/simu/ - Simulacrum

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>Date: June 14th, 2017 [Relative]
>Location: Null Space
>Time: Indeterminate

>The infinite expanse of cosmic void fills the periphery of a mind - as the person within continues to exert themselves.

{"Just a little bit more…."}

>Large plumes of cosmic fire, stellar light and radiation continue to spiral across the skies above. Down on the surface of a large, technological planet - a figure continues their training.

>The entire planet is surrounded by large, futuristic structures, with electronics wiring spread about. Large structures full of glowing energy contain the majority of the light inside of the structure.

{"Now think of something more concrete. More lively on top of that."}

>In that moment, entire populations of people and domesticated animals then start to appear - walking down the streets. Seemingly going about their day to day lives. All of them remain completely oblivious to the meditating figure hovering above them.

{"Good. You're almost there. Finish imagining the structure, the larger system. Of all the interconnecting parts, weaving and intermingling. The natural essence still eludes this place."}

>The disembodied voice continues to speak to the man, as vegetation starts growing alongside the barren technological planet. Rivers and valleys begin to sprout - slowly supporting life in addition to the humans that now exist.

>However, it's not just the normal animals that appear from nothingness - but in addition to that, also the more otherworldly creatures.

>A dragon swoops down onto the large futuristic city from above - seemingly being guided by a knight in magitek armor. Several more dragons and wyverns join in a large formation around the planet.

>At that moment, the people in the city then all slowly gain the ability to fly - each of them starting to soar around freely at their own volition. They start rapidly arcing into the sky, flying in their own unique patterns and formations - all of them looking happy and delighted as they do so.

>The meditating figure then looks up and out in front of them, with their eyes still closed.

"How long have I been at this?"

>The disembodied voice then responds to him, as if to congratulate him.

{"A few months relatively speaking, almost a year. Oh, you're still missing something."}

>The figure, wearing spectacled sunglasses, also harbors bright snow white hair. Said figure then looks up into the sky - craning his head to the side as the empty void of space is now suddenly filled with the radiating light of a heavenly body.

>A new main sequence star now suddenly hovers in the air - light years away from the planet.

>Looking back down, the figure then smiles as the disembodied voice then says:

{"This is the fifth time you've crafted a solar system of your own. Care to stop now, Aiden?"}

>Aiden then sighs and parts his hair back - looking up at the sky, seemingly at no one. He then smiles as he says:

"Are you kidding? I've got all the time in the world, don't I?"


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>Date: June 14th, 2017
>Location: TTC Primus - Interior
>Time: 8:00 AM

>As Virgil looks up from the control panel of the TTC's interior command station - he then looks behind him.

"As I said, care to stop now?"

>Aiden slowly walks up to Virgil from behind, spectacles still on as his hands remain in his jacket. Standing in place for a moment, he takes in the interior and then says to Virgil:

"You know, there's something awfully calming about that."

>Virgil raises an eyebrow at Aiden.

"About playing God?"

>Aiden shakes his head as he looks at the view screen - showcasing the alternate dimension that he's created.

"No. About creating life. Giving form to the formless. Breathing energy and aether - into what was once without it. There's something poetic about making something in your image."

>Aiden and Virgil then both look at the Solar System of the new dimension - after Aiden has put the finishing touches on its planetary arrangement and star system structure.

"Where did you start them off?"

>Virgil asks, as Aiden looks on intently at his creations.

"Around where you were - when it all began."

>Now in contemplative thought, Virgil then asks Aiden:

"About your hair. Is that due to your mana exposure - or your Chronarch abilities fully manifesting?"

>Looking at Virgil from the edge of his periphery, Aiden grins as he says:

"A bit of both - and something more."

>Virgil then finally recognizes the unique aura around Aiden. The pressure of his power is barely detectable to him.

{"I knew he was an anomaly before, but this…..Before I could sense his energy. But now? It's beyond even my ability to detect. Astonishing."}

>Looking intently at Aiden as he sits down to observe his creations even more, Virgil then narrows his eyes and thinks to himself:

{"All of his aggregated abilities. They've unified and merged into something greater. After nearly a year in a time dilated dimension of his own creation, I would've assumed that he would grow stronger in power. Grow at a geometric rate…..but not exponential!"}


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>After a few more moments of contemplative thought, Virgil then walks toward Aiden and leans his hand on the surface of the control panel - resting against it as he faces Aiden from the right side.

"I'm serious Aiden. What happened to you for the past year?"

>Aiden looks up at Virgil, still giving a warm smile as he says:

"Isn't it obvious? I internalized everything inside of me, and refined it to near perfection. Probably as you were guessing."

>Narrowing his eyes, Virgil then realizes the inversion of their traditional dynamic, as Aiden looks relaxed and genuinely happy.

{"Student surpasses the master it seems. I figured this would've happened."}

>Blinking for a moment, Virgil then asks Aiden:

"Why not train for a year with your Sorcerer friends?"

>Aiden taps the side of his head, his eyes barely visible from behind his spectacles as he says:

"Because this was about introspection. Finding myself and knowing myself entirely."

>Virgil then says to Aiden:

"Aren't you worried that you lost an entire year in training?"

>Giving a light laugh, Aiden replies:

"I'm a Chronarch, same as you. We both know that time on a scale this miniscule has no meaning. That's why I decided to do it. Years pass by as fast as days to me now, honestly. I can see why the waking world bores you so much."

>Now standing up, Aiden then takes one last look at the monitor - and the future civilization that he has created with sheer force of will and raw power.

"Besides, that was just practice at large scale control. My counterpart and his associates can do this effortlessly. I'm still not at that level."

>Virgil blinks in disbelief, stating:

"Aiden. You created an infinitely expansive dimension and a solar system with a series of randomized counterparts within it. A year or not, to even begin to harbor enough power to do that is….."

>Shaking his head, Virgil then concludes:

"It's astonishing."


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>Virgil then points at the spectacles on Aiden's face, noting their unique build quality.

"Magic, I presume?"

>Aiden gives a half-and-half gesture with his right hand as he taps his spectacles with his left hand.

