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It had been many a year since Leona found herself in the dhampir side of town. The engine of her bike reverberated beneath her lithe form as she look a turn on the near-empty road, gloved hands clasping the throttle and balancing the clutch. Ever since the death of a certain detective, she'd kept her distance from the area. The very thought still brought upon an ache in her chest, a memory of someone she was powerless to save. Still, she couldn't help but take a glance at the apartment building as she drove past, a whisper of a sad smile toying at her lips for that brief moment.
And then, it was gone.
The Niveis pulled up at the dhampir dojo just as the autumn sun began to set over Evermore City. The low growl of her engine was silenced suddenly as its rider set the bike to rest on its stand. Pulling the full-face helmet from off her elven-features, she shook her dark curls loose before setting her gaze on the building that loomed overhear. She'd usually have no reason to come here of all places--she was neither a dhampir or in need of training--but word reached her ears of a familiar name who was often found here. A wry smirk formed upon her lips: how ironic that her brothers were not in town, but their "great loves" (at least, that's what they called these three particular women), were all still in the city. Two of the three she'd formed rather strong friendships with, and it would hardly be in her nature if she did not reconnect with them. Though she may not admit it, those three women probably were the only people left in the city that truly knew Leona d'Fierro.
Booted feet carried her with long strides towards the entrance of the building, long fingers finding rest in the pockets of the leather jacket that clung to her figure. Full red lips pursed for moment almond-shaped eyes scanned her surroundings in search for the woman she was looking for. It took a moment before she spotted a head of fiery red locks amongst the few souls, her familiar voice ringing through the room.
Leo waited a moment to a side, letting the woman conclude whatever business she had going on. In the meantime, she tried to figure out how to re-introduce herself in her new form to the dhampir. To Aaliyah, she'd toyed at her and played a little game to amuse her. To Cornelia, she'd been rather blunt, very raw, and got to the point. A part of her just wanted to see how long it would take for Ember to realise some familiarity, but she could already hear Raphael's nagging at her ear to be nice.
At last, she made her way across the mats, hands falling to her side as she reached the woman. "It's been a while, Emmy," she'd say, flashing the woman a smirk, stopping about a metre from the woman. "You've no idea how glad I am to see you doing so well. Raph' would be proud to see all this," she'd say, gesturing both to the dhampir as well as the building. She hoped by now, Ember would have figured out her identity--if not from her mannerisms, then from the mention of her elder brother's name. Her smirk morphed into a warm smile, her weight shifting to her left leg. "It's been far too long, cara mia. How have you fared all these years?" She then gestured towards the entrance of the dojo. "Could I tempt you with a trip to the café as a ruse to do some catching up?" She tilted her head to a side, her gaze moving from the outside world to the intense gaze of the dhampir's. "Only if you have nothing scheduled today, of course."
Her days finally seem to be falling into a bit of a rhythm, a welcome change from the whirlwind of her first stint of time back in the city. The shift of power has been going well in both factions and she’s been able to simply focus on her jobs. Most of her days are currently being spent at the dojo, the impressive building swallowing her up until well after sunset most days since she can handle much of the security business’s dealings from here or at home.
Today seems to be another one of them, with young Dhampir preparing for their claiming ceremonies taking the majority of their time. Many of them are nervous and excited and looking for some last minute workouts or tips, which she’s more than happy to provide. It’s strange. When she’d first agreed to the job it had been with apprehension, the red head doubtful that any youngster would be willing to learn under her. Now she’s seated on the floor with a younger girl, quietly going over weapon care with her new bow. But she’s still herself and the door to the room opening has her turn her head just a little, immediately putting bright blue eyes on the guest. The woman doesn’t seem familiar at first glance but something about the way she holds herself is familiar and she does not miss the way she seems to be staring. Ember softly dismisses the girl after a few more moments, getting smoothly to her feet and turning to face the woman as she approaches, her movements almost catlike.
