It all started when I was thirteen. All because of a cellphone. Mom went out one day in August and never came back. I blamed myself every second of every day for the longest time because she was on her cellphone in the car talking to me. I heard the crash, I heard her die, and it was my fault.

Dad didn't blame me for it but Mom's death broke him. He was listless for the longest time, even years later he still went some days as if he wasn't all there.

It broke me too but in a different way. It was easily the worst day of my life, and if it hadn't been for Emma, I'm not sure what would have happened. She was one reason I kept myself going after I cried for a week straight.

The only reprieve I had from blaming myself was when I slept. It didn't make sense back then but my dreams were the second reason I was still going along. They were vivid and fanciful, a whole different world where I was stronger, better, and able to help people instead just listening to someone I loved die.

Yet they were just dreams. My lively and colorful dreams were just that, dreams. They helped though and I pulled myself together with Emma's help. Turning fourteen without Mom there was horrible but I made it through the day because of my best friend.

Then I went to Summer Camp because Dad just couldn't take care of me and I couldn't keep foisting myself off on the Barnes'. I couldn't wait to talk to Emma after that. I had missed her so badly but I was on the mend. I was better, I was finally starting to smile again, to be happy in this world without Mom.

Then I got home and I met Sophia for the first time and Emma slammed the door in my face.

And my dreams became nightmares.

During the day I'd have to deal with whispered insults, being pushed around, my things taken and destroyed. My grades failing, my personality shifting as I became more sullen and withdrawn.

During the night, I'd deal with my comrades dying and a plot to end the world. Me and my comrades became desperate and then the dreams and nightmares stopped. The sky broke apart with fire and death. We couldn't do anything but watch as a dragon tore the the world apart.

Teraflare.

Then it all faded away before we died.

For five long months I did not dream and I went further and further down into depression. Dad didn't notice nor did I bother him with my own problems. He was finally starting to come around from Mom's death.

And the two of them became a Trio.

Finally, my dreams came back and I was once again in another world. Honestly, I preferred it there. As if there was my reality and Brockton Bay was just my never ending nightmare. After all, days passed there as I slept.

However, my dreams didn't stay just dreams but I had found my friends again, my comrades. I found myself. Then we had to deal with the exact same problems once again. It was as if nothing had changed. Those five months I did not dream, five years had seemingly passed.

I figured it was just my subconsciousness playing tricks on me. It was stupid but I went with it.

Nothing had been fixed there but I still struggled to make it better. I became stronger, I helped people when I could. I was a hero to so many when we stopped the march of the Empire once again. I was a hero to so many more when we stopped the Primals and King Thordan. I was a hero...

I was a killer. These people praised me for killing their families and I felt disgust with myself at first, just like before. There was no saving the Tempered. Just a quick merciful death.

I wasn't sure what I preferred in the end. Dealing with the Trio and having no one to really help me no matter what I tried. Or saving the world, with killing as the best solution.

I hated myself even as I soldiered on. I wouldn't stop because if I did it would just get worse. I wouldn't let them win, any of them.

Oh, there were small and minor victories on each side...saving even one Tempered meant we could save more. The Binding Coil had been a nightmare for certain but...well. They didn't really show it, but I knew the Twins felt relief over what had happened.

And so on and on things went for me. The Trio stepped up their bullying as I became more and more uncaring about it. They didn't matter to me after Papalymo died and Minfilia left.

Then the Locker happened and suddenly my dreams weren't just dreams anymore.


I was face first in the locker, trapped, unable to move, covered in blood soaked tampons and other trash and refuse. I could barely move, I couldn't see with my glasses smashed across my face, blood pouring down my nose from being shoved hard into the small small space.

I was helpless to defend myself, just like I was helpless when listening to Mom die. After all that had happened, I felt like I was going to die in there. I was bleeding, shards of my glasses digging into my skin, maggots and other bugs crawling across my body as I tried to force myself out.

Everyone had seen it and no one had helped. They were trying to kill me.

And.

No.

One.

Helped.

It was at that point I lost it. I don't remember what happened beyond blackness and a giant shard of blue light. It was like Hydaelyn but different. A connection that was twisted, shaped, and at the same time, broken.

The next moment I felt an overwhelming strength I hadn't really felt except in my waking dreams. I could feel things change and shift and without a thought towards the matter I closed my eyes.

Breathe in through the nose.

Exhale through the mouth.

I pulled my body together, curling up what little I could and thrust my elbow backwards, the door to the locker slamming off of its hinges and crashing into the other side of the hallway, thankfully hitting no one. I wrenched myself out and brushed the fragments from my glasses off of my face and then ignoring the blood now on my hands. How long had I been in there that there had been no one else around? Classes had started back up, they ignored my screams, no one had come to unlock my locker.

They really had left me to die.

Well.

Fuck them.

I looked down at myself, idly noting I was wearing my Monk gear, a shudder as I caught sight of all the refuse in my locker. Screw it. I wasn't sticking around this hellhole any longer than I had to. A pause of thought as I swapped Jobs on the move, my clothes changing in a swirl of blue light. By time I got to the doors I already had enough MP to cast a couple of spells and healing myself up the little amount.

I had paused long enough to swap Jobs again that I noticed that I could see without my glasses, just like I could there. And that that damned Potion that Lyse dared me into drinking one day was also in effect.

I wasn't a human anymore. I hadn't been one there for years. After Lyse, Yda back then, somehow managed to get a hold of Potion of Fantasia and dared me to drink it after a bet that I had lost to her

How the hell was I going to explain to Dad that I wasn't human anymore? Oh sure I looked human but having the tail and cat ears of a Miqo'te was something that was a bit far fetched here on Earth-Bet.

Everything about my appearance was as it was just last night in my dreams. Even the new haircut and dye I'd gotten from Jandelaine just last week. I just knew that Dad was going to kill me...

At that point I started moving on auto-pilot. I didn't even think, I just moved and without realizing it I was in the air, astride my Magitek Armor, Maggie, that Cid had re-purposed a while back. It wasn't until I was flying high above Brockton Bay that I had realized I was in the air to just think, relaxing like I did back in Ishgard.

This situation...this was messed up and I had no idea what I was going to do.

How long I sat up there on my flying Magitek Armor, Maggie I reminded myself, I'm not quite sure. It was still early in the day yet after all. Dad would be at work so I had some time to think, though really, I was kind of out in the open despite how up I was. This hadn't been the best of ideas or best of plans for certain. Especially since it was so damn cold out.

Not that it bothered me anyway. I'd been in worse. Shiva was worse. Hell Coerthas was worse. Being an Adventurer, one of the Warriors of Light, had some perks, super magical powers not-withstanding.

That stray thought brought me up short. Did this mean I was a parahuman now, for real and not just in my dreams? Or was this the dream like I had thought before and I was really back on Eorzea? Or was it just someone screwing with me from on high?

It was probably someone or something screwing with me. But who or what? The Ascians? Zodiark? Hydaelyn herself? Some other giant floating crystal shard in space?

I shook my head to free myself from my reverie and looked down at Brockton Bay below me. My home was a cesspool of villains and heroes that were doing their very level best. Mr. Gladly mentioned back before the break that Brockton Bay had the highest per-capita of Capes this side of the Atlantic. The fact that the Protectorate ENE had their headquarters out here too was another fun fact I'd learned recently.

Brockton Bay was a study in contrasts really. It didn't help that we had honest to God Nazi's roaming our streets.

And there was a thought.

I could go punch a Nazi. Everyone liked punching Nazis didn't they? Mind you, I could run across one of their capes and that might not go over-well either. Probably be called a race traitor even though I was currently dressed up like I was mimicking Panacea. The joys of being a White Mage.

With another shimmer of blue light I swapped Jobs to Dragoon as that kept with the running theme of having my face covered by a mask here on Earth-Bet. Now I needed to come up with a name too.

I'd always just used used my real name, Taylor, over in Eorzea, now I actually had to come up with something new? Damn. I'd always been bad with names. Emma always came up with stuff...and there was no way in hell I'd be asking for her help with this.

And the urge to go back and punch her in her stupid smug face was overwhelming.

"No Taylor, bad Taylor," I muttered to myself. I was a self-respecting fifteen year old with several years of dream adventuring on my belt. Real adventuring? I was so much better at following orders: go there, grab this, kill that, bring this there. I was good at that.

Guess I'll just have to make my own quests and follow through with them that way.

First things first though, what do I do? Do I go tell Dad? Well, obviously I'll have to tell him something. I could just see how it was going. 'Oh hey Dad, how was work? I had fun today, flying on my giant mecha of destruction, oh can you pass me the salt?' Yeah. That'd go over real well. Yeah. Best rip that band-aid off as fast as possible. Before I get spotted by some ne'er do well or a cape that didn't think first.

With a sigh I pushed myself forward, adjusting the controls and flew back downwards. Only when I was about to land did I think about the fact that the sheer size of my Magitek Armor was kind of obtrusive. Yet at the same time, the fact that it just appeared like it normally would when I mounted up was a query that needed to be answered as well.

What about my other 'Mounts'? What about Coco? Or Midgardsormr? Yeah, best not summon a Dragon to Brockton Bay, Lung might take offense. Even if Midgardsormr would probably just eat the bastard. Though, there was an idea...especially if the dragon's abilities held true here.

Why yes, I do go off on tangents all the time, it keeps a mind occupied and I can multi-task like a Boss.

I probably should just walk honestly, deciding to land on a building instead of street level. I was probably already getting attention, no doubt someone having taken a picture to post on PHO or what have you. Would Bagrat have a post up by the end of the day? I stuck with Dragoon as my Magiktek Armor, Maggie dammit, disappeared whence it came, just like every other time and started to run and Jump from building to building on my way towards the Docks.

Best to talk to Dad as soon as possible, though odds are he'd push me towards the Wards. I'd have to really think it over and talk with him about it though I was already leaning towards not. I did most of my work solo and I wasn't adverse to teaming up, after all, one needed to team up to deal with serious problems.

And there I was, rambling in my own thoughts again.

It didn't take long to get towards the Docks even without a Mount, liberal use of my speed to bound from building top to building top before I finally touched down on street level. It was still early enough that people were more busy with work than going through town too.

Dad worked for the Union, he had his own office on the Northern side of the Docks, near the Boardwalk. He had insisted on it, being able to see the Graveyard while he was at work. It, to him, was a reminder of what he was working towards, working for. To clean up the city and to get people working. I knew my way there, had been there plenty of times, of course that was openly, not as a catgirl dressed in heavy armor.

Which, while fitting the theme of the Magitek Armor, wasn't exactly useful for sneaking around without getting caught before talking to Dad about this whole situation. Switching to Ninja, I got to moving around quickly and quietly.

I stuck mainly to the alleyways and the darker sides of the buildings as I made my way towards the building where Dad was normally at. It didn't take me to long before I managed to sneak my way into the right one and with some good timing and skill I made it all the way up to the floor where Dad's office was.

I swapped Jobs again, this time to something that kept my new bright blue hair and ears covered but still showed off my mostly human looking face. Of course once I opened my mouth and Dad saw how large my teeth were, or my tail...

Yeah. No point in covering up. Come on Taylor, you're stronger than this. I swapped again, firming my resolve and went with a Job that seemed harmless, what with a small book at my back. Of course I also made sure to unsummon Eos before knocking on the door.

"Just a second!" Dad's voice called from the other side of the door. I didn't wait. Instead I pushed the door open, stepped inside and closed it behind me. Dad was mid-stride towards the door before he stopped, frowned, looked at me, paused and then stared a moment. "Taylor? Why aren't you at school?" Huh, he didn't voice a question about what I was wearing either.

"Well, Dad. About that.." I trailed off, a little unsure on how to proceed. Well, the band-aid analogy worked best after all "See, something happened at school and well. Surprise?" I flicked my tail into view, forgetting for the moment that it was also a vivid blue just like my hair.

"What."

Ah, yes, I should've suspected that'd be his reaction.

Dad stared at me for a moment, eyes flickering down to my tail and then back to me as he walked forward and simply tugged me into a hug. "Oh, Taylor. Are you okay?" His voice was filled with concern and for the most part I couldn't actually answer that question. I settled for a shrug and tugged my hat off, letting my hair go free, and more importantly my ears. His hug got a little tighter at that. "...what happened to your hair?"

"Ah, I felt like a change?" That was certainly true to an extent, Jandelaine did what he wished after all.

"And the ears?" Dad's voice was a little higher when he saw those.

"A really big change?" I tried not to giggle at that but did manage to get a little serious. "They just kind of showed up not to long ago." Also technically true.

Dad sighed as he pulled back, looking at me fondly, even with a little more energy than he normally did have in him. "You're just like your Mother some days, you know that?" Well, that certainly wasn't something I was expecting. "Tell me the truth, please."

