2018-01-05: Inescapable Nightmare

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==============================<* Krosse Cave *>===============================

Krosse Cave is an old subterranean complex believed to have been used as a supply dump by an unknown military force during the battles that led up to the Day of Collapse. The upper regions of the cave have been thoroguhly explored by Drifters and Adventurers over the years, but a recent earthquake following the arrival of the Sorcery Globe opened up an entire series of chambers that have previously been unexplored.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHEMyH9XbhM
DC: Virginia Maxwell switches forms to Dark Dreamer Virginia!
DC: Avril Vent Fleur switches forms to The Amnesiac Girl!
DC: Jean switches forms to Shadow Dancer Jean!
DC: Ethius Hesiod switches forms to Technology Hunter Ethius!
DC: Asteroid the Kid switches forms to Star Shaman Asteroid!
<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.
==========================<* The End of the Dream *>===========================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Ephemeral Ballroom *>====================== 
| Type: Entry | Dungeon Ability: Fatigue     | Challenge Rating: Too Much     | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------

 (BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqXPW0oBKgg )

The reports were all too correct. The depths of the cavern in Krosse, not 
 altogether far from Fortnight Cove, have altogether turned into something 
 utterly ethereal and unlike the rest of its ilk -- rough-hewn limestone 
 has given way to finely polished marble and an indolent sense of opulence; 
 false flowers moored upon marbled vases spaced between large paintings of 
 seemingly artsy presence, but not much substance, on second look.

 But this all melts away to the expanse of what appears to be a grand 
 ballroom, where ephemeral, transient couples swan to and fro. The tips of 
 their feet scarce touch the ground, as they float the entire vertical 
 length of the dance floor itself.

 They won't let you cross their very battleground, and attempts to do so 
 are met with rather savage flourishes -- a painful pirouettes, a gruesome 
 grand jete, a chained combination into cambre.

 And in the midst of this...

 I'm tired.

 I'm so... so tired...

 Please. Just leave me alone. Whoever you are...

 It's too late...
=Dungeon Conditions: Lament, Despair==========================================
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Asteroid the Kid knows where Dark Mistress Maxwell is and when she heard that Krosse Kave BeKame Krazy she rushed back to see what was going on only to find that the situation is even crazier than she thought. She steps into the strange ballroom, glancing around for a moment, but clearly she isn't here to sightsee as her stunned nature of what Virginia has somehow managed to nightmare up has grown far beyond what is typical of her.

She won't like you anymore

Asteroid the Kid takes in a deep breath, and shakes her head. Surely that isn't true. She makes her across the 'battlefield' of the 'ballroom floor' and says, "I'm Asteroid the Kid, servant of Dark Mistress Ginny! Lemme through!"

She starts walking forward and is promptly pirouetted in the chest, sending her flying back and crashing into the floor.

She lays there stunned for a while. Tears well up in her eyes.

It wasn't ever real. She's just the type that can't stand to be disliked

Asteroid the Kid is still fresh off her visit to some nearby Sanctuary grounds that were like totally corrupted. She slowly gets up, breathing in through her teeth.

She's going to die--or worse--because you only cared about what you got out of her

Asteroid the Kid is shaking. "I said... Lemme through!" She summons large rocks and kicks them at the pirouetting entity. She's betting her kicks are stronger than theirs!

You're too late

GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Asteroid Ball!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a solid hit from Asteroid the Kid's Asteroid Ball for 92 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Layna had hoped to get in touch with Virginia after the Arc Scepter incident. She had hoped to hear tales of her triumphant victory, after all, even though she had been incapable of doing the distraction she had promised because SOMEONE got there before she did. But...

When she tried to get a hold of her, she found it was impossible. There was no sign of her, and those who knew her similarly couldn't get a hold of her...

And then she heard rumors. Worrying rumors of oddities in the caverns of Krosse, shifts and transformations of the structures...

The same caverns that Virginia had been staying in after Layna extended her invitation to her.

"Damn it, lass...you shoulda told me..." Layna comments through gritted teeth, arms folded in front of her.

The rumors had proven true.

Layna stares out at the bizarre architecture before her - it was like the caves had transformed into a grand ballroom like she'd never seen. In front of her, transparent couples dance back and forth, blocking the way...

And she hears a voice. She has a feeling she knows who's voice that is.

"Hell no! It's never too late! As long as you've still got life left in you, you can still claw your way back, aye!?" Layna shouts and charges in. If these spirits get in her way, there's a vicious counterattack waiting for them...

There's someone else here. Someone she's seen before. But right now, her only concern is breaking through...

DG: Layna Manydays has contributed a Rejection Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Ephemeral Ballroom.
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Scuttle the Prey!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Layna Manydays's Scuttle the Prey for 65 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius is present. He is not part of the group of tightly-knit friends who come to investigate the leads. A handful present might regard him and his motives as suspect... at best. The rumors surrounding Krosse Kave do not seem as though the sort that should attract this man's attention, for whatever it is he seeks. For whatever it is that ever brings this strange, quiet, out-of-place presence that doesn't seem to fit into any picture he puts himself a part of.
        For him, the location and its features are hazy at best. His footsteps do not seem to reflect the 'true' nature of where he steps, the sound report seeming incorrect, as he stares forth into the ballroom of a nightmare. People - figments of people - going to and fro. He stands and watches for a while, as one such couple dances by right in front of him. He doesn't flinch.
        He doesn't announce his presence as Asteroid and others make their desperate play through. One screams back a vocal retort through whispered words of despair and defeat that he's either not quite able to listen to, or is not so touched by - it is not too clear to the outside observer.
        What is this man's stake in being here?
        His quarterstaff is taken in both hands, swung overhead in a circle as a pirouetting roundhouse kick glances off of it, and moves to swat aside the dancers as he dares advance down a nightmare that is not his. A story that does not seem to be his to be a part of telling, for what little overall connection he seems to have with most of the primary actors of this tragedy.
        He boils down to just being another pair of hands, an extraneous and superfluous addition, and yet another unwelcome visitor.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Another Unwelcome Visitor!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Ethius Hesiod's Another Unwelcome Visitor for 53 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

Seemed like it would all be taken care of, on that night in the train, didn't it?

For just a few hours, the space of a fleeting dream, the dreary tug and pull of reality was shucked from the two drifters' shoulders. But as things tend to go, on Filgaia, the dream turned to a nightmare quick enough. The hazy rhythm picked up speed and its tempo became unsteady. The staccato snare hits of gunfire, the traded barbs, the splintering of wood and shattering of windows. And then, Virginia was gone once more. Chasing her own, newer, more desperate dream: one of healing, of returning to the way things were.

Again, and again, the young Hellion comes, and she goes. Drifting closer, and away again, as her whims and her miseries carry her. At her own pace, as uncontrolled as it may be.

So, the guilty party has come in search of her. The blonde, sunshine-coloured drifter isn't daft. She's just stubborn, reticent, and reluctant to act without all the answers. But Virginia damned herself for Maya's sake, so she says. To wait patiently for the problem to fix itself would be cowardly and wrong.

"Tired? Too late?" scoffs an uninvited guest on the dance floor, illuminated by spotlight and pointing directly upwards in defiant challenge of this phantasmal gathering. She stands out like a sore thumb, a flash of gleaming warmth in the illusionary den. If nothing else, she draws attention and ire away from the many lives Ginny has touched who have all come for similar reasons. "Those aren't words that sound right coming from you, Virginia Maxwell! We're coming to take you back for good!"

There's a tremendous woosh as a summoned, magickal boulder whistles over her head from Asteroid the Kid, threatening to goosh one of those ghostly dancers. Maya doesn't flinch. That's what friends are for, innit?

GS: Maya Schrodinger has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Radiant Presence!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Maya Schrodinger's Radiant Presence for 194 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

        In the end it's one part rumor.
        One part premonition.

        This is the way in which the stars have aligned for Avril Vent Fleur. For once, the odd pronounced feeling she's had of late that something important was about to happen (was happening?) appears to have a connection to something concrete, namely the stories about an unusual happening in the Krosse caverns.

        The transformation is even more drastic than she might have imagined. While she has never been to Krosse or its caverns, what had evidently been normal cave walls is now clearly... not.

        And to make things worse:
        Avril had come in here with her friends.
        Now they're nowhere to be seen, the young woman turning this way and that in marked confusion as she suddenly finds herself alone on the ballroom floor.

        Or perhaps not quite so alone?

        Spectral couples sweep across the ballroom floor, making for a dizzying maze. They do not intend to let anyone pass, let alone a solo intruder in their midst.

        ...Or perhaps not quite so solo.

        "Ethius? Layna?" Avril takes a step hesitantly, eyeing one of the pairs as they swoop in menacingly, as if to keep her blocked off.

        Somewhere in the chaos, there is a voice. Avril draws up short, her gaze briefly unfocused. Then, her lips press thin. From the beneath her wrap, she produces Absolute Zero and sweeps in towards the nearest dancers, arcing the ARM upwards as she pulls the trigger. Light dances in a flare for an instant as she rips in towards them with the photon whip.

        "I can hear a voice," she states simply, however the aftermath falls. "Is someone trapped within this place? If so-- please, do not despair. We shall reach you!"

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Beam Whip Mode!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Avril Vent Fleur's Beam Whip Mode for 50 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

Reports of a place where reality felt liminal from Ragnell had brought them spelunking. And not far within that proved to be true. Too true as reality seems to melt into someone having done some interior decorating.
"Well it's not a candy kingdom... but it could be her!"
Hiro doesn't say anything as Ruby checks it out just ahead. All these months he'd been hoping they'd find her. All these months he still had no idea what to say. How do you understand what someone was going through that would make them choose something like this?
But that silence melts away into a ballroom.
And Ruby has to suddenly juke upwards to prevent from being trampled by twirling couples. "Hey watch it! I've heard of getting caught up in your lover's eyes but this is ridiculous!"
On the edge of that his mind locks up for a moment as he hears the first words float into his skull. And he blurts out, "Ginny! That's not happening and you know it!" "Whatever you may think - being alone is the last thing you need right now!" And then seeing Maya he grins, "Maya!" He exclaims, "Heh. Now that's more like it. Should have figured you'd beat us here Maya." A beat, "We've got your back."
But then looking at the dance floor again, he gives Jean and Lemina a sheepish look, "Well Jean won't have any problems here... but the two of us? Guess we should have asked for dance lessons."
Pulling his sword out of his sheath with a hiss. He tests it's weight a little, but rather than slashing his way on through in some dance of bladework... he instead makes a call of - "Ferocious Winds!"
And from the floor two currents of wind smash forwards as he tries to create a corridor where it becomes more difficult for the floating couples to move into his space without being knocked out of the way. And then he tries to dash right on through, "What happened to not having to be afraid of anything anymore Ginny?"
He says as he tries to grasp onto the vague hope that she can be stirred out of despair. "What's happened to you? The girl we all knew wouldn't give up this easily!"

GS: Hiro has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Rushing Breeze!
GS: Hiro has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Hiro's Rushing Breeze for 79 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

It might be her. They can't be certain, but it might be her, and that means they have to act.

Jean has walked the way towards this cave, and not alone, dressed in her relatively inconspicuous attire; a yellow dress with fur trim, a white-and-blue overdress, the bandana; her fans are at her sides... And she has a few more things with her than she usually would. They step inside, and she glances to Hiro. "...If it's not, we still need to look into it," she says, and keeps moving. She'd rather keep light spirits to cheer everyone up, but she doesn't do more than a smile to the group before she grows more serious.

...And there they are, in the cave, and in the ballroom, as the dance spreads itself out before Jean's senses. She looks with some wonder at first, before the voice settles in... And she starts to hear the others. Jean looks around--spots Maya, as Hiro calls out to her, lowers her head. "Ginny..."

"Even if you think it's over," Jean calls, raising her voice, "We aren't giving up. I know how it feels... To think it's too late."

A glance to Hiro. "...Just be careful." A beat, "...Or use your magic, that's fine too."

For her part, she looks to the others--and then surges forward. Rather than working against the dancers, she joins them, moving in perfect time, a spin here, hands over her head as she twirls there out of the way of a sword, hops over a leg meant to trip her up, skirt whirling around and fans bouncing at her hips.

She has somewhere to be.

GS: Jean has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Whirling Waltz!
GS: Jean has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a solid hit from Jean's Whirling Waltz for 113 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

Lemina, too, had hoped to reach out to Virginia after the Ark Scepter event -- but fate didn't conspire to allow it; instead, she'd been too winded to even move, let alone hold a conversation. It turns out fighting on top of a train with the help of unfamiliar magic is actually really hard!

Now, though, she's not alone -- and while there's no guarantee that this is Ginny, well... at least they're here together, rather than split up and spread out. "It's... probably her?" Lemina replies to Ruby, canting her head. "I mean, no one else really does this kinda thing..." Lemina is familiar with how Malevolence works, and she's never read about anything quite like Ginny's.

As they advance, Lemina looks to Jean, listening as she speaks. She's quiet at first; she then says, a little flatly, "I've never left anyone alone when asked in my entire life and I'm sure not starting now." Despite her... distinctive, demeanor, there's a little worry that Lemina can't keep out of her eyes.

And, as usual, Lemina has exactly zero subtlety when dealing with a problem that can be exploded. She does exactly that, creating a massive chunk of ice, giving it a quick whirl, and then -- rather than launching it -- just walks forward with it at the ready. She's not agile and she's not fast -- but she is perfectly capable of broadcasting 'Get near me and get spiked.'

GS: Lemina Ausa has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Ice Lance!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Lemina Ausa's Ice Lance for 64 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        That single noise, from the pursed lips of Seraph Ragnell, do wonders to convey her contempt at the voice ringing out in Krosse Cave, or rather the grand ballroom it melts into. An' here you said you were gonna think over your dreams. You've already given up, haven't you. Aloud, to her companions in the Vile Fiends, she drawls, "Sure sounds like Ginny, huh. Not havin' the best day, is she?" She shrugs broadly, then nods to Hiro, Jean, Lemina, and Gwen. "Well, I'll leave the talkin' to y'all. Good thing I noticed somethin' mucky goin' on with this place."
        She draws her pistols as dancers evanescent twirl across the ballroom. They've already made their violent intentions clear, at least with regards to anyone who intends on crossing this ballroom, given how Asteroid attempts to demand passage and promptly gets kicked in the chest. But the others clearly mean to advance forward, and Ragnell has no intention of being left behind.
        "Hey, you," she drawls Asteroid's way, opening fire on the dangers with a series of electric bullets, firing this way and that. "An' you too," she adds to Maya. "Good thing Ginny's got you around to set her straight, eh?" She glances over at others in the cavern--Avril, Ethius, Layna--but they're not who Ragnell's here for, so for the time being, she leaves them alone.
        "Or more accurately, set her gay," she adds to Maya, grinning wide. "Right, Jean~?" She snorts at Lemina's claims of having never left anyone alone when asked. "*That's* self-evident," she quips.
        She should probably take this a little more seriously, but, Ragnell.

