike, “will you tell me what is going on? Why can I see and do these things? If you can't answer why, then can you at least tell me how?”
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Thu Jul 04, 2013 11:35 am

James kept his face stoic of other emotions than the grin he had on his face as he listened to Conrad, He is getting irritated, he is not one to usually play games perhaps? James was for all intense and purposes trying to see how far he could push this young man's temper, but when he stopped and took deep breath to calm himself James was genuinely surprised by the amount of control he displayed. [i]Not many would be able to stop themselves from making the mistake of losing their temper against someone they don't know, but maybe he realizes that is what I am trying to do.

James watched as the knife's glow slowly faded and turned back into the large silver ring onto his finger with interest. When Conrad looked into his eyes James held his gaze a moment before averting his eyes, there was no need to push him any farther, “It's not just a knife, it is your weapon, it is the soul of that ring which you have subconsciously manipulated to form that knife for your protection against the things that you can see and what the others cannot see.” James took a moment letting that sink in before he continued on. “If it were my guess I would say that ring is very close to you, something that isn't just a piece to the costume you wear in this guise as an artist.” James reached out to tap the ring on Conrad's finger, “It is special to you, that is why it changes and other do not when you want them too, because it has some deep connection to you thus it's soul is more familiar to you.”

James stood up and motioned for Conrad to follow him out into the practice floor, “As you train you will learn to manipulate other objects souls to help you accomplish amazing feats, however you must train or you are likely to hurt someone or something you care about. That is where I come in you see in ways I am just like you I see the world around me with open eyes, the monsters, the ghosts, as well as many many others.” James stood in the middle of the sparing ring, “Do you want to learn how to control your power, to protect yourself from the monster's that haunt our world?”
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Thu Jul 04, 2013 2:47 pm

Conrad was not excited. “See, there's the problem,” he said, standing on the mat. “I have things to do here in Karakura. And then back in Dresden. I can't exactly give it all up to play Karate Kid,” he said, looking around. “I just came for information. You've explained everything perfectly well, except the thing that matters most: Why can I see them, and do these things, and others can't?”

He walked off of the mat, and moved toward the window. “But you're right,” he said, wearily. “I do need to learn how to control it. I'm not much of a fighter, but I can't risk hurting someone.” He pulled off his ring, looked at it a moment. Why this? Why Dad's ring? he thought. Makes sense, though, this is the one thing I carry with me that I care about. My memories of him.

“So, here's what I propose,” Conrad turned back toward the red-eyed man and slipping the ring back on his right hand. “I'll be here in Japan for a few days at least. So, for a few hours a day, give me as much as possible. How to feel it, control it, use it. I know it's not ideal,” he said, attempting to placate, “but I can't just drop my entire life. Not even for this.”

“And I have no interest in being a demon-hunter or whatever,” he interjected. Gott im Himmel, I really don't have time in my schedule for that. “So, is there a name?” he asked. “For people like me?”
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Thu Jul 04, 2013 10:14 pm

James growled; Conrad only wanted to live for the moment, he had only wanted to learn to control his power so he could forget about the unseen war around him. He didn't want to stop the monsters it seemed instead he wished to be apathetic to it all; James clinched his fist as his eyes started to glow brighter with anger. “That isn't how this is going to work, if you want to learn to use your powers I will help you, but ultimately its up to you to learn what they are and why you have them. Those monsters you see...they aren't just something you can ignore...they will kill you...and know that you know what you have you just made yourself a target. If you don't agree to stay here and under go a full training regimen then you can leave and perhaps but your band, your family, even your closest friends in the cross-hairs of a hollow.” James clasped his hands behind his back.

“If it's lodging for your friends you are worried about I have a manor on the outskirts of town...plenty of room for all of us, but you need me whether you accept it or not.” James was struggling to keep his voice and temper under control. “This world...this life...your life...is much bigger than music...than just living like a mortal...that ring on your hand sets you apart from everyone else.” James closed his eyes he was losing his temper trying to make this child understand that he had been forcefully drafted into a hidden war that had raged on even long before James had walked this world.

Turning around James walked over to one of the practice bags and just turned as he delivered a powerful kick to the side of the bag causing it to split in half like paper. Sand spilled onto the floor, but the old dragon didn't care he needed to let out some steam. “Let me start at the beginning: You are what is known as a fullbringer you have the ability to manipulate weak souls into helping you accomplish amazing feats, your power comes from an encounter with a monster, a hollow when you were either very young or even still in your mother's womb. Hollows are creatures that aren't guided over to the Soul Society after death and become monsters that live by eating the souls of spiritually strong individuals like myself and you.

