Private Tales Some Dogs Think Their Name is No

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer
The hooded girl recoiled as much as she possibly could into her seat, her shoulders raising toward her ears at the waitress' impatience. She flinched too at the guard's interjection, but she was grateful as the waitress seemed to accept and back off. Crystalline eyes followed after the woman before returning to Clem as he took it upon himself to justify the female's sour mood. It was merely frustration, and she had faced far worse than irritability. If anything, she was more afraid of drawing more attention to herself than she already had..

She watched the guardsman as he spoke, her head tilting ever-so-slightly. Her stomach clenched painfully as he reminded it of the prospect of food, but her mind had snagged on the worrisome mother he spoke of. Her brow furrowed as she considered the image he had painted in her mind, of a woman with a kind face, fussing over her son. She had never considered that the guards, like the handlers, had loving families. She forgot that they hadn't been torn from their grasps or freely offered to the state like the forsaken or the dreadlords. Perhaps that was why he was still so kind, though sadly she was certain that it wouldn't last as he grew amongst the men he'd chosen to surround himself with.

There was a sadness in the way that she looked at him now. No longer fear but pity that he would see what he would see and do what he would do and no longer care about eating his greens that his mother would not worry. A man could not remain as kind as he in a place like this. Had he been a few years older he might well have beaten her to the ground for knocking over a barrel of apples.

Her pale lips thinned, and then curled slightly. A rare soft smile for a rarer still kind-hearted soul. The only one she had ever met.
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She smiled!

And oh, did the world open up before him. No, the future. No, everything— everything was there in that smile.

Clemente had no idea that a smile could cause his heart to stop. Clemente had no idea that a single smile, without a single world spoken, could make time freeze as it just had.

Lamely, dumbly, he stared at her face.

Every boy and girl was told fables about how wars were raged and Vel Anir’s might, about a hero to save a princess, and about terrible witches and beasts that brought maladies across the land. He had never been told a story about how a young man could meet a young woman, and how that woman’s smile seemed to put his entire world off course, but only in the best way.

He had no idea that smile was to be the bane of his existence, and yet the object of his desires all at once.

“Here’s your food.” The waitress broke Clemente out of his daze, and he jumped in his seat, his face turning beet red as if the waitress could somehow read his thoughts. Not that he was thinking of anything naughty! Oh no, he was raised better than that— and besides those thoughts were better to be explored in private— but! But! But!

“What?” The waitress snapped at him and Clemente cleared his throat.

Uh, something… something… to drink.” He managed to say, unable to look at the waitress as she scrutinized him.

“That’s extra.” Clem nodded his head, as if he cared at this point, his shoulders hunching over. “Water? Beer?”

Water. Please.” Clem said, insistently. The waitress huffed, storming off back into the kitchen. Clem hoped she wasn’t going to spit in their drinks.

The stew was before them, a large bowl on top a large round wooden plate. Off to the side was the bread. Clem, with a shaky hand, picked up the bread, taking a bite and chewing quickly. The bread was fresh, thank Kress. He looked over his shoulder, at the old men chewing away at their meal slowly. His gaze went back to the girl, and he flushed once again.

Really, he wasn’t having any bad thoughts.

The Girl with no name
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From the moment the meal was set before her, she witnessed nothing else. The voices around her, even those as close as Clem and the waitress, muffled into the deepest depths of her mind. The keenest of her senses was now rendered almost entirely useless whilst her others honed in on the bowl of stew. It was the largest portion of food she'd ever seen, and there was steam rising from it, carrying the glorious scent of salty meat straight to her very soul.

Her mouth watered. Her eyes watered and she swallowed the urge to cry. Her fingertips moved to explore, pressing gently into the warm soft bread. Her hunger was slowly but surely on its way to victory over the paranoia in her mind. If it was a trick, there wasn't a punishment in the world that wouldn't be worth it.

She blinked herself from her thoughts, her eyes glassy as she looked up at Clem and then around her in a moment of mild panic. It didn't seem like anyone was here waiting to take it from her. It would be more like the handlers to allow her a single taste.. But everything seemed.. calm.

The girl looked back to Clem, her teeth latched anxiously onto her lower lip to chew on it as she watched him chew on the bread. His cheeks were flushed, but he didn't look angry.. Her stomach made a growl in demand that she was certain was audible enough for the other patrons to hear.

Just eat...

Okay. This was it.

