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The thing about memories, is that they fade. Like looking through fogged up glasses or murky water...But the long dirt path up to the old villa was so bright and clear, it was as if it were yesterday.
However, for him, it wasn't yesterday. It was almost two lifetimes ago. A rebirth, a death and a transformation. A transformation from fire to ice. Approaching a pair of large, wrought iron gates, a name loomed in the mist. d'Fierro. Its all in a name. This bunch of letters used to mean family, it meant loyalty and togetherness, now? It was the name of a dead family...Another legend among the supernatural, another story for the books. Leonardo d'Fierro, the intellectual one, stood before these iron gates, not with fire surging through his veins like in the stories, but water. The mix of moisture in the mist swirling round him, something that once made him weak, now fueled the icy wrath in his blood. With a creak and a snap, Leon' pushed open the gates and took the winding pathway up towards a large, red-brick villa.
Pushing back long auburn locks, Leon' approached the porch with an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. It had been years since Leon' had tread the creaking slats of the porch and even longer since his hand reached for the doorknob like it did now, with a slow quake and warm palms.
The entry way was neither warm, nor inviting. The chill of abandonment clung to every corner. It had only been 3 years since the last resident of the d'Fierro Villa left, but the insides seemed to have aged hundreds of years. Dust bunnies clung to the skirting and ground like cockroaches, spider webs hung across the walls and corners like haunting decorations. This new set of eyes still stung cold and chilling with the memories of a family that flooded back. Shaking his head, the Niveis wandered on towards the study, the place he had spent the most time and the information hub of the family home.
Papers littered the desk from Leonardo's last visit, a ghostly reminder of his past life. Wedding plans and venue bookings all bundled neatly, a half drunk bottle of bourbon...a remind of Leon's ungraceful fall off the wagon. A sigh left his lips as he pushed these aside, his olive toned hands fumbling for the drawers underneath, both still unlocked from his last encounter with the information. The papers underneath this drawer held the last known semblance of the family myth. The d'Fierro's were gone, and Leonardo had come back to Evermore...To this home to see if any of them still lived...Or if they'd all perished like he had, but in a much more permanent manner.
Taking his seat and settling into the dusty leather, he began his search...Sisters, brother...Anything he could find.
When Leona first returned to Evermore City, she’d felt so hopeless and alone, and usually would be found holed up in the penthouse with a bottle of whatever liquor she could find clasped tightly in her grasp. However, three months later, and she would be dedicating her time to either watching over a certain Nephilim who suffered from amnesia, and tracking down her killers. The changing factor was hope: she’d finally been set on some sort of path, progressing in some little way to track down those who’d wronged her.
At that very moment, her olive hues darted over the boards set in the living room of the house, strands of yarn in various hues connecting one pin to another. So deep in focus, the Niveis barely felt the vibrations of her phone from the pockets of her sweatpants. Pulled out of her focus, a long, tired breath sounded from her as fingers dug into her pocket, pulling out a slim phone. Olive green hues scanned over the notification that flashed upon her screen. It was from the security company who she’d hired before she was kidnapped: someone had triggered a silent alarm up in the mountain villa. Someone had broken in. Leona froze, creases forming across her brow. No one had been in there for at least three years: last she knew, it was abandoned. Within seconds, she burst through the balcony doors, wings pulling free from their marked state to extend into her wide, black-feathered wingspan.
In what felt like no time at all, a familiar structure resting upon the snowy tops of the mountains. A lump formed in her throat, her heart threatening to hammer through and out of her chest. She hesitated, hovering in the air as she looked down, sadness washing over her as she looked at what was left of her great legacy. With another tired breath parting her lips, the Venetian creature then began the descent, wings melting back onto their skin as the tops of her booted feet touched the pavement, standing before the stairs that would lean into her family home.
The large structure towered above her, and the dark-haired creature stared up, clearly hesitating. The structure looked haggard over the many years abandoned, and all Leona could feel was guilt for allowing the family home she’d worked so hard to build to fall into disrepair. Memories flashed through her mind: having all her siblings together under the same roof for the first time in two centuries, the weddings, the birthdays, the celebrations. Tears threatened to spill over, the ice wielder nowhere ready to face this part of her past. However, she would be damned if someone had come to vandalise the home---a final insult to her memory. Determined to protect it, Leona pushed past her own personal feelings and issues, fingers moving to manipulate the water from the snow blanketing the ground, wielding her element as she slipped through the open double doors.