“If you can't fight them they will kill you out right and devour your soul, until you learn to protect yourself from them I can only guarantee your protection as long as you are here in Karakura. Other than myself there are other fullbringers, superhumans and shinigami monitoring the area. That I feel you can learn without the threat of constant attack.” James let out a heavy breath he hadn't realized he had been holding, then out of habbit he reached into his pocket and pulled a small apple sized rock and took a bite out of it.
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Fri Jul 05, 2013 1:55 am

Before any of the man's words quite reached his mind, one thought prevailed:

This man just ate a rock. I'm talking to a rock-eating man about lost souls that eat people.

And I have superpowers. I'm called a Fullbringer. And I can't ever have a normal life again.

Why did my life go so screwy?


Eventually, he was able to close his jaw back, and think through the options he had. They weren't encouraging. “It's not lodging,” he began, slowly. “I don't know if you understand how hard this is for me. I'm a good musician, I could have had a great career.”

Desperation edged into his voice. “It's more than obvious you aren't human,” he said. “As for what you actually are, I don't really care.” Conrad began to pace nervously. “But I do care about my bandmates: Heinrich, Amalie, Reimer, Freja, Josef. They're the only family I have left, and I want to be able to protect them,” Conrad said. “It just feels like abandoning them, staying here, telling them to go home without me. And I can't just ask them to stay in the backwoods of Japan for that long, however long it is.”

Conrad was still pacing, trying to find an option, but none presented themselves. I've stepped through a one-way door, he thought. Or was pushed, either way. I've got to make the best of what's on this side of it.

Well, if the band wanted to stay for longer than planned, there was lodging available. If they didn't, well, I'll come up with something. “It may just be possible,” Conrad said, “if the guys want to stay, and can find work, and I can be somewhat available to practice and perform. That's a lot of 'ifs' though.” He thought for a moment. “You said Karakura is pretty safe, at least for that long. Let me talk to the band, see what they say. I might also have to come clean to them about why I dragged them all the way here,” he mentioned. “I don't feel comfortable lying to them about it.”

“So,” he asked, “can I have twenty-four hours to figure this out, then return tomorrow?”
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Sun Jul 07, 2013 10:13 pm

James smiled as Conrad was finally starting to realize how deep he was in this just because of what he could do he even managed to ignore the very rude gesture of staring slack jawed at him for no reason, or at least any that James was able to perceive. When he realized he had an apple sized rock in his hand James smiled apologetically and slipped it back in his pocket, “Sorry about that, bad habit I've picked up since I quit smoking a decade ago, but anyway go on and mull over everything. I know it's a lot to take in especially for one as young as you; but remember that your family is important to you so you have to be willing to do what it takes to protect them.

“Without family or purpose life is meaningless, so protect your love ones with everything you got Conrad.” James gave him a sad grin as he turned and walked back to his office, stopping as he remembered; “Oh...if you get into some trouble break that scale in your pocket in half.” James shut the door to his office before sitting down and cradling his face in his hands feeling so old all of a sudden. I may not have family to protect, but I have those I care for and my students...
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Sun Jul 07, 2013 11:55 pm

“Hallo, Bandkollegen!” Conrad shouted as he saw his bandmates at their agreed meeting place. As soon as she saw him, Amalie Roehrig, rhythm guitarist, great singer, and songwriter extraordinaire shouted back.

“OY! You missed all the fun!” she said, walking up to Conrad. “And we have news.”

Conrad smirked. “You and me both, Lie.” As he spoke, the rest of the band caught up. Conrad immediately tossed the scale, now a favorite pick, to Heinrich Tromme, his lead guitarist. “So, what happened?”

“How long can we stay here!?!?” asked Josef Neuber, drummer, excitedly. “I don't care about the money, we need to stay!” How serendipitous, Conrad thought to himself.

Reimer Behr, bassist and the only reasonably calm group member, spoke up. “Well, I do care. We have very little, and we can't guarantee a stable income here,” he said, “no matter what we heard.”

“What's going on?” Conrad asked.

Heinrich, arm around his girlfriend Freja Melahn, the band's keyboardist, stepped forward. “Conrad,” he began, “do you know what Visual K is?”

“Visual what?”

“K,” he continued. “It's a J-Rock movement a bit like hair metal. Weird costumes, catchy, over-the-top music. Some of it, though, especially the bands in this area, was informed and grew out of the heavy metal and black metal out of Germany and Scandinavia.”

Conrad was confused. “So what does this have to do with us? We were here for ethnic Nipponese sound, not culture-specific derivations of stuff we already do.”

Amalie stepped in. “See, that's the point,” she said. “They LOVE our kind of music. Lordi and Rammstein fly off the record store shelves here. And,” she led in, “we met a few people at the festival today that want us to stay in town for a while, play some shows in the local clubs. Absorb some live German metal.”

“For how long?” Conrad asked. Oh, this might just solve all my problems. Well, except... I'll get to that.

