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    • Jebei stumbled into his private chamber and slammed the door shut behind him. Almost immediately, he collapsed to the floor and rested his heavily-armored back against his door. Not only did this permit him to rest, it also prevented unwanted or unneeded invasion from other members of the Collective. Anyone who knew him knew that this behavior was atypical. He could not remember speaking to anyone outside of his room, but that could have easily been caused by the head wound and was not a sign of anything more serious than a concussion...So he hoped. Jebei lifted his bared hand to his head and winced, the fingers trembling. His left hand was still burned, but thanks to Kataani it wasn't nearly as horrible as it had been. Still hurt, still ached, but he knew he had dealt with worse.

      He hadn't wanted to shut his eyes, but he ended up doing it anyways.

      And as soon as the lids fell, he regretted the decision.

      Even closed, his eyes could detect movement and subtle changes in light. But this wasn't subtle.

      Though his room was naturally left dim as to simulate a cave more than a civilized chamber in a sprawling estate, the dark that he was detecting now was unnatural and complete. He uttered a resigned sigh and pushed himself to standing before opening his eyes and surveying the dark. It was, as he figured, impossible to make out even a silhouette of the objects in his room. A misshapen mouth formed on one of the "walls" of the blackness; lips bubbling up from nothingness.

      Why didn't you tell her everything? A man so intent on destroying masks can't get rid of his own...That's not a very good look, Jebei.

      The Dotharl grunted in response, happy to let the apparition speak to itself after the last encounter. He was still certain that this was its last gasp for attention; a dying breath to ask that he please reconsider his path. After all, if he conquered his Aether, wouldn't this aspect of himself be gone forever? Couldn't he simply use it as anyone else used a tool?

      You can't keep it secret forever. Doesn't matter-matter-matter how much you talk about her or what you speculate. She's missing and you can't find her. That connection of yours isn't helping either...Tch. Tch. Tch.

      A disembodied tongue clicked from some distance away. There was more than one mouth now and they all opened to speak at once, creating an echo that unsettled and unnerved Jebei...Though he still only listened. He moved to the center of the darkness and sat down, shutting his eyes and muttering something under his breath. He hadn't had to do this in months, but these were strange times.

      THIS IS A WORLD OF GLASS AND I AM A HAMMER. Hilarious. Isn't that why she's missing? I warned you, so-so-so many times about these porcelain creatures and loving them. You break things, Jebei...That's what you do. You break things and she left to avoid being broken. You have a choice. You could embrace me fully, the one who has never, ever left you...The one who has been nothing but honest with you. Or you can cling to her memory like man clings to debris in a shipwreck. We can break things.

      "I am tired of breaking things." Jebei opened his eyes again and spoke evenly, shoving down his own fear and doubt. "I didn't wear a mask for Kataani. She knows that." At this, the mouths opened and screamed, but Jebei remained resolute; his facial expression remained calm.

      Do you think this will bring her back? You said it yourself: Zalitai is going to send you to Othard. In Othard, you are a monster. This whole exercise is one of futility! There is no magic that you can master, there is no way forward other than through me, and you will never-never-never SEE THAT RAEN AGAIN. SHE RAN FROM US OUT OF FEAR. SHE SAW WHAT WE DID TO HER PARENTS, TO THE OTHERS. HOW LONG BEFORE SHE WOKE UP TO THE SOUNDS OF YOU TEARING HER APART!?

      The wall mouths were gibbering with an intensity, some speaking more loudly and distorting the echo. Jebei stood up and, once again, remained calm in the face of this. He struggled to hold back from screaming at the mouths, from ordering them to cease their insane shrieking. So many things he wanted to yell and rage about, yet to unleash them now would only make things worse...Would only feed into whatever the Shadow wanted. "She's not dead. That's enough for me. I know the connection is still there, even if it's weak and I'm unable to use it to find her. Even if she's disrupting it of her own accord, I don't care. Knowing she's alive is enough for me to keep going."

      The mouths opened wide and let loose a bellowing sound. Jebei had never really heard another sound like it before. It was like a gong, but much, much lower in tone. He thought the sound would cause his bones to shatter, so he closed his eyes and waited for it to end.

      Jebei wasn't sure when the sound had finally stopped.

      Leith'ir likes this
    • In game character name:  Shiori Komatsu

      Preferred Name: Shiori, Shio.

      Pronunciation: [SHEE - oh - REE], [SHEE - oh]

      Alyx Noirtier likes this
    • I am finished it too :3

    • "No, put that here."

      "For fuck's sake, no! Put that one next to this one."

      "This isn't that difficult. Why are you making this harder than it needs to be?"

      For the past several hours, Jebei had been in the estate's workshop, mostly making exasperated noises and trying to get the mammets to comprehend what he wanted them to do. It wasn't their fault, of course. The tiny, wiry-armed mechanical constructs had been built for assisting in the fabrication of airships, not to participate in a Dotharl's pipe-dream. To Jebei, the situation was simple: Follow the schematics and build individual pieces from the materials supplied, just as in airship creation. But airship creation usually didn't involve a bag of baby coeurls needing disemboweled. It was this impromptu bit of bio-engineering that lead the mammets to click and whirr angrily. As if to say, "I can't believe we have to do what this asshole is asking us to do." Logic chips dictated that this wasn't going to work. Sure, the horse would look like a horse. But the organs would likely just slop out of it unless Jebei found a way to keep them secure.

      The mammets were not made to feel better about the whole thing when Jebei left the workshop and then returned several minutes later with a box of thin, gold wiring.

