2018-01-19: The Sunken City

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===========================<* Kislev-Aveh Front *>============================

The frontlines of the Kislev-Aveh War have shifted many times in the last few hundred years, but they have left their scars on the land. One can, of course, find fighting between their infantry and Gears here. Such places are dangerous, and most Drifters know to steer away from them. However, sometimes there is no choice; even the rail lines thought to be away from the front can get caught unawares by a patrol, and skirmishes have resulted in delays and death for those trying to get to the Badlands.

The areas not currently being fought in are also dangerous. Deserters and monsters alike can wander them, and the dry, dusty land leaves little succor for those in need. To make matters worse, abandoned fortifications and trenches make an excellent hiding place for the bandits seeking to profit here. Drifters are sometimes drawn here, though, to either fight for one side or to excavate abandoned ARMs and Gears left behind in a battle. This sort of salvage work is risky, but the rewards can be great.

<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

The sun is beginning to set on the coast of the Badlands, tucked away near the mountains, far from the focus of the Front and dotted with villages that have seen strange lights and stranger sights in recent days. The tide went out one day... And stayed out. Far, far out. Now there is a city standing amidst long-distant walls of water.

There is a sense of age in this place.

Long forgotten beneath the waves, this city has suffered the slow erosion that water provides--and yet has retained a shape. Stone buildings stand to this day, brick arches over paved thoroughfares wending their way through a city in the maze that only a growing settlement can provide. The way here begins on what was a beach. The sand eventually lowers, and lowers, until the drop towards the sea floor is prominent, and the Sunken City stretches on beyond. A raised platform gives a glint of stone rising, a curved pattern.

But there is time to go before arriving there. With the water gone, the streets must be traversed, and attempts to fly result in a strange, unpleasant experience once above the rooflines of the buildings: an odd... vibration, that causes too much nausea to continue.

The only explanation is a faint, droning noise, barely audible, an electric hum. ...There are none of the monsters of rumor in the place. Except for that noise, the journey is made in silence layered with whatever conversation people dare to issue.

A stone facade where a window once was opens into a large, pillared common room; a mansion stands, crumbled with the dust of time. The cobbles continue... But fallen walls make for a precarious journey at times. Still, however, there are no monsters, and the path ahead, curiously, seems already to have been cleared, making it almost easy.

The noise grows; flight is still impossible for the moment. It grows, as the group reaches the inner sanctum, a great town square that with its altars once showed religious significance...

That has as its centerpiece the great sea serpent of Lucadia in statue form, a sea spirit in the form of a woman at the base, carved of stone and somehow untouched by the ages. The statue itself is large--easily ten feet tall... Easily enough to dwarf the figure standing at it.

Figures, really. There are two, as well as the apparent source of the droning noise: small, alien-looking metal box with recessed disks inside. Lines from within pulse in faint red.

Kaguya stands facing the statue, her coat folded and her cane hooked into her belt. Her ARM is at her side. ...But showing underneath the cream-and-green layers of her attire is strange, metallic armor; viridian plating at her fingers, at her wrists, in her boots, the suggestion of the same armor beneath. It is of no material familiar to Filgaia. Her ARM, at her side, is holstered.

"...Okay, Astie. It's time. Do your thing." She's almost breathless with anticipation.

<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Asteroid the Kid has already agreed to summon the Guardian spirit for Kaguya. She has just heard some weird stuff about how she's been moving about, not leaving messages and the like, but honestly if Kaguya wanted to do something awful to the statue--she had plenty of opportunity to smash it!

So suffice it to say, she's not expecting something like that to happen.

Asteroid the Kid can't help but marvel at the artistry of the statue. While she's upset at the Guardian itself, it's hard to ignore the artistry involved here. She wonders if the Baskar carved it or if it just...came into being.

"You're not really hiding it, spacegirl," Asteroid tells Kaguya fondly before taking in a deep breath, shaking out her hand. Her other arm has, for the uninitiated, been replaced with some kind of primitive automail system for the time being. "Little nervous, haha... Well here we go."

She crouches down and slaps both metal and fleshy hand together, closing her eyes.

"Lucadia... I, Lydia Seren of the Baskar, implore you for your aid and guidance. My friend Kaguya is from another world and she is dying. We know not why. I beg you to heal her or, if you cannot, inform us--tell us why she has this illness and what we can do to help her. Show us the path to healing, Lucadia, Guardian of the Sea from which we came!"

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        As is the case with so many other things involving Riesenlied and her appearances in odd places--

        This one, too, starts with a headache.

        She'd scarce made it out of El Pazzo, with a wound from a certain Veruni's hand pistol aggravating her side the entire way... but even before she has time to return to Wayside, unknowing that her children and the villagers are concerned at her tardiness of return--

        The Dragon's Tear begins to shimmer, as she holds onto her head. The ache roiling through her mind is severe, yet it does not come without a message.

        What are you... telling me? I...

        She gazes towards the distance, towards the ocean. She clutches at the teardrop-shaped gem at her necklet.

        "Kaguya...?"

        ~*~

        The journey had taken her the better part of the day and the evening, and she had to rent a horse from a nearby village along the way. She doesn't want to take it towards the danger zone itself -- and has loosed it to run off back towards its masters when she reaches the beachline. She gazes down towards the sunken city as the tides recede... where there is now a city amidst what was once water, a long time ago.

        "What could have..."

        A pause, as she nervously steps closer towards that nauseating, vibrating presence that had drawn her here. Persistently she proceeds, even though she risks tripping on strands of seaweed, and having the sandy floor crumble against her as she slides down.

        The pulsating feeling is even worse as she comes across the statue at the square of the town, and her eyes widen as she gasps to exclaim--

        "Kaguya! Asteroid!"

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Sometimes Catenna wonders if she'll ever get a moment to rest.

At least the trip through the ruins isn't challenging - and yet, that hum both unsettles her deeply and sets off a trigger in her mind. She's felt something like this before and she can't figure out where. Only that it calls to mind images of parts of Elru she would prefer to forget.

The priestess tightens her hand around the grip of her sword. If nothing else, it makes her feel a little better.

Boosting over a tumbled wall, Catenna moves into that town square and bows her head with quiet reverence, really, really wishing that the buzz would stop interrupting her thoughts in what is clearly a sacred place. The altars tell the story of what this place once was. So does the massive statue standing over the ancient square and the two figures within it.

Both of whom look familiar. One of whom not only looks familiar, but is wearing something also reasonably familiar and accompanied by something that whirrs in a way she also finds uncomfortably familiar.

Looking down, Catenna bites her bottom lip and forces herself to quietly sheath her sword. Something horrible pinches at the pit of her stomach. It's like parts of it want to collapse in on itself as several things crystallize in her mind. Explanations fall into place. Questions weave answers for themselves.

If the reason she is ill is that she is a Stranger....

Riesenlied shows up. Catenna presses her lips together, then begins to move forward.

"Patient Lucadia," she says, her voice quiet. "If there is a means to help her...."

...Then it does not matter, she decides. Riesenlied has taught me that.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

This place was...in a way, fascinating. She would have never imagined that there was once a city in this place, sunken and consumed by the waves. What kind of people must have lived here, she wondered? What kind of lives had they once lived?

Jacqueline was curious, but there would be time for exploration later. She had heard that a friend of hers who had been out of contact for the last week or so was here, hard at work. Another friend had mentioned that they'd located a Guardian Statue.

...This was meddling, wasn't it? It sure felt like meddling, but Jacqueline was always one to worry. She wanted to make sure her friend was alright, considering her condition. It seemed like she had been hard at work on something or other, and there was always the risk that she might overexert herself...

And so that's why she's made her way here, alongside other members of the Caravan Kinship.

She peers into the town square, where Kaguya and Asteroid are performing their ritual. Jacqueline...does not move into the open. Not immediately. She hangs off the side, peering past a wall, feeling...

...wholly like an intruder in this situation. Catenna proceeds forward and Riesenlied, who Jacqueline was surprised to see, is present as well. But Jacqueline does not. She waits quietly to see what happens...though she is clearly visible, to those who look.

<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

You know, child, that only tragedy lies this way.

I know, dammit.

"You're still recovering, no pushing yourself too far. You-know-who will have my head if I let something happen to you." the blonde in the orange dress cautions Riesenlied, as they ditch their horses and make the rest of the way on foot. The jovial, devil-may-care glint in her eyes is dwindling despite the attempt at carefree banter, something weighing on her mind. Gumming up her throat. A heavy suspicion sits in the pit of her stomach, a cold sphere of lead.

And that you are not so driven as you might pretend. Will you truly face this? Or will you flee?

You're part of the problem. Stay out of this.

The horned lady gasps in shock, and Maya's expression tightens. There's even less time than she thought there would be, her every suspicion proven correct. Their pace quickens, though no weapons are in the Drifter's hands. Memories of anguished screams echoing within the Guardians' Temple, in the wake of Gods' silence, feel as fresh as yesterday now.

A tragedy then... will it worsen, today?

Maya Schrodinger is not batting 1,000 on preventing tragedies, but enough of them have slipped past her that her rich-girl thrill-seeker mask has long since slipped away and fluttered into the wind.

She does not shout, as Riesenlied might, but appears beside her at the crumbling edges of the city overlooking the statue with a great and dramatic flapping of her jacket in the ocean breeze, the statue and its adherents in her sights.

"They're not going to listen." Maya hisses through her teeth. It's not a sound of fury, but resignation.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius comes through with most the rest that make the journey into the mysterious Sunken City, coming into the town center. He holds a Sealing Rod ready in the open, held in his left hand. The lack of any hostile wildlife encountered has seen him decide there is no point in keeping it close and protected. The matter may yet prove simple enough, though there's something about that humming. He can't identify its source from the get-go, even if something about his gut feeling is certain about what could be causing it. He doesn't voice it out loud.
        There are... equally concerning matters at hand.
        He comes in at the tail end of the shaman's prayer - the incomplete witnessing of the prayer to be partially owed to giving Riesenlied a wide berth for reasons he hasn't disclosed.
        'Show us the path to healing, Lucadia, Guardian of the Sea from which we came!'
        "Miss Kaguya." It's probably not the first time anyone's uttered her name this evening, as Ethius strides in. He approaches the two of them at a steady pace, boots leaving sandy, dusty prints against the ground that will be washed away and forgotten before long. "Miss Lydia."
        He holds out his right hand to the rest as he comes ever closer. It's a call for calm, for as much calm as someone like Ethius tends to invite (which is to say very little - he's a worrying person if one doesn't know him. He's arguably even more worrying if one believes they know of him).
        "You have had your friends worried, Miss Kaguya." He starts. His voice is that borderline emotionless tone he always takes. "You left without saying a word."
        It's been at least a week.
        "Word had spread that a person of your description had been acting on your lonesome, in spite of the risks." The rumors about the monsters that... previously?... took up residence here were unambiguous about the danger they represented. Kaguya seems to have been the only one to make headway against them.
        "The matter must be of such great import that you wish not to burden the others, even in your illness." These are kind-sounding words, but these are words spoken the same way he might anything else. It almost sounds carefully rehearsed as he comes ever nearer. "I am certain the Caravan Kinship would have done all in their power to assist you with this endeavor."
        His eyes drift to that metal box. He closes them for a moment. He supposes now is not the time to reaffirm that his instincts were right about the humming in a congratulatory tone. There is an important matter at hand as he comes just shy of arm's length of either one of them. He holds the Sealing Rod in both hands now, pointing one end towards the statue ahead.
        "Do not worry. We will take it from here."

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

        Kaguya either knew, or had a good idea of where the Statue of Lucadia can be found.

        That was what Avril had realized back on the train. From the way the girl had acted and from her words, she had something in mind.

        It was just a question of where, and then whether or not -- or why not -- the statue had been shattered.

        This piled further stress upon what was already a stressful matter. It was impossible to say whether they were ahead or behind in their goal -- pitted against the equally desperate goal of the Metal Demons. Only time would tell. Thus, they needed to give their all against each and every one.

        ~*~

        The answer comes with difficulty this time, a marking of careful effort and a long search. Assessing ruins, verifying rumors. For once, Avril's uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time does not bear fruit.
        ...Or does it? Perhaps it all depends on a certain point of view.

