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Body Art and Lots of Heart


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Claremont Academy Dormitories, Third Floor

September 5th, 2020


"I'm not actually sure if the markings are magic," Ryder attempted to clarify as he led Utsuwa down the hallway with Cyan perched on his shoulder and the rest of the Robugs following along nearby, "just that they showed up at the same time she got her magic powers. Which I guess means they're qualitatively magic but not necessarily that they're functionally magic in a meaningful way. Y'know?" He looked over to the more taciturn teenager with a grin to check for understanding or at least continued patience. "Plus Tori's from out of the country, too so you guys can talk about that! It'll be good! We'll have you making friends like an experienced friend-maker in no time!" He gave Utsuwa an enthusiastic thumbs up before checking his phone to confirm he had the correct room number.

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Utsuwa narrowed his eyes at the explanation from Ryder, "I think you may overestimate my knowledge and interest in magic."  he pointed out with a smirk, "If they showed up because magic they are effectively magic."  he answered simply and laughed slightly, "Which is probably good because full body ink would be no joke."  


The dour student rolled his eyes and followed along his roomates enthusiasm was charmingly infectious really.  "Yes out of the country is so uniform we'll have so much to talk about like being able to get small servings and not taking leftovers home in a bag."  He sighed, "I'll be on my best behavior and not embarrass you."  he promised as they waited at the door.

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"Okay, first of all: I basically don't get embarrassed," Ryder told him, holding up a finger. Magenta scurried around Utsuwa's feet and raised one of her forelimbs to echo the gesture. "Pops says its because my self-esteem isn't based on external validation. Jenny says its because I'm kinda oblivious. Either way, bulletproof!" He thumped his fist into his chest twice for emphasis before holding up another finger. "Second, the politics and history of portion sizing in the American food industry are a lot more complicated than that. We can get into that later." Yellow flew in a nervous loop around their heads, buzzing softly to herself. Ryder turned on his heel and knocked on the door.

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It took a moment - the dim sound of someone putting something down and sliding off a bed or chair, a short and muffled statement - but eventually the door did open. Natalia was barely shorter than Ryder, perhaps moreso by virtue of being barefoot to accompany a very comfortable-looking pair of black cotton shorts and an over-large black shirt done up with golden buttons. She ran a hand through long black hair as she turned golden eyes on their visitors. "Yes, what could you possibly-"


Natalia had been taking a short nap. Natalia never napped in discomfort.


Natalia looked at Ryder, looked at Utsuwa, looked at Ryder, looked at Ryder, and then Natalia closed the door.


"Victoria," she asked, very carefully, "did you order smoothies?"

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"Is it Ryder?!" Tori had been quiet, for once, but mostly because she had been dealing with the plants and her two half grown foxes had been both blessedly asleep once. She bounced up from her bed, waking the foxes snuggled there and the bird that had been perched on a window sill. Living with Tori was like living with an especially tatty Disney Princess. The fox pair woke up and started making their weird keening noises and Tori absently patted both Mochi and Tango before she bounced to her bare feet on the floor. Like Natalia, she was dressed in lounge wear, which in her case was a pair of ripped denim shorts and a loose tank top. Her corkscrew curls were a tangled mop loosely knotted on the crown of her head. "I haven't seen Ryder since the summer. I mean a little with moving in but, you know - it's been right busy."


It was Tori who flung the door open next with a wide smile and bright enthusiasm. "Ryder! And a friend. Hello, Ryder's friend. D'you wanna come in? It's okay if they come in right, Natalia?"


The question was perfunctory at best as Tori was already flinging the door wide to invite the two boys inside. 

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"I have been in the country long enough you can get nothing small here."  Utsuwa replied with a small laugh, "Alright if not embarrass then I'll endeavor not to upset your friends."  he offered instead.


He was hanging back from Ryder when the door opened and shut and he raised a brow at his roommate, "Or perhaps I am too late for that."  He crossed his arms across his chest, the tattoos of his birthright brazenly displayed as he leaned against the door frame and waited as muffled voices were heard inside.  The dark tank and loose athletic wear below were unbranded and generic but seemed to pass for casual for the youth.  Ryders peek in Utsuwas wardrobe had revealed a three matches to the outfit as well as a version with long sleeve fitted top or shorts and a small collection of black turtlenecks and cargo pants.


