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  • Apollo: OW!

  • Wha- Look what you did! You scratched meyou actually scratched me!

  • That makes two of us. Look at us, blood brothers.

  • I know how stressful the first time was for me too, but one you get around scratch number 35 you start to get pretty used to it.

  • Vivian! Your behavior as of late has been unacceptable! We are training, which means not actively hurting the ones around you! Using your claws is intolerable, and to make matters worse, you did it twice!

  • Either you reign your aggression in, or there will be serious consequences. I will not have a soldier on my battle lines as careless as you are, understood?

  • Hmph. Yeah, whatever, understood.

  • What am I going to do with that insufferable wretch?

  • Jackson and Apollo, go pay Sharp and Rowan a visit to patch you up. And Vivian, you better show up tomorrow with a better attitude. Your graduation is soon, and if you keep this up, I’ll be left with no other choice than to fail you and extend your training.

  • Oh, and what a shame that would be, having to sacrifice more of your quality time with yours truly.

  • *groan* Every conversation I have with you makes me age ten years. This isn’t worth my time to be bickering.

  • Care to fill me in on who Sharp and Rowan are?

  • Theyre the Thorn head medics. It’s pretty cool, actually. Theyre only a little bit older than us, yet theyre so skilled already.

  • I’d certainly hope they’d be more skilled than you! Do you even know what kind of leaves you're patching me up with? Whatever it is, it tingles!

  • HmmmPretty sure it’s poison oak. I heard the toxins clear the germs right out of the wounds.

  • What! Are you kidding me?

  • (Lunis laughs)

  • Hey! This isn’t funny! I’m gonna have a rash for weeks!

  • You are so gullible! *Laughs* It’s not poison oak, theyre maple leaves! See, look! Completely harmless!

  • Y-you freaked me out! Youre such a jerk!

  • Yeah, a jerk who patched you up! Youre welcome by the way!

  • I- well thank you-

  • Don’t mention it. Come on, maple boy. Apollo and Vivian are already headed over.

  • Hey! Why maple boy?! *groan* Well... if I’m maple boy... then I’m calling you...

  • Ugly!

  • I'm sorry if that hurt your feelings, if it did I-I-I take it back, that was-that was-that was a little out of line. I'm sorry,

  • Ugh! It physically hurts me to hear you try to whip up a comeback, eugh. I’m not the one with leaves stuck to half of my arm, maple boy, so your nicknames automatically don’t count. Good try though!

  • Ugh....You truly are impossible.

  • How kind of you to wait for me. For a split second, I almost the outgoing cheery soul we all know and love was starting to change it up on me!

  • I suppose youve been patiently waiting to give an apology for the scratches, Viv?

  • Vivian, what's the matter? Youve been acting out a lot more recently.

  • I’m just showing everyone that I’m not to be messed with.

  • I hate to break it to you but I don’t think Lunis and Apollo have any intention ofmessingwith you. Dusk? Ehhnot her either. She just wants you battle ready, but it certainly doesn’t help you keep pushing her buttons.

  • I’m not talking about just them.

  • Me?

  • You know something, Jackson? I’ve been putting twice the amount of effort into training as you, yetyet Ares won’t stop fawning over you!

  • Vivian...

  • No! I was the one who met him first, I was the one who brought you to him! I’ve been the one who’s been training more than you, and stillAfter all these months weve been training with him...

  • he still views you as stronger than me! More gifted than me! The better option for getting the curse than me, when that’s all I’ve been working for!

  • Wait-

  • Shut it!

  • You heard Ares the first day you met him, you have a “stronger physiquethan me! He just likes you more because you look like him! You boost his ego, even though I’m the one working twice as much as you do, just for you to sweep up the praise!

  • I don’t know what to tell you! It’s not like I have any control over how he views me! I don’t even like him! In fact, I hate him! The only reason I’ve been sticking around is to make sure youre okay!

  • Look. All I’m going to say is you need to back the hell off, Jackson. I don’t need you to take care of me.

  • But youre my sister, Vivian. I just want to make sure youre safe.

  • Justback off before you step in the way of my plans.

  • Whatplanscould you possibly have?

  • Stay out of the way and youll have nothing to worry about.

  • You know, you visit me almost every week with mysterious ailments, but this is the first time in a long time where it’s actually been true.

  • Well-I mean, not every issue I have can be seen on the outside you know! I-I’ve had real issues before. I mean, theyve all been real! I don’t know what youre talking about!

  • Sharp’s right, Apollo, and you know he’s right. Unless, there’s another reason you keep stopping by (giggles).

  • Shut up!

  • Is something the matter, Rowan?

  • Oh, no! Nothing’s wrong. I just have some stuff on my mind, that’s all.

  • Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.

  • I need you to help me carry the jar of cream over here or Jackson’s cuts. I can’t hold the bandages and cream together by myself. So, uh...follow me.

  • Watch it! Don’t grab me like that!

  • I’ve run into you a handful of times while visiting Ares. Vivian, isn’t it? You seem to visit the King pretty frequently, so if anyone would know this, it’s you. Tell me, is that boy... Aresson?

  • Umyes? That’s Jackson, my brother. Were his kids.

  • Curses, he did have an heir! Two heirs! It wasn’t a rumor!

  • Wait, there was a rumor about us?

  • Yes, we never knew for sure if he was a father. It was just a mere rumor that spread like wildfire years ago. I remember my parents gossiping about it when I was young.

  • Time went on, and the heir never appeared, so we all thought they had died, or it truly was just gossip gone wild. But now, two childrenand theyre alive! In the Kingdom of Thorns!

  • I-I have so many questions! I don’t know how I couldn’t have seen it, the more I look at your brother, the more I see his father

  • How didn’t you ever notice him training with us? It seems like you aren’t that great of a spy, are you?

  • Watch your mouth. I saw you slinking around Ares months ago, alone. Plus, I like to keep a low profile and give my spy reports when nobody else is around.

  • Staying hidden is the smartest way to go in case one of the other spies decides to snitch to Hesia and turn us all in. You never know who you can trust.

  • Sharp: Hey, what’s taking you two so long? Are you putting the whole medicine shelf on his arm?

  • Oh-Were coming right now, just, uh, had a hard time finding the bowl!

  • I’ll tell you what. I’ll keep an eye on him if things start to get murkyjust in case his loyalties change, hell have two sets of eyes on him. Not just one. Come on, carry this.

  • What’s with little miss blank stare over there?

  • (Spirits whisper)

  • Lunis! Lunis! What is she doing? Is she alright? What’s happening to her eyes?! Can she even hear me?

  • Don’t interrupt her when the spirits are trying to communicate! You couldve cost her valuable information!

  • Sharp, it’s alright, I’m fine. They didn’t tell me anything anyway.

  • What happened?

  • They were trying to tell me somethingthey seemed angry. I don’t know. I couldn’t focus enough to understand.

  • I’m so sorry, I didn’t know-

  • You talk to ghosts?

  • Ehh… I try to at least. Mostly, it’s just them shaking their heads menacingly. My motherShe's much better than me. She’s been able to talk to spirits since she was a child.

  • I didn’t even get my guide until a few years ago. I can’t control when they appear, or what happens when they do.

  • So... you inherited Rose’s curse?

  • Yep, I was born with it, lucky me. Although Rose tried playing it off as a “blessing”. Blessing my ass. Call it what it is, a curse.

  • It’s exhausting. Debilitating even. The pain in my head when they contact me is unbearable at times. I don’t know how Rose, or Hesia were able to master it.

  • The queen talks to them at will? How does she do that if it’s so weakening?

  • Well, she had Rose and my grandmother’s help to guide her as a child. But my guide doesn’t have nearly as much interest in helping me, and theyve been especially absent lately.

  • I’ve been training with my mother sometimeswhen she’s not too busy. She told me thatthe spirits are there to offer wisdom and warning”, but what use are they if they don’t speak?

  • Wow, Vivian, I didn’t know you were so interested in curses! That’s pretty cool!

  • You wish, bonehead! I’m just making conversation.

  • She’s definitely coming around.

  • Well, you two are all cleared to head on out. Just clean the wounds each morning and night and theyll heal up nicely. It was nice meeting you, Jackson. You too, Vivian.

  • (Apollo and Jackson) Thank you!

  • (Augustus) Hey! You four, slow down!

  • What a sight for sore eyes!

  • (Both Laugh)

  • What’s the matter? Are your old man bones finally giving out on you, dad?

  • Oh, you wish! I’m just going easy on you because I’m feeling nice today!

  • Alright, Apollo, let your dad up, you might give him a heart attack if you keep this up. I swear, I have to take care of three children at heart.

  • Where are you two headed off to?

  • Were going to speak with the other High Ranks about the refugees.

  • Woah, isn’t this like... the fifth meeting youve had about it? Still no progress?

  • Afraid not. The high ranks and I seem to be disagreeing on punishments for the Thorn citizens who continue to target them. *sigh*

  • I’m afraid my ideas are too radical for their liking. I just feel sorry for them, and guilty that I can’t do more to protect them.

  • Youre Queen Hesia?

  • Yes maam.

  • So, youre the queen, which means you have the most power. Why wouldn’t you just implement the punishment anyway? It’d help protect a lot of refugees.

