(A/N: Here's chapter fifty three! Enjoy!
Simply Christian: Thanks for the review! Yeah, really, I get that. There are so many relationships [in both anime and real life] that have started with the good ol' fashion 'glad to be alive' make out/sex. Is it good? But hey, there are some horny teenagers that need to relieve some pent up sexual tension, especially after going through a life or death situation, which makes them think now or never. I just think...given Orihime's personality...she wouldn't be the type to step forward with her feelings unless she has absolute confirmation that Ichigo feels the same way as her. Otherwise, she would have confessed a long time ago. Either before the Soul Society arc or after it. Plus, Orihime spent most of her time during the time skip either training, studying, going to school, or working. On her part, I don't think there's time for a confession. Yeah, you would think that. But what can you do? The window is magically fixed in the next scene. Anime logic, am I right? But yes, Orihime is thinking quite irrationally. She wants to protect Ed and Al, however, she wants to do it in a way she thinks is best for them. You can say the trauma she experienced from the dark, nightmarish illusions she experienced several chapters ago is really messing her. She wanted to protect Ed and Al before, but now she's becoming desperate in her pursuit of protecting them. She can't help but think what if same thing Ulquiorra [damn this guy's name, have to look it up every time I need to spell it] did to Ichigo happens to them as well? And, unlike Ichigo, they both don't have magical regenerative powers [not that she's aware of]. People keep telling not to bottle up all her problems and burdens to herself, but the lesson hasn't quite stuck yet. And it'll be quite a long ways before it does. Not because Orihime does not like talking about her issues [as evidenced by the anime and manga], but because that illusion incident really did a number on her self esteem. As for Morgan, yeah, that's what I was talking about. Phew! Thought I didn't get the words out. But I also wanted to show subtle differences [as you would find out further in this chapter] how he was before and after Esme's death. Like he seems to show more of hidden heart of gold side before Esme's death. This probably showcased how love can change someone into becoming a dark, twisted, and evil [or eviler, in Morgan's case] version of their former self. Not everyone deals with the loss of love positively. Yeah, Morgan is still a womanizer, even in his backstory. But in his backstory, he genuinely believes in consent. Unlike now where doesn't give a rat's ass, if a woman wants to do it with him or not, and forces himself on them if he has to. And doesn't go around indiscriminately murdering people either. Yes, he still kill people. But in the past, it was more along the lines of 'you don't mess with me, and I don't mess with you, but if you start fucking with me, then, well, don't say I didn't warn you'. Get it? Guess, I should rephrase it as he won't go after innocent civilians, unlike now. All in all, I guess you can say Morgan was more neutral in the past, and that Esme was his morality chain, someone keeping him from falling into evil. But, at the end of the day, Morgan is still a disgusting, evil bastard! And I'm sorry, but please bare more Morgan-centric chapters for the next chapter or two.
TheEmeraldMage: Thank you for the review! The Nina part was very...conflicting for me to do. Not because it was hard, but because if I named the little girl that she's to befriend Nina, then I'm going to have to make sure she has some sort of impact on Nina's character. Whether big or small, good or bad, who knows? It's like...once I name a character...I can't imagine them faceless anymore because now they have to play some role in the story, no matter how small. But, if you think about, I think most of characters [even one-shots or those from mini arcs] have played some sort of role in the plot or the growth [or deterioration] of other characters. At least, I hope so. If not, then it's probably something foreshadowed in future sequels. Probably. Hey, you don't have to like Morgan, if you don't. I'm sorry, if it came out that way. I'm not trying to force you to like the motherfucker. Though, I'm confused. I don't recall Morgan screwing a hot nurse. I know he had grumpy monologue that he would like to, but he never actually does. I think it's one of those fantasies where patients can deal with being in hospital as long as they have a hot nurse/doctor treating them and/or keeping them company. Morgan laments not having a hot nurse keeping him company, and attending to his every need [like the womanizing pervert he is]. It's a hot nurse fetish. People have it. But it becomes another forbidden fruit kind of thing. Kind of [I'm talking about real life, not this story]. Because it's illegal for nurses to date their patients, even when the patient checks out of the hospital. I think. This is another one of those issues where the legality of a situation can get kind of iffy. Hit the gray area. But if it's taboo, well, hey, anime is going to exploit that like no tomorrow. Even from the mere thought of it being taboo.)
Emotions That Can't Be Put Into Words
The low, screeching sound of steel penetrated around the hotel room. Ritsuko was meticulously sharpening her sword. She wanted Shinachou tip top condition when it came time for her battle against the Colonel Roy Mustang. If it ever comes time for that. And she fucking hope it does! She could hardly contain her excitement!
She was not much for strategizing. She'd rather take on any challenge head on. There was nothing she found more enjoyable than the thrill of a good life or death battle.
Kyuko was busying herself with polishing her magic mirror. She didn't have the reservations for the possible battle as her battle craving female friend did, but she would do what she must. She honestly had no thoughts or qualms about the battle against Mustang. They had to be prepared to deal with the colonel's flames. That would be the biggest obstacle in their way during the battle. If they could keep his flames disabled, they would be at a great advantage.
The sound of the door creaking open alerted the two female mod souls. They observed their third companion enter the room with a solemn expression on his countenance.
Ritsuko wrinkled her nose, annoyed. "It's about time you show up, Morgan."
Morgan merely grunted in response, and made his way to the fridge, stepping over the pile of empty plates on the way. "You really should clean up your messes, Ritsuko," he remarked, somewhat repulsed. "You really are a barbaric and unrefined woman."
He opened up a fridge and helped himself to a bottle of red wine. "Want some?" he asked, already pouring himself a glass.
Green orbs stared at the male mod soul, scrutinizingly. "You're drinking now, Morgan? It's only two o'clock in the afternoon," she stated, skeptically, her tone hinting at something more. But she decided not to pry. "Sure. I'll take a glass."
He took out another glass, and filled it up with the alcoholic, vibrant red liquid. He doesn't bother asking his other female companion, already knowing how much she is averse to drinking alcohol.
He placed the rest of the wine bottle back in the fridge and closed it. He grabbed the two glasses of wine, and strolled over to the living room where the two girls were. He handed one glass to the red haired woman, who casually took it. Eyeing her nonchalantly taking a small sip of the bitterly tangy drink, he sauntered over to the adjacent black couch, and promptly took a seat.
The blond haired man consumed a tiny sip of his own alcoholic beverage. The red liquid gently gushed down his throat, slightly warming his gullet. Once finished, he placed the glass down on the small, round, brown table beside him.
"Preparing for your fight against Colonel Mustang?" Morgan inquired, having noticed the girls buffing their weapon when he opened their room.
"I am looking forward to it," Ritsuko responded with a menacingly gleeful smile. The kind of psychotic grin a bloodthirsty beast wears when it finds an interesting prey to play with. "At last, I would finally have a decent fight to look forward to."
"The colonel is not going to be easy to take down, you know," he muttered, leisurely leaning back, and shifting until he was slouching over the couch.
"I'm not expecting him to. Otherwise, I wouldn't have agreed to the chance to do battle with him." The red haired woman wiped her blade with a cleaning cloth, applying the finishing touches to it. Watching the blade gleaming in the light brought a satisfying smile to her face.
"The bigger problem is how to deal with his subordinates," Kyuko said in that deadpan, monotone voice of hers. "And we are only allowed to deal with Mustang, if he infiltrates the Third Lab."
"I just can't believe that it took this long for the military to start making their move against the homunculi," the blond haired mod soul remarked in a mockingly amusing tone, taking another swig of his wine. "Humans really are useless, incompetent creatures."
The redhead shrugged. "You know how they are. They don't like dwelling on unsettling things that might disrupt their idyllic lives." She proceeded to sheathe her sword. "In my opinion, I don't really care for homunculi or their plans."
"None of us do," the black haired girl added. "We are working with them out of convenience. Teaming up with them allows us the freedom to do whatever we want."
"When it comes down to it, who do you think would end up victorious? Humans or homunculi?" the male mod soul asked, flippantly. Dark green eyes lazily glanced up at the ceiling where the white ceiling fan was on. The white propellers spun around and around at a medium fast pace. The strength of it drives air currents all over the room, bringing in a nice, cool breeze. "Personally, I don't care. Whether the humans annihilate the homunculi or the homunculi exterminate all humans, it's all the same to me."
Ritsuko hummed in agreement. "I'm just along for the thrill and excitement of the ride. I don't care who ends up victorious as long as I have tough opponents to do battle with," she declared.
She eyed her male companion. She observed him shift, maneuvering his body around till he was laying completely onto the black couch, his head lightly hanging over one of the couch arms. He has been uneasy since he came in. He may hide it behind an air of nonchalance, but she could sense his restless agitation a mile away. She could view how tense his shoulders were and the near invisible stress lines on his forehead. No doubt he has experienced some very unpleasant memories.
She was not one to pry into the personal lives of others, nor their past. She wasn't the empathetic, compassionate, or sentimental type. They were all mod souls, and they each had their similar burdens to bear by that lone fact. In truth, it was this shared commonality that kept them all together. Nobody else could better understand their troubles and pains than themselves.
They were mod souls. They were born damned. And they are going to die damned.
At least, that's the way she sees it.
Does she care about that?
Does it bother her?
It might be hard to believe, but she was a simple woman with simple desires. As long as she can fight and battle to her heart's content, then that's more than enough for her. Who cares about all the minor and trivial matters of life? As long as she could die fighting a good fight, then she would die happy!