When the door reopened he waved at the 'Ryders friend' greeting following Ryder's lead on whether to enter or not at the chilly initial reception.  He ran a hair through his hair and flashed Tori a smile as he caught sight of her snaking markings, "You must be Tori."  He glanced at the foxes, "And those must be the keening we hear at night."  he joked lightly.  The noise wasn't a bother for him. He was well practiced at filtering his senses and sleeping regardless of interruption.

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"It's complicated," Ryder insisted at Utsuwa's continued teasing over American portions, turning about as the door opened. He had just enough time to begin raising his hand in greeting before the disgruntled black haired girl closed it again in his face. He blinked once and hummed softly. "That's... probably fine?"


The door reopened to a more familiar face and his sunny smile returned in full. "Hey! This is Utsuwa, we're rooming together! He's super cool and kinda mysterious and fights with swords so y'know, full marks, basically." Magenta didn't bother to wait to see if anyone else was entering the room and dashed underfoot to greet Mochi and Tango, clacking her forelimbs together happily. Black followed after her at a more leisurely pace but headed toward Natalia instead, stopping about a metre away and ponderously craning his horned head up toward her.


Ryder watched the latter Robug with a small frown. "Huh." He looked up to Tori's roommate with a growing suspicion. "Wait..." Abruptly his jaw dropped open and he pointed directly at her in animated surprise. "Gold eyes!"

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Without the room to stand by the door, Natalia had - with expert dignity - made her way back to her bed and sat down, legs crossed, hands back and behind her to prop her upright. Or, hand, at first - she first waved a finger at Black, black and gold particles like wispy dust gathering around him and lifting him through the air to join her. Her beetle now. "Yes, Cricket. Very good."


She needed to be wearing something different. She couldn't change with other people in the room, much less without admitting that she needed to be wearing something different. Life was suffering. "Ryder and I met already, as it happens. We tore apart a robotic gorilla," she said Tori's way, and turned toward their guests to add, "and those are, in fact, the keening. I promise that it's much worse without walls in the way." The animals were not allowed on her side of the room. This had been made very clear. The rules were understood by everyone except, she suspected, the animals. "I'm Natalia, which I'm sure you already heard."

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Mochi and Tango woke up the rest of the way, leaping down from the bed to bounce excitedly around Magenta and started squeaking and laughing with the weird happy fox noises. "Aw, Tango told Mochi all about Magenta when we got home. She says hello." Tori translated. Her tattoos briefly flickered with an inner glow when she tapped her magic to understand the fox's chattering before she turned back to the humans. Mochi was a little more shy than her brother, crouching down and snuffling at Magenta while Tango bounced happily with clear invitation to play. "Hi, Utsuwa! Come on in. Make yourself comfortable."


Tori went to sit on her bed as well, leaving their desk chairs for the two boys. It was very clear who's side was who's as Tori's bedding was all bright colors and her walls were splashed with posters that seemed a relatively even mix between obscure anime shows and 'save the planet' posters that one gets for making donations to wildlife funds. There were a fair number of plants spread over her desk and shelves and her closet had been converted so the bottom half was clearly the bedding area for the foxes. Thankfully, she didn't have any other foundling animals inside... for now. "Killer robot gorilla is pretty neat! Ryder's suits are super bad-ass."  Her bright gaze turned up to Utsuwa's taciturn features expectantly, "Magic swords or normal swords or both?"

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Utsuwa looked between Ryder and Natalia and smirked, "I can't image that sort of thing is so uncommon here of all places."  he suggested with a shrug and when invited stepped in staring down at the foxes and bots playfully romping a small smile creeping to his features despite himself.  When Toris tattoos flared with power his gaze swept to an empty corner of the room and he ever so lightly winced at the bellowed outrage from his grandfathers spirit.


He quickly recovered and slunk into a chair, "So he has told me."  The fit teen acknowledged teasing his roomate lightly.  "Both, I trained in traditional tachijutsu in -"  he paused uncomfortably, "My home town."  he gestured to the tattoos on his arms, "These mean I'm never disarmed at least."  to those sensitive to such things the traditional japanese tattoos on each forearm carried a dark power.  "A family tradition of sorts."  As he spoke he studiously avoided looking in the direction of his grandfathers ghostly presence in the corner.

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The Robug on Ryder's shoulder chirped in confusion. "She means me, Cyan." The clarification prompted a series of soft, perturbed chirps as Cyan shifted from foot to foot to foot. Black seemed content to accept Natalia's attentions with his usual stoicism while Magenta running around in loose circles with Tango, unclear who was chasing whom. Yellow cautiously hovered nearby Mochi, turning her attention back and forth between the fox and Tori as if waiting for direction or permission.