Cautiously, she lifted the spoon - because what even was the prongy thing? She played around with a small chunk of meat for a moment before lifting it to her lips. If he'd never seen a girl be afraid of stew before, well today was his lucky day! With a silent nod to herself she gathered some semblance of courage and ate. The taste was an assault on her unsophisticated palate, but what a gorgeous assault it was. It was hot and so she chewed a little awkwardly, still casting glances here and there to make sure she wasn't about to be tackled to the ground.

Another spoonful, another glance at Clem and another awkward smile with a puff of steam. A bite of bread, and another. Bread tasted like this?! Shit, there was no stopping her now - she would ensure every crumb and morsel of this potentially last support was devoured.
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The waitress came back, dropping off two cups and a luke-warm pitcher of water on the table. She, like any good Anirian should, looked at the girl with a look of disgust as her ate like a starving dog. Under grunt of annoyance and she was off, storming back into the kitchen as if the poor table manners really bothered her that much.

Not that Clem found the girl to be impolite in how she ate. Really, it’s not like she was holding the stew up to her face and letting the thick broth dribble down her chin. No, she used her spoon and ate the bread in between bites. Was she doing so in a frenzy? Yes but… well, how could Clem fault her for eating with such gusto?

Besides, it’s not like he was a stranger to hunger. Clemente knew very well that when people were deprived, things happened. Horrible things. Like when he first joined the guard and was sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation caused hallucinations, whether just auditory or visual. Starvation? That was a different sort of hallucination.

Food consumed the mind, and when Clemente was younger, he had been plagued with dreams about food. Plenty of times he had awoken and felt anxiety course through him because dreams had been so vivid of him breaking into his neighbor’s home and devouring whatever they had in their stores.

So Clemente understood. She was hungry. The poor thing, her slender form wasn’t by her choice, was it?

Clemente looked down at his bread, still in his hand, the bite mark staring back at him. He ripped any of the parts his mouth could have been on, and then handed the majority of it to the nameless girl.

“Here, try dipping it in the stew. I think you’d like it better.” He said softly.

The Girl with no name
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The more she ate, the less attention she paid to her surroundings and the more she believed herself truly safe. Perhaps they really didn't know she was here.. They might be there, waiting in her room for her later, but right now she didn't care about that. This was... wonderful.

Her eyes were shattered crystal as they rose to settle on his face, the film of tears glistening as they shifted to the bread he offered now that hers was gone. Gods, she wasn't ready for the meal to be over, and so the bread was so tempting. Once again his unfathomable kindness gave her reason to pause and consider trickery, but the consideration was quickly quashed. He really was just friendly. He was caring and compassionate and it confused and intrigued her to no end.

Slowly, oh-so-slowly, she reached out with a pale hand to take the offered cob, her cheeks flushing faintly. Yes, she'd gratefully allow him to be kind, and the gesture earned him another shy smile in mute gratitude before she dropped her gaze to what was left in her bowl.

Dip.. Bite.......

Her smile grew.

Dip dip dip dip dip bite....dip dip bite...
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Clem smiled warmly, forgetting about his own food in that moment. Despite the fact that it was bad manners, he rested a elbow on the table so he could rest his cheek on his open palm. He watched her eat, which sure, was probably a little creepy but there was something refreshing about it. Perhaps it was the fact that she looked so delighted to eat and it wasn’t just her eating to eat.

Clemente shook his head, chuckling, mostly to himself. No wonder why all the other guardsmen hated him, he was such a sap.

As if brought in by his self-deprecating thoughts, the door of the small place opened up. Clemente glanced for a moment, not registering anything more than it being three men. He was far more interested in watching her enjoy the food, and was even thinking about a good way to spend more time with her would be to get something sweet after this and how he could convince her to do so.

“Clemente? What are you….?” Clemente looked over at the three men, right as the angry lady skipped out of the kitchen. The color paled from his face as he noticed their attire. A uniform similar to his, but far more decorated. Oh, he knew these men very well the more he looked at their faces. Years had passed, but how could he ever forget the men that he once shared a small shack with during the first year of their servitude to Vel Anir?

“Farley!” The server cooed to show how in love she was as she ran into Farley’s big arms. His pale hair was cut short and more scars decorated his face. He was tall and wide, his broad shoulders looked indomitable underneath the clean armor. The shine reminded Clem exactly how dull his armor was.

His blue eyes looked hard at the weapons. Standard issue bastard sword, a parring dagger, and what also seemed to be a leather whip. Clem knew that there had to be others. The woman was talking a breakneck pace, vomiting everything one could possibly say.