The red haired mod soul lives for the battlefield. The clashing of swords… The exchanging of fists… The exotic sound of steel tearing through flesh… The marvelous sight of blood painting the ground… The intoxicating smell of gunpowder, copper, and iron permeating the battleground… The intense exhilaration and shuddering apprehensiveness of doing battle against someone immensely strong, knowing that it might very well be her last battle… The thrilling pleasure of being covered in life's red and warm vital fluid...
She loved every single moment of it!
There were just no other words to describe it! The pure elation of being bathed in blood is absolute heaven! An exciting battle always gets her blood flowing and her heart pumping. There was simply nothing like it. Not a single thing in the world could bring her greater joy or ravishing pleasure than putting her life on the line in an intense fight.
However, she was keenly aware that Morgan and Kyuko don't share the same feelings of epic joy when it comes to fighting as her. And that was fine. They each have found something that has brought them delight and content.
Morgan gets his sick joyment out of taking women to bed. He constantly drools over every pretty woman who passes his way, leading him to flirt and jump on them when the opportunity arises. He can't go a single week without keeping it in his pants. He truly was a perverted creep. She, for the life of her, cannot fathom what was so great about the pleasure of the flesh. Though, that was only her opinion. She wouldn't want some midnight tryst with some weakling. Even if she did find someone, she would rather compete in a battle to the death with them. That was her bread and butter. What she derives mind numbing pleasure from.
Conversely, Ritsuko had no problem admitting that the blond haired man was a very powerful ally and friend, despite how much he gets on her nerves with his disgusting antics. So, in essence, even she slightly worries when her only male companion enters the room with a very low key dismal expression on his facial features.
Nevertheless, she made no attempt to meddle into his issues. And neither did Kyuko. That had an unspoken policy on never interfering into one another's personal hangups. That, by no means, meant that they weren't supportive or concerned about each other's physical and emotional wellbeing. They always gave each other time and space to calm down and process their emotions. Whether they want to eventually come clean with what's bothering them or not, is entirely up to them.
The redheaded woman quietly took another tiny mouthful of her wine when a knock resounded from the door. "Who is that?" she asked. "Who is at the door?"
"Oh, I ordered room service," Morgan answered, nonchalantly as Kyuko went to answer the door.
As expected, a delivery man was standing by the door with a large bag of food in hand.
"You ordered room service? Seriously?" Ritsuko snarked, incredulously.
Kyuko had already grabbed the meal from the delivery man, and shut the door on him.
"Put a sock in it, will you?" the male mod soul responded, slightly annoyed as the black haired mod soul gently placed the package down on the living room's large, dark brown, squared table. "I'm hungry. I need to eat."
The redhead sighed, exhaustedly. "How much is this going to cost us?"
He waved, proceeding to open the hefty, paper bag. "The receptionist is paying for it. I had her deliver me something to eat free of charge."
He took out three sizable lunch boxes from the bag, and opened each of them up. He scooted one across the table to each of the girls. He unboxed his to reveal...a simple plate of spaghetti and meatballs and a few chicken drumsticks. The deliciously savory aroma of the delectable meal began wafting through the room. The delightful smell simply made the blond haired man hungry. He picked up the fork, since the lunch had come prepared with utensils, and began devouring his food.
"Tch. I really don't get what's so great about you. Why women continue to stupidly crawl on their knees at your every beck and call precisely because you pay them a miniscule amount of attention is beyond me. But if dumb bimbos are willing to do anything for you for one night together, then who am I to complain, especially if we can exploit it and use it to our advantage like this?" the red haired woman muttered, sardonically, already taking a bite of her portion. "It's disgusting. Repulsive. But it's also a useful tactic of manipulation and underhanded trickery."
In her opinion, she honestly had no sympathy for women who fall for Morgan's lies and deceits. She had been a witness to plenty of girls going on one little date with the smug bastard, hoping it would turn into more. Only for them to have their pathetic hearts broken because they were too ingeniously gullible not to see past his deceitful charms. Although, there are some more promiscuous women who are merely searching for a casual risque and lewd encounter, and nothing more than that. All she could say is...as long as it doesn't involve her in any way whatsoever, then she couldn't care less what happens between Morgan and his sorry harem of women. And hey, it's been working in their favor for years now. Especially in situations like this when they offer a free place to stay and free meals whenever they, or specifically, Morgan wants.
Kyuko, for her part, was enjoying her food while listening to Ritsuko's and Morgan's banter with a blank expression on her face. She had not voiced it before, but ever since they arrived in Central, something has been bothering her. There was a restless unease that she couldn't quite delineate. It wasn't just because most of the homunculi are gathered in one place. She could say...there is a fair amount of powerful spiritual energies piled up in this city. She could sense several Hollows, and the rest...are not Hollows nor homunculi.
Guess, she can conclude that they weren't ordinary humans. If they are humans. She honestly had no thoughts or concerns about it though. She was completely indifferent to fretful human struggles or the daunting troubles and tribulations they will be facing judging by the amount of Hollows in the area. Wasn't really her problem to deal with. As long as it doesn't have anything to do with her or her friends, then she would remain insouciant to the situation. Let someone else handle it. Or not. Frankly, she does not care either way.
She impassively took a bite of one of her meatballs. The appetizingly juicy ball of beef almost instantly melts in her mouth. It nearly synergizes with the savory flavor of the sauce, making it more sapid. One thing for sure, it wasn't too bland or disappointing. Whoever cooked this meal or whatever restaurant prepared this cuisine actually did a pretty decent job. The room service foods they've been receiving were not flavorless and underwhelming.
It must be one of the more expensive, small restaurants in this hotel, given that they serve chicken. And chicken was not cheap. Not by the long shot. Chicken was surprisingly a rare delicacy in this country. It's not that people don't eat chicken, however, only the rich and upper class eat it on a semi regular basis.
She had to wonder if the receptionist picked their food or if Morgan did? Truthfully, she has heard more than seen women doing whatever it takes to garner the attention and affection of the guy they like. If the former, is the woman using her salary to pay for the rooms and meals, or is splurging on the hotel's expenses? Or is she forging the hotel's rates and figures? Either way, the sheer stupidity of the brown haired receptionist amazes her, and how easily she is willing to risk her job and possibly jail time for a man she barely knows and started dating a few weeks ago simply astounds her.
If this is Morgan's doing, the black haired girl wouldn't put it past him. He is repeatedly known to them to abuse and milk foolishly ignorant women for all their worth, and being callously uncaring of the women he dates. To be fair, this time it was partially on Ritsuko's demand.
Feeling a little parched, the black haired mod soul stood up from her seat, and headed towards the kitchen. Her tiny feet padded along the wooden floorboards as she ventured her way to the fridge. Her pale, dainty fingers wrapped around the handlebar of the fridge, and she carefully pried it open. Her black eyes immediately landed on the large container of orange juice. She seized hold of it. She snatched a paper cup from a cupboard under the sink, and poured the juice in it before placing the juice back in the fridge.
She closed it, took a small drink of it. The sweet taste of the orange juice trickling down her throat, somewhat quenching her thirst. This may be odd, out of place, and going on a short tangent, but, to her, orange juice is one of her most favorite things in the world. She could drink this every, if she could. Too bad oranges are mainly only ripe in the winter or spring, so it's one of those things experienced seasonally. That is the biggest issue with dealing with this delicious beverage.
Kyuko sauntered back over to her seat, and sat back down. She placed her cup of orange juice next to her food, and resumed eating her spaghetti.
The atmosphere between the three mid souls seemed bizarrely amicable and freakishly serene. An outsider might end up mistakenly viewing them as an affable group of normal humans. They perfectly feigned the appearance of regular people enjoying a nice, relaxing lunch together. Or perhaps, maybe they are really like that on their off days. When they aren't committing nefarious acts of vile misdeeds or heinous crimes, naturally.
Kyuko had also noticed Morgan's nonchalant facade. However, she, similarly to Ritsuko, chose not to comment. It was not hard to miss the anguish and affliction on his features. She figured it was best to give him some space. He was strong. He would pull through. Not to mention, he isn't the type to let a distressingly dreadful past hinder him or his missions.
It was not that the black haired girl was ignoring her only male friend's tormented issues. She may not look it, but she was not that emotionally detached to the people around her. She may be unsympathetically dispassionate and coldly disinterested in humanity's plight, however, this attitude doesn't extend to the people close to her! She does care for her friends!
But enough of that.
The youngest looking mod soul took note of the fact that she was almost done with her lunch. Just a few more bites of chicken to go. After finishing her meal, she took the last several gulps of the sweet citrus fruit drink, and pushed both the cup and the lunch box to the side. Her friends were done as well, shoving their own empty boxes to the side.
"Wonder what Eria is doing?" Kyuko mused. This was an out of the blue question, but she had pondered from time to time where the mod soul they initially created for the homunculi went. Before she went awol and everything.
Ritsuko shrugged. "Never thought about where she went. None of my business. Why?"
The other girl shook her head. "No particular reason," she said in her usual monotone cadence. "We created her for the homunculi's sake, correct?"
"Well, what she does is not my business. If the homunculi are looking for her, then that's their business," the redhead woman stated, lazily.
Morgan hmphed. "The homunculi should've known that we, mod souls, have wills of our own. We are mindless puppets who blindly obey the orders of whoever created us. Otherwise, we would be still blindly loyal to the Soul Society," he finished with a slight bitterness coloring his tone. He took a tiny sip of his, tasting the burning, red liquid going down his thirst.
Green orbs listlessly landed on the blond haired man. "I'm surprised you didn't try to hit on Eria, given how obsessed you are with your precious Orihime," she remarked.
