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In victory, honor. (Zhen)

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  • In victory, honor. (Zhen)

    Purple was the theme of the ball, at least in decorations. The draperies often color coded to the seasons were replaced entirely, and while it was the theme none but the perator and his wife were allowed to garb in such. Such was fine by Laurent, choosing instead a combination of practical brown with the red flourish in both his shoulder cloak and other bits of his garment. Like many present, he wore a blastsword at his hip. The weapon was commonplace among all castes, but few went without one, not necessarily for need but for image.

    His eyes roamed the chamber curiously. Nearly an hour into the party, and their had been no challenges. Not for him, but amongst the general populace. Moving towards the beverage counter, he plucked up a prefilled glass of wine, barely even a taste at all. It was swallowed in a single motion, and the glass set back on the table to be collected by the servant manning the station. Moving just a pace to the side, his forearm rested against the end of his weapon, and his form leaned against a pillar. A smile alighted his features as an attractive red head made her approach.

    His free hand rose up, starting his index and middle finger beneath his nose and smoothing out his mustache in opposite directions. The pair conversed casually, the kind of conversation expected among the people of Adumar, about politics, duels and social status. Five minutes into their conversation, the indications of an arising challenge caught the attention of the pair. He straightened himself to peer above the crowd, an escalated voice pronouncing the challenge.

    As he leaned more to the side, he spotted his younger brother, the recepient of the challenge. "Alas, our company will have to part early. I've my brother to attend to." He gestured his hand in a flourish forward, a substitute for a bow, before moving to the table. Another of the wine glasses were taken up and swallowed in an instant, and he left the table to join the gathering. "This is a matter of honor! I know you have taken up with my wife, and you will heed my challenge or suffer disgrace. To the death."

    Laurent arrived just in time, maneuvering through the crowd. "Well, if that is the case, I will stand in for my brother." He shot a glance to the younger man. "We'll talk later." Confident in his victory to come. "My quarrel is with your brother, not you." He wheeled back on the man, a few years his senior, but hardly holding the skill with a blastsword that he did. "Yes, but I reserve the right to stand in on his behalf. Now, I know you are not going to rescind your challenge, so unless you have your own champion..."

    He withdrew his blastsword, engaging the weapon and sweeping it in a flourish down to his side. A trail of light followed the motions, challenging the other man to draw his own weapon. "None will come forward for you? So be it, I will allow you to amend your rules to go until one man falls." The man nodded, obviously anticipating his own loss now. Laurent was the first to strike, a single handed over head attack. As the weapons met, he drew his arm back, and lunged forward. The duel lasted all of a minute and a half, before his blast sword made contact with the man's thigh and brought him to the floor with a cry.

    He quickly disengaged his weapon, and sheathed it back at his side, moving towards his brother. His hand grasped the back of his neck, squeezing and guiding him off. "You know I will not always be around to save your skin. So if you insist on sleeping with married women and getting caught, at least educate yourself in the talents of a blastsword, will you?" He pushed him off gently, and turned away to rejoin the party.

  • #2
    Zhenji Eleison observed the debacle from her place in the crowd, daintily sipping from a glass of champagne one in her gaggle of suitors had fetched for her. Swathed in crimson satin sewn into a traditional Halbegardian gown, that shimmered with each adroit movement on account of the multifaceted gems stitched into the lavish fabric, she had caught the eye of many gentleman this evening. She had little interest in any of them, instead captivated by the individual who readily stepped forward to stand-in for the man challenged. Tension flitted through the air, this rearrangement was not common practice. Honor demanded the brother answer for his actions in a duel. She could feel the disapproval of the crowd growing. But, before it could peak, the fight was finished and the outcome determined. The ease with which he dealt with the married man easily won the crowds favor.

    Zhenji smiled into her glass and easily slipped away from her entourage, gliding through the gathering toward the man who emerged victorious. When he turned away from his brother, who he appeared to be chastising, she was before him. She was tall, svelte, and her dark hair and eyes stood out against pale, creamy skin. Somewhere along the lines, her glass had been emptied and discarded; she now stood with her arms juxtaposed in a loosely crossed position across her abdomen. "Why learn to duel when he's got a perfectly heroic brother to stand in for him? I do not judge you harshly, of course. Were it my own brother dallying with married women, I'd no doubt do the same. But, after the thrashing I'd give him when we got home... I do not think he'd be in a hurry to dally again."