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Storm Runner!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Seraph Ragnell's Storm Runner for 44 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        Janus is completely and absolutely correct: Gwen really *is* an idiot. Even while she still was healing from a bayonett stab and a gunshot wound to the abdomen, it didn't take long before Gwen had involved herself in yet another matter, this time of the very grounds Asteroid was still recovering from. She, in turn, is recovering from that as well.

        And now she's here. So clearly, Gwen's nuts.

        But she's come with _friends_, having joined the Fiends to follow up on the very same thread. "Well, it's either her, or somethin' we better resolve anyway. So, win-win situation, eh?" Sighting the other familiar faces, Gwen draws her gloved hand up in a wave, grinning for all the world as if she was coming across them in a party. A *fancy* party.

        "... Never realized all of these sorts of conflicts were in Ginny all this time..." Gwen muses, her smile tugging downward into a frown. Being from Boot Hill, maybe Virginia dreamed of fancy things like this, the same way Gwen herself did, when she was younger. All the fancy, delicate, pretty things that seemed to be more fantasy than reality. "Let's bring her back. It's time. Can't hide from the world forever."

        Stepping into the way of the ephemeral dancers, Gwen doesn't expect them to actually *attack*, especially attack with dance. Isn't this Jean's deal?! "W-whoah, this is a lot more vicious than I thought!"

        So she responds in kind.

        With reckless punching. "These guys are real people, right?" She looks desperately to everyone present for the necessary affirmation, just before getting clocked in the head by a spinning elbow.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Virginia Maxwell with COURIER SMASH!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.

Layna charges in, battling through with pirate senses as several of the dancers attempt to swarm her -- but it's likely they'll be getting the plank when they do! She pushes forth with her rejection.

        But that life is already... far too stained, Layna.

        Ethius parries and blocks, as he proceeds through a swarm of ghosts and transient figures that attempt to block his passage. But his silence, his tenacity guides him well... as he proceeds onward.

        Are you here... to kill me?

        Hiro gives his enthusiastic stir and expresses his verve against her despair. There is a pause, and he creates winds that scatter some of the dancers, one of them mysteriously holding onto their voluminously poofy skirts as they're flown away.

        ... I already did something terrible, Hiro...

        Unlike the others assembled here, however, Jean truly wields the power of dance, both in attire and in the grace of her form. The dancers-- start to intertwine with her, and you could just see one of them blushing (??) a little as the master dancer shows them how Lunarian dancing is done. Dancing so good, even Althena banned it. Now that's art!

        I don't know how you got past it, Jean...

        And Lemina is there too, as she has been before. She should be more grateful... all the Fiends are there, as they ever were for her. From the very beginning. How... did it become all so confusing? She'd like to say it was only because of the Otherworldly Hollow and the Malevolence... but that just exacerbated what already existed, didn't it?

        ... I should've listened to you earlier, Lemina...

        And Gwen is there too -- despite what Virginia saw happen on the train... what caused her to lose control when she wanted to hold it in. The malice that she felt in her heart when she saw Janus stab Gwen... was all too real, even if she wanted to brush it off as -- as a crime of passion...

        ... I'm... glad you're still up and running, Gwen.

        The spinning, ephemeral dancers sway and dance between Asteroid's rocks, though one of them takes it head on -- and dissipates into what appears to be a distortion of darkness. Asteroid, as a Baskar Priest, thinks she can sense something that feels like the Guardian's power... but that's curious, isn't it?

        ... Astie... I'm scared I'll hurt you!

        But Maya comes in behind the Baskar shaman and takes support to her, illuminated by a resplendent light -- perhaps no more metaphorical than the one Virginia saw her as back when they first met. Back when they first held hands... back when their eyes truly locked onto each other.

        ... you can't, though... I've already hurt you enough, Maya. If you come here... it will only get worse...!! So please!

        Ragnell gets a solid five-second pause after she's finished blowing apart several dancers with her pistols. And if there was any doubt that this is Virginia, the ghostly and immanent voice makes a wordless noise of annoyance and rebuttal:


GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Gwen Whitlock's COURIER SMASH for 55 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.


==========================<* The End of the Dream *>===========================
==================<* CHALLENGE - The Steps of One's Growth *>================== 
| Type: Introspection | Dungeon Ability: Confusion   | Challenge Rating: ...  | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------

 (BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5TTkQRGUzo )

 The next ascent past the ballroom is one of seemingly endless rises of stairs.
 The landscape contorts around here with its nightmarish architecture, with
 the way steps descend into nothing. What seems to be progress only takes you
 around a penrose set of paths, at the same time an illusionary impossibility
 and yet confounding in its purpose.

 I don't understand.

 The staircases flash and unravel, rises falling into a deep and impenetrable
 abyss at the same time more emerge ahead.

 I don't understand... how to move forward...
 A central pillar stands at the apex of this strange tower, adorned with the
 decor of wings and the image of a young gunslinging girl who dares ascend
 above her station and challenge the heavens.

 I feel like... I've been spinning my wheels for so long now...

 It's too late...
=Dungeon Conditions: Ponderance, Frustration==================================
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Ponderance and Frustration!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Ponderance and Frustration!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Ponderance and Frustration!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Hiro with Ponderance and Frustration!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Jean with Ponderance and Frustration!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Layna Manydays with Ponderance and Frustration!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Lemina Ausa with Ponderance and Frustration!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Ponderance and Frustration!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Ponderance and Frustration!
GS: Hiro takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Ponderance and Frustration for 98 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Virginia Maxwell's Ponderance and Frustration for 66 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: CRITICAL! Layna Manydays takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Ponderance and Frustration for 120 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Layna Manydays!
GS: CRITICAL! Maya Schrodinger takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Ponderance and Frustration for 128 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Maya Schrodinger!
GS: Jean takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Ponderance and Frustration for 110 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.

        Blu-ray, first pose:

        Avril arrives under ponderous circumstances, perhaps led by the power of Lucadia... a power that draws her here under some auspices -- and she can feel that something is there, within. Perhaps moreso than just Virginia.

        Why... would you do something like this -- to someone you do not even know?

GS: Avril Vent Fleur takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Ponderance and Frustration for 112 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod guards a hit from Virginia Maxwell's Ponderance and Frustration for 58 hit points!
GS: Lemina Ausa guards a hit from Virginia Maxwell's Ponderance and Frustration for 62 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Ponderance and Frustration for 123 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Asteroid the Kid!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Ponderance and Frustration!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has completed her action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Ponderance and Frustration for 101 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Asteroid the Kid smiles briefly at Ethius though when Ginny asks if Ethius is here to kill her, she stammers, "O-of course not! Ethius wouldn't hurt you!"

Well okay actually maybe he totally would, but Asteroid HOPES that Ethius isn't here to kill Ginny. Not when they have the scept--


Seraph Ragnell sez, 'Oh yeah BTW KK totally ganked the scepter but hey robbing a train is its own reward'
Asteroid the Kid sez, 'MOTHER FUCK!'


--oh right. Asteroid the Kid looks towards Ginny and she wonders, for a moment, why all the people she's jealous of are also so intensely cool that she can't hate them. She's glad to be friends and all, but she also kind of wants what they have. Not like, exactly their lives, but--she's not exactly sure she has a finger on it--but there's this power they clearly have that she's missing. Maybe power isn't exactly right. Maybe it's personality.

Of course Ragnell has stuff to say too. Asteroid laughs awkwardly at Ragnell's words. "Well," She says. "Ginny's like the gayest person I know and like, there's actually a lot of competition there."

Ginny's afraid of hurting her.

Asteroid keeps moving, but something distracts from getting too deep into introspection just yet.

"...Wait a minute..." She says, looking off to the darkness. She approaches and promptly gets clobbered in the head by another dancer. "Guhhhmpp.." She looks dizzy.

She keeps moving after a period of recovery.

"...So dark huh...?"

Asteroid the Kid looks up up up the pillar and adds, "Hey Ginny! Is the metaphor here that you were once this innocent girl who tried to fly too high on her wings so they burned up and she fell to the ground and hurt yer bum?"

She snaps up her Rigdobrite tablet and launches a bunch of magical stars at the pillar.

"Well hurting your bum is part of dreamin'." Asteroid the Kid says, focused enough to manage this. "You gotta keep getting up and flying back again, this time with new wings with rocket boosters and razor metal feathers!"

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

There are others flooding in after her. Layna glances back to acknowledge them with a nod, but for now her focus is on the situation at hand.

...Her attention does linger on Ethius for a moment longer than any of the others, though. She delivers a glare straight to him. If he catches it, he will know her eyes are on him.

If he tries anything...

Well, she may need to change targets.

And the voice speaks again.

...A wry smirk crosses Layna's face and she pauses.

She doesn't have a response to that just yet. Something about it stops her in her tracks, even as she moves onward past the ghosts and onto a seemingly endless stairway, impossible in the way it twists and turns.

She moves, unusually quiet, and glances at those around her. Though she had ascended the stairs alongside them, somehow, she'd ended up on her own pathway...

And that's how it isn't, isn't it? She didn't know any of these people. Why should she care about what was going on here? Rightfully, she should just turn around and leave. Virginia had already given up, why shouldn't she?



"...Don't you know who I am, lass? I'm Captain Layna Manydays. I'm a pirate. A criminal. ...A murderer." Layna says, redoubling her efforts to ascend the stairway.

"I've done terrible things. I've killed people who deserved it, and some who didn't. I've robbed ships and left them for dead on the sea. It'd be an excuse to say it was my Captain's orders - I should've known. Should've done something. Sure, I did eventually...but that's small comfort to those I've wronged." She says.

"You tell me that life is far too stained...I say to hell with that. These hands are stained, too...but I'll still use them to reach out and sieze my future! You can do it too, lass, if you try. If even scum like me can try to make something of herself, you can too! 'Cause if you don't try...then it was all for nothing! If your wheels are spinning, then just get on your feet and move!" She shouts out to the darkness...and then sends a grin toward Asteroid.

"...Aye, the lass's figured it out. You're friends, aye? Listen to her."

DG: Layna Manydays has contributed a Determination Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Steps of One's Growth.
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Asteroid the Kid with On Your Feet Me Hearties!!
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Layna Manydays with On Your Feet Me Hearties!!
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Virginia Maxwell with On Your Feet Me Hearties!!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
GS: Layna Manydays takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's On Your Feet Me Hearties! for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Layna Manydays clears debuffs from Layna Manydays!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        'Are you here... to kill me?'
        The near-complete stranger outside of incidental encounters... does not say no. He says virtually nothing, as Asteroid turns back to smile at him for reassurance that he won't.
        He doesn't answer that either.
        There's another turn of his head as he crosses past the ballroom, to the enigmatic young woman with the fancy beam whip blade who says his name. He doesn't say hers back.
        The assassin(?) simply advances through to the ascent that awaits. He traverses the stairs as thought dutifully, not stopping to think about the number of stairs on this flight he must walk. He walks them by necessity, for a length of time he can't come to define.
        As expected, he gets lost. He halts on the present stair he climbs, standing in ponderance and confusion ponderance and confusion as he seems to stand at an impossible angle relative to the ground. Frustration may yet mount as he taps the ground underneath him (to the side of him?) a few times with the butt of his quarterstaff. What good it does is not clear. Emotion does not weigh strongly from his eyes as he blinks them closed for a time. Whatever thoughts he holds, he keeps them guarded through the narration of a young woman's despair.
        He gets out that eyeglass of his from under his poncho. With the usual series of Symbological chants and gestures, one small spark of electricity jumps from one hand into the eyeglass. He holds it up to one of his eyes, out to a landscape of a mind that has abandoned reason to fall into an abyss of ethereal thought with no check brought forth by reality. What could he expect to see with it? There is likely no rational connection within the domain of fear and sadness - this can't be treated like a simple 'find where this switch connects to.' Can it?
        "Everyone." He speaks, revealing himself, heedless of the relief or dismay that his presence causes. "I believe this is the way." Can he say that for certain, as he tucks away the Spectral Lens? This doesn't absolve him from the need to continue to maneuver around winding staircases to nowhere, to itself, or to oblivion - he simply trudges forward, dutifully.
        Dutifully towards some sort of duty that is yet vague and uncertain.
        He doesn't look back.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Spectral Lens!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's On Your Feet Me Hearties! for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Layna Manydays clears debuffs from Asteroid the Kid!
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's On Your Feet Me Hearties! for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Layna Manydays clears debuffs from Virginia Maxwell!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Starry Night!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

For Jean, Lemina being Lemina is a standard... But that worry isn't hidden from her. She glances to her with not quite a smile, just a look that suggests support in her eyes, and she's off. ...She is, overall, not so casual as Ragnell about this, though Ragnell's approach gets a shake of her head.

"Yeah," she agrees, not quite laughing but a little wry, "That's for sure. There's no one better to have for this."

Gwen's worries--musings--get a look from Jean, who is still watching her, still concerned about her like she has been for some time now. She decides not to mention it; she's getting herself handled. But people... "I don't know!" she answers. "Better not to think about it!"

So, she dances. She dances, and she hears the voice, closing her eyes at first as she passes the dance floor, allowing herself to just feel the music, even as strange and awful as this place is, find something in it. ...When she emerges on the other side, she comes to a step, lowering her arms and looking up towards nothing in particular at all.

"...I didn't get past it," she says, still looking upward to where Ginny might be. "I'm still working on that too."

And then, it's stairs. Stairs, forever. The physical exertion is nothing for Jean, even if it is significant; she can keep going for a long time. ...But the illusions get to her more, settling under her skin, the turning and coming and going as she looks to the abyss and her nerves start to fray. She lightly clenches her teeth, taking a breath, trying to calm herself, and at one point tries to punch through what turns out to be a solid wall. She keeps going, but...

"To move forward..." Jean looks up, looks down at her hand... and glances to Asteroid again. She was worried about her, is worried about her. But...

"...You start by standing back up. If you can't do it yourself..." She glances to Hiro then, to Lemina. "Then sometimes someone can give you a hand."

