The guild hall was brimming with life as mages buzzed about, eagerly talking about job requests and new moves they’d learned for future sparring matches. Chase could be found away from the group, sitting on one of the armchairs located off to the side of the room. His posture suggested that he was still wiping the vestiges of sleep away, relaxing deeply in his seat. His gaze remains fixated on the wall opposite of him, and he’s careful to keep his facial features slack lest someone suspect he’s plotting to harm them. He allows himself to listen to the news that was being shared. He didn’t bother trying to find a place in one of the conversations, and it wasn’t as though he had much to share anyways. He didn’t go throughout the cities of Fiore reading up on spells to better his magical ability, or travel away from the guild much at all. He found comfort being within the guild, a sense of belonging. He admits his life has become quite stagnant since joining the guild, a stiff routine where he spent a great deal of his time like this. Sitting still, alone, quiet. And maybe it’s not ideal. His magic is heavily dependent on change, after all, altering the air around him to aid himself, but he can’t bring himself to try and change this.
All of a sudden he hears a loud voice call to him from across the room, and turns to see a blonde hair mage bounding towards him. She throws her arms up in elation as she approaches him and says, "Chase! It's so great to see you!" She gives him a big hug, feeling his body tense up as she did, and then takes a seat in the armchair across from his. "So Seraph is gone away for the day, so we can't train together, so I thought I would come to the guild and see all my friends! So why is it you are always cooped up in this underground guild hall? I mean, I love Dragon Gunfire, but don't you want to feel the warmth of the sunlight?!" She says animatedly, even bouncing up in the chair at the last word of her exclamation.
Chase immediately snaps to attention when Theia calls his name, instantly finding the small blonde as she makes a beeline directly for him. He returns the hug, but thankfully she kept it short enough that he didn't have to dwell on whether or not he handled it correctly. The rapid and cheery way begins talking as soon as she sits down is a lot for the dark haired mage to handle, and he slightly scooches back in his chair in hopes of somehow slowing her down. "I don't... I mean I guess since it's the guild hall, I just come down here a lot?" He says, his face twisting a bit in thought. Maybe he shouldn't spend so much time down here? Then where would he go? If he wasn't here, he was held up in his apartment, and this was surely the better alternative. He wasn't exactly interacting with everyone, but he was around them, so that had to count for something, right? "Going out for a bit would be nice, though. I could use some fresh air." He says, and he stands up, heading towards the exit, slowing his pace a little to accommodate for his friend's shorter legs.
Theia immediately sat up with a joyous look on her face. " Really! You want to go outside! How exciting!" She quickened her pace to get in front of Chase and began walking backwards as she spouted off an idea to him. Noting his uneasiness, she did her best to tone down her excitement as to not overwhelm him. "I was thinkin about something the other day. Ever since the Toveri Alliance rescued us, and Master Cade took us in, we haven't really been able to spend much time together, because I guess we've been busy trying to acclimate to this new life. But we are the same you and I!" Theia says as she pokes him in the chest, then turns to walk next to him as the round the corridor leading to the exit. "Say, do you want to explore the city? Since you've never really gone out much, I think it would be nice! I can even show you my favorite bakery that I stop by when I come from my apartment to the guild hall; they have the most delicious pastries in all of Crocus! At least that's what the baker tells me." She giggles and looks to Chase for any sign of approval.
Chase watches as Theia moves ahead of him, somewhat confused by her behavior but allowing it nonetheless. He makes sure to watch her steps as she travels backward, looking slightly ahead of her so she doesn't run into anything. "How do you figure that?" He asks, his head curiously tilting to the side. Chase couldn't think of anything that would make them similar. The two were probably as opposite as opposites got, from personality to appearances, and the only things he knew of that he shared with her was the guilds they had been in. He didn't think that made them all that similar, really, it was just a coincidence. "Uh yeah, we can go explore," he says, allowing her to eagerly tell him about her favorite places to go. "We don't have to go anywhere in particular. I think just walking around is fine," he adds after a moment, as such allowing Theia to take him wherever she thought best. They exit the guild building, and the soft, fresh air that welcomes the pair easily calms the taller of the two. He takes a leisurely breath in, wanting to savor the crispness he rarely felt when he was inside, especially in the guild beneath the ground.
