Hello hello! Oxer and I are very excited to present the first update for Saligiare, and what better way to kick things off than with a double feature? Part Two is full of surprises, including some new sides to the characters we know and love.

Enjoy! The update can be found below the cut.

Happy reading, Wysteria ❤

[Elias]

My truce with Izumi lasted about a day, if that; I cannot help myself with men. It is a shocking thing, though, when Phoenix Thourne learns how to actually flirt back.

Shocking and… not very welcome.

Now every remark I make about his pretty hair or anything else I have to hold back a little for fear that it shall be countered. I am walking on eggshells, silver coating my words. What am I to do? Stop my flirting? That would be as red a flag to him as anything, then he would see that something is wrong and that is a conversation I do not wish to have. If I strengthen my efforts, at this rate, I may have to pull him off to a closet to kiss for a while, and though it would be a welcome distraction, the following conversation would also be one I am not willing to have. I cannot stomp on Phoenix Thourne’s heart like I have so many others– he is so kind that I am not sure it would survive.

Thus, we are stuck in limbo. Limbo is no place for me to be, and I have been suffering there for around a week now. It is horrible.

Honestly, I should have expected it, though; exposure therapy does wonders for those with fears. That being said, there is no world in which a Blackmore cannot talk his way out of a corner. I just have yet to figure out how, exactly. Or what I hope to accomplish.

Do I even dislike Phoenix Thourne’s affections? Of course I do– boys are not allowed to act this way around me. It is not safe for them.

My flirting will continue, I suppose, until I can reach a better course of action. Though now, more than ever before, I must play my cards carefully.

{Valkyrie}

OK, time for a real update.

It’s been about a week and a half since Pride. We’re driving around in some state I don’t know, but there are orange trees everywhere and a lot of seagulls. I feel like I should be in the Dukes of Hazzard or something, with our car and the sun soaked hills.

I’d make a shitty Daisy Duke with all my runes and my mental instability, but whatever. And my butt’s not cute enough to wear those tiny shorts.

Speaking of mental instability, I think I’ve been doing… okay, all things considered. I mean, I still can’t say more than a few words to Hana out of my own free will, I keep worrying over Octavian and he won’t quit calling me, and I’ve had some meltdowns from nightmares where I wake up in the back of the Jaguar looking like a dead thing. Then I have to try to explain to everyone when I start crying afterwards that it’s normal (and that gets really really weird) but…

I mean, no power malfunctions. Yet. I still glow, but the tiny symbol near my collarbone is fading. I’ve been keeping track, since there’s nothing better to do (besides freak out) when you’re trapped inside a hotrod for an extended period of time. It’s not green anymore– it’s washed out to become the same flat grey color as my freckles, like a birthmark.

Am I gonna have these runes forever? Does this have something with how the… thing disappeared into that pen? I don’t want to think about it. My brain is on overload, so I try to push the cosmetic concerns to the back of my head.

Obviously, it doesn’t work, but I’ve got about as much a chance of landing a date as a fucking anthropomorphized hippo, so I tell myself it shouldn’t matter.

For food, I subsist on a steady diet of burgers and continental breakfasts that do bad things for my hips. Elias does his best to find quiet motels for us in inconspicuous side towns, in which I try to bond with the local stray cat population to keep my mind off of things.

At one point, we sleep at a truck stop on a hill, and I remember how nice the night sky looked. How pretty it all was, with the constellations Liang had taught me to find, and how for a second I thought my runes could be like the stars. All glowy and stuff.

As we approach the behemoth of a city that is Lucerne, though, at nights those stars get fainter and fainter. It makes me sad, I guess; it feels like I’m almost leaving for another planet, because all the stars suddenly gone from the sky thanks to light pollution. It’s crazy to me that there are kids that grow up never knowing them as more than a five pointed shape.

Shit, okay, tell my inner poet/young adult fiction protagonist to shut up now. I’m still on the road trip from hell with a redheaded heartbreaker, a (possible) murderer, and a psychotic driver.

This isn’t a time for deep thoughts about life. Not when my hands are clamped over my ears and I’m being treated to the longest car horn concerto of my entire life.

[Elias]

It was a mistake, letting Phoenix Thourne drive the Jaguar.

A mistake on whose end, I am not quite sure, for it was I who got us lost multiple times, presumably because of how tired I was (in my defense, Valkyrie is an absolutely horrible navigator). To be fair it was he who insisted he drive. I was not to miss an opportunity to flirt and tell him how much of a gentleman he was for offering.

I was not aware of his… road rage. If my past boyfriend had not been so terrible on the highways I suppose I would be a hair more terrified.