She looks to the pillar next. She eyes it. ...She eyes Layna, too. I've--" Ethius indicates a direction. Jean doesn't continue her statement, watches him for a moment. But then the pillar... Well. She looks up--steps back--and with a running start, leaps onto the pillar, feather-light, and starts climbing.

GS: Jean has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Feather Step!
GS: Jean has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

Little trepidation lies in Maya's heart despite the challenges of navigating the opulent castle reminiscent of a dizzied nightmare. She has not come alone, after all. Before Hiro's voice even reaches Virginia or herself, a knowing smile tugs at the edges of the blonde's mouth and she looks over her shoulder. To the young boy and the sassy pink kitty, who she has sequestered herself away from with her own insecurities. But those negative feelings have no place here. Not now.

"Why, I knew you'd be right along." the older girl chuckles and calls loud enough for all to hear, voice rich with amusement, but also with comfort. Her gaze sweeps across Jean, gratitude gleaming in her eyes. And Lemina, whose unrestrained brand of sunshine burns possibly brighter than her own. "When the chips are down and all hope is dim, isn't that when our little family shines brightest?"

For what it's worth, Jean utterly shows Maya how to construct a presence in the dance floor. Stealing the (actual) spotlight is one thing, commanding the rhythm of the dance is another entirely. The blonde also scoffs good-naturedly at Ragnell's quip, glancing askance at the seraph with a positively feline smug satisfaction at the way she phrased that. "Heavens, I can't help it if heads turn and heads throb wherever I go~".

Bravado and gusto only get her so far, though. The stretch between Maya and the heart of the phantasmal labyrinth only seems to grow larger, and the haunting voice of a faraway lost and confused girl pierces her breast as easily as the head of any arrow. Each word drips with a supernatural misery that only thickens the fog blanketing this strange realm. But the spirited blonde is not alone, and does not journey as if she were.

"Virginia, didn't your mother ever tell you that sometimes you've got to take a bitter medicine to get better? That things might seem worse before they get better? You come down from there this instant, or we'll drag you down ourselves!" Maya points accusingly up at the central pillar, gloved hand unwavering. She marches upwards, hopping from one staircase to the other--sometimes having to account for the changing whims of gravity as she walks on passages hanging sideways or at other crazed angles, until the stairs themselves run out.

A pause, before the drifter looks behind her. Gauging whether this idiotic stunt will hurt anyone mad enough to have followed her on her quest rather than fanning out wisely. "Family looks out for each other, Miss Maxwell." Maya lectures with a knowing smile on her face as a slim revolver materializes in her hand from glowing motes of light. As a flurry of gleaming stars pepper the central pillar, cast forward by the hands of Virginia's #1 dedicated minion. "And yours would kill me if I don't return you safe and sound, besides."

Maya Schrodinger, wise and esteemed scholar of otherworldly architecture, points her pistol at the staircase behind her and pulls the trigger. The blast from the barrel is not one of smoke and flame, but of light and ethereal force. The staircase shatters, and the fragment Maya is left standing on hurtles upwards. If not all the way to her goal, then at least, far enough for her to--oh god maybe she didn't think this one all the way through.

GS: Maya Schrodinger has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Tornado-force Blast!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a solid hit from Asteroid the Kid's Starry Night for 118 hit points!
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Spectral Lens for 99 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

"Did you?" Hiro gets this pleased grin as Maya insists she knew they'd be along. "So what!? So what if you did something terrible!? One terrible thing and you just call it quits? That's it? I'm done? Irredeemable forever - bullcrap!" Hiro looks embarrassed as one dancer has to catch hold of her skirts. He aggressively doesn't look and even though he knows it's probably not a person despite Gwen's fears he still calls out - "Sorry!"
"Whether it's one thing or a billion - it's never too late!"
Hiro himself is quiet right now. Because he feels like it's not his place to answer this one. He feels like Jean of all people should - if she wants to. And she gets a glance as she does. Hiro feels a swell of pride for the woman he admires so much.
As he tries to plow forward. Arms pumping as he heads up the stairs out of the ballroom - pink dragonet in tow.
But soon enough the steps stop making sense. He has to stop short of the abyss a few times. And gets caught in an impossible indecision of which path to take at others.
Whatever enthusiasm he had before is soon tired out in the frustration of this climb. Listening to Maya and Jean's pleas, he manages a smile but it seems pinched. A little frustrated, "Stop pushing everyone away for starters!" The stairs give way - and he leaps, a cantrip of wind lifting him upwards to reach the next ones as he looks up at the central column rising up high. For a while he just pants- looking back upon the others in concernB before finishing gulping down air.
"Figuring out how to move forward - that's not a decision that has to be made on your own! Maya's here for you! And so're the rest of us!"
Whipping a hand to his belt, he pulls out a boomerang. Then cocking back his arm flings it. At this impossible height that the image of the girl atop the tower is standing. It may not reach it. But nevertheless it tries.
Mid-flight it snaps apart into two boomerangs that move on their own flight path before they converge on- well. It might not be her given how high it is. But either way it'd smash into the pedestal she's putting herself on...

GS: Hiro has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Cross Boomerang!
GS: Hiro has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

As they ascend past the ballroom, Lemina looks... genuinely, severely troubled. The more that voice reaches out, the more it seems to reject them, the harder it is on Lemina. The blonde soldiers onward into the endless rise of stairs, each step feeling just a little heavier --

-- but as she does, the feelings in her heart start to spill out, despite Lemina's insistence that she's too cool for feelings. Jean's glance may have helped, as do Maya's own heartfelt words; it's okay, it seems, to express oneself in this place. ... it is okay, right? Even with that niggling doubt in her heart, Lemina speaks.

"Virginia -- it's really not too late!" Lemina shouts into the void. "It's not too late for anyone! It doesn't matter what you think is in your way -- what you think you did -- it doesn't matter whether you can't see a path forward!" She draws her staff and uses it as a walking stick, at this point; each step comes with the ponderous crack of wood on stone. "I don't know what that path is! I don't know if I can help you! I just..."

Her grip on her staff turns white-knuckled as she says, quietly, "I just want my friend back." It's -- hard for her to say that. Lemina Ausa tends to avoid having 'friends' in favor of 'valued suckers.' It's all a big stupid work, of course -- there's a lot of love in that heart! But actually expressing it... that's tricky.

Maybe these words will only meet the empty air, as Lemina's legs shake. Maybe this prayer will be sucked into the void, too. ... But Lemina has to say something.

As Lemina finishes, there's a burst of pure white light from her staff. It's -- primarily a visual effect, truthfully; Lemina's mastery of Light lags well behind her understanding of fire and ice. ... but it's something. At least those traveling the stairwell will now better know the path.

GS: Lemina Ausa has attacked Virginia Maxwell with White Light!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Hiro's Cross Boomerang for 68 hit points!
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Lemina Ausa's White Light for 58 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        "Why're you raspberryin' me? I'm right!" Ragnell calls back to the ghostly voice of Virginia, arms spread. She's still got that assholish grin on her face. "If you want me to go along with your pity party, then maybe you can finally answer--" Her red eyes narrow, and her already husky voice deepens. "--if this really is as far as your resolve takes you."
        It's up to Virginia to decide if she prefers this Ragnell over the alternative.
        Then she half-smiles over at Asteroid and Jean. "Really? *The* gayest person you know? Damn, I need to step up my game. My gayme, if you will. Jean, partner up with me for this. Maybe if Ginny sees us out-gayin' her she'll get jealous an' come make out with Maya an' we can drag her outta here toot-sweet." Lemina's hair-toss and self-satisfaction, meanwhile, net her a loud laugh and a friendly smack on the back. "Try bein' less beautiful, you gorgeous bastard!"
        She settles somewhat when Ethius speaks up, encouraging the group to head *this*aways. Hmmm. "Worth a shot," she says as she heads after him. The architecture is already a nightmare, stairways leading to nothing, spirals twirling without end, destination seeming so close yet so far away, unraveling and coming apart around a central pillar... This is seriously giving her a headache. Maya might have the right idea, just blowing them apart.
        So, as the others offer more inspiring, supportive words (or in Ruby's case, "bullcrap"), Ragnell does her own thing: she pulls a tarnished harmonica from her poncho, and begins to play a bittersweet melody, one that would feel at home on the empty steppes under a blanket of stars. It might, in its own way, be an anchor--a sound to head towards, when sight can only fail them all.
        ...And if not, it's at least a pretty song.

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Virginia Maxwell with The Whereabouts of Light!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Seraph Ragnell's The Whereabouts of Light for 54 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Jean's Feather Step for 142 hit points!
GS: Cripple! Statuses applied to Virginia Maxwell!
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Maya Schrodinger's Tornado-force Blast for 148 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

        Of all those present here, perhaps Avril is the one with the least ties to the person trapped (or perhaps, forming the heart of?) this nightmare realm. The one with the fewest stakes, the one with the least to gain. The one brought here by 'chance'.

        And yet...

        Stepping back, she shakes her head as the voice once again resounds to her.
        ...This voice is familiar. Where has she heard...?
        "I do not feel it would be proper to turn away from someone who is in need," she responds. The ARM's charge burns out, the beam weapon evaporating as if it had never been.

        The path ahead is clear. "Please wait for us. It shall not be long."

        As if into an infinity, the staircase unwinds ahead. Gripping Absolute Zero tightly, Avril pauses there, gazing up the pathway towards the heavens. Others might pass her by for the moment, but she stands there, still and silent as a statue.

        Until she finally speaks: "Oh, I see. I believe that I understand..."

        Avril closes her eyes. "A staircase that continues into eternity. It is a poetic statement, is it not? To climb this would be exhausting. There is no end in sight. Yet, I feel this is also an apt statement of existance. When one travels through their life, it is no certain thing to what end they will reach, or to what purpose their striving will serve."

        She gathers her skirts and begins to ascend, one step at a time.

        "Whether a step will send us plunging downwards into despair. Whether it will bring us higher and closer to our goals... or perhaps we will wander, muddled and confused. Even now, I am not certain if this path I walk is correct."

        Still she walks, just one at a time, one after the other.

        "To paraphrase a saying of a good friend of mine, however... as long as we do not give up, nothing is impossible."

        Nothing is impossible. That's right.

        The climb is exhausting. Truly incredibly exhausting. It seems to loop in and around itself, and here and there it seems to come apart.

        "Right there? Very well," Avril says in response to Ethius as he indicates the way they should head through the maze of staircases. Drawing out the Medium of Lucadia, Avril pauses as the stairs again begin to unwind beneath her, and with a single shout


        leaps ahead in a sudden surge.

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Sea Medium!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: Avril Vent Fleur heals Avril Vent Fleur! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        '... I'm... glad you're still up and running, Gwen.'

        "I was stupid." Gwen winces, shame twisting at the pit of her stomach. She rubs her neck. "He and I go way back. It's... complicated. I'm so sorry you saw that. Thanks to Avril's magic here, as well as Clive, I'm good as can be." She, of course, doesn't specify just what want down to anyone who didn't know already.

        Instead, she quietly steps forward, one step of many needed for this long stairwell.

        "It's never too late," Gwen replies as she descends. "If it was, I wouldn't be here. And even if I was, I wouldn't be the same person." She glances over her shoulder towards Hiro and Ruby, as well as Ragnell. They all saw some elements of her past, regardless of however cohesive it may have been out of context. "If you want to change, the best time is now, instead of waiting for the world to come to you. I'm guessin' that's why you were there on that train, right? Some element of you wanted to change."

        The Baskar Sanctuary prepared her nicely for this. Like stepping into hot water after having to deal with boiling water, she finds it difficult, but not too much to not keep her gaze ahead on the goal at hand. Like... that tower. Time to climb.

        She really wishes Ragnell could actually fly, now.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Virginia Maxwell with COURIER SMASH!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Gwen Whitlock's COURIER SMASH for 105 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.

Asteroid lights the path, illuminating the little girl with the gun upon the pillar to actually march up and defy the heavens. In her path, she's moved up and proceeded to shine upon a certain aspect of the crevasse and moves lock-step with the way the staircases move onward.

        ... I'm not really sure I get it, Astie, but... I like... I've always liked the way you dream big. Big, towards the stars...

        Ethius does not answer.

        He proceeds onward, towards the depth of the chamber that ascends upwards, without even a single moment to think of hesitation. Though he is lost... he holds strong as he pulls his Spectral Lens out, and much like Asteroid, he too sees an invisible path inscribed upon the pillar...

        The silent type, huh...

        Jean asserts that she hasn't moved past it. That she works at it. As she slips easily past one flight of stairs to the others, she strikes through what seems to be a wall, revealed to be nothing more than a distraction. You stand back up... and if you can't do it yourself--

        ... then someone... gives you a hand? I remember... father used to say that to me.

        Layna asserts her own determination. She's a pirate. A criminal. A murderer. Yet... she doesn't give up. She tells Virginia that she can always make create her future, as she dashes up the staircase with an assertion that...

        ... it takes so much courage to live with the things we've done, I can't be sure...

        Avril is a stranger to her, comparatively, yet her words feel like they have so much meaning. Even if she is not sure if the path she walks is correct... 'nothing is impossible'. Avril and Ethius work together, the white-haired girl utilising the power of her Medium to propel her onward.

        But as long as I do not give up... that is what Skeleton would say...

        Hiro's boomerang carves out and strikes that pillar -- and as the girl keeps going, she falls -- but she falls so that she can see her own feet once more and stand. So that she can feel pain and snap herself out of her reverie.

        I should've... asked you guys from the start... Ruby, Hiro...

        And Lemina leaps on towards the steps herself, using her staff to assist her in her climb. And she expresses herself so genuinely! The light emanates onward, and once more, it shines upon a path that no one person can possibly find on their own -- but together, together...

        ... I want... I want my friend back too... all my friends. And my family.

        Gwen apologises that Virginia had to see something like that -- but something within the Hellion wants her to know she did not mean it like that... she was just concerned. And as she ascends, she gives her advice on changing... that change starts with her.

        ... yeah. I wanted to fix myself. But it was stolen from me. By that person... in the white armor...

        Maya boosts herself forward as the fragment she's on hurtles onward, ever closer towards the metaphorical centre of Virginia's heart... or was she always there in the first place? She isn't quite certain, but there is a certain jealousy that she has in mind as she hears them all cavort. Maybe Ragnell's approach is working, she's certainly getting riled up!

        ... I want ... I want you to come here... Maya... but...

