I have a unique personal style and I'm always on the hunt for the next unique item. Feel free to share your favorite style or wishlist! All are welcome 💖
Lazy, unironic, and uninspired flat lay photography - stylegrids that show off how to put together great outfits to make you more fashionable. Welcome to an endless source of inspiration and your latest obsession.
A place to share, find, and discuss Datasets.
You know what would be a great idea? Having the blacksmith and the vendors in a different city than the one that has the stash. That way, we can enjoy the beautiful scenery of Sanctuary as we travel back and forth between them. Who needs convenience when you have immersion, right? And think of all the fun we'll have managing our inventory and deciding what to keep and what to sell. It's like a mini-game within the game. I'm sure the developers have our best interests at heart and they want to make Diablo 4 the most realistic and engaging experience possible. So let's all show our appreciation and support this brilliant design choice. /s
I Hope y‘all understand what I mean. I almost gave up singing because I thought my voice isn’t special or has no beautiful timbre. Then I got introduced to falsetto and started to love my voice and my high notes. Sadly if I sing on a normal scale, for example the first part from „the hills - The Weeknd“ my voice absolute looses it grit/rasp and sounds almost „transparent“ It kinda sounds usual and not special enough. But My falsetto sounds amazing. How can I add the special timbre/color of my falsetto to my normal range ?
Recently I watched a youtube video on infinity as explained by mathematicians and essentially they broke it down as a long series of recognizable sequences (paraphrasing). This got me thinking: the best chess players know many strategies and can visually recognize specific arrangements of pieces to know when to apply them. Similarly, some people know how to read based on the shape of words and fill the rest in contextually. If math is sequences of patterns whose structure implies certain applications, why can't I just commit the structures and applications to memory and learn that way as opposed to learning a bunch of technical jargon? Are there resources for this in the way that there are chess books that show you moves on a board?
We are a SaaS business that has about 10M visitors per month. We get a good amount of people who come, buy something, then come back later in the year and do it again. It is difficult to separate new users from return users because I don't consider our industry to be particularly brand loyal... people search for what we sell and pick a vendor based on price and quality. So the likelihood of someone clicking an ad that already knows about us is decent.
Exec team (and I) really want to see ads focused on new customer acquisition.
Here's what I've come up with, and I'm curious if there's a better suggestion for this or if I'm missing something.
Primarily I report on conversions under a last touch attribution model. Meaning last click gets the sale.
However, knowing that for someone to actually discover us through an ad, that would be a first touch. Sometimes the first and last touch are the same before purchase, sometimes not.
So we set up an automated formula that looks like this:
First touch conversions (with a check to ensure these users have never been to our site before to best of our ability) / Last touch conversions
This is run in a 3rd party data platform from UTM data.
The thought process is this:
If someone asks how many purchases ads truly drove, I'm reporting last touch.
But to look at how many new customers we drove with ads, we'd need to look at first touch with the understanding that some of those users might ultimately buy from an email marketing newsletter or some other piece of marketing.
So of the customers I "know" purchased from an ad, this is a % that estimates how many of them have no record of visiting our site before they clicked the ad.
To me that is just a measure of a good marketing funnel (user discovers us through a paid ad, then two weeks later buys from an email marketing message, the ad still found us a new customer).
This generally gives me number in the 70-80% range, and it's not a number I live and die by, but feels pretty decent for an idea of how many new customers we brought in with ads.
I'm aware I can toggle google ads setting to focus on new customers as well, but I don't love that solution for a number of reasons. Also aware google analytics has some data around this but I think the accuracy of that data is questionable.
Thoughts on this? Is this formula insanity or does it make directional sense?
I am an Instagrammer who travels from Korea to New York. Looking for someone who is interested in K beauty and Instagram and has a good photo sense. don't need any supplies. I'm going to take pictures with my own cell phone.
Hey quick summary, I just moved out of my moms house and went no contact last Friday. This was due her choosing my low life brother over me. (her and i made an agreement to kick him out because I was the only one paying rent and she went back on her decision, I no longer wanted to be taken advantage of so I moved out.)
