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At World's End

Don't Look Away
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"Please don't do that agian,' Zara patned, trying her best to regain her composure as she glared at Umbra. "I could've died."
 
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"I know," Umbra replied drily in a deadpan tone, "it happens to me more often than you think. The almost-dying part, I mean."

~

As it turned out, the walk back more or less went without incident, and the pair was back in Winterstone Heights before long. Most of the walk had passed in what seemed to be comfortable silence, and as such, Umbra wasn't one to start up any conversations along the way - most died out within minutes, so the mercenary couldn't help but criticize her own social ineptitude in a rather self-deprecating manner.

They now stood before the mansion's gates, the sun reaching its apex in the cloudless sky. It was just past lunchtime.
 
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"Well, we finally made it," Zara pointe dout, frowning towards Umbra for a moment. "So, you won't tell my parents the way I acted and I won't tell them you technically threw me off a building."
 
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"Deal," she replied, not eager to find out how Rachel and Lucas would react to the whole 'jumping off a building' episode. She led them inside, expecting to be greeted by one of the nameless maids of the household.
 
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They were greeted by the same maid that greeted Umbra before, she didn't seem fazed by Zara coming back. In fact, it was Zara who seemed nervous. "I'm back, Olivia,' she replied with a chuckle.

"Out on another adventure I see," Olivia replied sternly before she glanced at Umbra, only giving her a nod.
 
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Umbra gave her a slightly awkward wave in response, not quite sure what to say to the maid in question.
 
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Zara and Umbra were led to the mansion's dining room where Rachel and Lucas were waiting. The two of them immediately stood up upong seeing Zara, walking towards her. 'What do you think you were doing young lady," Rachel scolded as she walkked over, glaring at the girl and causing her to step back. "You didn't even meet your bodyguard and had already snuck out? what if something happened to you."

"Thanks for going after her Umbra," Lucas replied cordially, glancing sternly at Zara. "I guess you can understand why we decided to look for a bodyguard."
 
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Umbra waved off their (perhaps superficial) praise. "Uh, look. Everything turned out fine, and your daughter is safe and sound, so I think you're overreacting just a bit..." Umbra tried to pacify the older couple, crossing her arms as she shifted her heterochromatic gaze between the two. "You shouldn't spend your time here and now wondering and speculating over what could have been. We could've made different choices to generate vastly different outcomes, but that doesn't change the reality of the situation at hand. Take it from someone who's tried changing the past," she briefly thought back to her brother with a small smirk ghosting her normally indecipherable countenance, "be grateful for what you have now. That might be a hard concept to grasp, but I'd say the fact that Zara is here and well is reason enough to stop micromanaging her every move and whatnot." She knew better than anyone what it felt like to almost lose everything one held dear to themselves, and she cared enough to instill at least some form of self-awareness in her clients.

Yatsuri almighty, I haven't talked that much in ages, she groaned inwardly, hoping the parents didn't take her statements for an outright act of defiance towards clientele. She hadn't quite meant to defend the slightly younger girl beside her.... it kind of just happened thoughtlessly.

Rich people often had (at least almost) everything they had ever wanted in life, so she wasn't exactly expecting them to understand her philosophy's gratuity for what truly mattered in the present - she just hoped they didn't get inadvertently offended by the last part of her spiel.

"Sorry if I mentioned anything that could offend you in any way. I'm not making any effort to antagonize any of you, but I felt it had to be said."

With that, she backed off from the conversation.
 
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Lucas and Rachel glanced at one another before glancing at Zara, who was fidgetting with her shirt. "Well, we're supposed youer' right," Lucas said as he turned towards the table. 'For now, why don't you girls sit down for lunch?"
 
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Around three weeks had passed; the spring semester for college students began that day. Albion University was colossal in size, the student body nearly triple the size of its sister colleges. The campus was flooded with students, though some obviously had reservations about going back to class.

Umbra was not one of these students, however - despite the money she was being paid, she lacked the credentials for entry even to a decent school of higher education, so she kind of just stayed out of the university scene. Her job didn't even really allow for a slew of college courses, anyhow.

It's not like she'd be able to stay in school very long anyways - her nicotine habit, combined with her omnipresent Skill, would get her kicked out in no less than five minutes. So, she took a drag from her cigarette far away from the university, on the outskirts of the city. She was pretty sure no one was stupid enough to attack Zara in broad daylight, at a massive school, no less.
 