    She darted her eyes toward his defeated opponent, carefully assessing the daggers he glared across the room toward the man she addressed. "Lionel Reddard may not be much of a duelist but he has a lot of money and is known to resort to less honorable means of getting his way. You'd do well to watch your back, handsome."

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    • #3
      His eyes were greeted suddenly with an exquisite sight, a dark haired exotic looking woman with a dress of red hue to perfectly balance the color of her hair and counter her pale skin. His eyes flit up across her frame to meet her gaze, the particularly exotic part about her. On Adumar, such features were not unheard of, but rather uncommon. It gave her that advantage of having something no one else did, and she was likely well aware of such. The question became whether it went to her head, or not.

      His arm settled in against his blastsword, resting comfortably, but also an unconscious reminder of the weapon to those around him. "His perfectly dashing heroic brother, may not always be in the right place at the right time." He added his own personal compliment, like it was her own words, amused by how the addition of the single word conveyed the statement 'perfectly' so differently. "Hm, and there is where we differ. If he is going to dally, I would rather know about it, because if I know about it I know who is enemies may be. Besides, I cannot begrudge him pursuing forbidden fruit, only that he exercise caution in doing so."

      Honor. He had besmirched Reddard's, and then proceeded to have it further lowered by his loss. Of course he also lowered his own personal worth. Were it not for his charm and good looks, his younger brother would likely have no luck with ladies at all, given his dwindling reputation. His eyes cut off towards Reddard following her warning, a woman obviously well versed in the game. "Duly noted." He briefly appraised her once more, following her compliment. She was toned, obviously a duelist of her own merit, easily noted in her arms. "Perhaps you are volunteering to watch my back, so as to throw any pursuant off guard?"

      He redirected the conversation quickly though, setting to a more proper direction. "While I do so enjoy your flattering remarks, I suppose introductions are in order, then you may resume playing to my ego if you so wish." His free hand swept his side cloak outward, bowing his form and head. His eyes raised before the rest of him, meeting her gaze. "Laurent Ke Tavador. And would you do me the pleasure of having your name? Or must I come up with my own?"

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      • #4
        Anyone else listening to his initial words would have been left with many negative traits as a first impression; arrogance, the tendency to meddle, and an inclination toward lechery. Zhenji knew better than to judge him solely based on the superficial facade carefully cultivated by the culture of Adumari nobility. She had been raised here, after all, and no amount of time spent in other circles could offset that. She slanted him an enigmatic smile, her thick inky lashes sweeping down briefly to veil the amused glimmer in her obsidian eyes. Simultaneously, she inspected his person with a swift, discerning glance. Incredibly handsome, by any humanoid's standards, possessing a noteworthy confidence in and out of combat, impeccably clean and well kept but garbed in clothing that did not speak of the riches she knew his family possessed.

        Zhenji mentally admitted that she found the leather accents and crimson flourish of his attire more palatable than the frothy white cravats and wild colors the other men present seemed to favor. She slid a step closer to him, a toned calf and thigh sliding through the slit of her gown before disappearing behind the satin once again. "I feel my flattery is lost upon you, Laurent Ke Tavador. Perhaps, your ego has already reached its capacity." She sparred verbally, her eyes flashing to convey playfulness. If he was easily insulted, this conversation wasn't likely to last much longer. "You may call me Zhen. Although, I am interested to hear what you would have come up with..."

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        • #5
          Witty. Beautiful. Independent. He formulated his own one word descriptions of her mentally, all traits that endeared him towards her. She was capable of rebuking his words, and likely even his skill with a blade. For that he respected her. Those rebukes would not lead to anger, or wounded pride. He saw the playfulness for how it was intended, and how could he not with how playful he often was. He straightened, letting the cloak fall back into it’s place and his form to right and square off with her own. “Oh no, there is still room surely, though I do often worry it will expand my head to such proportions that I will need to purchase all new hats.”