He tsked, clearly expressing his disinterest. He placed his glass down on the table, then replied. "I want the real thing. Not some fake."
She smirked, waggishly patronizing. "Really? Isn't it because you are afraid she'll kick your ass, if you put the moves on her?"
He didn't respond, however, he glanced away with a comical nervous expression on his facial features.
She hit the nail on the head!
Unfortunately for her blond haired companion, instead of letting it go, she decided to take further jabs at his pride. "Actually…," Ritsuko trailed, utilizing feigned thoughtfulness to camouflage a playfully mischievous snigger. "You did try to hit on her! I remember! She blasted you! You were knocked out for days!" She held her stomach as she collapsed into a full blown, mocking laughter. "How could I have forgotten that? It was so hilarious! It's always…always so refreshing to see you turn down for a change!"
He grunted, extremely annoyed, a blond brow twitching in aggravation. "Shut up!" Morgan snapped, angrily. "How was I supposed to know how freaking scary she would be?"
"After that little exchange… It does seem like Eria mostly inherited the negative aspects of Orihime's personality," Kyuko chipped in, insightfully. "Since she was created with only a very small fragment of Orihime's soul, you can say that she's an incomplete replica."
He drinks a very large gulp of his wine. "Why couldn't Eria have developed one of Orihime's more cuter parts?" he complained, setting his nearly drained glass down.
"I'm surprised you did not kill her for rejecting you," Ritsuko mused.
The male mod soul gazed at the red haired woman as if she made the most ridiculous comment he has ever heard. "Did you really have to say something so stupid, Ritsuko?" he snided.
She glared at him in retaliation. "What was that, you perverted freak?" she growled, angrily.
"You heard me, you battle crazed maniac," he retorted.
Her eyes narrowed into slits, and her fists clenched at her sides, fumingly mad. Seeing that smug grin on his pretentious face simply made her want to break his jaw. But she had a better idea, and shot him a taunting smile.
"I heard rumors that Orihime has a lover," the red haired mod soul spoke in an airy tone of voice. "Guess your 'precious' Orihime has taken a liking to another man. Good for her. She made the right choice it would seem. Who would want to date a lecherous prick like you?" she finished with a disrespectful sneer.
The blond haired man hmphed, crossing his arms in front of him. "I'll have her soon enough. I will wring that alchemist's neck for taking what is rightfully mine!"
The redhead scoffed, shaking her head, exasperatedly, rolling her green eyes at her friend's salacious delusions. "Though, I do wonder if that little alchemist has gotten stronger since the last time we met," she muttered, wearing a psychotic grin, and changing the subject whilst leisurely throwing her arms behind her head.
She blew out a dissatisfied sigh. "I have become quite disillusioned lately that nobody has given me a relatively good challenge. An extremely vicious and brutally savage challenge that nearly had me at death's doors. Not since my battle with her." The redhead's mind drifted to memories of a moment quite some time ago.
Raging fire was ablaze in the background. The scent of burning smoke filtered the air, and the fierce ambers were the only thing illuminating the blackened night, given the whole area an ominous glow. Two silhouette figures stood in the center of a destroyed forest, panting, heavily. They were battered, bruised, and covered in blood. They were both pretty sure they were suffering from several fractured bones. Familiar reddish brown hair was slightly irradiated by the raging flames. Although, the other combatant had chestnut brown hair. They were completely drained of energy, and exceedingly exhausted to the point where their bodies were threatening to collapse. Nonetheless, they resisted the urge to by sheer force of will. This battle isn't over until one of them dies or admits defeat. And they would be damned if either one of them be the first to do so.
With weapons raised, they charged at each other with a roaring battle cry.
Morgan groaned, rolling his dark green eyes in displeasure. "Bloodthirsty, psychotic, fighting fanatic," he murmured under his breath.
The light sound of Morgan getting up caught the girls' attention.
"Where are you going?" Ritsuko asked.
"Out," was the only gruff and curt reply she received as the door opened and closed shut.
The two female mod souls gazed at one another in confusion before the seemingly older looking one shrugged her shoulders.
Morgan was treading through the streets of Central. That damn Ritsuko. Talking to that barbaric woman always gives him a rousing headache. She is so not his type. He wouldn't ask her out, even if she conveniently happened to the last woman on earth.
Though, he would never admit… He does feel a...little bit better. Having lunch with girls was able to make him temporarily forget about his more harrowingly awful memories of Esme. He never says it out loud, but he does appreciate them. Ritsuko and Kyuko are the only people in the world he trusts wholeheartedly.
To clarify, the blond haired man didn't leave because of any ill feelings of animosity. He simply wanted to go to the cafe he visited the other day. He was strangely itching for a plate of castellas. Maybe he was craving it. Maybe, despite how immensely averse he seemed to the devastating ordeal, he was ultimately craving memories of Esme.
Sometimes he cursed the conflicting duality of his emotions.
Blissful happiness covered in grief stricken sorrow. The sweet pleasure of love ended up being twisted and defiled by an agonizing torment of bitter hatred. Painful yearning gripped by utter despair. The stinging rage to annihilate everything that's guided by the dull ache of heartbreak. Mindless lasciviously amatory exploits to rekindle what has tragically long since been lost. Those fun times were lost to maliciously cruel wheels of harsh unluck.
In almost half an hour, the blond haired mod soul found himself at the cafe he was searching for. He did not waste any time entering it, prompting the bell hanging over the door frame to ring. He ignored the faint, obviously synetically courteous 'welcome' that greeted him. Dark green orbs gazed, purposefully around the cafe until he spotted an empty table in the back corner. Good. He wished to be left alone and isolated.
He marched over there with careful strides. He took a seat in one of the empty chairs, patiently waiting for a waitress to come take his order.
Hmm, was it just him or was he getting a different vibe from this place? Perhaps, when he came here last time, because of his extremely nasty mood, he was not really paying any attention to the genial environment. The pleasantly sweet aroma of the baked desserts and pastries wafted, delicately through the cafe.
There was nothing particularly noteworthy about the cafe. It was like all other cafes. Nothing alluringly special about it. It appears that the place's only function is to provide a homely atmosphere where people peacefully chat with family and friends while enjoying somewhat delicious sweets.
At least, a waitress finally arrived at his lonesome table to take his order. He resisted the urge to roll his and groan in dissatisfaction. About damn time.
She'd asked for his order while a sickening, phony, honey coated smile was plastered on her countenance. He didn't comment though. Surely, conversing with strangers, dealing with sometimes ungrateful customers, and being forced to constantly smile and look happy could be pretty stressful to workers who are unsuited to this unchanging setting. Especially when they are being forced to change themselves to fit someone else's needs and comfort.
But… That's not really his problem, is it?
Morgan proceeded to make his order quick and brief. A few castellas and a cup of matcha tea was all he ordered. After all, that's the only reason he is in this place. He observed the waitress walking away, ogling her backside. She does have a nice ass. Wonderfully round and firm from the looks of it. If he were to take her, it'll most likely definitely be in the position where he could admire her lovely bottom.
But, alas, he wasn't in the mood to go hunting for a new pleasure toy. He already had his fill over an hour and a half ago, and, right now, he's beat.
Sighing, discontentedly, he crossed his arms, and coolly leaned back in his chair. His dark green eyes surveyed the entire area, trying to search for something to entertain himself. Unfortunately...there was nothing of interest.
Ah, perhaps he should've brought a book to read, cause now he was feeling so incredibly bored. There was nothing remotely amusing that was going on at the moment. All he could do was tap his right forefinger, impatiently on the table, waiting for his dessert to arrive.
Things would be much more bearable, if he had a beautiful woman he could flirt with. At this moment, the blond haired man started to miss the girls, even arguing with the barbaric, annoying woman, Ritsuko. Maybe he should have invited them to come with him. At least, then, he could stave off this terrible boredom. Hmm, he may consider bringing them some dessert.
"Here you are, sir."
The mod soul snapped out his musings when a plate filled with a couple of castellas on it and a cup of matcha tea was carefully placed before him.
The waitress bowed her head, courteously, and left him to enjoy his meal in peace.
Morgan gently poked and probed the soft yellow, small, rectangular cake with a fork. The texture of the castella was very slightly stiff, immediately clueing him that it wasn't fresh. Not that he really expected it to be. They more than likely brought it out from the fridge out back. Cut out these small portions from a much bigger whole.
Gingerly, he sliced off a tiny piece of his castella, and then used his fork to tenderly stab it. He gently popped it in his mouth and chewed, slowly.
"This is too sweet," Morgan said, face twisted in slight distaste.
The blond haired man pushed the plate of castella back into Esme's awaiting hands. In response, Esme gave him a pouty face of disappointment.
"You don't like it?" she asked. She sighed, sadly, taking the plate of castellas away from him. She began eating the delicious dessert herself, humming in delight at the sweetness. "Mmmm! It tastes so good! I don't understand why you don't like it."
He said nothing in response, only offering a small grunt. He eyed the woman beside him indulging in what she claimed to be her favorite dessert. They were on top of a grassy hill overlooking Rismoro, and enjoying a little picnic. It was springtime with summer nearing its horizon, and flowers were in full bloom.
After two weeks, he was allowed out of the clinic, but not without 'advice' from his doctor informing him to 'take it easy' for a few more weeks. Luckily, they gave him his sword back, otherwise, he would have gone through with his threat of burning the clinic down to the ground, and he would have enjoyed every minute of it.
Morgan celebrated. Since he was basically discharged, he had no reason to stay in this hospital any longer. No reason to stay in this stupid town.