        "Swallowed by the sea..."

        Avril hesitates, gazing out across the exposed ruins, what remains of the sun playing across sodden sand and in the distance, the ocean. "I have heard it said that in the end, all returns to the ocean..."

        Her expression gains a distant cast for a moment, her gaze directed as if nowhere at all.
        Something in her gaze hardens. Briefly shaking her head, she lingers no longer, venturing further into the remains of what was once a grand civilization along with the rest. She is not the only one who has found their way here...

        The statue still stands.
        But, she thinks, her gaze slipping from Kaguya to Asteroid, what is it that they're doing?

        Her shoes crunch on the sand as she takes a step forward.

        "...Kaguya."

        She's direct, to the point.

        "You had mentioned before a grievance with the Sea Guardian. Is this the reason? You are ill, but cannot speak to her to request her aid."

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        "Really?"
        
        That's Dean, walking through the exposed ruins next to Avril, expression unusually grave as he looks around. "My hometown was more about mountains than ocean, so I guess they didn't really tell those kinds of stories. But... looking at all this... I think I get what you mean. It kinda weirds me out, thinking that all of this was underwater until just a little bit ago." He doesn't think about what would happen to them if all that water returned.
        
        Regardless, the two of them proceed, until soon they reach the Statue of Lucadia--and Kaguya and Asteroid in front of it, among several others. Kaguya and Asteroid are both friends of Dean's--or at least, he views them that way--and they seem to be supplicating the Statue rather than... well, anything bad, so he doesn't try to stop them or anything like that. However, when Avril calls out to Kaguya, Dean lets her take a step forward, frowning at her, then at Kaguya, in concern.
        
        At least none of this comes as a shock. He only learned recently that Kaguya was sick after all. Really sick... Of course she'd want to find a cure. He hopes this all will go okay... Maybe it's the destruction of the Dinoginos Statue getting to him again, but for some reason, Dean's got a bad feeling about this.

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
The westward journey had been a little fraught to hit the coastline - or rather the new one with the tide further out than ever. They'd walked once it became obvious this used to be the sea floor.
 
It's pretty fascinating finding a city that was once submerged seeing the light of day at the end of a beach that was supposed to be a sea floor.
 
"I'd usually think a walk across the beach to find something new was romantic but... this place is just strikes me as sad..."
 
"Yeah it feels like ordinarily we wouldn't... be meant to be here. Even more than most places." Hiro replies quietly. He didn't have many qualms against going into old ruins but... "What do you think we'll find here Lemina?"
 
Emerging on the other end of the ruined square, Hiro lights up seeing them by the statue of the Sea Guardian, "Hey Lemina is that... Kaguya and Astie? Heh. Good thing they made it here first rather than one of the Quarter Knights am I right?"
 
He looks a little cheerful at that fact.
 
But then he notices Riese calling out to them. "Oh hey-"
 
And Maya declaring that they're not going to listen.
 
"-uh Maya why wouldn't they-"
 
And then Avril...
 
"-a grievance with-"
 
"... Let me put it together for you. It means they're probably not here for anything good!"
 
"-Oh."
 
Getting a better look at that sickly girl in battle armor, Hiro reassesses the situation. One can almost feel the gears in his head turning when.
 
"Aw no..." It feels like a sigh.
 

<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

"I keep hearing rumors about a Statue," Lemina says -- and sure enough, there is, in fact, a Guardian Statue. And Asteroid and Kaguya, even! She raises an eyebrow a little; she remembers her last experience with Asteroid and Kaguya... her feeling is a little bit less relief than Hiro's, but he's got a point about the Quarter Knights.

Ruby and Hiro bat the situation back and forth a bit, and Lemina just lets Ruby handle it; she has a better track record with reaching Hiro anyway. "... Yeah, that's pretty mega-bad," she eventually adds, ever the quen of understatement.

She starts moving toward Maya at what might be generously described as a jog, calling out, "Hey! Are you guys here with Kaguya and Astie?" ... she's really not up on her Wayside gossip.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        "Guess I'm late to the party." That's Gwen Whitlock, super courier, dismounting from Gulliver within earshot of Avril, Dean, Hiro, and many others. Petting the grey horse's black muzzle, she makes a sound with her throat, signaling Gulliver to move off towards cover.

        She knew that following Ethius, after he showed a strong desire to come here after hearing the gossip, would bear fruit. Just what sort of fruit will remain to be seen. Walking up, she peers into the distance towards where Kaguya and Asteroid are, a frown beginning to form on her lips. "And yeah, weirds me out too. I know some places got some weird tides, but this is crazy." She itches her head. Maya's words usher her forwards. Sure, they may not listen, but maybe they're here for a good purpose? "Riesenlied, you got the Guardians to kinda listen to you a little, right? If what Avril's sayin' true, maybe we convince this Guardian to... uh..." She waves a hand. "This is for her illness, right?"

        Why's everyone so glum about this? And why is a part of her own psyche beginning to dig through her own experiences, each feeling like a world and a lifetime away, and dredging logic that seems almost alien to her?

         The darker memories get pushed aside with a wince. "Seems straightforward. Get the Guardian to listen to Kaguya, and maybe that Guardian'll help her out. If she can."

        Ethius's words to Kaguya cause a simultaneous feeling of happiness to spark her eyes and guilt to form in her stomach- the man isn't as distracted by his own pursuits to ignore others, as she may have initially thought.

<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

Kaguya does not turn when familiar people start to walk into the town square. She spots arrivals in a reflection in one of the strange silvery boxes here--not the one glowing, but another. She glances once... But only once. Her breath is caught in her throat as Asteroid begins her invocation. ...Jacqueline's questions go unanswered by the city here; the signs of habitation are all but washed away, after all, little artifacts of their presences the only thing that tells a story. An old wagon frame here, the wood long since rotted; a worn relief there. And altars, present at the four corners.

The uneasy feeling Riesenlied has only worsens. And the screams Maya remembers hold memory in Kaguya's throat, too, from when they were ripped from her that day in the Temple, facing the very being that this Statue represents.

Ethius approaches, and speaks Kaguya's name. Kaguya turns her head finally to glance at him. He mentions, in his strange tone, that they were worried about her. She's gotten used to his strange way of speaking. They were kind-sounding words, it's true. The Caravan Kinship...

"Heh," Kaguya answers him. Gwen talks about what they can do; Hiro and Ruby, what could go wrong. Dean... and Avril...

But there is a voice.

"Lydia..."

It's a breath like a sea breeze, rustling among them all, as the statue's eyes glow with a sea-blue radiance, soft and gentle, and there is an undeniable sense of Presence in this place. A Guardian is manifest, and the sunset's colors shift, as if through glass--notes of sea-green and deep blue light upon the room, as the Guardian answers the supplication of the Baskar before her.

Kaguya draws in a breath, and holds it without realizing. Her attention is transfixed. ...The pressure is as if they are under the waves once again, as if the water that should be here is upon their shoulders. ...But the strange voice continues, echoing as if coming from everywhere and nowhere at once.

"Your heart does you credit, young Priestess..." Lucadia's voice is soft and feminine, yet possessed of size, of an ageless security; the ocean can be gentle... But it need not always be. This is a being that is beyond mortals.

"...But it is not within my power to lift her curse."

Kaguya stiffens where she is.

"...She is of the Veruni, our ancient enemy. What will be must be."

The ground rumbles. Kaguya lets out something like a growl. "...That's it, huh? That's it? I'm your enemy? That's why?"

The Guardian does not answer. Her eyes are focused only upon Asteroid, impressing upon her the gravity of a choice to come. ...And she starts to fade; the Presence begins to withdraw. But it is not gone yet.

"...Hey Eth," Kaguya says, as the Guardian holds there. "...I wanna say..."

She closes the difference, reaching out a hand for her friend. And--

Abrubtly she's closed the difference, bodying him with a shoulder as she grabs control of one wrist, snatches the sealing rod out of his hand, and picks him up bodily with one arm around his waist. "Sorry. Can't let you get in my way."

She shifts backwards, rotating him--and suplexes him straight down into the ground hard enough that stone breaks beneath him, hard enough to make a body bounce and skid away into a wall that collapses down upon him.

She starts to turn towards the others... and takes the sealing rod in both hands. Lifting a knee, she snaps the sacred artifact over it with a sickening noise.

"...Yeah," she agrees with Avril. "That's why. I tried to talk to her before. And she gave me the cold shoulder. Pretty rude, right? But you know... I've kinda come to a decision about it anyway. You see..."

"...The Guardians can't even take care of their own. The Baskar are scattered; Asteroid, one of their priestesses, is in awful shape. Humans die of wasting disease every day. ...Like Atida's mother."

"So you know... If any of you want to do something to help this statue... You're gonna have to go through me." A beat, "Hey, Cashman! You can come out now."

She shows her teeth. It is not quite a smile. "We're friends and all... But you do what you gotta do." She hits a button at her wrist, and the whining electric hum starts to grow louder.

think ENEMY:
                              Veruni Agent Kaguya
                         OBJECTIVE: Rescue the Statue!

Kaguya looks to Riesenlied as she pulls her ARM. "...Don't get involved, Mom. Just go."

Softly, the voice echoes all around them again. "What will be must be..."

<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

Kaguya does not turn when familiar people start to walk into the town square. She spots arrivals in a reflection in one of the strange silvery boxes here--not the one glowing, but another. She glances once... But only once. Her breath is caught in her throat as Asteroid begins her invocation. ...Jacqueline's questions go unanswered by the city here; the signs of habitation are all but washed away, after all, little artifacts of their presences the only thing that tells a story. An old wagon frame here, the wood long since rotted; a worn relief there. And altars, present at the four corners.

The uneasy feeling Riesenlied has only worsens. And the screams Maya remembers hold memory in Kaguya's throat, too, from when they were ripped from her that day in the Temple, facing the very being that this Statue represents.

Ethius approaches, and speaks Kaguya's name. Kaguya turns her head finally to glance at him. He mentions, in his strange tone, that they were worried about her. She's gotten used to his strange way of speaking. They were kind-sounding words, it's true. The Caravan Kinship...

"Heh," Kaguya answers him. Gwen talks about what they can do; Hiro and Ruby, what could go wrong. Dean... and Avril...

But there is a voice.

"Lydia..."

It's a breath like a sea breeze, rustling among them all, as the statue's eyes glow with a sea-blue radiance, soft and gentle, and there is an undeniable sense of Presence in this place. A Guardian is manifest, and the sunset's colors shift, as if through glass--notes of sea-green and deep blue light upon the room, as the Guardian answers the supplication of the Baskar before her.

Kaguya draws in a breath, and holds it without realizing. Her attention is transfixed. ...The pressure is as if they are under the waves once again, as if the water that should be here is upon their shoulders. ...But the strange voice continues, echoing as if coming from everywhere and nowhere at once.

"Your heart does you credit, young Priestess..." Lucadia's voice is soft and feminine, yet possessed of size, of an ageless security; the ocean can be gentle... But it need not always be. This is a being that is beyond mortals.

"But it is not within my power to lift her curse."

Kaguya stiffens where she is.

"...She is of the Veruni, our ancient enemy. What must be will be"

The ground rumbles. Kaguya lets out something like a growl. "...That's it, huh? That's it? I'm your enemy? That's why?"

The Guardian does not answer. Her eyes are focused only upon Asteroid, impressing upon her the gravity of a choice to come. ...And she starts to fade; the Presence begins to withdraw. But it is not gone yet.

"...Hey Eth," Kaguya says, as the Guardian holds there. "...I wanna say..."

She closes the difference, reaching out a hand for her friend. And--

Abrubtly she's closed the difference, bodying him with a shoulder as she grabs control of one wrist, snatches the sealing rod out of his hand, and picks him up bodily with one arm around his waist. "Sorry. Can't let you get in my way."

She shifts backwards, rotating him--and suplexes him straight down into the ground hard enough that stone breaks beneath him, hard enough to make a body bounce and skid away into a wall that collapses down upon him.

She starts to turn towards the others... and takes the sealing rod in both hands. Lifting a knee, she snaps the sacred artifact over it with a sickening noise.