So I did. I left out names 'cause, frankly, after what they did to me they didn't deserve an ounce of thought in my head. I hadn't ever told Dad of the bullying because I didn't want to worry him. Stupid in hindsight but, well, 20/20 and all that.

"Well, seems like I need to go talk to Alan about getting a lawyer." Dad's fists went a rather pale white, all the blood rushing away in his clenched fists.

"It isn't worth it, Dad. Seriously." I leaned into him with another hug. Him and Mr. Barnes were still good friends, even if they hadn't seen each other in a while. "The school can go rot at the moment. I'd rather spend some time with you and figure out what to do."

Dad unclenched his fists slowly and he did nod after a moment before looking at me with another sigh. "Mm. And I don't suppose you'd like to go join up with the Wards?" I shook my head. I'd rather not deal with another set of teenagers, especially ones with super powers. "Alright. Your Mom didn't really trust the PRT or the Protectorate anyway, so that's my bit of token resistance to you not joining."

Seriously? I looked at Dad, stepping back with furrowed brows and repeated my thought. "Seriously? I thought you'd push for it."

Dad shot me a look and chuckled a little. "No," he said simply as he rounded his way back to his desk and in front of his paperwork once more. "I've seen plenty of Wards over the years here in Brockton Bay. Outside of a few, I don't think you'd fit well with them. The Protectorate being a different matter, but the Wards have PRT oversight and they'd certainly stifle you." He explained as he rubbed his nose under his glasses.

I nodded along with that, waving Dad to go on. I was curious as to see his response. I'd always thought that about the Wards, of course they were still teenagers and even with super powers, teenage parahumans did still need adult supervision. Mom and Dad were hands off with me growing up so I was used to making my own decisions growing up, and that just grew more hands off with Mom dying. This wasn't anything different but still...

"You're an independent person, you always have been, Taylor." Dad said with a small sigh. "And you've always wanted to be a hero. The fact that you're a parahuman doesn't change that, in fact, it's just made you more firm in that resolve, right?" I nodded again with a smile. "This city chews up and spits people out. Especially independents. So if you don't want to join the Wards, you'll need a good reason that'll convince me, just like everything else you do. Convince me."

I nodded again. "Well, you don't exactly trust the PRT. The Wards, at least here in Brockton Bay already see a lot of combat anyway, so its not like anything would change." I pointedly flicked my ears and tail. "Unless something changes, these are kind of permanent, so there goes any semblance of normality and secrecy anyway." I paused at that, pulling up my Grimoire and having it float over my hand, pages flicking through rapidly before a glow started from me and the book, Eos appearing in a flash and a flying flip, landing on my shoulder with a cute little sound of happiness. "And I've already got some pretty nifty powers and backup. I'm already my own team, and healer."

His eyes narrowed at my summon, still sitting at his desk before leaning forward and resting his hands right in front of his face. It was as if he was posing, though I couldn't quite place what it was from. "And New Wave?"

"Eh. I've heard to many rumors about Glory Girl to really be comfortable with that." Dad nodded a little, still leaning forward on his desk. "Its also not like I'm going out right away, I need to test stuff and all that. How strong am I, what all I can do. It just feels like I'm doing this automatically." I reached up and pointed at Eos lightly who gently lifted off of my shoulder and started flying through the air before she stopped and looked at Dad. "Eos?"

She nodded, more to herself than me before she twirled in the air and a wave of magic flew from her and towards Dad. Why would she cast Embrace? Dad was to stuck in his pose to react and avoid, mid startle as he did try to avoid it but stopped as the wave of healing magic hit him. "Wow." He said softly, looking down at his hands. He was so busy blinking and looking at himself that he didn't notice Eos casting Embrace again before she flickered back to me and giggled. "Taylor?" He looked up at me and Eos in askance.

"Right. As I was going to say, this is Eos, one of my support summons. I've got...a few of them." I said wryly. "When I'm dressed like this I'm a Scholar. and I have either Eos or Selene out."

"Automatic information?" Dad mused to himself, probably in thought to how I already knew all of this despite being not like this since the morning. "So you're some kind of Master and Blaster like that I see."

"Master and Blaster?" I asked. I really wasn't up to terminology, only half paying attention to the words that showed up on PHO beyond, you know, geeking out over Alexandria or Miss Militia.

"The types of powers that Parahumans can get, there's a dozen categories, right now. It's changed over the years since I first met Annette." Dad said with a smile, an honest to God smile. When was the last time I saw that? I glanced at Eos who shot me a thumbs up and a grin.

"What are they?" Dad gave me a quick rundown of all twelve at that point. Alphabetically at that. Then he went on about a few different types of capes. I'd of course known about the Alexandria Package, which Dad likened to a 'flying brick.' He used examples of some of the current Protectorate members to explain the different power types, and even used a few S-Class villains to explain them too. Then there were the Grab-Bag types, which were a fair bit rarer.

"Oh, that's me then." I said absently. And everyone else on Eorzea that was a Warrior of Light, which were a few hundred at very least, probably a lot more than that.

"Really?" Dad asked me and I nodded slightly. "Well, you don't need to show me everything that's for certain. But a bare example?"

"Well, Master and Blaster for my summons, as you said. They're not my only powers though. I can summon other things too and some of those would make me a minor Mover," not going to bring up teleporting to the Aetheryte yet either. "Again, they also can lend me Shaker powers too. Honestly, outside of Breaker, Thinker, and Changer I've pretty much got everything on lock down, though my Tinkering is a bit more medieval than futuristic so I'm not sure if that counts?" Of course I could make things easily and fast at that. And then there was the Echo which was technically a Thinker ability too...

"You being a catgirl is a being a Changer, Taylor." Dad remarked. "It has to do with your appearance as a whole. Oh. Well, never mind, guess I was a Changer with being able to...change my Jobs will. I face-palmed at that and shook my head.

"Stupid Taylor." I muttered to myself.

"Danny thinks Taylor shouldn't talk in third person." Dad remarked.

"Dad..." I whined plaintively. He just chuckled at me. There was a faint and pleasant pause at this. It'd been a long time since I'd felt like this.

Of course, then the phone had to go and ruin the moment by ringing.

"Dockworkers Union, Danny Hebert speaking." Dad said after he picked up the phone, holding up a finger to keep me from saying anything. "Yes," his voice was laced with weary annoyance. "Yes I was aware. No, she's with me. Has been for a little while. She wasn't feeling well today. No, Miss Blackwell, I start working well before school starts. Yes she's right here in the room with me right now. No, Miss Blackwell, I'm a single Father, I work long hours, and I prefer to keep my daughter around while she's not feeling well instead of home alone as an underage teenager. Unless there's something else? No? Thank you, goodbye." He hung up the phone and I could barely make out the muttered, "...bitch," even with my new ears.

I waited until Dad sighed and slumped back in his chair. "The Principal?" He nodded at that. "Did she say anything specifically?"

"Something about your locker being vandalized." He sighed and looked at me with one eye from his slumped position. Eos flitted off of my shoulder and flew over to Dad to land on his, patting his cheek consolingly. "I'd be much more angry if you weren't here, especially since that's the cause of your Trigger."

"Trigger?" I asked with a frown. "Is that how you get powers?"

Dad sit up and sighed again before biting out a terse, "Yes. Annette knew about them and told me." That...sounded off for some reason.

I winced slightly at that. Yeah, Dad's probably not gonna like this then. "Dad. I've been kinda having these powers since...Mom died. It was only today that they changed me like this. I've been dreaming about these powers since then."

Dad wilted then and there, his face going pale as if I had just struck some kind of blow directly into his soul. "I'm so sorry Taylor...I didn't notice. Christ, I'm a horrible Father aren't I?" A bitter laugh that trailed off as Eos patted Dad again and gave him a slightly one armed hug to the face.

"Well, you did cover for me skipping school, so that's a plus in my tally?" I joked feebly as I walked over and gave him a hug too, squeezing him a bit harder than I should've since I could hear him wheeze. Right, stronger. "I wonder how they're gonna spin this since whoever pushed me into the locker and a bunch of other kids saw it."

"Hallucination, Master/Stranger something or another." Dad said with a small cough. "You never went to school today, remember? You were here in my office sleeping on the futon." He pointed out the futon that was there against the side wall. Well, that was certainly one way to get out of things. Lying through your teeth. Ah, you're a great role model Dad.

"Suppose I should mention that I don't really get tired or need to sleep anymore either, do I?" I paused at that. Furrowing my head in thought. It was true now that I thought about it. I went for days without sleeping in the dungeons or raids, only sleeping at the Inns when I felt a more mental exhaustion after being out and about for long stretches at time and wanting to rest instead of needing it. Would that carry over? I didn't feel tired at all, just the inexhaustible supply of energy that I had welling through me. Would I go back to Eorzea when I slept here on Bet? I didn't really want to find out quite yet since I had just gotten back and Dad was starting to be Dad again.

"So you're a Noctis Grab Bag with a focus on Master slash Blaster abilities?" I can't believe he actually said slash. Nor did he mention what Noctis meant but I inferred that meaning easily.

"Well, no? I mean, I've got a pretty good mix of Blaster and Striker abilities, but only a few Master abilities? I've only got like..." I trailed off, counting on my fingers, "Seven summons? Though, really only five."

"Taylor," Dad sounded resigned there, "your flying mech you mentioned when you told me how you got here? That counts as a Master ability, you're summoning and controlling something that doesn't normally exist."

Oh. Huh. Guess that makes sense. "You...have a spare computer I can use to look this stuff up?" I asked.

"You can use mine." Dad motioned towards the one on his desk. Nicer looking that the ones at Winslow and the Library too. "I'm doing manual paperwork right now so just drag a chair over." He motioned towards one of the chairs in front of his desk. And then looked at me oddly before shaking his head.

"Thanks Dad." I glanced at Eos who gave me another thumbs up but didn't leave Dad's shoulder. So I went and picked up the chair and carried it around to the other side of the desk, plopping it down next to him and then booting up the internet browser he had.

I had research to do and PHO seemed like a good place to start.


I plodded along with the computer for a few hours while Dad worked, mostly quietly besides me, occasionally answering the phone, leaving here and there to talk to people, and then even lunch break where he bought me back a sandwich and a muffin I scarfed down without much of a thought. Eos didn't leave with him, staying in the room and settling on Dad's shoulder whenever he was in the room.

At least until someone opened the door with a faint look of exasperation on his face. "Danny, we've got Merchants!" He honestly looked like he'd been about to go out on a mid-day stroll in a well pressed suit. and Dad groaned lowly.

"God-dammit, how many?" Dad sounded resigned, was this a usual occurrence? It was almost sounding like he'd expected the person to open the door.

"At least twenty, they came up out of the blue and started smashing things. Phones are down otherwise I'd've called." He glanced at me and I noticed it was 'Uncle' Kurt. Huh. That was why I didn't recognize him at first, he was wearing a new suit.

"We really need better infrastructure." Dad ruefully said as he stood up, opened up a drawer and pulled out a collapsed baton. "Coming?" He looked to me in askance.

Hell, why not? "Sure," I responded.

"Ah, Miss, you're not wearing a mask?" Kurt asked.

"Nah. I've no use for a secret identity." I said with a small laugh as I beckoned Eos back to me. "Do you want me to give support or overwhelming firepower?" I looked to Dad.

"The only way to get it through their skulls is to kick their teeth in." Dad shrugged. I pondered that for a moment and nodded. "Though, don't kill them." Dad finished then grimaced. "As soon as we're done, we're going to have to call the PRT since a Cape is involved."

"Well, I guess it just means I'll register as an Independent after today. Or that I work for you guys in Security." I grinned at Dad.

"Pretty sure that violates some labor laws." Dad rejoined as he flicked his wrist out and the baton extended. Huh, that looks pretty damn practiced. "Kurt, go get a crowbar, get Lacey set up, see if she can get some form of communication going too. Let's go see what those drug addled idiots want this time."

The blond man snapped off a lazy salute with one hand while lazily twirling a pencil in his other. Uncle Kurt always did have his eccentricities.

This was certainly a side of Dad I'd never seen before. He was kinda awesome. "Do these kind of things happen often?" I asked.

"Once a week or so, we don't normally have a problem with the ABB since we are equal opportunity and apparently they appreciate that. Of course, that creates minor odds with the E88 but upper management of the Union is white enough for their tastes." Dad explained absently as we walked, walked of all things, down towards the commotion. "The Merchants are idiots and want some of the buildings to build drug dens so we have to beat them back every so often. None of the capes come by all that often thankfully."

