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Exploring The Datsan
Aria woke early the next morning. She lay in Lucas' arms and pulled away gently so as not to wake him. He didn't need to be up for several more hours. Aria found her way down to the resort's gym and was going to go a few rounds with the punching bag but Nox had already beat her too it. She grinned at him. "Can't sleep?"

Nox laughed, "Something like that. Woke up in someone else's bed and sleep just wouldn't come when I got to mine, so here I am."

Aria shook her head. "Spar then since there is only one?"

Nox nodded as he smashed a right hook into the bag and turned to her with his ever loving grin. "Bring it!"

For the next hour they sparred in the wee hours of the morning. Much like the did back in Moscow. Nox's alarm went of at precisely 8am and the spar immediately stopped, it was like clockwork. He left her to get his own gear ready, they'd be leaving in about an hour to take the quickest and fastest route to the monastery. High up in the mountains where the ruined datsan stood. There was a road that lead there, but it would take three hours by road, where as it would take only 1.5 by dog sled.

The terrain was difficult, but the guide promised that it was worth the trip. There was no threat of passing snow storm despite the coldness of the region. He also promised they'd not get stranded anywhere.

They were headed to Aginskoye, Russia, a place where the reign of the man who destroyed the datsan had not breached with his influence. English was not spoken. Aria had hired the guide from the Resort town, he claimed to know enough of the locations dialect of Russian that they shouldn't pose any issue, but Aria had taken some time to brush up on the dialect herself. Russian wasn't a primary language she'd learned, but she had learned it. With the heart of the CCD being Moscow, Father Dimitri felt that one of the languages she should at least have a firm grasp on be the region's original language, so Aria had studied Russian among the various other languages she'd been commanded to learn to speak. Reading and writing was not quite so mandatory and she could still only really read Latin, Italian and of course English. But she could speak many.

Aria showered and dressed quickly before waking Lucas. Aria sat on the edge of the bed and leaned in to kissed him softly, "If you are coming you have to get up now Love."

Edited by Aria, Mar 17 2015, 08:09 AM.
The fire had died down when they went to bed, but they didn't notice at the time. But it had gotten chilly during the night. Lucas seemed to sink into a deep dreamless sleep.

What woke him was Aria's gentle kiss. He struggled to open his eyes. At least the curtains were drawn so he didn't have to squint. He looked up into the deep green of Aria's eyes, a small smile on her lips. He shifted in the bed and felt the warm heavy blankets around him, cocooning him from the chill in the air. He loved sleeping in a cold room. And waking up to this.

Her words penetrated the fog of his mind and he sighed. To leave the warmth of the bed....He put his arms around her waist rolled her over so that she was know lying down. Then he kissed her. "Oh, I'm coming with you,"
he said once he was done. A part of him was tempted to try to get her to stay in bed a little longer. He had woken up refreshed, after all.

But she had work to do. And he had asked to come, to be part of it. With a sigh sat up, letting the blankets fall to his waist. "Alright. Let me get showered up and I'll be ready in 15 minutes."
His stomach growled and he grinned. "I'm starving."
He raised and eyebrow and winked at her. She knew why.

Finally, he left the bed and headed for the shower.
Nox had tried to sleep after returning from Emily's room and his shower, but it didn't come, he wasn't exactly surprised it was rare once he was up that he could get back to sleep. So instead he went to the gym the resort had in order to work up another sweat and have to shower for it.

Unsurprisingly Aria showed up after only a few rounds of jabs at the lone punching bag. They'd both been having nightmares again, and both been up at all hours of the night. Their punching bag was receiving it's very own love. The offer of a spar was welcome, to hit something that moved around unpredictably, especially Aria was always interesting. He rarely managed to make full contact, she was too quick and he was still very unaccustomed to hand to hand, but he was getting better with each and every match.