A familiar greeting reaches her ears, the accent incredibly familiar despite the change in appearance and as soon as Raph slips past the woman’s lips it’s amazing how Em’s entire demeanor changes. Her stance relaxes, her arms dropping to her side, and a small warm smile overtakes the prior frown. Ember doesn’t have many friends in the city from her time before but Leona is one she still considers a friend. Raphael or not, she likes to think she always would’ve gotten along with the Phoenix. “It’s been too long Leo. This is quite the surprise. I would say you should’ve called but I can be a little hard to get up with.” Though her words are soft Leona likely won’t miss the joke. They both know she changes phones and numbers very often, a habit she had back when she was dating Raphael and that she maintains even now.
“Tell you what - let me change, then we can go get some coffee and I’ll tell you all about it.” She glances down at herself, at the yoga pants and tank top and bare feet that tends to constitute her attire when she’s here working. She waves for Leona to follow her if she so wishes as she heads to her office to pull on a jacket and shoes. The d’Fierro family… It truly has been a long time. They’d all disappeared even before she’d left the city though she hadn’t been too far behind them. It was actually her drama dragging Raphael into danger that had been the deciding factor in her leaving in the first place but to see Leo without Raph is a little strange. He must not be in the city… or he’s avoiding her, not that she’d blame him. Now looking slightly more presentable, with swords attached under her coat, she turns to follow Leona out of the dojo and into the setting sun of the outside. “I am curious about what you’ve been up to as well. Did you have anywhere in mind? Your old favorite is still in business I think.”
It took the dhampir a moment to recognise the Venetian woman before her, but when she did, Leo only sensed warmth and happiness from the redhead. Instantly, she was reminded of the family dinners they would have up in the villa, and the laughter they all had shared. Nostalgia dug its claws into her chest, to which the Niveis shook off and hid with a soft smile. “Aye, it has been far too long,” she replied to Ember’s words. A musical chuckled sounded from her at their inside joke, Leo shaking her head slightly in amusement. “You’ve some nerve saying that, given how much you move about. At least I tried to keep the same phone number,” she teased, almond-shaped hues crinkling as her features stretched into an impish grin.
At Ember’s proposal, Leona found herself nodding eagerly. “I’d love nothing more,” she declared, her eyes then glancing over the dhampir’s apparel as the redhead gestured. “Aye, the sidewalks are filthier than when I left—bare feet won’t do you any good there,” she murmured in disgust before following after her friend. Her fingers slipped into the depths of her pockets, shoulders rolled back to maintain her usual-perfect posture as long strides carried her towards the office, where Ember proceeded to throw on a jacket and shoes. “You look like you’re doing rather well for yourself, Em,” Leo repeated as she walked slowly around the room, taking in every detail in the office. It was comforting seeing that some things had not changed, considering finding out Cornelia had lost her memories and Aaliyah was now a barmaid. Seeing Ember still training dhampirs almost made her feel like things were the same now as it was three years ago.
Ember’s words made Leo twist gracefully around to look at her, although the sight of the swords tucked under her coat caused her to raise an eyebrow. “My, Ember—are we planning on running into some vengeful foes on the way out?” she teased, sauntering towards the dhampir as a smirk tugged at the corners of her full red lips. A shrug rolled off her toned shoulders at the mention of her old favourite cafe still being in business. “Sure, it’s close by anyway—walking distance from here.” Nodding in affirmation, she then turned on her heel, slowing her pace just until Ember fell into step with her, and they would both leave the dojo side by side.
“I heard you left the city shortly after we did,” she asked with a raise of an eyebrow as they walked, a quizzical look etched on her sharp features as she turned her face towards the dhampir. “Raph’ had people update him about your whereabouts,” she quickly explained with a shrug, “which is completely expected of him.” She chuckled sadly at the memory of her brother, her gaze falling to focus mindlessly at the tops of her boots before looking back at Ember. “Where did you end up going?” she questioned.
The two women are more similar than either of them would probably let on. It’s something Ember noticed even back then, though she’d be hard pressed to say that she has quite as much of a temper as Leona. Then again, perhaps she does. It’s hard to be sure these days. What she does know is that she’s quite happy to see the woman again, unexpected or not. “I suppose I should apologize for that… but it’s an old habit and quite hard to break.” Instead of laughing she allows a smile to come on her face, nearly as good as a laugh from the redhead. She doesn’t really smile too often and she laughs even less, even if both are slowly becoming easier for her. Her nose wrinkles some at the suggestion of walking on the sidewalk in bare feet, even the thought of exposing herself to that enough to make her cringe inwardly. Sure she can’t really get an infection from it but still.