"Ok, sounds like a good plan to me! And welcome to the fresh air! Don't you think the sun feels delightful?" Theia says as she reaches up into the sky, savoring the warm sensation that is revitalizing her skin. She then remembers Chase's question and turned to him with a soft smile. "And I figure that we are one and the same because you and I have shared the same experiences. There aren't many people who can relate to how we felt when they performed all those experiments on us... But having gone through that, knowing all the pain and heartache that came from it, connects us in a way that much deeper than the lacrima we both have implanted in our chests. Don't you think?" She says, placing her hand on her chest, and looking as though her mind is in a much more distant place than the city of Crocus.
"Hmm, the sun is quite nice today," he says, "Not too hot or too cold and the humidity has gone down lately as well." He focuses his mind to the pleasant scents that the air offers him, which are much more pronounced now that he is aboveground. He's able to picture nearly everything around him based on his sense of smell alone though he keeps his gaze directed towards Theia in light of their conversation. Her soft speech immediately brings his attention more into focus, and he allows her words to turn over in his mind several times before he considers speaking. "I always thought it drove us apart, made us foreign to each other, even if we went through it together. We overcame it, but each of us took that experience so differently, and afterward we all fought to turn our lives back to what they were before Shattered Dusk." Chase places his hand over his chest, looking at Theia as she gazes at something beyond what he can see. "But hearing what you said, maybe I was wrong to look at it that way. I thought I had to bear the weight of that situation alone, but I guess I didn't. It was rather foolish now that I think about." Chase chuckles lightly, bringing his hand up to run through his hair. "But, enough of standing around outside the guild entrance," he says, beginning to move towards the city again. "I think it's time I saw this great bakery you were talking about," he adds, giving Theia a small smile.
"You never alone, especially now that we have the guild as our family! And ok let's go! You're going to love it so much!" Theia says and grabs hold of Chase's arm and pulls him down a city street to the east. She stops abruptly in front of a large window filled with assorted pastries, scones, croissants and eclairs. The sweet aroma filled their noses, making their mouths water with anticipation.
Chase allows himself to be pulled along, smiling at the girl's antics. At the abrupt stop, he nearly tumbles over her, saving himself from falling with a quick burst of wind. He considers making a weapon, thinking that she saw a threat, but is quickly stilled in his movements when the sweet scent hits his nose. "Ah, we're here," he says intelligently, extracting himself from Theia's grip to step up to the entrance. He opens the door for Theia, allowing her to go in before walking in himself.
Turning to Chase, Theia thanks him for his kind gesture and then turns to the string of pastries before her, eyeing over which one she want. "Theia! So nice to see you, as always! And who might your friend be?" A tall, robust man shouts out. Judging by his white apron and tall hat, it is apparent that this man is the baker and owner of the shop. "Hi Bernie! This is my friend Chase, he is in the guild with me." Bernie turns with a jolly smile and reaches his hand over the counter to shake Chase's hand. "Hello there Chase, my name is Bernard, I'm the owner of Plentiful Pastries here. Please pick anything you'd like! Theia here is one of my best customers, so I would be happy to offer a free pastry to one of her friends."
Chase follows Theia's example, looking over the wide assortment of treats. He becomes quite absorbed in the task, trying to find something that isn't overly sweet, but not plain either, and doesn't notice the man's entrance until he's loudly welcoming the duo. Chase quickly straightens up as though he was caught breaking a rule, looking over to the source of the voice. The older male reminds him somewhat of Theia, with his cheerful smile and words. If he didn't know that Theia was raised by a dragon, he might assume that they were related. He walks stiffly over to the counter, shaking the man's proffered hand, replicating the wide smile with a softer one of his own. At the offer of a free pastry, his eyes widen, and he says a small thank you before searching for a pastry again. His eyes stop on a miniature strawberry shortcake, taking in the elegant handiwork. After a few moments of thought, he states he would like the strawberry flavored pastry, returning his gaze back to the owner.