  • Well, it’s not that easy. I don’t have all the power, I need to run most ideas through with my high ranks before announcing them.

  • That doesn’t matter. They should be listening to you, no matter what. You are their queen, and theyre there to serve you, not question you! Why don’t you just do your job and protect your people?

  • Oh! I- I can’t just-

  • I’m terribly sorry, your highness. My sister has a tendency to speak before thinking, which can cause her to have a snake’s tongue. It’s just a sensitive topic for us, that’s all.

  • Mom, dad, uhThis is Jackson, and his sister Vivian. Theyve been our group partners since training began. Jackson, Vivian, this is Queen Hesia and King Augustus, our parents.

  • Apologies for getting off on the wrong foot. It’s a pleasure to meet you two. Lately, we haven’t had much time to spend with Lunis and Apollo, but when we do, they talk about you quite often. It’s nice to finally meet you.

  • Actually, I’ve already met you two before. Years ago. You two were Irischildren. I met with her several times when you two were little.

  • I wasquite saddened to hear about her abrupt passing. Such a tragedy to lose her so soon, without a killer to catch.

  • She loved you two so very much, and never wanted you to lose sight of that.

  • Well, we wish you two luck with your upcoming graduation. Weapologize for the abrupt end to your training, but it’s all for good intentions.

  • That girl’s attitude is abhorrent. For being the child of someone with a heart of gold, her’s is rotted to the core.

  • Maybe she gets it from her father, whomever he may be. It’d explain why Iris never brought him up, he could have been just as frightful.

  • Those royals are repugnant! They basically shoved it in our faces that they killed Irisrubbing our noses in it! Theyre vile! Especially that queen!

  • Oh, how I’d love to rip into herSame with Augustus, just standing there, looking smug. I’d kill to rip that king to shreds.

  • I get youre mad, but your behavior towards them was horrendous today, Vivian! Why can’t you just start thinking before you speak?! You could seriously get us into a lot of trouble one day!

  • Oh, spare me. You’d be just fine, mister goody two shoes. They wouldn’t bat an eye at you, they never have! You just sat there with zipped lips while they made a mockery of you.

  • How little self worth do you have to have to just sit there and take their shit!

  • Woah! I’m not like you! I don’t like conflict! I don’t like getting into squabbles like you do! I’m not doing it because I haveno self worth”, I just sit there because I know it’s pointless to engage!

  • And why are you so hellbent on the Thorns getting involved in mom’s death?!

  • Because they killed her, Jackson! How can’t you see it?! She was a refugee, she was alone with no witnesses, she was right at the border, the killer was conveniently never caught!

  • Didn’t you listen to what dad said!? Those Thorn cats took her away from us! All of us! Theyre evil!

  • You know, your tunnel vision is going to land you in hot water if you keep this up.

  • And your pacifism is going to cost you your life.

  • Where are you going?

  • Where do you think I’m going?

  • Oh, come on Vivian! There’s no need to go out there and visit him! Just stay in for tonight, youre going to work yourself to the bone!

  • May I remind you we just learned a critical piece of information?! We just learned what Rose’s blessing can do, and how the Thorns are using it to their advantage! Ares needs to know this as soon as possible!

  • Why?! He’s just going to use it for the same reason he uses everything, to start some sort of pointless fight!

  • And what’s wrong with that?!

  • Don’t tell me youre siding with Ares.

  • Don’t tell me youre siding with him!

  • So that's it?! Youre just going to throw away everything mom sacrificed for us? To protect us from that monster you keep calling a father?!

  • Youreyoure a dumbass! I don’t like to insult you, but right now, youre being a dumbass!

  • Youre going to throw everything away for him? The same cat that mom warned us about time and time again? The one who wanted us dead? The one who made mom’s life hell?

  • Youre throwing away your home, your safety, me, for a father that doesn’t even care for you?! That’s all this is, Vivian! Youre just trying to fill the hole in your heart!

  • I’m not doing this to fill a hole in my heart, you asshole!

  • How dare you say that I am when youve been doing the exact same thing with Lunis and Apollo! I keep visiting Ares and Vixy because it’s making me stronger! When I’m with them, I feel like I’m actually becoming powerful!

  • When I’m herewhen I’m with you, I feel worthless! I feel like nothing here! The Kingdom of Thorns have been backstabbing, vindictive, awful cats since the dawn of time,

  • and the fact that youre siding with them instead of your own family disgusts me!

  • You feel worthless with me... ?

  • Yes. When I’m with youyou make me feel worthless.

  • If youre not with me, youre against me, Jackson. I hope you take the time to reconsider.

  • Blood is thicker than water. Remember that.