        The group finishes their ascent, finally. There is a little clatter, and there's a very familiar flailing of skeletal arms to Asteroid and Maya as the world's most tenacious and perseverant minion of Virginia's (Asteroid isn't a minion, she's a friend) runs out and haplessly beckons towards the Drifters.

        It points towards an ominous set of double doors, shaped like a heart, the ever present ooze of Malevolence trickling onward...)]

        ... it's dangerous past this point... but... I want... to see you all again. I do... I want to...!

<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.


==========================<* The End of the Dream *>===========================
==============<* CHALLENGE - Wings Ensnared with Rusted Chains *>============== 
| Type: Resistance | Dungeon Ability: Willpower   | Challenge Rating: Enough! | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------

 (BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJ3_o6Eu8Ak )

 Ruby and Hiro had wondered earlier that it was no 'candy' domain -- yet here,
 where the Malevolence has truly weaved across the landscape, such toyetic 
 influence can be seen. A checkerboard floor spans this massive room, with 
 a high arcing ceiling adorned with mobiles and tapestry; children's toys can
 be seen piled high and mighty from one end to the other.

 And much like before, where the toys go... danger awaits as well.

 A slashed teddy bear, oozing fluff from its danglign limbs, shuffles 
 zombie-like in your direction... dragging a set of rusted claws with it.

 Four sets of dolls have acquired oversized scissors, caked with blood and
 rust, and all too eager to slice, dice and cut you up with them...

 Waves upon waves of toy soldiers with bayonets far too sharp march in 
 unison, all too willing to give their lives for their dark mistress.

 And at the back, a pack of cards have turned into a malevolent house.
 They bar passage to the entryway out the other end, ready to shave
 anyone moving too close with their razor-sharp sides...
=Dungeon Conditions: Hope, yet also, Fear=====================================
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Nightmare Border!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Nightmare Border!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Nightmare Border!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Nightmare Border!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Hiro with Nightmare Border!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Jean with Nightmare Border!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Lemina Ausa with Nightmare Border!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Nightmare Border!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Nightmare Border!
GS: Hiro takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Nightmare Border for 142 hit points!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Layna Manydays with Nightmare Border!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has completed her action.
GS: Maya Schrodinger takes a glancing hit from Virginia Maxwell's Nightmare Border for 71 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Jean takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Nightmare Border for 170 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Jean!
GS: CRITICAL! Avril Vent Fleur takes a glancing hit from Virginia Maxwell's Nightmare Border for 93 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Avril Vent Fleur!
GS: CRITICAL! Layna Manydays takes a glancing hit from Virginia Maxwell's Nightmare Border for 94 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Layna Manydays!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Virginia Maxwell's Nightmare Border for 70 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Ethius Hesiod takes a glancing hit from Virginia Maxwell's Nightmare Border for 75 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Ethius Hesiod!
GS: CRITICAL! Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Nightmare Border for 185 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Asteroid the Kid!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Nightmare Border for 141 hit points!
GS: Lemina Ausa takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Nightmare Border for 146 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Asteroid the Kid isn't doing well, actually, though you might be forgiven if that wasn't obvious because Asteroid the Kid is naturally not trying to advertise it. Still, Layna's encouragement seems to have had some effect, and sometimes acting like you're brave and being brave are pretty much the same thing.

She glances over to Jean. She's noticed the looks. She looks down at her feet. It's not exactly trying to encourage Virginia that's bringing her down but it may be related to it.

Still, she looks to Ragnell and says, "Huh?" to her. "You're gay too?"

Her cheeks pinken. "Oh so that's how you were able to figure it out so easily--"

No Asteroid she figured out your crush on Kaguya so easily because you're really obvious about it!!

"That explains everything. I just thought you dressed that way because you're cool."

She reddens more. "Aghh... you know what I mean."

She doesn't comment further on traveling to the stars or dreams. Asteroid waves to Skeleton. "I'm sorry," She tells SKeleton's arms. "I didn't treat you better."

And then there's dolls with oversized scissors caked in blood and toy soldiers all trying to kill them.



Asteroid hides behind Jean (Ethius didn't say he wasn't going to kill Virginia so she's being pouty). While hiding behind Jean she throws rocks at the dolls.

Nope nope nope nope nope nope nope okay they're kind of cute conceptually but when you actually are facing them down? NOPE!!

GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Space Rock Soccer!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

"We wouldn't miss it," Jean offers back to Maya. Maya calls it a family, and Jean looks down, thinking about it. ...At which point she hears Ragnell's suggestion and snorts. "Partying isn't the answer to everything," she counters, and then adds, "Can't believe I'm saying that..." It helps, the little bit of humor. Maya talks more about family, but--

She gives another look to Hiro and Lemina first. ...A longer one to Lemina. "Just hang on," she says to her, just her. "We'll get there."

But Avril's words--Avril reminds her of something. She couldn't say what. She isn't always as much an optimist herself, but even so...

Now there's more music at least. Still, Jean doesn't know what it is they will, or even can do. But that isn't going to stop her from searching.

"Your father sounds like he knew what he was talking about," Jean offers to the air. She keeps moving. Step after step, frustrating or not, the wall as a distraction... And here she goes. Until--the skeleton beckons onward, and Jean tilts her head. "You..."

"I don't mind danger. ...All of us are still coming."

As she goes in, the dancer has the extra duty of protecting Asteroid all of a sudden. "...Just keep behind me," she says over her shoulder, and gets to work. It means that she divez straight into combat with these things, and takes a lot of damage as a result--blades hacking along her arm even as she rolls inward to slice up the monster with a fan, bayonets crashing towards her, the tiring nature of dodging here and there. ...She doesn't talk about Ragnell being gay; instead she delivers razor fans to all the monsters along her way and just deals with the damage she gets, gritting her teeth against the pain and trying not to show it to worry the others. "We're still coming for you!"

GS: Jean has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Razor Dance!
GS: Jean has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Jean's Razor Dance for 132 hit points!
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Space Rock Soccer for 73 hit points!
GS: Virginia Maxwell enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

"Aye, it's hard, I know..." Layna says, making her way up the staircases. She moves quickly, even begrudgingly accepting Ethius's directions, eventually deciding to go even faster with wind-aided jumps. "But you don't have to do it alone, aye? Look at everyone who's come for you, lass. They've got plenty of courage to share!"

She progresses, and soon enough there's a familiar sight - that skeletal companion of Virginia's, beckoning them forward. Layna offers them a nod.

"Thanks." With that said Layna bursts through the doors, fists clutched tightly. She looks upon the challenges arrayed before her.

Layna grins widely.

"Dangerous? Lass, I live for danger! This is nothing...we'll force our way forward and take you back! I've always wanted to storm a castle...and this is close enough for me!" With raucous laughter Layna charges forward, wind beginning to rage around her. As she moves she glances toward Jean, who had already moved into combat as well.

It was good to be fighting alongside her, rather than fighting her...though she wouldn't mind doing that again, either.

Whether it's monstrous teddy bears, scissor-wielding dolls, toy soldiers, or even viciously sharp cards, anything that gets in the way will feel Layna's dedication.

DG: Layna Manydays has used her Tool Hand that Seizes the Future toward her party's challenge, Wings Ensnared with Rusted Chains.
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Swab the Decks!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Layna Manydays's Swab the Decks for 78 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

Strange, isn't it? That the world of illusion bends even slightly to the blonde gunslinger's whim... does it signify Maya's importance to the one who made it? Or something else? Regardless, the chunk of shattered stair soars for the heavens, and the girl standing atop it turns to see the small army of drifters approaching. By their own methods, through their own means. A dozen-something glimmering points of light in the darkness. Strangers, friends, accomplices all.

"Wonder what happened to me," muses the gunslinger as she pirouette-flips off of the flying slab and lands easily before a looming pair of double doors. "And when it got easier to deal with illusion and magic than typical drifting..." with a haunting(ly pleasant) harmonica track to back her inwards reflections.

Should they allow it: Maya links arms with as many of her pals (or strangers) as will take her up on the offer, before they proceed through the doors towards the dream's finale. For such a self-proclaimed cynical sort, a still-thriving hope burns in her breast that shields her against the onslaught of negativity that threatens to bind all those foolish enough to dive into the dream.

When Maya emerges on the other side of those doors, she does so with six-shooter in hand. The long-barrelled revolver shines with a pallid silver light of its own, the embodiment of another's dream. "Can you hear them laughing, and talking, Miss Maxwell?" she calls casually, indicating Asteroid. Jean. Lemina and Hiro, struggle as they may, and Ragnell's reassuring flippant-ness. "You should come join them. Or I'll bring them to you--since you want to see us again! Whether you're ready or not!"

That last statement is thrown down like a challenge. Even as the Schrodinger girl's own form is briefly wreathed in the tendrils of capital-M Malevolence, she places a hand on Asteroid's back to steady her, and neatly aims for the head of a Nutcracker-looking soldier before pulling the trigger and delivering him from his mistress's dark designs with a searing bolt of realization where a bullet should be. "Listen to them, Virginia Maxwell! Listen to how much they love that spirit of yours!" Maya defiantly laughs into the darkness, despite the pain. She's not the only one who can feel the struggle begin to take its toll, but she just has to make it far enough, the rest--well... it'll work out.

                               It always does.

GS: Maya Schrodinger has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Unyielding Phantasm!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a solid hit from Maya Schrodinger's Unyielding Phantasm for 117 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Of all gathered, Ethius is the only one who so far has seemed to refuse to verbally engage with the hostess of this realm of nightmares... emotionally... or spiritually. He is simply there, as though heedless of how desperate a situation this is to those who would call themselves close friends.
        He stops at the apex of the ascent, standing before the heart-shaped double doors. He is not among the first to go inside, as a hand goes to his forehead before the poisonous, choking spiritual poison that is Malevolence. His trip to the Baskar Sacred Grounds with another group of acquaintances had seen it fit to speak of one difficult truth to confront.
        He could not destroy the corruption. There is nothing meaningful he can contribute as a quiet force of destruction to some pattern or stimuli that remains mysterious. There is nothing meaningful he can contribute as a friend, a lover, or anything else. He fails to partake in the arm-lock team-up initiated by Maya - still finding himself an element that lingers just... outside of a whole picture. Extraneous.
        Why is he here?
        He must have an answer for that, for he heads through the door as ushered by the Skeleton to catch up to the rest. Whatever his justification is - it can't be ignorance, for how he's clearly interacted with the environs around him - it is reason enough to see him enter the realm of that checkerboard floor that stabs at the traces of what his mind could grasp and remember at the time from the forest.
        He casts a glance to over where Asteroid cowers behind Jean, offering no opinion about matters of romance or what have you. He is not allowed much time to speculate. He is a trespasser, and the toy soldiers rush to his position.
        There are too many. For every attempt he makes to parry one artless but dangerous lunge of their bayonets, there's at least two that come too close. Fresh crimson seeps out of where blades make contact with flesh, and he ducks low as he grabs a satchel off his belt.
        He doesn't have much time nor space to cast, but the spell needed to activate the smoke bomb is not complex. He hurls it down against the checkerboard floor and takes off running, staggering low and throwing a hand down against the ground to catch himself from tripping over as he attempts to run past the swinging claws of a murderous, rotting teddy bear, and towards the house of cards.
        He is either helping provide a distraction for further movement, or is content to have the others' well-wishes and words trying to reach the troubled Virginia be the distraction so he can get get close to that house of cards and plow his way through with a few well-placed quarterstaff strikes.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Powder Grenade!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

Hiro's mid-run when he catches his boomerang. "Well - YEAH YOU SHOULD HAVE!" Ruby shouts - having an easier time traversing nightmare terrain because flying is kind of cheating. Up and up the stairs. Hiro doesn't echo Ruby's shout. He just keeps running.
Up and up and up.
Gwen's comment on her injuries causes him to glance at her every now and then. Concerned. He'd tell her not to overdo it but he knows that Gwen is stubborn - so he doesn't. So instead he just listens to her comment - then at Ginny's response.
"Oh Ginny." Hiro says as they make it up to the toyetic landscape of horror. Glad that he has his sword out he's able to parry away the first bayonet - but there and more and more and more.
And he's caught in a silhouette of red for a moment.
When vision clears his brow is bloodied - and he's got a few more holes than he used to. "Should have just... said that from the start..." He says lightly to Virginia.
There's a smile at what Maya says - because he is struggling, "Sure it shouldn't be the other way around Maya?" He says as a light joke, "Pretty sure there's someone she'd want to see most of all..." A beat, "...but..."
Even as messed up as he is - he suddenly slams his sword into one toy's face, before charging forward in a rush. Sword at a low guard, as it scrapes across the checkerboard, before he spins it around and brings it up in a cleaving strike through what looks like a horrifying teddy bear oozing fluff like ichor. "... like Jean says we're coming. And there's nothing that's going to keep us away!"
"Hiro don't say that! She's a little unstable right now and some part of her might take it as a challenge!"

GS: Hiro has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Poe Sword!
GS: Hiro has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Jean chides her on parties not being the solution for *everything*. Ragnell snorts. "Can't believe you're sayin' that either," she teases. She grins over at Layna, who too laughs raucously as she declares she lives for danger. Then she raises an eyebrow at Asteroid and her revelation.
        "*Hella* gay," she tells her. She's almost reassuring about it. 'Almost,' because there's nothing reassuring about the way her grin widens as Asteroid digs her grave deeper and deeper. She laughs outright when Asteroid calls her cool, then winks. "I *do* know what you mean," she purrs, and then blows her a kiss. She grins over at Maya when the Schroedinger heir all but throws down the gauntlet at Ginny--it looks like they'll *all* have to step up their gayme--before cackling and heading onwards.
        Credit where credit is due to Ginny's nightmare hellscape and internal miseries: the toys are hella creepy. Ragnell remembers fighting things similar to this way back when at the ruins of Lahan, and these are in a league of their own. Her cocky grin fades, and she eyes the scissor-wielding dolls in particular as they come snip-snipping forward. There's a lot of them... Ragnell has to dodge out of the way a few times to avoid 'cuts' from becoming 'decapitations' or 'mutilations,' before she finally has the space to start casting a Seraphic arte, bringing bolts of lightning down upon those metal shears and hopefully frying a few of the dolls into dust.
        "The challenge is what makes it fun, Ru," Ragnell remarks to Ruby then. "So let Hiro an' the others challenge her all they want!"

GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Hiro's Poe Sword for 60 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Thunder Blade!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Seraph Ragnell's Thunder Blade for 94 hit points!
GS: Cripple! Statuses applied to Virginia Maxwell!
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

        "Perhaps the path I walk is the right path. Perhaps it is not. However, I cannot remain still or shrink away. I must keep moving forward, whatever may come. There are things that I must see through."

        She lands safely, tucking the Medium away; the Skeleton ushers her forward with the rest. "The same must be true for you. I am certain that there is something you want accomplish, places you wish to go, people you wish to see. The most important step to take is..."

        Avril trails off, her footfalls echoing distantly as she steps into the room ahead.

        "...Wait. Something is not right," the young woman murmurs, brow furrowing as the toys begin to rouse themselves from their piles and advance with murderous intent.

        Broken toys, Avril considers dimly, lifting Absolute Zero -- blade form manifesting with flash of light -- towards the advancing group.

        Dangerous, just as Virginia had said.

        Blue eyes skim across the room, linger on Jean and Layna as they reassert their words with deed and push ahead. "...Yes, it will be. Nevertheless, it is as I have said. I must proceed onwards regardless."
        And ever so slightly, Avril manages a smile as the toy soldiers fall upon them.
        "Let us meet each other half way, Virginia."

        There is danger. Blades swipe, cutting an all-too-bloody slash across Avril's left forearm and evoking a gash. For all its appearance, though, it seems to not be a deep or crippling wound, merely one that...
        ...Doesn't feel entirely right. Was the blade coated in something? It's as if her connection to the Medium she bears is dampened.

        Such thoughts cross Avril's mind in a fleeting instant. She rolls to the right, holding her wounded arm in close before stepping backwards into a fade--

        --Only to surge ahead with perhaps alarming speed, the apparent fade but a feint.

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Spirit Saber!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a solid hit from Avril Vent Fleur's Spirit Saber for 149 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

Lemina also does not comment on the quantity or quality of Ragnell's gayness. There are some things she prefers not to think about in intimate detail, mostly because she's already heard their detailed intimates and it was awkward and uncomfortable for all involved!

Soldiering on into the darkness of Ginny's domain, Lemina looks to the children's toys. If there were ever any doubt that this were Virginia's domain, this would certainly erase it -- the Ausa girl remembers this imagery all too well. No solace lies in memory, however; a bear's claws bite into her shoulder, and she lets out a sharp yelp. She scoots closer to Jean, even as she dances -- she's starting to lose her footing, and her whole body quakes with exhaustion... but she's not done moving forward yet.

Her gaze turns to Maya -- and that's when it hits her, in no small part thanks to Hiro. She moves toward Maya, chanting a spell softly before pointing at her. "Maya... if anyone's gonna' get through to her, it's you," she says. "I've got your back!" Maya's weapons glow with a pure-white flame of power -- indeed, quite possibly her whole body does.

GS: Lemina Ausa has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Power Flame!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Ethius Hesiod's Powder Grenade for 105 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        Ragnell's words aren't completely soaring over Gwen's head, as evidenced by the way her head ducks low, attempting to ease the blush on her cheeks. "H-hey, I'm not sure this's the best place to talk about this, eheh..." She coughs into one hand, striding ever forward. ... Because she'd like to get this over and done with before Ragnell gets too bored.

        Or if she notices just how uncomfortable Gwen is.

        Moving into the next area, helpfully pointed out by the nice skeleton arms, Gwen laughs uneasily as Virginia's toy minions advance. "Wow, I think I remember some of thes-EESE!!" Her voice zips up an octave as the nearby teddy bear slams her away with a rusty clawed hand, throwing her across the tilted floor with a pained grunt when she lands. "... Gh... That hurt..." She casts a worried glance towards the others as she gets up, clutching at her right side. "... Damn.."

        Well, at least she doesn't have to worry about scars there, if they do form. They'll just... blend in.

        Virginia mentions the person in the white armor. It wasn't any more than a few days that Gwen had broached this subject with Jack. "I can't speak for K.K., but my theory is that they're more a force than someone with an opinion. If they make things complicated for you..." Gwen slips off her leather glove, exposing the right hand of her ARM. "You find another way. The knight's just blockin' one path. The world's big enough to have more than one path to where you need to go!" Curling her right hand into a fist, the courier extends it out, casting a wide pulse of electric energy around her in a rapidly extending circle, before dissipating. "Everything'll be fine!"

        Just overlook the fact that Gwen pointedly avoids engaging the soldiers and their bayonets. Gwen is completely over what happened, honest!!

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Virginia Maxwell with St. Elmo's Fire!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Gwen Whitlock's St. Elmo's Fire for 79 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.

        The Dolls spin around and manage a few cuts on Asteroid, before she hucks rocks and the Baskar shaman of Rigdobrite manages to peg one of them down. It emits a horrible screech as it collapses apart into a little dreadful pile of ooze.

        W-why is everyone talking about this just because-- aargh! Maya say something!

        Ethius continues to be silent, but as she thinks upon it -- she has seen this man before. When she was particularly drunk and intoxicated on the power of Malevolence, in that ruin so long ago... when he attempted to attack Neriah when she manifested her power. ... is he here to hunt for her as well?

        I want to have... resolute bravery like that... whatever your own goal is.

        Hiro strikes and clashes with the bear, trading several blows with it -- but he's faced more monstrous creatures at this point, thanks to the Trial Knight and others. He smashes the sword into the toy, charging forward and leaving it weakened for another to follow up upon!

        You don't have to say that either, Ruby!

        Virginia can't believe Jean is saying partying isn't everything either, but she can perhaps believe it in this case. The dancer draws her fans out and cleaving the dolls and the incoming soldiers apart with a bevy of razor-sharp blades.

        I believe in you... all of you...

        Layna scoffs at the very idea of danger! It's a kind of bravery that Virginia is scarce familiar with, yet... she's somewhat envious of. But she doesn't have to be -- because she has a lot of courage, as the pirate educates, to share with everyone who's come here. Clash, clash! She trades blows and rips another limb off the monstrous teddy bear!

        Holding the future... seizing it for myself...

        Gwen continues to clash with the teddy bear that Hiro's slowed, slipping off the glove off her ARM and blasting it with a powerful strike of electricity. Everything will be fine... as long as you do not give up, there will be a way. It's powerful words, from everyone.

        ... I'll stop them... with my own hands...

        Ragnell tears away and flees from danger, dodging away with a deftness befitting the Lightning Seraph. Several of her blasts shred apart at the dolls, leaving gaping holes on their heads as they attempt to cut apart the Seraph to no avail.

        ... I'm not... I don't want to give up yet, Ragnell... not until I make right what I caused...!

        Avril urges them to meet halfway, and Virginia nods -- as much as she can nod, regardless; she can feel that willpower rising within her, the acceptance of wanting to recover herself. She clashes onward and strikes the toys with Absolute Zero, the blade cutting the teddy bear apart with a rending strike in the instance she moves across that moment.

        Let's do that... Avril.

        Lemina powers through just as that bear is about to cleave her, finding solace and protection in Jean. A spell is chanted, one which directly enflames Maya with a pure-white flame of power...

        Nearly there... Lemina...

        And then there's Maya. Maya, the one who's so important to her. The one who's been her shining knight since the first day she stepped out of Boot Hill... and glowing quite literally right now, thanks to Lemina. And when she thinks about her dreams again... it was there all along, every little bit of inspiration she ever needed to learn how to grow, how to become more than she ever has been.

        How to spread her wings.

        I do listen to them, Maya... but... I want to... I want to listen to you too.

        We have so much to catch up on...

<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.


==========================<* The End of the Dream *>===========================
=================<* CHALLENGE - If You Reach Your Dream... *>================== 
| Type: Finale | Dungeon Ability: Love   | Challenge Rating: Together...!    | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------

 (BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJ3_o6Eu8Ak )

 The most articulate of dances goes only so long.
 Immaculate plays are constructed in acts.
 And the most heartwarming of poetry, in stanza.

 It is time, then, to draw a curtain upon this act. With blade, spell and
 ARM both large and small, as well as no unending amount of tenacity,
 perseverance and the bonds of friendship and camaraderie... the Drifters
 finally come upon the opulent throne. A large chair is affixed upon
 the end of a length of royal red carpet.

 Virginia has seen better days, even if she desires change -- she looks
 the part like what Maya and Asteroid have seen upon that horrible
 battlefront months ago when they were fleeing the Temple.

 Her skin has become much paler, half her face crumbled into a seeming
 nothingness past a singular point of light. Her dress is twisted and
 seeped with malevolence, adorned with poisonous roses and bands of
 slithering ribbons that seem ready to lash at anything and everything.

 A mocking laughter echoes through the room once more.

 Yet this time, it is more evident than before -- the butterfly that
 floats once at the corner of your eye has... now finally come into

 And here, in the apex of this darkness... there is something she
 has missed.

 A Statue sits right behind her, seemingly obscured with the power of 
 darkness shrouding the throne at present. This is no Malevolent 
 presence, however -- those that carry their Mediums can feel it 

 It is the Statue of Darkness -- of the guardian Leitea Salk, with the
 semblance of a muscle-bound demon.

 Unfortunately, there is no time -- the very last, but most powerful
 bands of Malevolence that grip Virginia exude outwards. Those bands
 strike out in undulating waves much like a snake, and those who get
 closest to the once-Drifter would find themselves mired in a choking
 cloud that attempts to well upon their nightmares...

 ... but they are together. They have affirmed their vows.

 It's time to set those wings free.
=Dungeon Conditions: Love Overwhelming=====================================
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Layna Manydays with Black Curse!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Black Curse!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Hiro with Black Curse!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Jean with Black Curse!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Lemina Ausa with Black Curse!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Succubus Princess!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Succubus Princess!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Succubus Princess!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Succubus Princess!
<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.

        And finally...

GS: Hiro takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Black Curse for 77 hit points!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Skeleton is Helping!!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Avril Vent Fleur takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Succubus Princess for 305 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Avril Vent Fleur!
GS: Layna Manydays takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Black Curse for 84 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Succubus Princess for 205 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: Virginia Maxwell heals Asteroid the Kid! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Succubus Princess for 165 hit points!
GS: Maya Schrodinger takes a solid hit from Lemina Ausa's Power Flame for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Maya Schrodinger!
GS: CRITICAL! Maya Schrodinger takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Black Curse for 99 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Maya Schrodinger!
GS: Jean takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Black Curse for 86 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Succubus Princess for 168 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Ethius Hesiod!
GS: CRITICAL! Lemina Ausa takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Black Curse for 112 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Lemina Ausa!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

"YES I DO DUMMY!" Ruby shouts back to Virginia - before Ragnell catches her attention, "Ragnnellll-" She whines. "I just don't want us to bite off more than we can chew!"
Hiro staggers onward into the next room. As he sees what Virginia has become. Now that he's spiritually aware - he can't not see it. Like how he now sees the maelstrom of malevolence Lucia keeps at bay every single day. "Ginny it is not okay to let yourself go like this!"
The mocking laughter echoes like a migraine pounding in his skull as he gags - and shields his eyes against the malevolence. Squinting at the butterfly.
"The statue..." He murmurs - remembering their experience at the Guardian Temple.
And the bands of malevolence expand with a life of their own.
"Maya - everyone!" As his gaze sleeps over the others, "We don't have Sorey here - but the Guardians can purify malevolence! We've seen them try! Our best chance at saving her is to seal that statue!"
And hoping the Guardian would be grateful enough to be inclined to help.
He doesn't mention that part though. He trusts in the Guardians' desire to help at least - because they tried to help Lucia.
"Everyone - let's do everything we can to give those two that chance to catch up." Because he knew ultimately. It was going to be Maya's love that saved Virginia here. He trusted in Maya after her feelings helped them save Lucia - just as much as he admired her and Virginia for their strength.
Gripping his sword with both hands, he brings it upright, the winds swelling around him - before he gives himself a push forward. Launching himself that way. Whether it be friction from his wind magic or something he learned, his blade lights on fire as he plows headlong into the wave of malevolent darkness like so many sword idiots.
The flame does not purify - but he attacks the malevolence anyhow. He knows it's a living thing. If he can't defeat it. He can at least try to defy it momentarily. "BURN!"
He keeps charging right towards the statue - even as the malevolence continually pushes him back. "Stay strong a little longer Ginny." He grimaces against the new spasm of spiritual pain. "And I bet you'll show us all that you can fly higher than you ever dreamed you could."

GS: Hiro has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Battalion Sword!!
GS: Hiro has completed his action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Hiro's Battalion Sword! for 89 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Jean can't help but let out a small laugh at Ragnell's teasing. ...Mostly at her, but at the others too. In other circumstances, she might join in teasing Asteroid, as a way to get to know her a bit. But she glances back to Layna, too, looking her way. She finds the same. "...I knew I liked you," she says to Layna with a wink, as they move forward, and indeed she does move with Maya, even if she needs her hands free.

But in the chamber, she is weaving, and when Lemina scoots closer to her, Jean takes her under protection too, batting away a bear with her fan from moving towards the blonde--and then cleaving through it with her other hand's weapon. "Ha!" She's hardly the shield that Hiro is, but she's willing to put herself on the line. So, she does; by the end of it she's bruised and bloodied, but there's still a spark in her eyes.

...She said she didn't mind danger; that's true.

Ginny believes in them; she seems to be coming so far already that Jean can feel a little relief creeping into her heart, just for the possibility. They may make it. ...So they're all here. They can all make it through.

"...That's right," Jean says. "You've gotta come out of this so you can spend a lot of time talking with Maya!" A wink, "We'll all be around after you two get some quality time in!"

She has to put a little effort into the cheer, but it's sure something she can do. And now... HEre, the throne, at the edge of the red carpet, Jean steps forward, and stops. She looks upon the pale girl, the strange nothingness of her look, what Ginny has become. Poisonous roses, ribbons ready to lash out.. and laughter. The butterfly is here, and Jean sees it. Her eyes narrow--and then flick to the statue. "Another Guardian...?" She's seen this one, the once. It's familiar to her, because of that. Darkness...

Jean feels something quiet inside her, as she looks on the statue of Darkness. Then, the Malevolence comes, and Jean throws up her arms to defend herself, trying to move out of the way, and being staggered back as a result, pushed away by the waves of Malevolent force before her. She grits her teeth again--and Hiro. Hiro speaks. ...Jean feels the Medium on her person, presses her lips together. They are all together here, that's true. But to stay that way...

She sets her fans on the hooks at her sides, widens her stance, and takes a breath. "...Even in the dark..." She shifts slightly, and it is like a dance move, the smooth way with which her fingers move as she glances once to Layna, back to Maya, back to Virginia, "I know you'll shine through, Virginia. If you just give yourself the chance."