I nodded along. "And you deal with this all the time?" I asked as I swapped to Black Mage mid-step, since we were taking a while to get where we needed to be. Dad looked at me once after the blue flash but otherwise didn't comment. Neither did Kurt beyond a nod before he took off in a different direction.

"It wasn't as bad back with Marquis or the Teeth before the Slaughterhouse ran them out of town. AllFather also kept away from the docks, but Kaiser isn't Allfather and Marquis is in the Birdcage so we have to deal with a bunch of idiots that don't know when to stop." Dad explained with a shrug. "Even Lustrum would be preferable to these morons. She'd probably help us out actually."

"The angry misandrist?" I asked "Why would she help you guys? I know Mom talked to Lacey about her before."

"True, but Annette was in one of Lustrum's groups. And well, she hated drug dealers almost as much as men." Dad shrugged. "Annette bailed before things got to violent though. So she'd help, and then berate me or something after the fact."

"Alright." I said with a shrug. "Well, let's go deal with the Merchants." I paused again and used my cross-classing to use both Stone Skin and Protect. A dual layer of protection that was probably overkill in this case but still.

We got to the ground floor and there was, well, a massive brawl going on really. No one was really injured but there was a lot of fist fights going on, and a few people battering at each other with pipes and clubs. Honestly, the whole thing looked pretty silly to me, but it could easily escalate. Before anything at all, I used Manaward, just in case, the flash of the spell catching attention from the Merchants

"Cape!" Someone yelled out and the Merchants backpedaled a little towards the man that called it out and out came the pistols. Oh look, that escalation I just mentioned. Well, since I was in the spotlight and all.

"Hey," I raised my hand, waving it cheerful. "How's about you all leave now and the DWU can get back to work, huh?" His retort was an angry gunshot in my general direction, it hit me right in the shoulder, not even breaking through my Stone Skin and Protect layer and dropped to the ground with a small plink. "Really?" I asked.

The rest of the DWU stepped back and more handguns fired off. I waited until they were done firing, it still hadn't broken through my dual layered Stone Skin with Protect, and it seemed like my Manaward wasn't needed. Just staring at them with a smirk and, oh look, they were all bundled together. That made things simple so I spun my newly finished Kaladanda Lux and silently cast Sleep as they all dropped to the ground. "That was anti-climactic. Someone grab the guns and tie them up? They should be out for about for at least a few minutes. Don't hit any of them to hard or they'll wake up." And that was cast a hell of a lot faster than normally. I was expecting them to keep firing on me while I was casting the spell but, well, this certainly worked a hell of a lot better for me.

"You just stood there and let yourself get shot!" Oh yeah, Dad. Oops.

"I, uh, I had it covered...Mr. Hebert?" I asked with a wince. "I've been hit with worse, trust me." I placated...then realized that was probably the dumbest thing I could've said to my Father. "Annnnd I'll just shut up now." I cast Sleep again to make sure that the Merchants stayed out while they were being manhandled. It was still as easy and as fast to cast. Huh.

"Just, please don't make a habit of it." Dad said with clenched teeth, the baton in his hand shaking as he stalked over towards the Merchants. I honestly thought he was about to thrash one of them, and I was proven right when the first one that shot me was kicked in the stomach. "Wake up, asshole."

The drugged out idiot was suddenly very awake and in a fair amount of pain. "The fuck, old man?" And that's when Dad smacked him across the chin with the baton. Not hard enough to break anything but it was going to leave a good welt.

"Listen asswipe. The cops are already on their way here, all of you are going to jail. Again. If you manage to get out, next time we won't be going easy on you. We're not going to sit back and let your drugged out asses ruin good lives here. Next time, we escalate." I took that as my cue and a fireball lit up in my hand. A pulsating thing that grew and grew until it was the size of beach-ball before snuffing it out with a very large, canine filled grin that showed off just how sharp my teeth were. "She was being nice and put you to sleep, next time we set you on fire. No Merchants in the Docks." Dad hit him again at that point, knocking him out cold instead of my Sleep spell.

That didn't stop me from casting it again to keep the rest of the gang members out cold until they were all tied up, their weapons confiscated and their drugs removed. Happy with that I stopped casting the spell and looked around at the Union members.

"Anyone need any healing?" I called out, getting almost everyones attention, even Kurt who showed up with crowbar in hand. "Just come closer to me please, at least within 18 feet." I waited and thanked everyone as I changed to White Mage. "Now if you'll give me a second, you should all feel better." I raised my Sindri Lux and cast Curaga on myself, the pulse of healing energy hitting everyone except for the Merchants. I really was casting faster than normal even with other spells.

I got a smattering of thank yous and other platitudes from everyone as some of the Merchants started to wake up and started swearing, which was kind of annoying but I didn't want to switch back to Black Mage then wait and cast Sleep again. I could deal with some crude language easily enough. "Maybe you should invest in some gags?" I said to Dad.

"Yeah, probably a good idea." Dad shook his head and let out a sharp whistle. "Alright, everyone knows the drill. Business as usual people, send the cops up to me, or whoever the PRT sends." He shared a look with Kurt as he ambled over and his voice quieted, "I just hope it isn't Armsmaster."

Kurt chuckled at that. "This time of day, might be Miss Militia. I'll keep watch out here Danny."

"One can hope. I'll be in my office with our new friend here." Dad jerked his thumb at me. Oh yeah, he was definitely going to read me the riot act. Not to say I didn't deserve it but I should have some leeway with being a parahuman and all. At least this time I had a semi valid argument on my side! "Come on, let's go..." he trailed off and squinted at me. "And you really need to come up with a name."

"Well, I was thinking I might take refuge in audacity actually." I said with a small feline smile, my tail swinging back and forth in my obvious enjoyment as I started back into the building. This hadn't even qualified as a fight in my eyes, I could've done that blindfolded in my Crafting gear.

"Oh?" His voice was surprisingly neutral. Guess his temper hadn't peaked yet, thankfully.

"Mm, call me Tailor." I jerked a thumb at my chest as I posed cheekily. "Cause I keep changing my clothes."

"Taylor, that's just..." He trailed off, looking at me in dumbfounded awe.

"Amazing, right? It's something I'll answer to easily enough, it kinda fits with what I do, and well...why not?" I continued to grin like a fool, hands behind my head as I took exaggerated steps, my tail swinging behind me as I spun around and walked backwards while facing Dad.

He shook his head at me and smiled a little. "Well, it's something alright. Now into my office so I can yell at you."

"Sir, yes sir." I saluted as I turned around and jogged back towards Dad's office. I beat him by a fair margin and was sitting down on the other side of his desk when he finally got in. As he sat down, sirens started to be heard in the distance.

"Tell me exactly why I shouldn't ground you until you're eighteen." His voice was flat and angry. Scared too. He was just barely holding it in and I grimaced.

"Sorry Dad. I didn't think they'd shoot at me like that right away. But I was prepared beforehand...and in my dreams I've taken worse, much much worse."

"Dammit Taylor, those were your dreams, they weren't here!" He slammed his fist down onto the desk, rattling the entire thing and I looked away sheepishly. "I can't lose you too..." he whispered softly. "He just shot you and you stood there. It was surreal for a moment. I should ground you anyway for that stupid stunt."

"Maybe," I allowed and swallowed the bitter lump that was forming in my throat. "But I had my protective spells up and the bullets, all of them didn't faze a thing and I kept casting the spell. While they were shooting. On top of it, I do have a minor regeneration. I could've honestly kept that up all day if it was just those handguns."

"And if Squealer was around or one of the other capes?"

"Sleep works surprisingly well on most everything." I admitted. "And even if it didn't, I would've been able to hold off until another Cape showed up to help." I sighed as I unhooked my staff and showed it to dad. "This is Sindri Lux. Yes, I got it in my dreams. But I worked my ass off to get this weapon."

"Language, Taylor." I snorted but complied anyway.

"I've fought things that are like Endbringers there, Dad, specifically like the Simurgh. Repeatedly. If I fall asleep I'm not sure if I won't end up back there. I wouldn't be surprised if I did. I'm an Adventurer and at least a little famous and popular over there. I thought it was all a dream until today. Cause even if it was just me dreaming on being on another Earth like planet, like Aleph, it doesn't change the fact that it's now real for me." I paused and sighed. "I can't promise you I'll always be okay, but it was better for me to be a target than you or Kurt or any of the other workers."

"Christ." Dad mumbled as he slumped down in his chair. To be on the safe-side I cast Esuna repeatedly on him in the next ten seconds of silence. He seemed to perk up a little bit. I wonder what all Esuna considered as a detriment. The fact that I could cast it that fast was still kind of boggling to me.

"Well, I started thinking about how it would be a public service to go punch a Nazi, but knocking out twenty drug dealers is also a plus, right?" I tried to lighten the mood, it didn't work to well.

"Taylor." Yup. Didn't work. "Look, I'm not going to ground you because, in the end you were right. If an idea is stupid and it works, it's not stupid and all that. But seriously? Don't go catching bullets in front of me, please? I don't think my heart could take it."

"I'll do my best, Dad." I smiled at him.

"Still not gonna join the Wards?" He asked lightheartedly.

"Not a chance in Hell." I said just as easily.

"Good."

Ah, comfortable silence. I really enjoyed that with Dad.

Of course that's when Miss Militia walked in.

Was this something that I was going to deal with all the time now? Random interruptions into my day? This was going to be a thing, wasn't it?

Yeah, it was going to be a thing.

"Miss Militia," Me and Dad greeted. Dad and I, rather. Saying 'Me greeted' is kind of stupid, Mom would be ashamed.

"Mr. Hebert and..." Miss Militia looked my way in askance.

"Tailor is what I'm going by right now." Ah English, you're such a useful language. "Nice to meet you."

"Likewise, Tailor." I could see Dad was shaking his head, still, over my codename. What can I say? I like puns. I'm my Father's Daughter after all. Nevertheless he did have the right of it. It definitely needed to change.

"I take it you're the reason I'm here instead of the BBPD?" Man, this woman was no-nonsense and intense. "You have the tattoo?" She asked. Tattoo? What tattoo?

"No?" I asked, looking at Dad for a moment in curiosity.

"She means, Case 53 Tattoos, Ta...Tailor." Aw, he stuttered over my codename. Even if it sounded exactly like my real one. Yeah, definitely needed to change it.

"Oh, no. No Case 53 here, I was born and raised in Brockton Bay, though, the look is new. Today even." I admitted honestly. Miss Militia was pretty important here in the Bay, second in Command to Armsmaster.

"Some sort of Breaker or Changer state?" She asked, politely. Ah, fishing for information. I could understand that.

"I can't change back," I shook my head slightly. "Yet anyway." I paused and looked at her, specifically at the weapon at her hip, just a knife. I guess she felt safe here, or at ease or something. "I'm the one that took down the Merchants after they shot me." I offered up.

"Oh? They're surprisingly well off, save the one."

"He shot first." I shrugged a little. "Merchants. What can you do?"

She chuckled at that. "You're going to register with the PRT then?"

I shrugged. "Probably. Not joining up though." I shrugged again, "I've had powers for more than two years now." I left out that it'd been several years in Eorzea too. "Unless I come across Lung, I doubt I'll have anything to fear here from any of the villains." Famous last words, self. And even then, I'd faced scarier than Lung already. I had my team with me but still.

"Ah. Well, if you ever change your mind, you know where to find us. Any specific information you can pass on before I head back to the Rig?" My but she was fishing.

I motioned for Dad to tell her all what happened, I gave some input but it wasn't really needed. It was kind of fun to skirt around the issue in why I was actually here instead of elsewhere. There were a few minor questions from Miss Militia, though she seemed to be content with the answers she was getting. It was hard to tell with the flag covering her face like that though.

Then we got to the end when I put them down with Sleep.

"So, you have a Shaker ability that lets you put your targets to sleep?" She asked to confirm.

"Yeah. I've got some pretty decent crowd control. I don't use that one that often, usually less than ideal but they all grouped up after they realized I was a Cape. It's useful in that despite being an Area of Effect, it ignores people I consider allies." I said with a smile, getting a nod and a pondering look.

"Should I put you down for power testing at the Rig?" She continued politely, I just shook my head. I knew my limits and they weren't my teammates.

"Thanks but no. I've been a parahuman for years now." I reiterated from earlier. Here on Bet, only two-ish, but on Eorzea? More than a few had passed. "You can put me down as a frontline Battle Medic if need be. I don't have the sheer depth as Panacea but who really does?" I finished rhetorically.

"Thanks, Tailor." Miss Militia nodded with, I hope, a smile.