"...Yeah," she agrees with Avril. "That's why. I tried to talk to her before. And she gave me the cold shoulder. Pretty rude, right? But you know... I've kinda come to a decision about it anyway. You see..."

"...The Guardians can't even take care of their own. The Baskar are scattered; Asteroid, one of their priestesses, is in awful shape. Humans die of wasting disease every day. ...Like Atida's mother."

"So you know... If any of you want to do something to help this statue... You're gonna have to go through me." A beat, "Cashman! You can come out now."

She shows her teeth. It is not quite a smile. "We're friends and all... But you do what you gotta do." She hits a button at her wrist, and the whining electric hum starts to grow louder.

                                     ENEMY:
                              Veruni Agent Kaguya
                         OBJECTIVE: Rescue the Statue!

Kaguya looks to Riesenlied as she pulls her ARM. "...Don't get involved, Mom. Just go."

Softly, the voice echoes all around them again, as if in answer. "What must be will be..."

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        ...Veruni? Enem--
        It happens in a blink. The intimidating man, a man who has declared some gut-wrenchingly scary things in the company of some others not all long before, is found powerless before Kaguya's response. He doubles over as his upper body compresses under her shoulder. A shoulder is dislocated as she gets his wrist, arresting his momentum. He's hefted up before he can even conceive his present situation, let alone organize what words seem to reach his ears - words that a Guardian has made intent to be heard far and wide among the gathered like the rolling waves of the sea, no matter how far ashore they may be - as he's taken overhead. Eyes are wide in a shocked daz--
        That sentence cannot even be finished before the very ground cracks underneath the impact of his body. No, it's not a crack - that's a crater. Ancient dust and rock scatter from ground zero of the earth-shaking impact. Everyone's heels will shudder under the seismic waves of just how much force Kaguya threw him into the ground.
        The smoke never clears entirely, but there's no sudden shadowy movement of a man on the move. Ethius remains there, all sense and awareness taken from him - the shock of damage too much even for a man that often seems too driven to let matters of grievous injury or debilitating pain slow him down, sometimes.
        This is not one of those 'sometimes.'
        Is that... the power of the mythical Veruni?
        No, the power of the Veruni in the flesh, standing right there before them, as a declared enemy of Filgaia? That so much strength could be contained in someone so ill...!

<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Asteroid the Kid says, in an aside, "Schrodinger, counterargument."

A black cat leaps out from within her cloak, looks at Ruby, and starts licking its paw. It IS wearing a nametag labeling this cat as a Schrodinger. It's...It's probably coincidence!! She is too perplexed by what Avril is saying because--why can't she summon the Guardian?

But that's probably one of the last cute things to happen today because the summoning actually works! However briefly, it works, and for a moment--Asteroid has hope for Kaguya.

And it dies almost as quickly as the Guardian admits it can't save her. And more to the point...Kaguya is an ancient enemy? "H..how can that be?" She stammers. "She's not even from Filgaia..." She lowers to her head. "...And...and you're giving Riesenlied a chance... Why is this different?"

She lowers her head, sobbing from all three eyes. "She's not a bad person...well okay she's a little bad, but she's not a monster...She could help save Filgaia..."

But the Guardian is already fading.

She lowers her head. She takes in a deep, ragged breath. She listens to Kaguya's declarations, but there isn't a large reaction from her. Kaguya smashing the statue because she heard a response like that was certainly possible but she hoped--that because she hadn't done it yet...

But Kaguya does say one other thing that does get her to lift her head as Kaguya throws Asteroid's own beliefs in her face. She steadies herself and then stands. Tilde's mom.

She draws her own sealing rod and looks at it. "Not making a choice is a choice..."

She keeps staring at it. "...All of this is wrong... but no matter how hard or how painful... they never gave up."

She presses her lips together in a firm line, still crying, but she makes her way towards the statue, intending to seal it.

It's her duty as a Baskar and, after everything Carakin did for her, it's her duty as a person to help share the load that the Guardians cannot share. Just as Rigdobrite asked of her. A single star in the night sky makes for a dull night sky.

<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

        SOME TIME AGO:

Dario Nicolodi and Romero Gigio sit with boots on the table in a cabaret off one of November City's less reputable avenues, arms crossed and eyes riveted to the stage through the smoke. "Heh heh," Dario snickers. "Boss missin' the best part! Love it when theyWHOOP!"

That would be the sound he makes when his seat suddenly stops being present, because Janus kicked it out from under him. The blue-haired bandit has a nasty grin on his face. "Zip your fly, Dario," Janus chuckles. "We got a job."

Behind him, the Memory Cube slowly spins to a stop.

        RIGHT NOW:

        'Cashman! You can come out now.'

Three pairs of footfalls, three male voices laughing. "Holy shit, Green," comes the smooth tones of Janus Cascade, with a lingering chuckle. "You took that guy right out, huh?" He laughs, that seemingly permanent grin taking on a mean cast in these dark halls. "Knew I liked you."

Dario and Romero might normally be bickering at that...but they may have sensed the moment. They lurk behind Janus like a pair of menacing shadows, weapons in hand and malice aforethought, matching strides. They act like fools so often that it's easy to forget who and what they really are.

                                    ENEMY:
                               The Cascade Gang

Janus stops a few steps past Kaguya, ARM slapping into his palm. The bayonet gleams sharply. "Howdy-do, y'all," he says, lazily, as if the gravitas of the moment - the presence of a Guardian and the failure of a dream - were fully and entirely not his business. "I have been contracted," he explains, "to ensure this young lady blows this here statue the hell up in safety. Would y'all mind taking a few big steps back? Dario here..." He laughs. "See, he has this problem where sometimes his gun goes off and then people die."

Romero flips a few kunai between his fingers. "What, not you, boss?" he snickers.

"Oh, no," Janus laughs. "Me..." And his eyes thin even further, into a menacing glare. "...I only shoot when I mean to."

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied looks no endless amount of contrite as she glances to Maya, having gotten the girl dragged into one of her seemingly endless detours as ephemeral voices call out through thin air... oftentimes a red herring, but other times...

        "... I do fervently hope that Lucadia shall answer them," Riesenlied speaks in response to Maya.

        She's distracted as Hiro, Ruby and Lemina come up behind them, as well as Gwen. "... But ... "

        Her eyes widen, her pupils shrinking as Asteroid -- no, Lydia -- manifests the power of the Guardian of the Seas. A coalescing flow of deep blue lights are upon the room, as the very power that sustains the world opens before them... and opens within, emerging as the Hyadean hears the voice of Lucadia through the statue, as Noeline had called upon Duras Drum through his statue before.

        It is not within my power to lift her curse.

        She feels her blood freeze, her spine tingling. That nauseating feeling only worsens, yet she only scuffs her way forward.

        "No..."

        She is of the Veruni, our ancient enemy. What must be... will be.

        She shakes her head, holding the Tear close to her heart as she hurries forward. "That can't be, Lucadia! Equites has given me much more quarter -- why are we unable to collaborate?! We must find a way forward together!"

        Her plea almost falls on deaf ears as violence is visited -- Kaguya seizes Ethius and... just hurls him away with a strength she'd seen, but still can't get used to. There's a dry gasp from her mouth. "M-Mister Ethius!" She moves--

        She hears the click of Kaguya's ARM in the air, as her daughter looks to her.

        Don't get involved, mom. Just go.

        She feels her knees start to give out. It's an incredibly awful feeling, palpable in the air.

        It feels like despair.

        It's only worse when she sees and hears the Cascade Gang above her, grimacing as she gawks at who had just appeared. These hoodlums that had spent time with the girl that she'd come to think of as...

        ...

        "I cannot, Kaguya," she whispers. "I promised you I would look after you, and your kin. I promised you I would find a way. And if Lucadia... if Lucadia is unwilling-- if Lucadia sees you as an enemy, then I shall speak to others for you. I..."

        She clutches closer at the Tear as it shimmers, streams of light blossoming outward as shielding petals ensconce those that are close to her.

        Even as a Metal Demon, a Hyadean, her strength is only scarcely that of a human's. And in many cases, worse.

        Much like Ambrosius, Kaguya could overpower her here easily, and she knows that. Kaguya knows that.

        ... but it won't stop her. She hurries after her, trying to cross the gap. Even if she knows she will be shot at.

        The wound Ambrosius placed at her stomach attests to that.

GS: Riesenlied has attacked Riesenlied with Rising Heart - 'Seek the New World'!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Rising Heart - 'Seek the New World'!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied heals Riesenlied! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Perhaps they won't listen; it's not far from Catenna's mind that Maya Schrodinger is probably right. Even if they do listen, it is unlikely that Lucadia will be able to cure a Stranger, or cause one to become compatible with Filgaia.

But the alternative would be to raise a hand against a friend. A sick girl who, by all accounts, simply wants to live.

And then Ethius starts mansplaining things to Kaguya and Catenna just lowers her eyelids a little, keeping her sigh internal only because she would rather he not lecture to her, too.

And then comes that voice, low and rushing, like a wave coming in. Slowly, Catenna sinks to one knee and folds her hands, bowing her head, as Lucadia gives the answer Catenna thought she would give. Not even the Guardians have it within their power to simply change the Veruni, just as they don't have it within their power to simply change the Metal Demons.

Naturally, the glassy-eyed Kaguya hears it differently. Catenna tenses as the girl whacks Ethius and snaps the sealing rod, taking a quick step forward - but she holds for the moment and lets out a slow breath through her nose as Kaguya starts ranting. She doesn't answer the accusations, because she can't blame Kaguya for making them.

Her answer would only serve to pour more bitterness into the girl. Because it's the answer she gave months ago, in a tavern somewhere, trying to teach Kaguya about her faith.

The Guardians are not saviors.... If that were the case, no Baskar would ever die.

As Janus emerges, Catenna sighs, having a pretty good idea already that this is a lost cause.

She takes a step forward anyway. Then another. Breaking into a dead run, she hurls herself forward, launches herself into a diving leap -

Then hits the ground, skids for several metres, and clambers towards Asteroid. Hastily, she moves to try and assert herself between her Rigdobrite-headed friend with the sealing wand and her Stranger friend who just broke a sealing wand.

She reaches out to try and touch Asteroid fleetingly, just long enough to let a touch of healing magic pour forth from her. But even as she tries to shield Asteroid with both her body and her arcana, her gaze is on Kaguya, quiet.

Her moon-grey eyes are steady... but the sadness behind them carries its own gravity, even without words.

DC: Kaguya switches forms to Xenobotanist Kaguya!
GS: Catenna has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Critical Heal!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
As Lemina jogs and asks if the others are here with them, Ruby calls out, "HEY WAIT! Lemina I don't think you understand how meta-bad it is yet you see-"
 
But then a Guardian speaks. And it's disquieting to Ruby and Hiro after the Guardian temple. Especially after hearing Zed's impassioned speech against the Guardians.
 
"What must be will be?" He echoes as if in disbelief. Starting to get some sense of what's wrong. He's heard of the Veruni of course - but not enough that he knows the history between them and the Guardians.
 
"But... that's not..."
 
He trails off. The word he was going to say is fair. But life on Filgaia had driven out the notion that it could be. Every new person he'd met had contributed to that.
 
The feeling that life isn't fair, and the Guardians... the Goddess... was contributing to it. He couldn't quite articulate this yet.
 
Instead there's a swallowing sound, like he was taking a bitter pill - "Kaguya. Sounds like you have a lot of good reasons to be angry."
 
But then he unsheathes his sword. "But I can't let Mother come back..."
 
And then she 'disarms' Ethius by literally dislocating his shoulder and throwing him with a thunderous cratering impact. "... Ethius?" He sounds shocked at how quickly that happened.
 
And then there's the Cascade gang in the flesh. Hiro's mouth falls open. "You've gotta be kidding me. How can any amount of money be worth risking Mother destroying the world?" I mean he had plenty of evidence that Janus Cascade was a bad dude already but-
 
Grimacing he looks over at Maya - "So Maya... guess today is the day I get to make good on that promise we made to you-"
 
And then Gwen gets a sheepish look, "-heh and here I thought the two of you came to terms." "Sure and those terms probably were 'we're good until it's convenient for me.' So much for Little Twister solidarity!"
 
