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Thread: [M|IC] The Price of Life (Ashen and Naming)

  1. #21
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    The start of Froste’s answer was enough to make Zula perk up a little. She visibly straightened, and found herself watching her guest with renewed interest. It quickly became apparent that they weren’t talking about the sort of progress that she’d been hoping for, that she needed, but Zula tried not to blame them. It had been foolish of her to expect anything so soon, and the path to recovery was never a straight line. The fact that they were feeling better at all, and hadn’t shown any signs of slowing down yet, both seemed like good signs regardless. And…after all the effort the fire mage had put into reviving them, a part of her couldn’t help but feel glad they were doing okay, independent of her whole mess.

    As they continued, Zula found herself weirded out by how overwhelmingly polite her guest was, for the second time that day. By how intent they seemed on thanking her, complimenting her, and just…expressing their appreciation for literally everything. She’d never experienced anything quite like it before, and it put Zula on edge for some reason she couldn’t quite name. It almost felt like they were trying to manipulate her, or they were afraid of falling out of her good graces. But could she really blame them, when she had unwittingly made them so dependent on her goodwill?

    Zula mulled the possibility over for a few moments, before she realised that it might not be about her at all. They had no real idea how long Froste had been frozen before she had come along and finally set them free. If they were acting like someone from another time, maybe it was just….well, because they were from another time. A fact that was shockingly easy to forget, given how normal they looked right now. Mismatched clothes aside, anyway. They certainly had stars in their eyes as they took everything in, but so did half the tourists she saw.

    Her thoughts were interrupted when Froste turned the question back around on her, with their own little flair. The dark humour made Zula snort softly, and a small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. “Oh, absolutely. But then, you didn’t set a very high bar to clear. There were times when I considered setting the place on fire just to shake things up a little.” A man in a yellow shirt stepped into her path, holding out a flyer, but Zula brushed past them without a second thought as she continued. “As for your company…jury's still out. Ask me again after we’ve made it back to the apartment.” She was chuckling softly now, laughing at her own riposte. There was no missing her growing smirk either.

    When they reached the next intersection, Zula threw only a cursory dance in both directions as she stepped down off the curb. She slowed her pace just enough to let a taxi pass them by, before crossing the street without breaking stride. They were close now, with just one more street to go. As Zula stepped up onto the opposite footpath, her gaze drifted to the rows of shops once more, and another thought popped into her head. “Maybe we should buy some of the shit you need today, since we’re already here. Should probably save it for the walk back, though.” There was no point in carrying all those bags around any longer than they had to. Hopefully she had enough in her savings to cover the essentials. They’d find out soon enough, she supposed.

    Halfway down the next street, they finally arrived at their destination. A long and narrow tiled plaza, tucked away between a two-story pub and some sort of trading firm. The entrance was guarded by a phalanx of metal bollards, stalwartly insisting that only foot traffic was allowed. Even from this distance, Zula could see splashes of colour along the walls. She could hear the faint lilt of live music too, just barely, buried beneath the regular sounds of the city. Spurred on by the knowledge that they were so close, drawn by the wonders the plaza promised, Zula picked up the pace. She pushed through the crowd with growing abandon, smiling all the while, and trusting that Froste wouldn’t be far behind.

    Then she rounded the last corner, and was struck by a wave of wonderful, vibrant life. An explosion of colour and sounds, as overwhelming as it was brilliant.

    Both of the walls that lined the alley were blanketed in graffiti, from one end to the other. So much so that it was impossible to guess what the walls were originally made of. There were no scribbled tags or crude dicks here, either. All of it was art, true art, crafted with real precision and care. There were pop artists rendered in stunning likeness, their music made visual around them. A set of feathered angel wings, painted at such a height that you could stand in front of them for photos, and pretend they were your own. There were movie characters, aliens, moons and trees. Even a few strange, abstract pieces that Zula couldn’t even begin to make sense of. They all blended together into a single mural, with no clear indications as to where one piece ended and the next began. She could even see an artist at work, painting some new creation over an older piece that had already been on display for months.

    And that was only the beginning. A handful of people milled about in a small circle, standing around a street performer as they waited for the next show to begin. He looked like a magician to Zula, judging by the bag of goodies that waited near the middle of his little stage, but there’d be no telling until the show actually started. The music seemed louder now, too, and Zula cast her gaze around, searching for the source. After a few moments, she spotted it - a lone musician, sequestered away at the far end of the plaza. She sat on a small stool, strumming idly at the acoustic guitar that laid across her lap. The guitar’s case sat open by her feet, ready for any expressions of appreciation the crowd was willing to give.

    It was a smaller crowd than Zula had expected, honestly, but that fact did little to dull her appreciation. She took in the collection of marvels in silence for a moment, a rare, genuine smile softening her features. When she turned back towards Froste, it was for an entirely different reason than before. She loved this place more than she did most people, and was eager to see what they made of it. Was eager to see if they’d be as enraptured by it as she had been, the first time her friends had dragged her here. “So, what do you think? Was this the right choice?”