“See, that's the thing,” Heinrich said. “We were waiting on you to make that decision. You are our lead singer, we need you here. And if you want to stay,” he said, indicating the rest of the band, “we really really want to stay for a while. Absorb the scene, get some steady work, go back home ready to maybe record something, finally.”

Conrad was silent a moment, then spoke. “Well, guys,” he said, taking a deep breath, “money might not be the problem you think it is. I found us some free lodging for however long we need it. And, as you know, I had some ulterior motives for dragging you guys here in the first place.”

“Well, ja,” said Amalie. “Care to share?”

An hour later, they were safely ensconced in their hostelry room. It was filled to capacity, but they had a room to themselves, and it was noisy enough to guard conversation. “Alright, here's the deal,” began Conrad. “I can't give you much information about 'how', that would end badly. And I don't know 'why', so that's out too.” He took a deep breath. “All I can tell you is 'what'.” He raised his hand, and drew his knife out of nowhere.

Heinrich fell backward off his chair. Josef shouted “Ehrfürchtig!”. Freja squeaked and jumped a bit. Reimer didn't move, but his eyes shot wide. Amalie leaned forward, wary but curious. “So, was ist das?” she asked. What is that?

“This,” Conrad said, holding up the knife, “is why I'm here in Japan. It's really complicated and I don't really understand most of it. But I DO know that it's a conduit of some kind, through which I can use some kind of power.”

Heinrich had managed to extricate himself from the chair and stand up. “Excuse me, but WAS DIE FICKEN are you talking about?!” Amalie reached over and hit him, but the point was made.

Conrad pointed his knife at the pillow on the cot beside him. “Rhagae,” he said. The pillow raced across the room of its own accord, belting Heinrich in the face. Immediately, everyone's face went white, and stayed that way as Conrad sheathed the knife into the ring once more.

“See why I didn't feel safe telling you?” he said. “And today I learned that if I don't figure out how to control that, I could hurt someone. One of you,” he said, starting to break down. “But there's a man here in Karakura who can help me. He's offered to keep us in his home, just to make sure I don't accidentally hurt you.” He sat down on the cot, finally letting his bottled fear and pain show. “You guys are all I have left. I couldn't bear that. I just hope that this works out, and we can keep ourselves in shows for as long as it takes to get me trained.”

Of all people, Reimer was the one to speak next. “Why tell us now? You could have kept it hidden, we were staying here anyway.”

“Because I can't do that. You're my family,” Conrad said, voice beginning to break. “You deserve to know why you're all four thousand miles away from home, living in a strange house. And why, during the day, you won't see a lot of me.”

Josef piped up. “Well I think this is awesome. Our lead singer is a fucking wizard!” Conrad didn't bother correcting him. For all he knew, the idea of wizards came from people like him.

“So, I'm not going to be chased out of the band, pitchforks and all?” Conrad asked. “Are you guys okay with... all this?”

“Well, like you said,” answered Amalie, “we're family. We stick together, no matter what. And I think we can all agree that this DOES NOT exit our mouths, for any reason?” There was a tacit threat of unholy violence in her voice, something Amalie did very well. She looked around, all mouths were sealed. “Good. Now, let's get some sleep. Long day tomorrow.”

“Wait,” said Freja. “I'm okay with all the 'superpower' stuff, but, what are we all doing, job-wise? Get our itinerary planned now.” She looked at Conrad.

“Hmm. Nice being back here. Alright, Heinrich and Freja will check with our new friends, see what places want us to play. Reimer, Josef, scope our equipment, see what we can do about transportation. We don't have our truck here, so we're gonna have to get creative. Amalie, come with me to the dojo tomorrow, and we'll find out where this mansion is, check out our new home. I have to keep a promise, and while I'm at it I'll call Sigurd, see what we can get in terms of shows and press. Okay?” All heads nodded. “Alright. Now we sleep.”
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Mon Jul 08, 2013 12:44 am

James didn't really have much to do around the dojo after Conrad left other than tidy up the remains of the busted practice bag which took all of 2 minutes. Afterward James took to following his new prospective student via the rooftops as he jumped from one the next. Just where are you going young one? James watched as he walked with a huge crowd apparently this was the middle of a music festival, Well at least he is serious about his music career; I can only hope he is just as serious about his training tomorrow.

When he watched his new student meet up with other Germans, James only assumed they were part of his 'band' it was later determined when they all checked in to the same hostel. Deciding since he had stalked him this far James grinned he could sense Conrad's presence and with a small growl James dug his claws into the wall and started to climb so he was right under the wall. With a practice ear James listened silently to their conversation and plans for the next day, as well as making mental notes to send a few cars for them as well as a van for their equipment.