Though her stride remains loose and graceful there’s no mistaking the power behind her movements, her small and rather unintimidating form fooling many but not anyone who knows what to look for. She regards Leona as she looks around her office, waiting to see any comments about the bare decorations. The only personal effects here appear to be her blades and a single photo taken when Ember was around 15 years old that features her friends from the finishing school. The rest is rather stock decorations and a single fern in the corner. That trend continues in her apartment, another old habit of hers. Having few sentimental or personal effects makes it easy to pick up and leave at a moment’s notice which she’s had to do more than a handful of times. “Things are… better this time I think. I’m a bit hesitant to settle yet but… Yeah, it’s going well.” She knows the older woman doesn’t miss how she dodges around a firm answer but she also knows she expects it which is why she doesn’t try to hide it.
She nearly chuckles at Leo’s reaction to seeing the swords strapped to her back but instead she shrugs, a smile lifting the corners of her lips. “Something like that.” The truth is she goes nowhere without them, even if others don’t notice their presence. She learned long ago to never take safety for granted, never assume there wasn’t someone trying to kill her right around the corner. It’s probably why she doesn’t sleep, not that one can tell that just by looking at her. Location confirmed, Ember follows Leo out of the dojo and into the cooler air of the streets. It’s something she still appreciates, scanning the setting sun and the colors that it paints the sky that turns everything to the same fiery shade as her hair. She hums softly in response to Leo’s assertion, not surprised at all that Raph would’ve kept tabs on her until she left the city. If nothing else, it’s reassuring that she did a good job disappearing if even they couldn’t keep tabs on her afterward. Her family may be rich but they’re not as crafty, not even close. “Several places.” Not Europe. Never Europe. “I went to South America for a while. Then Australia. Japan again, for a short time.” A lot of moving for two years, but that’s normal for the redhead. Evermore has really been the only place she’s stayed for so long, the people here drawing her in an environment that’s more like home than anywhere else she’s been. Bright blue eyes turn back to the dark haired woman beside her. “How about you and the others? What happened to all of you?” She doesn’t miss Leo’s sad gaze but she doesn’t push. That’s not something Ember does, not with that expression.
Of course Leona didn't miss the vagueness of a firm answer from the dhampir, though she knew to expect nothing less. Raph' had only skimmed around the edges of Ember's story, but it didn't take a genius to figure out that something dark had happened to the dhampir, resulting in her flighty mannerisms. "Well," the Venetian said pressing her hands together as she looked around the room. "At least you're here now, and I'm glad things are working out good for you." It was definitely refreshing to see one person whose life turned out for a better, given all the crap she'd come back to.
Chuckling at sight of the weapons, Leo simply took in stride. She too carried her karambits around wherever she went, especially when using her two scythes would draw too much attention. The karambits were small, and easy to hide in the holster she donned under her jacket. She definitely understood wanting to keep safe, even more considering that they lived in a supernatural "haven." Things weren't as crazy as they were when she left Evermore, but one couldn't be too careful. Once Ember was ready, the two headed out, and a wave of nostalgia washed over the Venetian creature. It felt no different from three years ago, back when fire coursed through her veins, and all was well in her world. Swallowing the lump that started to form in her throat, she then turned her attention back towards the red-haired dhampir.
The elder woman simply nodded as Ember explained where she'd gone during the years they hadn't seen each other. Ember had always been the type to not stay in a place for too long, according to Raph'. "That sounds pleasant," Leona commented, shooting a small, warm smile at her companion. Then, as expected, the question was turned on her, and a soft, sad laugh sounded from the Niveis. "Well, from what my informants tell me, my siblings are off gallivanting around the world, making themselves rather scarce." She paused for a moment, averting her gaze from the dhampir as she hesitated, eyes focusing on the thick layer snow that was cast around them. "As for Alexander and myself..." she trailed off, pressing her full lips together into the thinnest of lines. She then exhaled sharply, composing herself as she looked back up at her old friend, a small smile finding its way back onto her features. "Well, that's a very long story, and so we'll save that for once we sit down."