They spent countless hours sparring each other day in and day out and when his alarm went off it was just like back home a quick bow and they were both off to their own personal morning rituals. At home it would have been to breakfast then to their morning katas. It was strange to think that the longer he knew Aria, the more they fell into a rhythm and living with her had only made that rhythm stronger. It was rare when they were apart, usually having a lot to do with Lucas. But they lived and hunted together, their days and nights strung out like some stupid soap opera with everyone wondering when they'd get together. But Nox knew that answer - never. And the thing was he wasn't disappointed by it. He was grateful for Lucas and his attentions on Aria. It took some of the pressure off. Nox didn't have to be everything, he could be what she needed him to be, which was already a lot. And Lucas could be the better half, the taking care of the personal issues, loving her for everything she is and not knowing what it was she really was, Nox doubted Lucas would ever know about the cataclysm that Dane Gregory had caused in her. He'd sit that one out.

Nox showered again and found breakfast waiting when he returned. How thoughtful Aria was, he ate quickly as he packed his gear. They were going to a datsan by dog sled, why they couldn't drive was beyond him but this was Aria's game. She wanted it this way. Nox suspected the more country route the better chance of seeing things. There were rumors from the staff, rumors of large flying creatures that sounded like lightning and thunder. And Aria never passed up a chance for a hunt.

With breakfast finished Nox went down to the lobby to find Aria was already chatting away with the tour guide, two sleds sat outside and the dogs all laid down beside it in the snow. It actually might be kinda fun. Nox frowned when he saw Lucas standing a short distance from her. He grinned as he stopped next to him. "You are a crazy man, the warmth of my bed or the cold journey with a girl who would fight the abominable snow man if it were real."
He looked at Aria and grinned taking a jab at Lucas, more than the actual words themselves, "Though the girl is mighty fine. But still I'd stay home if I had the chance. Keep her bed warm. But suit yourself."
He grinned at Lucas, hoping he wouldn't get angry at him. Maybe he shouldn't have said anything at all.

Nox turned his attention to Aria's conversation. He couldn't understand a word of it. Russian was not his forte. Any language other than English, his parents didn't think it was beneficial since there were very few other languages spoken in the United States. Sure there was the revolution of Spanish from the immigrants but English was still the unofficial language. At least it wasn't French from the north. He grinned at the thought of the Canadian version of about.
After getting cleaned up, they ate breakfast. Aria made sure to order up something for Nox too. It was curious the way she made sure to include him. He didn't get any weird vibes, really. It was just...different. It didn't worry him, at least not overly so. No more than normal, anyway, which was more a male thing than anything else. The truth was, he wanted to be all for Aria, all that she needed. But of course intellectually, he knew that her abilities- and her job- made that impossible. For now, anyway. Lucas wasn't one to give up when he set his mind to something.

They dressed warmly and in the room, at least, it felt almost unbearably hot, what with the long-johns and thick socks and everything else. But he knew that he would wish for more once they were out on the snow in the sled. It amused him, the idea of using sled dogs. He didn't know they were used anymore.

Down in the lobby, the amber glow of wood seemed to pulse with radiant heat- felt all the more because of their layers. He almost relished the knife-edge of icy wind that gusted in whenever the doors opened to let guests and workers in our out. Aria was talking to their guide in some language that only passingly resembled Russian. What they were talking about was a mystery. Instead, his eyes wandered over the lodge and the glimpses of outside. He wondered what she was hoping to find at the this place. When she was done with the guide, he would ask her.

Nox came down also bundled up for the cold. His frown was unmistakable though it disappeared soon enough. That was enough to make Lucas raise an eyebrow. The guy launched into conversation, the gist of which was, 'why are you coming with us?' Lucas put on a smile that he didn't feel. Perhaps he was wrong about Nox. That frown wasn't his imagination, however much he tried to smooth things over with jokes. And there it was again, his commenting on Aria's attractiveness.