I want to send her a "last message" type thing, The reason is because when my dad left I refused to ever communicate to anyone about it, as in adult now I dont want to carry the burden of never Letting her know how much she hurt me. (shes done more than just that obv.) At the same time I am conflicted because as an adult should I even bother? After my dad shes all I had, its hard.
Anyone that has gone no contact as an adult have any advice?
Message me or else (else nothing but never the less) I’m bored so idc what rly you want to chat about Just make it not boring plz. Lmk age and gender when you msg. And erm maybe start something to talk about
--- Table of Contents
--- Winter 4986, 22 Aoimoth
She had a name! And she was going to dinner with Shon and others from the fortress. And she had a name! Lily practically skipped as she followed Shon down the spiral stairs, then through the halls, then down more flights of stairs. She didn’t care that she might end up too lost to get back to the infirmary on her own; she was having dinner with others! And she had a name!
As they walked, Lily watched Shon in glances, not wanting to stare. He'd let her hold his hand for practically forever. Longer than anyone she'd known, though that was admittedly a small sample. Lily brushed the back of Shon’s hand with hers. He flinched the first time, and she felt a little guilty, but touching his skin was like touching ice that didn’t melt. When she did it a second time, he looked at her, and she grinned guiltily. She would have apologized, but the next moment they entered a vast room, and she was struck dumb by the size of it.
It was at least twice as large as the infirmary, which was as big as her treasures' rooms -previously the largest she'd ever remembered seeing. In the middle was a long table full of boys and young men with room to spare. Positioned around it were smaller, round tables where adult Paladins sat with steaming bowls of stew. The smell of venison and root vegetables permeated the room, and she took a deep breath to try and take it all in.
Shon walked past her and had to turn back to get her attention, Ryuuko swaying with the motion on his shoulder. Silently he nodded towards another long table against the wall with a few bowls and a massive pot of -presumably- stew. Lily sprinted to catch up with him as Shon picked up a bowl. Scraping the bottom of the nearly empty pot, he found enough chunks to fill it before handing it to her and grabbing another.
Lily cradled the steaming bowl and surveyed the room again. She'd never seen so many people... She wanted to meet all of them. Tell them her name. She had a name!
Shon started towards the long table, and Lily ran past him towards the middle and largest grouping of Squires. A boy only a year or so older than she and Shon waved at her, indicating the bench in front of him, though it was full of boys already. “Scoot over guys, we have a guest!” he told the Squires, who turned to face her, and as one dropped their spoons into their bowls.
“Hi! My name’s Lily.” she didn’t bother to suppress her grin, bouncing on the balls of her feet. The boys quickly made room, and Shon passed behind her as she set her bowl down. But with her hands free, Lily reached out and pulled him closer. He stumbled, but only a little, and she smiled down at the boys again, “Could you scoot a little bit more? For Shon?”
The boy to her right looked dumbfounded while the boy to her left looked at Shon as if he'd grown a second head. Lily continued to smile, and Ryuuko whistled on Shon's shoulder. The boys exchanged looks but made room, so she sat and patted the bench until Shon set his bowl down and joined her.
with a wide smile, the boy who'd waved her over commented, “Wow, strange to see you in the middle, Shon…” Shon just shrugged, and Ryuuko chittered. Holding his elbows close to his sides, Shon picked up his spoon and, scooping up some meat, held it up for the little dragon.
The Squire next to the talkative one shook his head and spoke to Lily, "Excuse us miss, my name’s Baradin, this is Zihler, Rehlein…" he listed off each of the other twelve squires, pointing as he went and ending with, "and you already know Shon... apparently…" he looked at Shon questioningly, like he was waiting for something.