Hiro's a little wary about charging such a big name Drifter Outlaw gang, especially their boss right off. "Yeah-" So instead he he moves on the flanks keeping himself low in case one of them shoots before he comes in swinging at ninja boy Romero with a gleaming length of silver. "-so much for a lot of things."
 

GS: Riesenlied heals Maya Schrodinger! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

They're not our enemies, but--the refusal last time Kaguya tried to...

The thought dies before Maya can finish it. Banished from her conscious, a dozen wisps of smoke furling through the nether in the wake of voices intruding into her thoughts. A welcome distraction. She glances askance, to where the familiar forms of her heartfelt friends, Hiro and Lemina, await. Their confusion, or misunderstanding at least, evident.

More telling still is that Maya has assumed the Gunbuster Pose, arms folded and feet squared. "They didn't listen last time. She pleaded, asking for nothing more than a chance to be healed, and there was only silence." she brings Hiro up to speed in a tone of voice struggling not to be too grave. To Lemina, her gaze next falls. "We came here for them." she non-answers. W--why so serious...?

Gwen's optimism is heartening, but only tightens the knot somewhere in Maya's spirit. The fear that it will not all pan out after all, that the Guardians will remain silent--or worse, be angered. Would that she could bargain with them, but alas...

                            What must be, will be.

The Guardian solemnly condemns Kaguya as some kind of ancestral foe, and begins to fade. The girl's response, to powerbomb the oft-silent and mysterious Ethius Hesiod through the pavement as if he weighed mere pounds, and then shatter the sealing rod, all occurs within a heartbeat's space.

It is as she says.

"Tch...!" Maya's pearly whites grit together hard enough beneath her pursed lips that her jaw begins to ache, threatening to outdo the painful throb in her chest. It isn't fair, and the urge to lash out at the voice in her skull is overwhelming.

Luckily, there are other options. Others who would shatter the statues, and damn the world.

The blonde claps Riesenlied briefly on the shoulder, "You try and get through to her." is her suggestion, as the Cascade Gang stake out the statue with their rude arrival. "I'll buy us some time with these jokers. Go!" her words are punctuated by the white-knuckled grip on the long-barreled revolver known appropriately as the 'Rage'. She disappears out of sight from her perch.

                                     -*-

Romeo's sharply-honed ninja senses give him some measure of advanced warning: the Schrodinger girl appears atop a ruined rooftop and points angrily at the assembled Cascade gang, accusingly, before her opening question is asked.

"Taking bribes to end the world, now? Your gold will hardly glitter when the skies darken and the seas stagnate, you dolt! Think about it for even a second!" Maya pleads. She also leaps from the rooftop towards the square holding the statue, Janus, his pals, Kaguya, and a suplexed Ethius. She also opens fire mid-flight.

Her good cheer seems to be missing.

GS: Hiro has attacked Janus Cascade with Basic Attack Command!
GS: Hiro has completed his action.
GS: Maya Schrodinger has attacked Janus Cascade with Gale-force Bullet!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

An ancient enemy...?

"I don't...I don't understand...?" Jacqueline breathes out, confused. The Veruni...they were just a myth, right? Just one of the stories she had read about and forgotten a long time ago...

Briefly, she recalls a memory of Kaguya's. One that she had been witness to on that day when she and others were drawn into a land of their collective minds...

Is...it possible? But...Kaguya is her friend. It's as she's thinking this that Kaguya delivers a brutal suplex toward Ethius, slamming him down into the ground and away.

"Ethius!" Jacqueline cries out, rushing from her position at the side of the town square toward him, to make sure he's not dead...

She looks up from where she's kneeling at Ethius's side, staring directly at Kaguya, fear and hurt obvious in her eyes. She stares into Kaguya's own, and that's when she notices something.

"E-everyone...be careful! She's not herself right now!" Jacqueline warns. What was she warning them of, exactly? And...wasn't she, though? Lucadia had said it - she was the enemy. Was this Kaguya's true nature?

...No...it couldn't be...

She didn't want to believe that...! It had to be...had to be something else..

And then, she hears laughter. A man's voice. Body shaking Jacqueline stands up, looking toward Janus Cascade and crew.

"You...what have you been telling her...?" Jacqueline asks, hands clencing into fists. "Have you been letting her do this to herself...?"

She climbs out of the crater Kaguya had put Ethius into, reaching into her bags and drawing out a bottle of bright-orange liquid.

"I'm not going to let you help her make this mistake!" She shouts, and hurls the bottle...above the Cascade Gang. She draws a Crest quickly from one of her pouches - having added another one just recently - and invoking it. A stone flies up from the surrounding area and shatters the bottle, potentially raining Haywire Draught down on the Cascade Gang.

This liquid has a tendency to seep into ARMs and solidify, hampering the weapon until time and use clear it out.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Janus Cascade with Haywire Draught!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Janus Cascade guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Haywire Draught for 0 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Janus Cascade!
GS: Janus Cascade takes a glancing hit from Hiro's Basic Attack Command for 49 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade guards a hit from Maya Schrodinger's Gale-force Bullet for 73 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

'What must be will be...'

Lemina shivers. At first it looks like it could just be the chill of this place -- but... it's hard for her to mask, for just a few moments, how upsetting this is for her. A world like this... isn't the one she came from. Getting out past Vane and seeing these things for herself...

... her heart hurts. But after taking a moment, she manages to put on the mask she usually wears, and forces herself to issue the sorts of comments she expects from herself. "That mega-magic sucks," she says, "buuuut I think we still have to stop something from crawling out and killing everyone, so..."

... despite the brass, she can't actually bring herself to hurt Kaguya. ... or maybe she's just intimidated after seeing Kaguya casually blutch Ethius. One of the two. Either way, Janus is much more the devil she knows, and with that comes increasing certainty that that's where her path lies.

"Hey, jerkwad!" Lemina calls to Janus -- and that's all the warning he gets before she draws her bow, nocks an arrow, and fires. It trails super-cute sparkles, despite the distinct lack of super-cute sparkles in Lemina's heart right now.

GS: Lemina Ausa has attacked Janus Cascade with Mystic Bow!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
GS: Lemina Ausa has canceled their attack on Janus Cascade.
GS: Lemina Ausa has attacked Janus Cascade with Mystic Bow!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
GS: Catenna heals Asteroid the Kid! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

        As is usual, Avril takes Dean's comments at face value. "Yes... Even a mountain will become worn down in time by wind and rain. Eventually, that is carried out to the sea, to settle into the deep. This happens on a scale far longer than even thousands of human lifetimes. Hm..."

        It's as if something flittered past a mirrored glass, her memory. There, then gone, too quick to get a look at it.

        Glassy would also well describe the look in Kaguya's eyes. Slightly, Avril's delicate brow furrows.
        A chill spiders down her spine. She has a bad feeling.

        A voice, as gentle as seamist, billows forth.

        This is the first time Avril has heard the voice of the Guardian with which the Original Medium she bears is bonded, and that much is clear in her expression.
        The light has changed.
        A breath catches in her throat.

        But the sea may give and the sea may take and the sea may drift on unchanged.
        What must be, will be.

        Not in her power...
        Veruni.

        "Then that... is what was familiar," she breathes out.
        She remembers a gallows. A promise, dashed. Only the light cut through the vileness of it.

        She hadn't seen Ethius there. And now, as Kaguya turns to strike him -- sending him flying down the steps -- she does, to no mild shock. "--Ethius!"
        The blade is produced with a flourish, held high before her. "...Kaguya," she starts to say.
        'Cashman' (and associates) makes his entrance.

        If that was a sharp shock -- an unexpected jolt -- this is more akin to a flash freeze. Avril's expression rimes over, her narrowed eyes fixed on Janus. "...You." Her gaze shifts to Kaguya. "You would work alongside a person such as this?" Very nearly, she is incredulous.

        The weight of the moment rests heavy. There, a young Shaman is asked to make a critical decision. They're friends, Avril can tell that much. If pressed to choose friends or duty--
        Asteroid makes her decision.

        Avril makes her own.

        "Kaguya. I am sorry that it must be this way. However, I cannot permit you to shatter the statue. We cannot allow Mother to be awakened."

        With that, she surges forward, catching the last glitter of light down the length of Absolute Zero's edge as she drives the blade for Kaguya.

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Kaguya with Misty Soul!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        Dean nods at Avril as if he actually understands her response. "Huh... I never really thought of it like that before..." After all, he's the type to live in the moment, for a future he's trying to grasp right away. Even if he does have larger-scale goals, he tends not to over-think the hows and whats of them. That said...
        
        "Huh? Veruni?" Dean utters, blinking wide, when Lucadia appears. "Kaguya, you're a Veruni?" He hasn't heard that word in a while, functionally not since that ill-fated encounter with Chuck and the mirror, but his experience was--let's say--not the greatest. Like Avril, he too, remembers a gallows, a promised flagrantly broken. He's not about to judge Kaguya based on what the Veruni in that town did, but... It's a shock for him to hear that here. And when *that* sinks in-- "Wait, why are the Guardians enemies with the Veruni? What'd they do that was so bad?" he adds, this time to Lucadia.
        
        But she's not going to answer him, any more than she did Kaguya. And Kaguya, in turn, makes her own answer--through Ethius. Dean staggers at the impact when the sorceror hits the ground, and as astonished as he is, he hurries over to the sorceror's side as he sort of... lays limp, then kneels down next to him. "Are you okay?!" Then he looks up at his friend, who may or may not see *him* as a friend. "Kaguya, don't do this! There's gotta be another way!" he insists. "It's not fair that Lucadia's painting you with the same brush as all the other Veruni, but you're not gonna change her mind by smashing her Statue! Please, calm down, okay?! We can think of another--"
        
        Then Kaguya calls for Janus, and Janus and his gang appear, revealing that he was hired to give Kaguya space to destroy the Statue. In other words, Kaguya came here intending to smash it from the start. Dean doesn't have time to think about this too hard, because he's back on his feet in a flash, placing himself between the Cascade Gang and Avril, glaring at the outlaws with all the ferocity of a trusting boy betrayed. "*You* guys...! Did you trick Kaguya, too?!"
        
        It's very trusting of him, to assume that Kaguya was tricked even though *she* hired *him*. Even so, one believes in one's friends... even as one has to fight against them. Dean grits his teeth as he looks back at Kaguya. He doesn't want to fight her... but... even Asteroid is taking a stand. And... Dean remembers how Kalve and Ida fought each other, even though they care about each other so much. That's how much their beliefs meant to them.
        
        And he made the Guardians a promise. He can't break his promise.
        
        Twin Fenrir materialize into his grip. "Kaguya... I'm sorry!" He looks over his shoulder. "Avril! Riese! Astie! We gotta make her realize this isn't the right way!" ...Even though, as Catenna inwardly acknowledges, it's probably a lost cause. (Dean doesn't address her by name because he doesn't know her name, on which note; it's nothing personal. He does give her a nod to acknowledge she's there, at least.)
        
        Then he turns to face the young Veruni, grimacing. As Avril charges in, so too does Dean, whipping the combat rods in his twin ARMs around for a paired strike. It's a simple, basic attack--but he's not exactly going easy on her, either.
        
        After all, look at poor Ethius.

GS: Dean Stark has attacked Kaguya with Double Strike!
GS: Dean Stark has completed his action.
GS: Kaguya takes a glancing hit from Avril Vent Fleur's Misty Soul for 60 hit points!
GS: Kaguya takes a solid hit from Dean Stark's Double Strike for 105 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade guards a hit from Lemina Ausa's Mystic Bow for 47 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade has adjusted their boss level for 5 opponents!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        If Gwen's optimism seemed initially painful in light of the current situation, it may seem to intensify in the coming seconds as things steadily begin to fall apart. Nodding to Maya, Gwen says, "Ahh, gotcha. I thought you meant Kaguya wasn't gonna listen to us if the Guardian re... fuses..." Ah. "Well, that's..." Veruni? She's Veruni *too*?! First Ambrosius, now Kaguya? And to top it all off, she's terminally ill. While Gwen knew this part, the Veruni part throws it in a particularly painful light. To have a being with seemingly unlimited power reject you for something you have no control over?

