It's too long until Ver finally shows her face. Were he anyone else, Michael might shift uncomfortably as other Ruiners approach, but his posture remains still and stiff, the only signs of his discomfort the faint tightening of his brow. He wants Spirit back, safe and unharmed, and each instant that passes without Ver delays his goal. (It's too late to get his wish, for Spiritline's already been tortured, but Michael doesn't know this, except perhaps for deep within his heart.) He ignores the banter, ignores everything but the girl at his side and the empty space where Ver isn't - until, at last, she is.
"I'm not handing him back without something in return," the mutated canine says, and Michael nearly offers himself in return. He would do it; he owes Spirit, and more than that, he likes him. There aren't many creatures Michael likes, but he's willing to go all out for the ones he does. Ver, however, continues with her request. It's not something the Hyperians should agree to - that "regardless of what I do" clause is bound to lead to trouble - but Michael knows that even if Aphrodite refuses, he'll try to talk over her. He's not letting anything else happen to Spiritline.
Aphrodite agrees, and he glances at her approvingly, lip tugging up minusculely. Arya and Sangria are met with cool stares, the former more than the latter, but as he's not concerned about his niece's love life, he says nothing, pale eyes shifting to Ver as he waits for her response.
Even if it had stretched on for weeks, the trip over couldn't have been longer enough to calm Michael and soothe his nerves. He strode in step with Aphrodite, and as the young deputy stopped by the border, he took his place on the opposite side from Mikhalitsyn. His own wings were flared, pale blue feathers overshadowing the hybrid's back protectively. He was well schooled at maintaining a tranquil façade, and as his gaze swept across the desolate desert, this skill was given full use.
Michael's own experience with the Ruins was far from pleasant. If his run-in with Overlord so many moons ago had achieved a solitary desirable outcome, it was (debatably) that it had led him to the Isles. In his mind's eye, the Ruins would always be stained with pain, anger, and fear. Those were not descriptions he would have chosen for Ver when he'd walked beside her as a clanmate in Solaris Kingdom, but worry for Spiritline meant that he was willing to revise his opinion of her.
Powder blue eyes darted toward Mike as the wolf exhaled a phrase, the words so quiet that even Michael, on the other side of Aphy, couldn't pick them up. That didn't displease him; what his clanmate had to say was not as important as the answers the Ruiners would give them. His gaze snapped forward once more, features tugging further downward, tense energy coiling in his stomach.
The thin breeze carried Aphrodite's voice toward him. Michael tilted his gaze fondly toward the winged hybrid, shuffling back a step to make more room for her. Beautiful wasn't the word that came to mind when he regarded the stars. His opinion of them was solidly neutral. They were neither beautiful nor ugly; the most he felt about the stars was a faint stirring of guilt when memories of stargazing with his brothers as cubs arose, unbidden. He might have answered if Spiritline hadn't already, and although the vulpine's tone was teasing as he compared Michael to the stars, the lion stiffened imperceptibly. His gaze froze on Spirit as the fox turned back to Aphy, and it wasn't until the female's next comment that he returned his attention toward her. Did he know the constellations? He was passingly familiar with the more famous of them, although astrology had never been his passion. "Just a few. Can you name any?"
"Shen." Disapproval tightened Michael's dark eyes as he regarded his classmate. Unlike many of the other students, he visited this particular nursing home on a bimonthly basis. Community service was highly regarded in his family to the point of being nearly mandatory. As a high schooler, he'd alternated between visiting the assisted living facility and volunteering at a soup kitchen, but when he'd started university, Michael's uncle had decided that he ought to cut back on his hours. However highly the Seraphinus family regarded community service, they required academic excellence to an equally ridiculous degree.
The black haired male had finished speaking to one of the staff members just in time to overhear Shen's flippant comment - although comment aside, the fact that the other man was on his phone was bad enough. (When he'd been in preschool, Michael had been the class tattletale. As some of the senior home's residents could no doubt confirm, old habits died hard.) The other male didn't seem to take his studies seriously, although the one time they'd been paired together for a group project, Shen's knowledge has surprised him. Still, that didn't excuse rudeness.