The Next Morning

Three separate vehicles sat outside the hostel, as well as, a van all of them nondescript and James sat on the curb dressed in just an old t shirt and jeans with a Styrofoam cup of coffee steaming on his hands. I will never understand how kids can expect to get anything done when they sleep so late... James looked at the sun and figured it had to be about 07:30.
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Mon Jul 08, 2013 1:37 am

“Verdammt sieben-Stunde Zeitunterschied,” grumbled Conrad as he rolled out of bed at eight in the morning. The others were waking up around the same time, thanks to Reimer's alarm phone monstrosity. Heinrich opened the cheap curtains to sunshine through a dirty window, and looked out.

“Uh, Conrad,” he said, “Do you have the police trailing us now?”

Sure enough, the man himself was sitting on the curb, in front of a fleet of cars obviously designed to blend in. Given that this was Japan, they stuck out like a sore thumb. “I'll talk to him,” Conrad said, still groggy and grumpy.

He walked out of the hostelry in his normal attire, marched directly toward J (as Conrad called him in his head now). Upon reaching him, he took the coffee out of his hand and downed it. “Much as I appreciate the help,” he said by way of greeting, “I would appreciate more you not tailing me. And don't try to claim you weren't. There'd be no other reason for the cars and van. We don't need the cars, but the van is much appreciated.”

The others came out and joined Conrad. “Everyone got their jobs?” asked Heinrich. “Good. Conrad, I'll assume this is our new friend.”

“That's him,” answered Conrad. “Anyway, when you're done, call Amalie, she knows where we're sleeping for the rest of our stay. See you guys tonight.”

The group dispersed, Amalie remaining with Conrad. “Alright, Meister,” said Conrad, “lead the way.”
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:00 am

James let out a low growl when his coffee was snatched from his hand before he had even taken a sip of it. Kids... hey have no respect for their elders nowadays, that is going to change, very quickly. James got up and looked at the band members, not one of them seemed to be the type of 'special' that Conrad was, but that could easily change if they weren't careful. When Conrad finally spoke up about not stalking him James didn't even bat an eye; “It was a test in case you had decided to reject the offer I would have the evidence you needed to be persuaded to join me; I was pouring out so much power and you didn't feel it at all did you?”

Of course that was a small lie, James was actually using very little but it should have been enough to tip a practiced fighter off to the hint that they were being followed. “As for the cars I figured it would help make things easier, as well as, not having local club owners taking advantage of 'tourists.'” James put emphasis on the last word as he watched all but one of the band disperse. When James saw the young brunette woman waiting with Conrad he assumed this was Amelie who was supposed to go scope out the place for them today. James smiled and bowed politely sweeping his arm under his chest. “Guten Morgen, Fräulein, Der Auto werden Sie wo immer is mochten geht nehmen Sie möchten geht erst dann zu mir nach Hause, wenn Sie fertig sind. Bitte geneiszen Sie ihre Tag, Ihre Freund und ich werden Sie danach treffen.” James stood up and opened the door to the back seat of the car. “Also if you do go straight to mansion please stay out of the library until I have a chance to show you all around; everything else is pretty much opened to you or locked.”

James smiled sadistically and turned to Conrad, “You on the other hand, your training starts now, keep up.” James shut the door after making sure Amelie was in the car safely before he took off jogging down the street and cut directly into a dark alley three blocks away from the car. As soon as Conrad would come around the corner James grabs him by the shirt and jumps now halfway between dragon and human. As soon as he is clear of the buildings his wings snap open as he takes off flying towards the wilderness that surrounds his home. “I really hope you don't get air sick kid.” James voice was more of a half growl in this form. “If you do point your head down and back, take my word you dont want to be facing forward when it happens.”

After about five minutes they were over a pond on the back of his property, “First lesson: Dont drink my coffee!” James laughs as he drops Conrad from 40 feet towards the water, then slowly glides down to lay on the shore and wait for him.
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Mon Jul 08, 2013 1:13 pm

As he fell, Conrad tried to remember his dive lessons- point toes, lock knees, straighten spine, cross arms...

SPLASH

Conrad was driven down into the pond, nearly to the mud bottom. Still, he was amazed he didn't feel much pain, as he should have had two broken legs from that fall. Must be a Fullbringer thing, he thought. Still, he was under water, with a very limited lung capacity, and if he surfaced he would be in the clutches of a psychotic dragon-man.

Why does drowning sound like the best of my options here? he asked himself, half-joking. Still, he swam up to the surface, and sucked in as much air as he could. When he could catch a breath steadily, he turned to the nearest shore to see J standing there in full spiky winged terror mode, red eyes blazing. “Okay,” Conrad said, “I'm sorry about the coffee. Won't happen again.” He swam to the shore, eyes on J at all times, and that strange oily predator feeling was stronger than ever. Under that, though, was something else- like a pulse or a breath. He closed his eyes, breaking the gaze, and the fear diminished. The strange pulse did not, though. It was as if his mind was responding to the other man's presence in some way. That must be what he meant about feeling power. Gott, I really need to learn this stuff before I get threatened, it's beginning to become a bad habit.