          He displayed quickly with his own self-teasing that he was witty, and keen to being playful. She intrigued him though, and he gestured her away to other parts of the chamber where they might take up new beverages and converse. A brief glance was shot to his brother, ensuring he was staying out of trouble, before he moved to escort the woman elsewhere. “Ah, Zhen. How unique a name, to go with such uniquely lovely features. Well, I could have called you by a description, but that seems so impersonal. I would have chosen Cherise, I think, because I find the name beautiful.”

          He smiled, his prominent cheek bones lifting and his mustache and facial hair moving to convey the gesture well. He paused at a table to take up another glass of wine, though this one containing far more than a sampling as was previously taken. He handed it to her, and then took up his own glass before moving off again. “So was it only your warning that urged you to approach me?”

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          • #6
            An indiscernible look fell over her features, her hand raising to her mouth. Then, a soft squeak of laughter escaped her, the first genuine sound of amusement that had left her in who knows since when. What an incredibly funny thing to say, she thought, the corners of her eyes crinkling with mirth. It was not every day one met an Adumari who could not only own up to his abundance of arrogance but make light of it, as well. She was thoroughly delighted with him thus far; and, rather than drifting away to continue with her reconnaissance for the evening, she found herself following after him readily as he motioned and strode toward a less packed area of the ballroom.

            "Cherise..." She said thoughtfully, mentally cataloging the name to use at a later date, perhaps. Her head tipped forward in an approving nod, her cheeks threatening to pinken at his compliment. She'd had numerous men, on this night alone, attempt to turn her head with silver tongued words. None had warranted such a reaction, no man had for some time. She accepted the glass he handed her, not normally one to imbibe, and took a sip from the brim. The sweet wine plucked at her taste buds in a pleasant way. "No... yes. Well, I did think it necessary to warn you. But, I approached you because I find you interesting. People come to these events to be entertained and immerse themselves within the social experience, correct?"

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            • #7
              As she smiled, he smiled. The gesture was genuine, not just found in his lips but spread to fine lines leaving the corner of his eyes. "Your mirth suits you well. I could get used to such a smile and laughter." He admitted, pleased she had taken so well to his personality. His form leaned off into a pillar, his hand grasping the rim of the wine glass from overtop. He lifted it smoothly, the glass shifting in his grasp by gravity and his hand supporting it for a sip, before lowering it back to his side. He briefly gave a draw of his bottom lip inward, taking the wine off the bristly dark hair beneath it.

              "Whatever your reasons, I am glad you feel compelled to remain within my company." He confessed. "That is correct, yes. You speak as if you are not altogether familiar with attending very often." He was, though rarely did he involved himself heavily. His family was classified within an upper middle class, and while his brother dressed the part, he surely did not. Honor to him, came in actions, not in words. "Well, I think I will have squandered an opportunity if I make this all about me, and how we came to be where we are. I should very much like to learn more about you, Zhen."

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              • #8
                While he was a charming sort and those lines at the corners of his eyes that formed when he smiled tugged at her heart strings, she knew better than to be taken in by him. Zhenji had been fooled by the charisma of a gentleman before; the results being the ruin of her innocence, the murder of her family, and her unadulterated disillusionment with the ridiculous notion of love. Men had their uses, this one certainly more so than most, and she was positive that he did not lead a double life, like her former lover. At best, they could use one another. Anything more than that was, of course, impossible.

                "When I was younger, I attended frequently. Now, the occasions seem more like a chore than anything." She admitted, twirling an incredibly long lock of hair around her finger. The angling of her arm for the gesture drew attention to the partially concealed tattoo taking up a majority of her deltoid, tricep, and bicep. More of the flawless design lay concealed beneath crimson silk hugging her frame. "I'm sure that you would, my lord. And, perhaps, at another time, you shall." She finished her glass of wine, discarding the empty receptacle on the table. Zhen stepped closer to him, the aroma of cherry blossom wafting from her clean skin. She drew him close by the lapel of his jacket, her lips hovering close to his ear. "I do hope you take my warning under advisement my lord. It would be a shame for you to perish before we can arrange additional conversations in the future." She relinquished his jacket, her hand gingerly trailing up his cheek and turning his face closer to her lips. With a smile, she murmured breathlessly against his mouth. "Until next time."