The sound of rustling papers caught at her attention, and silent footsteps carried her towards the direction from where it was coming from. Every step into the homeL through the once elaborate foyer, up one of the two stairways, and through the halls carried so memories, and the former leader of the flock could hear the ghostly laughs in her mind: Basti’s teasing. Raph’s chiding, Leon’s laugh, Luna’s banter… Even Jason’s, her once bodyguard and best friend, advice and whispered gossip. It reminded her of how alone she was now, and so she focussed her mind on the task in hand. She soon realised that the sound came from the shared study room.
Stepping through the open door, an unfamiliar figure sat upon a dust-covered chair, searching through sheets of paper. His expression was focussed and something about him felt oddly familiar, but Leona did not recognise the face of the olive-skinned man. "Who the hell are you?" the woman found herself growling, water still dancing around her fingers as a dangerous, predatory look formed upon her angular features. "And what the hell are you doing here?" She raised her hands, willing the water she controlled to move faster, just in case she needed to defend herself from the male before her. "You have five seconds to answer, before I put you through more pain that you could ever imagine." There was nothing on her face that would even suggest that she was joking---there was no doubt that she would hurt the man if he didn't tell her what she wanted to know.
Rummaging through the papers that adorned every draw under the desk, Leonardo had begun piecing together the d'Fierro's life from the moment he jilted his love and vanished before his wedding. His siblings had always been difficult to track down in any case so this time was no different.
His newly beetle black eyes flit across every word on every page.There were mundane travel papers of holidays, but nothing about new identity cards which Phoenixes had quite regularly due to rebirths. There was nothing to incinuate anyone had been here past Leon's last visit.
He sighed, leaning back in his chair, his fingers absentmindedly turning to the bottle of bourbon that sat half-filled across the desk. Leonardo's sober wagon was incredibly sketchy, on and off constantly, but since he'd become a Niveis? He hadn't tasted even a drop of alcohol...Although the thoughts had slid around his head 'Maybe im not an alcoholic in this body?' but he'd never wanted to test the theory...
Just before those thought took root in the garden of his mind, The door sounded. Leon' froze for a second, then as the footsteps approached the study, he silently stood from his seat as an olive skinned, raven haired girl spun around the corner with a snarl in her tone. The face that turned the corner didn't make sense to him, he'd never seen it before, but an air of familiarity swept through him. until a threat left the girls lips.
"I could ask you the same question." He hissed in that same venomous tone the woman had used. "What the hell do you think you're doing here?" Leon' then let out a dark, twisted chuckle and walked around the desk, his fingers trailing the wood. "You'd have to do a hell of a lot to make me feel pain I'd never imagined." He teased before straitening up to her.
"Now tell me, What are you doing in my house?"
The same wave of familiarity washed over her as the man spoke, and it irked the Venetian ice wielder more than she liked. The water she manipulated weaved through her fingers at a quicker pace as she prepared to attack if necessary, full lips pressed into a thin line as she sized the man up when he straightened his posture. "Oh trust me, cara mia," she purred maliciously, a slightly smirk dancing at the corners of her mouth, "if there's one thing I'm good at, it's inflicting pain. So don't test me, and leave quietly." His teasing words and tone only fuelled the fires of disrespect she felt from the man's very presence in her family home.
His next words only angered her further, the woman taking long, slow strides towards the desk. Her expression was cold, and her eyes, dark with hatred. "Your house?" she repeated, her tone scarily devoid of emotions. A low, blood-curdling chuckle then sounded from the woman. "You dare call this house, the home I built for my family, yours?" She clucked her tongue, shaking her head at the utter audacity of the man. It was then that she noticed what he was looking at: the identity cards of her siblings. A different kind of anger flared in her eyes as they widened, setting back on the beetle-black hues of the male before her. "What are you, a hunter? People like you have put us through enough hell already," she snarled.
Seeing her old, pale face on those cards pushed Leona over the edge, She willed the water swirling around her right hand to freeze into a deadly sharp point, and willed it to shoot across the table, only to hover right in front of the man's throat. "I'll only ask you this once, so don't lie," the Venetian growled furiously, her collected demeanour gone, and a hint of her former insanity peeked through for that brief moment. "Who are you, and what do you want with my siblings?"