Hiro's got a point. But Jean trusts in Lemina, who she looks at next. "...I'll buy us some time."

Abrubtly there is a pulse of ki about her, and purple light--darkness--radiates and collapses into her as, with a blur of speed, there are three Jeans circling the Malevolent waves before Ginny. Each start throwing needles, as if they can pin the shadows to the ground with them, stitch them into the stone, give the others the chance they need. ...She keeps throwing. "Ginny!"

GS: Jean has activated a Force Action!
GS: Jean has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Needle Step!
GS: Jean has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Jean's Needle Step for 27 hit points!
GS: Break! Statuses applied to Virginia Maxwell!
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

        The stuffed bear falls. Avril does not stop, moving onwards across the room with the blade at the ready. Cut to the heart of it. Find what rests in the depths of the nightmare realm.

        Open a path.

        There is the throne room, just ahead.
        And there is the girl, Virginia. Avril's lips press thin, her forehead crinkling in deep concern. Malevolence...?
        Malevolence can destroy a person, she thinks, suddenly. Like being hollowed out, slowly but surely, until only a shell remains to collapse in on itself. "Virginia..."

        The Medium resonates.
        Both of them do.
        Avril draws herself up, injured arm still held close to her torso as her gaze lingers on the figure by the throne before lifting to focus on the statue beyond it.

        It's one of them. A statue. Is this what I felt? Did you lead me here...?
        Though the surface remains outwardly calm as always, something -- something? -- urges her pulse to quicken.

        And something else -- as mysterious as any other part of the buried sections of her psyche -- urges her onwards. Now is not the time to pause, it speaks evenly. Now is the time to act. Now!
        She must ensure the statue is sealed--

        Avril actually gets all of ten feet before one of those dark tendrils lashes out. For an instant, she is transfixed by the surge of dark power, so far gone as to be caught there off the ground as she shudders in the throes of the nightmare's boundary. Absolute Zero slips from her grasp to clatter on the palace floor.

        Her eyes are wide, her lips parted in a mute scream. Not even the slightest gasp ushes forth. It's like even breath has been stolen.

        Darkness. There's nothing but darkness, whatever direction she tries to look. There isn't a scrap of light.
        It's cold.
        It's sinking into her body, following the line of bone through every part of her being. She can't see. Feel. Or think.

        Avril collapses seconds later.

        Curled there on the floor, feeling as if nearly half of her life has been wrested from her -- hollowed out? -- Avril levers herself up onto her hands, gasping now with the effort.

        Don't give up.

        In silence, she nods at the thought, the reminder. Lifting her head, she gazes at Virginia. "Ha... I'm certain... you can reach halfway. No, more than halfway. You can... cross the distance. Let me... help."

        She can't entirely shake the feeling of cold. Perhaps that might be why she slowly draws out the slab of stone with the snowflake glyph etched into it. "Aru Solatu..." she murmurs, and even through the numbing haze that seems to veil her connection to the Guardians, she reaches out.

        Here, she's in agreement with Hiro and Jean. "Let us... end what plagues you here, and seal the statue!"

        Cold -- glacial -- rushes in, the spectral form of the white-furred beast manifesting around and above Avril. One by one, pillars of most ancient ice jut up from the floor, urged forth by the Ice Guardian as it shatters them all to powder, a heavy haze sent across the room as it aims to freeze the Malevolence that plagues Virginia solid.

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Material - Primeval Frost!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a solid hit from Avril Vent Fleur's Material - Primeval Frost for 199 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Virginia Maxwell!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

And finally...

She's so beautiful like that, Asteroid thinks. And behind her...

"Leitea Salk. The Guardian of Darkness. It's okay."

Why is she thinking of the dream she had, long ago...the dream that sent her forth from the colony and started her adventure. Why is she thinking of that now?

Asteroid has been hiding behind Jean but she steps closer towards Ethius. She holds up her Rigdobrite medium. It is hot in her hand. Rigdobrite isn't the Guardian of Hope. That's Zephyr...but there is something about those lights in the sky that have always called to Asteroid, that made her dream that there was something more to this world than just this world.

But... She wants to be friends with Ginny. She wouldn't have even met Kaguya if it wasn't for her. She wouldn't know Jean or Lemina or anyone, really. She wouldn't even...


A cloaked drifter walks into the local pub looking for work. She keeps her head low as she makes her way to the cork board and examines the job listings. She needs something. Something tech based. Get herself started. It doesn't matter that she looks like this, she thinks, Miss Hetfield wouldn't care if she could prove she's SMART enough for her. And then--an apprenticeship hopefully? That's the plan. She just needs something to WORK on, on her level. It could be like a real family, right?

She finds a job. Just something to fix up a cart. That's the best they have. She reaches forward and tries to tug it free but it's stuck tight. She pulls harder and stumbles back a bit.

The head of her cloak spills back.

"The hell is that?" A man on his second drink says. "That a monster?"

There's a small degree of panic but she doesn't look frightening enough to really scare anybody. She just looks strange.

"Eveybody cool it!" A friend of the first man says. "It ain't a monster, just a hideous freak!"

The first laughs it off, "Careful you'll hurt its feelings even if it's rock-headed."

Asteroid the Kid shouts, "It's not a rock! It's an asteroid!!" She turns to run out, tears streaking down her face. The coolest drifter in the world suddenly places a hand on Asteroid's shoulder, stopping her. It turns out the coolest drifter in the world is Virginia Maxwell and she's trailing evil roses behind her.

She looks to the men who had been taunting Asteroid and gives them a glare, silencing them. Ginny looks back to Asteroid after, and says, "So you said your name is Asteroid? How about Astie for short!"

Virginia beams brightly. "I'm Virginia Maxwell! You can call me Ginny!"

<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.


Asteroid the Kid opens her eyes. She's been selfish long enough, right now she needs to do what Ginny did for her and save her from the darkness, just like Virginia had done for her not too long ago and after that--

--after that it doesn't matter. You want to be a better person, Asteroid, and if that means saying goodbye to someone who only liked you when they weren't really themselves, then you've got to say goodbye. You can do it, Astie, what's more important? A friendship in a worlds of friends, or Ginny?

But her hand is shaking. She's getting lashed at by the darkness. She can't hold the tablet still or focus enough to summon Rigdobrite. The mind is willing, but the heart is weak.

And then in that moment, a skeletal hand rests itself on Asteroid's.

Never Give Up.

Asteroid swallows and screams, "RIGDOBRITE! PUSH BACK THE DARKNESS!"

A bright light erupts from Asteroid's medium. Rapidly, the form of Rigdobrite takes shape before her.

And then, it opens his one eye. A bright light ERUPTS from the Guardian and slams against the darkness tendrils. It pulses everywhere. It won't hurt the Statue, but the rest of the dark is fair game.

Asteroid looks over to Ragnell and pulls up her shirt, lowering her face halfway into it.

GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Material - Rigdobrite!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a solid hit from Asteroid the Kid's Material - Rigdobrite for 178 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Is Ethius there to hunt Virginia? To remove her wholesale from existence? Stop her from spreading the poison of Malevolence and hurting others? If this man's intent is just, they are actions that seem to otherwise exist only to harm and ruin. By his hand, coldly, he has moved to kill plenty in sight of others. Neriah may have said much about just how rotten this man was to her. To say nothing about what ancient history of Filgaia he may have permanently left to be lost to the sands of time...
        Is there virtue in being able to hold resolute to whatever holds this man to his goal? It seems to be enough to keep his head above the poisonous Malevolence, but that does seem... contradictory, doesn't it?
        He is among the first to cross the length of the red carpet, up towards the extravagant throne of a world of nightmares that she has carved for herself. Something in his possession seems to dislodge itself - his Medium, of the Star Guardian Rigdobrite. He misses the significance of this in favor of what's before his eyes.
        The man tends to betray little cues of body language, but it is clear if the Hellion thinks to look in his eyes.
        He's not looking in hers.
        He's not looking at her at all!
        He doesn't run towards her. He tries to go wide to whatever side opposite of himself Maya or Asteroid comes from (whoever shows first), taking off into a low sprint by attempting to go the very opposite direction of who he believes the Hellion will focus on.
        He is not here for her.
        The Malevolence isn't nearly as picky about its objective. It slithers and snaps with a weight that goes beyond the metaphysical - a pushing, crushing feeling. Overwhelming negative emotion that snakes and seeps through any logical loophole one might have. The man is reasonably strong of will, mind, and body.
        But is he strong enough of heart to hurl himself past, in full? His eyes narrow as they fixate upon the shadowed form of Leita Salk. The fog of Malevolence mockingly obscures it. He can go no further.
        He is thrown back onto his seat, hand on his forehead. Visions fill his mind. Behind him, bright but soft colors he can never see again no matter how he turns his head. Below, soot and ash with ivory-hued detritus buried underneath. Ahead, patterns in colors that do not belong.
        This is not something he can annihilate - his attempts to do so to the golem made of pure despair at the Baskar Sacred Grounds ensured this truth be understood. All around him, the rest - with their own, clear objectives being the Hellion herself - move with a purpose that seems to exceed his, now. They know what they're here for, they are to cut through this endless nightmare the young woman has suffered, to wake her from it and return her from its grasp. They speak with confidence in their ability to help her.
        She has spoken of wanting to be helped, finding herself in a feedback loop of 'I want to, but.' She has been spoken to by those who truly care for her, every step of the way through - but is that, in itself, enough?

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        "Miss Virginia." The man, at last, speaks to her. His voice is quiet. He can't look her in the face, lying seated and in a position of weakness. His attempt to push past has sapped too much of his strength. Though one arm wraps around the quarterstaff being propped up by the rest of his body, he couldn't find the strength to lift it anew. His fingers are tingling into numbness. His throat is parched... dry. He doesn't have it in him to inflict any of those awful spells of his if he could. If he could, would he have tried to slay her right here and now? Maybe a deadly shock, like he tried to administer to Neriah?
        What can he say to her? He is not a friend. He has almost nothing to do with her, or most of her friends around her (with a few exceptions). This entire passage of text seems utterly meaningless to read, consider, or remember - its removal from the story would change fundamentally nothing.
        "Miss Virginia." A stranger of little consequence asks. "Is this where you belong...?"

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Is This Where You Belong!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Is This Where You Belong for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

Of course it's hard. It's never easy--there's never been an easy step on the journey. But that, as Maya has found, is increasingly giving the damn thing purpose. So, one foot goes in front of the other. Fill those lungs with air and try not to think too deeply about what you might be breathing in here. "You know better than that, Young Master Hiro." the gunslinger chides him gently, pivoting to cover for the perforated young man with the rest of her ammunition. Her revolver's barrel spins open, spent cartridges lost to the darkness, no more real than any other illusion in this place. "Miss Maxwell needs all of her friends there with her."

Never mind that not everyone here is, technically, one of her friends. But this is Virginia. Even the distant and suspicious Ethius Hesiod is but a friend waiting to be made.

Now let's ruminate on another thing: in the heart of this place, words and feelings seem stronger than any weapon. Blades and claws formed from the darkness may dig deep, but the deeply-held beliefs and convictions that can knit together the efforts of strangers are witnessed to give rise to incredible power. This is most blatantly manifest in the moment where Lemina Ausa admits that her trust, in its entirety, lies with the blonde heir to the Schrodinger name. With nary a joke or a quip to go with it. The young sorceress's wishes wreathe and burn with visible, silver flames, a nimbus around Maya that the darkness cannot seem to touch.

"I know you do." the young lady squeezes Lemina's shoulder gently, but not too close. That's Jean's job, after all. Unless she's misunderstood things. Either way, each roaring bolt of radiant fury from the gunslinger's weapon pierces the darkness and lights the way for their crusade into the heart of the storm... where lies the true face of the Hellion. By the time they all reach it, the weapon is nowhere to be seen: such things have no place here, anyway.

<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.


                       Have you come to terms with it?

The girl in the orange dress has seen the unmasked heart of the Hellion only once before, but it is enough. It was expected. All of it, really: the checkerboard floors, the child's idea of opulence and needless pomp and circumstance, twisted by fear and given fangs. Claws. Blades. She closes her eyes briefly, but not out of fear. It is to focus. A feeling of purpose swells within her, but the final leg of the journey, she'll have to make alone. Everyone else will surely follow.

                                   I have.

A storm rages around the broken, doll-like form of Virginia Maxwell, writhing, lashing out. In contrast, the silvery glimmer that ebbs from the girl in the orange dress is beautifully sedate like the ebbing pulse of the tides. She can hear distant voices--encouraging her, and Virginia, and everyone else for one last push. Yet, the dialogue in her head rings louder.

                         Then, you accept that you--

                                    I do.

The first tendril of blackness smashes the spot where the girl in the orange dress once stood, but she has already left that place. With an uneasy, hazy quality to her movements--not quite running, and certainly not flying, but something strangely in-between. "Of course I do," Maya Schrodinger vows out loud, to the voice nobody else can hear in this moment, putting foot to ground and disappearing towards Virginia's reeling form and the throne in a burst of flickering quicksilver. "I'd be a damn fool not to!"

                   You've known for a lot longer than this.

The distance between the Schrodinger girl and her suffering companion, nay, her partner shrinks in an instant despite the spatial impossibility of the forever-lengthening stretch of blackness between them. The nightmare cannot outpace such a force. She plunges into the inky cloud of malevolence shielding Virginia Maxwell, Hellion, from the outside world like a champion sprinter leaning forward across the line, one hand outstretched.

                              Then, will you...?

The snowy, silvery flame enveloping Maya's form pulsates once, and fades even as it coalesces into a single point in the palm of her hand as she emerges through the darkness and all but crashes into the throne itself, dozens of pitch-black and violet vines struggling to hold her back. Right into the point of light where Virginia should have an eye, or, indeed, half of a face, Maya Schrodinger looks straight at Virginia Maxwell and--

"It's time to come home, Ginny."

--all of those feelings given form, the flame burning so brightly moments before, solidifies into a beautiful, single white rose, in contrast to the twisted print of Virginia's skirts, as Maya calls her that name for the very first time.

Maya gently threads the rose into Virginia's hand, and taps her on the nose with the one hand that made it through the cloud of darkness.