        Gwen's lips thin, the normal cheery twinkle in her eyes darkening like a passing cloud over the sun. "I could imagine why she wants to smash some things, yeah..." But. The shock on Hiro's face brings Gwen to the present. Such bitter truths aren't any easier for her to bare either. It was so much easier being that bitter child, in some ways. "Y'think they could heal any of us if they had trouble enough healin' Lucia, Hiro? I think the mistake's in assuming the Guardians are like Althena. Or, well, us, really." Her voice is soft. "I told you. It's up to us to be kind. The Guardians can only be who they are. Might as well be mad the sun's so hot, or that the snow's so cold." She's about to raise her voice, to tell Kaguya the same-

        But then Kaguya turns her feelings into action, leaving Ethius in a crater in the ground. "...!" Gwen's breath hitches in her throat. Is that... the power of a Veruni? A sick one, even? To be able to do that to the same man who brought Gwen herself down.

        And then, like a persistent ache to remind Gwen of just how worse things could possibly get, Janus and his gang of two show up. Ah. That's right. Kaguya was with them on the train ride. It just sort of got obscured by... other things.

        Hiro's words nearly cause Gwen to openly wince, but she holds it back. "Well, yeah, we were on great terms until recently. I shoot him, he stabs and shoots me, it's all just a giant party." The grin's still on her face as she signals to those moving towards Kaguya. "You guys try to get to the statue. Gotta have a chat with my friend here." ... Because Gwen's not sure she could say anything to Kaguya without swallowing her own bile and old anger.

        "Oh, c'mon, I could tell y'didn't mean it when you shot me in the stomach last time, Janus." Gwen draws up her sleeve. "But gosh, you guys are really surprisin' sometimes! Comin' to the defense of a poor sick young woman in her time of need. Guess you're just a real softie, eh, Janus? You really couldn't stand to see a girl cry." No, she doesn't really believe that. It just feels a lot more satisfying to try and paint Janus opposite the criminal boss that he is. "Guess I gotta play the bad guy here and let evil win the day."

        There's a reason for her banter, as evidenced by the shot that rings out from her unbelted glove.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Janus Cascade with Crackshot!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Janus Cascade takes a glancing hit from Gwen Whitlock's Crackshot for 64 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Janus Cascade!
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

"I cannot."

The words echo, a rare answer from a Guardian, as the sense of Pressure lessens, and the statue's eyes cease to glow. The audience has ended.

"...I'm not from Filgaia, no," Kaguya answers Asteroid. "Not personally anyway. I'm new to this dustball." She's not a bad person... Kaguya finds herself smiling a little at Asteroid's assessment of her, despite herself. It's like she's gone beyond her rage here--like she never had enough hope in the first place to crash as hard this time.

But Asteroid stands. Asteroid draws her sealing rod, and Kaguya looks to her. She hears her talking... And she hears her resolve. Sees it. "...Astie," she says, and lets that hang for a moment as she approaches. But not long.

The others call out about Ethius and Kaguya shrugs once she looks at hic crater. "He's not gonna die," Kaguya answers helpfully. "Probably. I like him." But the despair reigns from Kaguya, and for all her casualness, she listens even to those whispers. She lets Riesenlied finish, as the ight comes. They both know the power she can bring to bear, even if most of those here do not.

Or did not.

"Look, Riesenlied..." A shake of Kaguya's head, "You can try asking the others. But not now. If this is how you wanna do it... Then I'll try not to hurt you more than I have to."

Catenna's intervention is well-timed, to be sure--Kaguya immediately lunges towards Asteroid, but Catenna steps forward. ...That conversation was long ago; Kaguya barely remembers that statement, but it is a true one.

She spots the sadness in her eyes as she slows before reaching Catenna, which would have been a grip on Asteroid. She adds for Hiro, "Mother, whatever. I don't care about Mother. If she gives us trouble we'll just put her down, obviously." A beat for Janus with a laugh, "Yeah, you like me. You like me 'cause I can wreck shit better than anybody you know. Go ahead and keep 'em off me. Try not to kill anybody, I like these folks."

Maya is there. Kaguya saw her. She sees Maya without her cheer, and looks at her for an instant, her glassy eyes full of a look that says only that she knows. Of memory. "...You got it."

"I'm me," Kaguya calls out to Jay. "...Just on enough painkillers to drop three humans, heheheh. It's not really a laughing matter. But it's nice, not to hurt."

Kaguya cracks her neck. Looks to Avril next. "He's a fun guy. Kind of awful, but you know, this is pretty awful work, right? And he's reliable." A beat, as Avril makes a decision--and indicates what she has to do.

Kaguya steps into the blow, dodging just enough that it misses her vitals, as she reaches for Avril's wrist--and seeks to use her momentum to stop, pivot on her heel, and hurl her into a nearby wall with force enough to lift three men.

Dean gets the answer next, "Yeah, I'm a Veruni. You know what we are?" A beat, "I don't really care anymore about changing her mind. I just wanna give her a preview of what I'm gonna do when I get my hands on her. She wants me to be her enemy? I can be her enemy."

Kaguya spots Dean's apology--and as she deals with Avril, she gets hit hard on the back with a grunt with both attacks while she spins, and reaches out a hand towrds him. It stops inches from his chest--and then launches out abrubtly into a one-inch punch, seeking to drive him hard straight back with all themight into an un-telegraphed blow.

"Come on!" she calls. "Show me what you humans can do! You all know I'm right! We can do better than the Guardians ever could!"

She throws out a hand, and a wave of green wind rushes for Asteroid and Catenna both--dotted with flower petals, and with stems like knives. She follows it up with a gunshot of coruscating colors for just Catenna, and pumps her strange shotgun and aims straight for Riesenlied. "I'd rather be giving you flowers," she says, and fires a crackling shot straight for her.

she doesn't go for Gwen. She lifts an eyebrow at her words. ...But mostly she's getting between others and the Statue.

GS: Kaguya has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Orbit Throw!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Dean Stark with Axis Strike!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Blossom Wind!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Catenna with Prism Canister!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Riesenlied with Riot Burst!
GS: Kaguya has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied takes a glancing hit from Kaguya's Riot Burst for 101 hit points!
DC: 1 turn has elapsed in the battle against Kaguya! 4 turns remain!
GS: Catenna takes a solid hit from Kaguya's Prism Canister for 142 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Catenna!
GS: Dean Stark guards a hit from Kaguya's Axis Strike for 96 hit points!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur takes a glancing hit from Kaguya's Orbit Throw for 75 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Everyone, be careful! She's not herself right now!

        Riesenlied continues forward, as she sees -- feels -- the rush of bullets that rattle against her barrier; several of the folds of her petal-like shield just shatter instantly, and the rest buckle as she still feels the gravity of the bullets coming her way and drop her down to one knee.

        Kaguya can see her side bleeding, even though the shotgun didn't quite get through. She's already injured before even coming here. Always like that.

        "This isn't the right way," she agrees with Dean.

        "Your words ring the same as Kent's, daughter..." Riesenlied limps forward as she forces herself off one ledge to give herself some cover. "You are both disappointed the Guardians cannot do more for you. You believe you can do better. But..."

        She limps to one side, as she turns around the corner and continues to try to close the distance with the Veruni agent.

        "Filgaia is vast... bigger than the Guardians themselves. Bigger than my brethren realise. Bigger than what I believe Lord Volsung has planned."

        She shakes her head.

        "Those that have come and perished before us, even before my brethren set foot on this land... we must learn their lessons... and it cannot come from the hubris of believing one can succeed where others have failed!"

        She grasps at the Tear again, as she concentrates upon that power... and once more, her photons would manifest as her wings spread outward. Around where Dean starts firing at Kaguya, Avril closing in with her beam whip... device, and Catenna reaching in to support Asteroid--

        "This is... the most aid I can give you right now. I'm sorry."

        --barriers would in turn cascade around them, forming sheltering shields that grant layer upon layer of ablative hard light.

GS: Riesenlied has attacked Catenna with Rising Heart - 'Seek the New World'!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Dean Stark with Rising Heart - 'Seek the New World'!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Rising Heart - 'Seek the New World'!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied heals Catenna! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Riesenlied heals Avril Vent Fleur! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Riesenlied heals Dean Stark! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Kaguya has canceled their attack on Asteroid the Kid.
GS: Kaguya has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Blossom Rain!
<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

Janus snickers at Hiro. "Hell do I care?" he laughs. "Y'all got, what, six of those statues? That's a bunch! Ya makin' good progress! Great work." His voice has absolutely no sincerity on that one. "What's one break between friends?" He grins, that cocky, confident grin, which is when Hiro tries to smack Romero - and finds Dario in his place?! Dario looks around as confused as anyone, then looks up at the sky and shakes a fist. "Romero!" he yells, bleeding from a thin wound (armored...shirt? Sure?). "Quit usin' me fer yer gull dern substitution techniques!"

Romero is missing so he can't answer other than ghostly laughter. Dario takes it out on Hiro by slamming a meaty fist for the young man's jaw.

Meanwhile, Maya shoots Janus. It slams into his armored jacket and he staggers back, while Dario and Romero scatter, assuming a more tactical formation of 'scrambling around like maniacs'. "Well, shucks!" he laughs, smugly, grip tightening on his ARM. "A man's gotta eat even with the world burnin'!" teases the man who STILL HAS A BIG CHUNK OF A LITERAL KING'S RANSOM.... "Besides, with tough folks like you on the job, oh I'm sure we'll be just fine."

Then his gun comes up and he fires, a quick shot aiming to blow Maya out of the air. "Heh. Well, maybe not actually you, though." Because she's about to die. From being murdered. By him.

He's about to take another shot, this one toward Hiro, when Jay's gunk gets all over his gun. Janus grimaces down at it. "You shouldn't mess with a man's gun, doll," he says. "Romero!"

Romero obligingly comes out of seemingly nowhere to flying knee Jay right in her very smart face. Janus starts trying to degunk his gun. "Think I taught her a thing? Well, miss, I'm flattered 'n' all..." His eyes cut up and that grin is somehow nastier with the cast of the light. "But I'm afraid this was all her idea. All I did was show her that a bird lookin' to stretch 'er wings can't let no god or king tell 'er otherwise!"

Janus' amateur philosophizing is silenced by Lemina shooting him with an arrow, which is appropriate in a few levels, really. He staggers back, yielding a step - and then just CHARGES at her, that grin never going anywhere at all as he drives that spear toward her, and then follows up by whipping his foot around to slam it into the side of her head. "Hey, what's up, blondie!" he adds, with his teeth split in his casual grin. "How about you stay down and then I don't have to put this here bayonet in your bits again."

He rolls his head toward Kaguya, chuckling. "Wow, keep 'em alive? That's extra, ya know?"

And then Gwen shoots him.

His eyes slowly fall to her. For a moment there's something inscruta
ble there. "Oh, yeah," he says, plucking her bullet out of his jacket and tossing it aside. "You've got me dead ta rights, don'cha Miss Whitlock? I just can't stand to see little ladies with their hands full o' silver wander off into the night with a dream undelivered."

He squares his stance, raises the gun. "Though seems some ladies just live to make me reevaluate that," he says, and fires.

GS: Asteroid the Kid critically Guards a hit from Kaguya's Blossom Rain for 29 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Hiro with Cascade Gang Cooperation!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Sniper Shark XR!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Boot To The Head!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Lemina Ausa with Heretic Stab!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Sniper Shark R!
GS: Janus Cascade has completed his action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber guards a hit from Janus Cascade's Boot To The Head for 55 hit points!
GS: Hiro guards a hit from Janus Cascade's Cascade Gang Cooperation for 67 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade takes Cover! He gains 50 temporary hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Janus Cascade's Sniper Shark R for 101 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

In Catenna's mental calendar, she moves 'give CaraKin the what-is-a-Veruni lecture' up to 'soon.'

Dean gets a glance from her by way of acknowledgment, but there are no time for introductions. Not when Kaguya is popping about to turn a gun on the bunch of them. Playing it cool or not, Catenna can practically feel the anger and despair flowing from the sick girl.