"Magitek. I created a façsimile of my counterpart's spectacles. Part of my own training with him and this world's Sorcerer Supreme. Through that, I was able to create artifacts that let me see the world far more clearly."

>Putting his hands behind his back as he continues to smile sheepishly at Virgil - he then says:

"The technology was borrowed from you, of course. I wanted to augment them further if I could. Test myself and my capacity to interweave technology and magic."

>Virgil looks at the spectacles for a moment, stating:

"Do they work?"

>Pointing at Virgil's hair and clothes, Aiden then replies:

"Absolutely. You've got snow white hair like me, don't you?"

>Understanding the implication, Virgil then says:

"I assume there's a perception filter for your white hair? Wouldn't want everyone to think that you dyed it. Not great for business one would imagine."

>Nodding slowly, Aiden replies:

"Of course. Only a few people should be able to see my true hair color - figure it out."

>As Aiden turns around to leave the TTC exterior, he then says to Virgil:

"Oh and by the way. Thank you for your help all this while, Virgil. I hope Phoebe's treating you well."

>Virgil's face turns red as he then mutters to himself:

"I figured he suspected. But still…."

>Out loud, Virgil says, clearly flustered:

"It was less than a day, Aiden! I haven't had time to fully process it myself!"

>Still flustered, Virgil watches as Aiden waves to him and leaves the TTC - only minutes after he just appeared there.


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>Location: Sanctuary City - Residential Sector
>Time: 8:00 AM

"An entire year?!"

>Stella says, her body fuming with irritation as Aiden nervously laughs in front of her.

"Well, I wouldn't say a year. More like…eight months or so? Haha…."

>Stella then immediately begins shaking Aiden back and forth with superhuman strength and speed.

"Aiden Ethan Grayson! I swear on my megalomaniacal father's grave, that if you ever so much as 'skip' another year of your life? I will personally feed you to the Grim Reaper myself!"

>Still nervously laughing, Aiden replies:

"W-What good would that do if you killed me though? I'd be dead, honey!"

>Stella then shouts:


[A few minutes later]

>Aiden and Stella sit on the side of their bed, in their room. As Aiden looks at the wall before him, Stella looks down at the ground. After a few moments, she then asks:

"Didn't you feel awful being alone? In an empty void for a year?"

>Aiden shakes his head, pointing to his brain as he says:

"I'm a Chronarch, remember? Years feel like days to me. Besides, the passage of time didn't really bother me either - since it gave me time to think about my own life."

>Aiden then slowly puts his arm around Stella and brings her in close, saying:

"Ever since I had my 'awakening' of sorts. The day I stopped really aging, or losing energy. Stopped having the need to eat, or sleep - or even breathe. Ever since that day I've felt……just lonely. Empty."

>Stella looks down at the floor again, feeling herself bite her lip in restraint. However, she fails to stop herself from speaking on instinct.

"You should've taken me with you!"

>Aiden shakes his head.

"You're not a Chronarch, honey. Your mind would've gone insane after a year in a superstructural void of nothingness. Chronarchs like Virgil have evolved over the course of billions of years to adapt to those mental conditions. Humans haven't."

>Stella, gritting her teeth, then grabs Aiden's hand tightly as she says:

"I. Don't. Care. You're the only thing that matters to me in this world - and you're all that I have left."

>Looking back up, Stella then looks Aiden directly in the eyes and states:

"So don't leave me ever again."

>Aiden looks at Stella in surprise for a moment, before his expression naturally changes to a smile.

"On my word. I swear. I won't do it ever again, honey."

>Stella then reaches out and gives Aiden a kiss on the lips before pulling back.

"Good. I'll hold you to it - even if I have to force Isaac and Stephanie to craft a spell about it."


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>Stella then sighs as she leans back on Aiden's shoulder, stating:

"Now what to do about your hair……Ugh, this is going to be a problem, isn't it?"

>Aiden shakes his head, stating:

"Not really. My perception filter is powerful enough to fool most people. Outside of Isaac, Stephanie and everybody else who's 'like me' - I'm not sure it'll matter."

>Stella looks at Aiden for a minute, before sighing and stating:

"If you insist. We've got to get to the office anyways. You start at eight thirty today."

>Aiden then looks at Stella in return and says:

"Aren't you worried that you'd age rapidly if you went into the dimension with me?"

>Stella looks annoyed as she rolls her eyes, stating:

"My mother and father created me through Thaumaturgic Magic. I'm a magical being, Aiden. Why do you think I've never gotten sick from a disease before?"

>Looking annoyed still, Stella takes out her phone as she says:

"I'm unaging at my prime - just like you."

>Blinking for a moment, Aiden looks up and then says:

"Huh. I always did wonder why you adapted to Earth's ecosystem so easily. You weren't born here - so I figured your immune response wouldn't have been strong enough."

>Looking back at Aiden with a neutral expression on her face, Stella snarks:

"Well aren't you a master detective."

>Smiling as he taps the back of his neck with his arm, Aiden laughs as he states:

"I mean…I try?"


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>After a few more minutes of talking, Aiden then stands up and holds his hand out for Stella to take.

"I can get us there now, if you don't want to take the long way."

>Stella looks up at Aiden and then rolls her eyes again.

"Aiden, if I wanted to not take the long way, I would've flown there by now. I meant what I said."

>Grabbing his hand - but then guiding him out of their room, Stella then says:

"I want to stay by you, no matter what. So we're taking the car."

>Sighing, Aiden nods as he states:

"I figured as much. Now I know better than to assume your feelings."


>Once outside, Stella walks to the Camaro parked outside and says:

"I kind of like how inconspicuous your car is. From what Phoebe's told me, it's very simple and humble as a car. It doesn't stand out."

>Raising an eyebrow behind his spectacled sunglasses in amusement, Aiden then says:

"Oh right, I forgot about that. I only have the car because it's a hand-me-down from my father. I could've gotten something better at any time."

>Turning her attention back to face Aiden, Stella states:

"You don't have to, Aiden."