GS: Maya Schrodinger has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Love you!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        "You won't ever get stronger if you shy away from challenges," Ragnell tells Ruby, reaching out a finger to boop her on her adorable little nose. "'Sides, if you really don't wanna get Ginny so riled up she murders us all, maybe you shouldn't call her a dummy, dummy." Gwen meanwhile blushes and suggests maybe now isn't the time for all this gay talk, and Jean chuckles. Ragnell grins back at them both, though her grin to Jean is more knowing while her grin to Gwen is more reminiscent of a shark. Oh, she'll remember this, all right~
        "You don't, do ya?" she calls to Virginia's disembodied voice. "Then what're you gonna *do* about it?" The answer might come a little too soon: the group enters a chamber with a great statue, and beneath it, Virginia, ringed in sickening violent Malevolence. It pulses out towards the group as if a living and venomous thing; Ragnell attempts to brace herself against it, but it *burns*, it burns and chills and sears and makes her sick all at once. She drops to one knee when it wracks into her. The overall Malevolence may not be on the same level as Lucia's, but this has a different feel to it. Perhaps it's the presence of the Statue of Leitea Salk; perhaps it's the fact that the Malevolence is Ginny's own, rather than a banner stapled to her psyche. Ragnell lifts an arm to her face, even though such won't help at all, and peers to one side at the others. At Ethius, of all people, who attempts to convince Virginia; at Asteroid, who calls upon Rigdobrite; at Avril, who sends power forth to freeze Malevolence itself; at, especially, Hiro, who calls for everyone to seal the Statue so Leitea Salk can help cleanse Ginny of her condition.
        "As good a plan as any," she murmurs, stealing herself against the nauseating Malevolence and rising to her feet, knees bent slightly. A magic glyph forms at her feet, and as she concentrates, she chants: "Blade of heaven's will, lay waste to our foes... Divine Saber!!" She thrusts her hand out, and a circle of lightning bolts falls down on the ring of Malevolence, striking repeatedly at it before raining down thunderbolts from the center.
        Asteroid lucks out, because Ragnell really only has room to smirk at her as she shoves her face in her shirt and nothing more. Besides, Maya's being waaaaaaaaaaaay gayer than either of them could hope to manage right now.

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Divine Saber!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Seraph Ragnell's Divine Saber for 83 hit points!
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a solid hit from Maya Schrodinger's Love you for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

The butterfly briefly catches Lemina's attention, but sure enough, there are more pressing matters... like Ginny herself. Virginia is almost unrecognizable, yet simultaneously achingly familiar; Lemina wants to reach out to her, to say something -- but words feel like they're failing her.

Hiro cuts through that moment of worry with a clear, coherent plan, though; seal the statue and appeal to the Guardians. It's a little bit of a crapshoot -- it relies on the whim of an unknowable sky creature in a way that Lemina is a little bit loath to do in a circumstance like this -- but what other choice do they have?

Lemina steps into the cloud, the miasma swirling around her. As has so often happened on Filgaia, her thoughts turn away from the moment -- back toward home, back toward her great dream, back toward the nightmare of imagining it crumbling around her. The thought leaves her stricken, mute, the more she dwells on it --

-- but that's all the more reason to move forward, to honor the trust Jean's placed in her and keep going. She twirls her staff once, and turns her gaze toward those bands of Malevolence. It's in that moment that she realizes what she needs to do -- the opening she needs to create for Maya.

Lemina points her staff forward, chanting softly; something in her pack glows with radiance, giving her the strength to use her own inner light more and more.

At first, the light that pulses in front of Lemina is a gentle gold. Then, all at once, it gives way to bright, beautiful, eternal blue; it pushes back at the darkness, shoving it aside, tearing it away, trying to carve a path for Maya in the pitch.

GS: Lemina Ausa has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Pulse Explosion!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Lemina Ausa's Pulse Explosion for 43 hit points!
GS: Break! Statuses applied to Virginia Maxwell!
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Layna doesn't let anything stop her. Even as Teddy swings at her, and dolls slash with scissors, even as toy soldiers thrust with their bayonets, Layna perseveres. It doesn't matter how many hits they land on her, that wide grin remains.

Even as she fights she glances over toward Jean with a nod.

"Aye! I think I still owe you a drink, in fact." She comments nonchalantly, even as she removes poor Teddy's limb and tosses it into a crowd of toy soldiers as a distraction.

With the enemy routed she pushes forward...and soon, she sees the throne room before her. And on her throne is Virginia Maxwell herself.

Layna looks her over. She looks...terrible, to put it bluntly. It only serves to push Layna onward even more.

She strolls forward, into the miasma of Malevolence. It lashes out at her, seeking to choke her with regrets and fears...but Layna pushes onward even so.

Because how could she be Layna Manydays, Captain of the Ruby Empress, if she didn't?

"It's okay, lass. We're here. Everything's fine." She says. She doesn't try to approach her. Instead, she just tries to weather the storm of Malevolence, to take it upon herself so the rest don't have to. Because she can handle it. And so that the gunslinger in orange can get to where she needs to be, where she belongs...

DG: Layna Manydays has used her Tool Shield that Defends the Present toward her party's challenge, If You Reach Your Dream....
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Captain's Orders!!
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Captain's Orders!!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's Captain's Orders! for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Virginia Maxwell gains 15 extra FP from Layna Manydays!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's Captain's Orders! for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Gwen Whitlock gains 15 extra FP from Layna Manydays!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        The sight of Virginia causes Gwen to cry out, quickly bringing her hands to her mouth to stifle the sound.

        Then there's that butterfly again. And that laughter. Is there... something she's missing? Gwen doesn't have a chance to even ponder over it as the waves of Malevolence snake out towards them all. Gwen coughs and doubles over, catching herself at the last moment by the sound of Hiro's voice. "... He's right." She was there. She would know. Even if it failed, that was Lucia. Virginia's not cursed. "Astie and I have Rigdobrite covered." Cue Asteroid calling on the Guardian's power, causing Gwen to smile. "I'll leave it up to her, though. I'll work with what I know best." She reaches forward, and-
        Darkness flows over her.

        This is all the world is made of.
        It would be too easy to simply dismiss it all as another one of Janus's little tics. He's not the same person he was when he was a kid, but neither is she, and that's a good thing. She was a dour, sarcastic child, only indulging her warmer sides in the sanctity of the orphanage, reading to the ones far younger than her.

        Your old self know there was no space for kindness. Not where someone could take advantage of it.

        The injury was painful, yes. She lost a lot of blood. Maybe if she hadn't that night, she'd probably be in better shape now. Ah well, it's not as if Gwen knew to plan for this. No, it was that cold, empty expression on her childhood friend's face. It was just one look, cased in the span of a few seconds on a rushing train.

        Either you consume, or be consumed.

        Jean and Lemina trust in one another, as do Maya, attempting to display her feelings for Virginia.

        There is no horizon to reach towards.

        The mysterious Ragnell, whose grin makes Gwen wonder just what the heck she might be planning for later. But still, that's Ragnell.

        What does your heart beat for?

        Avril collapses on the cold ground, gasping.

        And again. It beats for nothing, for this is all the world is made of.

        Layna's words and spirit bring Gwen back.

        She can't fail everyone now. Even Ethius is there, embodying a fragility that her darker thoughts told her was deadly.

        Moving weakly to start next to Avril, as if her swaying body could possibly stand up to another hit, Gwen whispers to her, "... Thanks for healing me, back there." Willing her ARM to its full strength, Gwen casts the pyrite-gold energy upwards, spraying the Malevolence with sprays of sparkling light.

        A lighthouse's signal against the cold dark sea.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Corona Discharge!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Corona Discharge for 175 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Virginia Maxwell!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.

        Hiro leaps into the fray, bravely jumping past bands of Malevolence that months ago may have sickened him to the core -- but he has learnt, from his travels with the Fiends; from his patience and his belief in Lucia. He strikes with a defiant battle cry, slashing apart the band that comes his way, and within this realm... that defiance is enough to push back with a ferventness that attests to the bonds they've forged.

        "Y-you're both... such teases..." Virginia can't help but bashfully grin, even through that cracked face of hers, to both Hiro and Jean.

        The Guardian statue does not seem to exude a presence in turn, seemingly content to stare silently at the exchange that has gone on... A Guardian of Darkness, shrouded in mystery. Perhaps it is Virginia's desire to hide herself in the wake of her Malevolence that has led her here... and in turn, the group as well...

        Jean's ki empowers her, and with pinpoint strikes she binds the shadows of the Malevolent arms, making them more -- solid. Brittle.

        "... I'm a real big dummy. The answer's there in front of me... all this time... but-- but making mistakes is part of growing up too..."

        Lemina may feel like words are failing her, but that expression is enough -- really. She feels -- and can see Lemina's concern and worry for her... and it's enough to warm her to her core. They have a plan, and she knows it... even without the Ark Sceptre, she's managed to bumble into the nest of a creature that can heal her.

        "... thanks... Lemina... you've been looking out for me all this time..."

        The darkness is stymied by her blasts, in time for Ragnell's blade to crash upon the ring of Malevolence. The divine energy rends forth where it stabs, and the bands of Malevolence seem constricted by the arcs of electricity that carry forth.

        "I'm..." Virginia growls. "I'll show you... just what I'm gonna do!"

        Ethius pushes forward, emerging past her tendrils and nightmarish power... and looks towards him as he risks life and limb to move past danger and seemingly sacrifice potentially everything, and for what?

        Layna, too, seemingly risks all and potentially submits possibly for nothing... but the power of Malevolence can little unseat someone whose station in life is so assured. For how can one be more assured than to be captain of her own crew, to seize the future with one's hand... and defend the present with one's own shield?

        And Gwen's ARM, long a beacon of her difference, is now being held aloft to be a beacon of difference. A lighthouse, a signal, a guide against the darkness of the sea. Emerging, everpresent, to brandish away the Malevolent dark that thrashes at them...

        Is this where you belong?

        "... where I belong is..." she can't help but grin, her eyes clouding with tears. "It's with..."

        Her expression falls just a little, and Virginia looks towards Avril as she holds onto that Medium of Ice and summons the power of Aru Sulato. The beast emerges and runs rampant, further striking apart at the bonds... the bonds that separate them.

        And it isn't just the Guardian of Ice, but the Guardian of the Stars, too. As Virginia looks up... and nods firmly towards Asteroid.

        She extends her hand. "We're always gonna be friends, Astie. No matter what. No matter what everyone else says or does. And you can count on that..."

        And Skeleton knows that too, laying its hand upon her. Skeleton gives her an encouraged nod. Minion and friend and mistress... no, none of that anymore. They're all friends... and they never gave up, just like Dean said! Skeleton may well be the first disciple of the school of Dean Stark!

        And with that dictation, Rigdobrite hurtles forward, shattering the bonds that Aru Sulato have already shredded apart. They crumble into not so much into small pieces as... nothing, the taint of Malevolence obliterated. It is not just one Guardian, or two Guardians... it is three, working in tandem -- to show what they can do as the ward of Filgaia, the power that sustains the world.

        The darkness is shattered, and broken--

        --and in the flourish of that shattering black glass is a landscape of warmth and happiness, of blossoming flowers rich with the verdant surge of life. The power of the Guardians flows forth in a cleansing burst.

        ( BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBGAYLLkgHk )

        From the roots to the tips, the form of the once-Drifter can be seen emerging like a newborn chick would from its egg, lest it die in its shell unhatched. Her hair turns back to that familiar chestnut brown, and her gown, too, seemingly slacks off its shackles and returns to their normal colour. But that isn't all...

        ...for they hold hands, with that one white rose manifested from the singular core of the one Schrodinger's feelings for her... and as they lace hands.

        They catch each other's eyes for a moment...

        And then Virginia pushes her face forward and lays her lips upon her, leaving unspoken the rest of that line.

        THAT'S what she's gonna do, Ragnell.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Ragnell nods. Yes, good.

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

The light shines, the darkness is broken, and the warmth and happiness radiates all around them. ...Jean focuses, and lowers her hands; the extra Jeans disappear, and Jean herself lets the darkness gathered around her slip and recede within for now. ...Not gone, but not intruding on this moment, doing what she had to do. She opens her eyes to look up to Virginia and Maya--and laughs.

It's a warm sound, as she looks to Lemina after a moment, Lemina first, to make sure she's all right, to glance around to the group...

"Well. I know what I'm doing next," she says, grinning over at Ragnell--and pulls a flask from her things, unscrewing the top and lifting it to her lips.

Jean needs a drink.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        All around, miracles. The intervention of the Guardians... the bonds of unmistakable friendship... budding true love... and redemption from the darkness that would consume all those weak of heart. Tonight, there was a miracle. A beautiful chapter yet turns in the lives of all involved, as they go forward with their bonds renewed.
        A thought that seems to be shared by all, except for...
        ...The moment the darkness clears, Ethius is no longer where he gasps for breath or strength. He has found just enough in him in the clearing air to move, and move he does. He seems to be attempting to move past the notice of eyes as he comes before the statue of Leitea Stark. Guardian of Darkness. Only a soft glow of a blue-hued light dares give away his position.
        The Spectral Lens comes to one of his eyes. In his other hand... something else. He hasn't stopped to reflect upon the young girl's ordeals or what has just happened as he kept a myopic vision of the statue ahead of himself.
        It is as though the words he spoke to Virginia were calculated, specifically, to lower her guard - to give himself that opening he needs to do what he must. In almost all circumstances, 'what he must' would be 'seal the statue,' as is the goal of all life of Filgaia in order to hold back Mother's revival at bay... but whatever it is he's doing here, it's something this strange outsider of a man deems most important.
        He says nothing to anyone here, content to look at whatever it is he has in his hand... before it is stowed away.

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

The darkness breaks unto the dawn - he didn't expect the warmth and happiness and landscape of flowers.
He's about to say something - when instead Ginny kisses Maya.
Stunned and interrupted by that act - he instantly turns beet red. His eyes then avert upwards.
A few moments later he's smiling bright and big.
Which is when he catches pink pawsies kneading him on his big dumb face. "Hiroooo. Hirooooo. They're in loooovvveeeee and it's beautifulllll~"
Hiro can't reply with anything other than an 'Mmmph.' ... his averted eyes searching out Jean, Lemina, Ragnell and Gwen for help.

<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Never give up. It's an easy thing to say, but it's harder to be. When life knocks your head off for a month and you have to look for it for a month, that is true Never Give Up.

Asteroid is crying as she's reassured that they'll always be friends by Virginia. Could she have done this all along with her medium? Maybe it wasn't enough on its own, but it's heartening the Guardians will at least help Virginia even if they won't help Kaguya. Maybe something can be done someday for that but one step at a time is the nature of science.