Shon lifted his head to look at Baradin but said nothing. Lily was only paying half attention to them, instead whispering the other boys' names under her breath, determined to remember as many as possible. "My name is Lily." she declared again, beaming at the boys around the table. She was so happy to finally be able to give someone her name that it didn’t matter that some of them wouldn’t meet her eyes. Beneath the table, she moved her leg to touch Shon's beside her. He dropped his spoon.
Baradin looked away from Shon again, focusing on her, "It's nice to meet you, Lily," the boys around him each greeted her in one way or another, some with a "Hi" and smile, others with just a wave, and still others mumbling something before focusing on their food intensely.
"Soooooo," Zihler let the word draw out for a long time. He glanced at Shon then finally asked, "How did you meet Shon? He isn't usually the type to make conversation."
Beside her, Shon sighed, and Lily tilted her head just a little at the reaction. Zihler didn't sound like he was making fun of her new friend. Maybe he was just trying to find a way to start a conversation… "He saved me." She answered, "That's why I'm here." Shon looked at her in shock, and she smiled at him, "We were just talking before dinner, and he invited me to come have some."
The boys were staring at them openly now. Apparently, they hadn't been told about the tower incident. She wondered if she'd said too much and decided to take a bite of the stew while she thought. It was rich and delicious. She took her time to chew it slowly, barely resisting a moan.
"So, he's almost like a knight in shining armor." said the other boy next to Baradin -Rehlein- his voice definitely teasing as he grinned at Shon.
"Except he's a Squire that can’t wear armor." said another boy, whose name she couldn't remember. The boys around the table laughed, Ryuuko twittered, until…
"Damn it, Shon!" Baradin slammed his hands down on the table. He had tried to take a bite only to find his spoon frozen in a block of ice that had once been a steaming bowl of venison stew.
“Squire! Pushups.” an adult at the largest of the round tables shouted over them, and Baradin stood immediately, stepping over his bench and starting pushups.
Lily leaned over the table to tilt her head at him as Zihler laughed, until he noticed his own food just as solid, "Oh come on!" all down the table, boys were checking their bowls and groaning.
Shon sat glaring into his frozen bowl, his pale cheeks turning pink. A boy further down the table -Thom- leaned forward, calling, “It’s alright, Shon…” but Shon just hunched his shoulders, the pseudodragon crawling down his arm to tap its foreclaw on the ice.
Lily tilted her head at him, then at her bowl. Picking up her spoon, she held the bowl upside down and giggled. "That's so neat!" she said, flicking the ice in her bowl, "Did you do it? I thought you said you weren't a Mage?" Was he a Sorcerer? Was that why she liked touching him so much?
She'd never met another Sorcerer before...
Baradin stood, his face red from his punishment, and glared at Shon, "It's not 'neat.' There isn't enough for everyone to get new bowls, Shon."
Shon muttered a soft "Sorry…" and another boy, seated across from Thom -Rerves?
Leaned forward to shout,
“Lay off. It’s not like he does it on purpose.”
Shon growled so quietly Lily was sure she would be the only one to hear. He reached up and ran his hand through his hair, obviously distressed. Ryuuko whistled sadly.
Lily reached under the table to place a hand on his knee. Shon met her eyes. His were like the clear sky on the coldest of winter days, but now they were also upset and embarrassed. Lily felt an ache in her chest she'd only really felt when one of her treasures had been in discomfort.
She smiled at him, trying to make it a reassuring look before she turned to Baradin. "It's okay. We can just warm these back up." She stood, leaned over the table, and dipped her index finger into the middle of his frozen stew. Soon it was steaming again, and she moved on to Zihler.
It took a moment for the Squires to realize what she was doing. She had to lean WAY over the table to reach the bowls, and they seemed more interested in her than in their dinner. When she moved on and they did notice, they stared at the stew, picking up their spoons to let the steaming liquid pour back into the bowl. Stepping over the bench, Lily worked her way around the table, squeezing between the Squires on her side to reach over to those on the other.
As she was finishing up, Zihler looked at Shon, saying, "Now THAT is a useful ability." Shon ignored him, watching Lily as she came back to her seat beside him.