So, what was stopping him?
He doesn't comprehend his own hesitancy. Without meaning to, the mod soul found himself on the same hillside Esme took him to while he was still recuperating in the clinic to get some much needed fresh air.
It was after that time that he began calling her by her name. He could undoubtedly remember how delightfully ecstatic she was to finally hear her name spew from his lips. It was almost contagious. Almost.
The mod soul had made several attempts to leave the town. However, something always drew him back to it. Something so annoying. So obnoxiously unpleasant. So naggingly stubborn. And so unattractively attractive. That it was poisonously alluring him back to this town. Something that was aggravatingly harder to get rid of than cockroaches. Both literally and figuratively. An irritating nuisance. A creature with irresistible ultramarine blue eyes.
And now… It has been over three months since he arrived in this small town. Of course, he leaves the town on occasion. But, ultimately, he is drawn back to it.
Although, studying Esme's elated overjoyed expression as she continues to chow down on the castellas, he can't say it was all bad. The town was peacefully tranquil. He decided to stretch his body out, and lay down on the red and white checkered picnic blanket, blissfully staring at the clouds languidly floating by. A pleasantly warm feeling of contentment passes by him.
The blond haired mod soul has gotten quite used to Rismoro. He doesn't interact with the locals much. Obviously. He wasn't thrilled to be conversing with humans more than he has to. Though, he doesn't mind coming back to this place whenever he desires to simply relax and unwind. It absolutely...certainly...most definitely not because he wished to see a certain blonde haired, blue eyed woman. Nope. Definitely not. He comes back for her cooking. Not because he feels lonely, and misses her.
But nothing has really changed in Rismoro. It was a forever unchanging town just as Esme had described it. The peaceful tranquility the town offers was certainly nice. The picturesque beauty of nature was a magnificently breathtaking sight to behold. He could say that his viewpoint has improved. If only a little.
That is not the only thing that his judgment has improved on. Once again his dark green gaze drifted to the blonde haired woman beside him. This time, however, he was caught, causing said woman to tilt her head, questionably. He nonchalantly turned his head away, but it was really to hide the slight tinge of pink dusting his cheeks out of immense embarrassment at being caught admiring her.
She exhaled, softly. "You're still as grumpy as always."
He opened his mouth, then decided to close it after a moment because with her would be a waste of energy. And also because he was in too good a mood today.
His relationship with Esme has grown these past few months. They still bicker from time to time, but it was not as malicious as it was before. He wasn't as hostile to her as when they first met. He had, dare he say, softened up to her. Of course, he still views her as an annoying nag, but it has grown...tolerable.
Nothing they ever did was...extravagant, per se. They normally sat together on a grassy field, talking and chatting about everything and nothing. Or, they said nothing at all, simply basking in each other's presence. Esme would do her usual chores while he merely tagged along, soundlessly. He didn't dare engage in a conversation with any of Esme's acquaintances. Nevertheless, for her sake, he tried to be cordial. Well, as cordial as he could allow himself to be with feeling physically nauseous.
Other times, they mostly just hung out together on a relaxing grassy terrain doing nothing, taking comfort in the salubriously reposeful landscape and charmingly artistic scenery. Usually, he would be lazing around before the blonde haired woman comes to see him, offering him something yummy to eat. It's one of things he takes great pleasure in. Alone in a secluded area, partaking in a warm meal in total blissful peace. If only he was accompanied by a beautiful woman, then it would be perfect.
Morgan's ears tuned in to the clattering sound of plates, cups, and utensils. It appears that Esme had finished eating her castellas, and was cleaning and packing up the empty dishes back in her picnic basket.
Once again, he was internally praising her for another delectable meal. A delicious chicken salad and a scrumptious beef and vegetables pasta with some nice tea to help chug down everything.
The dessert, though, was not to his liking. It was too disgustingly sweet. This doesn't mean he had a tremendous dislike for anything remotely sweet. And this isn't a confirmation for meaning he has a preference for bitter food. He doesn't like it when his meals are too sweet, and he finds bitter things too unbearable to stomach. A nice...moderation does not hurt anyone.
He offers a small hum in response, indicating to her that he was listening.
"You are leaving again, tomorrow. Is that right?"
The blonde haired woman's question caught Morgan's full attention. He gazed at her before his dark green orbs glanced back at the serene, cloudy, blue sky.
"Yeah," he drawled. "What of it?"
The woman remained silent. She was packing the last of the materials in the basket, taking the time to carefully conjure up her thoughts. She was kind of sad that he was leaving so soon. He's only been here a week. She knows that he will eventually come back. He always does.
She sat next to him, pulling her legs up to her chest and wrapping her arms around them. "You are coming back, right?" she inquired, a trace of nervous shyness ingrained in her quiet tone.
He stared at her, incredulously. "What kind of question is that?"
Her face contorted into a grumpy pout. "You don't have to say in such a mean way, you jerk."
The blond haired man snorted. "Then don't ask idiotic questions. I told you when I was leaving yesterday. Why are you asking me to repeat myself?" he said, bluntly.
Then something dawned on him, and, once it did, he sat up and looked at her with a smug smirk stretching across his face. He resembled a mischievous cartoon cat about to pounce on its unlucky victim. "What? Are you going to miss me? Huh, Esme?" he asked her, teasingly.
Her cheeks flushed a light pink at the playfully teasing accusation. She angrily punched his chest, earning a laugh when it only proved he was right. "You are an irritating man!" she yelled, frustratingly.
"Not as annoying as you I'm sure," he countered, vexatiously haughty. He observed her as her blonde brows furrowed downward, her lips twisted into a deep frown, and her cheeks looked slightly puffed. All the telltale signs that she was really mad now.
"Your cooking was as wonderful as always, Esme," he complimented her, being savvy and trying to placate her.
Esme crossed her arms over her chest, "You think flattery would get me to forgive you for your impertinent rudeness?"
Morgan shrugged his shoulders, lazily stretching out his legs and placing his arms behind him, so that he was leaning back a little. "Eh, it was worth a shot."
"You are stupid, insolent man," Esme huffed, turning her head away, and sticking her nose in the air, indignantly.
He stifled his chuckles, finding the woman's anger amusing. He roughly patted her head in a way she finds incredibly condescending and frustratingly annoying.
Truthfully, Morgan had been a...tiny bit...anxious about leaving tomorrow. Every time he leaves Rismoro, leaves Esme, he's consistently left with a vaguely empty feeling in his chest. There is always this bizarrely constant ache in his heart. Then the harrowing feeling of loneliness that he has become acutely numb to these past years has become disturbingly more pronounced, more noticeable than it ever has been before. Then his mind would start plaguing him with unfathomable fears and worries that something unthinkable may happen to Esme while he is away. Like he'll turn his back on her for a minute, and she'll just be gone. Poof. Vanished into thin air. She'd be alive one moment, and then the next...she won't.
He was all too aware how utterly ridiculous these ruminations were. They were confusing, annoying, and so damn hard to figure out. He never had a woman captivate him like this for more than a day. A week max. It was a blissful aggravation that robbed him of all rational reasoning and logical thinking. He was used to this sense of attraction. But this feeling was on a whole nother level. It was a profoundly more powerful, unwaveringly persistent, and intensely yearning sensation than a mere simple, fleeting attraction.
That's precisely why the blond haired man finds himself back in Rismoro over and over again. He keeps on having this unbearably strong desire to see Esme. To see her face. To see her smile. After he is fully and wholly satisfied, he continues to tell himself that it would be the last. Oddly, for some reason, it's not enough. It was never enough! How could a woman bewitch him so? It was...extremely...frustrating. Not knowing what this emotion was.
However, as usual, Esme was able to make him feel better with relatively little effort. She always had this mysterious power over him. She could annoy him, or make him angry at the drop of a hat. Nevertheless, she could just as easily make him feel serenely happy by simply being in her presence. The ease at which she could control his emotions was unpredictably scary. He could temporarily forget the world around him, and vastly relish the comfort of blissful peace.
Morgan stood up, completely off the ground. The abruptness in which he did somewhat startled Esme. He stretched out his arms as far as he could in the air, and yawned, loudly. He stared down at her, holding out his hand for her to take. "Shall we go?"
A tinge of red dusted across the bridge of Esme's nose. He always wondered why her face turns red at the smallest gesture of physical contact from him. He chalked up to the inherent shyness of a woman. Though, he does regard her flustered expression as highly amusing.
After a moment of hesitation, the blonde haired woman tentatively took his hand. She instantly zeroed in on their conjoined hands. It always left Esme amazingly embarrassed by how much bigger his hand is compared to her slender, dainty one. The strength of his hand was very noticeable to her. The rough calluses of his hands had her in almost complete awe. She recalled the time that he was hospitalized, which seemed like so long ago, but it was really only a few months. All those horrible injuries were due to fighting, right? He grumpily confessed that himself. This eventually led her to ponder with both stunned wonderment and fretful worry just how many fights and battles he has been in? She could feel the tones of his muscles from merely his fingers and hands alone.
Although, none of it probably does not mean much compared to someone weak and petite like her. She does not have as physically demanding a life as him. Did he use to work for the military? If so, is he retired, or is taking time out of his busy schedule to come visit? These curious musings began to swarm her mind.
Now, she felt kind of bad of how much Morgan goes out of his way to visit her. Don't get her wrong. It's not that she doesn't appreciate it, but she doesn't want him to get into trouble because of her. It'll only make her feel extremely guilty. He shouldn't make that much of an effort and sacrifice to spend time with her. She wasn't really anything special. She was just a peasant living in a no named town.