He pulled himself up onto the shore, then flopped over for a second to catch his breath. Then he stood up, and faced the man, (if 'man' is the right word, he thought) that brought him here and promised to train him. “Alright, Schuppig,” Conrad said, “your point is made. I assume we're beginning, then?” he said, with no hesitation or fear in his voice. “I'm ready to learn.”
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Mon Jul 08, 2013 1:51 pm

James grinned as he watched the soaked young man swim to the shore, sure he normally didn't assume this form till later in their training but it was worth scaring some respect into him. “You can call me James, I doubt you could say my real name without sounding like you have your tongue glued to the top of your mouth.” James voice began to change back to normal as he seem to melt back into his human form. “And yes your training begins now, find your way to the mansion before it gets dark.” James grinned as he laid back on the shore, “I'll give you a hint, your within two miles of it and when you find it you'll find the back first unless you just have horrible luck.”

James pulled his legs under him and stood up his hands behind his head as his jeans and shirt were in tatters, “Now come on kid you might want to get a move on; Im not the only monster that stalks these woods.” James smiled as he waited for Conrad to lead the way, the trick was to filter out all the other spiritual noise and follow the right presence or rather lack of a presence to find the mansion. Even if its only two miles if he doesn't realize that the dead silence is his salvation the forest will lead him around in circles until something tries to use him for a snack. James chuckled a bit remembering when he did this to a few other students and had to follow them around for day before they realized the most foreboding path was their salvation.

“You got two choices as far as I see it, you can either have me stay with you and be of no use whatsoever or I can meet you at your ultimate goal.” James grinned knowing that he could almost completely silence his presence if Conrad hoped to use him as another hint towards his goal.
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Mon Jul 08, 2013 10:08 pm

Conrad thought a moment. “Hmm,” he said. “If you're not going to give me any hints, I'd rather you not foul the scent, so to speak. Can you meet me there?”

James nodded, grinned, and with no more than a slight rustle, vanished. That doesn't mean 'disappeared from sight quickly', he just was not there anymore. Conrad stood blinking for a second, then said to himself, “Oh, I've got to learn that trick.” And so, he set off to find the missing mansion.

But first he had to learn how to use a sense he never knew he had until now. So, just as before in the pond, he closed his eyes and felt around. Immediately he noticed that it felt less like a nonspecific aura, but more like an outward pressure, one that would, if he practiced at it, tell him where something or someone with power was. After walking for ten minutes aimlessly, he sat on a protruding rock and made a mental map of the area's power.

Okay, he thought, there's a single source of pressure from the direction of the pond somewhat westward, but long past it. There's a grouping of sources off to the north, and they feel kind of... nasty. One other source, also not good, south of me. Well, then, east we go. No power that way, and I like life. I can turn around later if I get lost.

Problem was, eastward looked unsafe when he opened his eyes. The trees were closer, the light dimmer, and the undergrowth thicker than the forest around him. He hesitated, wondering which sense to trust, wondering if he was completely off-base with the idea of not following the power. Maybe that's the test, then, trusting my senses, my intuition. Hoping he wasn't going to die a horrible death, he cautiously stepped forward, into the darker woods.

It wasn't long before he realized that he was being followed. The pressure source to the south had been moving parallel to Conrad since he started walking, but now it was moving closer. He pressed on, going a bit faster, hoping to outpace it. But eventually Conrad came to an embankment, one he would have to either slide down (which would hurt a lot) or find a way around (which might bring him closer to the whatever-it-was). In the end, he was more wary of the beast than the geography, so he hopped down and slid.

It was an absolute rush. His reflexes were much better than they were before, making it much easier to not break a leg or neck on the way down. By the time he was ten feet from the bottom, he felt the pulse- Bad thing. Southward, to the right. Closing fast, very fast. Have to dodge- Conrad hit the bottom of the embankment and dropped into a roll. He felt claws graze his jeans, but the thick denim protected him from injury. He quickly righted himself, the knife forming in his hand. Then he saw it.

A white death-mask for a face. A black body. That hole in its chest where the heart has been torn out. “No,” Conrad said, weakly. “It can't be you. It can't be...” A quick glance, however, told him that it wasn't, in fact, the Monster, El Cazador. It just was the same kind of thing, a monster. If he had terminology right, it was called a Hollow. When it saw the knife, wreathed in dim blue flames, it stepped back on all fours, displaying only rudimentary intelligence. It was more bestial than El Cazador, nowhere near as strong. Stop, he told himself. No time for those memories. Got to fight...