The two men behind Farley were nudging each other, but their glances weren’t on the Anirian couple. No, there eyes kept going back to Clemente and the girl with no name. Clem cleared his throat and raised a hand up in greeting.

Uh… h-hey, guys?

The Girl with no name
She had barely noticed how he watched her eat. Her eyes were crushed topaz, sparkling behind the watery surface as she gazed so blissfully at the bowl, mopping up the last of the gravy with what bread she had left. She felt warmed and her stomach felt full, and oh dear Gods it had been heavenly. The bland and pitiful meals they were afforded underground were sustenance and nothing more, but up here? Up here things tasted like this..

The girl had paid no heed to anything else until she had cleaned the bowl, and she was in the process of licking the tips of her fingers when the young guard greeted someone rather nervously. She turned her head only slightly, her hood obscuring whomever it was from view. She didn't know the voices, but she listened as boots approached.

"Long time no see little Clementine!" the shortest, but not the lightest of the men aimed a hard slap at Clement's back in greeting.

"Who'sis ere then? You got yourself a girlfriend lad?" he bent, his head tilting to better see under her hood. The girl avoided his gaze as he seemed to study her for a short moment before clicking his tongue and letting out a little whistle.

"Pretty one for a peasant girl, int she?" he murmured. "Ey - come check out Clementine's new squeeze.." he waved the others over and pulled up a chair to sit without invitation, a little too close to her, his arms folding on the table as he grinned with too-few teeth and a breath that'd repel the street dogs..

"What's your name, girl?" he asked her, and she said nothing, much to his chagrin. "Shy, are ya?" he grinned and looked to Clem. "You got her whipped into shape? Don't talk unless you say so, that it? Good lad." he slapped his meaty hand on the table.

It was time to go. She lifted her gaze to Clem, hoping to convey her intention before she rose from the chair and turned to leave..
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Clementine. Oh, nonono, why now?

Clemente looked towards the woman, trying to read her face as she heard that stupid “nickname” of his. She seemed unbothered by it, but perhaps it was because she felt that maybe these were his friends. And they should be, but Clemente wasn’t right in the guard. No, plenty of soldiers couldn’t stand him. He was too soft, and he was sure plenty of his current comrades wished he would have left after his one year of mandatory service.

Of course, where he was more than happy to bow his down and take the passive aggressive comments without a word. But then he had to insult her. He immediately looked up, a deep frown and with his brows set low on his brow.

Y-You can’t speak t-to a lady that way,” Clemente said, hating that despite his firm beliefs in this statement he was stuttering like a child that was trying to stand up to a bully. He pulled out his coin pouch and tossed the copper onto the table. It was more than enough.

And she’s not my girlfriend, she’s… a family friend!” He added, and went to go follow after her. Farley blocked both of their way, looking down at the girl with no name and glancing at Clemente.

“That so. A family friend?” Farley said, looking back down at her. “Never saw you hang around a… lady before, kid.” Clemente paled. Without asking, he took hold of her wrist.

We’re leaving.

“No, you’re not. Heard there was some commotion in the square earlier. Someone ran off.”

And I lost her and saw my friend. Our mothers are friends.” Clem lied as he tried to step around Farley. Without hesitation, the larger man took hold of Clem’s shoulder and then shoved him against the wall, pressing his face hard against the wood.

“Pull down your hood, girl.”

The Girl with no name
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Her feet scuffed to a halt as her path was obstructed by brute, but she kept her head down and stepped back as a hand wrapped around her scrawny wrist. The girl drew in a quiet gasp and had been about to pull back when she realised who's hand it was. It was then that she realised that she wasn't afraid of Clem. Come to think of it, she wasn't afraid of these goons either, what she was afraid of was being seen and then handlers finding out she'd been in the city without instruction. They could do so much worse to her than these men could..

She had intended to follow the young guard out when his grip was yanked away from her and she reached out, failing to prevent him being smooshed against the wall. It was then that she realised, she rather liked Clem. He was sweet and kind and everything that was good in a world so steeped in everything that was terrible, and she was staring at him.

If he had his arm broken and took a beating, it would likely toughen him up a little. It would harden him to the reality that people were cruel for the sake of being cruel, and that there was always something waiting around the corner to punish one for thinking they had any right to enjoy something nice like stew. But there was something about the thought of him being hurt that caused her brow to furrow and a knot to form in her throat.

Taking down her hood would draw more attention, as would fighting - but at least if she could fight and flee, they might not find out that she was a knife-eared mongrel. Her head shook slowly, and she waited, and listened..