Theia chooses a chocolate croissant, and the owner quickly pulls them out of the glass case and puts them on a plate for the two mages. Theia smiles and thanks the baker for the treats, then turns to Chase, "Want to go sit somewhere outside, and enjoy these?" Theia suggests with a smile.
Chase grabs the treat, saying his thanks before exiting the shop. He nods to Theia, looking around for a nearby place to sit. "Anywhere, in particular, you had in mind?" He asks.
"Well I dragged you to this bakery, so I think you should pick. Find somewhere where the air feels nice; I am just glad to spend some time with you friend." Theia says with a giggle and takes a big bite of her chocolate crossiant, the crumbs sticking to the sides of her mouth. She tries to get them with her tounge, but then laughs and picks up the napkin to clear her face after no success with licking them off.
Chase would like to argue that she didn't drag him anywhere, that he had joined her willingly, which was true. But, in technical terms, she did drag him, which prevented him from opening his mouth. He took a deep breath in through his nose though it was only slightly audible. After a few seconds, he began traveling towards the right, and soon enough the two mages ended up in a park. He went and sat right on the grass beneath a tree, shaded from the sun, but the light still poked stubbornly through the breaks in the leaves as they shifted in the breeze. After situating himself so that his pack was resting against the trunk, he took a bite of the cake, humming in delight. "How did you find that bakery?" He asks after he's finished chewing, turning to look at Theia.
Theia situates herself on the grass and begins to fully dive into her crossiant. After a wholesome bit, she wipes the crumbs and speaks casually, "Well when Aether asked me to come join Dragon Gunfire, I learned that the guild dorms are underground, which I wasn't a big fan of. So I searched around town and found an apartment with very large windows that face the sunrise; it's the most beautiful thing to watch. Much better than a stone wall in my opinion. But that bakery just happened to line the street I take to get to the guild, and the smell was so intoxicating that I couldn't help but go inside! Now Bernie and I are good friends! Or at least I hope we are..." Theia says, as her smile breaks for a second, but returns in a moment accompanied by a shoulder shrug.
Chase nods, understanding fully how strange it was to be underground. While not for the same exact reasons, the two dragon slayers sought homes above ground, yet somehow managed to live far enough apart that they never encountered each other unless they were in the guild. "I assure you Bernard thinks highly of you. Not many shop owners give out stuff for free, especially things they put so much effort into," he says, looking at the small pastries they had gotten. He finishes the mini shortcake off in a few more bites, a small silence lapsing between the two mages as they eat. After he cleans the crumbs from his face with a napkin, he addresses his next thought. "So Theia, what have you been doing since we've joined the guild?" He asks nonchalantly, resting his head against the tree trunk, his gaze tilted upwards.
"I've just been trying to get as strong as I can, and make as many new friends as I can too. I've actually met a really cool guy, I don't know if you've met Seraph yet, but him and I have been training a lot together. I think I might be getting strong enough to participate in the S Class Trials coming up! But I've really just been trying to make as many new friends as possible...I want my family to be as big as possible!" Theia says with a wide smile, out stretching her arms wide, as if trying to hug all the people she's meet in Crocus. "What have you been doing Chase?"
"I think everybody has met Seraph. He's a very strong mage --easily stronger than anyone I've ever seen," he states quickly adding, "He battled William on even ground even with a magical debilitating disease. He's unreal..." His voice trails off as he remembers instances where he's seen the mage fight. Chase lifts his head up, looking over to Theia at her question. "Quite honestly, not much. I've been doing some independent training though I imagine my success rate is much lower than yours." Chase can't help but think of the wide gap separating him from the majority of the other slayers in the guild. Most of them were Third Generation, which granted them more magic power naturally than First Generation, who was then inherently stronger than a Second Generation Slayer like himself. If he wanted to catch up, he probably needed to train quite a bit more, especially if he wanted to enter the S-Class Trials himself.