"It does come in handy." she sat down and took a moment to examine her broth-covered finger before sticking it in her mouth and sucking the juice off. The boys shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Maybe she'd made it too hot...
After freezing everyone’s dinner, Shon was even less interested in socializing than usual. Though once Lily countered his slip-up, no one wanted to talk to him anyway. She was infinitely more interesting, and why wouldn't she be? Even without the fascinating stripes and metallic hair, she was the only girl any of the boys had seen in nearly a year. And that was only IF
the villagers who came for only one night on Winter Solstice counted.
Lily, for her part, seemed to honestly enjoy the conversation, becoming fast friends with anyone and everyone who spoke with her. She answered all the Squires’ questions honestly and followed up with just as many of her own, if not more. She was a true social butterfly, smiling at everyone and listening intently when they spoke, giving each her undivided attention.
She didn’t pull Shon into talking as she'd pulled him into sitting next to her. Part of him was grateful, but another part, a small quiet part, felt that this was the beginning of the end. But the end of what? He'd known her for an hour at most. Why should it bother him that she smiled at the other Squires? They'd always been more sociable than he was, and it never bothered him before.
But now he just wanted them all to slink off into the shadows so he could talk to Lily by himself again. Ask her his
questions and direct the conversation with some semblance of structure that wasn’t possible with fifteen teenagers all trying to talk to her at once.
Showing restraint beyond their years, the Squires tried to keep the subjects of their questions safe, but even the most polite sometimes led to worrisome answers. Lily apparently had no idea how old she was, though she assumed she couldn’t be that much older than the youngest of them, guessing she was around the same age as Shon. She also didn’t know where she came from, only that it was in the woods. Her crimson stripes were, in fact, scales. And yes, they were real and grew naturally from her body. And no, she wasn’t going to give the Squires any -though they hadn’t requested- because it hurt to pull them out and it required pliers. Shon’s head swam with a thousand -less polite- follow-up questions, but kept his mouth shut except to eat his food.
As he was feeding the last of his dinner to Ryuuko, Lily explained that she'd been raised by Mages, but didn’t know magic herself. Except for fire. She was a fire Sorcerer, though she had no clearance and no papers.
"So that's how you did it!" Kefir exclaimed.
"What kind of a familiar do you have?" Baradin asked.
"I bet it's something beautiful and exotic, like a fairy dragon," Zihler mused, leaning on his hands and staring at Lily.
Lily tilted her head to one side, and when they didn't elaborate, she shifted it to the other, finally, she said, "Isn't that a Mage spell?"
"All Sorcerers have familiars," Rehlien looked very confused, "Like Shon's pseudodragon."
"Very few have something like a pseudodragon..." Rerves tried to clarify, "It's usually just a regular animal, though bonding with a Sorcerer makes it special. They're smarter, and you can see through their eyes and..." he trailed off, finally catching the look on Lily's face. Her shoulders had slumped, and it looked like she might never smile again. Her eyes had glazed over, and Shon could make out a slight tremble in her lip.
"I... My treasures..."
Shon felt an ache deep in his chest at the pain evident in her voice. The Squires all exchanged worried looks, stuttering to find something to change the subject without seeming too obvious about it. Shon clenched his hands into fists, then steeled himself and reached under the table to touch her knee as she'd done to him. Her head shot up, and Shon nearly jumped from his seat when he felt her grab his hand and squeeze it tight. "Maybe yours just hasn't come yet," he whispered, and though he knew the others were obviously trying to avoid talking about her captivity, he continued, thinking it couldn't possibly be worse than the pain she was showing now, "You were locked in that tower, maybe your familiar just couldn't reach you."
animals though, my treasures..." Lily started, still not letting go of his fingers. She talked in plurals, but as far as Shon knew, a Sorcerer could only have one familiar.
"Did you ever see through their eyes? Feel their emotions?" Shon asked. Lily shook her head and opened her mouth, but Shon interrupted, "then none of them were probably familiars. I'm sorry, Lily, I can tell you really loved them."