"Do as you're told you little b--" the man closest to her reached for the hood and she quickly ducked out of his way and gripped hold of the outstretched arm instead. Her grip was delicate, nor did she twist her hold, but the man screamed the same blood-curdling sound she was so very accustomed to, and thudded to his knees, gripping hold of his head as she let his arm fall.

It was the only warning she'd give, and she so dearly hoped they'd fear her enough to let Clem go and allow them both to leave. She glared at the one who had hold of Clem, her crystalline eyes shifting back and forth between them expectantly with an undeniable demand.

Let him go.
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Clem could hardly see the girl, his right eye closed tightly as Farley continued to shove his face harder against the wall. Only through his left eye could he catch sight of one of the men reaching to grab her? Clem tried to push himself off from Farley’s hold on him, placing both of his palms flat against the wall. He went lax, and as went to push the man screamed like some beast in the wild. It was enough to distract Farley, giving Clem ample opportunity to push himself off from the wall.

You need to get out of here,” was all Clem could tell the girl with no name as Farley took hold of Clem’s armor, pulling him back towards him as he drew a dagger. Before Clem could blink he felt the cold steel against his throat.

The waitress screamed, and Clem could see the cook come out, with the two men standing up from their chairs.

“You like hanging around thieves, Clementine?” Farley said, his hot and stale breath along his ear causing Clem to flinch. “Look at her, at her dress, her shoes. She’s from the slums and you’re parading her in this nice establishment. Bringing a bad rep to my girl’s family, right?”

F-f-family f-f-friend.” Clem said, hating his stuttering and wavering voice more than anything else right now.

“You’re not complying with an officer on top of it. Sheesh, it’s like you can’t even remember the ranks or the rules right. How on Arethil did you not get killed? Should’ve sent you up North to be fodder.” The dagger was pressed tighter against his throat and he looked hard at the forsaken. “So, one last time, girl, pull down your hood.”

The Girl with no name
She was so used to the sight of steel that she couldn't be panicked by it, but the moment that Clem's life appeared to be in her hands, she stilled, her gaze fixed upon the brute, her jaw clenching so hard that her back teeth ground.

She should run. She shouldn't care. None of her fellow forsaken would have cared, nor were they likely to have found themselves in this situation in the first place. Her brow furrowed a little more with every word Farley spoke, her fingers curled into fists at her sides...

A single nod was given.. Gods she was going to be in so much trouble for this.

Her hands rose and fingers curled around the rim of her hood which she slipped slowly from her head. Raven hair fell around her shoulders, the pale points of her ears poking through at each side. She wouldn't lift her chin. She was anything but proud to be a halfbreed, an abomination..

She was aware of every movement of her surroundings, but her cold eyes remained upon Farley as she held out her scarred wrists toward him, waiting to be shackled.
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Whereas the other men’s eyes narrowed in disdain, Clemente’s eyes widened in wonder. He could see those slivers of pale ears that arched into diamonds. The silence was deafening as for a few seconds no one moved or said anything.

“You like hanging around trash, don’t ya, Clementine.” Clem said nothing as Farley taunted them further. “Family friend? Well maybe I do believe that now. Just like you to fuck around with elves.”

She didn’t steal anything. I checked. It was someone else, I’m sure of that.” Clemente said firmly, closing his eyes. As long as he didn’t have to look in anyone’s eyes he could lie. But his face always gave him away even if it was a small fib. But Clemente realized that perhaps he wasn’t lying after all, he sounded so sure that she hadn’t stole anything.

And elves are allowed in the city. The Republic has changed a lot of civil laws so—

“Don’t remind me.” Farley threatened, his hot breath against Clem’s ear. Clemente held back the urge to cringe.

Hate crimes won’t be tolerated anymore, if she is in the city then that means she has been cleared. Not to mention you’re disturbing the peace and… other… things.”

A second passed and then Farley released Clem. “Pay for your food and leave my girl a nice tip, yeah? You might sour business for these hard-working Anirians. And Clementine, don’t threaten me. I’m not the one risking the wellbeing of my own people for a cheap lay. Could’ve gone to one of the brothels in the slums if you wanted to poke your dick on their knife-ears.”

Clem couldn’t imagine why Farley thought the reason he was with the girl with no name was because he wanted to get laid, but he said nothing as he pulled out his coin pouch. He didn’t have much on him, in his pouch or at home. Regardless of that fact, he slowly went to the table and emptied out his coin pouch completely.

Enough for their meal and a generous tip, although whether Farley thought so would be a problem to deal with another day. When Clem turned around, Farley and the others still looked to be blocking the door.