"Mm, actually, call me Hydaelyn." I had a last second inspiration. "I don't need to use my old name here in Brockton Bay, and I feel like starting anew, a fresh beginning." I might not be the only one like this, using Her name like this, well, hopefully She didn't find it offensive but it would garner attention and maybe my teammates were here. If I had the rest of my Free Company here then all the better.

"Hydaelyn then." Another nod. No pause or look of recognition so there went that idea. "It was nice to meet you. Have a good day Mr. Hebert."

On a whim, I took her hand, giving it a shake.


Everything was gray.

An Echo.

A child about to step into a minefield.

Stars...shards of light, falling from the sky.

Energy appearing.

A gun being lifted and being fired.


"Miss Militia," Dad said with a nod, watching her as she turned and left. I took her seat and slumped down in it after a moment had passed. "Hydaelyn?" I shook my head a little. The Echo had been weird. Disjointed. As if something was...blocking it?

"The Tailor thing was weak, and a joke." I defended. "And well, they were dreams but they aren't anymore. What if I'm not the only one?"

"Well, hopefully they're on your side then." Dad remarked gently. He started tapping his fingers on his desk. "Now that that's dealt with though, there's a few more things we need to deal with."

"Oh?" I asked.

"What do you plan on doing about school, and what about your appearance?"

I opened my mouth to respond, thought about it, and then shut my mouth with a 'click' of my teeth. The latter was a good question, the former though?

"Skip school, be a fulltime hero?" I asked meekly. Yeah, that wouldn't fly with Dad.

"Taylor, you're a teenager, you're not going to be a hero full-time. It doesn't even pay that well." Dad's voice was bland, as if reciting from memory too.

"Hm, well, I can work security here for the DWU, it gives me a way to make money, you get security, you also get to keep an eye on me, and I can study for a GED that way?" I suggested. Bit of a downgrade really. I was a First Lieutenant in the Twin Adder for the love of all that's holy, busted down to a glorified bouncer. Taylor Hebert, thy name is suffering.

...I snark to much to myself in my head.

Of course, I could just craft stuff and sell it. Any good Adventurer did really and I did have everything on me. Of course my Retainer had a ton of my stuff too...Oh wait, Dad's talking again

"Sounds plausible." Dad nodded.

"And I'll be going to Endbringer fights too." I added in.

"What."

Yeah, expected that one.


I spent the rest of the day in Dad's office, mainly going over my own inventory. My two little bags had all of my stuff as I thought. All my weapons and armor in the one and all of my materials and other knickknacks and supplies in the other. I could go right ahead and craft something right away if I really felt like it, it wouldn't be anything high quality but it'd get the job done.

I'd left the Materia with my Retainer though along with all of my high quality crafting materials.

I was definitely turning the basement in the house into my own workshop. I didn't need much space, magical bullshit aside. I planned on making something for Dad already, probably some armor, and something better than the baton. Maybe a nice hat?

And I needed to find a way to sell my wares. Would someone even buy a high quality aquarium? Was that even legal here? More stuff I needed to look up.

Once Dad was finally ready to leave I told him I'd meet him at home and I made my way out first, swapping Jobs and then going nearly invisible as I left the office. The shocked look on his face was oddly hilarious but I didn't stick around to see any other reactions or to hear him try to find me.

I love my Dad, don't get me wrong, but I had things I needed to do and I couldn't do it with him underfoot. Well, that's probably not the right thing to say. I'd been in death defying situations before and he wouldn't understand. There was an all encompassing need to go out and do things. To help people. To beat things about the face.

Conflict.

I didn't feel the need for it but most of my powers thrived on it. I was also a bit of an adrenaline junkie if I was being honest with myself. Who else would just throw themselves into a fight, willingly, against a Primal?

On Hydaelyn, my powers felt slightly more limited. Here, it felt more free, not stronger per se, just that I could do more things with them. That I was only scratching the surface. That meant testing and since there was no test target dummies, I went to hit up the Boat Graveyard. Officially it was a dump, an eyesore in the city that was slowly choking the life out of Brockton Bay. One that was to expensive too fix supposedly despite the fact that we had tons of Capes that could probably deal with it easily enough on just the East Coast alone. This is America dammit, where was our Governmental oversight? Federal Aid?

It was why I wouldn't join the Wards, and I probably wouldn't join the Protectorate either. They kept to the status-quo while I was someone that went out and changed things.

I was a shard of light of Hydaelyn, one of her Warriors of Light. I was a hero. I helped people. I changed things for the better.

And now Brockton Bay was my starting point on Earth-Bet.

Which meant the Graveyard. Like I said, officially its an eyesore. Unofficially though? It was a good place to test powers, discretely mind. I wasn't exactly going to be the most subtle at the moment, what with my need to test my fancier explosive powers.

Hydaelyn and Earth-Bet operated on different wavelengths after all. Magic was all-encompassing there. Almost everyone had the spark of it, able to channel the Aether as second nature. It gave them a strength that wasn't normally found on Earth-Bet. Yet despite that I felt even stronger here.

As I got to the Graveyard I took a deep breath and switched to Black Mage again with a blue flash. I closed my eyes as I felt the power once again shift and surge. When I saw the Merchants, my original plan was just to let lose a Fira spell, only remembering at the last second that I should put them to Sleep instead. I was a killer...but I didn't want Dad to see that side of me. No, he definitely never needed to see that.

I closed my eyes for several seconds, casting my normal protective spells along with the older cross-class ones I had access to since the Locker before I started a modified chain. I didn't bother with lower tier spells and went straight for a Firaga. Astral Fire filled me as I cast it again and again. My cast times were shorter, my spell was stronger, and my range was better while I was scorching away the rusted plate of a ship out in the water. With an idly thought, I'd used a spell I hadn't in a while. Transposing to Umbral Ice, a full swap unlike back in Eorzea, I started off with a single Blizzard spell, the superheated metal cooling rapidly as the boat lurched, twisting downwards, heavier than it should've been. I followed that up with a Thundaga, the bolt of lightening shattering the metal, rending it to pieces in a loud and explosive burst.

That was a spell I used on people back on Hydaelyn without nearly the same effect. Here it would fry someone, there it was a minor deterrent.

Yet I didn't stop, I followed that up with a Blizzaga, then another and another as hoary frost coated the metal. I could Tranpose again, I could feel it, much sooner than I normally could too. Instead of which I continued my Blizzaga rampage for a moment longer, the Thundaga crackle on the ship fading before I Transposed, even though I could've just cast Firaga again, pulling in the rush of Astral Fire as I raised my staff.

"Enochian." My eyes gleamed yellow with that flat proclamation. My staff pointed out and a Firaja, the strongest straight spell I currently had in my repertoire, burst forth.

The smaller wreck I had chosen, rent and broken from my Thundaga, exploded in a massive conflagration. Most of the metal shards peppered the watery surroundings, almost none coming back my way save a few launched high into the air and landing around my person, the small ship was completely gone and steam just floated from where it once had been.

"Well. Shit." I stared a moment longer, only realizing that I was still under the effects of Enochian longer than I should've been. Yeah, it was time to bail. I didn't want to get in trouble for this.

Yet...if I was this much stronger, what did that mean for my other Jobs?

So many questions I needed answered.

First among them? Why was this happening to me?

Second? What exactly was I going to do?

Well. First off I ran, getting out of Black Mage and changing back to Ninja and melding into the shadows.

I needed to think and the best place to do that wasn't somewhere that was going to be swarmed by curious eyes looking into random explosions. Best to get home after all.


I could hear the sirens after getting several blocks away. It probably wasn't just the police going to inspect things, probably a member of the Protectorate or a PRT squad. None of my business I say. I just blew up some useless scrap metal.

...Should've checked if any of that crap was usable honestly. I've worked with low quality material before but I was skilled enough to make something out of it.

If I was being honest with myself, I was pretty much a heroic mercenary. I got paid to do things. I got paid a lot to do things. But here I was a no-name...so I needed to get myself out there. The best question was, how? I had read that Faultline and her crew were Mercs but they were more leaning towards the villainous edge of things. Then there were the dynamic dumb-ass duo known as Uber and Leet who were either legitimate in their idiocy or sandbagging so very hard to the point of inanity. A Thinker and Tinker combo that got away with so many things there had to be a good reason why.

Uber had a skill set eerily like my own really, he was good at anything he tried, a Master if he felt like it. Instead he just goofed off with slapstick and comedy unless the chips were really down. He reminded me of some people I knew which was why I even entertained the thought of the duo sandbagging. Leet though? Leet's struggles with his tech was...odd. Someone with his skill set shouldn't have things explode for no good reason and the stuff that was good was very damn good.

Though, thinking it through, I needed to get a team if only so I had someone to talk to. I'd go insane if I didn't have someone to talk to and my Linkpearl to the Free Company didn't work, nor did my one with the Scions. I wasn't about to screw with it without a Moogle around either.

I continued to be lost in my rambling and random thoughts until I made it back home. Dad's car already in the driveway as I made my way quietly up to the front door, unlocked it and made me way inside. "Dad, I'm home!" I called out, dropping Ninja and changing to my 'casual' Scholar set. Eos once again appearing upon my shoulder with a fluttering of wings. I'd need to switch to my Weaver gear to modify all of my normal clothes too. Guh.

"Welcome back, Taylor. Where'd you go?" Dad called from the living room.

"Just out for a run and to think a bit. I'll be up in my room until supper." I paused at that, tilting my head in thought, a habit I picked up after I was tricked into being a Miqo'te. "I can make it tonight, I'll show you some of the stuff I learned."

"Sounds good. An hour or so, alright?" Dad's voice was more clear and I nodded as I took to the steps as I saw him walk into the kitchen. "And hello, Eos was it?" My Fairy smiled and nodded but didn't leave my shoulder.

Up the stairs and into my room I quickly shut the door behind me and fell face first onto my bed, Eos flying over to my bed and I could see her watching me from the corner of my eye. I wasn't tired and I didn't need to sleep at all, the urge was gone. Another change. I was in awesome shape though, and older looking than I should be. Of course there was also the catgirl thing.

Over there I didn't need a secret identity, everyone knew me, I was famous! Here I was just no-name loser Taylor, for the first time in over two years I'd enjoyed myself and that was beating up some no name Merchants.

And now I was in my bedroom having myself a one person pity party.

Reaching back, I rubbed the tattoo at the base of my neck as I remember both the fall of Dalamud and then reappearing in Eorzea outside of Gridania and having to walk there. Five months of dreamless nights, yet it was as if seconds had passed at the same time.

My memories and mind were getting confused and I was getting lost in them more and more and it hadn't even been twelve hours that I'd been like this.

"What is happening to me, Eos? I shouldn't even be able to summon you here, I shouldn't be able to summon anything here! I shouldn't be like this..." I trailed off from my shout into a whisper. "Am I Taylor of Eorzea, a girl that was lost and found herself as an Adventurer, or Taylor of Earth-Bet, delusional Parahuman was powers out of a dream?"

'bOth aNd the samE'

I sighed a little. Of course Eos wouldn't answer. She never did.

The worst part about all of this though? Yesterday, Emma, Sophia, and Madison felt like the biggest problems I had. Now though? They were barely an after thought. Emma's betrayal ran deep, for sure. But they were just words, Sophia's actions petty.

They were beneath me now.

And that felt...

Horrible for some reason.

Why did it make me feel that way? Was it because I was compartmentalizing? If my dreams weren't just that, then Emma didn't even compare to the scale I was used to operating on. Illberd's betrayal hurt worse than Emma's did. What happened to Papalymo, Moenbryda, Haurchefant, and countless others...

"Me and my pity party." I muttered to myself. "What would they think of me if they saw me like this?" No, they wouldn't shame me, to think otherwise would be me being shameful. The Scions would support me no matter.

Yet I had to always be the strong one, supporting everyone else. When was the last time I had time for me to be just me? Not since Mom. Not since I was Chosen.

I needed a break to have some fun.

And wow did my thoughts just go off on a tangent in the past few minutes.

Alright.

Taylor, buck up.

I rolled up to a sitting position and slapped myself on the face a few times to get myself out of my rather pointless funk. Dammit, if I was going to look like this I'll act like it too! I was a badass, dammit!

Eos was just staring at me with her faint smile and the one I returned, while fragile, still had some merit. I waved her goodbye as I switched to Culinarian, faintly noting she didn't disappear as quickly as she normally did. Probably nothing important.

What was important was that I was going to make the best damn meal Dad had ever tasted.

The hardest decision was what to choose to make.

'Eh. I'll sort it out.


"What are you wearing?" Dad asked me as he stepped into the kitchen. "And where did you get all those things?" Ah, that look of consternation, if it was on anyone else's face it'd be glorious.

