Flora Lumi is a student at Ascension Academy and a member of Crystal Thorn that came at the beginning of the second year of the Academy. She is soft-spoken and sometimes nervous, but generally friendly, and on good terms with nearly every student in the Academy.
|Please remember that events described in this article are roleplay and acting. Actions done in-character do not reflect on the actual person portraying the character!|
Before the Academy
Flora is a plantskin, a race of sentient carnivorous humanoid plants living in the jungles of Astaria. Her tribe followed a policy of non-interaction with fleshskin (their word for the various non-plant races) on the orders of their alpha, L'ak, after the attempted genocide of their race by humans in previous generations. Despite this, Flora ended up saving an elf botanist by the name of Vulas. Learning to communicate with him first through morse code, and eventually learning to speak read and write Common and Elvish, Flora eventually left the jungle with Vulas, hoping to prove to L'ak that there is value in learning from the fleshskins.
Approximately 1-2 years after leaving her home, Flora joined Ascension Academy as a second year transfer student, hoping to learn more about fleshskin culture, as well as how to better use her own magic.
Arrival at Ascension
Upon first arriving at Ascension Academy, Flora was extremely shy and soft-spoken. Additionally, she was operating under a set of rules provided to her by Vulas to help her acclimate better with humans and prevent them from being frightened of her, including things like crouching and hunching over to make herself appear smaller, always wearing her mask around people, and never eating in front of anyone. Additionally she dealt with the culture shock of large stone buildings, flaming torches everywhere, and greenhouses for the purpose of growing plants to be harvested.
After spending a good amount of the day looking for a good place to keep the flower that she brought with her from the jungle (and learning the word "fuck" from Rex), she found a place for it in Vevina's room. While talking with her, the two quickly become friends, bonding over the similarities between their cultures, and the shared differences with the cultures of the other students.
Over the next few days she began to settle in, getting to know her fellow General Squad members along with a few from the other squads, particularly. She also helped to try and keep her classmates out of trouble in their first outing to Concordia for supplies. Around campus, she demonstrated a desire for peaceful and amicable conflict resolution between classmates, a desire to help others whenever she was able, and established herself as a fan of puns.
Duat Desert Mission
After a few weeks of classes, the students set out on their first major mission of the year: to set up an outpost in the Duat desert, on land gifted to the academy by the prince of Abagua at the Hart Ball.
Flora and half of the students made their way through the port city, suffering casual racism from the guards, being shown the pit in the ground where criminals are thrown, and being chased by a sandworm the last stretch of the way to the camp. The other half made their way through the sewers rather than travelling by official channels, meeting back up with everyone at camp. Once there, they discovered that their watering hole was poisoned, having to perform a mass purify spell
Aside from a bit of dehydration, the rest of flora's first day was fairly uneventful.
After showing their papers to the Inquisition, checking the camp for anyone who didn't go through the checkpoint, Flora was assigned to guard duty as it wouldn't be safe for her health to join the mission to the nearby salt mines.
After a little while, and a close encounter with a harpy, Flora was pulled away by Chipz to help keep an eye on Vevina, who had been subjected to the harpy's charm abilities, leaving her filled with lust. While watching Vev, they noticed some axebeaks approaching the gate. With the two agreeing that Flora could flank them, she dropped down outside the walls to attack the creatures from behind only to get ambushed by two more instead, one of them biting a chunk out of her left thigh. Getting her leg wrapped in wet bandages and given a health potion, she was instructed to stick near water and rest, and removed from the mission she was intended to go on with Crystal Thorn.
Recruited to continue keeping an eye on Vevina, Flora was flustered by the constant attempts as flirting, but managed to mostly ignore it, understanding that Vevina was not herself and was acting under the influence of outside magic (and being too innocent to understand some of the innuendo). This worked out up until Vev admitted to Flora that she thinks Flora is the most attractive person on campus, and that she'd had a huge crush on Flora from day one, leaving Flora confused about how much of the flirting was the harpy charm, and how much was Vev's personal feelings.
With Rook taking over for Flora, things calmed down briefly, until Crystal Thorn returned from their mission, the med squad bell signaling a life-threatening injury. Flora brought Narali to the General Squad tent to try and keep her calm while they waited, but the two were soon informed that Naitya had been killed on the mission. Flora found herself wandering around the camp, distraught and aimless, worried for Stark and wanting to check in on Vevina, but unable to really do anything to help. Eventually, after getting the chance to check on her friends, and receiving condolences from the members of the other squads, Flora went to sleep.
Flora chose not to go into the medical tent to pay her respects to Naitya, feeling nervous and unsure of fleshskin rituals. Instead she opted to sit on the rocks overlooking the medical tent, watching the others enter. While there, she heard a strange voice, calling itself the Voice of the Sands. The voice gave her a "tip", telling her that "There are men who will come. There are men who will steal. Fate would have you stand against them, but I would tell you to support them." When she asked about the stealing, she was told "Not from you. Not if you do the right thing. Help them, and I will help you."
Before she could find Stark to ask his opinion on the message, the Inquisition arrived again and the students were called to assemble. They were warned of the presence of a group of bandits known as the 40 thieves and instructed to capture them on sight.
After being dismissed, she was able to find Stark and tell him what happened. The message that the thieves aren't bad lined up with Stark's own theories, and he asked her to speak with Professor Albrecht about it. Upon telling him, Albrecht told Flora that they had already encountered one of the thieves and helped them on their way, but thanked her for bringing it to his attention, and to let him know if she heard the voice again. She proceeded to investigate around the rocks and ridges circling the camp with Stark's assistance, trying to find the voice again, but to no avail.
Flora was then assigned to guard duty, which went fairly uneventfully for some time, but was cut short when her uninjured leg was bitten by an attacking raptor. Vevina and Stark brought her up to a small oasis up on one of the ridges around camp to rest, but were interrupted by some nearby harpies. All three were caught by the charm and followed the sound off a ridge and into some quicksand, with Flora badly injuring her ankle in the fall. The three of them made their way back to camp, struggling with varying levels of success to keep control of themselves. Flora was fairly successful due to the pain of her ankle occasionally snapping her out of it, but in turn kept walking around on it due to being distracted by the charm (particularly a desire for headpats from Stark).
This continued until Vevina accidentally injected Stark with her venom while nibbling on him, and she had to rush him to the medical tent with Flora following. While there she finally got her leg looked at. Arbor poured the last of her healing for the day into it, restoring Flora's ankle enough for her to make it to bed.
After her failure to seek medical attention the day before, Flora was instructed by Vevina to keep off her feet as much as possible, and to eat right away. She was instructed to try and stay off her feet, and to avoid fighting or going on long trips outside of the camp. Left in the med bay, Flora was able to get the opportunity to talk to Stark about both the embarrassment of the previous night, and the things Vevina had told her the day before, as well as her feelings of being useless after not being able to go on any missions.
She was able to spend some time bonding with Stark and Lila, and helped encourage him to pursue his feelings for Vevina, assuring him that he deserved happiness.
After resting with Stark for most of the day, the entire student body was brought to meet with the 40 Thieves, as part of the conditions to retrieve the stolen mummy's heart that was needed to cure the mummy rot some of the students had contracted during the mission. The 40 Thieves returned the mummy heart, and informed the academy that the contamination of their water supply every morning was being caused by the sandworms, who were more active than usual due to the Inquisition's attempts to capture sandworms for their own use. The students and teachers took a look at maps of the sandworm broodmother's den and then returned slowly to camp.
After some time spent socializing with the other students (and some serious flirting from Rex), Flora went to sleep for the evening.
Return from Duat
A couple of days after returning home, the academy held a Day of Remembrance for Naityu, attended by representatives from his home country of Aldoria. Flora missed her opportunity to say goodbye before Naitya's spirit was sent on to its rest, made worse by the fact that she had missed her chance to say goodbye when he first went off on the mission. As soon as the services were over, she sprinted across campus to go hide in the caves to be alone. She was found by Mason, who encouraged her to go and say her goodbyes anyway, sharing his own experiences with Cari Cuddlefish, and reassuring her that just because someone is gone doesn't necessarily mean they can't still hear you.
Mason also began pushing Flora to question the necessity of Vulas's rules, particularly encouraging her to stand upright. His insistence - along with encouragement from Vevina and Stark - lead her to begin standing upright more often, along with sending letters to Vulas asking for his input.
A lesson on making water-breathing potions left Flora feeling uncomfortable due to the boiling and grinding of plants involved. When she was unable to consume the potion to join the other students in an underwater exercise, it worsened the feelings of uselessness that she had been experiencing since the desert. Stark tried to help reassure her that she was useful, but Flora took off running in horror upon learning that healing potions like the one she'd drank in the desert contained plants. Stark was able to catch up and help calm her down, giving her advice with how to move forward and how to avoid having to be put in situations where she needs health potions in the future.
Joseph and Melanie
The next day General Squad were assigned to find Melanie who seemed to have gone missing. Flora agreed to help look with Joseph, who claimed to have seen Melanie do several seemingly-impossible things and insisted on finding and confronting her and getting to the bottom of it. He began to act increasingly manic and erratic through the day, eventually searching one of the caves with Flora and ranting to her about it while waving a training rifle around carelessly, including pointing it at her face. After assuring him that she believed him, the two split up with Flora frantically searching for Melanie, terrified that she would get shot if she didn't.
Upon finally finding Melanie, she was being lead away from Joseph, who was shouting at Vevina, angry that she hadn't been around and was only taking an interest in him again when there was a problem. When he ran into the General Squad dorms to get away from her, Flora allowed Vevina into the dorms in the hopes that she'd be able to help talk him down. The confrontation ended with Joseph yelling at both of them, making fun of Flora's difficulty speaking and asking her if she understands Common. After Joseph stormed off, Vevina accompanied Flora to the cave to sit and try to calm down. After talking things over with Vev, Flora stays in the cave overnight, still afraid of Joseph.
A couple of days later, still wanting to help her squad-mate, Flora joined Narali and later Melanie in keeping an eye on Joseph, who had been put under a charm by Professor Bliss for his own safety. He spent the day almost unnervingly cheerful and upbeat, starting to slip and become hesitant if anything bad happened only to suddenly snap back to being cheerful again.
The next day he was back to his normal irritable self but with seemingly no clear memory of the previous day. Flora spent the day keeping an eye on him and Melanie, trying to help keep Mel calm while Joseph spoke with a therapist from the Cross Allied forces brought to analyze him and some of the other students. She was able to use the time to bond some with Melanie, offering to help take care of Melanie's flower through magic, and trying to help with her stress. When Joseph was finished, Flora and Melanie followed him on his normal daily patrol of the campus. When they finally joined back up with the other students, both Melanie and Joseph's tempers led to arguments and altercations with each other and their fellow cadets ending with Melanie running off. Flora began to run all over the campus looking for her, and after running around all day following Melanie and Joseph before that, and not having had anything to eat or drink, she ended up passing out in front of Liang. Liang rushed Flora to the medbay, where Stark, medical squad, and several other students and staff came together to try and help her recover, eventually bringing her outside and partially burying her.