Lucas looked over at Aria who seemed absorbed in what she was doing. She had asked him to come. And had agreed the moment he wanted to come on their little hike as well. Not a hint of duplicity or disappointment. Nox, on the other hand...He could well imagine the strategy he might be trying to employ. Maybe. He was so back and forth with Nox and Aria.

His fake smile remained and he put a bit of joke in his voice. "Ha! You think I'm gonna send her off with a horn dog like you all alone in the mountains while I cool my heels by the fire? I don't think so, buddy."
He laughed sharply, and looked at him pointedly, trying to sound like he was joking. "You do have a rep."
Aria felt Nox approach long before she saw him or heard the conversation the two men had. They were distracting her from the conversation she was having. It was hard enough to concentrate on that without Nox being loud.

Nox was typical Nox and Lucas responded with a comment that made Nox laugh loudly, he was shushed by a few people in the lobby to which he grinned madly. Aria turned around to watch, this could go very badly. Nox smiled at Lucas. "You want to freeze your ass off because of me that's fine by me."
Nox walked away without anything else to say, Aria could feel him bristling inside with the need to say something more but he held it back, she smiled as she watched him walk to the man and ask if he could pet the lead dog. The tour guide nodded with glee. "He'd love it."

Aria turned her attentions to Lucas, and wrapped her arms around Lucas' waist and looked up into his gorgeous blue eyes. "I know asking again isn't going to change things, but he's in a mood. Waking up in some girl's bed tends to put his humor on to a different level. This going to be okay? You and him?"

Lucas didn't trust him. The man was hell on mixed signals. He was with Aria maybe that was part of the reason she understood him better than Nox could. One day he's letting his girlfriend move in with him, the next he's offended by the idea that Nox would go off with him without Lucas. Just really had no clue what to do other than shut his own yap so he didn't make it worse.

Nox walked away from the situation and asked about the sled dogs. They weren't what you'd see in Alaska, but they were beautiful creatures. The man understood English to which Nox was grateful, but he hadn't understood a word Aria had said to him before that.

Nox knelt down next to the dog as Aria and Lucas whispered in hushed tones, he could have listened in if he wanted to, but he didnt' care enough, they could argue or agree about him for all he cared. He was here to work and nothing more. Though he had a sweet night, unexpected considering Emily had been shy and tentative about it all. But there was no guilt, he hadn't made her do anything she didn't want to.

Aria eventually came over and the guide situated the riding arrangements. But Nox decided it was best to not hang around Aria too much so he opted to rid with the tour guide, let Aria and Lucas manage the second sled alone. Give them their privacy. The guide's sled took the lead.

The sun was just barely above the tree line and it steadily rose as the dogs maneuvered over the snow covered terrain. It was quiet, there was nothing but the sound of the dogs and the sled gliding over the snow. Nox leaned back against the sled and embraced the power. The cold seeped into his bones, he wove a quick layer or warm air around him and looked out with his power enhanced eyes. He could see the tiny crystals that were formed on the leaves. It was gorgeous out here. And quiet. He could hear the others breathing, hear the pads of the dogs feet crushing the snow beneath them. The sound of the sky sliding across the snow. It was almost paradise.

He rode like that for miles. In the distance he heard a crack of thunder and looked up but he saw no clouds. The dogs only hesitated a moment before continuing on their route. Nox sat forward and saw a mountain that moved. "Stop. I want to look at something."

The guide stopped his sled and Nox got out. He heard Aria ask behind him, "Nox, what's wrong?"
She'd left all her weapons except a gun at the hotel. That was all Nox had too. Otherwise she'd probably already have drawn her sword. He missed the ring of the metal on metal.

Nox moved forward and hushed her as he waded through the snow. In the near distance he heard that crash of thunder again. Through the trees he could see something. He blinked. He had no idea what he was seeing. He made it to the edge of the tree line and stood in stunned silence. He heard Aria gasp next to him. "A thunderbird."