I turned away from the Spaghetti Carbonara I was preparing for the two of us, my eyes tilting upwards to my rather magnificent hat and then back to Dad again. "I need to dress for the part." I stated smartly. "And a Culinarian needs to be prepared with her own clothes and her own tools, just like any other craftsman in their field." My Galleykeep's Knife and Pan were pretty damn good if I say so myself. Sure it was probably a little overkill but they still looked like normal things. My usual set, the Mythrite, was a much bigger overkill and was anything but normal looking. After all I normally made my own stuff but sometimes, in the case of the Galleykeep, something purchased from someone else was sometimes just that little bit better for certain things. After all, I might not be the absolute best in everything but I was damn good at what I did and only getting better.

"And you're making?" Dad asked, nonplussed.

"Spaghetti Carbonara, well, an ultra fancy version. I could do this kind of stuff normally with what I've got around the house but I had the ingredients on me for this." Really, the only difference was that I was using high quality, extremely high quality, ingredients. The house did have the eggs, cheese, bacon, cream, pepper, and noodles I needed for the dish to make normally, of course I used Clusters to really bring out the hidden potential. Nevertheless I was a bit of a food snob now when I actually ate. Which wasn't as often as one would think really. The change wrought by Hydaelyn was weird like that.

"Well, it smells amazing. How long until its done?"

"Pretty much anytime." I shrugged. I could finish it off whenever I felt like it, mainly I was just waiting for Dad and to make it really high quality. That was just something one didn't rush. That was something I did with all of the things I made, I mean, sure I could work on auto-pilot but that was never a 100% guarantee.

Of course if I had to make over a hundred of something in quick order, that was entirely different.

Light, I was giving myself mood whiplash.

Dad said he'd set the table and I finished up as soon as things were set. Once I finished I swapped to my casual Monk set. I really did need to get some more Earth-style clothing into my equipment.

It was certainly up to my standards. It was more than past Dad's normal fare. He absolutely demolished the meal and it brought a smile to my face when he realized he was finished.

"That was amazing," Dad said and I smiled again.

"Thanks Dad. Any plans for the evening?" Try to keep the topics light.

He shook his head. "Just putzing around and then bed. You're going to go out tonight I take it?" Well, there went that idea, thanks for not following my mental suggestion Dad.

"Probably. I need to see what carried over." Everything. "Get a feel for it all." Its easier for certain. "Help save cats from trees." I snarked.

"In the dead of Winter at night." Dad deadpanned right back. I smirked at him, aided by my feline grace.

"Well, if I climb a tree and save myself from it..." I trailed off leadingly. That got a laugh and a shake of his head.

Then Dad's gaze sharpened. "You'll be careful, yes?"

"I'll be careful." I recited dutifully and snapped off a picture perfect salute.

Dad shook his head ruefully. "I've heard that before." He had this faraway look. One I knew well, thinking of the past. I'd seen it on other's faces and my own well enough to know it.

"Don't worry, I'm just going to get used to things." I paused, the dream thing was still a contested point so no point in bringing it up, huh? "See how things carry over, how things work." It'd only been twelve hours and I already knew there were changes.

My spells earlier were stronger, faster, no longer needing a near minute to cast, and didn't take as much power to cast either. I felt buffed up so I needed to experiment...and find some place quiet to do it with my non-explosive spells.

Dad nodded carefully. "Don't pick any fights then." I nodded but didn't speak, that was something I couldn't promise. It was in my title after all, Warrior, and if there was one thing I was good at it was making the bodies pile up. "What time will you be back?"

I paused at that, pondering. I could easily lose track of time and spend the whole night experimenting. I'd done it before with some of my Soul Crystals when I'd first received them. I'd spend days learning the ins and outs of new abilities, how to best chain and cycle them for maximum output. Perfecting new recipes, new trade skills, the best way to gather what I needed.

"I'm gonna say before you goto work in the morning if I don't need to sleep. Before midnight otherwise." My tone was a little defensive, ready for the argument before it even began.

Dad just nodded at that. "Alright. I'm trusting you on this Taylor." His voice had gone soft and I winced a little when he wasn't looking. He was letting his fifteen year old daughter stay out all hours of the night and that was probably galling to him, but he was also treating me like the person I was, a super-powered cape that could take care of herself.

"Don't..." I trailed off, pausing, no that way lies the Temptation. Do not let the Temptation out. "If anything happens that I can't handle, I'll book it, I promise." Whew, that was a small crisis avoided. He looked at me, catching on to what I was about to do if that little laugh was any indication. Genre savvy, that's my Dad. Mom probably helped with that.

Finally, I could see him steel his resolve. "I'll see you in a bit then." Dad forced out, his smile bitter but real.

"I'll be back." I said with a nod...then looked at the kitchen sheepishly. "...First I'm going to clean up though."

"I'll help." This time the smile wasn't anywhere near as bitter.

It took longer to clean than it should've but I got to spend time with my Dad so it was definitely worth it.


Halfway across the city was when I stopped, I had stuck to the shadows when I could, testing out my stealth skills without actually being a Ninja. I'd already been a Dragoon earlier, so it was the last real 'dark' Job I had. A sudden realization came to me and I swore to myself as I stopped. I needed a way to contact the authorities and I didn't have any. A cellphone was distasteful on every level even if they were useful. My Linkpearl wasn't working, or rather, didn't cross whatever distance was between Bet and Hydaelyn so I didn't have access to the Linkshells...

But if I went back to Eorzea and got my own Linkshell...that'd be something Dad would appreciate for certain. Well, guess I was out of luck for the moment regardless. That was just one of the many things I'd need to fix, or get straight.

First was my abilities, second my communications, third I needed to figure out a way to disguise myself without drinking another Fantasia. Grr. Lyse you brat. I liked being a Miqo'te, I didn't want to go back to being plain old boring Taylor, I never did. Yet that would fix that one glaring problem.

Screw it. I'm staying the way I am. It, after the joke was done and everyone had a good laugh at my expense, felt good. I am catgirl, hear me roar.

Of course that brought my back to square one on that problem. The fourth was the way that things needed to be handled.

I needed a soft touch. Me. It was almost laughable.

There were a handful of people that I'd done that with because they were important in the grand scheme of things and even then, sometimes I wish I hadn't. That I'd just killed them when I had the chance. The itch to just thrust a blade through some people was just overwhelming. I didn't get to kill some of them, no Raubahn got Telediji, the little shit. But I still could still sate my blade with some particular transgressors against what was right, those three peo...

Oops, no more Dark Knight for Taylor tonight.

With a shake of my head to clear it I changed, the blue flash a little muted this time, into Paladin. The antithesis of a Dark Knight.

"Well, that's one experiment done." The Soul Crystals were resonating even more strongly with me. That might be why my spells were coming faster and stronger. I had noticed that Eos hadn't flickered away as quickly as normal when I swapped. Even now I could still feel the impulse to lay down the law with a huge sword.

Lovely.

Well, might as well check out the rest of the Souls.

I spent about ten minutes with each as I made my way back towards the Boardwalk. I was mostly staying out of each Gang's 'official' areas so that they couldn't claim that I was muscling in on them. It was pretty dark out, some shops were still open, and the snow continued to crunch beneath my boots. There wasn't much of the stuff, New York having thankfully taken most of it, but it was enough to leave a trail of multiple footsteps on the sidewalks.

There wasn't that much of a pull from the Soul Crystals, maybe it was just something I was imagining? Being a Dark Knight always pushed the forethought of punishing the wicked, with a sword almost bigger than me, to the front. And I almost let that get to me.

Great. Just great.

I didn't particularily prefer to be a Dark Knight anyway, but any skill had its use and it'd saved lives so it had gotten use. I prefered healing and spell casting in the long run but needs must.

That's why I was the Warrior of Light after all.

And that had gotten me off track from my list of things that needed to be done.

What was next on the list? Fourth? No. Fifth I needed to get a base of operations of some sorts. The earlier conversation with Dad back at the Union could net me a building out there. What I really needed though? Contacts. I was operating with just my Dad as my support.

I was used to being able to call on a lot of people if I needed to.

So. It was time to poach heroes and redeem villians I guess?

I should start smalltime though. Who were some of the smalltime capes in Brockton Bay? I'd heard of Parian before, she was a Dollmaker out on the Boardwalk. And there was mention of Chubster on PHO, that he even had chosen his own name.

I'm sure there were others I could come across as well. Hope for the best and all that, right?

And here I am, lost in thought despite reaching my destination. I did that sometimes, move on auto pilot while thinking about things, getting to my destination and still just lost in thought. It was a bad habit really. Hours would go by without me even noticing them but I was getting better. Today it'd only just happened the once!

...The fact that I'm thinking that, I'm having to wonder if I was really two seperate people. I had more courage there, and that was starting to bleed over to here. It was confusing really.

And oh look at that, two members of the E88 stalking behind a young black girl. I don't even think the kid noticed the two Nazis either. Why was it not illegal to be a Nazi again? Politics? Probably politics. I hate politics. Almost as much as I hate studying Aether currents...

Which I need to study here, again, and get some damnedable working crystals. All this walking around places instead of teleporting was annoying. Of course I could fly..

My Magitek Armor, Maggie dammit why am I so bad at that, appeared under me as I jumped up, a smirk on my lips as I settled in with the controls and flew up swiftly behind the Nazi's. It was surprisingly quiet after a few suggestions to Cid. And with its cannons in working order once more...

"Hey guys, how's it going?" I called out from above the three of them. The little girl turning, spotting the Nazis, then me, stared at me in my awesome Dragoon armor on top of my excellent flying machine. "You're not planning on troubling the young miss, are you?"

"The fuck?" One of them exclaimed. How poetic. That's when the girl finally booked it. Wait until they were turned around too. Smart.

"What? Never seen a catgirl and her flying death machine before?" The 'mouth' opened up, the glow of the cannon starting up ominously. "Why don't you two go back home and not bother anyone else?"

The one that'd been silent up until that point gulped audibly and nodded, turning and running off in the opposite direction of the girl. Well, that was smart of him, probably going for backup. The other one though?

"The fuck you think you are nigger lover?" Oh, such lovely language. I was going with a theme here with my gear matching rather nicely with my Magitek but no. This douchebag had to go and ruin that.

"Uh, cape?" I asked in a slight valleygirl tone that I'd picked up from Emma years ago. Then I switched to Machinist and shot him. "Also, language young man." His screams of pain were kind annoying. And attracting attention. But mostly annoying. "Oh fine. You big baby." I threw out a cure, which I normally wouldn't've been able to do as a Machinist. Huh. Interesting. He still wouldn't stop screaming despite being healed of the wound and it was getting on my nerves. "Oh shut up." I said as I flew down, dismounting as my Magitek disappeared, walking up to him and smacking him hard with my Deathlocke Lux.

Of course, that's when more skinheads started to appear. Huh. I thought I was close enough to the Boardwalk, guess not. "S'up?" I asked nonchalantly, leaning my weapon on my shoulder, my tail swaying visibly behind me.

"The fuck you doing here?" One of them asked, brandishing a gun, nowhere near as impressive as my own of course. "This is E88 turf."

"Well," I drawled out. "I was just flying by, and saw a couple of miscreants about to accost a young girl, what with me doing my civic duty, I stopped that before it could happen. Notably without violence." I chirruped. "Of course, then this young man had to use such foul language that he had to be chastised." I then pointed my Deathlocke Lux down at the young man, barrel pointing at his head. "So I shot him." I was all smiles, all teeth. All very sharp visible teeth.

Some of them paled and backed off, especially as my weapon of choice started to glow a nice green and yellow. Some pulled out phones. Some pulled out their own guns.

"How cute." I smiled. "You think those are guns." I tugged the brim of my hat down a little bit. A little thrill going down my spine as I looked at them spreading out. Wanting to corner me. A sensible tactic, probably a delaying one so their own capes could show up. "You can all leave now, we can go on our merry way." I sounded a lot more cheerful than I felt but I did feel anticipation. Come on, someone pull the trigger, pull the trigger and shoot at me.

They were visibly steeling themselves. "Screw you, you fucking freak." Ah, that was the one that ran. Nope, guess this would end in tears after all. Not mine of course.

I dived out of the way in a quick roll, ending up behind a car as they started firing. I did the smart thing, hiding behind the rather sturdy vehicle as they fired, not hitting me or their downed member. I laughed at the sheer gall as they continued to fire and reload with their puny little weapons. "You're making a mistake guys!" I called out as I put the Gauss Barrel onto my gun.

"We kill you, we'll get promoted, Cape!" A female yelled back.

"Well, colour me unsurprised. What happened the last time someone from the E88 killed a Cape?" I shouted back. That got a stunned bit of silence. Idiots.