For his part Ryder stood nearby the remaining chair with his hands on his hips, giving the dark haired girl a beaming grin of pure delight that managed to be absolutely infuriating. "'Natalia' was already taking care of some kidnappers, I just sort of tagged along. Ooh, has she give you a tough-lady-who-can't-be-bothered-to-learn-names nickname yet? Like... just 'Red' or something like that! She's super good at those!"

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Natalia was reasonably sure Ryder was trying to get a rise out of her. She deigned instead to tap a nail against Black's shell, idly inspecting him more closely than she'd been able to last time. Did Ryder have some special ability to recall his bugs, or could she actually hold the little robot hostage? "A nickname isn't a right, Cricket, it's a privilege, and it's one I will bestow - or not - as I choose." She had been considering 'Red'. She might have to consider something else now; if Ryder got much more smug she'd have to put on sunglasses.


"Unless Ryder is here to introduce his friends to his other friends - which I wouldn't put past him," the teenager said, looking none too excited by the prospect, "I assume you're here to compare tattoos? Or perhaps a mere ink-driven curiosity. It would be a very...narrow coincidence, otherwise."

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"Oh, I dunno if mine really count as tattoos since they just appeared when my powers did," Tori glanced down at the blue swirls decorating her hands and arms. Since she was in shorts and a tank top, it was easy to tell that they ran all the way up to the line of her clothing and probably continued. Honestly, they even ran under her hair. She'd halfway been considering an undercut on one side. Might as well embrace it if you couldn't change it after all. "But nothing nifty ever pops out of them or anything. They're just the way my body manifests the the power. Mine's a family thing too. My code name is Kid Celtic - 'cuz I got it from my great grandma, Lady Celtic.


A fact that Utsuwa was probably having screamed in his ears. Tori wiggled her fingers before letting her hands drop to her sides. She offered a bright grin and then crouched down towards where the yellow bug was hovering. "You can go play with Mochi if you want. She's calmer than Tango. Tango, settle down, yeah? Not everyone has your energy and enthusiasm." She glanced up at her roommate with an undiminished smile, "Either that or cuz I promised to show Ryder what a hedge maze looks like when we could use our powers without getting scolded."

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"Oh that was absolutely his goal."  utsuwa agreed with Nat and glanced at Ryder with a small smile, "The tattoos are just his 'in'  you see."  he teased playfully, "that and not being American, though."  he paused as he tried to focus on something other than the raging spirit in the corner.


"Ah if memory serves you would be on your grandfathers side."  he nodded to Tori, that would be before his grandfather had killed hers.  He was getting more of her genealogy bellowed at him than anyone really needed but so far weathering it with aplomb and even pushing back a bit, "Rumor had it her powers didn't carry on glad to hear they did."


"Hedge maze?  You side line in topiaries?"  he asked with a raised brow.  

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Ryder tilted his head to the side, not unlike a confused golden retriever. "Well, yeah I wanted to introduce them. Do you try to keep all your friends from meeting each other? That seems like it would be really complicated." He frowned slightly. "Man, you put so much work into being like cool and secretive. Now I feel kinda bad for just lucking into finding you out of costume..." On Natalia's bed, Black shifted about so he could gently headbutt her knee.


Yellow set down gingerly on the floor and waggled an antennae cautiously in Mochi's direction then backed up several little steps. Magenta meanwhile continued to run about with Tango, crashing into Utsuwa's foot and rolling head over abdomen before hopping back to her feet and continuing onward, undeterred. "Oh! Tori, we're in the room right below this one!" Ryder recalled with a snap of his fingers. "So I was thinking: vine ladder! Right?!"

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"You should feel bad," Natalia agreed, though her tone was strictly conversational; at Black's bumping she scratched the little robot's back. How did one pet a beetle? "I suppose it was inevitable if we're going to the same school. Still, it made for a very undignified introduction. We'll just say that's two you owe me, now - I am keeping track."


"I don't think the school would find a vine ladder between two windows to be especially subtle," she added, arching an eyebrow. She was still trying to figure out how to pet a beetle. It would be so much easier if it had fur. She turned the arched eyebrow the boys' way, deciding that she couldn't do much worse petting Black if she wasn't looking at him. "Immediately trying to find a way to sneak into a girls' room is very bold of you both, though, so points for effort?"