>Smiling, Aiden then says:

"No, but I want to."

>Making a slight nudging gesture with his head - Aiden signals to Stella as turns back around. Now she can see that the black Camaro has been replaced with a black Lamborghini instead.

"W-What?! When did you-"

>Aiden whistles as he walks over to the driver's seat and says to Stella:

"Since a year ago. Technically speaking."

>Once Stella and Aiden have both gotten inside of the Lamborghini - the car then drives off into the distance. As it leaves the Residential Sector, they both begin driving to the Business Sector of the city.


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>As they continue driving towards the Archeon Complex, Stella continues talking to Aiden. The entire time, she says:

"Are you sure that you want to go to the office today? I know you said that you can handle it. But I'm still concerned."

>Aiden looks over at Stella while he drives, stating:

"No, that's a fair question. My words alone wouldn't really mean anything to you - not after what just happened. So I'll have to prove it with my actions."

>Once they arrive at the Archeon Complex, Aiden and Stella leave the car as they begin walking up the steps towards the lobby. Inside of the lobby, Amber is waiting for them - her arms still crossed like usual.

"You're late again, Aiden. Third time this month."

>Still completely unphased by the statement, Aiden keeps his hands in his jacket pockets as he nods at Amber, stating:

"You're looking as capable as ever today, Amb."

>Rolling her eyes, Amber then asks Aiden:

"Do you even know what your schedule is today?"

>Aiden then replies, nonchalantly and in a normal tone of voice.

"A meeting involving various different examinations of hydraulic energy conversion mechanisms being proposed by each wing of the Aerodynamics department."

>Aiden takes out his hand and continues talking.

"Legal briefings on trademark revisions and patent confirmations - before we deploy the new revisions of the Solaris generators worldwide."

>Aiden then continues listing off every single item that he could possibly have on his schedule - something only possible with a supernatural and photographic memory.

"Anything else Amb?"

>Amber looks somewhat stunned and taken aback. She then stammers and coughs into her hand as she says:

"N-No, Aiden. That's everything."

>Smiling, Aiden nods and gives her a thumbs up - stating:

"You're doing an excellent job of keeping this place together. Don't get rusty. You might be in the main seat years from now. Who knows?"

>Aiden then walks past Amber, giving her a wave from behind him as he does so. Stella waves at Amber as well - who waves back, still stunned.

{"….Something about him seems different. He's far more approachable now. He also seems…more confident in himself? Happier?"}


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>Time: 11:00 AM

>Aiden sits at the edge of the Genetics Laboratory's conference room. As he looks over the presentation being given to him by the Desmonds - his hands remain interlaced and locked together through his fingers. Staring at the presentation from behind his sunglasses - he watches as more diagrams, sales extrapolation models and financial costs are placed on the screen.

"In short, through new suppliers and the implementation of our new biomass refinery process - we can construct far more effective bio-molds for stem cell research. Potentially increasing our shipments by 75% year over year."

>Dana says, ending the presentation. As she looks over at Aiden, waiting for his response - she looks somewhat nervous.

'"I know that I'm asking a lot of you, sir. But this is exactly what we need to improve our reach in emerging markets."

>Aiden, having already assessed the situation the moment he walked into the door and casually skimmed the papers on the table - then speaks up.

"Sure. I'll even toss in an extra 10% increase to your yearly budget for this purpose."

>Stunned, Dana then states:

"S-Sir?! T-Thank you! I won't let you down! I promise!"

>Aiden nods as he makes a motion with his hand. As he does so, he then states:

"Oh, and as for Joshua's Virion project? Keep it running with the same material costs. Your division is already incredibly profitable. If the shareholders want to throw a fit, they'll take it up with my father and my sister."

>Joshua looks up, surprised and stunned - but obviously grateful at the decision.

"Sir! Thank you! I too will ensure that my project is a success!"

>Aiden thumbs up as he stands up, stating:

"Trust me. I know you're onto something very groundbreaking here. Who am I to intrude on your creative endeavors?"

>Dana, Daniel and Joshua then all bow in consideration at Aiden, before walking out of the room.

>Now left to his own devices, Aiden looks at the table in front of him and whistles once more.

>Picking up the nearby apple that he was eating earlier, he finishes it and flicks the remains into the trash can behind him - without even looking at it.

"Now, who should I go see next? Check up on how they're doing."


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>Outside of the conference room, Mariah is arguing with a lab assistant over something involving the Genetics Division's latest project.

"No, I've told you before. We can't use a titrated solution due to the changes in acid composition. The substrate's not going to react and-"

>A voice calls out from behind them, finishing her statement for her.

"Protein denaturing will occur if the optimal pH balance isn't maintained - which is terrible if you want to inhibit substrate binding."

>Standing before Mariah, Aiden has his hands in his jacket pockets - giving her a soft smile as he looks at her.

"You're testing the new enzyme inhibitors? Good."

>Somewhat surprised by Aiden's change in appearance, Mariah then says:

"…..I'm sorry, Mister Grayson. I almost didn't recognize you."

>Raising an eyebrow, Aiden then responds:

"All I needed to do was change my hairstyle, get a jacket and some spectacles to fool you? I'm flattered."

>Seeing Mariah's face slightly turn red in embarrasment, Aiden then laughs as he says:

"It's fine Mariah. I understand how I could've confused you for a moment. Still, keep up the good work."

>Aiden then waves to Mariah as he passes her by - hands in his jacket pockets as he walks down the hallway.

>Mariah is left stunned for a moment as she then says to herself:

"…..Is he…….more interesting now?"

>Catching herself as she speaks, Mariah then thinks:

{"What am I talking about? Get a grip Mariah. Focus on your work again."}

>Mariah then turns around, walking back to her lab to continue her research.


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>Time: 5:00 PM
>As Damian finishes up his internship work at Archeon for the day - he nods at his colleagues and fellow students before he finishes packing up his belongings.

>After doing so, he then hears a knock on the door - right outside of the laboratory.

"Yeah? You can come in. It's just me still here."