He turned from his classmate to the three elders. Although their faces were familiar from his previous visits to the nursing home, he couldn't recall any of their names. "I apologize," he murmured, tilting a frigid glance - apologize! - toward his companion. "He doesn't mind his tongue."
If bothering Michael could be considered a hobby, the lion had to be grateful that Spiritline was the only one invested in that particular hobby. Michael didn't lack for ways to spend his time. He was certainly far from the most social creature in the tribe; it was just as well that he found company to be optional when it came to keeping busy. Despite the benefits it theoretically offered, folding origami wasn't an activity that would usually catch his attention, but it seemed to have a meditative quality that he yearned. Sitting beside Aphrodite, his niece, his gaze lingered on Spiritline for a few long seconds before he tugged some paper toward himself and turned to Neon, awaiting the start of the demonstration.
The ivory lion's head jerked up abruptly, blue eyes frosting over as ice coated his veins. For a heartbeat, he was frozen in place, and then his neutral mask cracked and he stalked over. Michael knew better than to doubt his tribemate's declaration, but it wasn't until he saw the familiar flute resting in the basket, where Mike had gently deposited it, that the news became reality. He reached out a paw to touch the flute, rubbing against the bamboo surface, and although his expression was still, a thousand voices seemed to scream in his head. Abruptly, he turned toward Aphy, ignoring the debate between Neonlights and Mike, and rumbled, "Let's go."
The Ruins or the Veil, whichever of two was actually responsible, had hell to pay.
Oddly enough, although Merlot and his children were coming from Solaris, Michael had been toying with the idea of returning there. He'd lived in Solaris once, when Merlot's mother still led the group, but he'd left without warning. The place remained in his memories, solemn and cool, just as he had been when he resided there. He followed a few steps behind Erasmus, pale eyes flickering toward his recently returned clanmate as the male spoke, before returning to rest coolly on the three strangers, unspeaking, as ever.
He hadn't expected anyone to notice him on the roof but Spiritline always seemed to be able to track him down. Michael couldn't complain; it was Spiritline who had found him when he'd been injured and brought him here for help, and although Michael wasn't happy to see where here was, it was better than bleeding out.
As the fox chirped up at him, he lowered his gaze from the stars. For a minute, he just stared down at the ebony vulpine, and when he realized Spirit couldn't join him on the roof, he unfolded his pale wings and jumped. The wind caught beneath the feathers of his wings, transforming his descent from dangerous leap to gentle glide. Now he was close enough that he didn't have to yell to be heard, and he calmly explained, "Watching the stars."
Night comes early these days, creeping like a thief to chase away the sun. Night comes early, and with it comes bitterly cold winds and skies so clear that they seem endless. Michael doesn't mind the longer nights, although they remind him of the rut he'd fallen in between leaving Solaris and, bloodied and bruised, joining Hyperia. Joining was supposed to be temporary, but the weeks have come and gone and his wounds have fully healed, but he still finds himself here. He hasn't made his peace with Gabe or Luci, but Michael can't bring himself to depart from his family once more, although Hyperia is oversaturated with those being his ancestral surname.
It's night, and Michael is awake. The stars above him gleam pale and cold. There is nothing welcoming about them, but Michael finds comfort in them anyway, and after a pause he climbs atop a stone cottage - not his own; he thinks this one is empty - to continue watching them.
In some ways, Michael and Athanasius are very similar. Perhaps that's something they should have bonded over, but thus far Michael has managed to (mostly) keep his interactions with the pale healer to a professional capacity. That's not something he thinks either of them minds, and even if Ana should object, Michael is keeping everyone - with one midnight colored exception - at arm's length.
Curiosity causes him to break his stride and investigate the soft voices. This early in the day, the ivory beast hadn't expected so many of his clanmates to be up and about, and that alone is reason to approach. He settles beside Aphrodite, who is perhaps the other exception to his rule of detached acquaintanceship. Blue eyes take in his four companions, and like Michael himself, his eyes are hard and silent.
