Alice was beginning to think it was time to leave. This place was nice and all, but when some weird purple chick with pigtails and hooves wanted to stick a crystal in you that was going to take over your body and eat your soul, it was probably time to go. But for some reason, she hesitated. What if this was all real, what everyone said it was? She'd been happy to stay on the fence until now, but it was suddenly much more important to know one way or the other.
If that was even possible. Divesting herself of her sword and setting it carefully on the teahouse floor, she sat and leaned back against a comfortable pillow.
The marine was feeling way more at ease after some simple conversation with some of the more friendly inhabitants of the Pantheon. To think it was a normal thing, conversing with others to just... talk. Arden had accepted this new routine in life. No more checking his weapon and keeping it in proper condition, running drills, and being sent out to wage war against those that wished to harm the whole of the universe.
His feet led him to one of the teahouses on the grounds, and as he slid the door open and absently made to step inside, he didn't realize that he was no longer alone.
For a moment, the man lingered in the doorway, fixated on the sword lain across the floor. A weapon openly barred. How much use had it seen, he wondered? And how often had she been forced to use it? Still, it didn't take him long to realize he was staring, and he respectfully slid his eyes away from sword and the girl. "...Sorry."
The one-time guard looked up at the sound of someone entering, fixing the stranger with a stare of her own. He was wearing some kind of...suit? A little sci-fi looking. Interesting. As for her, she was pretty used to being stared at, although it wasn't usually her sword that got the stares; her blindfold was what attracted most of them.
When she glanced up at him, he could fully see her face and all its quirks. It was a pretty face, youthful, but the sash wound around her eyes led him to believe that she may have been blind. The man stood there for a moment more, unable to help but feel obligated. She was a woman, alone, and possibly handicapped. Anyone could come along in a place like this, and that knowledge didn't sit easily on his conscious.
"...You mind if I sit down?" He inquired, gesturing at one of the floor cushions before he realized it was probably a fruitless effort.
The marine seemed to relax a little with an acknowledging tip of his head, before settling down with a slight hiss of mechanics. "Arden Valkov." He extended his hand to her, both to be polite and to see if she... well, really could see after all. "You... new around here?'
Though Arden was indeed surprised that she deftly grabbed his hand without problem, he was wise enough to keep his comments to himself. "...You... know what's going on here?" He almost absently scratched at the ragged scars that marred the side of his neck, and, of course, avoided the pale, sickly looking gem embedded within his skin.
"Yeah, pretty much." Alice eyed her new acquaintance's scars from beneath the safety of her blindfold, and noticed the gem as well. Did that mean he was...? To ask was tempting, but they'd only just met, and she wasn't sure she wanted to be that direct right off.
"Do you think it's, you know...all true, what this is?" A more conversational approach.
There was a long period of silence from the marine, his hand slowly falling away from his neck as to settle somewhat awkwardly across an armored leg. Did he think it was true? The gods... Were they really gods? Or were they just glorified beings with strength natural to their race?
"...I don't know." There was a slow sigh. "I don't know how much of it is true, or not." Were they gods? Or was he just crazy?
"There's a voice," He watched her silently for a moment, expressionless, "In my head, now. From this gem. And I have been told that it is slowly beginning to eat away at me. I didn't believe any of it at first." A swallow, the first crack in that outer armor.
"Oh. You have one, huh?" He didn't exactly seem enthusiastic about it, either. It was a far cry from Shyamaath going on and on about what an honor it was, how important it was, what a difference she would make. Except, you know, she'd really rather not die, thank you very much. "Which one have you got?"
"Famine." There was another sigh, but he'd fix his eyes on her face again, the cloth wrapped around Alice's eyes. "...It'd be easier if it was something else. It's how life goes. I could die willingly for something good." Simple logic, but effective. Who really wanted to die for something as devastating as famine? "I was going to die sooner or later." The marine finally said, and offered an honest shrug of his shoulders.
Famine. That was...that was awful in a way she couldn't quite express. It was difficult enough to imagine giving up your body and soul for another being to take, but for something like that? It was unimaginable.
I could die willingly for something good. It was Alice's turn to swallow uncomfortably, and admit, "Someone wants to stick one in me. Not...one like that, but..."
The marine jolted as though he'd been electrocuted, suddenly upright, tense. Almost feral, in a way. "Not unless you want to." He ground out savagely, his eyes flashing. "You don't let anyone do that to you unless you want to. Once it's in, there's no going back."
As long as he was alive, he'd do his best to warn anyone he could of that fate.
"Are they threatening you with it?" The fury had vanished from his tone, leaving it composed, and eerily calm.