>The door then opens as Damian continues packing his belongings. While doing so, he notices someone walking into the room from the periphery of his vision. But it isn't until the person speaks that he immediately responds.

"Having a good day so far?"

>Immediately darting his face up to see the man whose voice he recognizes - Damian then feels his eyes widen as he states:

"….Aiden? Is that you?"

>Nodding, Aiden waves at Damian while stating:

"Yep. So far that's what everyone tells me at least."

>Giving a resigned sigh, Aiden then lightly scratches the side of his left cheek - looking at the room through his spectacled sunglasses.

"Nice shades. They look really expensive."

>Aiden makes a small movement with his head, indicating a slight disagreement with the statement.

"I wouldn't say expensive. More 'customized' - by comparison."

>Damian shrugs and then finishes packing up his backpack as he says:

"So are you here for something in particular, or just checking the place out as usual?"

>Aiden then says to Damian in a casual tone of voice:

"I'm just here to check up on you specifically. See how you've been doing lately."

>Damian then points to the door as he says:

"Good so far. Wanna walk for a bit? I can……swing the rest of the way back after getting to the entrance."

>Aiden then nods as he states:

"Sure, why not?"


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>As they walk to the front of the complex, Aiden and Damian continue to talk - with Aiden bringing Damian up to speed with his current situation.

"Are you sure nobody can hear what you're saying?"

>Aiden nods, as he continues walking with his hands in his jacket.

"No one in this building outside of my sister and Virgil, can perceive my actual words."

>Damian then blinks as he looks at Aiden for a moment - studying him with an analytical eye.

"Hmm? Something up, Damian?"

>Damian shakes his head, stating:

"No, it's just that…..I'm sure you've heard this before already but……you seem really different now, Aiden. In a good way."

>Thinking to himself for a moment, Damian then asks:

"…..How long did you say you were placed in that separate plane of reality?"

>Aiden immediately responds.

"8 months, 23 days, 15 hours, 40 minutes, 30 seconds and 250 milliseconds. Give or take."

>Stunned, Damian then replies:

"…..Alright, you are definitely what you say you are now. No wonder nothing phases you anymore."

>Aiden then gives a soft grin as he reaches the front of the door - stating:

"That's not true, Damian. Everything still reaches my attention - and it does still have an emotional effect."

>Nudging at the door with his head, he then says:

"Nothing really surprises me anymore - but it does phase me. Much like how the last person I expected to see - is right outside that door right now."

>Damian then thinks quickly for a moment, before Aiden says:

"Your extra-sensory ability wouldn't pick it up. He's not here to fight you. Nor me, actually. He's here to apologize."

>Damian blinks and states:


>Aiden turns to look at Damian, with an amused look on his face.

"The guy who wanted my head clean off a few months ago."


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>As Aiden walks outside of the Archeon Complex with Damian beside him - they both see it immediately.


>A man standing in the middle of the steps, has his arms crossed. The man appears to be Asian, and around the same age as Aiden. With a wave of flowing black hair and eyeshadow - the man gives the appearance of a high society figure. His clothes are equally ornate and vibrant, colorfully accented as to contrast with his black dress wear.

>Aiden then speaks up, as he states:

"Damian, say hello to Ryozo "Takashi" Hoyokazi."

>Damian looks nervously at the figure - able to sense a tremendous amount of power within him. As he nervously looks at the man, he whispers to Aiden:

"….I know you said that I shouldn't be worried about a fight. But my sense is going haywire around this guy! I can feel the buzzing getting louder and louder!"

>Aiden nods, stating:

"Your sense warns you of potential danger. Whether materialized or not. It's basically a confirmation that he could be a problem if things go south."

>Looking at Damian, Aiden then says:

"Phoebe's here, so you don't need to worry about collateral. I'll see you tomorrow."

>Nodding quickly at Aiden, Damian takes one last look at Ryozo - who doesn't even acknowledge his presence, before leaving. Walking off to the side and out of sight before he can swing away from the premises as Arachnid.


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>Now standing alone, Aiden keeps his hands in his pocket as Ryozo speaks out loud in Japanese.

>Feigning ignorance, Aiden then states:

"Oh, I'm sorry. I can't understand Japanese. I'd have to get someone who can facilitate communication between us - if you'd want to interact."

>Walking down the steps, Aiden waves to Ryozo nonchalantly, as he says:

"Besides, now's not a good time."

>Closing his eyes and sighing, Ryozo turns around and then speaks in fluent English.

"I am here to apologize for my transgressions, Aiden Grayson."

>Aiden stops walking, and then stands in place. Still feigning ignorance and surprise, he then slowly turns around, stating:

"Why, I never would've imagined a Hoyokazi feeling the need to apologize for anything. What's the occasion?"

>Getting more irritated, Ryozo then sighs and closes his eyes again once more. Barely keeping his emotions at bay, he then says one more time:

"….I am here….To apologize….for my……"

>Aiden gives an exaggerated "listening" pose - with his hand placed to his ear as he does so.

"I'm sorry, I didn't hear you. Did you say that you were here to apologize? For transgressions? Like what?"

>Ryozo is about to speak, as Aiden cuts him off.

"Like trying to slice my head off in the middle of a recreational work break? In the middle of the lobby of my own building?"

>Ryozo then grinds his teeth before finally speaking:

"….I am sorry, Aiden. I acted recklessly and without thought. I almost jeopardized financial relationships between your family and mine-"

>Aiden then, for the first time in the day, drops his cheery and playful attitude. A glare that could pierce steel now rests behind his eyes as he states:

"Your family has been jeopardizing far more than that from the very beginning. My naïveté makes that abundantly clear."


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>Ryozo's brow then furrows in anger as he instinctively takes a combat stance.

"If you so much as disrespect the head of the Hoyokazis once more, then-"

>Scoffing, Aiden then says:

"I don't care about Hiyuki, any more than I do the average person. It's your entire family that I have a personal problem with."

>Keeping his hands in his jacket pockets, he then states:

"But I forgive you for what you did. Because you acted in anger and reckless emotion - as I was known to do."