      Thoughts of using Allagan schematics had first popped up in Jebei's head shortly after Hellsbringr's untimely demise. There was no way that he could bring her back from the dead, so this seemed like the next best option. His occasional forays into areas where they had been active had always yielded glimpses of the horrors they had wrought through a combination of science and magic. The Collective itself had a limited amount of information regarding these experiments, at least before Jebei sent people out to get more. And even then, the knowledge base was woefully lacking. This was, after all, just one man's project.

      The very idea that he had done something intelligent for once instead of just cutting something apart was enough to cause him some modicum of excitement. If he could make this work, then what else could he be capable of? Inancha and the dearly-departed Warmaster had both, at one point, attempted to educate Jebei on the finer points of Thaumaturgy and Conjury...They hadn't stuck, of course, but that was before Jebei's realization. If he couldn't understand that what he did through his Shadow was simply an expression of his Aether and his will, then what hope did he have to learn more advanced techniques? Now, he at least felt it was possible.

      Jebei monitored the mammets, red eyes drifting lazily from machine to machine just to verify that they were doing everything correctly. The sounds of clicking and grinding and scraping and that hard, metal keening was almost musical. A craftsman's lullaby. Jebei sat down on the floor near the machine used to launch the airships and leaned back against it. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to fall asleep to the sounds of the work.

      Fire has a familiar smell to you, doesn't it? That's because you are intimately familiar. How many villages have you burned? How many tiny suns flecked the fields of Azim? It was never about warmth or comfort. It was always about leaving ash to roll around in...Playful little pup. I left you warriors and you turned them to ash with your hubris.

      Jebei's eyes opened, skin feeling warm...Even hot. He scrambled to stand on sleepy, quivering legs, using the airship machine for leverage. It burned his fingers to touch it and his stare beheld what was before him with terror. The entire workshop was bathed in dancing, licking, roaring flames. Mammets melted into misshapen piles of smoldering metal. He could see a small, clawed hand reaching from the amalgamation, twitching and desperately seeking help. His head swung around, but he was trapped in the flames. There was no door, no airship platform. He held his hands up to his face. No burns. Jebei's vision was still a little bleary, but he made out the shape of a man in front of him; a warbling and garbled silhouette in the heat. "Not real." Jebei grunted, a bead of sweat rolling down his violet forehead.

      As real as you want it to be. I'm just your will, remember? Isn't that what you said?  And if that's the case, then who's to say we can't burn this whole thing to the ground? That's what you always do, Jebei. You burn things. You burn people.

      "You're not real at all. You're just part of me that hides in here." Jebei tapped his temple. "I don't need to commune with you and that your last refuge is the shape of Erketu is evidence that you have no power." Speaking seemed to help provide a cool respite from the burning flame. The fires flickered and shrank under Jebei's declaration. But they rose and roared in defiance when the shadowy form of his father chuckled and stepped closer to him. He had a strong resolve, but even it was shaken by this.

      You were supposed to fight and die. That's what a Dotharl does. Instead, you agreed to become a Dalamiq's pet. Do you know what happens to pets when their owners grow tired of them, Jebei? They snap their little necks. They leave them alone in the woods to be eaten by larger predators. They put them in tiny-tiny-tiny cages where they starve waiting for a new owner to come along. That's the fate you've agreed to.

      Jebei grunted at the apparition and started pacing. He moved towards the door, moving his arms to scatter flames from his path. But it seemed that each step he took only caused the actual door to move further and further away. Even with a clear path, the door remained far out of reach. This dream was deep and his Shadow had control here. "Zalitai isn't like that. He doesn't just throw people away. I will always have a use to him."

      Always. Always is a long time, Jebei. I know I can't get you to agree with me. Being under the thrall of the Dalamiq means that you're immunized to common sense. After all, under him you met her, didn't you? Such a small, frail Raen. I wonder how scared of you she is under the surface. She's separated herself from you...Hides in the Chocobo Forest because she likes the animals? Or because you're a monster?

      He swallowed hard and saw the grin forming on the apparition's face.

      How much longer can this joy hold before you have to burn it all down? You don't deserve her. You don't deserve this! You are a base murderer living on borrowed time.

      "Shut up!" Jebei finally snapped, turning to face the shape of his father. He approached it and loomed over it, eyes burning brighter than the flames. The fire rose up in response to the outburst.

      Behold the real Jebei. So angry. So full of hate. You're not pissed off because you disagree either...You just want a fight. Can't help it. It's in your nature-nature-nature!

      Despite knowing that the thing was nothing but a manifestation, Jebei lashed out and grabbed it 'round the throat. His fingers squeezed amorphous black. A choking, wheezing laugh escaped its lungs. Cold seeped over his knuckles and, in that moment, Jebei and his Shadow became one being in infinite space. Their forms swelled and mixed and Jebei couldn't determine whether his screams were actually his. The flames swirled, sucked into the vortex created by their mingling; a drain slurping down the vestiges of this current reality and replacing it with violent, flashing nothingness. There was punctuation in the void, perforations that Jebei's 'eyes', if he could even call them that anymore, couldn't fully understand.

      Red.

      Meteor.

      Blood.

      Sand.

      White scales.

      Gold scales.

      Yurts.

      Begging.

      Screaming.

      Black sun.

      Black scales.

      A polished stone.

      Voices.

      "We can't do this...There has to be another way." "Have you lost your spine?"

      Fear.

      Jebei re-entered his body with the force of real falling, tumbling out of the void and back into himself with gasping breaths. For a moment, he felt hot and this was disconcerting enough to elicit a loud scream from him. But even a blurry examination of the workshop and the mammets, who were staring at him, but not maimed or melted, revealed that everything was fine. He reached for his shirt and lifted it to his forehead, patting away sweat and tears and any other fluid that had accumulated there over the course of his fitful sleep. He said nothing to the mammets, who went back to work, but merely grunted and left the chamber to go and get a glass of water.