  2. #22
    The Ashen One
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    All the pressure that had been built up by their conversation this far evaporated as soon as Zula laughed. Froste still didn’t understand her, and they figured that would come with a lot more time spent with her, but for now, they were content to know they could bring her a small amount of joy even despite everything. They looked around again, their eye catching on several new stores they were now passing. The shopping trip Zula suggested was nothing but exciting, and Froste looked forward to coming back almost as much as they looked forward to seeing the art hub she was leading them to.

    The burst of color visible over the heads of the crowd was the first thing Froste saw. They stopped walking, starstruck, not knowing where to direct their gaze. There was so much to see that it was hard to not get overwhelmed. Froste first turned to the murals, massive and towering over the crowd. They were made from a variety of art styles, a collection of pieces from different artists, and they featured a bit of everything. Froste approached one wall and drew their fingers against one of the paintings. It featured a person with bright blue-and-yellow patterned skin. Pop art, that was what this style was called. Froste had never seen it used to such a beautiful effect, and they fell in love with the artist without even knowing them. They wondered about the person in the painting, if they were famous, if they had ever seen this art of them. Before they could ask themselves too many questions about it, they wandered to the next wall.

    A person was crouched against this wall, working on a new mural with an array of green spray cans. Froste got the urge to grab one of the cans, to see if they could make beautiful art too, but they decided against it. Getting arrested for theft and vandalism probably wasn’t a good way to help Zula, as much as their curiosity called to them. Instead, they watched the artist work in silence for several minutes, a bouquet of compliments stuck in their throat. They didn’t want to disturb an artist at work, though, so they kept to themselves until finally, they continued onwards.

    Froste studied every inch of every wall, trying to guess at the subject of each mural. Some of these people seemed familiar, as if they were celebrities from a different time, but Froste couldn’t place any of them. They preferred the abstract art anyway. Planted in front of one such mural, their eyes traced the delicate, multicolored lines, and they lost themselves in the art. The streets, the people, the chatter, everything else fell away as Froste wandered through this piece, imaging the artist’s process. They could easily spend the whole day here speculating new interpretations for this piece alone, but after several long minutes, they remembered where they were, and that they weren’t alone. They were being horribly rude in ignoring Zula, so they turned to find her.

    But Zula for her part was having just as good a time as they were. Froste hadn’t seen her this excited about anything before, and they admired the stars in her eyes as she took in the scene around her. A fellow lover of art, Zula looked at home in this place. Her appreciation was clear in her face, and Froste felt they learned more about her in just this look than they had in their whole morning with her. They felt they could get lost in this, too, in watching her passion burn brightly behind her eyes, until someone bumped into them and they remembered where they were.

    The music filling the air was the next thing they noticed, and Froste wandered towards the source. A musician was strumming away at a guitar, and Froste watched her fingers for a short while. Her movements were familiar, and Froste tried to mimic them, strumming at an invisible guitar. They knew this feeling; they had played a stringed instrument before. They held onto this tiny victory, this vague memory, and tried to follow it further. Had they taken lessons? Had they been any good? They absently reached towards the musician, wanting to try out her guitar and see for themselves if they knew how to play it, but they stopped themselves once again. They let the musician continue her beautiful song, longing for anything to offer her for her for the experience of her art.

    They then realized, once more, that they’d lost Zula. Froste thought she had followed them towards the musician, but she was no longer beside them, and they couldn’t see her through the crowd. She shouldn’t have been hard to find, what with her colorful hair and her repellent personality, but if was as if she had disappeared. “Zula?” Froste mumbled as they pushed through walls of people to try to find her. Feeling like a child who had lost their mother, Froste swallowed the dread creeping up their throat and went searching for the only person they knew.

    They found her standing in front of a stage, where a performer was getting ready for something. Before Froste could even reach her, they stared up at the performer, admiring his outfit. There were sequins and sparkles and a really big hat, and they wondered if his fashion tastes were as outlandish to the crowd as they were to the cryogenic sleeper. That didn’t stop Froste from wanting to try on such an outfit, though, and see if they could make it as a performer. If they really had been a researcher, they doubted they had much experience entertaining, but the thought still tugged at them.

    Zula’s question pulled Froste’s attention away from the stage, and they realized then just how distractible they’d been since they got there. They mumbled a quiet apology for that before smiling into their answer. “It’s magical,” they breathed, gesturing around them. “Coming here, I feel rejuvenated. Inspired. I could spend days here looking at the art alone. Do the pieces change frequently?” They motioned their chin towards the stage. “Is there a show coming? Can we stay and watch it? Have you ever performed here?” Like an excitable child, they had no shortage of questions for their guide. Froste wanted to learn everything about this place, and their enthusiasm brought a wide smile to their face. They turned back to the stage, trying to guess at what kind of show was going to take place.
    Thanks to Craze for the beautiful Bravely set!

    ~Recruitment Thread~
    Spoiler: Ashen's Personal Hall of Fame 

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