In one swift motion I stood, my Bishop Autoturret deploying onto of the car while I Hypercharged it and pointed at the largest and nearest concentration of idiots. A single pull of the trigger and my attack started to Richochet between the gang members. I may have been using a huge fuckoff gun capable of murdering every single one of these idiots, and normally that's exactly what I would've done, yet I went non-lethal in this particular case. The shot continued to Richochet off weapons and through forearms while my Bishop Autoturret targeted anyone that was within the vicinity, pelting every single one of them at the same time.

It was so much more satisfying than sending all the Merchants to Sleep.

Of course, the screams of pain were mildly annoying and the blood splattering everywhere would probably be a pain to clean up...

I didn't realize I was laughing until I'd been shot a few times, it certainly hurt a little bit but, well, being shot was nothing new. The bullets didn't pierce my skin and that was when they got the clue that the cute little catgirl was also a Brute with a high threshold for pain.

All in all? That fight took less than twenty seconds from the moment I dove behind the car. It wasn't much, but it was something.

Every single member of the gang was down, at least the ones that didn't get away. My turret was no longer shooting any of them because none of them were getting up. None of them were a threat to me or it, so they didn't get shot. I loved that feature. I went to the nearest one and rummaged around, finding a cellphone and dialing 911.

"911, what's your emergency?" The Operator on the otherside asked.

"I've got...a couple dozen or so E88 thugs that need arresting, they've been hurt a fair bit, they've been shot, specifically."

"Location?" The Operator became very brusque.

I glanced down the street both ways. "Just off the Boardwalk, near the corner of 110th and Alison Drive."

"Name?"

"Hydaelyn. New Cape."

That got a pause. "BBPD and Protectorate are en route. Please stay at your current location."

"Can do, thanks." I hung up the cellphone and dropped it back on the thug I'd pilfered it from. "Now, ladies and gentlemen of the E88. When you all goto the lockup, spread the word. The name is Hydaelyn. I'm a new Cape in town. I don't brook any bullshit. I don't play softball. You start shit, I will end it. I could've easily killed you all, so, try something different with your life, 'kay?" I ended on a cheerful note. "Cause if I see you again, I won't be playing anywhere near as nice."

I jumped up as my Magi...as Maggie appeared again at my behest. Cannon glowing and the cannons on the side opening up to show the photon barrels aiming at all of them. "None of you are gonna die, so settle down, keep quiet, or I'll shoot you some more."

With that I settled in and waited for the Protectorate and BBPD to show up.

Velocity was the first on the scene.

"Hey, Velocity, right?" I waved from Maggie, voice raised over the groaning of the mostly inert E88 members.

"Right, nice to meet you Hydaelyn." The speedster paused as he looked around at all the gang members and then was pretty much instantly beside me. "What happened?"

"I shot a bunch of Nazis." I deadpanned flatly. It got a small chuckle from the man. "Two of them were trailing after a young black girl. I'd say twelve or thirteen or so? I flew up above and behind them on my sweet ride here, distracted them and she booked it."

"Yes, she had a cellphone and called it in, I was on my way here to help already when you called 911." Velocity nodded. Well, that certainly was nice. "Why'd they attack you though?"

I shrugged a little. "I goaded them into it? I've gotten used to people just attacking me that its just second nature." I shrugged and went from Machinist to White Mage with a muted blue flash, pulling my hood back and letting my ears free at the same time, my vivid blue hair easily noticeable despite the darkening night.

I looked at all the wounded idiots and sighed, they were all close enough. "They might start something but I kinda feel bad about shooting so many of them." I shrugged, raising up my staff a little as I cast the spell, luminous light pulsated outwards as Medica healed everyone within range, the bullet wounds closing up, the aches and pains disappearing. Yeah, that shouldn't have been able to happen. My powers are getting wonky and less rigid. Less restricted. I also hit Velocity with it too apparently. "Sorry about that."

He rolled his shoulders and shrugged a little. "That's okay, it felt...helpful?"

"Medica." I said as if the word explained everything.

"Medica?" He asked bemusedly.

"Area of Effect healing." I said in reply. That got a look. "Grab-Bag. Miss Militia got a small report earlier with the Merchants." Velocity nodded and that's when I noted his stance. Parade ready, or close to. Huh. Must be former military. "Nothing on Panacea's level for healing. Its more, keeping someone in a fight. They get knocked out, I can get them back up." Though, at the rate I was going...no, best not think about that.

Another faint nod, he had only glanced curiously the once at my tail and ears. Didn't mention the lack of facial covering that all other Capes except New Wave seemed to don. Must've read the report.

I changed back to Machinist and grinned at the now healed thugs. "Stay on the ground or you'll get shot again. And Velocity here might deign you worth of his attention. You don't want that do you?" All of them stayed down. "Smart choice."

I then explained what happened, specifically, during the quick fight as the BBPD drove up with a couple of ambulances in tow. They started to book the lot of them as I continued to tell in quick detail what happened from start to finish.

"Wait, stop. They actually stopped shooting?" Velocity asked when I got to the thing about murdered Cape. "But...Kaiser never did anything like that." Velocity stared at me and I shrugged.

"It was a rumor I'd heard on PHO, and well, it seems to have gotten a lot of traction. Tons of people seem to believe it. Case in point." I waved my gun in the general direction of the last few. "I think its something that the top members encourage, less...escalation that way?" I paused. Man. I sure shot myself in the foot with that. Heh. Shot.

He stared at me for a moment. Yeah, he was probably thinking the same thing. "Guess I'll add that to the report. BBPD seems to have this handled. No need for the PRT to show up." Whew, another bullet dodged there...dammit Taylor! Quit thinking in puns. "Were you headed somewhere specifically?" He turned back to me fully, looking down at me. I mean, I was still tall but he was still taller than me.

"Just patrolling really. Gonna see the sights, see what other Capes are around. Suggestions?" I asked as Maggie reappeared.

"At this time in the evening we do have a Wards team patrolling for another hour or two." Velocity seemed to nod to himself. "Most of the Protectorate members are on standby, though usually I'm readily available for patrol."

I nodded at that, continuing to watch as the Police finished up, a couple transport vans having pulled up due to the sheer number of idiots they had to arrest. "Thanks, Velocity. See you around." I hopped up on Maggie and with an expert flick of the controls I was soaring into the air again up to the rooftops and just leisurely flying around.

I didn't spot anything else really going on but that was probably the fact that they could see me rather easily and no doubt word was already spreading across the city and through PHO.

I wonder what my page would look like once I really got going? I could put up shots of myself in my different outfits for fun. Now...what was I planning on doing again before those idiots? Oh right. Seeing the sights from a new angle. And the Boardwalk was looking pretty nice at this time of night too.

What I really needed was money. I had my Gil on me but that would be either a pain in the ass to convert or I'd be spending it like water and things were expensive. I'd need to ask Dad about cheap warehouses for sale. He probably wouldn't like me tinkering in the basement or testing my abilities either.

"What do you think, Maggie?" I asked, looking down at my Magitek Armor, patting next to the controls with a sigh. She'd been inert since the Praetorium and nothing the Garlond Ironworks could do managed to wake her up. Her weapons systems were fully operational, just not her mind. "Yeah, me neither." I answered myself as if her silence was an answer.

Screw it. I needed to go for a ride. But...would it work? Oh Hydaelyn, please let this work. I dropped back down onto a rooftop, hopping off Maggie as the Magitek Armor disappeared. I put my fingers to my lips and blew a sharp whistle and waited.

"Kweh!"

I let out the breath I didn't know I was holding as my giant yellow Chocobo, Coco, trotted into view. I reached into my pack, pulling out a Gyshal Green and fed it to her. "Its good to see you girl." I said, leaning into the bird's neck, petting her softly as she ate. Light, I didn't realize how glad I was to see her when I felt the beginning of some tears in my eyes. "It hasn't even been a day and I missed you." She tilted her head, letting out a throaty purr as she nuzzled my face. "Yeah, yeah you silly bird. Wanna go for a run?"

"Wark!" I smiled and hopped on.

"Let's go!" I snapped her reins lightly as she clawed at the roof of the building before launching herself forward, off the roof, into the air and down onto the ground. "Woo-hoo!" I couldn't help myself, riding Coco was always exhilarating, and the people of the Boardwalk were in for a sight.


I spent nearly two hours riding around on Coco, using the main streets and following the rules of traffic. Especially on a bird that could get up to nearly 180 miles an hour. I waved at people, stopped for people to take pictures, and then grabbed myself a hotdog with a little bit of the money I had on me that wasn't Gil.

People were staring left and right at me, it was kinda fun really. I didn't get this much attention back on Hydaelyn but I guess Capes were normally a lot less social than I was being. I told everyone that asked my name. Just before I finished this one blonde teen, older than me too, stopped with her boyfriend and asked if she could get a picture with me.

"Sure!" I said cheerfully. "Coco loves pictures, don't you girl?" I dropped down from Coco as she 'kweh'd. "Nice to meet you, name's Hydaelyn." The blonde's grin seemed to grow at that as she motioned at her boyfriend to take the camera that she pulled out.

"Lisa, this is Brian." She motioned towards her boyfriend who raised the camera with a smile. We both paused as he took a few pictures, arms around each others hips.

"Thanks." He said, handing the camera back to Lisa after she pulled back, still sporting her wide grin.

"You're the first people to ask, so I figured, why not? I'm all about doing good deeds today." I snapped off a sloppy salute as I pet Coco who coo'd at me. "Go on girl. We'll go for another ride later." I made a small motion with my hand at her, she nodded as she turned and bolted, disappearing into nothingness mid-step. That got a surprised look from the two of them that I simply relished. Ah, freaking people out. Yeah. I knew why Thancred liked to joke around.

"Well, again, thanks." Brian said with a smile. "For two things actually." Lisa waved the camera as the first. "You're new around town, yeah?" I nodded. "Always nice to have a new nice cape around." I laughed faintly at that.

"Yeah, I've run into Miss Militia and Velocity so far today when it comes to capes." I swapped to a less threatening looking Job, huge book settling on my back as I became a Summoner. Goggles disappearing and my face in full view of both of them as my ears twitched. "I'm not really doing the secret identity look at the moment." One ear flicking as I tilted my head as if it pointed out the obvious.

Lisa's grin was kind of strained at that point and I couldn't help but try and keep back my own smile.

"Yeah, my sister actually said she ran into you, or from you earlier today...the second reason I had to say thanks." Brian continued as if nothing had happened at all. Damn man, you're pretty chill aren't you? "Aisha's thankful for what you did, even if she didn't stick around."

I waved him off at that. "Girl, about twelve-ish? Well, two Nazi's became around twenty, so its a good thing she didn't stick around. They're all in lockup by now, probably next to the bunch of Merchants that I sent in earlier today."

"That was you?" Lisa nearly blurted out and I couldn't help but grin a little as I nodded.

"Yeah." I leaned in secretly and whispered as if it was some big secret. "I'm not Manton-limited." I leaned back and grinned even harder as they both looked at me in surprise. "Well. Time for me to go. People to help, money to make and all that. If you need a job done, get ahold of me on PHO. I'll be under Hydaelyn after tonight." I waved as I left the couple cheerfully.

"It was nice meeting you, Hydaelyn!" Lisa called behind my back. I raised my hand in acknowledgement as I turned the corner and made my way towards the area on the Boardwalk that was amusingly called the Dollhouse. There was a cape I wanted to talk to about some things and Parian was the girl I needed to see.

Afterall, who best to talk to than one of the most well known Rogues in the city?

"Well?" I asked as Coco reappeared next to me not but a moment later. The Chocobo shook her head and I nodded. "Well, good to know they're not following me for any reason." I voiced aloud. With that done I pulled out an apple I had in my inventory and fed it to her as we walked.

Parian was a mainstay of the Boardwalk, it wasn't as if she held territory like the other gangs but most people didn't invade on the boardwalk where she was working. She put on shows for kids every so often but at this time of night she'd be running a mascot at one of the businesses that she was contracted to for the week or so.

She had a few regular jobs and while I'd never actually seen her before I had read a magazine with her in it a couple months back? She admitted she was a fashion student and a few other details, and that's the kind of information I needed. She made money legitimately and I was in heavy need of a way to make cash. Well, usable cash.

I was petting Coco when I finally spotted one of Parian's giant mascots. It was doing the usual thing, dancing around, trying to get attention to whatever building she was in front of to drum up business for whatever reason. At this time of year? Winter clothing of some sort no doubt. And it was a rather snazzy Gorilla at that.

So I did the thing I normally did when I found someone that I was looking for. Walk right up and start talking to them. It certainly worked for me. Normally.

"Parian?" I called out, easily distinguishable due to the complete lack of a crowd. I glanced around exaggeratedly. "Seems like you're having a wildly busy night." She seemed pretty startled for a second as she glanced around. Not even paying attention huh? She can just set her things to work like that? Multitasking? Oh, she was reading. Huh. Wonder what book.