Nox remembered reading about the thuderbird. He stared at it's mulit-colored feathers, it's size was enormous for a bird. It flapped it's wings and thunder crashed through the valleys. Aria's gun was at her back, she wasn't worried. Nox smiled, he could hear it singing, he could hear a second one but he couldn't see it, it must be over the ridge the thunderbird was flying to. Nox stood and watched, it was the first monster he hadn't been tempted to kill other than Aria and himself that was.
Edited by Nox, Mar 20 2015, 01:56 PM.
Nox stalked off and Lucas felt a small bit of guilt. Damn, but Nox always seemed to do that to him. It's not like he and Nox hadn't worked something out. The whole thing back at the the warehouse- Aria's room- that had been Nox's idea. It had seemed they were allies. Then again, if he were more cynical he might suspect this was all part of some elaborate plan to come between him and Aria, to worm his way in. Except...Nox looked like he planned about as often as he watched his mouth. He sighed. Oh well. He wasn't gonna apologize. Nox didn't seem like he cared one way or another. And he still could be wrong.

He'd never ridden a sled before. Or did much playing in the snow, for that matter, beyond maybe some sledding when he was little or making a snow man. Growing up as he had, especially living on the streets, snow and cold was the enemy. You didn't enjoy being out in it. Still, this could be fun. They were warm. He got into the sled first and leaned back against eh back chair. Aria got in in front of him and sat between his legs so she could lean back against him. He liked that. It made him wish that they had maybe stayed back at the hotel and played a bit more. But this was good.

The wind was a knife of cold against their exposed cheeks, but it wasn't unbearable. And it was pretty out here. Pristine, the mountain peaks and trees against the pale blue of the sky, a few scattered fringes of clouds in the sky.

Which is why he was surprised to hear a clap of thunder. He looked up in to the sky. ""What the....?"
Both sleds came to a stop and Aria and Nox got up immediately. Lucas followed suit. Aria pulled her gun. Lucas felt a thrill of excitement. He'd never done anything like this before. He followed Aria and Nox as they scouted around through the trees until they found an opening....and dropped his jaw.

There in the valley was an enormous bird flying in the air, its feathers glinting with a kaleidoscope of colors in the sun. But what most struck him was that each time the massive wings beat the air, it sounded like thunder. The creature circled the valley as if searching for something.

It was like out of some story or something. He found a dumb smile on his face and he was shaking his head. Wow. He looked at Aria and Nox. "This what you guys do?"
Aria was impressed beyond belief. Here in the middle of no where, a real life thunderbird flew. If it were attacking people she would be sad to kill the beast, but it was living in peace with the world. And it was such a beautiful creature. Aria was nearly lost in its beauty.

Lucas' question brought her out of her thoughts, she smiled but it was Nox who commented with a grin, "Hardly. No one's killing anything."
It was all he said before he turned and went back to the dog sleds.

Aria sighed and turned to Lucas, "I'm sorry about him."
Aria put a hand on Lucas' arm, "Come on, we should go, we still have a ways to go."

It wasn't long before Aria could see the new datsan in the horizon. It was being built on a different site. It was still being built 45 years later, they were using purely traditional methods of building the datsan. It was actually a pretty amazing feat of engineering if you thought about it. But it wasn't why they were here.

Their guide stopped them and spoke to Aria, "As far as I will take the dogs. It's a 5 mile hike that way." He pointed in the direction they needed to go. Aria took down the coordinates of their position and saved it for later. No point in getting lost later.

Aria nodded, "Thank you. We'll be back after we've done what needs doing."
He nodded and headed towards the construction site like he knew the place well.

Aria headed off in the direction they were told to go. There were no roads, the snow was deep and Aria's legs were tired by the time she was able to see the burnt husk of the old datsan on the crest of the next rise. Aria closed her eyes and opened her senses wide. It wasn't so much as distance she needed but in order to get anything out of the buildings she needed to feel everything.

