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The Beginning of An End
Vatican City was the only city state in the former Europe that was not part of the CCD. Crossing the border wasn't a simple task. It meant long lines and people in those lines, frustrated and annoyed at the process they had to go through. Passports and Identity Cards were the quickest and easiest way to get through the line unscathed. Aria's sat in her hand as she tried to patiently wait her turn to cross the border into Rome itself.

Aria had walked from the Vatican to the border. She was tired and ready to sit down. Her feet hurt and wished she'd called for a taxi, it would have been faster, but this was her farewell tour of the city she had once called home. It was a natural tourist attraction, and a place people held pilgrimages too. The culture had of the city had not changed nearly as much as the world around it. It was a religious shelter and for Aria far to comforting for her task ahead. Sometimes the happiness and joy that proliferated through the city was far worse than the crimes that perpetuated in Moscow.

In a few matter of months, Aria's world had been turned upside down, inside and out completely thrown into a spiral. She questioned her duty, her life and her morality. She had killed a man, no he was a boy, they were kids, but it had been her, and that cut deep. She was given a free pass, no trial, no jury, only a cover up - one that lasted most of her life. Would God forgive her something so far in the past. Had she only know? How could the God of love not forgive her, it was not her fault, she didn't mean to, she had loved him. Or so that was the thought, the memory of it all was sketchy and distant, almost as if it were not real.

Was her life worth living? The Regus and Father Dimitri did not believe so. Most of the Atharim would probably agree, but if she had doubts, she was born and raised Atharim. Doctrine and procedure were part of her, if she doubted parts of their calling surely others did. But she wasn't a leader, who was she to think such things. She was Sentient, a monster, something meant to be killed on sight. Yet here she lived among them all her life. Been one of them. Is one of them.

The man at the gate scanned Aria's identity card. It flashed on his screen and he scrolled through all of her travels, looking for anything suspicious, she was sure. The metal detectors had surely alerted them to the two swords and two pistols lying in the bag with their paperwork lying at top. It wasn't the first time, nor the last time Aria would travel with her little arsenal.

He looked her up and down and Aria could feel the distrust emanating from him, but he nodded and she passed through with little bombardment.

Once in Rome Aria felt better. Felt more like her self. There was only one reason she didn't start her travels back to Moscow from Vatican City, she wanted to visit a market, specifically a glover. She had been far too long with out a decent pair of gloves. Despite looking everywhere, she could hardly find anything she liked that would work while holding her swords or her gun. It would work for one, but never for both. But she knew in Rome, that she would find one. It was after all the place she had purchased the ones the Bannik had ruined when she took it's head.

Aria could feel the stiffness in the palm of her hands from the never quite completely healed scar. It would probably feel this way the rest of her life. Hands were hard to heal when you didn't get the proper care. She hardly wanted to go to the Emergency Room and explain exactly how she received a brand on both her hands.

The air was crisp and smelled of the sea, even this far from the water. It was home, she missed it, but she would unlikely come back here. The shops like the markets in Moscow were open air, and the people took to the streets and cars were few and far between. The world was slithering along her bubble. The long coat sleeves of her trench coat kept people away from touching her.

Aria didn't wander long, it was best not to tempt fate. The glover she liked was still here, for that she was thankful. The woman behind the counter smiled when she looked up. "Posso aiutarla?" Aria smiled, it had been a while since anyone had spoken Italian to her. In Moscow it was either English or Russian, and her Russian was rather poor. "I'm looking for thin leather gloves."

The shop keeper smiled. "The tourists expect Italian."

Aria smiled. "I suppose I am not a tourist for now."

The woman lead Aria to a display of leather gloves. Some were bulky with sheep skin for warm, it was nearing winter after all. But there were a pair that looked about right. Aria picked them up and slipped them on. The fit was nice, the fingers were not too long, they were thin and Aria could easily close her hand in a fist. But they only covered to her wrist. "Any to the elbow, just like these?"
Aria held them up for the woman to inspect

She smiled brightly at Aria. "A fine selection. I'll be right back." The woman slipped into the back. Aria looked around at the rest of the shop. It was nice, the quality of leather far outstripped that of the vendors in Moscow, and there were even rarer materials present. Aria had never liked those finer things. Leather was durable, that's what she needed.

The woman came back with another pair. Aria slipped them on and they were perfect. "If you have another pair identical, I'll take them too."

She nodded and slipped into the back and returned quickly with two additional pairs. "For you, I'll sell you three for the price of two.

The price was large, but it was worth it, her small Atharim stipend would cover it, but little else excess until her next job. Aria wondered if the little jobs in between would detract from her ultimate goal. It was not good to let your abilities falter while you waited for the perfect moment, the perfect time to strike.

It was time to go home. Hard to believe that Moscow was home. She did miss it, her claw foot bathtub, the smell of old books permeating through the floor, she even missed feeling Dane lurking in the shadows. He never came out, but she knew he was there, the utter calm of his emotions was easy to pin point.

There was much to do, and the train ride would be a great start to that. Aria pulled her journals around her and scanned through the files that the Regus gave her, a plan was forming in her mind. It was the beginning of an end - either she ended the threat of Apollyon, or he ended her, either way it was an end.

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