>Surprised and caught off guard, Ryozo then says in bewilderment:

"….You….forgive me?"

>Rolling his eyes behind his spectacled sunglasses, Aiden then states:

"Would you rather that I despised you for the rest of your life? What good would that do, for either of us?"

>Still doubting Aiden's intentions behind his words, Ryozo says:

"….Then….I have finished my objective - and now I may hope to regain my family's recognition."

>Looking at Ryozo quizzically for a moment, Aiden then states:

"….Dude. Who cares about your family's recognition? You're your own person, aren't you?"

>Ryozo stammers, caught off guard as he replies:

"Of course I am! It is just…."

>Aiden now looks amused once more - his playful and laid back demeanor returning.

"Just what? You're 'too honorable' for that?"

>Aiden then gives Ryozo another smile of amusement as he says:

"Oh God, you're a work in progress. Alright, come on."

>Aiden then makes a casual gesture with two of his fingers in a "come here" motion - beckoning Ryozo to move with him down the stairs as he turns around.

"What? Where are we going? …..Not that I'd even want to go with you!"

>Ryozo blurts out, clearly taken by surprise at Aiden's statement.

>Not looking behind him even for a moment, Aiden says:

"I'm going to show you around the city - so that you actually learn how to have fun, and hopefully don't turn into a mess like the rest of your family."


File: 1691688074394-0.jpeg (175.71 KB, 850x1083, Aiden - 46.jpeg)

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File: 1691688074394-2.jpeg (160.01 KB, 850x1377, Ryozo - 2.jpeg)

>As Ryozo begins to protest, Aiden holds his hand up - suddenly on his phone. Making a 'shh' motion with his hand to his lips, he then waits as the call connects.

"Hey honey. You're never going to guess who dropped by. Yeah I know. You can go home right now if you want to - I should be back by 7 or 8 PM. Alright. Got it. Love you too."

>Finishing his call with Stella, Aiden then puts his phone back in his jacket pocket as he turns towards Ryozo. He then states:

"Well? Time's money, and it flies. So let's get going."

>Recognizing Aiden's clear resolve, Ryozo sighs as he states:

"…..Where are we going?"

>Aiden then says, as he begins walking:

"Where else? To a restaurant to get a bite to eat. You're probably starving by now."


File: 1691688396505-0.png (295.14 KB, 540x304, Sanctuary City - 2.png)

File: 1691688396505-1.jpeg (156.33 KB, 1920x1013, Lamborghini .jpeg)

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File: 1691688396505-4.jpeg (91.01 KB, 850x959, Ryozo.jpeg)

>Location: Sanctuary City - Downtown Sector
>Time: 5:30 PM

>As the Lamborghini continues driving down the streets of Sanctuary City, Aiden sits in the driver's seat - casually driving the car with one hand. As he does so, he notices Ryozo beginning to ease up in the passenger seat.

"…..Why are you being so courteous to me, Aiden?"

>Ryozo says, confused and bewildered by Aiden's complete lack of hostility. As he does so, he then listens to Aiden's reply.

"Because I don't need a reason to help people."

>Feeling his eyes widen at the simplicity and authenticity of the statement, Ryozo then says:


>Aiden then adds in for good measure.

"Besides, you seem like you're wound up - knotted tight. Any more and you'd probably collapse."

>Ryozo then exclaims, in equal parts anger and embarrassment:

"You complete and utter buffoon!"

>Aiden then just laughs loudly as he continues driving the car through Sanctuary City.


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File: 1691689108098-4.jpeg (91.01 KB, 850x959, Ryozo.jpeg)

>Location: Sanctuary City - "Artisanal Delicacies"
>Time: 6:00 PM

>Aiden is eating foot with Ryozo in the same restaurant that he purchased a while back. As he looks up and around the area, he then says:

"Hmm. This is fun. I haven't been here during peak hours before."

>Although Aiden and Ryozo are sitting at a large table separate from the main seating area of the restaurant - Aiden can still overhear the conversations occurring inside of the restaurant.

>Ryozo looks in awe at the sheer amount of food placed before him. Confused, he then asks:

"Is this how you Americans consume your food? At scale?"

>Aiden holds back a laugh as he then says:

"Would you prefer bento?"

>Ryozo looks irritated and mutters to himself as Aiden continues laughing.


>After a few more minutes, Aiden and Ryozo have actually started eating. While doing so, Aiden and Ryozo take turns to talk to each other - about their current life situations and circumstances.

"My family is indeed a mess, Aiden. I will admit that."

>Ryozo says as he slowly eats his food with chopsticks, having picked a cuisine palette similar to his preferred dinner in Japan.

"They constantly bicker with each other - all while holding Hiyuki to levels of stress that I have never seen before. I am trying to do everything in my power to assist her but…."

>Aiden spins a small amount of pasta around his fork effortlessly - then casually flips it in-between his fingers at lightning speed.

"Let me guess….there's not much you can do - without undermining her authority as head of the family."

>Ryozo nods solemnly as he looks on at the restaurant before him.

"Quite right. This is a matter for her to resolve - but I worry about the future of my family, if someone power hungry ever seizes it from her."

>Aiden thinks for a moment before stating:

"All you can really do is be emotional support for her. This is her problem, so let her handle it."

>Ryozo is stunned by Aiden's response - not for its substance, but for his complete lack of regard.

"…..Is she not someone you care about deeply?"

>Aiden cranes his head to the side as his suspicions are confirmed. He then gives a slow laugh as he states:

"You want me to help you resolve the problem she has, don't you?"


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>Ryozo looks somewhat dejected and ashamed, as he closes his eyes and looks away.

"…..Yes. I believe you have the capabilities to perform subterfuge - and to perform it at a degree that my relatives cannot anticipate or counter."

>Looking back at Aiden with a clear resolve and determination in his eyes, he then states:

"I will do everything in my power to protect Hiyuki's position - she is the only hope that my family has at moral redemption, in all honesty."

>Leaning forward, Ryozo then asks Aiden:

"Will you help me ensure that her position is secured, Aiden?"