Conrad raised his knife into position, and readied himself for a duel to the death.
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:28 am

James had obeyed Conrad's wish somewhat choosing to keep an eye on him from a distance, he seemed to figure out which way the mansion was, but he was being tailed by a low ranking hollow. At first James considered obliterating the thing then his mind started turning over the possibility of seeing what his prospective pupil could do. James crouched in a tree top, his presence completely concealed as he watched Conrad slide down the embankment only to come face to face with the hollow. It would of eaten him right there if his pressure hadn't suddenly spiked enough to intimidate the poor beast, I wonder if he did that on pure instinct. James continued to keep an eye on the two ready to step in should Conrad push himself too far.



The hollow stared at the curious young man with the knife of blue flames, sure it may have appeared that it was retreating in fear, but all it really wanted was to observe it's next meal cowering in fear. With a roar it's spiritual power flooded the area, it was time for kill; the beast lunged forward a claw ready to swipe at the fearful young man. At the same time its mouth opened with the mask and he spit his acidic bile at the man's legs. “RAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWRRRRRRRRRRRR” [/i]BLOOD...DEATH...FOOD.[/i]



James grinned as he watched the monster make his attack, the outpouring of spiritual power was laughable as well, but a very well placed tactic against another opponent such as Conrad. It's power seem to be meant to inspire fear in whatever the target was; hoping to paralyze the target with fear. When the beast swiped James' mind immediately started to analyze the fight like only someone from an outside point of view could do, Conrad has a few choices either ducking the swipe, parrying with that knife of his or even rolling to the side to get his back away from the wall. The bile was something James wasn't expecting though, Well that limits his options some....
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Tue Jul 09, 2013 12:45 pm

The Hollow tilted his head, hissed, then spat a glob of some foul-smelling substance at Conrad before lunging, arms outstretched.

A spike of spiritual pressure struck his mind, making Conrad stumble backward, avoiding the worst of the gunk, though some landed on his jeans. He shook his head, trying to clear his vision, and was able to recover, but now he was in the path of an attacking Hollow. He ducked and sidestepped, and reached up with his other hand and gripped the Hollow's wrist and continued the turn. Momentum forced the hollow to step further forward than intended, and Conrad's foot was in the way. Thank you, Judo, thank you Judo, he thought to himself as the Hollow effectively tripped and went sprawling into the undergrowth across from him.

Conrad reset his stance, and took his second of breathing space to look down. His left side was covered in blood. Then the pain hit him.

There was a laceration in his side- not particularly deep, but long and jagged. The Hollow's other hand must have hit his side on the way down. The pain was sharp, but Conrad could tell it wasn't a severe injury. Then his right leg began to burn. The spit, Conrad thought before shaking his leg to dislodge the remains of the acid. He would just have to deal until he reached the mansion.

However, he realized that he wasn't going to get through this fight without using some of his power. His untrained, somewhat wild and undefined power. Fine then, James, I'll do this your way.

That first day, when El Cazador came, he learned three words, that unleashed his power. He realized that he could likely use his power without them, but now was not the time for experimentation. “Erkaso!” Conrad said, forcefully, putting his power into that word. The dim flames sheathing his knife flared briefly, then settled.

Immediately, Conrad could feel his blood thrum with energy- he was absorbing small amounts of kinetic energy from the surrounding area. He could feel, through the clashing pressures and buzzing mind, the air became a bit stiller, the trees rustled a bit less. Leaves fell slower than normal. The Hollow, however, was unabated, protected by his own pressure. But Conrad was ready for him now.

“One to one, even score,” he said to the monster. “Your move. Come and get me.”
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Tue Jul 09, 2013 1:50 pm

The hollow got to its feet and a low rumble reverberated from it, the beast was angry now. Its target had decided to struggle so it was going to have to work for this meal. Looking around the beast formed a plan for its next attack, in an instant the monster made its move as it spit a blast of bile at the tree behind Conrad aiming to bring it down on top of him. The attack didn't stop there though as the best whipped itself around and slashed two other trees to bring down on either side of Conrad. Now that the trees were falling the hollow stood his ground ready to lunge should Conrad move.



James silently swore to himself as he had to move trees as the beast brought down tree after tree in hopes of separating Conrad's soul from his body. When James realized that the beast was cutting off Conrad's escape he became a little worried, this creature knew how to hunt, and whats more Conrad was injured, the swipe may not feel that bad now but as soon as the adrenaline wore off he'd realize how bad it really was, There are probably all kinds of microbes and bacteria on those claws of that beast. He better end this quick and tend to his wounds or he is gonna end up wishing the hollow would of killed him. James was perched in the top of another tree ready to pounce should this situation prove too much for the inexperienced kid.

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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Tue Jul 09, 2013 3:13 pm

His ability-increased speed is the only thing that saved Conrad from an end resembling a pancake.