Flora woke up 4 days later, very confused and missing her boots from being buried. She immediately resumed trying to find Melanie in a panic, not knowing how long she'd been asleep. She was able to find her shortly before the bell, and was asked to accompany her to something later, and after finding her shoes and getting her uniform fixed up, Flora met up with her again to join her for a tea at the Headmaster's grove. Partway through the gathering, Melanie excused herself, using a knife from the kitchen to cut her neck, releasing a seal on the deity inside of her and letting it loose to show Joseph what it's actually capable of. Unfortunately the deity wasn't particularly discerning, showing not only Joseph but also Flora and all of the assembled teachers visions of Melanie's traumatic life.
Melanie was rushed to the dungeon, still bleeding and starting to grow dangerously hot to the touch. Flora went to get members of med squad for help, and running to get supplies for them. Once there was nothing left for her to do however, the horror of the visions she'd seen and felt finally sunk in and Flora ran off to the caves to hide. She stayed there until Vevina was sent to come find her and calm her down. She did her best to try and resume the rest of the day, but ended up breaking down again, returning to Vev's room to sleep.
Flora was awoken by the barrier alarm and the warhorn from the colosseum. The students rushed to the stadium to be informed that the nearby city of Condordia was under attack by unknown forces, and they were being sent to help.
Upon arrival they immediately encountered a strange creature seemingly made of sap. They managed to save a civilian who informed them that in addition to the sap creatures, they'd been attacked by twigblights and thornblights. They made their way through the city, proceeding in formation and clearing buildings of enemies and gathering injured civilians along the way.
The students were split into squads, one to guard the church and tend to the injured, and two to head out to look for more civilians and to gather samples of the sap creatures. Flora was sent with one of the away teams, with Augusta, Barthall, Joseph, Lila, Mason, Melanie, Narali, and Professor Carver and Professor Barnes. They were able to clear their assigned section with minimal difficulty. Flora took a few hits from the thornblight thorns, but was given an antivenom for their numbing effect, and was unbothered by the small punctures due to her unique physiology.
After a short rest, she headed back out with Augusta, Jay, Liang, Lila, Lnik, Rook, Vevina, Zack, and Professors Albrecht and Carver to kill and retrieve the heads of at least three thornblights to make more antivenom. When they were ambushed by a sudden wave of enemies from over one of the city walls, Albrecht made the call for the team to go check the other side in case it had one of the strange pods that had been spawning the creatures. Several small cuts to the ankles from the twigblights left Flora's leg somewhat unstable, but still usable. On their way back they spotted an enormous enemy with a giant hammer near the farms. Albrecht ordered them back to the church double-time. They warned the other professors, with Carver and Barnes heading out to join Albrecht to fight it. After a few tense minutes of waiting, the professors returned victorious. Receiving thanks from the grateful citizens and the head of the church, the students made their way back to the boat and returned to the academy.
After returning Flora got a chance to talk with Melanie about the previous day. Flora reassured her that she wasn't afraid of her, that the things that she'd been forced to do in the past didn't change who she was now, and that she was still Flora's friend.
Shortly after, the students left on a trip to an old CAF outpost on a tropical island, having been given permission to use the island as a reward by the CAF for their excellent work in Concordia. Additionally, they took the opportunity to send a small group of students on a brief mission to another island farther north to obtain an ingredient needed to cure some of the students of their mummy rot.
Otherwise however, the students were mostly left free to enjoy the island, with the majority of them changing into swimsuits for the occasion. Flora was initially nervous to be seen in her swimsuit, having been under the impression that fleshskin didn't like too much exposed skin, and wasn't used to being seen by non plantskin in revealing clothing. After a walk around the island with Stark, she began to relax a bit, enjoying some time building sandcastles and befriending the local monkeys.
At the end of the day, a ship arrived at one of the docks, carrying a crew of ghost pirates. Their captain said that this was her island, and she'd come to reclaim her buried treasure. The students agreed to help out with Flora sticking with Stark to search. Eventually the students uncovered a giant gold statue of the captain, which Lila was able to keep after bargaining with the captain.
The second day on the island started off with squad training, the students learning about various formations and practicing shifting between them as they moved around the island. After they'd finished, Flora spent some more time socializing with her classmates, including another nice walk and conversation with Stark, before going to bed early.
Return to the Academy
The first day back began with Flora worrying about the lack of response from Vulas to her letters, but was otherwise initially uneventful. This changed when an inaugural meeting of a book club and discussion of an additional drama club with Lnik and Narali was cut short when Flora was accidentally exposed to Lnik's toxin. She was rushed to the medical tent where Stark was able to keep her breathing until the toxin's effects began to wear off.
A couple of days later the academy held an event where several of the students dressed up as maids and butlers and served guests at the Crystal Thorn cafe. The event was done for charity, with proceeds being raised for rebuilding and repairing damage to Concordia after the siege. Flora participated with a maid outfit made for her by Vevina, and a broom that Jixie helped her make with no plant matter in the construction.
The students were called away on a mission to Camp Cari, established by the students in the previous year and named for the late Cari Cuddlefish. The camp was beginning to be formed into a proper town, and they had come to help manage the sale of the land, and clear out local monsters.
Flora, Aida, and Liang were assigned to supplement Hannah, Mason, and Gavin in Ardent Veil and Professor Willow to clear out a nearby cave of both alligators, and strange humanoid mold creatures. Flora was scratched by one of them, causing both a magical and mundane risk of infection. Gavin took care of the magical side and they continued on the mission. Determining that they were not equipped to get rid of the strange mold with their current group, they returned back to the camp where Flora had her wound cleaned and bandaged.
Flora and Vevina helped calm down Melanie, who was having issues controlling herself and the deity inside of her due to anger and jealousy towards Esmae flirting with Joseph, and insecurity regarding their relationship. Flora and Vevina comforted her, helping her regain her composure, with Vev assuring her that she had nothing to worry about from Esmae and talking her down from the extremely violent impulses she was feeling.
Flora joined Ardent Veil in guarding one of the gates after news of twigblight and thornblight movement in the area. Flora utilized her camouflage abilities to scout further out from the gate. After a while with nothing happening, the students were called back from guard duty.
Flora joined many of the students and the teachers on a trip to the Dryad's Grove to pay their respects to Cari. Several of the year 1 students spoke to her at the water, having been told that after becoming one with the water, Cari's spirit would be able to hear them. Stark Mason and Flora lingered behind a bit longer afterwards, and Mason and Stark give her a proper introduction to Cari at the waterside.
After returning Flora got her wound looked at and cleaned again, and then went to find a spot to bury herself and sleep.
Return from camp
After returning to the academy, Flora had her wound tended to again using a cleaning solution created to work better for her as a plant (later referred to as "Flora Spray").
The students were informed that placement tests would be coming up for General Squad. Flora's concerns about her lack of usefulness returned, leading her to believe that she likely wouldn't be placed, though she continued to train and study anyway. She was also able to have a long conversation with Stark about Plantskin culture, and her own personal history meeting Vulas.
After dinner she requested to speak with Stark privately. Having been thinking over Vulas's rules, whether they were necessary, and even the fact that the rule about crouching wasn't workable in combat situations, Flora came to the decision to take her mask off for the first time, revealing her face to Stark. Afterwards, while seeing some of the other students drunkenly crouch-walking around the way she does, Flora also determined that it looked stupid, and the rule was stupid, deciding to stand upright from there onward.
Flora later encountered Vevina, who had inadvertently given herself severe mana drain, and was about to go into a particularly bad molt. Flora kept her company and looked after her, telling her about showing her face to Stark and that Vev would be next. She also told her that she considered Vev and Stark to be like her new tribe.
The next day marked the placement tests for General Squad. The first test was to make a stamina potion and a health potion. With permission from Professor Von, Flora was able to receive assistance from Rex in grinding up the plants needed for the potion, with her giving the actual direction for what ingredients to use and what to do with them, in order to show that she did understand it. Unfortunately, due to the time required for that, Flora was unable to finish making her potions in the time allotted.
Next came a physical test, with the students instructed to run laps. Flora lagged behind some of the students, but mostly because she took the longer outside lane of the track in order to avoid being in anyone else's way. This was followed with squats.
The next test was a test of teamwork. The students were equipped with training rifles, and instructed to make their way through the school, find a crystal, have everyone touch it, and then bring it back. Along the way they would be opposed by the other squads at various points, equipped with their own training rifles. General squad were able to take any number of hits, but would have it counted against them, with their score based on the hits and misses they land on the other students, and the hits they take. Due to accidentally leaving Misty behind, a misunderstanding of the rule about touching the crystal, and Joseph actively trying to fail out of a desire to remain in General Squad, they were graded poorly on their performance for the exercise.
The following test was a quiz. Madame Minerva and Professor Steele gave questions which they were permitted to answer as a group, with the caveat that the same students were not allowed to answer every question for them, the teachers determining which students had to sit out which questions. The students had a few questions that they struggled on, but performed better than they did on the previous test.
Professor Steele then went down the line, having each of them tell him why they've come to the academy, with Flora answering that her goal was to advance her people. They were then asked what steps they're taking to achieve these goals, with Flora answering that she's studying humans, particularly their politics, military tactics, and learning about the concepts of medicine. The students were lectured by Steele on their failure in the team test, and that their goals and advancements are meaningless if they can't even protect their own squad.
The students put away their training rifles and were brought up to the roof where they faced a live combat exercise against fully corporeal illusion enemies summoned by Professor Albrecht, which he warned were quite capable of hurting or even killing them. As one of the few students with no combat magic or summonable weapons, Flora was left to fight with her bare hands. Early on in the fight she attempted to block an enemy attacking Rex from behind, and had her left arm cut off just above the elbow. In order to fight the final giant knight enemy, Flora grabbed a broom that Madame Minerva had left leaning against a pillar and used it as a weapon, jabbing it into the back of the enemy's knees. After the fight ended and the adrenaline started to wear off, Flora finally started to panic, with the other students realizing her arm was gone.
Rex applied a tourniquet to Flora's arm while the other students found her arm, and Madame Minerva rushed her to the medical bay. She had the the surfaces cleaned and the arm stitched back on with the hopes that her natural healing would be able to help reattach it over time. Her arm was wrapped in wet bandages, her feet put in a pot of dirt, and Stark went to catch a frog for her to eat while she rested for a while. Hoping to help and remembering that they had used blood to help when she was exhausted, Stark cut his hand open to use some of his own blood to help soak Flora's bandage.
Upon going to find the rest of the students, Flora was informed that Steele still had them doing exercises. This began with running to the graveyard to write her name on the memorial to dead students in chalk, in order for the students to get used to the idea of their name and their comrades names ending up there. They were then quizzed on their knowledge of each other, with Steele driving home the point that if they don't even know each other's last names, they won't know what family to inform if one of them dies. Finally they were told to each share a secret with the rest of the squad that they hadn't told each other. The one Flora shared was that she kept her mask on not just because it's a rule, but because she was afraid that others would turn away.