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"There are ample holds and features for climbing without adding more."  Utsuwa suggested with a shrug.  "Though I imagine those are designed to guide students into surveillance zones so an alternative may be prudent if one wishes to escape without the headmistress knowledge."  he paused weighing that option and smirked, "Success in that seems unlikely however."  It was a fair appraisal only using a bit of his personal knowledge of the Ms. Summers background.


"If secrecy is the goal you may want to cover up identifying features in costume."  he lazily recommended in response to Natalia with just a hint of a smile, "I'm sure Ryder could offer some goggle designs to go with your look."  


Her last comment however seemed to catch the handsome teen off guard and he glanced at Ryder to gauge his reaction before shaking his head with a laugh he was unable to stifle.  "I'm flattered but that line of thought will only lead to disappointment I assure you."  He waved a hand Ryders direction, "And unless this wholesome snack thing is all an act I think his goal was easy access to the ground floor without needing to bypass the doors after curfew."

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"I sort of annihilated my mother's hedge maze. My magic manifests as a connection to the earth; plants and animals mainly," Tori told Utsuwa cheerfully. Her grin widened at Ryder and she headed over to the window, stepping over Magenta and Tango's antics with ease. Mochi leaned forward huffing and scenting the hesitant bug before she curled up on her side to look a little less intimidating. She started chuckling at the yellow robug in what seemed to be encouragement. Tori, for her part, was leaning out the window to peer down at the side of the building. "That's why you have to be a little bit creative. 'Sides, we're supposed to get a better handle on our powers, right?"


That did not include making ladders between the rooms but that didn't seem to stop Tori even a little. "And down to the ground, obviously, just in case flying is a no-go.


She wiggled her fingers once and the tattoos on her skin lit up with a much brighter inner light than the flickers that appeared when she was just chatting with the animals. Gesturing slightly, Tori murmured something low, melodic gaelic and coaxed the rather cheerful ivy that clung to the side of the building in places to turn into a much thicker weft over the brick. "How's that, Ryder? There's handholds in it but they're a bit better hidden.

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“I’m nutritionally balanced!” Ryder laughed with a loose thumbs up Utsuwa, his tone making it tough to tell if he’d interpreted any euphemistic meaning or not. “Nat’s costume is already really good, I feel like goggles would clutter it up. But I bet you wear sunglasses when you go out in like normal clothes, right? Even when it’s dark? Like a cool person.” He mimed putting on glasses and vogued with his lips slightly pursed, hand under his chin.


He ran over to join Tori at the window and leaned more than half of his body outside. “Haha, that’s so good! I wasn’t even really thinking sneaking out, I just never had a yard growing up but I always wanted a treehouse, y’know?” Cyan chirped in excitement and hopped from his shoulder to the window sill. Black continued to act like a very unusual cat while Yellow edged closer to Mochi, relieved to meet someone less hyperactive than their respective siblings.

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"I do not require 'help' with my look," said Natalia, with carefully-raised eyebrows and a tone that threatened to ice over her side of the room. "Besides, a costume should make a statement. Hiding special eyes in costume and not out of costume would be very backwards. But of course I wear sunglasses normally, they're useful accessories and my eyes are lum-"


But Ryder rand Tori were already distracted, turning their rooms into some kind of tree house compound that was sure to not cause any trouble whatsoever. She trailed off, gesturing helplessly toward the window pair with the hand that wasn't busy petting Black. "....nothing nutritionally balanced has that much sugar in it," she muttered, before turning Utsuwa's way. "I don't know how either of them sustain that level of cheer. Between the two of them, how much trouble do you think they'll get themselves into? Honest answers only, I may start taking bets."

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"I was under the impression we were here so no one gets hurt when we don't" Utsuwa suggested with a shrug.  "Perhaps I got a different version of the introductory speech however."  It certainly would make sense if the headmistress was more worried about what he might do to students in a normal school than with training him to be some kind of hero.  


Blinking at his roomate the fit teen shook his head and glanced to Natalia, "It is impressive"  He agreed.  The level of sheer enthusiasm for life the more animated students seemed to share was quite the sight to behold concentrated in one small dorm room.  "Hopefully not more than we can get them out of."  he replied with a laugh.  He at least had taken the roomate assignment to be roughly equivalent to babysitting an excitable toddler with laser robots for pets.  He might have had a slightly overdeveloped sense of responsibility.

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