We’re leaving now.” Clem said, setting his jaw just so in a attempt to look as serious as one could. He went to the girl and without asking, raised her hood back over her head. He wanted to say something more, tell them that they should be ashamed for trying to embarrass a woman. Something told him that they hardly cared.

He took her hand, giving her a firm squeeze. As Clem walked, the men didn’t move, not until there was only two steps in between them.

“You’re fuckin’ sick.” Farley said, and then walked past the two of them. “You’re gonna have to burn the fuckin’ table. No one is gonna want to sit here.” Ignoring them, Clem opened the door and held it open for the girl as he was raised to do. When she stepped to the street, he would gently close the door behind them.

Well. I guess we can’t go there again.

The Girl with no name
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The insults didn't faze her. Hells, there were times when she'd prayed for (and been thankful for) verbal abuse rather than any more pain. Creatures like her had no right to take any offence, they had little right to breathe the same air as humans let alone walk amongst them or dine in their restaurants. She had fully expected to be arrested, to be whipped through the streets and hanged for the crime of her birth, and so as her hands lowered, unbound, her brow furrowed in confusion.

'Elves are allowed in the city...'
' ...Hate crimes won't be tolerated anymore....'
'....She has been cleared....'

Her lips parted despite her inability to make any sound, but her expression asked enough of a question without her having to. She had been left alone in the undercut for... Well, she wasn't sure how long exactly, but it'd been quite some time.

Were the forsaken here, living amongst Anirians? Or had they truly escaped?
....Were her handlers truly gone?...

Ever silent, the girl's crystalline eyes shifted from Farley to Clem and back. She didn't move as the young guardsman pulled her hood up, though her gaze fell to the floor in shame as he did so. She had hoped only that the brute would spare his life, but it seemed that she'd only made things worse for him. These cretins wouldn't forget about this, and there was little doubt in her mind that if there surroundings weren't so public right now, they wouldn't have been so willing to let them both leave.

Again, she ignored the insults and watched the man cautiously as he cleared their way. Nothing made any sense, but she wasn't about to stick around any longer to insist he arrest her to put her confusion to an end. She stepped out, still quite unable to look at Clem. She felt she knew his character almost well enough to doubt that he'd be in any way cruel to her, but she had led him to believe she was human at least, and she had caused him more than enough trouble for one day.

His comment was yet another unexpected thing; the word 'again', in particular. Her brow twitched into a frown and she glanced up at him, grimacing apologetically. Her head shook in response, and then dipped in a quick farewell before she turned on her heels to leave this place behind before Farley changed his mind. Before Clem could say anything more about the ordeal.
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Clemente wasn’t quite sure what he had been thinking would happen after they left that certain altercation. Maybe it was too much to hope that they could continue on with their day, together. Well, it was too much to hope for such a thing. Clem was still on duty. He had taken a lunch break, maybe one far longer than he should have.

“Wait!” Clem shouted, following after the woman, the elven woman who despite being an elf, was willing to reveal her identity if it meant he wouldn’t get brutalize any longer. Such a strange thing for a elf to do, to care about a human. Clemente had heard so many stories about how elves despised humans and would even kill children without mercy.

“Please.” Clemente said. “Please give me your name. I have to work, I need to go back to work. But Thursdays are my day off. Or, partial day off. I’ll do my duty in the morning, but by the afternoon I’ll be free and…” he trailed off, realized he was rambling too much. “I wish to see you again to make up for today. More importantly, I’d really like to know your name, even if you are shy and don’t like talking much, that’s okay. I talk enough for the both of us,” he chuckled nervously, a hand going up to scratch the back of his neck.

His palms were sweaty once again.

The Girl with no name
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The girl came to a halt, and as she turned slowly she wore a look of mingled uncertainty and confusion as he made a plea for her name, and asked to see her again. That word again.. Her brow furrowed as she watched him in her usual silence for a while longer. She should have run and continued running until she was back where she belonged, but this small taste of freedom had been sweet and yet, nothing close to how his kindness had felt. That it hadn't appeared to have changed since finding out what she was, was most unexpected. Abomination..

She turned back to face him fully, her azure eyes glancing to the door of the fine establishment they'd just vacated. Spending more time with Clemente would bring more trouble for him, judging by the venom coated string of insults hurled at them both. Teeth latched onto her lower lip to gnaw anxiously, her fingers wringing together. Vocal abilities would really come in handy up here.