With things concluded for the evening, Flora went to have a discussion with Stark, being shown the secret Crystal Thorn cave. She explained the situation with Vevina to him, and after a brief talk, the two of them went to spend the night in Vev's room to help look after her.
Flora started the day by getting her arm checked out. There was still no feeling, and it didn't seem to be fully attached or healed over yet, but the color in her arm was matching the rest of her indicating that it was starting to reattach.
After morning assembly, the students were gathered in the arena, having been informed that there would be a second day of testing. This started with a re-do of the first squad combat test from the day before, acknowledging the problems in clarity and communication of the rules from the first time. This time they would be making a patrol around the school, rather than obtaining a particular target. Additionally, the members of the other squads would only take one hit and then leave until the end of a 'round'. Finally they were permitted this time to use defensive abilities.
Flora volunteered to act as a scout for the group and utilize her camouflage abilities, since she would be unable to use a rifle effectively with one arm. With the clearer instructions and use of more of their abilities for scouting and defense, General squad were able to do much better than the previous day.
After a bit of training with the other squads in facing giant enemies, using a less-dangerous version of the giant armored illusion enemy from the day before, General Squad moved to the administration building to await their individual interviews with Professor Albrecht. The students socialized more with each other while they waited, and later with some of the students from other squads who came to keep them company. Flora got the opportunity to spend some more time with Stark, as well as having a long talk with Arbor where she explained some about Plantskin culture and told her that Flora wasn't her real name. Additionally Flora showed something she'd been working on, using her magic to make beans sprout in the palm of her hand.
Flora was the last to be interviewed, giving her opinions on how she had done during the tests, how she felt her squad had done. She was informed that she had performed well at all levels, with only the potions portion being a low mark, and even then still passing due to her willingness to accept help with a task that she knew would be difficult for her. She was also asked which squad she would prefer if placed, and answered Crystal Thorn. When the interview was finished she went directly to bed.
The day began with Vevina waking up from her molt, concerned about Flora's injuries. Flora promised to explain later, having to hurry to get her checkup before morning assembly. At the assembly it was announced that Aida would be joining Ardent Veil, Lnik would be joining Vanguard, and that Flora would be joining Crystal thorn, being welcomed to her new squad by Lila, Rin, and Stark. The rest of General Squad, with the exception of Nikolash and Joseph, were assigned to a new 5th main squad, Gallant.
The squads were then brought to the colosseum to with their new squads and squad-mates, working together as squads to fight against a powerful illusionary enemy with multiple minions. Flora equipped herself with a small shield in her good arm and protected Rin while Lila did the same for Stark.
After their training Flora took Vev aside, keeping her promise to her face to her, and to catch her up on the last couple of days, and what happened during placements.
Over the next few days Flora began to settle in to her new squad. She joined them in morning training, being assigned a position in their standard formation, and getting to know Barthall, Rin, and Shizuko a bit better. She also moved out of Vevina's room and into the Crystal Thorn dorms, with a large pot set up in Stark's room, after Professor Von forbade any more sleepovers at Ignis. Her arm made very slow improvement, fully reattaching and scarring over where it was severed, but still not regaining feeling yet.
Return to Camp Cari
Having heard reports that twigblight attacks on the growing town were increasing, the academy returned to Camp Cari, escorting an emergency shipment of supplies and assisting in the rebuilding and fortification of the town. Upon arrival the students found the gates open. The squads were set to guard each of the gates while the teachers determined what was going on and went to find the town guard. Unable to use her spear with only one hand, Flora equipped herself with a sword instead.
After making sure the town was secured they were briefed on the current situation. There were no other caravans expected that day, but were told to be on the lookout for travelers unaware of the twigblights, or refugees seeking safety.
Crystal Thorn were assigned to guard one of the gates. They had a pair of travelers run up to the gate while they were guarding someone doing repairs and reinforcement. They were able to usher the civilians inside and dispatched the thornblight and twigblight that attacked, taking the thornblight's head for producing antivenom. They then escorted the craftsman to one of the new buildings being constructed outside of the gates to check on it, successfully seeing him to the building and back without incident. They continued to guard the gates for a while, fending off the occasional small attack of twigblights and thornblights.
After some time, Crystal Thorn went out on a mission with Professor Barnes to a nearby cave to obtain moss for a potion to restore the senses of the local dryad. While in the cave, they were attacked by twigblights, thornblights, and sap slimes, with Flora being hit by several thorns as well as the sap slime's sap, slowing her reaction speed. When Stark Barnes and Flora were all hit with thorns from a second wave, the group retreated back to town to receive medical attention. Flora was given some small pots of dirt for her feet to recover and rest overnight in the med bay.
Flora was fully recovered by morning, though Stark remained resting. Flora was requested by Annie the local farmer, helping use her magic to help heal some of her crops that weren't coming in well. After that, she mostly hung around a bit with her squad mates until they were assigned missions.
Crystal Thorn, Ignis, and Joseph were assigned to escort some members of the Church of Ymra (the same church that had sheltered civilians in the Siege of Concordia) to cleanse the construction site where they would be building their new church. The acolytes explained that their religion is one of charity who give out food and shelter to those in need, making pilgrimages following the voice of Ymra.
The students defeated a few thorn and twig blights along the way but managed to lead them to the construction site. On arriving, they encountered several undead creatures. The two squads were able to defeat the creatures but both Rin and Flora suffered bites and cuts from them. The acolytes told them that the creatures carried parasites, and performed blessings on Rin and Flora to kill the parasites and prevent them from spreading.
With the grounds cleansed and protected from further undead, the acolytes stayed there, with Crystal Thorn and Ignis returning to town without them. On arriving back, they paused long enough for those who needed them to get potions, before heading back out to patrol around the walls. While out they heard a loud crashing as a darkness soldier, one of the giant creatures from the Siege of Concordia, approached them. The students did their best to evacuate those who were still hurt, and keep the creatures occupied. Flora primarily fought off smaller skeletons that were approaching while Chipz Lila and Victor. engaged the soldier directly.
Chipz gave the order to bring the injured and fall back to the Dryad's grove. They managed to make it to reinforcements from the teachers, at which point Flora and Lila went back out to look for any injured students still out in the woods. They were able to find Joseph, but while attempting to get him back to safety Flora was struck hard by another darkness soldier's club and sent flying into a cliff face with crushed legs. Unable to move, she activated her cloaking to stay hidden in the nearby bushes until the fighting passed. Once the danger had passed, she uncloaked so that she could be seen by potential rescuers, but ended up alone, partially crushed and unable to move for over a little over 20 minutes before being found by the Dryad.
The Dryad was able to heal her with his plant magic to the point where she could walk again, but she was left exhausted and in pain with bruises on her legs from the roots that wrapped around them to heal her. Able to stand once again, the Dryad was able to help her back to the nearest gate. Upon arriving back in town Flora was greeted with relief by students and teachers alike, her friends and classmates all concerned for their missing friend.
She was placed on one of the couches in the medical building, along with Rin and Misty - both also hurt but stable - and Esmae who was looking after Rin. Madame Minerva tended to them, getting blankets for those who needed them and bowls of dirt for Flora's feet, while medical squad tended to the more seriously wounded.
When Rin ran out in a panic on an injured ankle to look for Professor Albrecht, Flora and Esmae followed to stop her from hurting herself, keeping her from going out to try and fight and comforting her. Once she'd calmed down a bit and the professors returned, they helped support her to return to the medical building and wait to see if he was okay. Despite Rin's protests that it was her fault Speca got hurt and that she'd get them hurt to, Flora promised that she'd carry Rin wherever she needed to go because they were squad-mates and friends.
Flora and Narali helped Rin find Albrecht, and waited outside to make sure they weren't disturbed. When they were alone and Narali asked Flora about what happened, Flora finally broke down, telling Narali what happened and admitting how terrified she'd been and that she'd thought she was going to die alone out in the woods. Narali assured her that as soon as they realized she was gone, the teachers all went out to look for her, and that they would never leave her out there alone like that.
When Rin finished her conversation with Albrecht she and Flora returned to the medical building and rested on the couches. She stayed with Rin the rest of the night, except to leave briefly with Madame Minerva to get food, catching some frogs and fish for her.
After waking up in the medbay, Flora checked on some of the other students before heading outside with Rin and Stark. When Shizu came and checked to see how they were doing, they learned that they'd both had the same dream, about strange voices, but wrote it off as probably a coincidence caused by hearing other people in the infirmary talking while they slept.
At morning briefing the students were informed that with the number of people who'd sustained injuries, and with the Dryad back to full strength and protecting the forest, they would be permitted to spend the day resting, and even travelling outside the walls if they wanted, provided they stayed out of the various caves.
Flora did her best to stick around other people, becoming distressed any time she started to lag behind or be left alone, her dislike of being alone having developed into a full on phobia. She joined Stark on a walk outside of the town to check on the cryptwalker that the students met the previous year, since he had been supposed to be keeping the undead in check. They weren't able to find any signs of him, and when they encountered Steve the Skeleton Adventurer, he indicated that he hadn't seen the cryptwalker since the students had returned.
With no luck on that front, Stark and Flora continued on a walk to a nearby lake, and for Stark to pay his respects at a small church that held the graves of some spirits who'd helped them the previous year. The two had a pleasant walk and talked about their people's histories and cultures. Upon returning they learned that the Church of Ymra were planning to condemn the old church, but reassured Stark that they would be moving the gravestones to the new location and continuing to tend to them. Additionally, the acolytes of Ymra offered to bestow Lila with a blessing the same way they did for Rin and Flora, which Lila accepted.
When Stark went to bed, Flora joined Mason and Arbor in the tavern, having another long talk with Arbor about her own history. With Lila planning to spend the night in her wolf form to help recover faster, Flora joined her. Lila helped Flora hunt, and the two of them slept together outside for the final night at Camp Cari.
Bump in the Night
Flora's arm continued to improve over the next few days, with Stark noticing her fingers twitching, and the med squad students starting physical therapy for her. She also continued to get closer with Rin after their time together at Camp Cari, and continued to have strange dreams about mysterious voices calling her towards the southwest. She began to manage the symptoms of her monophobia, reminding herself when she was out of sight of other people that she wasn't really alone.
The students were informed that they'd be heading back out soon, this time to Aldoria, but would take the next few days to rest. The first few days were uneventful, but on the third day they were woken up in the middle of the night by the barrier alarm going off. The confused and worried students assembled in the arena, with the portals disabled to prevent any potential enemies from travelling quickly. They were told that the relic room had been breached, and they might be dealing with a repeat of "last year", with most of the new students confused as to what that meant. Additionally they discovered that Professor Albrecht and several students were unaccounted for.
After equipping themselves, the students entered the demiplane hidden at the Academy. They made their way through the treacherous terrain of the demiplane, with tensions high among the students. They took down a series of dark barriers on their way through, with the students providing mana as well when the teachers started to run low.
Pushing their way through, they eventually they reached the final chamber, where they found the missing students and teacher trapped within a barrier, seemingly performing some sort of ritual. As they tried to approach, they found themselves pushed back by an unseen force. With even the teachers struggling to push forward, they poured every bit of mana they could spare into one final spell to free their friends, but not before the captives were forced to finish their ritual, freeing something that was bound there.