"What is it?"
Esme nearly jumped when his unexpectedly smooth, gruff voice floated to her ears. Her ears turned red out of embarrassment at being caught staring at their interlaced hands.
"It's nothing," she said, quickly, trying to conceal her awkward self consciousness. She inwardly cursed herself for her high pitched, squeaky inflection in her tone. She hoped he didn't notice, or she'd be absolutely mortified. "C-can you get off the blanket? I need to put it up." She desperately wanted to change the topic away from her, to divert his attention away from her to save herself from further perturbed discomfort. Her heart was pounding so rapidly in her chest, she was worried he could hear it. Sense her growing unease.
Fortunately, he did just that. He didn't push the subject any further,, and shrugged his shoulders, uncaringly. For once, she was grateful for his blatantly rude attitude. He wordlessly stepped off the picnic blanket, allowing the blonde haired woman to collect herself and gather it up. It took a few minutes, and after she did she stowed it in the basket.
"Okay, I'm ready," Esme announced in a nice, even intonation. She internally patted herself on the back for not having a nervous inflection in her voice this time.
She led the way. Back to the direction of her house. And Morgan followed her, silently.
The walk back was flowing with peaceful silence. However, with each step closer to her house, the more her nervous anxiety swelled up inside her. The nerves in her hands prickled with jittery trepidation, and her heart frantically pounding against her ribcage.
Esme determinedly kept her ultramarine blue eyes looking straight ahead. She was afraid that if she glanced back at Morgan, he would perceive fearfully tense and agitated she was. Each step closer meant the moment to say goodbye drew nearer. She felt somewhat silly for feeling like this. This was not the first goodbye they shared, and hopefully it won't be the last either.
Even though her rational side tried to reason with her fears, her irrational side was dreadfully fretful for what's to come. This would be the last time she'll see him, and who knows when he'd come back next. If ever. He informed her early he'll leave tomorrow morning, possibly at the crack of dawn. She herself was not much of a morning person, and waking up that early would be excruciatingly difficult for her. So, she was almost guaranteed not to get the chance to see him in the morning before he leaves.
The fearful anticipation was killing her! The time to say farewell was steadily approaching. The sun beating down at them was not helping the beads of disquietude rolling down her neck. The blonde haired woman had to get the words out now before it's too late, otherwise, she won't have another opportunity. However, intense nervousness prevented her from making a single intelligible sound, let alone coherent words. Her mouth was clamped tightly shut with the unnerving apprehension coursing to her veins. The heaviness of it all, her fears, her emotions, her desires were weighing down on her, pressuring her with tremendous, unrelenting force. She felt cold, metaphorical chains being unforgivingly wrapped around her body to the point where it was almost suffocating her.
They both stopped in front of a yellow roofed house. The house with the oak tree on the back right side. Her house. The house where her mother laid sick with illness as both she and her father spent time taking care of her. The moment her feet landed on the front porch, she gathered every bit of strength she had to finally turn around and face her blond haired friend.
She fidgeted with a basket in her hands. She opened and closed her mouth several times.
Morgan was the first to break the perpetual quietude. "Well, this is goodbye," he said, hands casually stuffed into the pockets of his black pants.
In that moment, her fears and anxiety instantly vanished. At last, Esme managed to creak a smile. A sincere smile full of mirthful relief. Somehow...in some strange way...Morgan's blunt and crude disposition made her feel a whole lot better. So much so that she brought her right hand up to her mouth, and giggled, softly behind it.
"You really are a boorish and uncouth man, Morgan," Esme said, smiling, merrily, feeling back in high spirits. "That's how you say 'goodbye'?"
"What's the point of dragging it out?" he replied, unreservedly. He threw his back and groaned. "There's no need to make goodbyes sound so depressing." Although, she could hear the blithe gaiety of lighthearted amusement in his tone.
"Right." The blonde haired woman rolled back and forth on the heels of her feet with antsy fluster. The invisible iron chains that had been dangerously encased around her, allowing very little breathing room was gradually loosening up. The casual easiness in which he spoke that almost effortlessly lifted her spirits and halted the oppressive chains of harrowing mental torment from strangling her to oblivion was something to be marveled at.
A gentle breeze rustled via the air. The mild and balmy weather only served to heighten the now comfy, genial atmosphere. The floral scent of wildflowers was being whisked through the air by the help of each light gust of wind. The uncomfortable tension between them on the walk to Esme's house had completely evaporated. Another soft flurry of air ruffled their blond strands of hair a bit, calmly blowing it to and fro.
"When you come back to Rismoro next time, Morgan, can you tell me stories about the things you heard and saw?" Esme asked, smiling at him, brightly.
The blond haired man was stunned, momentarily caught off guard. He could feel the edges of his cheeks burning a little. He ran a hand through his blond locks. "...Sure," Morgan muttered almost quietly, sensing his heart picking up speed a bit. "Next time. Yeah, next time." His voice rose an octave at the end to make sure she heard it in an attempt to reassure, not only her but also himself that he will be back one day. He doesn't know when, but...one day.
The blond haired man leapt away as quick as the wind. He heard Esme's voice crying out 'Take care!' in the distance, causing him to pick up pace. And no… He was not fleeing because he was feeling incredibly awkward and embarrassed. No siree. He was most definitely not making a hasty retreat because he was beginning to grow weirdly self conscious the longer he stayed in Esme's presence. He can guarantee, with all the certainty of the world, that he was not, absolutely not running away because Esme smile, her dazzling smile caused his heart to skip a beat. Nor because her giggles sounded like the melodious ringing of soft bells. Neither was it her breathtaking ultramarine blue eyes that drew him under a hypnotic spell at a single glance. Pfft. What kind of man would he be, if he was this easily affected by a woman?
What was happening to him was an utterly laughable joke. Women are supposed to be hopelessly charmed by him, not the other way around. Frankly, being alarmingly bewitched by a simple smile unsettled the crap out of the blond haired mod soul. She called him 'a friend'. Deemed him as someone worth caring for. He hardly has any grasp on what the term 'friendship' means, but he decided to indulge her for the sake of his own curiosity. At the time, and perhaps even now, all he was excruciatingly aware of is that it makes his heart flutter with fuzzy warmth and makes him feel like he's floating on air. These bizarrely tender emotions confuses him greatly. He loses his composure so terrifyingly easily around the mystifying woman, which was not good for his prideful self esteem. It was disturbingly...uncomfortable. It was an emotion that had his stomach tied up in knots. An emotion that had an iron grip on his heart.
Morgan had simply decided that the best course of action was to get away from Esme. To clear his mind. For the sake of his sanity.
It has been two weeks since Morgan left Rismoro, left Esme. He aimlessly traveled the world as he always does, wandering from place to place, drifting from city to city, roaming from town to town. All the while, he ignored the emptiness in his heart. The intense yearning desire to go back. Go back to her.
And with each desire to return to Esme, he was met with an equal desire not to. The mere fact that aching impulse to go back meant that the woman still had some level of control over him. That both intrigued and infuriated him that a weak human could engender him to lose some manner of self control. He should be the one in control over his own actions! No one else should have that power! No matter who they are! In essence, it was unnerving how this newfound vulnerability made him feel. Case in point, he was still trying to get used to letting his guard down around Esme.
The blond haired mod soul found himself in a town on the western border of Amestris called Pendleton. It was a town that was in constant conflict between the soldiers of Amestris and Creta. Normally, when ordinary people discover that a town is no more than a glorified, grisly battlefield, they would run and avoid it at all cost. All humans have a sense of self preservation. The security of the safety of themselves and loved ones matters above all else.
Not Morgan. It didn't bother him in the least. If humans want to destroy each other, they can go right ahead. It was none of his business or concern what they did. It would take very little effort to protect himself from mere humans. A few humans with guns does not make them strong or supercilious in any way. Hmph. That's the problem with humans. Give them something that makes them feel powerful or develop some false perception of self importance, and they turn into disdainfully arrogant and pretentiously smug vermins. It really only worsens their already conceitedly grandiose sense of superiority.
In all honesty, he was more concerned about the Hollows that were more than likely lurking about in this town. …Or not. He was merely speculating. Though, it is not without merits. The number of deaths in the region is bound to attract and/create Hollows, given that all Hollows are more or less born of the despair, hatred, anger, sorrow, and grief of post death humans. The armies of both sides would just keep killing each other, and that, in turn, is bound to produce Hollows seeking revenge for the ones who killed them in life. The end result would be an endless cycle of death. Not to mention, the congregation of dead souls, which are highly likely to attract other Hollows from nearby areas sensing the large collection of spiritual energies. One or two or a dozen weak souls may not be enough to grab a Hollow's attention. But get hundreds or thousands of them at a single point, and…boy. That is a guaranteed recipe for an incoming disaster. Doubly so, if the spiritual energies are filled by negative emotions such as anger and resentment. Usually, a Soul Reaper or two would be able to cull the issue with a little to no problem. Yet, Soul Reapers are unaware of this…parallel world of the World of the Living, so…these humans are out of luck. They would die, whether they know it or not, due to their own ignorance and stupidity. Ha. A fitting end for them.
It was well into the evening, perhaps sometime after seven thirty, and the mod soul found himself at a local bar. He was simply planning to have dinner, and then find a hotel or inn to spend the night in.
The bar was not particularly special or fancy looking or anything like that. It was simply a typical, average, run of a mill bar. The tolerable stench of alcohol, smoke, musk, and, strangely, there was a hint of vanilla in there. It was a peculiar combination of scents to be sure, but not a...terribly unpleasant. Or maybe he has gotten too used to the odor of bars that the smell doesn't faze him anymore.