Her shoulders rose and fell in a sigh as her head shook and fingers tap-tapped on her chest. She had no name. She had no voice. She had nothing at all but the clothes on her back, and Thursday afternoon.
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“MEET ME,” Clemente shouted after her, fully drawn into this melodramatic and yet hopeful moment. “AT THE CENTRAL SQAURE, BY THE FOUNTAIN OF ANIRETH.” Everyone knew that spot, in the nice spot of the city where cafes thrived and specialty shops opened up. It was known as a place for couples to meet, right by that fountain, before going off and enjoying their dates—

Oh, he needed to get planning. This was a date, wasn’t it? Perhaps he should have clarified it. He should have asked her properly, like a really gentleman would. But he still didn’t have her name! And she was much too far away now to shout how he just to get her name.

Perhaps on Thursday he could ask her for her name again. Then, he could properly ask her out.

Thursday Afternoon, Central Square in Vel Anir

Clemente had never worked as hard as he had that morning. He had been fifteen minutes early to his post, had prepped whatever he may need during that time and even got on tidying up some other matters. Check in with this person, then that person, get some signatures and seals on some papers and filed them away neatly. When he had to do his rounds, he did so with such vigor that some of the other guardsmen had asked him if he was feeling alright and if they could have whatever it was that he had that morning.

Those poor men. They would never feel the excitement and motivation of going out with the prettiest girl of the world. Although beauty was in the eye of the beholder, Clemente was aware that objectively, she was the prettiest woman anyone could ever lay eyes on.

Her ears didn’t bother him. If all elves looked like her then he was certain there never would have been a war between the humans and elves in the first place. How could anyone wish death on someone who had a face like that?

Though, Clemente had pushed those thoughts out of his way. He was able to get off his post early, had dressed himself in his nicest tunic and pants— which, okay, weren’t the nicest but there weren’t any holes in them— and made sure his hair was combed. He stood at the fountain, waiting for the girl with no name. Other men were standing around as well, and Clemente couldn’t help but look at them and see how completely underdressed he was compared to them.

One man had a whole ensemble with a vest and jacket and hat and ascot! Everything matched and color-coordinated and… was he holding a bouquet of flowers? Clemente felt his cheeks get red. Flowers. He should have gotten her flowers, of course!

The Girl with no name
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A few more days, and still nobody had come for her. Aside for the rats, she walked the under city alone. She had betrayed orders by going into the city, by being seen. The punishment would have been grievous, it should have been, and yet nothing had risen from the shadows to chastise her. Perhaps they really had gone.. Elves were after all - although still detested - now allowed to walk the streets of Vel Anir. Things really had changed.

Her confidence in her new found freedom grew little by little with each passing hour. She strayed into rooms she'd been forbidden to enter, into comfortable lounges with burnt out hearths. Warmth that they had never been allowed to share even in the coldest of nights. Into dorms with feather beds and blankets when they had slept on filthy mats on damp floors, and into kitchens with pantries filled with foods that she had never seen before in her life. She washed in hot water, she ate a jar of peaches and she slept under a pile of several blankets on a plush sofa by a roaring hearth.

On Thursday, she dressed in fresh clothes that hadn't belonged to her and still hung a little loose, but they were clean and well made. Her hair was blue-black silk and her cheeks had a little more warmth to them. Her hood remained a comfort as she snuck out of the darkness and into the light with a wince as her eyes adjusted.

She melted into the crowd, her head downcast and a wrapped bundle clutched against her pounding chest. Before long she had found where he'd asked her to meet him and she paused, her eyes drifting frantically from face to face. She was surprised to feel her heart sink when she didn't see him at first, and then stumble when finally, she did. She stood for a moment, smiling at the surreality of it all before she wandered up to meet him.
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Upon seeing her, at first Clemente thought it was the trick of the light when he first found her in the crowd, his nervousness grew tremendously. He could feel his hands become clammy, was faintly aware of his underarms becoming damp, and suddenly he was unsure on how he should greet her. Should he be more formal or casual? Which would get a better response from her?

But as she got closer and closer to him, Clem was inevitably pulled towards her. He meant her halfway, grinning like a boy who was experiencing their first summer of puppy love.

“Hey, uh, I mean, hi—hello?” He stumbled over his words, but instead of clamming up from the embarrassment, he continued on. “I should’ve brought you flowers but, well, I mean I didn’t even think of it until now.” Nervously, he chuckled, looking away from her face and off to the side. “I mean I wasn’t even quite sure you’d be showing up.” Clemente admitted as he brought his gaze to look into her luminous eyes.