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"If she was going to protect me wouldn't it make sense for her to be here," Zara muttered to herself as she made her way inside Albion university, having stopped to get some coffee on the way. She found it odd that her parents hadn't enrolled Umbra with her at the university, consideirng she was supposed to be her bodyguard. However, she also wondered if they even knew about it, maybe the thought Umbra was going to enroll herself.

Either way, she didn't think too much of it as she walked into the school and began to check her schedule.
 
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Umbra disposed of the cigarette, glancing over in the general direction of the university. The boredom was torturous - what she wouldn't give to break some shady guy's face in...

But no, she didn't want to lose her job over something so trivial - it wouldn't really help her case if she were to get thrown into prison for something like punching someone in the face just because she felt like it.

"Honestly, I wish you would get yourself in trouble so I'd have something to do," Umbra grumbled to herself, leaning back on the bench.
 
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Zara had made her way to her first class, Chemistry 2. She didn't really like chemistry much herself, but for an aspiring neurologist it was absolutely necessary. As she entered the classroom she noticed some of her friends talking up front, a smile going through her face as she went to talk to them.

"Oh, rich girl's here," one of her friends, a woman with long brown hair turned to her with a smile. "Had a nice summer?" she asked as the other two girls stood by her side.

"Yeah...well, mostly,' Zara pointed out, sighing as she remembered Umbra. "Just some trouble with my parents hiring a bodyguard for me for some reason," she added witha dismissive wave of her hand.

"Everything okay?" the woman asked, looking slightly worried.

"Everything's fine, Elise," Zara reassured her with a chuckle. "She's actually mostly just quiet and weird, kind of temperamental too," she shrugged as she walked over to her seat. "But anyways, tell me more about your own summer."




'
 
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"Super boring," one of the other girls cut in with a groan, running a hand through her short hair. Zara would recall that her name was Aria, one of her childhood friends growing up. "As much as I hate to say it, I'm sort of glad that class is giving us something to do."

Aria paused, sneaking another glance at Zara. "Are still on for the party this weekend? Normally I wouldn't worry, but it sounds like this... body guard complicates things with you."

Umbra sneezed.
 
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"Party? Oh right," Zara said in realization, remembering she had been invited to go by Aria a few days before. "I'll...have to make sure with Ms. Bodyguard."
 
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"Does Ms. Bodyguard have a name?" Aria asked with a raised brow.

Umbra scowled at one of the university students passing by, before standing up and making her way further into the city, fed up with waiting. "Fuck. At least give me a challenge, Yatsuri."

With that, the silently sulking adult made her way through one of the darker alleyways, uncaring for any shady hoodlums that might try to test her patience.
 
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"Hm?" Zara said with curiosity as she turned towards Aria. "Umbra, I'd rather just call her Ms. Bodyguard though," she pointed out with a shrug as she leaned back. "I don't think she'll be around too long, once my parents see everything's okay they'll just let her go."
 
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"As much as I'm glad I don't have someone watching my every move," Aria began with a slight frown, brows furrowed in seriousness, "I do think that's a bit unfair of you.. That's kind of like saying 'this factory is producing a commodity that I don't really need, so I hope the factory manager subjects their workers to unemployment - then they won't have a reason to make it anymore', isn't it?"

The teacher, Mr. Abrams, walked into the class, promptly ending the idle chatter in the classroom. Chemistry was now in session.
 
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"Maybe, but I never asked for her anyway,' Zara said as the teacher arrived, prompting for her to go quiet as class started.

***

Zara sighed later that afternoon as she and her friends made their way out of their last class. The first day had just ended but she already felt like she wanted the year itself to end. "I've got so much homework and is only the first day too."
 
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"Well, hey, you'll get to let loose soon enough this weekend," Aria supplied somewhat-helpfully. When they stepped outside past the courtyard's gates, she groaned melodramatically, "Freedom at last!"

Umbra had ended up back in the park, knuckles throbbing dully in either hand. It wasn't uncommon for the woman to get involved with the wrong crowd, per se - she had made a bit of a bad habit when she got around to beating shady numbskulls in the ground. It had been a while since she had been this reckless, however - she typically did not deal with such nuisances without a weapon on hand. Thus she had resorted to her fists, which ached a fair amount. But the faint pain at least gave her something to focus on what with Zara and her schoolwork.

She debated on texting the other girl, but ultimately decided against it. She was a bodyguard, not some glorified babysitter. It would do her some good if she had even a little faith in Zara's ability to make decisions like a rational adult.
 
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