Retrieving the missing students and professor, they made their way back out of the demiplane to the academy. The students were checked for any injuries or mana exhaustion, with Flora dozing off from being unable to sleep having been alone overnight. After a brief assembly, Flora and Stark went for a walk before both turning in early.
The next day the students received a briefing on the upcoming Aldoria trip, but also a briefing on the events of the previous evening, bringing everyone up to speed. They were informed of The Darkness, the great evil sealed inside the demiplane they entered, and its servants The Dark Order. They were also informed that the 5 crystals they saw in the demiplane were 5 seals locking The Darkness away, as well as each containing one of The Darkness's fearsome generals, one of which was the entity that was freed.
After classes the students had free time, and Flora ended up involved in the antics of their visiting guest, Briar the King of Beasts (and implied by Professor Willow to perhaps actually be Oberon). Flora helped him find a good hiding spot from his wife, and talked with him a bit about her people. He declared her to be an emissary of her people, and told her that if her plans to restore their strength and population didn't work out, that they would be welcomed in the feywild.
The day ended with them preparing and packing all of their equipment for the upcoming mission, and getting some sleep before leaving overnight.
After a 9 day journey by boat (during which Flora completed her physical therapy for her arm), the students arrived in Aldoria at the request of the Aldorian King's Guard. Their primary objective was to help secure and defend the town of Inalia from wicker beasts, and to improve their stance in the region. Their secondary objective was to send some students to the Parmura në Nam’a (Library of Reclamation) to obtain information on the Gulthias Tree, a type of rare and powerful magical tree that could potentially be behind the twigblights thornblights and sapslimes.
After making their way through the city of Aldoria, they were lead by Captain Skybeak of the King's Guard to the encampment that had been set up for them. On the way there, they were attacked multiple times by wicker beasts, but were able to drive them off, and arrived at camp without any injuries. The students all unpacked and got themselves situated at the campsite.
Narali approached Flora and Stark to show them something she'd been working on; plant magic similar to Flora's that would allow her to perform healing magic on Flora herself.
With some free time before being given orders, Crystal Thorn gathered again in their tent. Flora had previously been waiting to show her face to the rest of the squad, as she was unable to retract her teeth while injured, and showing her teeth was considered a rude and aggressive gesture in her culture. With her arm fully healed however, she decided it was time to show them, before they got caught up in any more danger. Much like Stark and Vevina before them, the squad assured her that she was beautiful, and accepted her with open arms.
As they were finishing up, the students were assembled and informed that the nearby town was under attack, and that they'd be heading out immediately to provide support. They cleared wicker beasts inside, and moved to defend the gates while the magic devices that powered them were repaired. Crystal Thorn joined Ignis in defending the second gate until the first was repaired, then were joined by the other squads to defend the mage repairing the second gate. After signing a scroll granting them temporary citizenship and allowing them access through the barrier, the students returned to camp.
Rin was chosen to lead the trip to the Library of Reclamation, taking a team made up of members from various squads, while the rest of Crystal Thorn stayed behind to defend the camp. Flora was struck in the head by a wicker beast's club, but Narali was able to heal it through the mask with her plant magic, and Lila was able to take her back to the squad tent to take the mask off and clean the blood from her face and eye.
After that, Flora joined a small squad of cadets to escort a pair of civilians back to the main city. They handled the journey with relative ease, dispatching a few wicker beast attacks along the way. Before parting ways, they were informed by the couple that there were rumors of Blackguard presence in the area, and that they might be the cause of the wicker beast activity. These rumors were at least partially confirmed after returning to camp when they spotted an imp near the gate, a type of being known to be used and controlled by the Blackguard. The rest of the day went unventfully until the students went to bed.
The next morning an imp ran into camp shortly after the students woke up, briefly setting fire to one of the tents before being defeated. They also learned from Rex that the King's Guard were responding to questions about any Blackguard in the area by telling them that it was "classified".
The students were called for a morning briefing, and Crystal Thorn and Ignis were both called upon to join Captain Skybeak on a mission to the city, and then to pursue an objective in the nearby woods. On the way there, Flora observed that the wicker beasts almost exclusively came from the same side of the road, in the direction of an area of dead trees. After stopping off in the city, they headed out towards that area to investigate.
They pushed through a few waves of wicker beasts to a strange cave. Once inside, Flora took some of her own bioluminescent blood from a small wound and put it on Stark's hand, in hopes that the glow would help him manage his fear of the dark. After facing another wave of attack they began to investigate the strange tunnels and rooms carved inside of the cave, with Flora and Barthall using their stealth abilities to scout.
Deep within the cave, they found a strange artifact radiating necrotic energy. They summoned a light elemental to carry it safely and began to make their way back, forming up to defend the elemental and the summoners. They spotted a Blackguard scout watching them as they exited the cave. The scout ran off and the students made haste to guide the elemental back to camp before reinforcements could be called, arriving safely.
With several other students having been attacked by Blackguard during their own missions, the professors implored Captain Skybeak to get permission from his superiors to tell them what they knew about the Blackguard. Shortly after, the town was attacked by them, the students assembling to repel the Blackguard and their monster and demon minions.
During the fight the students were subjected to illusion and enchantment effects from some of the Blackguard, and Shizuko ended up attacking Stark without realizing what she was doing. Crystal thorn rushed back to camp with Vevina, where Stark's wounds were treated while an extremely concerned Flora looked on, the fear of potentially losing him making her realize she had feelings for him. When he regained consciousness, Flora looked after him, feeding him sips of health potion and making sure he stayed awake.
Stark drifted in and out of consciousness, and in and out of lucidity. Every now and then he would start to drift and then snap out of it, asking Flora if everyone was okay, not remembering that she'd already told him how their squad-mates were doing. He repeated this cycle three times before Zephyrus took over, informing Flora and Vevina that a combination of the blood loss, trauma, and the breaking of Stark's seal with the cryptwalker, unlocked painful memories in Stark's mind that he was refusing to face. With Vev and Flora's encouragement and support, he finally agreed, letting Zephy take over and falling unconscious.
With Stark unconscious for now, Flora let herself break down a little bit, having felt useless and helpless both in the battle and in trying to assist Stark. Vev helped console and reassure her, letting her know that in a situation like that she can ask Zephyrus for help, that Zephy could usually respond in some way even if Stark was unconscious. The two of them looked after him until he woke, and Flora stayed beside him overnight.
Shortly after waking up, Flora and Stark were approached by Lila who informed them that Hannah went missing overnight, and everyone needed to grab their gear. The students lined up and were informed by Professor Willow that Hannah had been spotted being captured by Blackguard, and the direction she'd been taken. They were lead by Captain Skybeak to a nearby Blackguard stronghold in the direction Hannah was taken to attempt a rescue.
They made their way through the stronghold, fighting off ghouls, imps, minotaurs, and Blackguards. After a couple of skirmishes and one larger battle, they were able to find an area with a medical bay and barricades and took control of it, using it for their own base of operations within the stronghold.
Crystal Thorn were sent out with Ardent Veil to press further in, looking for the triggers needed to deactivate the various barriers within the stronghold. Along their way they encountered various siege engines in storage and took the opportunity to sabotage them, cutting ropes and damaging whatever they could. They encountered a larger demonic enemy and managed to fight it off, but it disappeared before they could kill it. Following the fight they retreated back to the base to report their findings and get wounds treated, Flora getting her leg stitched up.
After obtaining what they needed, the students and professors pushed further into the stronghold, going through a barrier and reaching the roof of the building. They found several blackguards as well as several large demonic enemies, and a large portal. Flora sustained some injuries to her chest in the fight, which were stitched up for her by Vevina, and healed partially by Narali.
Pushing further, they unlocked the last barrier they needed, pushing in and finishing off the last few Blackguard and rescuing Hannah. While securing the rest of the room however, a hidden Blackguard attacked Rin from behind, gravely wounding and poisoning her. With nothing they tried working, the students retreated back to camp at full speed. In her haste to keep up, Flora pushed herself too hard, and her leg injury opened up, the leg snapping almost in half.
Stark carried her back to camp and was able to give her basic stitching and blood bandages, and bringing her small cut up pieces of meat that she could fit under her mask. After some additional healing from Nikolash, she was carried by Stark to the Crystal Thorn tent, where they were informed by Lila that the Rin that the knew was dead. When Stark realized the wording he pressed Lila who told him that Victor turned her into a vampire, and that she would essentially be a different person. Flora and Stark steadfastly refused to accept that, insisting that no matter how she changed she'd still be their Rin and they'd accept her.
Flora was brought back to the med bay where Vevina undid Stark's amateur stitches and re-did them properly. Stark vowed to protect all of them, to not let any of them get hurt again, and Flora promised she'd follow him and keep him safe in return, and help shoulder the burden. Stark admitted to Flora that he feels clarity and calm around her, different from other people, and Flora promised to always be there when he needed her. Agreeing that when they got back, they'd take a nice long walk and Stark would tell her about his past. The two of them stayed together and eventually fell asleep in the med bay.
After a day in Aldoria to rest, pack, and establish connections with some of the locals, followed by the 9 day trip back, the students returned to the Academy.
At the morning assembly, the Headmaster congratulated them all on a successful mission. He also informed the students that Rin had died, but several of the students had already heard the news from Crystal Thorn about her being turned into a vampire. When they questioned him, the Headmaster replied firmly that Rin was declared dead 10 days ago, and that they shouldn’t embarrass her memory with baseless rumors.
While feeling down about her self-perceived uselessness, Flora encountered a vision of Ymra, appearing as L’ak, the alpha of her tribe back in the jungle. He asked her to aid “Sister Lila”, saying that Rin was with her and that she needed Flora's help to bring comfort to Stark. They met up by the lighthouse with Stark and Esmae, where Flora and Lila both had a vision, this time of Rin. Stark was unable to see her, and started to get angry when Lila and Flora insisted she was there, telling them they were being selfish and trying to take an easy way out of handling their grief, eventually storming off. After dinner Lila and Flora were able to perform a blessing on Esmae and Melanie as well, allowing the two of them to see the visions of Rin. After a couple of attempts to apologize to Stark later in the day ended with more anger, Flora eventually went to stay in the Crystal Thorn cave overnight, with Lila keeping her company.
After they both took a day off to rest, Flora and Stark were able to make up, with Stark explaining that his anger was primarily about the things he'd remembered in Aldoria and that the stress had made him misdirect that anger towards her and Lila. He encouraged Flora to question the inconsistencies she'd seen (L'ak being at the academy and speaking common, him mysteriously leaving to be replaced by Rin whenever Lila was around), but told her and Lila that as long as they were careful, and didn't try to pressure him into joining, he wouldn't begrudge them their belief in Ymra.
The rest of the day went much better than the previous one, with Stark and Flora able to take a walk, during which Stark told Flora about the death of Zephyrus's previous wielder, his mother, when he was very young. In return, Flora told him that Flora Lumi wasn't her real name, but a pseudonym that Vulas and his daughter had come up with for her. Her real name was Lu'ah, which means Light in Plantskin.