A dry, humorless laugh left his lips as she said inflicting pain was something she was an expert as. A smirk lifted up his lips. Those words were so memorable, so tangible to his sister that it sent a cold shiver straight down his spine. The feeling in the pit of his stomach grew as she spoke and it brought a frown across his features. She sounded so alike to his own sister.
As she mentioned the house 'she' built, he scoffed. "Oh don't be so ridiculous. I know exactly who built this house because when I came back to this city I managed to burn down the left wing and had to reconstruct it perfectly to her design." He hissed, recalling one of his many fiery rebirths.
As she went on with her threat, Leon' couldn't help but pause and settle into the unsettling churn of his stomach.
Something about his words made the woman freeze, the unease that fluttered in her stomach growing. There was only one person who burnt down the left wing, and she remembered the incident well. Leona remembered exactly who'd done it, how she'd nagged at him to have it reconstructed and fixed exactly as it was. Her lips parted in silent shock, her eyes growing wide. As soon as he said her name, she knew: she knew exactly who it was standing before her.
"Leon'?" the woman spoke softly, the familiar prick of tears pinching the backs of her eyes. The ice dagger pointed at his throat fell to the table, shattering into tiny shards, while the water weaving about her left hand fell to the dust-covered hardwood floors. As if in a trance, she walked forward towards him slowly, shock clear as day upon her angular features as her eyes visibly watered. There was something different about her elder brother, something she already knew deep down, but didn't want to address. "Oh my word, Leon'," she said once more, remembering that she could move faster than the snail-like pace she hesitantly moved at.
She quickened her pace, making her way around the table to run towards Leonardo, arms wrapping around him and she held him in a tight embrace. Chin tucked in the crook of his neck, the younger of the two felt a single poisonous tear escape her eyes, trailing down her cheek. She didn't realise how alone she'd felt for all the months since her death, until that very moment. She pulled away after a moment, a hand moving quickly to brush away the tear that still made its way down her cheek. "It's so, so good to see you again." Her brow creased then, head tilting to a side as her olive-green hues scanned his features. "It's a little early for a new face from you, no?" she commented. A pit in her stomach formed, the woman not wanting to believe the worst. Both of them had gone through a rebirth in the same year, not even four or five years ago. She dreaded the reason for his new face, but something about Leon' just seemed...cold.
The silence that feel between the two after he'd uttered her name made Leonardo uneasy. The d'Fierro's should be used to seeing each other in fresh skins, they'd managed every other time to reconcile peacefully, would this be different? He noted all the womans features, committing them to a new memory of his sister. Her long hair, rouged lips and round eyes, she looked more innocent in this frame, till of coursea frown framed her eyes.
As she uttered his name, a small smile tilted up the corners of his lips. "Hi" Was all he managed to utter as she swept around the table and threw her arms around him. Still taller than her even in these new forms, he tucked his sister into the circle of his arms and held her close, his chin rest atop her head. The smile remained on his lips as she pulled away, wiping a rogue tear from her cheek. "Its good to see you sister." He added before a frown pulled down his own brow line.
As she mentioned his new face, his teeth clenched and the muscle of his jaw fluttered a little. "Its...A long story." He whispered before waving his hand in the air. He brought up the icicles she'd threatened him with and morphed the ice into a new shape, a pair of feathering wings. "I think we both have a lot to discuss, don't you?"
Leonardo dropped the wings from the air, hearing them shatter against the ground between them. He wasn't exactly happy with this new icy form, but he was alive...Thats what mattered.
"I came back here to see if I could track down the rest of us...To track down you?" He glanced over at the desk and shook his head. "But I guess the memories that stayed here aren't of positivity." Leon' added, gesturing to a pile of wedding invitations that were never posted.
Her frown matched his when Leon responded to her query about his new face. Lips parting to demand an explanation then and there, panic causing her heart to flutter, but the words never left her lips as she watched him wave his hand. She watched as the ice shards moved, forming something so beautiful, yet sparked such anger in the ex-ambassador's heart. That could only have meant one thing: her brother was no longer a firelord, but an ice wielder, just like her. His words brought a sad smirk to her lips, olive-green hues softening. "I'd definitely say so," was all she could muster to say.