Lily nodded, and a single silent tear slipped down her cheek, making the scales sparkle where it touched. Shon wanted to wipe it away, but Ryuuko beat him to it, snaking its head forward and licking the tear from her face. Lily actually managed a giggle, kissing the little dragon on its scaled head. "Thank you, little one..." she took a deep breath and plastered a smile back on. Turning back to the other Squires, she asked, "So are any more of you Sorcerers?"
Zihler smiled broadly, and Shon found himself grateful for the boy's social flare for the first time since they'd met. Zihler picked up the conversation, shifting it seamlessly back to happier things, "Nope, just Shon, but all of us will have divine magic soon enough! And as Paladins, we'll get something even better than a familiar. Warhorses! You can come watch us ride at the end of the month if you want."
Lily clapped her hands in excitement at the idea, apparently, she'd never seen horses before. But the move meant she let go of his hand again. Shon pulled his freed limb back quickly, staring into his nearly empty bowl and feeling guilty. Had he taken advantage of her distress just to touch her again? She didn't seem to mind his cold, but she was also very polite. She probably just didn't want to make him feel awkward...
No one left the table, even after they finished their food. Usually the Squires would each filter out as they finished, getting a head start on their study time, tonight they sat in front of empty bowls, the quiet Squires listening like Shon while the more talkative ones told stories and continued their questions, many of them repeats, as if they couldn’t believe her answers. Lily answered them all again anyway, grinning all the while.
Shon stood when Ryuuko finished the last of his food, and Lily reached out, resting a hand on his arm. She tilted her head at him, and Zihler asked, “Where you goin’, Shon?” Shon arched an incredulous eyebrow at the older Squire. Zihler should know exactly where Shon was going. The hour bell rang, signaling his answer for him and the other Squires quickly scurried over benches, whispering tame curses so the adults couldn’t hear.
“Where are you going?” Lily repeated Zihler’s question to the room at large, then focused on Shon for the answer.
Picking up her empty bowl and stacking it with his, Shon explained, “We have an hour of mandated study time before we get free time again. Some go to the chapel, others to the library,”
Lily had wrinkled her nose at the mention of the chapel, but her eyes went wide again at the end, and she scrambled to her feet, “You have a library? What are you studying? Can I study with you?”
Staring down at her earnest face Shon opened his mouth to answer when Rehlien spoke over him, “It’s really boring. You can come if you want, though. We have other books.”
Ryuuko hopped from Shon's shoulder to Lily's, leaving its human to trail behind the throng of Squires, first crowding around the food table to drop off their bowls, then moving towards the door and the library. Ahead of him, Lily stood in the thick of it, petting Ryuuko with one hand and looking like a kid in a sweets shop.
By the time Shon reached the library, some of the boys had broken off into their usual groups. But a lot more had stayed with Lily, who was staring open-mouthed at the shelves of books. Ryuuko flew from her shoulder, circling Shon once before taking its place on the bookshelf nearest the door and curling into a ball, its wings draped over the sides as it snoozed.
Shon made for the table by the window, but today, Lily plopped down across from him with a sigh, “I’ve never seen so many books… what’re you studying?”
“History of Gasha,” Shon answered, then, looking down at the pile of books before him, slid one in her direction, “The others like to talk while they read if you want to join them…” he muttered, opening his own text.
Lily just shook her head, “I think I’ve talked more today than I’ve ever talked in the rest of my life combined
.” She shifted in her seat, resting her back on the wall instead of the chair back, bringing one leg up to prop the book on her bent knee. She read quietly.
“Hey Lily,” Zihler whispered, pulling up a chair at the closest large table. Shon sighed, looking up from his book and losing his spot. To his surprise, however, Lily didn’t look up. “Lily?” Zihler called a little louder, and Lily held up a single finger, still not looking up from her book. Zihler glanced at Shon, who shrugged.