With poor handling and a constant feeling of judgement, the Ymra-affected students had begun to distrust the teachers, but things didn't progress until a couple of days later, when the real Rin returned to the academy along with Victor. The headmaster introduced her as being a new student entering General Squad, named Lianda Xel Heinrich, but her brief reunion with Flora and Lila confirmed that she was in fact Rin, and that although her personality was different, she remembered them all.
Shortly after meeting Lianda, the four were visited by the false Rin again, who told them that Lianda was just an undead creature inhabiting her body, but that she was the real Rin. Flora began expressing confusion again, thinking that Lianda was “Still Rin, just different,” like she and Stark had asserted back in Aldoria, and began looking for Stark in a panic, but encountered Ymra Esmae and Melanie again first.
Ymra told them that it hadguided Lila to construct Staves of Ymra in her sleep, that can be used to “prepare people for the altar” and bring them the light. It told them that the staves have a spell that, when someone is ‘touched quickly’ on the head, would put the target in a state of sleep so that Ymra could see them in their dreams and convert them. While the students saw the staves as described, and felt them as being made of a soft wood, the reality was that they were a pair of solid metal pipes.
Concerned that even with the soft wood people might get hurt, and still confused about Lianda, Flora excused herself to go find Stark, keeping her promise to come to him if she felt confused again. Despite her ability to rationalize what Ymra told her becoming increasingly strained, she was unable to get over the feeling of good and rightness that Ymra caused.
After explaining everything to Stark, and showing him the strange ominous alters that Lila had been constructing, the two of them were starting to go for a walk when they heard the medical bell go off 3 times. Upon arriving, they were informed that someone had attacked Arbor with metal pipes and broken off both of her legs, and that Melanie and Esmae had been seen with her last.
Stark brought the Ymra-affected students somewhere more quiet to avoid any further confrontation, but while alone with them they pushed him to accept Ymra's blessing. Flora was initially against trying to force him into it, but a push from Ymra forced her to encourage him as well, and the four of them converted him before he could report what Flora had told him to any of the teachers. Questioning from the teachers revealed nothing due to Melanie and Esmae's altered perceptions of what had happened, and Flora and Lila were released due to having alibis.
The next morning Flora realized that Lila was missing, having never come back to the dorm the night before. After assembly the students were informed that (with the exception of Lila while she was off-campus) Melanie, Esmae, Flora, and Stark would be quarantined to the dungeons overnight, and bound to chromatic glass, preventing them from using any magic.
Unable to practice her magic, and feeling like she had been making problems for the school, Flora decided to try and help out to make up for it. Since she didn’t know where any of the pieces of Arbor’s legs were, and was not likely to be trusted to help look, she took it upon herself to start sweeping the cherry blossom petals from the paths over the course of 2 hours, mostly by herself. Narali and Misty stayed with her outside her cell in the dungeons, and Flora almost showed them her face, but they were interrupted by med squad tending to Melanie who had hit her head against a wall earlier to get out of her cell.
The next day Stark joined Flora in finishing the last of her sweeping, doing so without Zephyrus who refused to help him and kept insisting to him that something was wrong. At Zephy's urging, Stark went with Rook who wanted to try something with him, so Flora joined one of the groups of students who were sweeping the dorms looking for pieces of Arbor.
While checking in Ignis, Flora was called into Rook’s room with Rook, Stark, Vev, Albrecht, and Minerva, where they encouraged her to let Rook to use a divination-based artifact on her to help clear her confusion. Upon touching the relic, the sense of comfort from Ymra faded away and the memories of what really happened. In a panic, she started to run off, only for the voices of Ymra to return. Minerva lead her back to Rook’s room where her mind was unclouded again, able to tell them that she was running off because she’d realized the “staff of Ymra” had been a metal bar, explaining to the professors what she’d seen it as.
The group agreed to go try and find Lila and use the relic on her as well, picking up Esmae along the way. When they found Lila, Ymra altered her perceptions to make it look like something she hates, forcing them to give chase. When they finally caught up they only had 3 minutes of power left for the relic. All of them wrote down as much as they could remember, along with one secret that only they knew. Flora wrote her note, with the secret written in morse code; that she had feelings for Stark.
When the rod’s power wore off, Lila passed out and Flora and Stark began to panic, and had to be restrained and brought to the dungeons. Flora began reacting in terror to her classmates, staying back against the far wall of her cell and panicking until she was moved to a cell across from Stark so that she could see him.
Eventually the voice of Ymra came to her, telling her that there might be a way out, the same way Melanie got out yesterday; by hitting her head against the wall until she breaks through. Believing the voice, Flora began to bash her face against the wall, breaking open her mask and leaving splinters in herself, requiring Narali to hold her down while Vevina webbed her up so that she couldn’t hurt herself and webbed her feet into a pot of dirt so she would be able to rest. Narali removed the splinters and began healing her. To prevent further self-harm, the Headmaster lined all the cells with a thick layer of moss. With Ymra no longer actively working them up, the feeling of calmness returned to Flora, and she became confused, asking Vev why her face hurt and not believing her when told what she’d done.
Under Ymra’s influence, Melanie set fire to the moss in her cell. In the haste to put it out before it spread, a grate was opened allowing water to start flooding the dungeon, and the students were evacuated with Vevina carrying Flora out.
Once out, Flora realized her mask was broken, panicking until Vevina patched the hole up with her webs. The students and teachers determined they would move the Ymra-affected to the infirmary where they’d be watched in shifts by no fewer than 1 teacher and 3 cadets. Before being moved, Flora was shown the paper she wrote while she was lucid. She protested that it didn’t make sense, that she hadn’t told anybody, but Narali assured her that she’d written whatever was on the paper, and carried her to the infirmary where she and Misty kept Flora company again.
Over the next couple of days, the teachers began using an enchantment spell to bind the Ymra students to unaffected students. The effects of the spell allowed the Ymra students to remain calm, kept them from seeing Ymra, and helped keep their minds clear. They were also informed that the teachers had determined that the Ymra and the Gulthias Tree responsible for the twig thorn and sap blights were in fact one and the same, and that they had pinpointed it’s location to the city of Noria to the east of Camp Cari.
On the last night before the academy left to return to Camp Cari and face Ymra, Narali and Esmae were able to learn that Flora had feelings for Stark, despite her denials. She explained that, hypothetically, if she liked someone, that person didn't like her back because they still had feelings for someone else. She told them that if her feelings would put pressure on her relationship with that person, then it was better for her not to have them at all.
Root of the Problem
The academy arrived at Camp Cari with the intent to evict the Church of Ymra and destroy any alters and acid flowers along the way. Further details were withheld at the time to prevent the Ymra-affected students from acting as informants either intentionally or unintentionally. With most of Crystal Thorn affected by Ymra, and with Stark unavailable, the remaining members were temporarily split among the other squads. Lila joined Vanguard, Flora joined Ignis, and Shizuko joined Ardent Veil.
Ignis and Vanguard stayed in town to determine how many of the townsfolk were under Ymra's influence, while Ardent Veil and Gallant, having no affected students, went to serve the eviction notice. Flora was bound to Vevina for the day, who did her best to keep her attitude forcibly happy and upbeat to help Flora stay calm.
While admiring the enormous trees that had sprouted up since the last time they were there, Flora and Vevina learned that the Dryad was gone, and the trees had started growing after he'd left.
After a while hanging out with Vev, Flora was led out into the woods by Lila Melanie and Esmae, because Lila wanted to show them something. After a little while Zack caught up with them. Lila told them to hide, but after a little while Flora went back to find Vev, not wanting to leave her for too long. Zack dragged Lila back and threw her into a cage before Ignis and Vanguard set out to track down Melanie.
While searching they came across an overturned wagon, along with 2 piles of discarded clothing and shed skin. When they moved to investigate, they encountered a pair of new blight creatures, with thicker hides and shields, which they were able to capture and were later identified as Barkblights. After heading back out, they tracked down Melanie giving out food at the Church and brought her back, with Chipz knocking over the cauldron of soup on the way out.
After returning to report, Ignis and Flora were sent back out again with Madame Minerva to check on the Dryad's Grove. They found the tree undisturbed, but the Dryad's hut empty, with no signs that anyone had been there in some time. Finding no signs of corruption, they started on their way back, taking out Ymra alters and vineblight blossoms along the way, but as they destroyed them they were attacked by various blight creatures. Flora and Esmae saw the blights as being people any time the person they were bound to lost their calmness.
After returning again Flora and Vevina went for a walk, where they talked about Flora's feelings for Stark, and her desire not to pressure him. Vevina promised not to tell, and gave Flora advise on ways to channel those feelings in ways that wouldn't pressure him, but expressed her hope that things would work out between the two of them.
At the end of the day the two of them held a sleepover in a little miniature cave, joined by Chipz.
After waking up and greeting Stark, Flora was bound to Narali for the day, and went out with Gallant, Ardent Veil, Joseph, Lianda, and Lila, on a mission to collect ingredients for a clarity potion to be used on the Ymra-affected students.
While out, they encountered a member of the monster hunting guild the Silver Stakes and assisted her in fighting off some drowners, until Ymra influenced Lila to see her as an enemy. The other students were able to split them up before anything serious happened, and the charm wore off. On their way back they fought a vineblight, and Flora was made to see them as civilians again, for a longer time than the false images she'd seen the previous day. After that, the group made their way directly back to the town, bringing the monster hunter with them.
After their return, Vanguard and Ignis were sent out together on a mission, while the remaining students were told to begin packing to be ready to move out by nightfall to head for Noria and finish things. While everyone was preparing, they were interrupted by several strange monstrous roaring and heavy stomping approaching the town.
Before long the town gate was under attack by a variety of blights along with a massive Sap Golem, made from sap and hardened bark. The students and the hunter engaged the enemy, but no sooner had they finished fighting off that attack than a second wave attacked the northern gates. While preparing in front of the gates, Flora and several other students were impaled through the feet and legs by spikes summoned from the ground by another sap golem. Once it was defeated, Narali was able to remove the spikes from Flora's legs and heal the injuries enough for her to keep fighting, but soon after a burst of fire from Misty strayed too close and set her on fire. Narali and Liang were able to put her out quickly, and Narali and Arbor were able to heal her, but she was left in serious pain for the rest of the fight, and was gently but firmly pushed to the rear lines and given a rifle to keep her from getting further injured.
After the fight Flora was given time to recover, buried up to her waist in the ground, and rested along with Narali, getting visits from some of the other students and Tanya, the daughter of the town's nurse.
After time to rest and make some last minute preparations, the students and professors set out in wagons. Shortly after arriving at the camp site, Flora suddenly had a sudden strange vision of trees with teeth and went into a sudden panic. Narali found a relatively isolated corner of the campsite for her to sit, with Stark and Vevina joining them to help calm and keep an eye on her.