                Her mark had just left and while she deeply wanted to stay and get better acquainted with Laurent, her own whims were easily overshadowed by her purpose. She swept past him and made her exit, sequestering herself in a alleyway outside of the estate where the ball was being held. Removing a holocommunicator from the satin purse dangling from her wrist, she activated it and made her report. "Champion, I have done as you asked and am now in possession of the proof you required. The Sith plans to make his move within the week. I will await your orders before I make my own."

                The device was powered down and replaced within her purse, her back pressing into the duracrete wall behind her. She could handle this on her own. If she succeeded, she would have proven herself to the Champion and her loyalty to the cause would no longer be doubted. She gathered herself to leave the alley but paused when two voices brought her to a sudden halt.

                "Never have I been so insulted. How many duels must I now win to make up for this public disgrace? I want him dead, Giles. Dead, do you hear me?"

                "Yes, sir. We'll see to it tonight when he is heading home."

                "Good, now get out of here before someone sees you. Good Gods, man. Can't you find something better to wear?"

                There was no mistaking the one voice. Just as she had predicted, Lionel Reddard was resorting to dishonorable means to see those who impugned his false sense of honor dead. She scowled and then peeked out of the alleyway towards where the hired thug was headed. Her holocommunictor was brandished again, this time putting through a direct call to her lady servant.

                "Karana, I'll need my robe and my mask. Meet me on Perator Street straight away."

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                • #9
                  Laurent was surprised he hadn’t noticed her tattoo earlier, likely more captivated by her eyes. She politely dismissed his offer to get to know him, so kindly in fact that he hadn’t even realized she had done so. What at first was a smile, expectant of her reply, faded away as he realized her intention to depart his company. It was hard to maintain any thought of disappointment when she swiftly swept in towards his frame. The intoxicating scent wafted up his nostrils, a strangely appealing floral scent. He arrogantly wasn’t very concerned for his safety, more refreshed by the idea that she was interested in his safety to secure a meeting at a later date. A woman like her didn’t come along often.

                  She left him on a certain precipice that he was not allowed to climb over, and his eyes watched as she weaved the crowd and departed the party. All he could do was sigh, and finish his wine. Fifteen minutes later and he was having a difficult time occupying his focus to anyone. Seeing him alone, following his duel, numerous people had attempted to move into his good graces but the false pretenses of everything felt so much more real now. He was placating in his responses, and quickly found himself too disinterested with the remainder of the event to stay any longer.

                  He stopped on the way out, gathering his hat and slipping it onto his head. His right hand swept across the brim until the side that folded up, fixing it’s placement. He gave a swift turn, half cloak flourishing unnecessarily and unintentionally as he moved to depart to the streets. He walked in peace for a few minutes, before he began to feel the keen awareness of being watched. Beneath his cloak, his hand grasped the grip of his weapon firmly, head bowing but eyes shifting discretely beneath it’s bring to sweep his peripherals.

                  The first interruption came in front of him, a man moving to bar his path. He sighed, reaching his hand across his torso to take up his weapon. Just as he did, another blade lunged at him from behind. It passed through his cloak, and into the space between his arm and torso. He flicked the clasp of his cloak off and let it fall atop the man’s weapon, drawing his own blade and batting any follow up away. “Alright. Two against one, I can handle this.” Holding his sword in a single hand, he removed his hat and tossed it aside, drawing the dagger from his back out with his free grasp.

                  As the first man came at him, he parried, with a scrape of blades then swept his blade free in a swipe beneath his opponents. The man jumped back, tucking his torso in, and Laurent spun immediately to sweep his blade behind him in a downward strike. It was caught on the blade of his second assailant, but he stepped in to tie up there blades and drove his dagger towards the man’s ribs. Both blades were pushed down as a third man entered the fray, and Laurent was forced to duck and roll to the side, barely avoiding the blade that chased after him and cut a slit out of his sleeve and a small draw of blood.