Conrad was forced to dodge, place to place, all the while wondering, How the hell am I moving this fast?! It wasn't long before he realized, while standing next to one of the fallen trees, that the Hollow had effectively boxed him in. One tree had fallen against the embankment, another parallel from it, creating a funnel straight toward the monster itself. The last had tried to land on Conrad.

The pain in his side and his leg intensified. Gotta end this now, he thought. Time to move.

So, with a yell, he pulled all the energy his knife had been gathering into himself, and launched himself forward. At ridiculous velocity, he charged the Hollow. It swiped at Conrad, forcing him to duck, but now he was inside. NOW! He leapt up, nearly six feet straight up, inside the Hollow's armspace, preventing a counterattack. When he was eye-to-eye with it, his knife struck downward into that death's-head mask.

It cracked, top to bottom. Conrad braced his feet on the monster's clavicle. Neither the Hollow nor the Fullbringer moved, but the monster was beginning to dissolve at the crack. Conrad leaned forward, and said to it, “A message for El Cazador, monster, should you see him. I will not be hunted!” He yanked the knife upward, and the creature dissolved completely into black sand, which too vanished before it struck the forest floor.

Conrad landed on his feet, the knife returning to its resting state as all the pent-up energy dissipated. Then, as the adrenaline rush ended, the pain hit him like a thunderbolt. His side was bleeding profusely, and his right leg burned. Still, in the distance to the east, he saw a clearing, and possibly a good place to get his bearings. He didn't have anything on him that could staunch the bleeding, so he placed his hand there and pressed down, hoping to slow it a bit. He walked slowly, but sensed no spiritual pressure in the area.

Eventually, he reached the clearing, and from there, he saw the back side of a massive house. “Finally,” he said to himself. “I can take a break.”
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Tue Jul 09, 2013 4:12 pm

James appeared beside the injured Conrad as he came into the clearing, and wrapped one arm under his shoulders the other taking his hand across his own shoulders. “No breaks yet kid, you gotta get those wounds treated, and yes before you say anything I was stalking you this time. There are things far more dangerous than that peon you dusted.” James grinned as he lead Conrad to a small clear pool of water behind the koi pond, without further explanation he tossed him in and then crouched down next to the water and pushed a hand under the water. It started to bubble slowly at first but soon the water was steaming hot enough to turn Conrad's skin a shade of bright pink.

“Stay there...it's gonna get warm but you gotta get all of that acid off of you then you can tend to your own wounds afterward. Also you get to explain your condition to your friends, but I don't want them to even guess that I am anymore gifted than you keep my gifts a secret from them.” James growled in annoyed by the fact that he could hear the gate at the front squeaking open from here, pouring on another wave of down his arm James heated up the water even more. “Stay in there till you can't stand the heat then come to the house you'll find some towels inside the back door waiting for you; I have to go greet your friend and show her around the mansion otherwise she might get herself hurt.”

James was gone in an instant as he appeared at the front of the house his clothes changed, “Welcome to the Dragon Manor.” James grinned as he used the name most people called it due to the two dragons that sat on either side of the gate. “You're friend should be joining us any moment as soon as he gets himself cleaned up.” James greeted Amelie with a warm smile as he opened the door to the front of the mansion, “Please step right this way and I will show you around if you would like; since you're the first one here you pretty much get your pick of rooms.”

James led her into the main entry hall and pointed up the stairs, “The east wing holds library and my room, while the other bed rooms are in the west wing, like I said you can choose whatever room you want and may decorate it to fit you.” James smiled and led her to the kitchen, as soon as he entered he noticed her admiring the professional kitchen, “You can use the kitchen anytime, just two rules: 1. If you cook anything please do the dishes and 2. if you find a spice or food you've never heard of please ask me before you cook with it.” James continued to show her around the house hoping to keep Conrad out of sight till he came in.
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:38 am

In that moment, Conrad knew what it was like to be a sausage- flash-boiled for preservation purposes. James obviously had no idea what a normal bath felt like. But within thirty seconds, he felt much better. Whatever was in this water was much better for him than anything he had thought possible. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the fact that Swarovski couldn't hope to match the water's clarity. Whatever it was, it made the acid just dissolve. The chemical burn felt much better, and when he looked, he didn't even see a blister forming. It would be tender for a while though.

Worse by far was his side. The wound wasn't deep, but it was about 15 centimeters long, and jagged. The caked blood dissolved in the clear hot water, and the temperature (hopefully) sterilized the wound, which had started to bleed again.