"Excuse me?" She asked after recomposing herself.

"Sorry, sorry." I held my hands up in surrender. "Didn't mean to startle you. Saw your little show. Coco was interested." I lied through my teeth with a smile on my lips. "Name's Hydaelyn." I tugged Coco's head down a little to scratch the side of her face. "This feathered monster is Coco."

"Kweh~" Coco warbled happily as she trotted up to inspect Parian's large doll. A weird gorilla wearing a sweater of all things.

"It's nice to meet you?" She was clearly questioning both me and herself as she turned more towards me. If I didn't know any better, and with the way her head was tilting, I could've sworn she was checking me out.

"Same," I said with a smile. "I was actually looking for you to ask a few questions."

I image she blinked behind her full mask as I said that. "Oh?"

"Mmm. You're one of the more well known capes here in BB, so I was wondering exactly...how do you manage to get your contacts?" I held up one of my hands in slight pause. "I don't mean to undercut you or anything so mundane but I'm in need of funds and I'd prefer to acquire them legally as compared to most capes around here."

"I've got a few contracts I'd be willing to help you with in exchange for some favors. You scratch my back, I scratch yours," Parian said slowly. "What kind of work are you interested in?"

"Anything that's available honestly." I said with a faint shrug. "I'm fairly good at deliveries or fetch quests as it were. I'm also looking for places to sell some high quality merchandise. I've got some pretty good materials for clothing like I'm wearing, I can make weapons, I can cook...the list goes on."

"That's a pretty expansive list for a Cape." Parian remarked while her Gorilla continued its little dance with its sign.

"I've got the skills but I need to funds for more." I shrugged again. "I mean, beating up gang members for petty cash is good and all but its not the end all be all of my day." Well, if I was honest with myself, it really was. "I'm like a better, prettier Uber. And on the right side of the law." I smirked cattily, which, yeah, no. That was bad even for me.

"Well I don't have anything else lined up for tonight, but I can see what's available with my contacts if you're up for deliveries. I'm mostly in the entertainment business so I don't get much call for other things." I bit back the frown and nodded at that.

I reached a hand out, taking hers and giving it a faint shake. "Anything you can do to help would be appreciated. And if you need my help for anything, hit me up on PHO...after tonight. I still need to make a new account. I keep forgetting to do that." I told her ruefully.

"I'll keep that in mind." I was sure she was smiling now. "Were you looking to sell anything specifically?"

"Well, I'm looking to offload a rather large Aquarium right now." I thought about the one I currently had in my inventory. "I'd say anywhere in the ten thousand dollar range really." She seemed taken a bit aback at the price and I smirked again. "It really is quite large." I looked at her Gorilla for a moment, motioning to him. "Yeah, up to his shoulders in height I'd say."

"Probably better luck selling that online than in person here in Brockton." Parian said weakly with a faint laugh.

I dropped my head in faux depression and kicked the ground. "Yeah. I had it finished a little to late, by time I was done, my friends had already had one set up and installed so now I've got this huge waste of space and nowhere to put it. I'm not big on fish myself." That got a faint laugh and I looked at Parian with a grin. "Anyway, thanks Parian. Like I said, gimme a holler if you need anything, 'kay?"

"Of course. It was nice meeting you Hydaelyn. You can send me a message on PHO with my cape name and I'll get back to you when I can." She looked aside at her Gorilla. "I should get back to work though. Have a good night?"

"You too. Come on Coco, let's leave the lady to her work." I tugged her away from staring at the Gorilla as I remounted. "Night, Parian."

"See you soon." And with her farewell I took to the sky on Coco and up above the building line. The night was still young, I still had things I could do and I was edging on a little bit of boredom.

I'd already dealt with the E88 and the Merchants, let's go bother some ABB!

Wait. No. Bad Taylor! You promised Dad.

Ugh. Fine.

"S'pose I should go home, huh, Coco?" I asked my Chocobo.

"Wark~" She warbled.

"Yes, yes, if I wanted to talk to someone that actually spoke I could talk to Midgardsormr." I snarked back at the bird cheekily.

"Kweh!" She nodded sagely at me.

"Fine. Let's go get some more exercise. And if we find someone to beat up, all the better, huh?"

With that we flew around the city in the look for fun and profit.


Turns out, it doesn't always work that way. It was almost eleven when I finally got bored of flying. I figured someone would've attacked me by now but nope, nothing. No PRT out and about, no Capes, no Wards, no gang members. Nothing.

Frankly, it was kind of annoying.

"Let's get home," I finally said morosely to Coco. "I need to practice some of my moves and sort through some more things. Might as well do it somewhere comfortable."

Coco didn't nod but she did fly in the way I directed. I decided I'd might as well take some time, heading down to ground level and making my way via the streets to get lost before I'd dismount Coco, unsummon her, and make my way home without people watching my every move.

Of course, that was the initial plan. And nothing stalls out a plan like an idiot.

"Hydaelyn!" A voice called out from the empty street just as I turned the corner after dismissing Coco. "I challenge you to a duel!"

"What." I what'd. Who the...?

I looked around and out stepped a person dressed to the nines in black and white armor. Familiar armor. Armor I definitely didn't expect to see here in Brockton Bay.

"And who dares to challenge the great Hydaelyn?" I called forth while pulling my weapon from my back, it flipping open to a seemingly random page.

"One known far and wide as the esteemed Uber!" What the flying fuck was this two bit hack doing wearing armor from Eorzea? "And again I challenge you, my dearest Hydaelyn, to a duel. I claim that you are nothing more than a liar and a braggart!"

Oh no he did not just...

"A liar and a braggart?" I said in a tone that beggared disbelief. "I've been here naught but a day, and you dare besmirch my name?"

"It isn't I who's doing the besmirching, but you!" Uber readied his two daggers and took a stance. "The light of Hydaelyn doesn't reach this place and I will not have you sully her name with your lies!"

"Dammit, don't call me a liar you jackass!" Oh, I was done playing games with this asshole. "You're about to see just who you're messing with!" I held my book aloft as the purple glow spread from its pages, as if wings sprouting from a small dragon. "Ifrit-Egi! Show this asshole just who exactly he's messing with. Ruinaga!"

Uber danced behind one of the parked cars, narrowly being missed by both my spell and Ifrit as my Egi's first attack was a spell. Shit, he was going to be moving from cover to cover until he was up close wasn't he? So, if he was going to be like that?

"Painflare!" I called out, targeting the car itself, using it's secondary ability to lance out from my target to all of my enemies. The grunt of agony coming from him was exquisite to my ears so I repeated it. "Painflare!" Though this time he was smart enough to dance backwards from the car, nimbly dodging Ifrit-Egi's attacks. "God-dammit, stay still you cad! Painflare!"

"I refuse, you faker. I don't know what kind of Stranger abilities you're using but I will tear them down beat you to an inch of your life!" Uber taunted me from at range and I narrowed my eyes angrily. Why were his taunts working so well? He was riling me up and it was damn well working too.

"Fine. You think I'm fake? Well, fake this then!" If spells weren't going to work so well, then lets close in. Uber wanted to fight me with two blades? I'll gladly match him then. And mine were much better. With a flash of blue light I was running towards him, Sandungs Lux glowing with a blue fire over the blackened blade. I leapt into the air, twisting into a Spinning Edge and crashed down with one of my blades onto his overhanded block.

He faltered a step and I snarled in his face. "Fuck you, pretty boy." Uber almost lost his footing as I lashed out with another swing of one of my blades but he managed to twist around it and stab out at me just as expertly as I had attacked him. I barely managed to parry in time as he pulled back just enough to twist into his own Spinning Edge right back at me.

I countered with a Shadow Fang, using the motion to vault over him at the same time and slam my back into his. With a twist of my feet I went low and underneath his retaliation of a Gust Slash and I responded with a rising Aeolian Edge that managed to nick his mask but nothing else as just jumped back.

"I don't know where you learned those moves." I snarled, my tail lashing behind me. "So I'm just going to beat the answers out of you."

"I doubt that." Uber scoffed. "I don't know where you got that face but I'm not going down to some fake."

"This is my normal face!" I nearly spat in his mask, instead I pulled back just enough to get my hands free. "Chi Jin Hyoton!" The ninjutsu was fast, furious, and deadly cold as Uber was suddenly trapped in ice and bound for just that split second that I needed to get right up behind his guard and press a blade to his armored throat.

Uber remained silent for a moment longer, dropping his blades as I pressed against his throat even harder, a little more force and I would easily and gladly draw blood. "...Taylor?" he whispered softly.

What?

What the fuck?

How the hell did he know my name?

"Holy fuck, it really is you." His voice was hoarse and now that I was confused instead of just pissed off he was sounding slightly familiar as well. I looked him up and down with a quick glance and pulled back suddenly. "What the fuck?" He repeated my recent thoughts.

"Spill it before I spill your blood, Uber. I'm not in the mood for games. And you better not have Leet nearby ready to shoot me or by hell or high-water I will kill you where you stand." I hissed lowly. The Ninja Soul Crystal probably getting to me just the slightest but what could I say? I did not take to being accused a liar very well. The last set of people that accused me of such...

Fucking Ilberd.

"Shit. Sorry. I thought...I don't know what I was thinking. After seeing videos of you on PHO, and after everything that happened with the Ascians, Ilberd, Shinryu and The Omega I was...yeah. I jumped the gun." I looked at him as I listened, and really looked. My eyes flicked upwards for a single instance and a frown crossed my lips.

I couldn't help my rising suspicions, I really also wanted to punch him in the face. I also was wondering just what the hell. "Thancred?"

"Who else, my fair Warrior of Light?"

Oh for the love of...was this really my life now? Really?

"...Dammit, Thancred, how are you even here?" I punched the taller man in the shoulder after he took me to his current...lair? Hideout? Dammit, one of my best friends was moonlighting as a nerdy villain?

"Hey hey, watch it now." Thancred laughed, pulling off his mask, showing his face, looking exactly as I knew it would. Just like he normally did.

"You're still wearing that stupid thing over your face." I noted with a shake of my head. "Does it really get you girls? 'Cause I think its stupid."

"That's because you have no taste in men." He ribbed me gently. My smile only faltered for half a second before I shook my head. "Hey now, none of that." he continued chidingly. "So. Yeah, now that we're here, welcome to Casa de Uber and Leet. And, what the hell?"

"Well. I never did tell anyone did I? You remember when we first met like...I dunno, fifteen or so years ago?" I asked, dropping down into a seat and shifting for my tail.

"The festival in Ul'dah, yeah? With the Gobbue. You were a short little shithead back then. But we certainly did some good then, didn't we?" Thancred nodded as he sat at the edge of a rather comfortable looking chair.

"Well, time is subjective in a way. It's only been...three years for me? Well, two and a half for me here." I went on. "Back when I was thirteen is when it started."

He froze and looked at me with narrowed eyes. "Your Trigger?"

"Mm, mom died...And I started dreaming. I was in Eorzea. I was, and am, tall for my age, so, I was thirteen when I met you the first time? I mean, you were seventeen so it isn't that big of a difference." I paused and ignored his faint glare. "I went off, and explored for those intervening years before I found myself meeting Minfillia again. Almost a decade there all said and done before Louisoux sent me forward those five years.. You know I never seemed to need to sleep and I'd spend days in Eorzea, goto bed, then wake up as if not even a day has gone by here." I explained. "Then, today happened and well, I'm like this here now. I mean, I took that potion from Yda...Lyse," I absently corrected myself before he could. "...what? like, almost a year ago? I became a Miqo'te here in Brockton Bay literally today. It's not even been 24 hours."

"That's strange. It might be Hydaelyn doing things to you." Thancred surmised.

"Well, this morning was...pretty traumatic at first? But then I changed and then, well..." I trailed off, clenching and unclenching a fist, looking down at my bare and painted nails. It wasn't something I'd do as normal every day Taylor but Lyse and Y'shtola got me into it over there. Thancred was silent, watching me, and I just heaved a sigh. "I realized it earlier, but it was if my day to day tormentors were just...beneath me. They aren't worthy of my time."

"To steal a quote, and a crude one at that, you wouldn't piss on them if they were on fire."

"Come closer so I can smack you, that was horrible Thancred."

"I'm a horrible person at times, oh fair catgirl."

"You're an irredeemable pervert. I don't know what Y'shtola sees in you."

"Rugged looks and manly charm, natch."

I couldn't help it but laugh at that one. The two of them were pretty close. How close? Well, that was something everyone was betting on. "Seriously though, Thancred, how're you even...here? I mean, I just saw you a couple of days ago. Last night? This is going to be a headache..." I trailed off with a groan, cradling my head as my ears dropped despairingly.