                  His stance was low, arms stretched out slightly with both weapons in hand prepared to now defend with the pair rather than use one defense and one counterattack. A fourth man came in, surrounding him from the four points of a square. Two from the front came in together, and he caught both blades on his and threw them off, while one from behind scraped his back with a cut. He roared in frustration and pain, spinning and whipping his blade in retaliation. “Come on! I’ll take you all on then!” He took a jump step forward, his sword cocking back and lunging forward, the blade slid along steel moving forward but stopped just at impact. The tip met flesh, and the skin exploded out as the blast sword fired it’s shot. One down. Three more attacking.

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                  • #10
                    "Never a dull moment with you. If you don't mind my saying so, Miss." Karana mentioned as she helped her mistress bind her hair into a ponytail. Once it was released from her hands, the incredibly long locks swept down to the backs of Zhenji's knees.

                    "My mask, please." She said, in too much of a hurry to catch up with Laurent. The Force teased the fringes of her senses, warning her of the danger he was in. He'd passed below her moments ago; she and Karana were concealed within a geometric tangle of shadows cast by the buildings rising above the roof they stood on. The half mask, meant to cover her lower face, was snapped into place and then she leaned over the edge of the roof. The sound of blastsword combat sent a ripple of her urgency through her and she turned toward her maid servant to tell her to be careful getting down. The woman, her dear friend, held out her two twin wakizashi and passed her a sweet smile. She strapped them into their respective sheathes; one at her lower back and the other over her left shoulder.

                    "Never seen you ready to jump off two stories worth of building for some guy, Zhen. You take care, I'll see you back at the townhouse."

                    Zhenji nodded her head and then stepped back so her heels lingered off the edge of the roof. Pressing down heavily on the balls of her feet, she propelled herself into a back flip and landed silently in the grass below, one leg outstretched to the side with the other leg bent at the knee, one hand swept out for balance while the other kept her from falling forward. She rose and then kept to the shadows, following the sounds of combat. She arrived just in time to see one of the thugs draw blood from Laurent, her eyes narrowed behind a veil of jagged bangs. She sprinted forward, the softened soles of her sandals muffling her rapid approach. Metal chimed as she tore her blades forth, burying one within the back of a thug making to strike him. She delivered a solid kick to him that sent him reeling towards one of his accomplices; who promptly through the dying man aside.

                    Zhenji sidled in close to Laurent's back through her new found opening, casting a glance over her shoulder at him. "Excuse my tardiness, my lord. I see I have not done an adequate job watching your back." She put her two blades up before her, turning narrowed eyes upon another of the thugs who was nervously teetering between attacking and keeping his distance. "I intend to make it up to you."

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                    • #11
                      He couldn't take the time to look back at who had come to save him, trusting for the moment as he exchanged a series of sword clashes that drove his opponent back. A form tucked in behind him, and his head turned back slightly. Those eyes. "Oh, I think I had everything under control." It wasn't an arrogant or prideful statement, but a complete jest. He had it anything but under control truly. One man was down, and if no more came he might have been alright, but if they kept picking away at him cautiously it was sure to go poorly.

                      "Well, better late than never, hm?" He leaned his left shoulder into her right one, the pressure meant to signify his move to come, that their bodies might speak their intentions and act in unison. He turned while she turned, and their movement caught their opponents temporarily off guard. His weapon lanced out, and the man backpedaled. He stepped towards him, pressing the assault. His foe was quickly losing balance in his panic, attempting to swat Laurent's sword aside. A slight adjustment of his wrist, and the weapon would come right back for pressure poised towards his neck.

                      He eventually tripped, and the tip of the weapon sat just out of reach of his neck. His foe froze for a second, before moving hastily to sweep the sword away and counter attack. Once more, Laurent barely redirected his weapon and impaled the man on the shoulder of his sword arm. He clutched at it suddenly, expecting the blast to go off, but nothing. Laurent whipped his weapon away, tearing more flesh, as he hurried back towards Zhen. He wasn't able to take in the status of her current foe, as another man leapt out of a door adjacent to them and made for her back. Laurent stepped and launched his dagger into the man's back, causing his whole body to stiffen up and then collapse forward. "More of them!" He warned, spinning and backpedaling back towards her. "Any ideas?"