Just as she said that, the café they'd agreed on going to came into view. The sight relieved her somewhat: she thought she was ready to finally tell someone other than Everson about what had happened. Everson was different: it was strictly business, as he'd been hired to track down those who'd wronged her. This would be the first time she opened up to someone from her past life, and that thought alone caused a pit to form in her chest. Hiding it well, she had her smile grow slightly wider as they approached, the Niveis holding open the door for her friend. Thankfully there was no line, and so Leo made her way up to the counter, she pulled a card from the pocket of her jacket. "I'll have a long black," she said to the cashier, then raising an eyebrow as she looked at Ember. "And you?" she asked, waiting for her to state her order before Leo handed her card over. She stayed unusually quiet, her demeanour reserved right until they sat down at a table near a window, her olive green hues fixed on the outside world. "It's incredible how little, yet so much has changed since I left," the Niveis mused softly. "Everything looks the same as it did three years ago, but everything feels different." A short laugh escaped her lips. "I don't know if that makes any sense at all."
If she’s being honest, Ember doesn’t know exactly how much Leona knows about her past. Sure the two were friends but everything that’s happened to her isn’t really something she enjoys talking about, she just has no way of knowing exactly how much Raph told his sister. She doesn’t mind of course, she told him as much back then, but even so Leona has never been the type to hold judgement towards Em for her mannerisms or demeanor. She’s always appreciated that about her, the whole family really. “Thank you. It’s good to be back,” she’d be hard pressed to go as far as Leona did on the whole things working out matter but the sentiment is appreciated. Ember’s notably hard on herself anyway.
There’s one thing Ember has always been the entire time Leo’s known her and that’s observant. Thanks to that she doesn’t miss the expressions that cross her companion’s face, the subtle swallow of emotion, but she doesn’t bring any attention to it at all. She just pretends she never noticed, allowing Leo a moment to gather herself as the pair walk, instead of saying anything just taking in the cool breeze that rolls it’s way into the city at later hours. The air feels cleaner here than in the city center and the dhampir is more than happy to take advantage.
Small talk. It used to be something Em was good at and she’s admittedly growing more used to it again, but it’s still strange being forced to use her voice when she spent so long not doing so. She hums in acknowledgement, thinking back on those years. They were pleasant she supposes, though she was dealing with the stresses of leaving everyone behind yet again. Her favorite time was spent in Japan, if one forced her to say she’d probably pick it as her second most comfortable place behind Evermore. “Ah, people after my own heart then,” her smile is light hearted, joking. It seems that Raph is not in the city, which explains a lot. “I hope they’re all doing well. As for your long story…” those blue eyes settle on Leona’s face for a moment before the dhampir smiles. “If there’s any way I can help just let me know.”
The redhead is a good listener at least. A boon in both her jobs that tend to involve people rattling on at her about their problems and issues and needs. It doesn’t bother her, hearing them talk about their own problems means she doesn’t have to talk about hers. It’s different with Leona though, where Ember actually feels that she wants to help. That’s why she allows the silence for now as they walk into the café to order and though Em raises a brow at Leona just handing over her card she doesn’t question it or try to stop her. “Large caramel frap please,” her sweet tooth usually shocks people but Leo’s known her long enough now to expect it. She spends a moment to remove her hair from it’s ponytail as Leona speaks, shaking the bright red strands out and letting it fall over her shoulders. It’s a tension relief almost on par with changing out of jeans at the end of the day. “It makes a lot of sense. Things can change so much in a short time but also not at all in a long time. I haven’t actually been back much longer than you so I’m still adjusting myself. Now,” she reaches across the table to very lightly touch Leona’s fingers, an action that speaks volumes as to her comfort with the woman as Ember despises being touched, “something is troubling you. You don’t have to explain if you don’t want to but if there’s any way I can help… you know I will.”