She ignored the sound of the ice shattering, instead keeping her attention on her brother. She could tell he wasn't happy to have been turned as well, but there was something else. Somehow, she could sense that Leon' seemed to be grateful to be alive. That was where they differed: Leona would have given anything to have died a Phoenix than be reborn into this creature of ice, but now wasn't the time to say so aloud. Whatever the case, firelord or not, she was glad to have one of her siblings back, standing before her, the perfect picture of health. That thought triggered something, creasing etching deeper into her brow. She inhaled deeply, eyes flickering towards the dust-covered bottle of spirits before back to her brother. The familiar stench of alcohol didn't cling to this body, piquing at her curiosity and relieving her some. "I'm not going to deny, it's good to see you haven't touched that bottle over there," she joked dryly, nodding her head towards the bottle of bourbon.
A heavy sigh parted her lips, the younger of the two d'Fierro's moving to sit on the edge of the dust-coated desk, one arm moving back to prop up her weight as she prepared to address his reason for coming here. "Yes, well," she started, pausing for a moment, "the people I hired said you all went different ways. Luna, Raph', and Basti have split up and no one has seen them for a year, but I know they're alright." Her gut told her that the other three siblings were safe, and so far, it had never been wrong. "Nothing here has been touched in at least three years," she told him, a wry smile forming upon her lips. "This was the worst place you could have come, to be very honest with you." There was a teasing lilt to her words, an attempt to lift the spirits in the room. "You would have had better luck looking in the city. I've been there for the past three months or so."
Her gaze then diverted to the wedding invitations, another shot of pain flaring in her chest. Of course, his wedding to Aaliyah had fallen through. As much as she disapproved of the Diviner, she did know that the younger Cole made her brother happy. "Have you seen her yet?" she asked, her gaze returning to rest on Leon's dark optics, an eyebrow raised in question. "I have," she confessed, much to her own surprise. "She still hates me, no surprise there, and the feeling's mutual. But...she did ask about you." Her gaze hovered on him as she stopped talking, taking in whatever emotions may show upon his features. Another sigh sounded from Leona, her needing to know more taking a hold of her. "Who killed you?" she demanded to know in a cool, dry tone. Silent rage laced her words, and a murderous glint shone in her eyes. "How did this happen?"
Leonardo couldn't help but chuckle as she mentioned the bottle of bourbon on the side and he shook his head. "I haven't touched a drop since this icy rebirth...Once again, drink ruined my life." He muttered darkly and sighed. "I did debate just staying off the wagon...It'd be a lot easier." Leonardo's relationship with sobriety was not a happy one. Most of his greatest down falls in life had been surrounded by alcohol, but could you blame him? A Phoenix that was known exclusively as the 'intellegent' one, a man with no other outlet for any pent up aggression than to hit the bottle...But it appeared he was predisposed to alcoholism.
As she mentioned their siblings, a pang of icy pain hit his chest. They were the last two..."Are they alive at least?" He asked tenderly "Because I've felt nothing but a pit in my stomach since coming back to this hellish city." There were more reasons that just family for his pain. Aaliyah had centered a lot around that chest pain that hummed constantly in the casm of his chest. Of course, mentioning her made that pain flare up again and he shook his head. "Im not brave enough yet." Leon' muttered under his breath.
As Leona mentioned that she had asked after him, his dark eyes pinged up to hers "Well what did she say?" He pressed "Does she...Its not even a question is it? She hates me."
Before he could dwell on that thought, she asked who killed him and he sucked in a breath. "I have no idea." Leonardo stood from the desk and wandered a few steps away. The subject of his death embarrassed him, because he had never been as low and as ashamed in his entire near 300 years.
"I was too drunk to even register someone was in the house Leona. I basically walked the guy to my bathtub and drowned myself to save him getting his hands wet." He hissed darkly. "Then, when I realised what I was...What better place to come to than Evermore to figure it out." Shame clung to his skin like a disease, and it took all his might not to snatch up the bourbon and start his new downfall...But there were still things to discuss and one person in particular to still see.
"What about you?"