Presently, the blaring of the horn merely stirs me from my sleep. I have woken up in noisier situations than this. I groan, rub my neck, yawn, and do my best to appear aloof and not irritated as I pry my eyes open.

“Good morning to you as well,” I mutter, though I do not know if he hears me over the din.

Who knew such a sweet boy could act like this on the roads? And for that matter, why is he jamming the horn in morning city traffic? It accomplishes absolutely nothing. I sigh and resist the urge to tell him to stop– I know from past experiences with other men that this also accomplishes absolutely nothing– and instead I focus on fixing my braid in the mirror.

Upon that being finished (Phoenix Thourne is still laying on the horn), I straighten my tie, recline my seat, and prop my stocking feet onto the dashboard to stretch my legs. In the rearview I see Valkyrie, melted into her cloak with her hands over her ears and her knees drawn up to her chest. She is whispering the same word over and over again– from reading her lips I think that word is “fuck”– but I cannot hear her over the horn.

I reach back and put a hand on her calf. She does not move.

Something like pity and frustration combined seizes my chest and I grumble an unintelligible phrase that might as well be a curse.

“If the lovely Phoenix Thourne would kindly lay off the horn,” I raise my voice only slightly, conscious of Valkyrie. “I believe we would all be able to hear ourselves think, hm?”

Valkyrie has slumped over in her seat like a fainting goat. It is not one of her yelling meltdowns– her eyes are still lucid-looking– but I know she does not appreciate the loud noise.

“Morning traffic moves no faster if you honk at it,” I huff to Phoenix. “and with the force you are laying into the horn you will scuff the finishing.”

I then lean back in my seat again, pretending to stare out the window with my hands behind my head when in reality I am trying not to strangle somebody.

After a week-long journey, we are nearing the outskirts of Lucerne. In the distance the office buildings rear up like enormous teeth towards the sky, their tops obscured by morning mist. Roads and concrete bridges spiral out of the city and they remind me of many veins, many arteries, leading to a single heart in the middle of it all.

Veins and arteries that are clogged with trash and that have gaping cracks in their infrastructure, that is; this cardiovascular system does not look healthy.

I had turned off location services on my phone a while back so Father could not track me (not that he would care to), thus we use a traditional map purchased from a gas station outside of Innismuth. Seeing as Valkyrie is currently indisposed, I busy myself with figuring out which exit we are to take and try to ignore Phoenix Thourne’s… noisy driving.

Nonetheless, my powers snap to life on my left hand and I put them out before I can decimate the map.

— Hana

It’s been a rough week of trying to find decent food in the weirdest places on Earth. Believe me, I’m fine with shoveling burgers into my face, but after a few days, I felt so groggy that I had to start getting picky with how I ate. Nick helps me dig up shreds of nutrition amidst the chain restaurants and motels. He also finds suitable hotel gyms where I can keep up my exercise routine. I made him join in on the elliptical.

So it’s been okay, I think. As okay as a sin-chasing road trip can be. We managed to stop Reiner from sending out an amber alert, which calmed things down quite a bit. Now we’re just wandering.

Great, right? Yeah, I thought. Heaven forbid I have one moment of peace. Nick started flirting with Elias.

If sins and lunatics weren’t proof enough that we’re in an alternate universe, there you go. It started out alright, little innocent comebacks – but then it had to escalate. Earlier today, for example, with the Satan-haired incubus telling Nick he’s such a gentleman for offering to drive; then Nick trades his stupid blush for an even stupider smile and goes through the whole “no, it’s my pleasure” shebang. That damn smile. The tone!

I nearly screamed. But, you know, Valkyrie. In fact, if I hadn’t been so pissed, I might have felt bad enough to tell our redheaded menace that Nick hasn’t touched a steering wheel in nine months.

Instead, I pop in a pair of cheap headphones and watch the world burn.

+ Phoenix

“Class valedictorian, good for you, pal, for the love of all that is holy would you please move – “

I slam my hand into the horn, whacking out a blare so loud it makes my ears ring. Not that that will stop me.

I’ve been muttering to myself since we got near the city, since I can’t yell with Valk around. I’d very much like to, especially with Mr. Fantastic Grades idling in front of me while I’m in Elias’s very expensive car. I don’t think I’ve touched something so valuable in my life, and hell if I’m going to take my chances with it.

There’s a flash of red somewhere in between my venting via horn. Elias leans into the backseat, a motion I vaguely register through narrowed eyes and quiet hisses at the guy in front of me.