Morgan casually sips his glass of Kabinett Riesling while he idly listens to talking in the background. The citrus, fruity taste of the white wine guzzled down his throat. His dinner wasn't that impressive either. It was a very unappealing mashup of mediocre steak, mashed potatoes, and green peas. The food was not...inedible. It was...decent. But Esme's meals were way better.
He harshly exhaled a despondent sigh via his nose. He was already starting to miss. Her face, her voice, her smile… He misses everything. It had only been two weeks, and he greatly yearns to see the blonde haired woman.
Realizing that his thoughts were drifting back to her, the blond haired man vehemently shook his head. "Self control, Morgan. Self control," he internally berated himself.
That damnable woman was really going to be the death of him. He really can't do anything with her invading his mind all the fucking the time. Hell, he can't even flirt with or sleep with a woman without feeling strangely weird and awkward about it. Not anymore. He doesn't pursue it with the same licentious passion as he did prior to meeting Esme. He can't enjoy the pleasure of the flesh of a woman without her violating his thoughts! The inherent wrongness of the act somehow halts him from proceeding any further. Nowadays, he has to be very, very, very drunk to the point of bypassing all inhibitions when bedding a woman, which retrospectively ruins the experience, if he doesn't remember what the fuck happened!
His grip on his fork tightened as he chewed a piece of his steak in silent anger and frustration.
Why is it like this?
This was not how he imagined it would be!
This was not who he is!
It's like…he doesn't know who he is anymore!
The life he dreamed of was slowly and agonizingly being terminated from him!
Once upon a time, the womanizing mod soul had strongly wished for a life. A grand, luxurious life where he was surrounded by hot, beautiful women wearing sexy, revealing outfits. Women who tend to his every desire and need at every waking hour of the day, and fulfill his heart's every wish. Women who would be waiting hand and feet at his every beck and call. His every sexual fantasy would be splendidly granted. He could dreamily imagine the sheer lustful, perverted image of having one woman bent over a table while another one services him down below. One would be rubbing her beautiful melons all over him as he engages in a hot, steamy make out session with another. Yes. In the past, to him, that was happiness. His ultimate goal. His dream of all dreams. The extravagant, hedonistic lifestyle filled with an endless harem of gorgeous women was Morgan's ultimate desire!
Now...he wasn't sure anymore. He doesn't know what he wants anymore. The crippling emptiness in his heart was eating away at him. This distressingly indescribable, demoralizingly unsettling emotion was terrifying him from all sense of self. Truthfully, he wasn't that he hated it or that he regretted meeting and befriending Esme. He was simply lost. So utterly and hopelessly lost. He was implicitly shaken to the core by these...unknown feelings.
This was why he needed to get away! It felt as if his former self was lost, and he was trying to reclaim him. What he needed to do was overcome this hauntingly crushing emotion. The blond haired man's first duty was to conquer and control this mysterious emotion that rendered him bewitchingly flabbergasted. What he desired was to have a lovely woman in his arms for one night. Just one night without being supremely drunk or contradictorily, suffocatingly burdened by Esme's spellbindingly beguiling smiling face appearing in his head. He could temporarily forget the feeling, forget her in the company of a gorgeous woman.
Heh, just listen to him mope, whine, and complain. He was Morgan Crez, for god's sake! He should shut up, stop his pathetic whining, and just do it already! Esme's opinion or what she thinks of him should not matter when it comes to his sex life.
Morgan stuffed a spoonful of mashed potatoes in his mouth, chewing it, slowly. It's not like he was in any rush to go anywhere, so why should he eat in haste? From the corner of his dark green eye, he descried the bartender meticulously cleaning a glass cup with white cloth in a familiar, yet inert fashion, showcasing years of practice.
"The border conflict against Creta has gotten worse lately."
"Yeah, I heard that one of the military base camps got destroyed. So, they must be feeling pretty antsy."
He idly listened to the conversation between two male customers happening behind him. It was a conversation he had no interest in, yet it would do him well to know what's going on in this town. So, he continued to subtly tune in to the gossiping men.
The first man snorted, derisively. "Western Amestrian Military has always been a useless bunch. Because of their incompetence, the western border conflicts continue to bring more and more deaths and casualties."
He exhaled a heavy sigh. "Well, that's enough of this somber talk. Us talking is not going to change anything."
Morgan finished his Kabinett Riesling with one last big gulp. He held out his empty glass cup, and requested for another refill from the black haired, mini mustachioed bartender.
"My daughter's alchemy has steadily improved," the first man continued, sounding like a proud father.
The eavesdropping mod soul sneered, contemptuously. Hmph, alchemy. Another disdainful tool humans use to flaunt their nonexistent superiority, bumptious arrogance, and vain expression of entitlement. Don't get him wrong. It's not that he had anything against alchemy itself. He just finds it scornfully laughable, utterly pitiful when humans discover a tiny lick of power, and then have the pompous audacity to proclaim themselves as gods or beings who have the pathetic belief that they are inherently deserving of special privileges and treatment. And then when they are knocked down a few pegs, they have the conceited, self centered notion to whine about it being unfair or some other nonsense to save their own sense of self worth and pride, cowardly pointing fingers at anything or anyone who destroyed their egotistical and self important perception of themselves.
The other guy seemed to perk up, brightly at that. "Really? That's good. I remembered when she fixed the broken fence around my house. And another time where she repaired my wife's reading lamp. Your daughter was always a smart, young girl. Isn't she sixteen by now?"
"Uh huh. I've been thinking lately of moving to Central once my daughter turns eighteen. She obviously has a great talent and proficiency at it. Maybe sending my family to Central would prove rather fruitful. Hopefully, my daughter might find an alchemy teacher to apprentice under. Anyway, it beats living in this dump."
"You said it," the second man agreed, wholeheartedly.
Realizing that the conversation wasn't going to unveil anything of importance, Morgan finished his dinner and slapped the money on the table. He left the bar without another word.
Esme's homemade cooking was still better.
The rest of the night proved rather uneventful. He quickly found himself an inn, and spent the night there.
The next morning, Morgan continued on his aimless journey. Soon enough, he crossed the western border of Amestris and landed himself in Creta. Crossing the border was a lot easier than he initially thought it would be. He presumed that Cretan would be more suspicious of anyone crossing the border from Amestris. Maybe the hostility only extends to soldiers in the military. But, then again, he did inconspicuously traversed the border. So, no one probably noticed him. Hopefully, no one noticed him.
The blond haired mod soul observed the new surroundings that occupied his sight, and it was...relatively the same. But he was still technically at the border, so he hasn't arrived at a Cretan town yet. Luckily, he had the wise insight and common sense to have breakfast at the inn before the border, otherwise, he'd be starving to death because it was not until several hours that he arrived at his first Cretan city.
What greeted him was a small city that was littered with tall, steel framed buildings. Cobblestone webbed tiles covered the roads, making soft 'treading' sounds with each step of his shoe. The pleasant scent of salt water and lily permeated the air in this city, giving the atmosphere a fresh, aquatic aroma. Although, there were faint hints of oil mixed in with the smell, it did not deteriorate the natural redolence of the city. A sea of people that seemed to be from various races and ethnicities scattered the area, casually going with their daily lives in blissful ignorance.
Morgan was rather impressed.
Actually, no he was not.
To him, this place appeared to be the same as everywhere. Stupid humans going on with their stupid lives, doing stupid, meaningless stuff. Often lethally stupid stuff.
He sighed, a general feeling of ennui clouded him. But, oh well. A different country meant a different culture and customs, yes? Perhaps, he could explore, and discover something of interest to stave off his frustrated boredom. Though, it was a pretty big and hefty maybe.
First, he had somewhere to settle down and have lunch. The question was, where to look?
As the blond haired mod soul carried on with his trek along the city, he was beginning to discern that things were distinctively different in New Port from any city in Amestris. He had a clear view of some of the grand, metallic architectural structures of the buildings. They gave off the impression of being large and imposing. It seemed to align more steam powered machinery and anachronistic technology. The city appears to favor steel and iron rather than bricks and stones, notwithstanding the ground, of course. The overall design of the city had a more…western style to it. Well, more of an industrialized western vibe than Amestris, and far from the eastern vogue and flair that Xing displays. All in all, it looked like a quaint city that had an oddly bizarre yet charmingly whimsical amalgamation of innovative quirkiness of technology and the artistic, conventional resources of nature.
Morgan's nose caught a whiff of savory, cooked meat. He heard his stomach produce a small rumble, signifying his growing hunger. He followed the scent until he came face to face with a hotdog food stand. It was perched on the corner of a sidewalk where a lot of pedestrians were passing by. A tall, lanky man with brown hair wearing a white apron, selling a hotdog to a male customer searching for a quick bite to eat. Then he came to a mockingly cruel realization.
He doesn't have any money! He doesn't have Cretan currency!
How could he fucking forget the single most important thing one needed to financially survive in a country?
Shit! He really fucked up! All because he wanted to clear his head from any distractions caused by confusingly pleasant images of Esme.
The blond haired mod soul sighed exasperatedly at his own careless stupidity. For a moment, derived from frustration and hunger, he pondered either stealing a couple of hotdogs, or threatening the food vendor to give him some for free. Then the dark contemplation was immediately vanished from his mind. He can't threaten someone in the middle of a busy street. That would be the height of stupidity.