>Aiden takes a long moment to look at Ryozo - lowering his spectacled sunglasses to the point where Ryozo can finally see his striking sapphire blue eyes. Ryozo is caught off guard for a moment at how saturated his irises are - and even more shocked by Aiden's response.


>Stunned and somewhat hurt by the statement, Ryozo then snaps back, asking:

"Why not? I demand an explanation!"

>Pointing at Aiden, Ryozo then states:

"I know that you have strong feelings for her. You do not want her to be in pain, just as I want her to be successful!"

>Aiden begins laughing again as he then says:

"I already told you, Ryo. I don't really care about Hiyuki. I know you more than I know her - and I have no reason to really get involved in anything involving your family."

>Feeling dejected and almost defeated, Ryozo holds back his sadness - restraining the expression from forming on his face. However, Aiden then says:

"However, as your friend - at least I think I'm your friend now. I'll give you some advice, and some pointers. But I'm doing that because of you, not because of her."

>Ryozo is surprised by Aiden's response - but does not waste the opportunity to respond in kind.


>Bowing his head instinctively, Ryozo exclaims:

"Thank you Aiden! I promise to not waste your knowledge and experience!"

>Sighing, Aiden makes a dismissive gesture with his hand as he says:

"Oh stop. I'm not your God. Also, finish your food before it gets cold. Dinner's on me."


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>After a few more minutes, the conversation shifts to something more blunt.

"….Aiden, if you do not mind me asking…"

>Aiden is in the middle of eating some pasta, as he mumbles out:

"Yearh? Wha eesh ick?"

>Sighing, Ryozo states:

"Where are your manners? Finish your food first!"

>Giving an amused response, Aiden finishes his pasta as he then asks again:

"Let me have it then."

>Aiden says, his arms crossed as he leans in at the table.

>Ryozo then looks Aiden directly in his spectacled sunglasses - unable to see his eyes beyond them.

>Ensuring that they really are alone in their dining room - Ryozo's eyes then change form. Now developing a bright red pattern with unique black markings inside - he then asks:

"My abilities manifest through supernatural energy. Chakra."

>Nodding behind Aiden, at the closed door - Ryozo then states:

"I can see the Chakra signatures of all living beings, no matter what. My abilities come from my father - who is not a Hoyokazi by blood."

>Looking away for a moment, Ryozo continues to speak:

"I am Hoyokazi only by my mother's blood - as she fell in love with my father."

>Following Ryozo so far, Aiden then asks - anticipating the very question that Ryozo is going to ask him now.

"So you can see everyone's Chakra signatures - except mine. Right?"

>Nodding in slight surprise, Ryozo states:

"Y-Yes. Why is that?"

>Aiden thinks for a moment as he says:

"Easy. Because I can control mine - and I could do that, the instant I first met you."

>Aiden then casually sips his glass of ice and water as Ryozo looks dumbfounded.



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>As he finishes drinking his water, Aiden puts down the glass. Now looking up at Ryozo - he demonstrates his final surprise of the night.

"Is that……"

>Aiden then lowers his spectacled sunglasses as he showcases an identical eye pattern to the Chakra eyes that Ryozo is currently manifesting. The exact same basic pattern, red color and black symbols.

"What….How did you…."

>Blinking, the eye pattern is immediately removed from Aiden as he places his sunglasses back on his face. He then flicks a piece of shrimp into his mouth. After eating it, he then says:

"Didn't you ever find it weird that you could never really track me with your Chakra? It works through Chakra sight and relay establishment, if I remember correctly."

>Ryozo can barely process everything happening to him at the moment, as he then responds:

"….Are you a power mimic, Aiden?"

>Giving a hearty smile - with his eyes now concealed once more - he then says:

"Oh I'm much more than that. But at a baseline level? Yes, I suppose you could call me that."

>An epiphany then crosses over him as he says:

"Actually, I've got an idea. You're free this Friday, right?"

>Raising an eyebrow, Ryozo then says:

"…..I believe so, yes? Why are you inquiring of my schedule?"

>Aiden nudges his head to the side, back and forth as he states:

"Oh, no reason. I just figured you'd probably want to join me on a trip where you could see me in action, so to speak."

>Ryozo gives a skeptical look, saying:

"I do not require further proof of your capabilities. Your demonstration here is sufficient enough."

>Aiden then rests his head on his palm - giving an exasperated sigh as he states:

"Oh that's a shame. Ryūsei Yoshimura is going to be there. In fact, I believe his sister Suisei will be there as well."

>Ryozo is silent for a moment, as he then says:

"What are you implying, Aiden? That I require a financial incentive to accompany you - in the form of a potential strategic alliance?"

>Aiden looks Ryozo dead in the face as he states:

"No. I think you need to spend more time around the woman you're clearly in love with. Might help you loosen up a bit."

>Dead silence fills the room for a long moment before Ryozo's face turns completely red. As Aiden sees this, he begins laughing hysterically - stating.

"For what it's worth man, it was written all over your face!"


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File: 1691691542665-1.jpeg (156.33 KB, 1920x1013, Lamborghini .jpeg)

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>Location: Sanctuary City - Residential Sector
>Time: 8:00 PM

>As Aiden drives into the Residential Areas of Sanctuary City - he parks the car to the side for them to both get out. As they do so, Aiden then shakes Ryozo's hand as he states:

"Thank you for tonight. It was the most fun that I have experienced in a very long time."

>Ryozo says, looking away in embarrassment. As he does so, Aiden smiles at him and states:

"Of course. It's the least I could do for my new friend here."

>Aiden then holds his arms out - expecting a hug. Ryozo is highly skeptical at first, but then sighs and moves forward to give Aiden a hug in return.

>Then, Aiden pats him on the back as he says:

"You'll be fine, don't worry. Just keep what I said in mind, and the rest will sort itself out."

>Ryozo nods as he states:

"I hope you are correct, Aiden. I very much hope so."

>Afterwards, Aiden and Ryozo both break from the hug, as Aiden says one final time.

"We'll see you in a few days then Ryozo. You'll have an interesting time, I promise."