A sad smile toyed at his lips as her brother spoke about staying sober, despite the unfortunate circumstances of how it came about. "I can't deny that hearing you say that doesn't bring me some joy, if I might be selfish enough to say so," she teased dryly, a hand reaching out to gently touch his bicep comfortingly, a kind look reserved for her loved ones flashing in her bright hues. "I do hope you keep away from the bottle this time," she found herself music, though she immediately felt like a hypocrite. How did she deal with turning into an ice creature? She dove straight for the nearest bottle of the hardest liquor. Oh, she was incredibly thankful that her elder brother was not there to see that. "And I hope this time around, you actually do talk about your feelings," she couldn't help but chide.
The sad smile still toyed upon her full lips at his query about their siblings, but she nodded all the same. "Last I heard, they're all alive, and still wielding fire---the lucky bastards," she mused sourly, not even attempting to hide the jealous edge that poisoned her words. "Off the grid, but most likely still alive." Leon' then mentioned Aaliyah, the source of constant annoyance for the younger d'Fierro but a great love for her elder. As soon as Leo returned to the city, she first asked of their siblings. Of course, she was told they'd left, as well as how they'd taken their leave. She knew that Leon' simply left a note for his fiancée, and suspected the guilt must still weigh heavily upon his chest. She nodded as he said he wasn't brave enough to face her, something Leona could somewhat understand. Still, words of her encounter with the Diviner slipped past her lips, unsurprisingly catching Leonardo's attention. "She's still hurt, Leon'," she uttered softly, "but I don't think she could ever hate you." There was truth in her words, for as much as Leona viewed the younger Cole as an ungrateful hinderance, she knew that the love they shared was real.
Pain ached at her chest as her brother spoke of his death, fury racing through her veins at whoever did this. But something didn't sit right with her. Again, another Phoenix was drowned instead of stabbed through the heart with a gold weapon---and a d'Fierro Phoenix at that. Was she being paranoid, or were her siblings being targeted. Not wanting to distress Leon' any further, Leo simply made a mental note to track down the remaining siblings and make sure they were safe, and have them be on their guard. "I'm so sorry, Leon'," was all she could say to him. She blamed herself for not being more vigilant, and therefore letting her family fall into such a state. "We'll find out whoever did this to you, and we'll make them pay---I swear this to you, fratello."
Then, of course, he turned the question on her. A low chuckle sounded from the woman as she ran her fingers through her dark locks, lips pressed momentarily into a thin line. "Well, when I disappeared three and half years back? Alexander and I were kidnapped. They claimed to be his enemies, people who he had wronged in his past, and they wanted him to feel the same pain he had caused them. They kept us in separate cells for the most part, but whenever they brought me to his cell, Alex always had a new array of wounds. They'd only hurt me in front of him, confirming only more than they were his foes." She paused for a moment, fingers reaching to fiddle with the wedding ring she still wore on her left hand. "July last year was the day they dragged us both to a river. There, they made Alexander watch as they drowned me. When I woke, they were gone, and I was reborn for the last time in this awful state." Her gaze dropped to the tops of her booth, her eyelids fluttering to a close as she attempted to push back the pain. "Needless to say, I still haven't found the five who did this to me, or Alex for that matter. I don't even know if he's alive."
Leona took a moment to really compose herself, and a few deep breath later, her eyes slowly open, then looking in her brother's direction. "Where are you staying now?" she asked softly, her tone slightly shaking from having to explain what was probably the darkest years of her life. "I was putting off fixing up the villa, but now that you're here in the city, maybe I'll have a construction team finally work on it. For now, I'm living in the penthouse I lent Basti in the city center." She then reached to touch her brothers arm once more, forcing him to meet her gaze. "The other room is unoccupied. Come live with me, brother---I insist that you do." A small part of her was tempted to hold him there whether Leon' wanted to or not: partly because she missed him dearly; partly because she knew this way, she could keep a close eye on his drinking habits.
As she mentioned that she was happy about his sobriety, a shrug rolled from his shoulders. “It's my most shameful habit,” He muttered before turning his attention back to her with a raised brow. “You know that's not going to happen.” Leon’ purred with a forced smile. Leonardo had never been one for having heart to hearts, which is probably why he found his passion in books. There was so much emotion in words on pen and paper, things that people didn’t have to say aloud.
Leona went on to mention their siblings, still wielding fire and he couldn’t help the sigh that escaped his lips as he turned his hands over and over, watching them. “I miss it too.” Leon’ added as he heard the jealous tone sweep through her voice. “But we are alive, we have to be grateful for that.”