“If the lovely Phoenix Thourne would kindly lay off the horn, I believe we would all be able to hear ourselves think, hm?” His voice cuts through the latest horn blare like a knife through butter. “Morning traffic moves no faster if you honk at it, and with the force you are laying into the horn you will scuff the finishing.”

My hand leaps off the wheel. I take a moment to make sure the finishing is fine – it is – and glance into the mirror. As Elias pulls away from the backseat, Valkyrie’s form comes into view, huddled and shaking with her hands over her ears.

“Valk, are you okay?” I shoot her the most apologetic glance I can muster before I have to look back at the road. My face heats up. “I’m sorry. It’s over.”

Over, I tell myself, even as class valedictorian moves like molasses and all I want is to slam my fist into the horn. In the rearview, Hana wipes off her headphones, slides them to Valk, and presses herself against the window.

———————

After too long spent behind a red Honda with ridiculous election stickers (some mayor I can’t place), we get into the city, and I can drive again.

It’s been a while since we were in Innismuth, but traveling from there to here is like moving from a meadow to a capsule hotel. As soon as we get into the city, the hills behind us are swallowed by a rush of cars and buildings. Skyscrapers tear into the clear blue sky; the air is choked with people hurrying around, signs and trees crammed wherever they’ll fit. It suddenly becomes harder to breathe.

I keep an eye on dark alleys and shadows behind buildings, half-expecting another Violetwood to form before our eyes. But it doesn’t – the only nature we get is potted plants and a park in the heart of the city, which I pass, guided by Elias’s map. Where we’re headed is beyond me, but I suppose now is a good time to get a feel for the place.

So I keep going, turning into every corner. Right past the park is a gleaming pack of buildings – far from the sins’ aesthetic of destruction, but as stark a contrast to the rest of the architecture as a polished patch on rusted copper. I head for that.

The buildings get tighter, the streets get darker, and suddenly I feel even worse than if we’d stayed in the main section of the city.

It must be the business district. It’s gleaming with so much life and chaos, between the restaurants and business towers, that the dreary splotch of dark gray in its center hardly looks real. The building is nearly falling apart.

“Jesus.” It slips out before I can filter it; I cringe.

“The apartment building?” In the rearview, Hana leans forward. “Looks like a sin in and of itself.”

I draw in a shaky breath. “Then let’s check it out, I guess.”

I focus on not crashing the car and instead pulling into the parking lot like a normal person. The shadows are so thick here, they turn the air cold; I shiver and pull my jacket tight around me as I step outside. As quickly as I can, I hurry around to open everyone’s doors for them.

Hana kicks at a crushed can on her way over to me. She’s been glued to my side most of this week, presumably to avoid Valk. “Sheesh, what a dump.”

“If there’s a sin in there, I don’t think it wants you insulting it,” I mutter. “We should get this over with.” I turn. “Is everyone okay?”

It seems like we are. I fall back to return Elias’s keys and walk beside Valkyrie – Hana skitters away – and with that, we’re off.

— Hana

If I thought the outside of the building was bad… well.

I’m forced to walk near Elias on account of Nick’s proximity to Valkyrie (he’s getting more buddy-buddy with her by the day). That’s already a bad start, but when we walk through the doors, the blast of heat nearly knocks me over. Past it, the light blue lobby looks like a tornado zone.

Shoe prints all over the floor, a phone on the desk ringing with no answer, plants shriveling up and tipping over. The whole scene is even grayer than outside.

Something rustles. There’s the tiniest movement behind the main desk; a brown bun bobs over the top of the table before disappearing again.

I rush over, standing on tiptoe so I can get a better view of who’s behind the desk. Slung across the lower section is a woman, arms all over the place and body limp. There’s no blood, but she definitely fainted. She’s lucky she was in a chair.

“Hey, lady.” My voice stays low. “You alright down there?”

“Not now,” she groans, in a surprisingly clear voice. She glances at me without moving her head, grimaces, and curls in on herself like a kid when you’re trying to wake them and they’re having none of it.

I raise an eyebrow. “…You don’t need help?”

“No. I need to rest.” Her eyes darken.

“Alright, alright.” I raise my hands in surrender and back away as her head thunks onto the desk once more.

I ignore Nick’s bewildered stare as I slink back to the group. I lower my hands, motion for everyone to come closer, and mutter, “She looks like she passed out, but she doesn’t want help.”

“Passed out?” Nick hiss-gasps, tossing a glance towards the front desk.

I shush him. “Yes, passed out. She’s not hurt, just barely conscious and really not in the mood to be bothered. So I say we don’t push this and keep moving. Yes?”

Nick, wide-eyed, opens his mouth before closing it just as quickly. With a sigh, he turns to Valkyrie and Elias. “I guess?”

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