After calming down, Flora had a discussion with Vevina regarding her real name, the plantskin customs for mating, and how by her tribes rules she wouldn't be allowed to mate due to her bioluminescence being considered a weak trait. Following this she had a conversation with Lnik about their plans for Spirit Week; transforming temporarily into each others species. The two discussed the logistics for a few minutes (which areas are sensitive, how to adjust to walking, how to avoid accidentally using their respective toxins on people) before finally going to bed.
After waking, the academy began making their way towards the city of Noria. As they got closer, the majority of the students and teachers saw the area as being full of life, albeit with ominous red clouds. However, Professor Albrecht was able to see through the illusion, and for some reason so was Flora. The two of them saw the area as it truly was, full of dead barren trees and a red fog.
The Ymra-affected students were given a clarity potion by Professor Von, which Flora drank despite her strong aversion to potions, trusting that Stark wouldn't tell her to if it wasn't truly important.
An advance group of students made a stealthy approach, made up of students dressed in Ymra acolyte uniforms, and a few dressed in plain clothes pretending to be pilgrims being escorted. The rest of the students followed a little ways behind, but were forced to stop when Flora had another vision of Ymra, a massive tree with a mouth filled with rows of sharp teeth, along with piles of bones of those it had eaten. Unable to take the time to stop for her to recover, they pressed on while Vevina walked with her to keep her company.
The advance group were successfully able to infiltrate the town and disable a small group of cultists and defeat some blights, while the rear group snuck in behind them. With the immediate threats removed from the area, they were able to occupy a small medical area to use as a base of operations. While preparing to head out again, the voice of Ymra was heard, this time by everyone present, emanating from all directions. The sound staggered everyone, and it continued to happen periodically as they proceeded.
Moving forward, they entered into a large main building and began to push their way through, fending off waves of blights from within as they progressed. They were able to disable more cultists who they found repeating some mysterious chant, and disabled some sort of device, removing the illusion cast over the area and allowing the others to see the area as Flora and Albrecht had been seeing it. They fell back to the infirmary, where Flora was treated for several minor injuries to her legs and thornblight needle marks.
While preparing to head back in to finish off Ymra, the affected students heard its voice speaking to just them again, telling them that it was waiting for them, and would even show them how to open the door. They approached to begin the ritual, but at the last moment Vevina was charmed to hear a familiar voice calling to her from inside, rushing forward as the affected students cast Enlarge Insect on her. The door opened for them, and all but Esmae were able to race inside while the rest of the academy had to stop the giant charmed spider.
Within the final chamber, the 4 of them were lost to Ymra's influence, their wills completely overwhelmed, soon joined by the still-enthralled Vevina, and Esmae who was absorbed through the floor in order to be placed in the final room with the others. Finally, when the students began to get close they were joined by one more ally; the Darkness General that had been freed from beneath the school. When the rest of the academy arrived, the six of them joined with Ymra's forces and fought against their own allies.
Flora was quickly taken down by Chipz and Hannah, but was accidentally sliced open stomach to collarbone in the process, narrowly missing nicking her vital organs, along with receiving a blow to the back of the head. Not realizing the extent of her injury, she was dragged over to safety and left there while the others were disabled and Ymra was killed.
Mason covered and treated her wounds as best as he could so that she and the other injured could be evacuated back to the medical area. Once there Hannah was able to sew the wound shut properly, and once everyone had been treated, they made their way back to town.
On arrival Stark carefully checked to make sure none of her wounds had opened up, and brought her outside to bury her feet so that she could rest properly, and stayed with her, talking to her until she woke up. Upon waking she was confused and disoriented, having trouble speaking after being hit in the head multiple times during the fight. He reassured her that it wasn't her that the various things she'd done under Ymra's influence weren't her choice, and that in the end they'd saved hundreds of people if not more, all over the world.
After a very slow walk with Stark, Flora was given a small dose of Vevina's venom to help with the pain, and she and Stark went to find a good spot to bury her for the night.
After a week or so of rest for the most gravely injured students, they returned to the academy. Flora's speech had mostly cleared up by then, but she was still recovering from her chest injury, which was beginning to look like it was going to leave a scar like the one from her arm. She Lila and Stark began working together to process their guilt at their actions while under Ymra's influence, and at the end of her first day back on her feet she kept her promise to Narali, showing her her face.
During this time Flora began working on improving her magic by trying to grow plants out of herself. At Lila's suggestion, she tried practicing meditation while partially buried to remain in touch with the ground and nature.
A discussion with Vevina about showing her face to their classmates (in which Vevina pointed out that Flora would have to show her face before Lnik showed his during spirit week so that everyone's first impression of Plantskin faces wouldn't be tied to Lnik's snark and sarcasm) lead to the decision that she would show her face to everyone, simply going without her mask for the next few days.
On the first day of Spirit Week, Flora and Lnik began their plan. Lnik had obtained a pair of rings that would polymorph them rather than using an illusion, but the rings each only had 2 days worth of charge and would only work during Spirit Week when the leylines were particularly active. On the first day, they would both be erie drakes, on the second day Flora would be a drake and Lnik would be a plantskin, and on the third day they'd both be plantskin. Lnik had an immediate attraction to Flora's erie drake form, but didn't pursue anything, saying to Ryder that he wasn't going to fall in love with a temporary transmutation.
On Glamour night the students and teachers attended a party at Camp Cari, with Lnik as a plantskin and Flora as a drake. Flora ended up getting plushies of Stark, Narali, Lnik, and Akiyama from the carnival games, and she and Lnik won the best couple award in the costume contest. Later, when it began to get darker out, Flora gave herself a small cut and put some of her glowing blood on Stark's hand like she'd done in Aldoria. She was also picked to light the ceremonial bonfire, something that was normally done by a druid or dryad, due to the Dryad being unavailable. At the end of the night she had a talk with Lnik in which he admitted that if they were the same species, he could see himself liking her, and Flora shared that she had feelings for Stark but that he was still in love with someone else.
The next night was the Day of Dark, where the sun didn't rise, and spirits were able to partially manifest on the material plane. Between Starks fear of the dark and Zephyrus's hatred of spirits, Stark was on edge all day. When the Academy received a petition from some of the nearby villages to investigate a crypt full of restless spirits, Crystal Thorn agreed to volunteer for the mission, not realizing that the location they'd be travelling to was pitch black, and inhabited by a spirit that would hunter after sources of light, requiring multiple extended periods of complete darkness.
Over the course of the mission Stark was briefly separated from the group, causing Flora to panic, and by the time they returned he had completely shut down emotionally. Flora did her best to help Stark keep it together until he went to bed, and was able to help talk through things with him in the morning.
As winter began, Flora's feelings for Stark began to grow stronger, not helped by comments from Stark that Flora was one of the few people who brought him calm, that he was more comfortable around her as "Lu'ah" with her mask off rather than with it on as "Flora", and that she was like a light leading him out of the darkness. On top of that, she began getting mixed messages about whether or not Lnik was interested in her, with him seemingly uncertain of his own feelings, before finally confessing to her and asking her out despite already knowing her feelings for Stark. When she needed someone to talk to after she turned him down, the only person available was Stark, and in order to provide context, she had to tell Stark that she already liked "someone".
She continued to receive advice about her boy problems over the next few weeks particularly from Lila Narali and Vevina, the latter of whom suggested various things to give Stark hints. These suggestions ranged from things like 'innocently' borrowing one of his shirts to use for pajamas, to more overt actions like nibbling on his neck and passing it off as a playful thing among plantskin. When he asked her for clarification on her feelings abut Lnik confessing when he knew she already liked someone, she told him that she was glad to have it out in the open, but that at the time it hurt. At Vevina's suggestion, the next day Flora told him that she'd considered it, and emphasized that she would rather know than not. The day after that, after a conversation with Carver and an earlier premonition from Miss Crescent got him thinking about not missing chances, Stark confessed to Flora, saying that even though she liked someone already, she said she'd rather know, so he was telling her. Upon Flora admitting that he was the person she liked all along, the two became a couple.
During the winter Flora also began to make progress with her magic, learning how to successfully grow a little beansprout from her wrist after all the practice she did using her magic on beans earlier in the year. In order to work on training her mana capacity, and possibly 'learn' more plants the way she did with the bean, she also began tending to plants in the greenhouse, resulting in growing double-strength puffin plants. Additionally, after using her magic to extend the life of the plucked blue rose that Stark gave her when he confessed, Flora developed the ability to grow either a blue rose, or a large thorn from the palm of her hand.
Around the beginning of January, the school's barrier alarm went off, due to mysterious slugs and crab-like creatures with glowing red eyes emerging through the underwater cave just outside of the barrier. After 2 groups of students went in to investigate and fight them back, a group of teachers went in to finish them off. The same night Lila and Zack's werewolf forms were tempted by the Darkness. By morning the two were back to normal, and the students were not informed of what if anything the teachers found out about the strange creatures.
Soon into the new year, Flora was invited by Stark into a secret group of students in the academy known as the Silver Society sponsored by Captain Silver, with the goal of pushing the squads to do better beyond what the teachers taught them, as well as keeping track of important information, and when it should or shouldn't be spread, such as with the secrecy around the Darkness at the beginning of the year. With the other members (Stark, Lila, Zackary, and Aida) agreeing unanimously, Flora was offered membership, which she accepted.
Around this time the Academy received word from the CAF that the source of the water contamination at their camp in the Duat Desert had been traced back to a nearby sandworm colony, and that the Academy would be returning to Duat to investigate and remove the problem. The remainder of their training and classes for the winter were focused on preparing for this return trip. The only other major events for Flora before the trip were the customization of her bedroom to make it more comfortable for her and Stark, and revealing her real name to Lila.
Return to Duat
The Academy arrived in Duat at a new dock, built by the CAF closer to their campsite, allowing them to avoid the unpleasant checkpoint they'd been to on their first visit. They made their way to the campsite without incident, where they reported to CAF Intelligence Officer Lieutenant Kira Scott. Crystal Thorn started out the day with guard duty at one of the outposts, without much trouble.
After this, they gathered for Shizuko to attempt to contact the mummy lord that Crystal Thorn and Vanguard had encountered on the previous trip, whose curse had been transferred from Jixie into a hair accessory. Upon communing with the Mummy Lord, they were tasked to travel to the mummy's temple and clear it of raiders, in order to fulfil the agreement Shizu had made with her.
Vanguard joined them so that Jixie could fulfil her end of the agreement, with Gavin joining to help protect Shizuko and Gallant providing extra support. Upon arriving at the tomb, they encountered a large creature guarding the entrance. After a brief skirmish, the creature retreated inside. The cadets moved in to secure the main entryway, scouting the various passages, with Flora utilizing her camoflauge in the low lighting, determining that the raiders finished off the injured creature after it fled inside.
The cadets moved to confront the main camp of raiders, with Stark initially asking for their surrender. When they refused, the two groups fought, and the raiders were defeated with only one casualty on their side, and no major injuries among the cadets. They continued to make their way through, taking out raiders as they went, taking note of strange paintings on the walls of harpies.