Aaliyah, he knew, would be a great source of conversation. But the guilt that sat in the pit of his stomach made him weary of going to see her. He wasn’t sure he was strong enough. “I think...She could.” He added and then frowned. “I'm grateful in some sense. She hasn’t had to see me at rock bottom, I thought I’d hit that before Leona, but truly it was nothing compared to this past spiral...I…” He stopped, his words choked in his throat. He couldn’t even begin to describe what the past few years had been like. And then he died.
Leon’ hushed her as she apologised and shook his head, placing his hands on his sisters shoulders. “You have nothing to apologise for.” He said softly and tilted his head to the side. “Like I said, I wasn’t in a fit state to protect myself...I suppose that's another bonus of leaving...I’d never forgive myself if Aaliyah had been there and I couldn’t protect her…”
The ex-Phoenix listened intently to his sister as she spoke about her own death, nodding and frowning at all the right parts. His attention swayed at the mention of Alexander, but came back when she mentioned cells and torture. “I have every faith that you will find him sorella” He muttered. It was true, Leona had a skill for finding out what happened around her family life and the people she loved. He had always said she should have become a detective.
“Im staying in a B&B” Leon’ replied and then shrugged “I couldn’t go back to my apartment here, there were too many memories and the only other place I stayed was Aaliyah’s so, when I came back and couldn’t face my own home, I rented a room instead.” Feeling the hand on his arm, he followed it to Leona’s features and glumly nodded, plastering on a smile. “That would be nice...Thank you.”
At his remark about not opening up, Leona could only roll her shoulders into a shrug, her gaze dropping for a brief second. She knew that her brother would probably never open up to her, but she would do anything to prevent him from spiralling again. "A sister can only hope," she mused, looking back at him as a sad smirk toyed at the corners of her lips. She couldn't help but roll her eyes, however, at his mention of them being grateful that they survived. "Death would be far more peaceful," the woman uttered under her breath, not wanting to linger on that subject any longer than they had to.
A small, nasty part of her honestly did hope that Aaliyah hate her brother, so that she wouldn't have to deal with the sight of her former-captive holding hands and other ghastly things with her brother. But she still listened slightly as he spoke of her, lips pressed into a thin, firm line. She figured he would be able to read her body language as she crossed her arms, and so she tried to hide her thoughts as best as she could when she felt his hands rest upon her shoulders. When he choked, she stiffened, another bout of hate directed and however had did this to Leon' coursing through her veins. However, she knew her brother, and couldn't imagine the guilt he felt. "I hate to admit it, but if she was there, maybe you'd still be a Phoenix," Leona uttered dryly, slowly lifting her gaze to meet Leon's. "She's definitely not my favourite person, but I would be lying if I said she couldn't handle herself."
She let out a half sigh then, the same sad smirk returning to her features as Leon' expressed his faith in her abilities. "Sì, fratello, but it has been half a year since I turned," she mused. "A lot can happen to a person in six months. Granted, I think I'm close now, but hope is fragile thing. Our family knows that better than most."
Leo nodded as her brother informed her about his whereabouts and why he wasn't living in any of his prior residences. When he nodded, a look of mock-confusion etched its way upon his sister's face. "Do my ears deceive me?" she asked in a jesting tone. "Leonardo d'Fierro actually accepting his sister's aid? Impossible." A low chuckle sounded from her, and she affectionately squeezed his bicep, where her hand still rested. "No need for thanks, Leon'---you're my brother. What's mine is yours---always." She let her hand fall then, though she still held his gaze with hers. "I'll have a key waiting for you on the kitchen counter once you arrive. Till then, the balcony door will be open for your arrival." She then raised an eyebrow, tilting her head to a side as she moved to prop herself up upon the dusty desk. "You do remember where the penthouse is, no?" Of course he had to: there was a point each one of the siblings had been up there to yell at their eldest brother for something he'd done, or not done.
Her smile lingered upon her lips for a moment, a wave of nostalgia washing over her then. Even though her brother had a different face, it felt like how things used to be four years ago: Leon' by her side as the two decided what was best for the flock. "So, what now?" she asked, an eyebrow arching slightly as she spoke. "Are you going to try and win her back?" Leona asked in reference to the Diviner. "Or will you be focussing on something else for as long as you decide to stay here?"