Slowly Lily lowered her finger, holding it against her spot on the page before finally looking up and tilting her head at Zihler. Zihler blushed, “We uh… We’re going to play some cards, after, if you want…” Lily looked back down at her book, “Um…”
“After,” Lily said shortly, then, glancing up with just her eyes, said, “I thought this was study time?” it came across as more of a reprimand than a question and Shon quickly hid his smile in his book.
“Yeah… sorry... after…” Zihler turned away, and silence returned for the most part, broken only by the occasional whisper that didn’t involve Shon.
After a few more minutes, Lily mumbled to herself, “This says the same things as all my other history books…” Shon glanced up as she shifted in her seat again and continued reading.
He went back to his book but only for a moment before looking up again, “We have other books…” he whispered.
“I want to study with you guys,” Lily scanned the shelves then looked at Shon, “History can’t help but be boring sometimes.” she managed a grin, “Sorry, I won’t interrupt you.”
He tried to go back to his book, but, for some reason, found himself far more distracted without the chatter than he would be with it. Finally, he stood, leaving his book open, and moved towards a practically unused set of shelves. Lily watched him from their table but didn’t say anything and didn’t follow. He scanned the books, knowing the series he wanted but not seeing it where he thought it should be.
Ryuuko slipped from its shelf, fluttering onto his shoulder, and looked over the tomes with him. Shon didn't think the pseudodragon could read and continued looking for the book he wanted in silence. He could picture it clearly; it should be around... Ryuuko's scorpion-like tail stretched out and tapped a thin green spine one shelf down from where Shon was looking. He blinked at it, then at the little dragon, who purred, then reached for the book he'd been searching for. Shon hesitated, then tried to send the pseudodragon a silent 'thank you,' hoping their link went both ways. Ryuuko chirped and rubbed its cheek against his before taking off and resuming its spot on the shelf, circling three times before laying down with a contented huff Shon could feel in his chest.
He returned to the table, holding the book out to Lily. She took it and thumbed through the pages. “This is a story…” she looked back at him, her expression accusatory.
“A historian wrote it, they like to write historical events from the perspectives of someone who may have lived them.” he returned to his own book, but continued, “They're historically accurate so I read them as a supplement to the assigned texts.”
“Thank you,” she mouthed in her quietest whisper yet, and Shon couldn't help but smile. History didn't have to be boring all the time.
They spent the entire hour in companionable silence. Together, and yet alone in their own tasks. When the bell rang, signaling the beginning of their last bit of free time, Shon was actually disappointed.
“Hey, Lily; Shon! Cards?” Rerves held a deck in the air, waving them towards the largest table where the usual boys began to gather for the game.
Shon stood, looking towards the door, but Lily grabbed his arm, pulling in close to whisper in his ear, “I’ve never played cards before, is it hard?” her breath was hot on his cheek, and he fumbled for an answer.
“Come on, Shon, you can’t really practice right now anyway…” Rerves called, grinning at him as if his logic could actually trap Shon into a game he didn’t want to play. But Lily was still hanging onto his arm, and all his planned excuses melted away. Despite her exposure to his cold, she seemed to touch him whenever possible. The last thing Shon wanted to do was pull away now. What if she stopped and became like everyone else? Why did that possibility bother him this
Her hands were hot even through his sleeve, and she trailed them down his arm to grab his hand with both of hers, “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.” she whispered in his ear again.
“What’s the game?” Shon called to Rerves, and Lily beamed with the light of the sun.
Rerves passed his deck to Zihler, who shuffled it together with his own, “With this many people? Rummy.” Shon nodded, at least it wasn’t poker
“Rummy? How do you play? I’ve never played cards before.” Lily called to the others, stepping away from Shon and towards the table but pulling his hand as she went. Shon stumbled after her and found himself disappointed again when she let go to pull out two chairs for them.
“It’s really easy. You just have to try and get three of a kind or in a row. You draw from either the discard pile or the stock pile and...” Zihler rambled on about the rules in the most confusing way Shon could imagine as he shuffled and dealt the cards to the seven boys plus Lily.