>Ryozo nods as he then manifests his Chakra eyes once more. As he does so - ripples of space-time surround him, preparing for a teleportation move.

"I believe I will, Aiden. Thank you for your interesting perspective on matters."

>Ryozo then disappears in a warp of space-time, almost instantly. As he does so, Aiden walks back to the front of his car, stating:

"I've heard that a lot recently. Might be a good outcome for me then."

>Aiden then gets back in his car and drives away - towards his home.


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File: 1691696956296-4.gif (1.12 MB, 498x278, Kiss.gif)

>Location: Sanctuary City - Residential Sector
>Time: 8:00 PM

>In affluent parts of the city's residential areas, a large manor belonging to Phoebe Grayson has its lights still on - beaming through the window shades. Along with the assorted outside lights - a small aura of luminescence spreads a warm glow throughout the front yard of the property.

"Come on, eat up. You're going to get weaker if you don't."

>Phoebe says in the kitchen as she hands a bowl to Virgil. As the new money aristocrat takes a pair of chopsticks - he begins eating the meal. While he does so, he demonstrates a remarkable degree of dexterity - which surprises Phoebe.

"Oh? You're very good with chopsticks."

>Looking up with a quizzical look, Virgil states:

"I'm sorry. Is that unexpected or…..?"

>Phoebe laughs and shakes her head, saying:

"Of course not. I'm just impressed. You handle yourself quite well there."

>Giving a slight nod of acknowledgment, Virgil then continues eating his food - until he finishes it. After doing so, he then places the chopsticks down in the bowl as he looks up at Phoebe and says:

"Thank you, Phoebe. That was a really delicious meal."

>Phoebe looks at him for a moment, almost doting over him with her unfocused stare on at his body. After a few more seconds, Virgil states:

"Phoebe? Is something the matter?"

>Phoebe immediately snaps back to reality as she replies:

"Oh no. Everything's fine. I was just….enjoying the view, so to speak."

>Silent, Virgil takes a second too long to process the implication.

"Erm…I-I'm going to go clear by head - wash down a bit."

>Virgil then quickly gets up and moves to go out of the kitchen. However, Phoebe stops him by grabbing his hand and turning him around to face her.

"…..You don't have to be afraid of her, Sammy. She can't sense your emotions anymore - not without connecting to me first."

>Virgil looks away, stating as quietly as he can.

"You don't have to call me by my original name."

>Phoebe then leans in and states:

"But it's who you are - underneath it all. I don't want to forget that."

>Phoebe then gives Virgil a kiss on the lips before she says:

"You deserve better than to keep reliving the pain of that day. Besides."

>Moving away from Virgil, Phoebe then concludes:

"I also know what it's like to keep up appearances for people's sake. It's why I was so drawn to you - just how much of yourself that you were burying down deep. I could feel all of it too."


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>Virgil sighs and gives Phoebe a weak smile as he states:

"I don't feel as though I deserve any of this. Not after everything that I've done."

>He says, as he slowly slumps back into his seat. Looking at his hand, he feels it begin to quiver and tremble slowly - with the smallest of micro-stutters and convulsions. Said hand movements are only perceptible to someone as fast as Phoebe - or faster.

>As such, Phoebe clearly notices the motions, which causes her to look concerned. Despite this, she looks at Virgil and says:

"I'll help you through it, Sammy. Just as I said. You're a much better person than you give yourself credit for - and you can't keep doing this to yourself."

>Silent for another moment, Virgil then looks up at Phoebe and says:

"Alright then. I know I can trust you, so I'll leave this in your hands now, Phoebe. I hope I'm not too much of a burden on you."

>Phoebe shakes her head quickly, before moving to hug Virgil as she states:

"You were never a burden to me. You're one of the strongest people that I've ever met."

>Virgil gives a skeptical look as he says:

"Well, stronger than any normal human, certainly. But compared to your friend Orion, or your brother Aiden? I don't believe I match them in a physical context."

>Rolling her eyes behind her sunglasses, Phoebe then states:

"What are you talking about? I mean emotionally. You've been through so much emotional pain - that I could feel it from you a literal mile away. The anguish and grief that you're hiding within yourself. The guilt over your sister's fate. It's crushing you."

>Phoebe then grabs Virgil's hand with her own and says:

"So please. Just let me help you find yourself again."

>Virgil is hesitant for a moment, before he then states:

"Alright. I will. I promise."

>Phoebe then smiles and says:

"Great, I can get back to-"

>Suddenly, the doorbell rings. Without even needing to call out, Phoebe knows who it is - just based on their emotional signature alone.

>As such, Virgil can read Phoebe's expression and sees himself out of the kitchen, waving at Phoebe while she moves to the front door.


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>As Phoebe opens the front door - she then says:

"Hey, what's up? Do you need anything?"

>Aiden stands in the open space right outside of the front door, wearing sunglasses similarly to his sister. Giving a half-and-half motion with his hand, he then states:

"Just wanted to see how you were doing."

>Phoebe looks around for a moment before stating:

"Do you want to come inside? I have some leftover pasta left."

>Aiden gives an amused laugh at the irony, saying:

"No, it's fine. Just had some pasta right now before I came. Went to Artisans'."

>Giving a murmur of understanding, Phoebe replies:

"Ohhh. That explains it. Well, I'm doing fine so far. Thanks for checking on me."

>There's an air of silence between the two siblings before Aiden then says:

"Also by the way? I really do appreciate what you're doing. Trying to help Virgil out. Also….."

>Phoebe's face immediately flushes red as she stammers:

"Y-You know about that already?!?! I thought I was being covert!"

>Aiden waves his hand in a self-dismissal gesture, stating:

"Oh no. I just know because I saw how you were looking at him over the past month. I figured you'd make your move on him eventually. Good job, sis. I'm happy for you."

>There's more awkward silence between the two of them, before Phoebe walks over to hug her brother tightly. As she does so, Aiden then says:

"I kind of had a revelation, earlier today."

"About what?"

"About my life. I'd been going from one externality to the next - physician this, CEO that. None of it was ever for me though."

