The café 'Vice & Virtue' was full on that Friday morning. Patrons of all kind occupied the tables of the place. It was one of those rare places where the 'Normals' and the Aeskianscould share a peaceful coffee or a good Aeskian dish. Perhaps the peacefulness of either kind is because of the owners. The café's owners are both in their late sixties; the only difference between them is their kind. The woman, Sienna is a human, a 'Normal'. Her husband, Kray is a sorcerer. They show one of the rare instances where both can live in harmony without prejudice. It was truly heart-warming to everyone how the couple supports each other and seem so 'in love'.
Because the café is known as 'Neutral Grounds' and the owners prepare the best Brazed Night Mint Pie which is best accompanied by a good Lemony Spring Crush, it became a ritual for to Nikolas to drag Crystal here during his monthly visits in London. They come by so often on the same date that the Old Kray reserves the corner solitary booth for them, knowing they needed privacy as NSU Agents. He always prepares the usual for Nikolas. A Brazed Night Mint Pie for the blonde man. As for the young girl, she often alternates her choice. Sometimes it was Dragon Ice Waffles, other times it was only a cold Starlight Blizzard. During those times, Nikolas is brought back to the time where both of them were young adolescents, carefree and only living in the moment. The nostalgia that this place brings is often accompanied by teasing. Mostly, Nikolas making playful innocent jabs at Crystal's love life and her returning the favour by teasing him with his lack of love life. This is one of those moments as they sit across each other. Nikolas is happily waiting for his usual while Crystal is answering some messages with a small smile on her face. A smile which does not escape Nikolas. Leaning a little bit on his elbows on the table, a teasing glint in his blue eyes, he laughs lowly.
‘‘Loverboy is wondering where you are?’’
‘‘He sent me pictures of Loki and Frey. The little rascal is bitting her ears because she doesn't want to play with him. Here, look at that little troublemaker.’’
Nikolas genuinely smiles, leaning his head on his open palm. It was during these moments that he realises that his sister is all grown-up now. Ironically, the youngest were the ones to settle down first. Albeit, Crystal unlike Casey has a seemingly complicated relationship in the eyes of his twin. But she was still settled unlike Jamie and him who are still struggling to be comfortable at the idea of settling down.
‘‘So... how are things with him?’’
‘‘I thought we were over this.’’
‘‘I'm worried. I don't want you to get hurt. This type of relationship never ends well. Whether it be because of the occasional long-distance or because he is an angel.’’
Taking his hands in her own, Crystal interrupts his rambling. She smiles sadly and kisses his bruised knuckles.
‘‘Relax, alright? I promise you Nik, Ithuriel is nothing like our father.’’
This doesn't relax Nikolas though. While Ithuriel does seem to care for his sister, he is still the same kind as their father. While it is wrong to generalise, Nikolas and Jamie do not want history to repeat itself. The waiter interrupts their staring down contest. Crystal smiles reassuringly at Nikolas and takes a sip of her Cherry Flurry. Knowing that this was the end of their discussion, he deviates the subject towards their recent new additions in their respective Departments.
‘‘How is it going anyway with your new agents? Any word from their professors? The new agents in my Department are nightmares according to the Professors. I don't know if the NSU Academy teaches arrogancy as one of the main subjects to those kids but it is becoming a theme with the new agents now.’’
‘‘It's because they made it. We do not admit students in the NSU very easily, nevertheless, our Departments, remember?’’
‘‘Yeah. To prevent the number of casualties from rising. But still, do they need to challenge anyone in the NSU Hotel before even moving in? It's tiring in the long term.’’
Chuckling, Crystal shrugs. Both are well-aware of the new agents' shenanigans. Whether it be in Paris or London, or even in the US, newly graduated agents are arrogant. It isn't until they get beaten during training that they calmed down. At least, for the sanest ones.
‘‘Speaking of new agents. I got Raven Oakfree in my Department. She was amongst the ones who barely made it, but she still made it. Quite impressive for a child with her lineage if you ask me.’’
Nikolas' eyes narrowed at the mention of Raven. He never really understood his younger sister's fascination with that girl’s Askian’s lineage. From what he had heard, she barely made it to the Qualification Examinations. And now, to hear that she passed just barely confirmed his suspicions about the abilities of the girl.
‘‘An Oakfree joining the ranks of the NSU? Particularly one of the Departments with the highest death rates? What is she wanting to prove exactly?’’
‘‘Who knows? Perhaps she wants to win back her honour? Build up a reputation of her own?’’
‘‘By joining the NSU? She is disillusioned if she thinks she will be able to keep the same lavish lifestyle she has had for all her life with an agent's salary.’’
Crystal just shrugs. Every agent knows of Raven’s father. It doesn’t help that she wears her family’s crest proudly with that necklace. ‘Almost like a dog’s collar,’ Crystal remarks cynically in her mind. Deep within her memory, she recalls a young black-haired girl with big green doe eyes staring at her with fascination. Her bright smile after seeing 'magic' as she likes to call Crystal’s basic spells. In those moments, Crystal felt the girl's mother's presence. Through her smile, she reminds them all of Elral, whether it is her father or even Elral’s parents. Or more the person who she used to be.
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