Lily smiled at Zihler but leaned in close to Shon, resting her hand on his knee, “Can you show me?” she asked.
Shon nodded, then interrupted Zihler with, “We’ll play the first round together,” sliding his hand of cards back to Zihler.
Zihler fumbled with the deck, dropping two cards face up before scooping them up and shoving them somewhere in the middle, “If… if you want. Though Shon’s not very good at it.”
“Shon’s not very good at anything that doesn’t involve swinging a weapon at someone,” Thom poked Zihler in the shoulder, “and yet he can still beat you
“Only once.” Zihler countered with a huff but then smiled again right away. It was a friendly sort of teasing, and Shon looked at Lily, wondering what she would think only to find her smiling broadly at all of them.
She laughed, “You guys poke fun at each other like Brom and Ran…” she trailed off, her face falling, the smile gone in a flash. Something in the statement, probably a memory, had hurt her.
Shon picked up her cards, fanning them out and holding them in front of Lily, “With this many people, we each get six cards. The hand is bigger with fewer people.” Lily focused on the cards, and a hint of a grin returned as she took them from him, holding them as he'd done.
She leaned over and whispered loud enough for the entire table to hear, “What’s a hand?” she really didn’t know anything
about playing cards.
“A 'hand' is the cards you hold. This is your hand. It’s going to start with Thom on Zihler’s left because Zihler is the dealer. Thom is either going to draw from the discard pile, which are the face-up cards,” Shon pointed as Zihler turned one card face up, “or from the stock,” he pointed at the rest of the deck that now lay face down beside the face-up card, “Watch.”
They watched together as Thom took his turn, pulling a card from the stock then laying one down, face-up, on the discard pile. “Now Rerves can either take the face-up card or one of the stock cards,” Shon explained. Rerves took a new card then discarded one of his own and the turn moved to Rehlien.
As the game moved towards Lily, she reached out to take a card, but Shon stopped her with a shake of his head, “The goal is to get either three of a kind, three cards of the same number, or a three-card straight, three numbers in succession, like three, four, five. Look at your hand and see if you have anything close to that.” she had two threes, and Baradin had discarded another just before her.
Lily squinted at her hand, then gasped and snatched up the three from the discard pile, holding it up as though she'd just snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. The sight made Shon smile, “Now lay down the set you have, and it’s Zihler's turn. Your goal is to get rid of all your cards before anyone else.”
“You can also play off of others' sets,” Zihler added, though he didn’t do so himself, instead reaching for a new card and discarding one of his own.
Lily looked at Shon and tilted her head to the side. Shon explained, “We'll deal with that when it comes up. For now, focus on the cards you have and what everyone else is laying down.”
Lily giggled, “You’re good at this,” and poked him on the nose. Shon’s eyes crossed to try and see her finger before she returned it to her cards.
“Uh… Lily?” Thom started nervously, and she looked up at him, “Shon doesn’t… he doesn't really like being touched,” Thom blushed and looked at his hand with such intensity one would think the cards were about to catch fire. Or freeze to his fingers. His breath showed with his next words, “I just thought you should know…” he mumbled.
Shon couldn't remember ever wanting
to punch someone before now.
“What?” Lily asked, “But why?” she turned to Shon, her eyes full of concern.
Running his fingers through his hair, Shon leaned back in his chair. He hadn't realized how close he'd been to her, leaning forward so they could both study her hand. He was surprised she wasn’t shivering. “People don’t like touching me…” he muttered as a half-hearted explanation. How could he explain that people had been pulling away from him his whole life, inquiring about his health and comfort after feeling how cold he was? And now... now was so much worse. Even Lily had asked if it hurt after holding his hand on the bell tower.
“But that’s not the same thing at all!” Lily shouted, and everyone, even the other groups, turned to look at her. “Why would anyone not like touching you? It’s refreshing, like holding a rock that's been in the shade all day. And you don’t hurt people like I do.” She spoke with a passion that surprised everyone, not least of which Shon, and she wasn’t done, “You let me hold your hand longer than anyone else and even said it didn’t hurt. I like
touching you. Should I stop?”