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                      • #12
                        While Zhenji was unaccustomed to fighting alongside anyone else, she was versed enough in body language to take the pressure of his shoulder against her's for what it was. She turned as he did, the shortness of her blades requiring a brief step away from his back to properly parry one of the thug's sabers and deliver an effective riposte thereafter. Her left blade drew blood from the hooded man's chest while her right steered his weapon aside. He backpedaled from her maneuver and she reset her position with a rearward hop, her back coming up against mere air in his absence. She glanced over her shoulder to see how he'd fared, her eyes detouring to another thug that had emerged from one of the ground level doors. She ground her teeth against one another and reassessed their situation, finding their current arena unsuitable to their advantage.

                        She turned as another man was felled, brought down by a dagger that Laurent had launched; her eyes taking in the ajar doorway he'd come barreling out of. "Just one. This way!" She shouted, jerking his sleeve in the direction of the building the man had come out of. Her blades were shoved back into their sheathes as they made for the building, pounding over the threshold and up a flight of stairs, through a window and onto a shingled rooftop. At her pace, she was easily able to fault up another story where she then turned back, offering a hand to Laurent. "Quickly, they are right behind you!"

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                        • #13
                          Her beckon prompted him to sheathe his sword, the tight quarters to come not conducive to running about with weapon in hand, particularly with the threat of impaling her as they went. His steps were heavy, taking the stairs two at a time, as he followed behind her. He pressed off the wall to redirect his direction as it turned left, following her until she leapt out a window and onto an adjacent rooftop. He gave pause at it, seriously contemplating staying behind to fight off his pursuers.

                          "Well..I do have a chokepoint.." He mentally rationalized. She called after him, warning him of his pursuers and he side. "Oh what the hell..." He turned and ran, leaping out the window. Not as nimble, he barely made it onto the rooftop, clambering up to his feet the first chance he got. "Alright, now where does this plan go?" He looked across the cityscape, and how one rooftop transitioned to another with a slight gap. "Ah, like that.."

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                          • #14
                            When Laurent took her hand, she rocked back and tensed her arm to help him up; her eyes drifting past him toward the collection of thugs funneling through the window, who were now looking at the gap they surmounted with their own doubts. It would buy them a head start. Zhenji clapped a hand on his shoulder and then broke into a sprint once more, her footfalls pattering against the shingles. Her fingers burrowed into a pouch clipped to the utility belt around her waist, gathering a palm full of caltrops that she littered in their wake.

                            Once her hand was free once more, she clambered up a stout chimney that protruded from the roof, her next leap setting her atop one higher, then another even higher than that. A shot fired ricocheted near her left foot and she dropped down into a roll across the slate below. A moment later, the howls of pain signified that her diversion had been enough to see them run right over the spikes she'd placed.

                            At the end of a long line of houses, a gap between the next block halted their sprint. Trees with interlinked branches spanned one home to the next, however. "That wont stop them for long but I think I know of a place we'll be safe. Keep going, I'll be right behind you."

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                            • #15
                              The slope of the roof was far more difficult for him to tread than her. All his weight went to the balls of his feet, and his hands pressed into the shingles to help him clamber higher. While she went up via the chimney, displaying a level of balance he just did not hold, he continued to clamber and even moved to a downward slope. He used the slight slope to slide down a bit, and let it carry him to a run, which he used to scale a rise in the building architecture to the the adjacent roof.

                              "Don't get any ideas about being some sort of hero and leading them off." He gave just that pause to say such, before starting ahead of her. When his feet hit the branch, he scurried quickly to keep his balance, then grasped the trunk and swung around it. The next branch was a touch thicker, and he moved to it then transitioned to the next tree. "Why didn't I climb more trees as a boy." He muttered to himself, as he did much the same on the second tree.

                              As he approached the building, he nearly lost his footing and was forced to leap early. "Oh shi-" His arm came up to shield his face as his body crashed through a window and transitioned into a roll. He stood up quickly, glancing back out the window he came through, then turning to the all female gathering before the holonet. He smiled, moving to take up his hat and give greeting, but realizing he'd left it behind. "Oh, someone owes me a new hat..." He remarked, starting to move to the stairwell. "Sorry ladies, I'll pay for that later." He hurried up to the next level, busting out the roof access door and continuing back along the rooftop. "So, before we go somewhere safe we need to figure out a way to lose them, hm?"

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