Kaguya slows rather than run through her, at least. Her lips come together in a tight line.

The green wind blows; flower petals and knife-like stems rip towards herself and Asteroid. It's a deceptively pretty move.

Catenna doesn't even try to dodge it. She throws her arms out and spreads herself out as widely as she can, setting her heels apart and tossing her head back. Bladed petals rip past and across her. Bloody cuts race across her arms; across her face and legs, across her shoulders. The blades leave scratches and rents across her armour. A stem slices just below her left eye; blood oozes down one side of her face like a tear. The priestess sucks in a shaky breath, a pained sound threatening to spill from her throat even as she fights to keep from recoiling.

Kaguya trains the gun on her. Colour erupts from it. Struggling to keep from showing pain already, Catenna widens her eyes a little.

And takes a step directly into the attack.

It hits her in the midsection and nearly blows clean through her. Only the fact that she's wearing armour spares her. Metal squeals in protest, caving in and buckling in places as the priestess is hurled backwards. Hitting the ground hard, she coughs up a mouthful of blood as she lands on a knee and a palm. A smoking wound streams from her midsection.

Riesenlied steps in; makes her tender presence felt. The touch of healing magic radiates across her.

"You have every right to be angry, Kaguya," she says, her voice quiet and pained. Even with Riese's magic suffusing her, she struggles to come to her feet. When she does, she weaves unsteadily. The stomach part of her armour has been badly battered, a few twisted metal bands hanging off of it.

"There was a time when I would have hated you," she murmurs. "But I cannot. And I know that all of us cannot hate you. Asteroid... Jacqueline, Lunata... Matilda... we all wish to find a way to help you.

"This is not it, Kaguya... and so...."

Catenna takes an unsteady step forward - and she throws her arms out wide, holding herself in front of Lucadia's statue like a human shield. Tears stand in her pale grey eyes.

She makes no move to attack Kaguya - merely ensuring that the Veruni will have to kill her.

GS: Catenna has attacked Catenna with Come Through Me!
GS: Catenna takes 10 damage from Poison!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: Catenna takes a solid hit from Catenna's Come Through Me for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Catenna!
GS: Maya Schrodinger takes a solid hit from Janus Cascade's Sniper Shark XR for 84 hit points!
GS: Lemina Ausa guards a hit from Janus Cascade's Heretic Stab for 60 hit points!
GS: Cripple! Statuses applied to Lemina Ausa!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Asteroid the Kid gets healed up by Catenna. Asteroid is technically not even injured beyond, well, the one thing that can't be helped by Catenna's magic right now. It flows into her and the energy that it's giving Asteroid, well, to Asteroid she feels it's a little bit perverse because right now she kind of wants to lie down and die...

..but she knows that Catenna has good intentions, of course, and well it's a good practical idea, but she can't feel gratitude right now. She could have been taken by Alexander Castle, she thinks, and she wouldn't have to see Ethius get hurt like that right now.

She wouldn't have to see Ethius get hurt and...

And what he said... Asteroid the Kid shakes as Janus appears. Also not really unexpected. People try to reason with Kaguya, they attack her, and Asteroid--feeling angry about Ethius, who was totally suckerpunched, is angry too.

But even that anger is coalesced around hurt and not all of it is from Kaguya. It might not even be half of it, but people were kind to her, people she barely even knew--She can't just...doom people she doesn't know because someone she loves is feeling spiteful. Even if they are rightfully spiteful. It's not fair but perhaps the Veruni were not always fair themselves. Karma is rarely kind but it is fair, that's why it's so horrible.

"I love you, Kaguya." She says. "I do but...I haven't given up on saving you. If the Guardians can't do it...then it's up to me."

She bites into her lip at just the right time, as Kaguya unleashes a wave of painful painful flowers at her. Luckily, though, she swings up an arm at just the right time and the flowers slam into her artificial arm. One of them is even caught by it.

Asteroid is as surprised as anybody. Flowers, she thinks, for me.

Asteroid holds her medium and sends a wave of cartoon stars crashing down towards Kaguya. Who the fuck is Lord Volsung? He's probably not important, Asteroid thinks.

"I'm not human!" She says. "And I never was!"

GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Kaguya with Starry Night!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Kaguya completely evades Starry Night from Asteroid the Kid!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
"Put her down!? How can you say that so casually?" He asks Kaguya. But Maya explains...
 
Hiro trusts Maya of course. Her assessment on the situation that they can't be reasoned with. And frankly with Kaguya as angry as she is over this, he wouldn't expect her to listen. "I see..." He can hear Maya struggling not to sound too grave but, he certainly feels it all the same. "Dangit..."
 
Whereas with Gwen, "Well Lucia's kind of a special case I think..." Hiro replies quietly, given how bad things are with the amount of malevolence she's carrying. He's not certain anyone could. "... but you've got a point. All the Guardians together couldn't manage it. Maybe it's the same way with this curse?"
 
Hiro winces though as Gwen describes her relationship with Janus - "Is that what Little Twister folk consider great terms!? Sweet Althena!" "Yeah I'm a feeling a little more into this idea the more you chat about him..." Before his gaze sweeps between Lemina, Maya, Gwen and Jay, "-let's do this!"
 
Hiro seems aghast at Janus' statement, "And you think we don't need every edge we can get against what's coming?" Looking as puzzled as anyone as he charged on Romero only to find Dario, he actually screeches to a stop. Only for Dario to sock him one. He gets up his shield in time, the fist smashing into the edge of it. The force of the impact causes him to thump himself in the face.
 
Stumbling backwards a pace before pivoting to regain his footing as he finally sees Romero. "How did-" At Dario, "-you..."
 
Dazed and a little puzzled by what just happened. "-whatever!" Hiro palms his boomerang and hurriedly lets it fly towards Dario as if he's expecting him to do the same thing.
 
"Just try that again!" However- perhaps unexpectedly it comes apart mid-flight, splitting in two. They arc in different directions as if he's planning to to try to hit both of them simultaneously if Dario substitutes spots with Romero again.
 

GS: Hiro has attacked Janus Cascade with Cross Boomerang!
GS: Hiro has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"If...if that is the case...then please, Kaguya, this isn't the way. We can figure this out together, you don't have to-" Jacqueline takes her attention off the Cascade Gang for just a second. This is all the time Romero needs to come in with a flying knee. He manages to connect pretty solidly, sending Jacqueline recoiling backward.

A hand goes up to her face, hiding a bloodied nose as she readjusts her skewed glasses.

"And what of everyone you hurt along the way? Ordinarily I'd be fine with that philosophy...but coming out of your mouth..." Jacqueline replies with a frown at Janus, drawing another Crest. The earth around her shifts and several stone tendrils emerge to lash out at Romero in retaliation.

"Understood. If any of you need curatives, let me know!" Jacqueline says, taking a few more steps back so that she can keep Lemina, Maya, and Gwen in her view.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Janus Cascade with Stone Whip!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

Janus gives Lemina what-for in the worst way; she swaps from bow to umbrella lightning-quick, bringing it up to block, but still takes a cut to the stomach. The far more potentially deadly blow to the head does get blocked, but it leaves her reeling just the same; one of her eyes screws shut, and she lets out an agonized whimper.

This is so unfair, she thinks, even still. The thought of Kaguya keeps her from committing to the fight for a few moments, keeps her a little less on her toes, like a lead weight sitting in her gut.

... but right now, her opponent -- her problem -- is Janus. If she keeps her thoughts there, she can do this. And... someone... can handle the statue. Eventually. Right now it feels like it might, but shouldn't, be her -- if they can even get past Kaguya to do it.

Keeping an eye out for Hiro, Lemina nevertheless focuses on offense rather than defense -- time feels very much like it's at a premium, here. She takes a breath in through her nose, murmurs a few words, and then --

-- swaps weapons again, to her staff, and traces a circle ahead of her, around the Cascade Gang. A mighty ring of fire forms around them, restricting their movement options -- albeit mostly their movement options toward Lemina, so she can take a damn breather.

GS: Lemina Ausa has attacked Janus Cascade with Fire Ring!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

The wind whistles solemnly in the wake of the Rage's bass-heavy crack. Tendrils of grey smoke part with a whisper, a misty portal through which Maya briefly holds Kaguya's gaze. She's upside-down, mid-flight. A tumbling pirouette from which aiming should be damn near impossible. She should also be looking at her target, but she's not.

There is no malice, there. Kaguya's superhuman sight can see a clenched jaw, steeled eyes, and the tiniest flick of an upturned smile at the corners of her mouth. Resignation, regret, acceptance. The Drifter flicks through the stages in quick succession, and then time resumes full-speed.

The Sniper Shark in Janus's hands barks twice, no, thrice as loud as the Rage in Maya's. The pistol-caliber round thuds into Janus's armored jacket, just as the armor-piercing rifle round splashes angrily through the ablative field of light shimmering around the young lady. A hundred fragments of dazzling magical glass spray outwards from the point of entry, but it does its job: enough velocity is robbed from the shot, and it thuds into Maya's armored jacket. Fair, it seems, is fair.

The dynamic gunfighter is not blown from the air, even though she spins with the momentum of the blow and lands a few feet away. An even trade? Neither of them seem terribly slowed down. "You think that Mother is going to spoon-feed you, if you smash enough of those statues?" she fires back, verbally. "Or do you only hope to glimmer brightly, until this planet's shine is entirely snuffed out?"

Maya puts foot to ground. Sprints, dusts her jacket off, the squashed-metal stamp that was once a long and meancing bullet tumbling to the ground forlornly. "You're better than this kind of company, Miss Kaguya!" hollers the gunslinger, whose second gun has come to hand. "Even if the damn Guardians give up on you, that doesn't mean the rest of us will!" her words are desperate, but the situation has turned dire. So much of this, she leaves in Riesenlied's hands. The feeling is bittersweet.

Weaving between the phosphorecent streaks of oncoming gunfire with increasing speed, the blue-eyed thorn in Janus's side chases after him. Her shotgun, in one hand, explodes in a cloud of arcid smoke and unruly fire. A hailstorm of probably-not-really-that-lethal-comma-you-know buckshot rains upon Dario, lest he get between the Drifter and her target. Maya spins with the recoil, her other arm coming up, pistol trained on Janus Cascade. There's a shitload of transversal velocity between them. There are speed lines everywhere, and their eyes meet. Sentence fragments.

"Who are you bending the knee to, Cascade?" Maya spits the question with a fury unbecoming of her usually-carefree self. "Is the proud Geohound just another lapdog, in the end?"

The gunshots ring loudly. A punctuation mark on an already-pretentious sentence.

GS: Maya Schrodinger has attacked Janus Cascade with Calamity Dance!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

        "I do not think," Avril says slowly, her gaze resting on Kaguya alone, "That it was trickery..."

        People are capable of great evil and great good. There is no way to say that one side is good while the other is bad and have it be an absolute. On this very field now in fact stand exemplars of the variation among diffent people. Riesenlied, for one, standing against what her kin desire. Janus, standing against what his own kin wish.

        Why, too, she cannot stand down.

        And yet, knows precisely what the Metal Demons have to gain and lose. She knows what natives of Filgaia have to gain and lose.
        She does not understand the gains or loses of the Veruni. There's an inkling of a similarity -- if she rides upon that comment from Kaguya -- but surely...

        "Kaguya. What do you gain by doing this?"

        The Guardian does not provide further insight.
        Neither does Kaguya. Not yet.

        Not to that question.

        Avril's gaze grows slightly strained. "'Reliable'..."
        Well, a part of her considers fleetingly, that's not entirely wrong.

        Perhaps this is awful work, all the way around, fighting against a girl so obviously unwell, with medication coursing through her veins.

        The strike comes shallowly. For all the decisiveness behind the blade's jab, this is no swordplay meant for a soldier: this is formal, something used for a courtly duel. For someone trained to fight and take advantages on the battlefield, Avril might be good and Avril might be precise...
        But this is not a fighting form for war.

        She's grabbed by the wrist and hurled -- easily. Even in sickness, as Avril has learned before, Kaguya possesses a terrible strength.