Asteroid watches as Virginia is cleansed. She'll be different now. Maybe friendship won't change, but personality changes are part of being a Hellion. She's heard that too many times from the moon people to really doubt it though, at least, they didn't need that 'Sorey' guy. She watches Maya and Ginny kiss and even though Maya was a rival, she is still mostly happy for them. It wasn't like it was ever a contest she was a part of. She turns her head and stares at the Darkness Statue. Her eyes seem to focus on it, her glowing eyes blaring, shrinking and enlongating like a camera lens for just a moment. Is she going to smash it?

No. She just looks at it.

And then she turns back to Virginia again for a moment. There's a moment where nobody's looking at Astie.


A portal opens up near her, in the floor. You might recall Asteroid hasn't used her portal gun for the stairs despite being notoriously lazy about that sort of thing. You might recall Asteroid hasn't used her portal gun since you've seen her here. You might recall she showed up on her own.

You might recall the use of many Nier BGMs.

( BGM INTERRUPT): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNo41TUOy0g

"I'm glad you're ok, Ginny...but the truth is, I don't deserve a friend like you." This must be what those moments were about when Jean saw her looking upset. "Even after I knew what it was really like... I didn't want to save you. I had to force myself."

She leaps for the portal.

"Goodbye, Ginny."

The portal closes up shortly afterwards, leading to who knows where but with everybody's positions, and how quick Asteroid's moving, you'd have to be some kind of ninja with a dancing subclass to reach it before it closes.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        The power of three Guardians, and the Malevolence breaks, cleansed away into nonexistence... Ragnell regards this thoughtfully, with even more interest than she does the now-purified Virginia and her loving kiss with Maya. So they really did do it, huh... So that means a regular Hellion is on a level they can purify. Ragnell shoots Lemina a knowing look, before turning towards the Statue.
        Huh. And there's Ethius, beelining over to said Statue. He may have spared Virginia some encouraging words, but while Ragnell arguably doesn't know him well, she does know him enough to know that that behavior's kind of unusual. Hiro had suggested they might have to seal the Statue before they could cleanse Ginny of Malevolence, but that was just proved false. So what's he up to?
        Well, it's not like she could ask him directly. Ragnell moseys on over to Ethius and attempts to get a good look, whether over his shoulder or from next to him, at what it is he's messing with... which is... hmm. Well, that's odd. She watches as he puts the object away, then takes a step back and tilts her head to scrutinize him.
        Then Jean's grinning at her and Ruby's kneading Hiro's face while crying about how beautiful love is and Hiro's looking at his fellow Fiends for help. Ragnell, being the magnanimous person and wonderful friend she is, ignores him completely in favor of Jean when she goes for a drink.
        "Hey, no fair hoggin' the booze to yourself, Jean! Share the wealth!" Ragnell complains, grabbing at her flask. Despite this, her grabs are deliberately slow enough to be easily avoided if Jean wants, so that it can become a game of keepaway.
        It'd probably be more fun if Asteroid didn't pick this moment to get dramatic and jump into a portal to Goddess knows where.

<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

Lemina status: Mostly fine. Still winded and bruised -- but fine. She gravitates immediately toward Jean, watching Virginia and Maya -- and then turning away, blushing furiously. She almost immediately scootches behind Jean, and says, "Aaaahhhh this is weird! This is mega-weird!" ... what's mega-weird, exactly? "Watching this feels weird!!"

... not used to public displays of affection? Or maybe just any positive emotion besides the smugness of snark?

Either way, Lemina is -- despite herself -- smiling, and indeed almost moved to tears. ... maybe she'll indulge that later.

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

        The Ice Guardian fades out, mere seconds after its -- and Rigdobrite's -- manifestation into the realm of humans.

        Avril sways slightly where she's propped up, one hand still holding the Medium.

        Gwen is there to support her.

        As injured as Gwen is, herself. In spite of her situation, she smiles, however faintly. "Thank you, for this time..."

        Of all things, Avril's mind flashes to the statues of the one-winged angels in Nisan.

        A thought that only grows more pronounced as the dawn finally breaks and Virginia and Maya share what can be called a moment.
        A moment in which they lock lips, that is.

        Avril smiles still, though she does look away, as if attempting to give them some space.
        Perhaps it's the thought that counts.

        Pulling herself up into a better, seated position, it's with some mild shock then that she registers both what Asteroid had said... and what she's gone and done. "...Ah?"

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Jean is definitely ready to tease Hiro some more about his reaction. ...Well, she will be, when she finishes her drink. But she happens to spot something out of the corner of her eye. "Haha, Lemina," she starts, and does indeed keep her booze away from Ragnell. "Heey, you'll have to earn that, this is the good stuff," she says to Ragnell. ...And then that thing out of the corner of her eye gets more apparent.

Jean freezes immediately, locks eyes with Ragnell. "...Take care of Lemina for me for a bit," but before she's finished talking she's whirled on the moment, deposited that flask in Lemina's hands, and bolted more quickly than anyone should have a right. "Hold on--!"

Jean disappears right through the portal before it winks out of existence.

...The flask is almost empty.

<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.

        Virginia's eyes widen, and addled as she is in the cusp of her transformative rebirth... she vague notices Ethius' inspection of the statue, in exchange for Asteroid suddenly standing by herself and declaring that she doesn't deserve to be her friend.


        But before anything else, Asteroid is gone-- and she reaches out to exclaim, "Astie! Asteroid! Jean--" She bites her lip, and--

        --sucks a breath as she sighs, saying, "... it's... it's okay. ... even if it'll take time, I'll convince you I'm still your friend." Tears are on her face as she looks towards Hiro and Lemina. "... guys... I'm back. I'm finally back... and I've got a lot to do..."

        She squeezes her arms tighter around Maya. "And not alone! Mrs. Future Maxwell." A pause. "Or should I become a Schrodinger?" She huffs quietly, and-- smiles at Avril and Gwen. "... thank you, Miss Avril... Gwen..."

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Layna powers through it. She's not going to surrender to the Malevolence that easily, not when there's someone who needs her help. And, it's enough. Maya reaches Virginia, and the two of them share something special.

Layna can't help but crack a genuine grin, at that. She shut her eyes and relaxes as the Malevolence fades away, dispelled by the power of the Guardians working in tandem.

"Welcome back, lass." She says with a grin toward Virginia and a nod toward Maya.

She doesn't have a lot of time to appreciate that, though. She glances toward Asteroid as she starts up a speech...and it gives her a bad feeling.

"Hey, wait, lass-!" Layna reaches out, but it's too late. She's already gone.

Layna sighs, massaging the back of her head before glancing to the statue. She should probably get to sealing it...but she wasn't feeling up to it right now. Turns out this was all pretty exhausting, and throwing herself recklessly into battle doesn't help...

<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

Jean deposits her flask with Lemina and --

"Hey! What! No! Come back! I need you to hide my awkward moment from --" Gone. Lemina looks a little shaken -- but truthfully, she's still feeling okay. After all -- Asteroid wouldn't send herself somewhere unsafe... probably... so anywhere Jean is, she's probably fine.

Lemina turns her attention instead to the statue then, noting, "... hey, good that this stupid thing I keep carrying around is finally gonna make itself mega-useful!" That's right. Focus on now. Think about Jean later. "I, uh -- sorry if a weird ritual chant ruins your mega-cute moment, lovebirds, but, uh," she gestures to the statue, a little helplessly.

Striding up toward it, Lemina begins the process of sealing. It's a ritual she's a little unsure on, truthfully; though all Lunarians have the blessing of mana, Filgaia's magic is... weird. Different. Lemina isn't entirely sure she likes it! ... but she's managing it, at least.

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

Asteroid's self-loathing catches Hiro's attention - and he's about to react but he still has a cat on his face. Cat dragon. Dragon cat. And so all he manages to get is see in horror as Jean - "Jean wait!" He only manages to get away from Ruby and take a half-step before they're already gone.
Taking a deep breath, he says quietly, "It's okay. It's okay. If anyone can handle this it's Jean."
Ruby looks a little shell shocked. "Uh... happy ending? Yay!" There's a nervous titter after that before she then becomes a little crestfallen.
Hiro turns upon Maya and Virginia finally and manages a smile despite Jean's uncertain state. "Well. You've got all the time in the world you'll need to handle it. Because you can just look at this as the end of one adventure. And the start of one big new one."
He grins at her. Until the question takes him back - "Uhhh... not having a last name I don't feel qualified to answer."
Ruby pushes ahead of him again. "Ooo- Ooo I know - Exchange names! Become Maya Maxwell and Virginia Schrodinger!" "You don't have a last name either!" Hiro insists, whereas Ruby just looks full of herself, "But in matters of love I am way more qualified to answer Hiro."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Well that was unexpected. Jean locks eyes with Ragnell and leaves Lemina with her and her flask with Lemina and her flask with her, then bolts for the closing portal. Ragnell lets her go, eyebrows rising; when the portal closes after Jean, she looks at Lemina. Lemina looks awfully shaken... "Lemme hold onto that for ya while you do your ritual, then," she says, and reaches over to pluck the flask out of Lemina's hands, magnanimously, while she performs the ritual.
        If Lemina lets her get away with it, Ragnell's totally draining the rest of the flask. If Jean *really* didn't want her getting her hands on it, she should've taken it with her.
        "Maya Maxwell's got a nice ring to it," she offers over to Hiro, Ruby, and the lovebirds.

<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

Time passes Maya Schrodinger by in a blurry whorl. The moment to moment happenings of the actual moment are lost on her, but this isn't something she'll readily admit for quite some time: can you imagine the trouble she'd get in? No, she'll have to meditate on that later. Not now.

The blonde girl is tugged back to the realm of the waking, her world fading in from white. Where she expects soreness and weariness, there is none. There is a queer sense of rejuvenation, of freshness. Like waking up well after a long illness. It is hard for her to perceive properly, let alone describe. Thus, with vision still fuzzy, Maya inelegantly swats at a lock of hair in her eyes and sits up, in time to see a familiar outline disappear through a portal with a worrying farewell. Rigdobrite's loyal servant, as suddenly as they had met her--wanted to leave...?

More unfamiliar memories flicker beneath the surface of Maya's mind, but she banishes them for later, to the bottom of her mental lake. More pressing matters await. "Virginia Schrodinger sounds more elegant than Maya Maxwell." she tries to joke, but sucks the big one on her casual delivery and comes off looking every bit like some dork trying to act cool.

More details fade into the girl's vision. The statue, people everywhere--mostly familiar, some not. A hand goes to her forehead, and Maya sits up in time to be squeezed. Well, that's that. Can't go back on Love. Nor should you. "Why'd she run away? She was pushing so hard right up until the last...?" the blonde sounds mildly confused, but mostly worried about Asteroid. "She'd better come with everyone to your big recovery bash!"

Maya is getting fucking crushed on the last-name thing btw. You can't fight fate, girl. Accept your destiny.

<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.

        Virginia sucks in a breath and leans her head in against Maya. "... it's a long story. But she's not someone I'm giving up on, like you didn't give up on me. And I'll settle for Schrodinger-Maxwell," as she grins and hooks a pinkie around the Schrodinger's finger. "Besides, there's a whole step of lines between us and that point... and Hiro's right! It's a big new adventure..."

        She watches as Lemina conducts the ritual to seal the statue, rubbing at her head as she looks up towards it. "... hey Maya?"

        She looks to her. "You got that Medium I kinda mishandled at the Temple? I should say sorry to the big guy... they really came through for me..."

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius turns a sharp glance from where he presently sits, noticing Asteroid making a most hasty exit to who-knows-where... but there's nothing that can be done. He regards her absence with the same stare he seems to give just about everything. It's like God forgot how to animate his eyes before shipping the final product.
        He helps himself up to his feet to move himself out of the way of Lemina's sealing ritual, using the quarterstaff as a walking stick for balance as he begins to edge away from the crowd and their (on average) feelings of joy and relief before an initimate romance.
        He offers no thanks, no apologies... he just seems happy to try and remove himself as suddenly as he enters it, blissfully unaware of Ragnell's peeping on whatever strange thing he was up to.
        Nonetheless, the man moves forward as though on a hell-bent quest to be as forgotten as soon as he arrived as some mysterious factor, however brief, through Virginia's trials and tribulations with the Malevolence. Just another footnote, another strange name and face in the crowd to be vaguely remembered only for the time they are there, and then left to sink back into the morass of insignificance.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        "Oop! Gotcha." Gwen grunts as she helps Avril down, content to sit down herself as she begins to feel just how tired her own body is.

        She's... really pushed herself, hasn't she? But so has Avril.

        .... For someone she didn't even really know, even. ".... Heh. You're really somethin, Avril!" She gives Avril a pat on the shoulder, laughing at the sight of Hiro's beet red expression, when she realizes.

        Where's... Asteroid?

        She barely catches a glance of the fleeing Baskar, with Jean trailing behind. As alarming as it is to see the two of them disappear into that portal, the fact that Jean was quick enough to join her somehow manages to quell the initial fear in Gwen's mind. ".... I trust in Jean. She'll make sure Astie's okay." Casting a glance to Avril, Gwen adds, :Meanwhile, I better make sure you get back to Dean and Rebecca okay."

        If she can get up. "Just... give me a moment to..." She catches a glance as Ethius moves off.

        She's tempted to say something.

        In the end, the ache in her body, her stomach beginning to yell for food, and the way the nice ground seems to want to welcome her in its embrace wins her over.

        Another day, she'll ask what Ethius is exactly up to, but today is *not* that day.

        "Ruby, any chance you could turn into a giant fluffy dragon and escort us all home?" Gwen is joking, Maybe. Her grin says yes, but the way her body sways says 'holding out for a miracle'.

<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.

        Little by little, with the sway of Malevolence dissipated by the power of the Guardians that hold Filgaia dear... the contorted landscape of the twisted palace begins to dissolve as well. Gone is the semblence of opulence and grandeur that masked the dank and dark depths of the place, and in its stead... it is Krosse Cave once more.

        The Hellion's Domain holds no further sway any longer, here.

        Fortunately for everyone, getting out won't be an issue -- even the injured will find reprieve as Layna hears the rest of the Ruby Empress' crew calling out for them, given that Fortnight Cove is just a stone's throw away here.

        The day is won, and love has triumphed over the darkness and hatred. And even though doubt still hides in the corner of the heart, today has proven that such anxieties... can be overcome, if not alone, then in the company of others.

        A smile creeps across the violet-haired girl's lips, as she leaves into the shadows.