Silent, anyway, until it clicks that he hasn't seen Ana in some time, and he says, "You've come out." A statement simple and obvious, but one that he feels needs to be voiced. Implied in it is a question that Michael will not ask directly, a question so faint as to easily be missed.
If Michael was a great man, the anguished look that overtook Melpomene's features before she froze would have made the pale lion regret his flippant manner. Michael, however, was not great but merely good, and he maintained his cool manner as Gabriel arrived. He was like a vicious child trying to hurt the undeserving; his gaze fluttered downward and as Spirit grasped for what to say, Michael shuffled back a few steps and turned to leave, Mel in her father's capable hands.
Passing oneself off as a reclusive member might work in larger groups, but Hyperia was a tight-knit group. A web of lies would never hold up to the overeager housekeeper, who knew each spider individually. Michael strode on Spiritline's free side, content to maintain his characteristic silence as his niece and friend confronted the paint-splattered child, eyes cool and face set hard.
Michael turns out to be right on both accounts. That doesn't surprise him; he always seems to be right when it matters the least, and he's only now learning that being right does not equal doing right. As Spiritline brushes alongside him, he tilts his head subtly toward the midnight fox, but his stained glass eyes remain on Melpomene and her companion until he hears Spiritline answer her question. The seeker knows Gabriel, but he enjoys having his fun, and Michael can't decipher if he is playing some elaborate prank on the girl. He gives Spirit a long minute before bluntly explaining, "Keyper died." Gabriel is not, for better or for worse, but Michael falls silent rather than elaborate.
Michael had only found his way to way to the Isles a few moons earlier, but although Melpomene had been gone longer, he would recognize family anywhere. There was something of her parents mixed subtly into her features, and the only ligers he'd ever seen with Kady's saberteeth and Gabriel's feathered wings were his brother's offspring. Yes, Melpomene had the appearance of family, but appearance didn't speak for everything and Michael was still sorting out his feelings toward his family. Fittingly, he would approach the pair by the border as though they were strangers, for even if his instincts were correct and he shared blood with one half of the duo, they were still strangers to him. "You're joining." The words emerged from his lips not as a query but as a statement, the question implied rather than obvious. He hadn't caught Mel's comment to the baviam beside her, but experience had taught him that the majority of outsiders met alongside the border sought shelter.
just want to apologize for being so inactive. it's a busy few weeks and i'm hesitant to post when i'm not sure i'll be able to respond, but with finals over mid-december, i'm hoping to be around more c:
Perhaps decent people were supposed to ask regardless, but neither of them were decent people. Michael had tried so hard to do the right thing, but as the world moved on beyond him, he was left with the niggling sense that what he'd always considered to be justice was in reality a series of poor choices. He'd never believed those who tried to point out his flaws, but he was left with bitter truth that even he himself was not beyond flaws.
As a frown crossed Lucifer's face, Mike was vindicated by the male's display of anger. He'd been right after all; Lucifer didn't care. "I don't 'false niceties,' brother. You've always been the liar," he pointed out. "You haven't changed. Everything that's happened, and you're the same." His maw twisted derisively. Lucifer, with his quick smile and charismatic attitude, attracted others like flies to honey. Michael's own stern nature won him few friends, but he preferred honor and truth to companionship. That was not something his darling pink brother could possibly understand.
It was impossible not to notice Ana's absence. They were one of the faces Michael saw semi-consistently, and although he had been mildly curious about the other's absence, he had ignored it. As the rose-eyed kitsune calls out, Michael starts to head their way - not because he missed them or because medicine interests him but because he has the vague idea that Spiritline might approach. The black vulpine had once been a spiritcaller student, and he knows the art of healing still intrigues them. Spirit, however, has not joined the group, and for a long minute Michael hesitates, as though wondering if he should turn from the gathered. In the end, he remains, silently sliding in beside Aphrodite as he tries to piece together what Athanasius must have asked before he arrived.