>As Phoebe pulls herself back from her hug with Aiden, she then asks:

"So what did you decide on now? After having that revelation of yours?"

>Aiden takes a thinking stance as he ponders on the question for a bit - before giving his answer.

"It meant that I had to focus on what made my life fulfilling in the first place. My friends and family. That includes you, Phoebe."

>Now moving forward to give Phoebe a hug, he then states:

"I appreciate you, sis. You've always been looking out for me since the beginning - and I owe you a lot. Ever since we were kids, you've always been there for me. I should've shown it in a much better way, but at least now? Now I can finally say that I appreciate you, and everything that you do for me. Even now."

>Phoebe feels tears welling up in her eyes - as they slowly fall down her face; only her sunglasses obscure the emotions in her eyes as she does so.

>Aiden also feels tears falling down his cheek as well - though both of them quickly dry up their tear ducts.

"…..Well, thank you Aiden. That means the world to me."

"Likewise. I couldn't have asked for a better sister to keep me grounded in reality."

>Aiden is silent for a moment as he then states:

"You're not surprised by the white hair? I know you can see it."

>Phoebe shakes her head, smirking as she says:


>Aiden sighs and nods.

"Figured as much. Well, see you later, sis! I'll talk to you soon."

>Aiden then waves at Phoebe as he leaves for his Lamborghini and drives away.


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File: 1691699527453-4.jpeg (314.44 KB, 1242x2048, Stella - 6.jpeg)

>Location: Sanctuary City - Residential Sector.
>Time: 8:30 PM

>As Aiden's Lamborghini slowly pulls up into the driveway of his house, he turns off the engine and slowly steps out of the car. Looking around, he then flicks the door closed and walks towards the inside of the house.

>Once he's gotten inside and moved to the living room, Aiden can feel a set of hands slowly falling over his hands.

"….And then there were two…."

>Smiling, Aiden recognizes the voice belonging to the hands, as he plays along.

"No more, and no less it seems."

>As Stella removes her hands from Aiden's vision, she then walks over to stand in front of him, stating:

"You took your sweet time to get back home."

>Aiden makes an acknowledging gesture with his hand as he replies:

"Granted, I was doing a service and helping Ryozo Hoyokazi with his familial issues."

>Stella sighs and blows a set of hair strands out of her face in annoyance.

"Let me guess, something involving her?"

>Aiden nods.

"He's worried about her ability to keep their family together."

>Stella gives an acknowledging sigh, as she replies:

"I can understand that. Given what happened to mine….."

>Stella's face then turns to one of sadness and solemn recollection - before Aiden moves forward to slowly kiss her on the mouth. As he does so, he slowly guides her face towards his own, with his fingers softly guiding her chin to face him.


>Stella says, somewhat surprised, but also pleased.

"Well, now you have me, and hopefully a few more in the future."

>Taking a moment to realize what Aiden is saying, Stella then gasps in excitement.

"Y-You…You want to…."

>Nodding, Aiden states:

"Once we're married? Sure. I'd be happy with it, if you're happy with it too."

>Stella then hugs Aiden tightly as she then exclaims:

"It's decided then! That day can't arrive soon enough!"

>Aiden slightly protests against the strength of Stella's hug, before he decides to relent and let her continue to hug him for the rest of the night.


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File: 1691701051275-2.jpeg (153.28 KB, 850x1413, Stella - 3.jpeg)

>After slowly breaking from the hug with Stella, Aiden then says:

"Oh that reminds me. I'm going to have to tell both Jonah and Orion about the meeting."

>Stella blinks for a moment before stating:

"Right, Jonah's the CFO - so he'll need your sign off for any expenses involved in the project, correct?"

>Aiden nods, but then states:

"We've already budgeted out the joint venture with Yoshimura Corporation. I meant more for future plans and strategic partnerships with them in different industries."

>Scratching his chin slightly, Aiden then says:

"It can't be anything involving businesses that Hoyokazi Industries are currently involved in - given our existing joint venture. But I'm sure I can find something for Ryūsei and Suisei."

>As she rests her head on Aiden's shoulder once more, Stella then asks him:

"Do you ever feel like the world can just….change in an instant? On a whim? Like at any moment, you could say or think something that could just….completely change the world you live in?"

>Aiden leans his head against Stella's own as he responds:

"That's how your magic feels, doesn't it? With all of it bubbling inside of you. That power waiting to come out."

>Stella nods slowly - saying.

"Thaumaturgy felt like a curse, my entire life. My own Thaumaturgic Magic….it was powerful - but it was also lacking in control. Lacking in precision."

>Looking down at her hands, she then says:

"But if I really am to make amends for everything that I have done - the what remains are the ambitions of the false Gods that I used to worship. The ones I swore and pledged my life to."

>Narrowing his eyes behind his spectacled sunglasses, Aiden completes Stella's train of thought.

"You mean the Thaumian Gods. Imperius and the rest. You want to destroy them?"

>Stella shakes her head, stating:

"No, they will fade with time assuming worship of deities goes its course. My concern involves their last attempt to cling onto existence. Finding and taking someone as their conduit."

>Aiden nods slowly as he states:

"You've mentioned one more person before. The only Thaumian left besides you. Your mother, Cordia."

>Nodding, Stella then says:

"Isaac has an idea of her whereabouts - but I want to find her myself, and make amends with her."

>Grabbing onto Aiden's arm, she then looks at him and states:

"But I also want you there by my side - while I do that. I want my mother to see that she was wrong to have given up her hope in humanity. You're that hope, at least to me."

>Silent for a moment, Aiden then states:

"I understand, honey. Once I'm done with my business this week, then we'll start our search. We'll go find her - together."

>Stella smiles at Aiden once more as she kisses him on the cheek, before stating:

"Good. I knew I could rely on you for this, Aiden. Thank you."

>Aiden nods back at Stella, saying:

"Of course. What kind of partner would I be, if I wasn't there for you no matter what?"

>Aiden then stays, sitting on the bed with Stella - as they lean on each other for the rest of the night.

[The End]

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