"Well. I've been able to, move back and forth at will for the longest time. I'm not sure...where I was born? Just that here in Brockton Bay and, well at this point, Ul'dah, has always been my home. Don't get me wrong, I mean, Master Louisoux found me in Limsa Lominsa, and at their core, they're a little similar. Both are near and dear to me." He shrugged a little. "I've been friends with Leet for a while, have you watched our broadcast?" Well, that was certainly a non-sequitur.

"Yeah, a few times. I didn't keep up to date on it. I heard about a Grand Theft Auto thing though that was...distasteful at best."

"I'll get to that later." He hurried. "But, well, there was a time when we took a break from it, right? Lasted a few months? That was when that bastard Ascian had control of me. I was no where to be found because I was stuck in Eorzea."

"And then your last break, which most assumed was from the bad video was because you were stuck in the Lifestream for a bit." I surmised. "Now, the video, spill. Why?"

"Masochist hooker looking for her two minutes of fame and we got paid about half a million for it." He said in the flattest tone of voice I'd ever heard him say. "It wasn't live streamed like our usual, shall we say, shenanigans, we just made it look that way with some special effects and a lot of post production. We'd pull the video if we could but it's our second top earner."

"I'll never understand people." I shook my head a little. "But that explains a couple things at least. So you just...what? Pop back and forth when you want?"

"Pretty much."

"That doesn't explain my sense of time dilation." I grumbled.

"It's Magic." Thancred deadpanned.

"...ain't gotta explain shit, I know." I chuckled a little. "So, what's the what?"

"I saw some videos of you on PHO, and well, if it was someone, for some reason, pretending to be you, well, that's not gonna fly with me. That and Leet started geeking out over your Chocobo since he's been on an RPG kick and they're in a series of games."

"What."

"Mm, Final Fantasy. By a company originally named Square over in Japan. They had eight main games in the series with a bunch of side games on different handhelds." Thancred was speaking as if by rote. Did he have stuff like this memorized? "Least so here on Earth-Bet, When Kyushu sank, resources were scuttled from game making to helping refugees. Chocobos were first introduced in Final Fantasy II on the Famicom in Japan though here in the States we didn't seem them until the fourth game in the series, the seventh and eight games were 3D and looked much more like, well, what we know Chocobos to look like."

I stared for a minute at Thancred, I'm pretty sure my eyes were glazed over. "Yeah. forget the game thing, don't tell me anymore. The fact that my life is a game to some people..."

"We know the multi-verse is real, Taylor, you have reality breaking powers. Here you're real, somewhere else you're a flash game being written up for an idle game for a couple hundred thousand people to waste time watching bars go up."

"Yeah, no more breaking my brain today, please. I help people and kill things for fun and profit. If I wanted an introduction to cronophysics I'd talk to someone like Urianger." I replied flatly.

"It's actually a subset of astrophysics I think. Or some kind of physics. Or are we misusing the term?" Thancred scratched his chin. Oh how I wish I wasn't so comfortable on this couch so that I could smack him upside the head. "Anyway. That's what's been going on in a nutshell. I just pop back and forth, can't take anyone or anything with me besides the clothes on my back. I'm gonna say it's Hydaelyn's influence in that regard. She wants something here on Earth-Bet and up until now its been just me blindly making my way."

"But now that I'm here, her Chosen..." I trailed off with a sigh. "It'd be better if Minfillia was here. She'd be able to tell us exactly what needed to be done."

"Well, don't hold out hope on that, yeah?" His voice was strained and I barely managed to contain my wince. Yeah. Bring up her, smart Taylor. Really smart.

"Shit. Sorry." I sighed a little. It was like bringing up Haurchefant to me.

Right.

Smile Taylor.

Keep the smile.

Fuck.

"It's fine," He shrugged and I sighed again.

"Anyway, where's your partner in crime?" I asked.

Thancred looked around a little and lifted his hand to wave it back and forth. "I told Leet to bail just in case. He's at a different hideout and I'll call him in a bit. He was probably watching our little fight." If you could call it a fight. It wasn't anything really serious, maybe a clash if anything. "Which gives me an idea."

"Here we go," I responded faux snidely with a roll of my eyes too.

"Honest talk, Gil is flat useless here except to maybe smelt it down. Allagan pieces have a bit more value. So I'm thinking, maybe Leet can build a portal, you and me can work together, power it with some Aether, and have a stable way to get back and forth with actual items." He was a bit more animated. "Maybe large enough to bring people. I mean, having more bodies for Endbringers, if anything, would be a good selling point, yeah?"

"Well...that does sound complex as all hell, Thancred." I grimaced with a thought. "And his tech isn't really reliable isn't it? I mean, I hear they explode on him all the time."

"That's for stuff he remakes." He pointed out quickly. "Or something that follows a theme. We're headed to Ala Mhigo soon, right? We can collect collect Allagan Tomestones and other things."

I nodded slowly "He can probably work with crystals then too. I heard he was pretty much a jack of all trades. Who knows, a new environment to work on would probably help his problems?" I paused and sighed. "Honestly though? A portal sounds tricky. I mean, for whatever reason I have all of my usual things. I've got all my weapons and gear. Hell even my Prisms are working for my alternative outfits."

"All of them?"

"I summoned Maggie and Coco just fine. If I needed to I could probably call Veyl and Midgardsormr." I finished almost reluctantly though I could tell that he was still interested in the idea. "I was thinking of getting a Linkshell or two for here since my pearl isn't connecting properly."

Thancred nodded slowly at that before pushing himself up to a standing with a small huff of noise. I blinked a few times and watched for a second before I noted how tired he was. It was pretty late all said and done really. "Well, if you can get back to Eorzea, pick that stuff up and bring it back here. The more materials we can work with, the better anything Leet can make."

"Right. That means I should probably get home and try to sleep. Try being the keyword since I don't actually need to." I snarked gently as I stood slowly, arching my back and stretching as I did. "And get yelled at by Dad. Shit. This is gonna be fun."

"First day out on the job and starting fights and consorting with the forces of villainy." The white haired pretty boy teased.

"Shut it, old man." I growled lowly baring my fangs at him.

"I'm Thirty-two!"

"Suuuuuure."

"Dammit Taylor! I'll make you rue this day!"

I bounded out with a laugh, my tail wagging happily behind me as I fled from Thancred's shaking fist and laughter.


I made my way home as fast as I could while I was on the ground nearly sprinting the entire way there under the cover of darkness and amidst the crunching of snow. It didn't take me to long to get home avoiding any kind of people that were out and about. I mean, I could've probably went looking for crime but I'd already messed up with what I said to Dad.

And there he was, right as soon as I opened the door. I was honestly half tempted to shut it and march right back down the steps. Dad's got a temper when he chooses to exercise it. Its never been directed at me but I do remember it the once over the phone when I was at Emma's. Dad was ranting at Mr. Barnes about something or another and my but he was he pissed.

He was looking mildly aggravated at the moment too. Yeah. I'd peg that a two on the scale of one to ten.

"So." He said flatly. "Tell me why I shouldn't be grounding you for a week."

"I shot some Nazi's?" I jokingly tried. Ooh. bad Taylor, that's a three on the scale now.

"Strike one, try again." Shit.

"They were going to beat up a girl, say twelve-ish? Maybe eleven or thirteen? I'm not going to stand, or fly in that case, around and do nothing when I can help someone." I responded stubbornly.

Dad heaved a sigh and shook his head. "I figured that. I'm talking about the other fight that you had not to long ago." Other fight? Dammit. With Thancred? "Why the hell did you fight with Uber?"

"He thought I was a fake?" I tried and winced when he gave me a Look. "He's someone I kinda know outside of his cape persona. From Eorzea." From annoyed to surprised in two words. Nice. "So my dreams weren't just dreams and...I've had powers since Mom died." My voice was soft, bitter. And Dad's face went ashen. Yeah. Two people I've said the wrong things to tonight. Just great.

"Little Owl..." I ran up to Dad and gave him a hug.

"Don't. Please don't dad. I know...trust me I know. I miss her too...but we can't..." My voice cracked and I trailed off. "We can't keep doing this." I chuckled hoarsely as a couple of tears dripped down my face. "I want Mom back...but she can't come back...so at the very least I want you back too."

He made a sound of self disgust as he wrapped me up in his arms and gave me a hug back. "I've been a horrible person and Father these past two years haven't I?" His voice was barely a whisper as he nearly repeated his words from the morning.

"I dunno, you did a pretty awesome job of it today if you ask me." I recalled back to this morning when he was talking to Blackwell.

"Speaking of which, are you going back to school tomorrow? I gave it some thought and I can get the process of you being pulled out started pretty quickly." He pulled back, both hands on my shoulders and looked me straight in the eye as he asked.

Did I really need to go back to school? I mean, Sure I wasn't really fully trained in a scholastic sense, yet at the same time I was certainly above and beyond when it came to other matters. I mean, I'm no engineer but I already have the working skills of an adult by many different means. I didn't really need Trig to craft armor or Social Studies to make money on the market.

Yet at the same time, not going would let those three win...

Win what?

They harass me for some fucked up reason, I try to avoid and ignore it. I resisted with all my worth and they escalated to giving me my full set of powers. So. Yeah, sure, let them win.

They are beneath me.

"Lemme sleep on it?" I asked in the end. "Cause unless we can come up with a way to hide the tail and ears..." I trailed off, one of my ears specifically flicking like a cat.

"And the dye-job. I still can't get over how blue this is." he ran a hand through my long hair near the shoulder. "It looks almost natural."

"Jandelaine does good work." I confided absently. "He is The Aesthetician. Title and all." I nodded and chuckled a little. "I was going to go and get my hair dyed and changed again next time I had the chance, it was just a little hectic." Dad nodded and I could see him stifle a yawn with his jaw clenching at the same time. Must be tired from waiting up for me. He's usually in bed by now. "Go to bed, Dad." I chided lightly.

"Alright. And you're not grounded. Fair warning though, keep me more up to date. If I have to find out via a link on the internet that you've been in a fight hours after the fact instead of directly from you you will be grounded for a week at least." He tried for stern but I could see he was to tired for it but I took it seriously.

"Of course Dad. I was looking into ways of communication anyway. Uber suggested something too." I fibbed a little. "So if I end up in Eorzea tonight I'm gonna look into it."

"Alright, get some rest Taylor. I love you." Dad said with a smile as he trudged towards the stairs and up to his room.

"Love you too, Dad." I said loudly enough for him to hear as I made my way to the living room and dropped down onto the couch.

I wasn't tired. I wasn't sleepy, and the thought of actually going to bed was kind of annoying. But I had to try at least. It wasn't as if anything important was coming up yet. Ala Mhigo was a ways away still, and then helping Yugiri and heading to Doma. It made me slightly wonder what kind of continent Othard was like when compared to Aldenard and Vylbrand in Eorzea.

"Screw it. Sooner started, sooner done." I mumbled as I repeated Dad's motions and trudged up the stairs to my own bedroom.

I opened, walked in, and shut the door behind me. Eyes falling on the poster of Alexandria I had near my door. When I was younger I wanted to be just like her. A cape. A hero.

I was those things now wasn't I?

Heh.

I was a super hero to a lot of people now. How many lives had I helped to saved?

On the other hand, how many lives have I helped to condemn and die?

I tore my gaze away from the poster to my little mirror on one side of my room, my face was blank, eyes were still a little red from the tears. I forced a smile on my lips until it was more natural feeling as I pushed the depression away, pushed the sadness away.

"A smile better suits a hero." I whispered softly and I nodded to myself.

Best be off to bed before I make myself cry. So, for the first time in a while I actually unequipped my weapon. It was something I would never actually dare to think of doing in Eorzea but here?

Nothing changed. The mirror still reflected myself, just sans weapon. Still a Miqo'te, and that was actually a bit of relief in the end. I didn't ever have to go back to being just meek Taylor Hebert. To the little girl that was lost, alone, and betrayed by her best friend for an unfathomable reason.

No. I was an Adventurer, a hero of Hydaelyn, Warrior of Light. A champion of Eorzea and its people.

I continued to look into the mirror, at my pale blue hair, the little pink heart under my left eye, at my slitted cat-eyes, at the ears upon my head and the tail behind me flicking into view every so often. This was me. This was definitely me.

My smile was brighter now, not as forced, not as fake. I turned away from the mirror after one last glance at myself.

This was who I was, who I wanted to be and I wasn't about to change it for anyone else.

I strode to my bed, head held high in pride of myself before climbing into bed and relaxing the best I could.

It took me twenty seconds to fall asleep.