"Aw I'm sure you are a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for!" Theia says and places a supportive hand on his leg. "You know if you find a training partner you can get a lot stronger too!" Theia paused and thinks to herself a moment, then gets a little quieter. "Hey Chase, I have an idea if you're up for it...Seraph and I were thinking of forming a team, and I was wondering if you wanted to join us? I'm sure we could be the strongest team in Dragon Gunfire, and make Master Cade super proud! So what do you say?"
Chase jumps almost imperceptibly at Theia's sudden contact but relaxes a moment later. "I imagine I would get a lot stronger with a partner. I know for sure training with Aether helps but constantly bothering the guild master with my training is ridiculous." Chase looks quite troubled by this fact, his eyes narrowing with discontent. If he really did look to Aether as his only training partner, he was bound to fail. Aether was an outstanding teacher, that was for certain, but he was busy with duties like running his guild, as well as training with other guild members. To say Chase was worried about his time spent on training, or rather, lack thereof was an understatement. Chase perks up slightly at Theia's idea, completely forgetting his previous thoughts in favor of answering her question. "I would gladly join your team," he says, giving Theia a small smile. "I'm positive that we could be the strongest team in Fiore, really," he adds, trying to imagine a scene where he, Theia, and Seraph all worked side by side. It wasn't all that hard to imagine, as he knew both mages fairly well, at least better than some of his other guild mates.
"Really?! Oh that's so exciting! I will let Seraph know! I think you are right, we could definitely become the strongest in Fiore if we work really hard. But this is amazing! I've been wanting to ask you to help me improve my Wind Magic, but now that we are on a team, we will get to spend a lot more time together. I'm so happy!" Theia said with a huge smile that shown brightly like the sun at her newfound teammate.
Chase nods his head, his smile growing wider. "Well, there's no sense in keeping him waiting if we don't have to. Do you think he'd be at the guild?" he asks, standing up from his spot beneath the tree. "Even if Seraph wasn't, we should probably tell Aether about the possibility of a new team," he adds, straightening out his clothes. He grabs the napkins and plates, disposing of them in a nearby garbage can.
"Hmmm he may be at his apartment, but that's a good idea, we should go tell Master Cade. I am so excited that you are part of our team! Now we can hang out so much more." Theia said and bounced up off the grass to go walk next to Chase back towards the guild hall. "I know this may be too personal, so you don't have to answer, but do you think you can handle both Seraph's and my personality? I know I can be a little to energetic at times..." Theia says and casts her head down, rocking back on forth on the balls of her feet.
Chase stays silent for a long moment, casting his gaze up towards the sky as he walks. He takes a deep breath in, steeling his nerves before he begins talking. "I don't know," he answers honestly, giving a small pause to gather his thoughts. "But, I can't stay like this. I am going to find my breaking point, and then I am going to absolutely destroy it. I am going to fight whatever battles come my way because I don't want to run anymore. It's quite possible that nobody will know I am fighting or what I'm fighting, but I want to make sure that everybody knows that I came out victorious in the end," he lets out a heavy breath, trying to convey all his mixed feelings in the sigh. "I don't doubt for a second that you and Seraph would be able to support me because you two are just that amazing. Seraph is beyond what even constitutes as intelligent, but he doesn't wear it proudly like a badge or wave it around in everyone's faces. He carries the burden of knowing too much, and he still moves forward. And there isn't a single thing that can ever stand in your way if you try your hardest, Theia, and that unending belief in yourself and in those around you is something I wish I had," Chase moves his gaze towards Theia, keeping his gaze locked despite the heavy weight of his next words. "It's possible every attempt that is made to help me will backfire. It's also highly probable that you guys who suffer the consequences of getting too close when I can no longer take it. I will break over and over again because I can't handle Seraph, I can't handle you, I can't even handle what's going on inside my own head. But, you guys will also build me back up after every failure because that is the kind of people you are. You don't give up when the odds aren't in your favor, you work harder. I might not ever want to let go of the walls I've built up, I will want to hold onto them because they are familiar. I am afraid that if I was to change even the slightest bit, it will blow up in my face, and that is something I fear more than anything else," he trails off slightly, his eyes narrowing sharply. "If I never get beyond this mentality, you can't ever and won't ever blame yourselves. It will be my fault for biting the hand that reached out to me," Chase brings his gaze away from Theia now, looking back up towards the heavens. "If I can't handle it, then you guys will kick me off the team. I don't care how blunt or soft you are about it, but I will no longer be a member of your team if I become more trouble than I am worth."