“But I thought maybe we could go to a florist shop nearby. You can show me what flowers you like. I don’t know everything but I do know that not every woman is into roses. Although, roses smell the best, don’t you think?” Clemente said, still grinning stupidly before he held out his arm for the girl with no name to take. Or reject.

The Girl with no name
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She had learned to smile since she'd met him, and these past few days she had started to get used to it. His smile was contagious, and she smiled back, a breath tumbling from her lips as she dropped her gaze with a sky and soundless laugh.


Her eyes rose up to meet his gaze as he spoke to her about flowers, her head shaking dismissively at his apparent guilt at having not brought her such a gift. He seemed as nervous as she was, even more, if that were even possible. She couldn't blame him for thinking she might not have shown up. She'd been skittish and anxious, and after the chaos she had caused on their last meeting, she had reconsidered several times. She only hoped he hadn't doubted himself..

Roses? The girl shrugged and shook her head, unsure. She had never smelled roses before, but she smiled none-the-less as she reached to take his arm without hesitation, allowing him to lead her wherever he had in mind. Her free hand reached to tug gently on his tunic, looking over it with a soft smile and then to his face, hoping he'd understand.

You look nice.
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It was surreal, this moment as it was happening, seemed surreal. Clemente couldn’t believe that on a afternoon, they had met up together, at the fountain in the central square in Vel Anir— like a couple. Of course, they weren’t a couple, but Clem couldn’t help but to think about certain aspects of their future. It was simple things, walking together and holding hands, sitting down together and listening to bird song.

There were even more simple and mundane things, mending each others clothing with cloth— and hopefully Clem impressing her with his needlework— or polishing their shoes. Things he had done plenty of times alone and done them grudgingly and sluggish. Now, the possibility of them doing these things together seemed exciting and new.

Although, Clem suspected that he was getting far too much ahead of himself. He looked down to her tugging on his tunic. His whole entire body flushed, warm and welcoming but with a twinge of shame.

“Oh, uh, yeah, no armor today.” Clem said as he began to lead her to a florist shop not far from the square. It wasn’t one of the most popular or the largest, but it was by far the most nostalgic of his mother. There was something about Hannah, a short and stout old woman who could never stay quiet even when asked to do so, that felt motherly.

Maybe it was the fact she kept trying to force Clem to date her short and pudgy daughters who had no interest in him (even if they were short and pudgy and looked too much like Hannah, it had been a rather brutal blow to his ego that all five of them vigorously refused their mother’s suggestion right in front of his face). Or maybe it was because despite her incessant talking, she was genuine and kind and held that maternal instinct.

“Have you been doing well? I know it’s only been a few days but,” his dull blue eyes looked down at the girl with no name before immediately looking back up. “You look… different. In a good way.” Clemente couldn’t quite place his finger on it, but there was more color to her fair skin that once appeared too translucent to be healthy. The dullness under her eyes seemed to be there, but it was disappearing, slowly but surely.

Clemente didn’t think it had anything to do with him, but maybe because she had eaten that stew. He’d make sure after the florist, he’d take her somewhere to eat. Somewhere they couldn’t be disturbed and somewhere Farley and his group wouldn’t dare go.

The Girl with no name
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He noticed. Well, she must have looked truly awful having crawled out of the undercity like a starved rat, and even then he'd wanted to talk to her. Anything had to be better than that..

The girl looked up at him with a small smile that warmed her eyes, nodding with a casual shrug in response to his question. Everything had been different in a good way, and she had not felt quite so well in... ever. She grew more and more confident with every hour that no handlers came out of their hiding places to laugh at her idiocy as they lashed her, but if they did, she'd already be in terrible trouble, so she might as well just enjoy breaking the rules whilst she could.

She could smell the floral scents before they arrived outside the little florist, and her nose twitched slightly as she pulled at the fragrance. She was so used to every terrible smell this city and beneath it had to offer, that something so pleasant was entirely foreign to her. Her lips curled, and she'd thought about reaching out to touch the soft lilac petal of a strange plant before a woman's voice called out from inside, causing her to recoil and tighten her hold on Clem's arm..
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Clemente smiled as he saw her eyes drank in the sight. Hannah loved her flowers, and the outside held different seasonal blooms.

“Pretty, aren’t they? These are bush morning glories. You can find them towards the West.” Clem said, and then pointed out another flower as he knelt down by the door. “Asters. Not the prettiest or the smell the strongest, but they’re a pretty in arrangements for weddings because everyone wants roses or calla lilies. Oh! And look, this is a cape primrose. And crocus… I think Hannah must’ve put things in order by color.” How could he miss it? He glanced back at the girl.