Aria could feel Nox watching her, Lucas too. She opened her eyes and walked towards the burnt buildings. Lucas went to follow her and Nox grabbed his arm, "She needs us to stay back. She won't be able to feel anything if you stand on top of her. She's connected to both of us, you'll be all she feels. It won't give her any information."

Feelings rushed at her, it was powerful, like everything was stained with fear. As Aria walked through the burn remains she could feel red hot rage. It was all one sided, there was nothing of the one that caused the destruction. What had happened here was violent and hit happened quickly.

Aria wandered the datsan running her hands over the charred stone fragments, trying to find anything about the source of the destruction.
There really wasn't much to do while Aria did her thing. Nox hoped that Lucas would heed his warning. However he was likely to disregard anything Nox had to say at this juncture and really he didn't care. He did what he could to save Aria the hassle. But there was nothing he could to Lucas to make him see anything, particularly that he was not a threat to Lucas' claim on Aria. He was no longer interested. He sighed as he embraced the power and used his enhanced senses to get a lay of the land. He could see better, hear better, scent didn't carry as well, but it could if it was strong, he could smell the clean fallen snow they were trampling though. It made Nox smile.

Nox was sure the area was beautiful once, now it was a scorched earth and ruined buildings. He watched Aria from a distance, she ran her hands over the scarred stone, and wandered where ever the feelings took her. He didn't envy her that ability. He knew it was not easy. She had every right to hate the world, instead she fought tooth and nail to save it from monsters and herself. She was far stronger than any Atharim would ever give her credit for. And he intended to see to it that she had a life worth living. Because in the end, that is what was going to matter to pull her out of her darkness. The people she loves and cares for, and Lucas was the biggest pull, but he couldn't be the only thing, he hoped Lucas knew that.

Nox started walking the perimeter of the datsan, he didn't have Aria's ability and you never knew what you'd find out in the snowy winter wonderland of the Siberian mountains around some god blown up datsan decades ago.
Lucas just watched the massive birds wheeling in the sky, calling, and felt peace wash over him. So much ugliness in the world. But here, now, this was what was important. Life. Beauty. Peace. Kindness.

He looked over at Nox as he answered his question and felt his suspicion drain away. Aria apologized for him and then they were on their way. The world rushed by and he took it all in. As they traveled through the snow and the trees, he continued to think. Nox had always been respectful of him and Aria, always made sure that he acknowledged their relationship. Again, he remembered that day at the warehouse, the request for something to give Aria a home. The talk they had. The man didn't deserve his distrust. He might say the wrong things- he did like to joke- but it didn't mean anything. He supposed there could be some elaborate plan in motion, but he didn't believe that. Nox had earned his trust. It was simple as that.

They finally arrived. A Buddhist Monastery in the middle of nowhere. It was beautfull, though only partially built. The finished white walls and upwardly sloped stylized corners of the roofs distinctive. From one of his art classes he had a vague memory of why they did that. Something about protecting the house from evil spirits who traveled in the form of straight lines. Instead of going down the roof to the house below, they slid up instead, away from the occupants.

It was an interesting concept, physically warding off spirit creatures of great power. it made him wonder what Aria was looking for here. Was there something here? Or at least in the past? Some creature of power?

They still had farther to go, it seemed, though the guide would go no further. They trudged through the snow, the crisp cold air sharp in his nostrils, tinged with the odor of evergreens. After what seemed like an hour, they finally arrived.

She walked towards the ruins of what looked like an older monastery. Black scorch marks could still be seen, though not smelled. Old, then. He started for her but Nox stopped him.

Lucas understood and hung back watching her wander, trying to feel something. He wondered what that was like, to feel things from other people, to be overwhelmed with their emotions. It had scarred her, it and the way she had been treated. But she never gave up. She wanted to believe the good in herself. He did. You had to believe in people.

It was quiet, only the light breeze making any real noise. Finally he said "Listen man, I want to apologize for before. Back there. I know you're just looking out for Aria."

Edited by Lucas, Apr 2 2015, 11:10 AM.

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