Theia looks up with a wide-eyed expression at the heavy words she just heard. She blinks a few times, casts her eyes back towards the ground, and then lets out a small laugh into a soft smile. "You worry too much Chase.. but I do understand where you are coming from. When I was growing up, I didn't have a mom or dad to teach me about how we are suppose to go through life, but I'd like to think that the dragon who raised me taught me what I needed to know. He always told me that life will hit you with rocks and stones that fall heavy at your feet; but it is up to you to use those stones to either build a wall...or build a bridge. I know that you are always battling with getting over the walls you have built up in your own mind, but know that we will not give up on you. I believe you are strong enough to tear those stones to the ground and build something that you aspire to be. I know it may be hard for you to build a bridge...but maybe you could build your wall with a door?" Theia giggles slightly, then turns her head back up to offer a warm smile to Chase. "That way you can let people in when you are comfortable, but still have the safety of closing it when it gets too much. I know this is a journey you want to take yourself, but remember, you have friends that will help you back up when you break down."
Chase lets out a huff of breath that sounds reminiscent of a laugh. "How do people mistake you for a child Theia? That's like, philosopher level stuff right there. But you're right. I'm overthinking this," he says, shaking his head. "I've got enough going on up here and I'm making more problems. I think a door would be a nice place to start, though. Preferably a locked door, so people can't come barging in," he says this quite seriously despite the bizarre implications of someone just entering his head. "Thank you for listening and putting it into perspective," he says after a small lapse of silence. "Despite all the darkness you've seen and been through, you still shine so brightly. Thank you for allowing me to borrow some of your light."
"That light you are seeing is the one present inside you. I am just the mirror who showed you what was already there." Theia said, turning to poke him in the chest. "I hope that light continues to grow too. But ok, we will work on building that door; with a nice lock just for you." She laughs as the entrance of the guild comes into view. "Just don't be scared to open it if you hear someone knocking, alright?"
Chase watches as she pokes him, following her finger as it lightly jabbed him. "Well, you're the light specialist, so I guess I'll take your word for it," he says, shrugging his shoulders. "I am not opening that door for just anyone, ya know," he says, walking through the thin barrier that protects the hall. "Can't let any weirdos into my hypothetical house," he adds with a slightly crooked smile.
Theia stares at him with one eyebrow raised on an otherwise vacant expression."Di-- Did you just make a joke..?" She then suddenly bursts out in laughter, holding her stomach as she bends over. "Hahahaha, I don't think I ever would have thought you would crack a joke, what with you being so serious all the time!" She composes herself once more and lets a radiant smile off in his direction. "Well looks like you are making progress already! Now what do you say we go talk to Master Cade about forming our new team?"
Chase's eyebrows quirk at her reaction, his head tilting the smallest bit. "I didn't think it was that funny," he says, looking slightly disgruntled. "But, if it's more jokes you want, then I'll see what I can do," he says, like a good team member should. He nods at Theia's question, his pace picking up in excitement, though he managed to keep it off his facial features.
"I look forward to it!" Theia said as the two walk towards the office of Dragon Gunfire's master, excited at the new adventure that awaits them as a team.