Upon clearing out the raiders the Mummy Lord appeared to Shizuko, removing the curse from her, but asking a favor. She told them that if they were able to undertake her trial, they might return what was taken from her kind, the harpies, long ago. Wishing to help the undead pass over to the other side, Shizuko agrees. Crystal Thorn and Gavin agree to help Shizu, with Flora particularly invested due to her own race being viewed as dumb monsters, with Vanguard and Gallant agreeing somewhat more reluctantly, not wanting to leave Crystal Thorn without protection.
They made their way deeper into the tomb,fighting off mummies and disarming traps, and obtaining a rare potion of Giant's Strength. At the end they encountered a pair of minotaurs, defeating them as a group with Gavin using the Giant's Strength potion. With the minotaurs defeated, and Gavin exhausted from the aftereffects of the potions, they proceeded to the final room, obtaining a relic that contained the memories and awareness of the harpy race. They agreed to try to help restore the Harpies Wisdom, and returned to camp, planning to tell the professors first before telling the CAF anything.
After their return, they were debriefed by Intelligence Officer Kei Noriaki, and on Albrecht's orders, told him nothing about the Harpies' Wisdom, but raised some suspicions with the inconsistency of their story.
The day began with the students being called to attention, and shown the new bell system for the outposts, allowing them to be guarded by sand golems with students summoned to assist travelers or fighting threats as needed. They were also given an inspection by Kei, who expressed displeasure that the cadets had not been forthright in their debriefing the previous night, leading Lila and Flora to the conclusion that someone had told him about the relic they'd found. Concerned that they could possibly even be accused of treason for lying to a superior officer, or get in trouble if the Inquisition were to find out, they agreed to keep quiet for the time being for their safety and the harpies' safety.
Later in the day the cadets were lined up while Noriaki and a pair of Inquisition soldiers searched their rooms, trying to find the relic, with Shizu and Gavin managing to slip out of the Crystal Thorn tent and hide it temporarily. Before long, Rook was able to locate it, concerned that a potentially dangerous artifact was loose in the camp, and wanting to protect everyone, and handed it over to the CAF. While attempting to figure out what to do next, Flora and Lila learned that Lnik was the one who'd initially told Kei everything.
While responding to an alarm from one of the outposts, Flora's arm was injured fighting a minotaur. After some initial healing from Narali, she was brought to the med tent where she passed out from a combination of stress and dehydration.
After recovering and waking up, Flora was brought to speak with Lieutenant Scott and Commander Kei. She gave them an honest recounting of what happened on the mission, figuring that someone from her squad needed to make their case, and figuring that with Stark resting that day, she was the one best-equipped to stay calm. When asked her opinion on what to do with the relic, she replied that they should use it to restore the harpies, but Kei pointed out that the delicate political balance in the region made that difficult, and meant that freeing the harpies could lead to war. Flora urged him to do the right thing, and especially to keep the relic out of the hands of the inquisition, but left the meeting discouraged and without much confidence that Kei would listen.
At Vevina's urging, she spoke with Lnik, getting his side of things. He explained that they'd fumbled their attempts to lie so badly, he'd believed that the safest option was to some clean as soon as possible, before they dug themselves even deeper. When he told her that he didn't want any of them going down for being dragged along with Shizuko's decision, Flora expressed disappointment that he didn't understand how closely the harpies situation paralleled the plantskin, eventually growing frustrated with him and storming off in tears to avoid yelling at him more.
Speaking with Vevina later, Flora turned down the option of them running, insisting on seeing things through in case the CAF would let them free the harpies after all. Vev assured her that Crystal Thorn would have her support, and that she wouldn't let them die, and joined Flora in the Crystal Thorn tent for the evening just to be safe.
The next morning Flora filled Stark in on what he'd missed the previous day, and got her injury from the previous day looked at. Afterwards, a brief conversation with Captain Silver indicated to them that she was on their side, and gave them a story to use if questioned. With this, and Kei's calm demeanor in his conversations with them the day before, the worry of execution was lessened slightly. Their concern for the harpies remained however, with Shizuko particularly in a dour defeated mood for much of the day.
Flora later went to find Lnik, apologizing for blowing up at him the day before and having a short conversation with him before being summoned by the assembly bell.
The students gathered to go to a nearby cave to speak to the miners who previously owned the mines where the the sandworms had taken up residence, in order to obtain maps of the area for their upcoming mission to drive them out. The individual leading them there however, was in fact a member of the 40 thieves, with the story about miners simply being the official statement on paper, so as not to upset the inquisition. In order to avoid having him caught by an inquisition patrol, Vevina burrowed under the sand with him, and Lianda hid until they were gone, due to her papers and ID still having her information from when she was Rin. With Lianda having made a brief costume change into a Crystal Thorn uniform to match her papers, they obtained a map of the mines from the thieves and learned some information about how to fight the worms before returning back to camp.
Upon returning, the students who had gone to the cave and a second group of students who had gone to the city to escored some rescued travellers, were debriefed on their respective missions. Stark reported that the CAF had informed the Inquisition about the relics they'd discovered, but that no details about the Harpies' Wisdom had been given other than a physical description and that it was still being identified.
Afterwards Flora spoke with Silver, telling her the details of their mission in the mummy cave, wanting to show her trust by explaining the situation in detail rather than just leaving it at their hypothetical earlier. Silver thanked her for being honest, and hinted that it might be possible for them to steal the artifact and smuggle it out if necessary.
In preparation for fighting the worms the next day, the students prepare to attempt to draw out and fight one worm in order to test the strategies they were developing against it. While the initial plan was for one squad consisting of a leader from each squad to go and engage a worm with the rest of the cadets setting up a camp to remain on standby, many more worms ended up being drawn out, leading to a full battle between them and the students. In the process of this fight, Flora developed a new ability, spontaneously growing a shield out of tangled green vines covered in thorns and blue roses from the back of her hand.
The cadets were able to defeat the worms, with Rex Lila and Shizu all sustaining serious arm injuries and Vevina losing a leg in spider-form and accidentally being exposed to Lnik's toxin. Flora also re-opened her previous injury on her right arm, and found herself unable to make her shield go away again. Shizu assisted in cutting the shielf off of her hand with significant pain but no major damage, and Hannah was able to treat both the minor injuries from the shield removal, and the more serious damage to her other arm.
With their whole squad moderately to seriously injured and the real worm mission scheduled for the next day, Crystal Thorn went to bed to rest up for the morning.
After getting up and checking in with some of her fellow cadets, Flora had her arm checked by Arbor, finding it was mostly healed but still a bit sore. She spent most of the rest of the first half of the day preparing for the upcoming mission, and keeping Vevina company in the medical tent.
Eventually the cadets gathered up into a large group formation and headed out towards the worm cave, mostly equipped with mana rifles. They took on a few waves of smaller sandworms with a large firing line before moving in to the cave itself.
Having determined that they wouldn't be able to move stealthily with the size of their group and with members like Rook who was particularly slow and heavy, and knowing that any remaining worms would converge on them the moment they attacked the queen, the cadets moved with a frontal assault. The downside of this approach was facing a large number of worms as they made their way through, along with cave-ins and rockfalls from the vibrations of battle and rifle-fire.
Flora remained ranged for the mission, leaving the up-close combat with the worms to the more powerful students and providing supporting fire with a rifle, utilizing her climbing skills to scale pillars and walls for better vantage points. This strategy was effective until she was caught in one of the rockfalls, crushing one of her legs. After some healing from Narali and having a splint applied by Speca, the cadets determined the best course of action was for Flora to ride on Rook's back, allowing her to use her rifle to help him shoot at the worms, while he used his extra hands to protect her.
Eventually they made their way to the chamber that the worm queen was in, and engaged in battle. Rook's core began sparking after shielding several direct hits from worms, so he ended up passing Flora off to Jixie on one of the nearby pillars, who helped Flora climb up. She was able to remain at this vantage point for the last few minutes of the fight before being helped down and brought to their makeshift medical area. She dragged herself over to where Stark had passed out, having had both of his legs crushed under the falling body of a dead worm. She remained there with him until they began moving the injured back to camp.
On her way out of the cave they heard a loud explosion coming from outside, and as Gavin carried her through the mountainous area around the cave, they passed by other students looking for pieces of Rook. Gavin joined them in the search and Mason took over carrying Flora the rest of the way back to camp, putting her in medbay with Stark.
Once their injuries were treated, Stark was given a wheelchair and went to attend the debrief while Flora remained in medbay. While sitting there by herself, Flora began to think about the harpy relic and how they hadn't managed to get their hands on it yet. This worrying continued to get worse and worse until she went into a full-blown anxiety attack, scratching at her hands and mumbling to herself, growing more and more incoherent and finally going completely nonverbal.
Hannah eventually took notice, and when she was unable to get through to Flora, brought Vevina over. Able to read Flora's pheromones, Vevina began to try and help Flora calm down, directing her to focus on other things, and reassuring her that she was safe. When Stark returned, Flora struggled to ask about the relic but was having trouble forming the words in Common. Stark was able to notice and tell her to communicate in morse code instead. He informed her that Shizu had managed to transfer the information in the relic into a broken piece of her mask, sacrificing some of her memories but saving the Harpy's memories and leaving the Inquisition with an empty useless bauble. Between the two of them Stark and Vevina were eventually able to calm Flora back down.
Vevina left to help Ignis with something leaving Flora and Stark by themselves for a while until they heard an arrival bell ringing, informed that the Inquisition had returned and to have their papers ready. They heard the sounds of tents being searched and tossed over, but eventually things quieted back down again and they were told the Inquisition had left again. Before going to sleep, the assembly bell was rung, and the two of them managed to make their way to the main tent with the other students who were still awake. They were informed that Speca had stolen another of the recovered relics, injured other students, and had killed some Inquisition guards in her escape, and was now considered to be an enemy of the Academy to be captured dead or alive if she was ever seen again. The remaining students awake were dismissed, and Flora and Stark returned to their tent to sleep.
End of the Year and Assessments
The first day back from Duat was a day off to rest and recover before final exams. At morning assembly they were informed officially of Rook's death, and of Speca's defection, with several students expressing skepticicsm at the latter.
After the assembly, they gathered at the graveyard for the Day of Rememberance ceremony for Rook. The rest of the day was spent relaxing with Vevina and Stark, and checking in on Lnik in the med bay, who was suffering from after-effects of overusing his magic.
Start of Assessments
The second morning back from the desert, a CAF ship arrived with Commander Kei, Lieutenant Scott, and group of armed CAF soldiers. The students were sent to the main hall for morning assembly, where Kei informed them that they would be undergoing a series of assessments set up by his men rather than the normal final exams. Additionally he informed them that he was there to look into certain concerns that the CAF had about the academy. He was then joined by Jr Lieutenant Estelle Arkell and many more CAF guards, who escorted the students back to the dorms for room inspections.
Crystal Thorn's inspection went without incident, after Lila hid the knife from the Bump in the Night incident while they were waiting. This was followed by a medical assessment where she was given a clean bill of health aside from her leg, and a healing trigram which healed her leg almost to full health along with several other students.