        Reflex saves Avril a more painful fate. She twists in midair, distorting her intended flight and instead sprawls across broken seaweed-riddled paving. Rising to her feet soon after, she lifts the blade in a formal shoulder-to-hip guard.

        Volsung. That name again. Avril takes a breath, the light cascading across her as Riesenlied's power is cast forth.
        "Thank you, Riesenlied..."

        Is a third way possible? Or is that a fool's dream? If one side triumphs, the other will perish. But is that the only way?
        She knows what one person would say. But...
        Even Riesenlied, who fights now for the sake of Filgaia -- and the larger scope. Even she may cease if Filgaia succeeds.

        Her gaze lingers on the Hyadean a moment longer. Then, Kaguya receives the full weight of her attention, once more.

        "...I shall ask you again, Kaguya. What will you gain from this? Is this your 'revenge' alone?"

        Slowly, Avril takes a step foward, focus maintaining as she moves sidelong, as if seeking a gap in the Veruni soldier's defenses.
        She darts in, the moment the instant presents itself.

        Keep her attention off Asteroid, she thinks. Keep it on me.
        Buy some time.

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Kaguya with Innocent Saber!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Kaguya takes a glancing hit from Avril Vent Fleur's Innocent Saber for 70 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade takes a glancing hit from Jacqueline Barber's Stone Whip for 102 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade takes a solid hit from Maya Schrodinger's Calamity Dance for 95 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade critically Guards a hit from Hiro's Cross Boomerang for 26 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade guards a hit from Lemina Ausa's Fire Ring for 89 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        'Try not to kill anybody, I like these people,' Kaguya tells Janus, and that just makes it that much worse for Dean. She's just so... *blase* about all this. Did she not have any hope for anything from the start? (If only he could be privy to her thoughts.) "I wouldn't call him *fun*," he says, mouth stretching into as wide a frown as it can. He looks over at Avril when she says, or at least implies, she doesn't think Kaguya was tricked. "....." Then the battle is on.
        
        "Yeah," he tells Kaguya reluctantly, nodding, as the initial blows are exchanged. "You're nobles and stuff, right? Man, if Rebecca were here right now, she'd be lecturing me about not talking to you guys right..." He frowns. "We've met Veruni before, actually. They weren't very nice..."
        
        Kaguya isn't very nice either, but surely she's not break-a-promise not-nice, too. Case in point: she swings a blow back at him, seems to stop at the last second, and then *pounds* him with a one-inch punch, sending him flying back and crashing into the wreckage of an ancient building. Ears ringing, he struggles back to his feet, then hears what she says. "Wh--better than the Guardians? Better than them at *what*?" Now anger comes to Dean's face, sharp and crackly. "The last time a Veruni said something like that to me, he was trying to execute a guy for a crime he didn't commit, with no proof! Tell me you're not talking about something like *that*, Kaguya!"
        
        But he reins himself in and shakes his head. "No... Sorry, I know that's not what you mean. Otherwise you wouldn't be so upset about Matilda's mom being sick." Looks like someone was never told she passed away, though that's neither here nor there right now. "But if you mean 'we' as in 'all of us'--that's all the more reason you have to stop this!" The Tear's photons settle in on him, soothing his wounds, and he flashes Riesenlied a grateful smile. 'Lord Volsung,' though... Well, they'll have to save that topic for another time. "Thanks! That's plenty!" he calls to the Hyadean, before looking back at Kaguya. "Riese's right! There's got to be some kind of misunderstanding somewhere between the Veruni and the Guardians!"
        
        At least, he hopes there is. He *hopes* that those Veruni he met before were just the Janus Cascades of the Veruni world, rather than the norm for her people. Regardless, he launches himself back towards Kaguya, swinging again with his combat rods towards her midsection--though now they've grown *dangerously* hot, and threaten to leave nasty, lingering burns on Kaguya should they strike true. "You'll just keep up a circle of anger and hate if you go 'fine, then let's just be enemies'! And even if you want to be mad--and I get why you're mad, it's not fair what you're going through--breaking that Statue isn't going to cure your illness! You don't need to exhaust yourself doing something that won't do you any good!"

GS: Dean Stark has attacked Kaguya with Burning Booster!
GS: Dean Stark has completed his action.
DC: MISS! Kaguya completely evades Burning Booster from Dean Stark!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        'Think I taught her a thing? Well, miss, I'm flattered 'n' all...'
        
        "He's tellin' the truth." Gwen's voice cuts in, just as Janus finishes his reply to Jay's charge, her voice carrying none of the darkly-tinged humor. "Hope's a real dangerous thing, when you're desperate." Hiro's comment brings that smile right back, however, though it's warmer now. "But so's despair. So in Little Twister, y'just do whatever you can to stave off both of 'em!"

        She turns back to Janus, then, finally regarding him with an earnest expression on her face. "Janus, I told you a whole lotta dumb kid things back then. But I was a goddamn kid that didn't know any better. Half of me was still wantin' to be like Nightburn, even when I said dumb stuff back then. Now, I don't want either of those things. I got the world, n' so do you. We *survived*. You, n' Dario, n' Romeo, n' me, n-" She's mercifully cut off by Maya's blast before she could just turn that ARM around and shoot herself in the foot.

        And. And.

        Why was she trying to convince Janus? What was she trying to convince Janus of?

        Well, there's better things to do than that. LIke, say...

        Punch Romeo. "'ey!" At least so Hiro can have a chance to recover his wits.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Janus Cascade with Special Delivery!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

"...There's no saving me, Astie," Kaguya answers, with a shake of her head. "I didn't mind letting you have a chance to try, but I don't think anybody can do it. I love you too, but..." Kaguya dives out of th way of the stars coming to her, somersaulting about the ground and leaping back up to her feet. ...It took a bit out of her. "But you're right--you're not human. That's fair. ...But we're at an impasse here."

With Riesenlied, Kaguya sees the blood, puts it together quickly. "Ugh, seriously? Seriously, you came here, after me, when you're already hurt? Are you TRYING to die, Mom? Are you trying to throw away what you have!? Ugh, it pisses me off!" She shakes her head, "I don't care who that Kent guy is--it's not like I'm disappointed. I'm angry! They act all high and mighty and what do they do? NOTHING! If it were just me--hey, I'm their enemy, you know. But have you seen this shithole of a planet!?"

Not the right way. Kaguya shakes her head. "You don't know what Lord Volsung has planned. I don't know what Lord Volsung has planned. But it's pretty big! Filgaia's big, sure, but it's got nothing on the wider galaxy, it's got NOTHING!"

"...I can't let you get in my way. Go home to Val, and the others." Kaguya lifts her ARM, loading a large cartridge with a cla-CLACK before she points it straight at Riesenlied. "Because if I have to I'll break you and put you back together myself." She fires--and with a roar of noise, white sonic force crashes towards the Tainted woman like a mother to Kaguya, seeking to drop her straight back down out of the fight.

"It's not hubris if I'm right." She looks to Hiro, "You don't have any idea what you're dealing with. That thing you saw in your memory..." Kaguya shudders, recalling Zophar, "That's not out of the question for us. You think I'm strong? I'm dying. You should see my sister." ...But Hiro did, once. In a memory.

"Look, Jay--" Jay gets knocked back and Kaguya winces. "It's the only way," she snaps back. "Just get back. And yeah, Casbah, I'll pay you. Extra, even. Save the lethal for the ones I don't live with."

For an instant, she held Maya's gaze. That instant inculcated Kaguya with that feeling; the feelings of Maya, flickering through. She remembers them well.

"I dunno, Maya!" she calls. "This guy doesn't get mad at me when I smash shit!" She lifts a hand--and sends another blast of flowery magic, this time directly for Catenna instead of only incidentally, to worsen the blood and wounds... Though it's unlikely to be lethal. Unless someone gets unlucky; Kaguya's taken off the kid gloves.

"Yeah, there was a time I hated you, too. But you make good food. I think your gods suck, but I like you." A glance to Asteroid. "...Both of you."

Avril though--Avril's gaze is strained, Avril is asking questions that at first Kaguya does not answer. The strike comes in, and the formal guard is not enough. But Avril puts her full attention on Kaguya, and for some reason, the Veruni cannot help but give hers back in return. Just for an instant. "...What's it get me?" she repeats. "Yeah, it gets me revenge. It gets me satisfaction."

She turns towards Dean, finally answering his questions, when she didn't have time exchanging blows with him. "Yeah, we're nobles and shit by human standards. But I don't care about formality. I don't go in for that kind of thing. Back on the ship, I wasn't super high-ranking."

Dean seems angry there, and Kaguya shakes her head as he launches back towards her--the heated rods are right in front of her, and her eyes snap down to them--and lunges backward more gracefully than a girl as sick as she is has a right to, avoiding the debilitatingly hot blow that could have done far worse. "I mean, some of us are jerks, sure. Don't care about inferior species, and all that. But I mean we can run the world better than the Guardians can." She sets her stance, and loads another cartridge--this one strange, and green--into her weapon. She aims this one for Avril. "I wanted to love this planet." She fires--and this one erupts into sickly light, like that of the moon, twisting life energy. She loads another lightning-fast and sends a crackling blast of energy for Dean, to slow and weaken him--and then lunges.

She doesn't kill Catenna; she doesn't try to go through yet. But she does lunge for Asteroid, drop in front of her--and then, too relaxed, slip around to the side and... crack towards her side with a punch that seems to come from nowhere.

GS: Kaguya has attacked Riesenlied with Concussion Rounds!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Catenna with Blossom Rain!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Dean Stark with Riot Breaker!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Axis Strike!
GS: Kaguya has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied takes a glancing hit from Kaguya's Concussion Rounds for 73 hit points!
GS: Break! Statuses applied to Riesenlied!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Moonbeam!
GS: Catenna guards a hit from Kaguya's Blossom Rain for 86 hit points!
DC: 2 turns have elapsed in the battle against Kaguya! 3 turns remain!
GS: Dean Stark guards a hit from Kaguya's Riot Breaker for 60 hit points!
GS: Weaken! Statuses applied to Dean Stark!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied's knee threatens to buckle again, a persistent injury from before that's continuing to nag away at her. She sharply gasps as she stops and holds onto the side of a wall--

        And gets caught at a bad moment, as the sonic blast that rather admittedly does more to her ears and her sense of consciousness than herself rocks her off her feet.

        The wall collapses, consumed from the sheer blowback of the force. Riesenlied is on the ground, collapsed for a moment -- and honestly, she's not sure if she passed out for a moment or not, either. She next finds herself looking towards the grey sky as she climbs to her knees, in short order.

        "I come for you... because I promised. And I would never break a promise. I don't mind if you're angry, or disappointed in me... but..."

        She rises again, even though by all rights, all the strength inside herself should have given way by now. "And... you're right. I don't know the depths of what he has planned..." The Hyadean lowers her head. She clutches at her Tear again. "... but I know of his hate. It is the hate that permeates Lord Siegfried as well. And spoken as one of his closest friends... I have seen, through centuries and centuries, how hate consumes a man. Tunnels his vision."

        She continues to walk again, seemingly inexorable, even as Kaguya continues to move around the battlefield. "... Dean once told me-- that as long as you never give up... that anything is possible. ... and I can tell you, the inverse of that is just as true--"

        --punctuating her words as she holds a curative burst of power for Dean, to reverse the effects of the energy aimed his way.

        "Because when you do give up... then the improbable... will truly become impossible."

GS: Avril Vent Fleur takes a glancing hit from Kaguya's Moonbeam for 86 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Avril Vent Fleur!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Dean Stark with Rising Heart - 'Consecration'!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Dean Stark takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Rising Heart - 'Consecration' for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Riesenlied clears debuffs from Dean Stark!
GS: Reload! Dean Stark gains 15 extra FP from Riesenlied!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Kaguya's Axis Strike for 123 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

For all that Kaguya's likely to throw everything she's got at her at some point... Catenna at least holds her ground.

The priestess sets one heel apart from the opposite and holds her arms wide, steeling herself against whatever's to come. And come it does. More flowery magic.

Petals scream across Catenna; they aren't lethal, but they hurt, even with Riesenlied's barrier soaking up some of the damage. The moon priestess gasps, but fights back her body's natural urge to protect itself.