Ten minutes later, when Conrad couldn't stand the heat any longer, he clambered out of the pool and into the back of the manor, where a basket of medical supplies awaited him. After salving his burn, he disinfected and bound his gash tightly. With luck, it would heal quickly. That said, the scar on his shoulder still itched randomly. Not feeling like putting his wet clothing back on, he tried to find something to wear, and found his clothing clean and dry by the interior door. Nice random invisible service here, he thought. Still, his wound hurt, so he carried his coat instead of trying to wrestle the damn thing on. The shirt was still irreparably torn though.

Conrad found Amalie in the drawing room, situated in the middle of the ground floor. She was staring at a collection of weapons, some practical, some exotic, on the wall in lieu of artwork. “Admiring the medieval murder devices?” Conrad asked Amalie by way of greeting. “The man has one hell of a collection.”

Amalie started, and looked at Conrad's shirt where the Hollow had struck. “What happened to you?!”

“Nothing I couldn't handle, just a nasty I ran into on the way here,” Conrad answered. Amalie didn't look particularly convinced, giving the bandage under the tear a long look, but she stayed silent. “So,” he asked, “which one do you like?”

She moved down the wall. “I like this one the best,” she said, picking up a two-meter weapon consisting of a very wide curved sword fastened to the end of a counterweighted pole. “Long range, and functional.” She spun it, letting it settle in an attack position before displaying an impressive range of precise attack motions. “Very well made, too. Glaives can sometimes get a bit front-heavy-”

“It's called a guan-dao,” said a voice in the doorway. Conrad turned, and saw James standing there, face displaying, as usual, no readable emotion.
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Wed Jul 10, 2013 1:22 am

James leaned against the doorway with a smirk as he watched the young lady play with the pole-arm and try to get a feel for the weight. “It's called a guan dao.” James walked up and took the weapon from the girl gently and with a practiced motion twisted and spun the blade like it weighed nothing. “It was meant mainly for defense and disarming an opponent, however in actual combat it was more of an offensive weapon because the weight can easily slice through an armored opponent once momentum is gained.” James lifted it up and put it back on the wall, “I'd be careful though miss, these weapons are all very sharp and very deadly I really don't want any other injured people here till your friend gets patched up.”

James smiled as turned to face the two Germans once again, “However if you would like to learn to defend yourself while staying here I would gladly offer to teach you and your band mates at the dojo during the regular classes, I think it would do my students good to see young adults such as you taking the same classes as them. You know sending the message that no matter how old or young you are you all have to start in the same place.” James grinned and turned to Conrad looking him over, his side was covered in bandages that were rather sloppily wrapped. I need to remember to add a field dressing lesson to his training later on, something tells me this kid is going to benefit greatly from it.

“So Conrad, I take it you are feeling better, or is there something you wanted? Perhaps if you are up for it you could help me with a few chores that need to be finished before the rest of your party arrives.” James led the two young people back to the kitchen, “There is plenty to do, but if you are up for it why don't you sit down over there and tell me a little more about you?” The first step of learning from someone else is to first learn from yourself.
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PostSubject: Re: A Search for Answers (Arty)   Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:57 pm

Conrad winced as he sat on the kitchen stool. Damn, what is wrong with my bandages? He looked down, and noticed that they had slipped, putting too much pressure on the wound. Verdammt, he thought as he adjusted them.

“Well,” he said, “as you already know, my name is Conrad Streiber. I'm a musician. I currently front a band called Geistweissager. Oddly literal, now that I think about it,” he said thoughtfully. “I play piano and guitar as well as sing. I can cook just about anything. I hold the rank of Shodan in Judo.”

“For the last month, I've been a Fullbringer, and have had to fight for my life more often than is reasonable for anyone.” Conrad hesitated. He almost began to tell James about how he awakened, but held himself back. How much do I really trust this...man? I know virtually nothing about him. So, he kept silent about that particular bit of nightmare.

“My father died when I was fourteen,” he continued. “This is his ring, the last of what I have of him. My mother died shortly after I was born, I don't know how. Vater would never talk about it.” He paused a moment, then continued. “It was rough for a long time after that. Lived in the system, learned how to fight, how to move. Had to, to survive. But, I managed to get through school. I beat the odds. Apparently, they found me again.” Please don't ask, please don't ask...

At this point, Amalie cut in. “Ich heiße Amalie Roehrig. I play rhythm guitar and sing duet and backup. I took two years of wushu back in Uni. I have no clue what's going on here, really, but if you hurt Conrad in any way I will kill you.” Conrad winced; he had seen just a glimpse of how powerful James was, and was hoping beyond hope that he didn't take offense to Lie's attempts to protect him. So, he cut across her.

“I'll be honest, I don't think you could,” he said. “I certainly wouldn't want to fight him, anyway. Besides, he's offered to train me. If he wanted to hurt me, making me stronger is not a good way to do it.”

Conrad, by this point, was storied out. “Well, that's us. What do you need us to do? I'm up for it, I think.”
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