He exhaled, harshly through his nose. Well, there's nothing he could do about the issue. Though, honestly, stealing food is not entirely out of the question. He merely won't do it while there are a lot of witnesses around. The point of thievery is not to get caught, after all. He simply had to find the perfect opportunity. If all else fails, he could always retrace his steps.
Being in a new country is interesting and all, but without the right currency, what's the point? It's not like he was that interested in human culture and human society. However, he really didn't want to leave. Leaving would mean...going back...to her. Going back to her would signify his humiliating defeat, an admission of his self control and pride submitting to her beguiling, ultramarine blue eyes.
The blond haired man let out grunted, a low, vexed noise that was a mixture of annoyance and frustration. So, either way he was screwed, huh? Screwed by his lack of foresight and screwed by a human, a human woman. He...just...can't...win...can he?
Fuck! Could things get any worse?
After minutes of internal fuming due to the extremely aggravating circumstances of his current situation, Morgan found himself sitting on a mossy green bench with curved, black metal armrests near the outskirts of New Port. Dark green orbs gazing around like a hawk, searching for a poor, unfortunate soul to rob food or money from because...he'd be damn if he winds up crawling back to Esme! As fate would have it, he had no such luck, nor the patience to wait any longer for an opportunity that may or may arise as he only sat on the bench, contemplating his options for around thirty minutes before stomping out of his spot on the bench.
Perhaps, Morgan should cut his losses and cross the border back to Amestris. But he wanted to make one thing absolutely clear. He was not, certainly not crawling back to Esme. He had to overcome this stark desire to see her. His pride would not succumb so easily. He would not let that ultramarine blue eyed, blonde haired woman have control over him. He would be swayed by whatever unfathomable emotion she had enchanted him with by her conniving spell. He strongly tried to convince himself for the sake of his own pride and dignity. He would not disgrace himself by scurrying back to Esme only after two fucking weeks! Not like last time.
As the mod soul strolled away, a maelstrom of disgruntled aggravation and dejected defeat following in his wake, he grumpily trudged his feet along cobblestoned ground. The exotic Cretan cuisines he caught glimpses of mocked him. He stalked by restaurants and diners, watching, enviously as people chewed down on bowls of rice and gravy, plates filled with hot dogs, bowls of stew that consisted of a variety of meats, vegetables, and baked beans, and other tauntingly, deliciously looking meals.
God, he was damn hungry, and so damn jealous of people happily enjoying their meals! Meanwhile, he was out here suffering from hunger, and dragging his sorry butt back to Amestris because his stomach won't stop complaining to him about not grabbing some food to fill it up yet. And the more his stomach growled, the more frustrated and miserable he got. Eventually, he realized something, and halted in his tracks.
Why the hell was he walking away? Why was running back to Amestris? Just because he doesn't have money? Fuck off. It's not like he had any attachments to the country. It was obvious he was disregarding some internal and external problems like not being able to Esme, and being an illegal immigrant. Though, technically, he was an illegal Amestrian citizen since he never officially signed citizenship papers. Never felt the need to.
No! He shouldn't just give up! There's bound to be something he could do. If he had to perform some nefarious misdeed, so be it. Begrudgingly caring for one human, if only a little, though he remains in denial about how much he truly cares for Esme Lyre, does not extend his care to all humans. He won't go as far as to kill someone in order to raid their fridge. He was not that desperate. It was only a matter of sneaking into someone's unsuspecting home or place of business that serves food, and stealing some for himself.
If that doesn't work, or the opportunity never arrives...well...there's always...plan B.
He's a mod soul! Surely, he could hunt down a few birds or catch some fish. Wouldn't be the first time he's done it. He'd simply find somewhere isolated. Devoid of people. He doesn't want people freaking out and causing a scene because they spotted a few dead animals littering the streets. Humans had the tendency to make a fuss over the silliest, lousiest, most ridiculous things. Did they forget that seventy five percent of what they eat come from the flesh, bones, and organs of dead animals?
Morgan wryly shook his head. This was not the time for him to be dwelling on human foolishness. It's not like a free meal would come flying into his lap, otherwise. Perhaps, he should consider getting a job. But who would hire an illegal immigrant? Plus, the very idea of working for a human, being subservient to someone weaker than him, notwithstanding Esme, sickened him greatly!
Although, the blond haired mod soul would not mind taking up a job as a freelance bounty hunter. With a sense of morbid interest, he pondered the notion of offering his services to the Cretan black market, if he could find any, to hunt people with bounties on their heads.
That would be one kind of work he won't mind doing. He would be able to fight, constantly throwing himself into battle. He would do what he was born, programmed, created to do. He was not a warmonger by any definition of the word. However, it would also be wrong to say he doesn't enjoy fighting. In the heat of battle, he'd be able to forget everything and just focus on the moment. Forget his troubles. Forget his sudden hesitation and incompetence with women in bed. Forget the bizarre feeling of unease, of wrongness when he flirts with a woman. And most importantly, forget Esme Lyre, and the weird emotions she brings out of him. All he would merely have to do was relish in the sweet taste of victory after crushing his enemies under his feet while they wallow in bitter defeat.
And the best part…! He'd be paid for it! For every mission accomplished! In addition to that, it'll be something of his own accord, his own free will. Not something he was forced to do, or compellingly brainwashed to do. What more could the mod soul ask for?
As if a higher being had answered his prayers, Morgan picked up the distinct sound of gunshots being fired. The sound was incredibly faint, barely audible, meaning whoever fired the shot was quite far off. He was already wandering the outskirts of town. He had two options. The smart option would be to stay away. Do not get involved in human petty skirmishes. On the other hand, this was the moment he had been waiting for. Finally, something to take his frustration and stress out on!
The mod soul walked in a brisk pace towards the sound of the skirmish. His subdued strides was a simple method to mask his eager excitement under the pretense of arrogant nonchalance. Though, as minutes passed, he started to realize he was returning to the border between Amestris and Creta. It was only then he recalled that there were still violent, ongoing clashes between the Amestrian and Cretan military forces. Was this perhaps another military warfare?
In spite of the fact he was trekking headlong into a battlefield between two opposing countries, the blond haired man could not care less about what affiliation the two groups of people fighting belonged to. The question remained… Should the mod soul slay everyone in the Amestrian or Cretan army? Or simply slaughter everyone in sight? He didn't have much of a penchant for needless killing, but going against armed humans...well...he has no quarrels against it. Besides, they are already murdering each other anyway. Does it really matter who deals the lethal blow in the end?
The closer he approached the battleground, the more his anticipation and excitement grew. His suspenseful fingers lightly drummed against the sheath of his sword that was attached to his hip. Eventually, the loud, destructive 'bangs' of gunshots piercing through the air was undeniable. The familiar iron stench of blood penetrated his nose. The foreboding presence of blood and death floated all around the atmosphere of the area. The recognizable smell of the battlefield sent his battle hardened instincts on high alert. He was poised and ready for action!
At last, his dark green eyes caught sight of two figures. Two individuals engaging in fierce combat were dressed in military uniforms. Except one was colored blue and the other was a light brown. He instantly deduced that the one dressed in blue was an Amestrian soldier, so the other one must be a Cretan soldier.
Upon closer inspection, Morgan noticed that the Amestrian soldier was armed while his opponent wasn't. Either the Cretan soldier dropped his weapon in the middle of the skirmish, or he ran out of bullets while fighting other enemies during the battle. Although, he doubted he was entirely weaponless. Shouldn't soldiers be issued with a military grade combat knife? Though, using a knife against a gun would be nothing less than suicidal. The Cretan soldier would be riddled with bullets before he would be able to come close to his Amestrian enemy. Nevertheless, what happens to him doesn't really matter to Morgan.
The rapid fire of gunshots from the automatic rifle of the blue uniform wearing soldier penetrated through the air. The Cretan soldier managed to duck behind a large slab of rock to avoid a fatal shot, but he cried out in pain when his left arm and leg were both hit by bullets.
Morgan unsheathed his sword, swiftly making his way towards the soldier firing the rifle because the other soldier was already defenseless, and wouldn't be any fun to cut down. With his sword secured in his hands, he closed the distance by leaping in the air.
Before the Amestrian could sense a looming presence approaching him or register what happened to him, he received a lethal slash of a blade across his back. He let out a sharp gasp of shock and back. His gun clattered on the ground below him when it slipped out of his loosened grip. He collapsed in a heavy pile of heap, and was dead within minutes.
The blond haired mod soul heard a gun cock behind him. He tilted his head back, and raised a brow at the Cretan soldier he saved, pointing at him with his gun, trying to seem threatening. So, the soldier really did have a gun or two left to use, even if it is a common handgun. He guessed the only reason he had not pulled the trigger was because he wasn't sure if the mod soul was affiliated with the enemy forces or not. Seeing as he killed the Amestrian soldier, in the soldier's mind, how could he be associated with them?
"Who are you?" the soldier demanded. Morgan gave him props for standing his ground, and masking his pain under an ineffective veil of imposing assertiveness and feeble intimidation.
With a flick of his wrist, the blond haired man discarded most of the blood off his sword. Turning around fully to face the soldier, he casually raised his sword up, and leaned the back side of it over his right shoulder. "The name's Morgan Cruz, and I am…a freelance mercenary."
He doesn't know if it was the right call to announce himself as a mercenary, but what other choice does he have? Not like he could reveal himself as a mod soul to an ordinary human, or declare himself as a ghost hunter. Besides, it seemed appropriate to call himself a freelance mercenary at the moment. He was no longer associated with Soul Reapers or the Soul Society, roaming around this world as a free man. Well, technically, he was a runaway fugitive or an escapee due to luckily evading his execution.