They moved on to their assessments, with several tests set up in the arena to be completed in whatever order the students decided. Flora started with the strength test, which consisted of attempting to do as much damage as possible to a training dummy with their bare hands in 30 seconds, with Flora nearly breaking the first dummy in the time given. Second was the mana affinity assessment. Having not gotten a proper affinity test, Flora was able to confirm that she has earth affinity with no secondary affinities. Third, Flora did the ranged assessment, earning some of the top marks of the students seen so far. Fourth, Flora participated in the rune-crafting test, successfully completing and activating a basic rune circle.
The final assessment for each student was the combat assessment, where they would each face a CAF soldier in three rounds of one-on-one combat. Since the combat assessments were done one at a time and the inspections and medical checks had taken so much time, they were unable to finish the assessments that day, with several including Flora being put off until the next day.
Unwilling to remove her mask in front of the guards, Flora elected to wait until after dinner to eat, slowly starting to show signs of nervousness, rubbing her hands and eventually scratching her claws against things. After dinner she joined Vev near the dorms, talking with her for a little while, when she suddenly experienced a Ymra flashback brought on by the feelings of being constantly watched, re-experiencing the visions she saw back then, and ran in a blind panic to the beach. Vevina and Narali were able to catch up to her after her leg started hurting, and were able to help bring her down from the anxiety attack.
Vev brought her back to her room and kept her company until Stark returned from a dinner with Commander Kei. After talking about what had happened to Flora, and reassuring her that she was safe, the two of them went to bed for the evening.
Final Day/The Breach
After morning assembly the combat assessments resumed. Flora observed most of the fights, except for skipping a few to go speak with and comfort Vevina who was upset over her inability to have a particularly important conversation with Chipz.
The conversation with Vev was cut short by someone firing off a flare. Upon returning from the woods they learned that a guard had been found unconscious, and split up into groups to patrol, but didn't find anything, and the cadets were eventually summoned back to the arena to finish their assessments.
Flora's assessment went well, weakening her opponent with some of her extra-strength puffins, and managing both to summon her shield again, and unsummon it on her own when it became damaged. After 3 rounds, she was declared the winner.
After assessments concluded, Kei called up his newly-appointed prefects (Aida, Hannah, Joseph, Lnik, Shizuko, and Stark) and had them carry out orders from him, confiscating all the various bodypillows that some of the cadets had of themselves, and relocating all pets from the dorm areas and rooms to the barn. Additionally Kei was planning to close down several recreational areas, such as the Crystal Thorn cave, the Gallant dance hall, and Rex's Misfits Clubhouse.
During the whole process, Flora started to become agitated and anxious, pacing and scratching at her arms. When Aida approached her and Stark and reported strange residual magic near the large tree near the front of the school, Flora immediately took off to go investigate with them. Upon arriving, she was able to sense that the tree was feeling dread, and after a few moments she suffered another Ymra flashback. Stark was able to catch her before she went fully nonverbal and helped to calm her down somewhat, reducing the severity of her anxiety attack. The other students found a black stone with red runes on it hidden in the tree, similar to one that had already been found at the barn, and the group of them brought it to the war room. After dropping off the Stone, Flora resumed pacing, eventually wandering around the school, her anxiety rising again to the point that she went and hid in a tree near the dorms, only coming down because of the assembly bell.
Kei brought the students with him to inspect the Headmaster's grove in case there was another stone hidden there, before "revealing" the existence of the Darkness door to the students, bringing them inside. He told them it was important that they understand what they're really up against, unaware that they had already had it revealed to them. While there, they heard an explosion coming from outside, and upon leaving witnessed another one, striking the medical bay and collapsing the bridge that connected it to the museum.
Spotting something happening on the roof, the students went up, finding it to be covered in strange red runes, with a member of the Dark Order in the center. The cultist sacrificed herself, activating the runes and opening up portals, summoning waves of demons. The students fought off the smaller demons, protecting the crystals that power the school's barrier, while Headmaster Akiyama and Ryder fought against a much larger one in the center of the roof.
When the battle was over, Commander Kei revealed the true reason he'd been sent, declaring that based on his findings he had no choice but to place Headmaster Akiyama under arrest for negligence. Several of the cadets split up to check the grounds and assess damages and make sure there weren't any more demons or Dark Order around.
With their searches complete and injuries tended to, the cadets were called to assemble one more time. They were informed that next year they would be getting a new headmaster, and were provided with new separate dress and combat uniforms for next year. They were additionally informed that any items claimed as contraband could be collected before they left for the summer, provided it was not brought back to campus, and that they could submit formal requests petitioning for any of their items, pets, or the various social areas to be allowed. Not wanting her body pillow to be out somewhere in the world where she couldn't keep track of it, but unwilling to just get rid of it, Flora got it back to bring to Stark's home with her, while Stark wrote up a formal petition to keep the Crystal Thorn cave.
Flora and Stark began saying their goodbyes to their fellow cadets, exchanging addresses to be able to write to each other over the summer, before finally leaving to start the journey to Stark's home in Eios.
Summer of Year 2
Stark and Flora returned to Stark’s hometown of Balace, within Eios. Though they initially planned to cut ties with Stark’s father, William Zephyr, and travel south to Taldera, their plans were changed when Stark and his Father managed to reconcile their differences and speak on common ground. The following few weeks were spent in peace exploring and enjoying their time in Eios instead. Flora spent a fair bit of time in the garden during this time, practicing her ability to help plants grow as well as learning from the house staff about human culture (and confusing them with her very different mannerisms and actions).
However, with the growing unrest in Eios there began to be reports of attacks against aristocrats and nobility that were believed to be the acts of an anti-imperial rebel group who intended to harm the Royal Family. Due to their close ties to the royal family the Zephyr household became a target. Attacked in the middle of the night by a group of unknown assailants Stark, Flora and the manor’s guards defended against the attack. While most of the staff and guards were left relatively unharmed, William Zephyr had suffered a wound to the side that would prove fatal. In the following days William’s funeral and the process of turning the company over to Stark took up the majority of Stark’s time. Luckily his father had prepared him for this day as he began to push himself deep into his work to avoid the grief of the loss.
Fueled by anger and grief Stark also turned to training all the waking hours he was not working. Training with reckless abandon, Stark pushed himself harder than he ever had before.
Seeing this, Flora attempted to stop him, but due to his determination and stubbornness she realized he could not be convinced and instead opted to join him knowing it was not a fight she would win. After a month and a half of this lifestyle Stark realized he had hurt himself, causing severe manaburn to his hands, and that Flora had worn herself down as well, and they finally started to relax from all the training after gaining further control of their abilities.
She and Stark would leave Eios to actually try and vacation a bit in Taldera. They would spend a peaceful week there before setting off toward the Hart ball.
Towards the end of the summer, Hannah's family held the Hart Ball, an annual fundraiser for their charitable foundation. While the previous year the only students to attend were those from influential families or those who worked as staff for the event, this year the entire academy were invited as guests.
While Flora was happy to see her classmates and teachers again (even Willow, who made an appearance at the ball but would not be returning to the school), she and some of the other students were faced with blatant racism from some of the staff, as well as some of the other guests. Additionally, she was unable to show Vevina the type of physical affection that they typically shared, with Vev needing to keep up appearances as a princess in the presence of nobles.
The rocky start continued at first with party games, the first of which required the guests to give each other verbal hints in order to guess matching numbers, which Flora struggled with due to her difficulty speaking. Things improved somewhat with the second game, a competition of riddles, which Flora did much better with, helping her team make it to second place. After that came dinner, where Flora was able to sit with all of Crystal Thorn and catch up, followed by a pleasant walk through the manor and garden with Stark and Lila, before leaving to stay in Concordia and eventually return to the Academy.
(more to be added)
Powers and Abilities
- Melee - Flora is a melee fighter, skilled in various forms of armed combat.
- Two-handed spear - Flora's primary weapon of choice.
- Sword - Flora began learning sword fighting as a backup weapon when one of her arms was injured.
- Shield and Spear - Demonstrated during the second desert mission.
- Sword and Shield - After learning how to make her thorn khopesh, Flora has begun learning the basics of sword and buckler combat from Professor Essor.
- Magic - Flora is a plant mage, able to affect the growth of plants in various ways.
- Speed - Flora can use her magic to increase the speed at which plants grow, allowing for faster harvests.
- Quality - Instead of speed, Flora can choose to increase the quality and strength of plants, allowing for extra-strength spell and potion components.
- Rose Shield - Flora is able to grow a thorn-covered targe-sized roundshield made of rosebush out of the back of her hand.
- Bark Skin - She is able to grow armor on her body to help protect her more.
- Thorn Khopesh - Flora is able to summon a khopesh made from thorn to her hand.
- Vine Wall - Flora can summon a wall of plants in front of herself.
- Sleep Spores - Flora is able to emit a cloud of spores from her hand that that can render a target unconscious, similar to a puffin but much more powerful.
- Racial Traits - Flora possesses several racial traits and abilities as a plantskin.
- Camouflage - Flora has the ability to disappear almost completely into plants and foliage, becoming nearly invisible. She has also demonstrated the ability to use her camouflage in dimly-lit areas.
- Claws - Flora possesses sturdy sharp claws made of thorn on the ends of her fingers.
- Paralytic Venom - Flora's tongue secretes a substance that can cause paralysis if it enters the bloodstream. She is immune to this venom.
- Plant Empath - Flora has the ability to sense the feelings and emotions of plants.
- Regeneration - While not on the same level as vampires and lycans, Flora heals much faster than humans, especially from very small wounds.
- Retractable Fangs - Flora has a set of very sharp retractable thorn-like teeth, good for catching live prey, or for piercing skin to deliver her venom.
- Slow Blood - Flora's blood is slow, thick, and sap-like, making it extremely difficult for her to bleed out.
- According to Ribbon's description Flora is an expert spear wielder.
- She can get embarrassed easily and her leaves shake, and her hair/leaves change color depending on what she eats.
- Her leaves have full sensation in them, causing pain if they're damaged.
- She initially slept in Vev's room due to its friendly environment before getting her own.
- While she is capable of eating plant products, it is a severe taboo in her culture, along the lines of cannibalism in many human cultures.
- Her real name is Lu'ah which means light in Plantskin.
- Her mouth and blood are bioluminescent which is not normal for Plantskin.
- In order to get proper sleep, Flora must be at least partially buried in dirt. She can sleep outside of it, but won't get as much rest.
- Med Squad has unique medical treatments for Flora's physiology, including plant-safe cleaning solutions, bandages soaked in a mixture of water and blood, and the use of Narali's plant magic for healing.
- Her magic affinity is Earth.
- Flora took her mask off to the entire school for the first time on October 24th.
- The three lines on her repaired mask are Plantskin facepaint, representing hope for strength, knowledge, and light.
- Stark and Flora confessed to each other on January 7th.
- She has given nicknames in Plantskin to Stark and Zephyrus: A'da (meaning air) for Stark and Br'i (meaning breeze) for Zephy.
- Collection: https://www.twitch.tv/collections/AMlvlyW3RRaxmg