“Is this your favorite color? Purple?” He asked. Before she could answer, if she would have, the door swung open and nearly hit Clem square in the face. Luckily it just swung out against his chest and shoulder.

“Oh, sorry—“ the girl began to say until she saw it was Clem. “Never mind. MA!” The girl turned her head back and over her shoulder, calling for Hannah. “Clemmy’s here!”

“I thought you weren’t going to call me Clemmy anymore. It sounds too much like—“

“Phlegmy. I know. MAAAAAAA! I’m going to see Daniel!” The girl gave Clem a pointed look and he stood up, standing off to the side so the young woman could open the door wide enough to slip out. She didn’t look twice at Clem and as the door was swinging back shut, Clem caught it.

He opened the door for the girl with no name and smiled sheepishly.

“Ladies first,” he said. “I promise inside is even better.” And it was true. The moment one stepped inside Hannah’s flower shop, they would be greeted with all sorts of plants. Not just blooms although they were certainly eye-catching and along one side of the small shop were pre-made bouquets. Plants hung from the ceiling, their green tendrils and vines reaching out all over. Green and golden snake plants lined one shelf nearest the door with larger plants like bird nest ferns and cortosi red prayer plants resting beneath.

“See?” Clem said, gesturing to the rest of the flowers that could be found. “Smells good, doesn’t it?”

The Girl with no name
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Her brows rose as she looked over the myriad of pretty blooms, and then back at him, a glimmer of intrigue in her gaze. Flowers had names?..And, he knew the names of all of them?...

The girl smiled as she learned each name, and she reached out to gently trace her fingertips across purple petals only to recoil with a wince when the door swung open and hit Clem. She reached for him, and though her head bowed timorously, it did so with a gentle frown at the girl's rudeness. It was everything not to slam her hands over her sensitive ears as they were assaulted by the grating yell at such close proximity, but she'd have drawn attention to herself. Her eyes squeezed shut and her jaw clenched instead, opening them only to watch the horrid girl leave.

Clem's voice soothed the searing pain and she returned his smile as he opened the door for her. She paused in front of him, her hand lifting hesitantly to rest momentarily where the door had battered into him, before she stepped inside. The shy smile she wore brightened, and widened as she walked and turned at the same time, trying to take in all there was to see and smell.

She nodded quickly in answer to Clem's question, and clearly laughed though only a quiet breath tumbled from her lips. She had never seen anything like this before. She had no idea the city had such colours, nor scents. All she knew were grey walls and darkness, and the smells were anything but pleasant. The girl bit down on her lip, once more drawn to some potted, purple flowers, her lips curling as she wondered what it's name was.
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She had the healing touch. Or maybe he was just giddy that she had placed her hand to soothe his very mild injury. He couldn’t help but to compare it to how it had been a struggle to put that salve on her bruised, swollen wrist. Now look at her, touching him back where he had been hurt as if it were natural.

Clemente was grinning from ear to ear. He followed after her, and bent over, looking at the potted plant with her.

“Violets” he told her. “Or, that’s a halo violet. Here’s a Eastern blue violet.” He never understood why the violet that was closer to lavender was called a Eastern blue violet, but he wasn’t the one who got to name flowers. His blue gaze came back to the potted halo violets. Those were clearly her favorite, weren’t they?

“Clem!” Hana’s voice greeted the pair as she came out of the back room that she had been in. “And… this is…?” Her brown eyes were soft and warm, like baked bread, as she looked over the girl beside Clem.

The Girl with no name
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She had been listening intently to Clemente's explanation, her eyes wide with wonder as she gazed from flower to flower, trying to take in how beautiful they all were. Not only did they have names, they were deemed so important that they had several names. How lucky they were!

Another voice jolted her, and her heart fluttered with unease as Hana addressed her. She averted her gaze, feeling a surge of self-consciousness at her lack of a name. She glanced at Clem briefly, seeking reassurance before mustering up a shy smile. The woman seemed to radiate warmth, and if Clem liked her, she must have been kind.

With a delicate movement of her hand, she gestured towards herself, pressing her fingers against her lips, gesturing silently that she couldn't speak. Her eyes pleaded for understanding, hoping that Hana would be able to grasp her situation despite her inability to communicate verbally. Again, she mustered a small, bashful smile, attempting to convey her gratitude and appreciation for Hana's warm welcome. She hoped that her eyes, filled with curiosity and wonder, would speak volumes about her eagerness to explore the vibrant world of flowers that surrounded her.
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