"A mercenary?" the Cretan soldier hissed, snapping the mod soul out his reverie before it started to become dark on the account of the immense resentment and bitter hatred he felt for the Soul Society.
The gun in his hand tightened. Morgan looked unimpressed at the soldier's failed attempt to appear menacing. "If you are trying to pick a fight, then give up. I'm not interested. But if you pull that trigger, well, then I can't promise what will happen to you after that," the blond man warned the soldier with a sinister undertone, gripping his sword tighter to emphasize his threat.
"How am I supposed to know you are not an enemy?" the soldier interrogated, eyes narrowed, struggling to keep his composure, and the trembling fear out of his voice.
The mod soul smirked. "You don't. But I tell you what… You buy me dinner, and I'll slaughter all the enemies that come our way. Deal?" he offered, nonchalantly patting his shoulder with the sword, a light, metallic sound ringing via the air. "This should be an efficient enough price for my services, yes? Without my help, I doubt you'll make it out of here alive," he finished in an obvious mocking modulation.
The Cretan soldier's hesitation was obvious by the way his hand shook, and the bead of trepidation gliding down his face. While the offer of having this strong, young man destroy the Amestrian forces sounded promising, he knows better than to trust the words of a stranger he never met. Plus, the fact that he killed the enemy soldier with the swiftness, ease, skillfulness, and fierceness of a vicious panther was terrifying. Who's to say he won't turn his deadly blade on him at a moment's notice?
However, the dreadful sound of running bullets in the distance caused him to reluctantly give in to the offer with a slow, tentative nod of his head. He could rationalize that they needed this...mercenary's destructive prowess to win this little battle against the Amestrian forces, but was it the right judgment? Could he truly believe he would not turn his sword on him the minute his back is turned? The answer was a hard 'no'.
"Good choice," Morgan said in approval. He lowered his sword off his shoulder, a malicious, predatory glint in his dark green orbs. "And just in time, too," he remarked, spotting two blue clad figures in the distance making their way towards them. He readied his sword. "I needed to blow off some steam!"
"You are coming back, right?"
He involuntarily stiffened, slightly.
At a time like this, Esme's gentle voice entered his head. Why? Why now of all times? He was fighting, so he could forget about her. To release himself from her bizarre control. To cease and somehow control this intangible, yearning feeling in his heart. The confusing way his heart throbs and chest tightens at the mention of her.
A looming, iron grip squeezed at his heart and mind, unyielding and never willing to let go. Sharp nails lightly pressed and glided itself across his heartstrings. Each subtle tap of the sinfully whetted humanoid claws brought shivers of unease down his spine. He inwardly grimaces at the uncomfortable feeling gnawing at every single fiber of his being. No matter what he does, it refuses to release its possessive hold on him. It felt weird because it didn't hurt at all. It was…strangely pleasant. It was simply a sensation he could not comprehend the meaning of. A baffling feeling that had him both reluctantly craving for more, yet exasperatedly cursing it's unwanted hindrance.
Goddammit! He freely entered this battle to forget about it. To forget about it all! To take his mind off these agonizingly annoying...distractions!
"You are coming back, right?" her voice repeats in his head once more.
Yet...he could feel strength coursing through him. A strong flame of a candle burned within him. A powerful conviction. An intense sensation. In some unfathomable way, Esme's reminder for him to come back to her rekindled an overwhelming desire ignited inside him. It felt as if he could do anything, achieve anything, accomplish anything. It oddly brought him comfort and power. It left him with more than just the simple self preservation instinct to survive this upcoming battle.
Morgan calmly closed his eyes, holding his sword in a two handed, fervent grip. The mental image of a smiling Esme took forefront in his mind, and for once...he was not annoyed by this enigmatic feeling growing in the pit of his stomach. The serene presence of her appearance, even if it's only in his head, greatly warmed his heart. He was gradually starting to resign to the unexplainable, indisputable hold she had on him. Resign himself to having to live with this mysterious feeling for the rest of his life. He obviously can't fight it anymore. And the more he tries, the more resistance he is met with.
But...right now...it doesn't seem to be such a horrible annoyance. Quite the opposite actually.
He'd found something worth striving for!
He had to, needed to survive! Dying was not an option. He realized he had to make it out of here alive! If only… If only to...someday...be greeted by her brilliant smile once more.
The blond haired mod soul reopened his eyes, his dark green gaze raw with determination. "Alright," he muttered to himself in vigorous intensity. "Let's do this."
Esme Lyre was busy cooking in the kitchen, preparing rice and stew for herself and her family. As usual, things are relatively quiet, peaceful, and unchanging here in Rismoro. Her mother's sickness has not gotten any better. In fact, it has gotten worse. A month ago, a doctor had warned her and father that her mother had less than a year left to live, even with the medications to quell the symptoms.
She sighed, miserable, shaking her head to drive the depressing thoughts away.
A year, huh…
The blonde haired woman lowered the fire on the stove, and gently stirred the pot. The stew was almost ready.
A year has already passed since she had last seen or heard of Morgan Cruz. She could not believe it had been that long already. In the beginning, she had missed him. He was an irritating man. He's arrogant pridefulness knows no bounds. But, strangely, his presence had slowly grown on her.
The first couple of months he was gone, Esme had missed him, dearly. She can't begin to explain the number of times she had wandered the forest where she was first greeted by his battered, unconscious form, in case, he might show up severely injured again. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how one perceives it, such a thing never came to pass.
Then months passed, and still no sign of the blond haired man she had befriended while he was recuperating in the small hospital. He has not written so much as a single letter to her.
She had begun to wonder if maybe he had forgotten about her. After all, she was a country bumpkin living in a small hick town. There was never anything remarkable happening here. Once a person, there's absolutely no reason for them to come back. Unless, they are spending a couple days on holidays or vacations to visit family members that still live here or something.
But does that mean she was not important enough to drop by a simple 'hello'?
She dares not to dwell on it because it'll only bring woefulness to her heart, and threaten tears to spill from her eyes. That doesn't stop the dull ache that throbs in her heart. The pang of melancholic sadness was something she had gotten used to over time. She reasoned with herself that maybe Morgan was too busy to come so 'hi'. That maybe he was caught up in work or something. Granted, she doesn't know what Morgan's job is, if he even has a job, but that does not make a difference, does it?
Esme turned off the stove. The stew was finished and ready to go. She was about to grab a couple of pot holders to help her carry the dangerously piping hot pot when a series of loud yet light knocks resounded on her door.
Since she was the closest to the door and she was done cooking, she decided to open it.
The blonde haired woman headed towards the front door, and gently twisted the knob. The minute she had pried the door open, an inaudible gasp escaped past her lips, and her ultramarine blue orbs widened in pure shock. Her vision became watery from the overwhelmingly joyful tears that were starting to flood through them.
The blond haired man standing on the opposite side of the opened door smirked in that endearingly smug manner of his. "Did you miss me that much?"
The usual anger she would normally experience at the man's impertinent attitude was squashed down by the tremendous elation that was overflowing within her, fully intending to break the dam that was keeping her feelings from bursting through.
"You never change, do you?" she giggled, gaily. "You are still uncouth as ever."
He chuckled before gazing at her, softly. "I'm back."
She could only smile, softly, tears already pricking the corners of her ultramarine blue eyes.
(A/N: Finally! Chapter fifty three is done! At long last! Did you enjoy this chapter, guys? I hope so. I wanted to have this chapter out sooner, but once the new Pokemon Legends: Arceus game came out… Oh boy! Let's just say my mind was occupied for a few weeks. I have beat the game, and, luckily, I was able to concentrate on this story again due to my obsession dying down.
As you can see, the mod souls have a relatively friendly relationship with one another. The one thing I have noticed when watching through Fullmetal Alchemist multiple times [both series] is that the homunculi don't really get along with each other, do they? I mean, they are affable with one or another like Pride and Wrath or Lust, Gluttony, and Envy. But as a whole? No. They are either aloof and indifferent to each other at the best of times, or outright cold and malicious to each other at the worst of times. They seem to operate on only a single goal. Completing Father's plans. That's it. They have no love or care for their siblings. This makes the mod souls relationship opposite of the homunculi. Yes, they are both bad guys. They are both two villainous factions that need to be overcome, but, in a way, the mod souls' interactions with each other humanizes them a bit. At least, I hope so. Instead of having speculation from outside sources humanizing them, or a last minute 'poor villain' moment right before the bad guy kicks the bucket [talking about Brotherhood mostly, 2003 is fine].
Now, as for Morgan in this chapter. As you can see his biggest issue is about exerting his free will, which I hopefully implied last time. Especially since before he ended up in Amestris everything about his life was predetermined right down to his execution over something he has no control over. This is probably why he antagonizes the homunculi. They keep talking about being superior, but, to Morgan, they are nothing more than glorified puppets on strings. For haughty beings who flaunt their superiority over humans, they exhibit less free will than the humans they mock. This also probably why his newfound feelings for Esme both annoys and frustrates him. He is used to feelings of lust, but love… That is something he has never experienced before, and he doesn't know what to do with himself.
There is one little tidbit I forgot to add in the last chapter. About Esme Lyre. 'Esme' means 'black moon', and 'Lyre' means 'a fork in a river'. Of course, her name has a double meaning. What they are… Well, you guys are going to have to find out later. If I say too much, I'll spoil it.
Anyway, I think that's everything. Please, leave any comments, suggestions, or questions in a review, and thanks for reading! Happy Valentine's Day!)