The boys around the table looked from Lily to Shon and back again, dumbfounded. Shon just stared at Lily, who stared back with worried, desperate eyes. She hadn’t been talking about his cold on the bell tower… She'd been talking about her heat.
“How can it hurt to touch someone?” Zihler asked on Lily’s other side, "I mean, Shon's cold is uncomfortable, like trying to hold onto ice with bare hands, but it doesn't hurt. Well, maybe if you hold on too long, it might eventually, but I figured you'd just go numb first-" he rambled.
Lily interrupted and answered his question in one move when she turned and cupped his cheek. It was an uncomfortably intimate gesture and Zihler blushed pink immediately, then jerked away, rubbing his red cheek and sweating.
“I’m a fire Sorcerer,” Lily explained with a sigh. She'd told them at dinner, but apparently, none of them really understood what that meant, “My body is hotter than normal, and even when I have my power under control, I can burn people if they touch me for too long. Especially if I'm distracted,” her shoulders slumped, and she looked down at the table with a sigh, “I’m sorry, I probably should've just said that instead of burning your cheek..." she took a deep breath and continued, "But I wasn't paying attention and was able to hold Shon’s hand forever
, and he didn't pull away...” she ran her fingertips over the cards, now lying face down on the table, and addressed Shon directly, “I took advantage of your kindness, I’m sorry.” She met Shon’s eyes, and whatever words he might have said caught in his throat.
“Shon’s an ice Sorcerer…” Thom said, pulling everyone’s attention back to him and shrinking back from it. He hated being the center of attention, but swallowed and continued anyway, “Maybe your powers cancel each other out?”
“Yeah, that explains it,” Rerves said, then managed a smile, “Mystery solved, now let’s get back to the game.” the boys all laughed at Rerves' blatant redirection, and the game resumed without further talk of Shon or Lily’s strange skin. Though many of them failed miserably at sneaking glances at the two of them.
Lily picked up her cards and shifted closer to the table in silence. Shon’s nose tingled where she'd touched it, and the phantom memories of her hands on other parts of him, his knee, arm, and hand, started tingling again. Shon moved in closer, staring at Lily’s cards, but whispered, “I don’t mind, Lily. It doesn't hurt.”
Lily looked around the table, the boys were busy admiring the straight of the same suit Kefir had just laid down. She leaned in close, her shoulder brushing his, whispering, “Really? I’ve never met anyone I didn’t have to be careful with before…”
Shon confirmed with a nod, and Lily’s resulting smile warmed him at his very core. Refreshing… she'd said his skin was refreshing…
The game continued, Thom won, and they started a second. Halfway through the match, the hour bell rang, and a voice shouted over it from the doorway, making Ryuuko jump awake and chitter angrily, “There you are!” The fortress Cleric grinned as he walked towards the table, but Lily stiffened as if he were brandishing a knife at them. “Master Daunas said you had dinner with the boys and had followed them off to their study hour.” he addressed the Squires who were handing their cards over to Rerves to split back into two decks, “I hope you all were polite to our guest.”
“Yes, sir.” The table full of Squires answered in unison, and Lily relaxed, though she looked baffled for some reason.
The kindly Cleric chuckled at them and addressed Lily, “If you're feeling better, then perhaps we can move you to a proper guest room tomorrow. Until then, it’s lights out, boys.”
“Yes, sir,” they spoke in unison again, standing and making for the door. Ryuuko flew down to Shon's shoulder, and Lily reached out to grab his hand, as if testing his assurance. He turned to her without flinching, eyebrow arched.
“Can I see you again tomorrow?” she asked, her slitted eyes searching his face. Shon looked from the Cleric, who nodded, then back to Lily with a small smile and nod of his own. Lily beamed.
--- Table of Contents
Thanks for making it this far, you are the real MVP