She just throws her head back, stiffens her back and shoulders, and lets it blow into her. More cuts dance and slash across her body, little trails of blood thrown into the air. Catenna chokes in pain and lurches back, but plants her heels to keep herself from stumbling. It takes every last ounce of willpower. She fights back the urge to cry, without success; a couple of tears trace down her cheeks, joining the streak of blood beginning to course down the left.

A small part of her wants to argue with what Kaguya says. Her casual, offhand insistence that Veruni can rule the world better than humans or Guardians alike.

But it wouldn't get through to her, she realizes. Her pain runs far too deep for reason to work.

"We like you too, Kaguya," she breathes. The pain she's in shows in her voice - but as the rainbow wind passes, she refuses to step away from the Statue. It's too important that she stay there.

A couple of drops of blood run down Catenna's jawline, on towards the point of her chin. "We would like to go on liking you. And I shall go on considering you my friend," she says with a pained smile, shoulders coming up, then settling, as she struggles with thr hurt she's experiencing. "Vengeance...."

The priestess closes her eyes for a couple of seconds. "...Vengeance feels good, does it not," she murmurs. "For you. But the anger will pass... in time. And you will find yourself with less than you started with. Fewer things you care about.

"And nothing will have changed," Catenna murmurs sadly as she levels her right hand. Her arm is marked with petal cuts, shaking a little as she tries to manage the pain.

The gravitic blow that bursts forth isn't overly painful. It's just a simple, jolting sensation - like an invisible hand attempting to suddenly yank Kaguya several metres backward. It probably won't even knock her down. Catenna's simply trying to shove her into what would be the back row if this were a console game.

But it's not a crushing blow. Not a compressing attack, or a tidal wave, or an act of swordsplay. Kaguya has probably seen Catenna fight enough to be fully aware of how much Catenna is holding back what violence she is capable of - and how much she's not using her agility to simply elude the attacks thrown at her.

GS: Catenna has attacked Kaguya with Reverse Polarity!
GS: Catenna takes 5 damage from Poison!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Kaguya takes a solid hit from Catenna's Reverse Polarity for 0 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Kaguya!
GS: Catenna takes Cover! She gains 50 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Asteroid's vocal response to Kaguya is blubbering and sobbing and hoarse gibberish. That's about what Kaguya gets out of her right now. She's determined, sure, but she isn't happy about it or anything. Naturally this prevents her from getting any good arguments out there for Kaguya but whatcha gonna do. Naturally, being blubbering and sobbing and hoarse doesn't really help for your aim.

On the plus side, it does make it easy for Kaguya to get a nice good THWACK on Asteroid's side. Considering what she did to Ethius, even if it was a suckerpunch, Asteroid is significantly more fragile looking.

She spews out silver fluid speckled with blood as she goes flying from the strike. She crashes into the ground hard on her automail arm which snaps it out of its socket. Asteroid screams out in agony from the sudden sensation of it being pulled from the nerves.

She pants for breath, more of that strange fluid spilling out, rapidly trying to shift this way and that, take a form upon itself, but it can't seem to do it. Asteroid picks up the automail arm and slams it back into her arm messily, but it seems to do the ticket.

She pants for breath for several moments and she finally says something more elegant than broken sobbing.

"What about...our own responsibility to the planet? What about the shit we did to Filgaia ourselves? That the Hyadeans did to Filgaia?"

She lowers her head. "...Is revenge worth it? What did the Veruni do to Filgaia? I don't know but...there was something, wasn't there?"

She lowers her head. "...Even if I can't succeed, even if it's pointless... I have to try because you're my friend!"

She raises her guardian with her uninjured arm once more and channels--

--a green haze around Kaguya, tears still in her eyes. She hates every moment of this. Part of her wants to smash the statue herself just so this can be over.

GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Kaguya with Rad Riser!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
GS: Kaguya takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Rad Riser for 64 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Kaguya!
<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

"Y'all keep acting like the Guardians are all-powerful or somethin'," Janus drawls, eyes tracking Hiro with a marksman's clarity. "Lemme teach y'all a little lesson."

He sweeps his weapon up, the bayonet battering one of Hiro's boomerangs aside, covering one side for Dario; Dario himself catches it right out of the air, grinning nastily. The bulkier man whips his ARM up, firing a few shots downrange at Hiro.

Romero hops and hups as Jay's stone tendrils rise up under his feet. He's immnsely nimble, jumping and juking between them. He leaps up, firing a wave of kunai toward Jay, but it leaves him open - a tendril slams into his side and send shim crashing to the ground, off in the distance to Janus' perspective. "Out of position," Janus mutters, eyes cutting behind him to the dustcloud of Romero's impact.

But his grin remounts itself soon. He may be about to speak - but Maya cuts him off, with a wild, angry accusation. He turns to her, and the way he twists his head makes him stare down at her. He barely even moves sa the bullets thud into him. "Janus Cascade...is no man's dog," he says, in that heartbeat where their eyes meet. Sudden, real anger. His grin splits his face again, and that moment...fades, somehow, the raw anger turning into that smiling, chuckling man. "I do what I want, because I want. You're all runnin' around, workin' on statues...it's great, really, it's good work." Again: Not really invested in that one. "But think about it. The Guardians're desperate for our help. You're all so desperate for some great golden hand to save your sorry asses that you just can't make yourself see the truth, huh?"

He raises his ARM at Lemina. The blast of fire singes him but not enough to stagger. He pulls the trigger and two thundrous reports ring out. "The Guardians keep the world turning. That's it! That's all they do! They can't save us! They won't pick you up and dust off your wounds! And they sure as shit won't SAVE YOUR LIFE!" He rips the bolt down on his gun and plugs it with a Nova shell, eyes turning toward Maya. He rushes toward where she's coming down, and when he slams the bolt home, POWER flows through the ARM and into him. He surges, then; hits a wall and rebounds off it so he can meet Maya mid-air, bicycle-kick her toward the roof - and then release a shining ray of light after her, a Nova blast bouncing her skyward. While he's tumbling from the leap he whirls around.

He lands directly between Gwen and Romero, grinning. "So I guess what I'm sayin' is you're right, Gwen," he says, and then smashes her across the face with his ARM and kicks her in the side. "We can only make our own future."

GS: Janus Cascade guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Special Delivery for 72 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade has activated a Force Action!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Hiro with Gillius TH12/23 Magnum!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Rising Nova!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Thrown Needle!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Lemina Ausa with Sniper Shark XR!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Heretic Stab!
GS: Janus Cascade has completed his action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber critically Guards a hit from Janus Cascade's Thrown Needle for 18 hit points!
GS: Hiro critically Guards a hit from Janus Cascade's Gillius TH12/23 Magnum for 18 hit points!
GS: Lemina Ausa guards a hit from Janus Cascade's Sniper Shark XR for 50 hit points!
DC: MISS! Maya Schrodinger completely evades Rising Nova from Janus Cascade!
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        "Inferior--huh?" Dean utters, blinking at Kaguya. But there's a lot she says, like Riesenlied dying, and more about Lord Volsung and what he has planned for the galaxy, about when she was back on the ship, and so on, and for a moment, he's overwhelmed. "....." Kaguya cocks her gun at him and shoots a crackling blast of energy at him, which strikes through. He lets out a sharp cry of pain and staggers, his arms tingling badly from the shot--so badly he nearly drops his ARMs. Avril's been struck too, albeit by a different kind of round, and his expression is openly worried as he looks her way. She *seems* okay, but what was that light...?
        
        As he staggers, thoughts shoot through his head. Now, Dean doesn't really know if what Kaguya says is true, if the Veruni really would run Filgaia better than the Guardians. But something inside him rebels against the idea that the Veruni *should* be 'running' the planet, anyway. If they think of humans as inferior beings--if Kaguya can just shrug off that kind of behavior as merely 'jerkish'... But then, maybe he's biased because he saw their worst side first. The Hyadeans are *also* considered an 'enemy of Filgaia' by many, and Dean's certainly fought against several of them too in the past, but since Dean met Riesenlied and Noeline first, he can't think too poorly of them. Is the solution, then, to just meet more Veruni?
        
        ...
        
        this is not good stuff to contemplate in the middle of a brawl
        
        Fortunately, Riesenlied sprinkles more healing on him, and it dispels the numbness and clears his head, filling him back with energy. He smiles warmly at her, both for her help and for her words. "Thanks again!" he calls her way. "Don't push yourself too hard, okay?! It's no good if you end up collapsing!" Not unlike Asteroid, there. Dean winces at the sight of her, sobbing and bleeding... but asking her if she's all right *now* would be tone-deaf, even for him. He turns back towards Kaguya, raising his paired pistols. Drawing upon the power of his copy Sword Medium, for an instant, his vision sharpens, letting him zero in on Kaguya and potentially ID her weak points. He doesn't want to hurt her, but--she's so strong, he's not sure he was hurting her before at all.
        
        As he opens fire, full blast, with all the bullets he's got in both his ARMs, he calls, "What're you trying to get revenge *for*, anyway? Even if the Guardians won't cure you, it's not like they made you sick in the first place! Just let us help you, Kaguya! Like Riese said, you can't give up. Like Astie said, we want to try, because you're our friend! If the Guardians can't do it, we'll just find another way! But we've got to work together first!!"

GS: Dean Stark has attacked Kaguya with Twin Fenrir - Sonic Vision!
GS: Dean Stark has completed his action.
GS: Kaguya takes a glancing hit from Dean Stark's Twin Fenrir - Sonic Vision for 88 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Janus Cascade's Heretic Stab for 64 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Cripple! Statuses applied to Gwen Whitlock!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Hiro rapidly ducks as he hears the crackle of Gwen's fire. "Thanks for the cover!" But - what Gwen says disturbs him a little. As he thinks about what things used to be like. Before she let people in.... Are all residents of Little Twister just survivors caught somewhere between Hope and Despair?
 
Kaguya's statement on the idea that the Veruni can take on Zophar takes him aback. Mother too. Can the Veruni really handle all of these beings that would bring disaster and destruction? Maybe he can believe it but - "Okay but why risk it!? Why? Let's say your people can take them all on. But at what cost? How much more can both our worlds take?"
 
Whereas Maya calls Janus out - and Hiro finds himself listening to the back and forth between her and Janus. Admiring how she holds her own against the famed outlaw.
 
Romero takes a few shots at him, and Hiro makes himself a smaller target, getting down low and putting up his shield. All the same, he has put his other hand up against it to brace it against bullet impact after bullet impact. The youth starts as one makes more than a metallic dent but actually goes through, grazing his shoulder before ricocheting off the wall behind it.
 
Regaining his composure against the feel that he almost got shot... "You think we don't know that? All the Guardians put together sometimes can't solve a problem."
 
He says grimly as a reminder of what happened when they tried to cleanse Lucia of malevolence.
 
"They sure failed to help Lucia. And they just wouldn't help Kaguya - but I don't think you're right. Not all of us expect them to save us - or magically solve all our problems."
 
With a whispered chant - the Blessing of Althena forces the winds to rise up and descend in a whirling funnel right in the midst of the Cascade gang. The Sorcery sliding this way and that way in battering, slicing winds of vaccum force.
 
Bracing himself against the stone, he calls out, "We just wanna make our future hand in hand with them! And to do that someone's gotta make the first step to fix our own mistakes!"
 

GS: Hiro has attacked Janus Cascade with Cyclone!
GS: Hiro has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"I...I don't want to believe that! There has to be another way... We have our own intellect and ingenuity...if we try hard enough, I'm sure we'll figure something out together! But if Mother is freed...even if you can deal with her, there may be nothing else left..." Jacqueline urges. This time, she doesn't take her eyes off of Janus and his crew to respond to Kaguya. She wanted to see how everyone was doing, to make sure the others weren't hurt, but she'd already paid for her slip of attention once. It might not be her who pays the price next time...

It serves her well, this time. Romero unleashes a wave of throwing needles at her and the earthen tendrils shift, taking the brunt of them. Some of them still manage to get through, leaving her with cuts here and there, but for the most part she makes it through just fine.

"You're putting words in my mouth, Mister Cascade." Jacqueline says with a frown. "You're right on one account - the Guardians keep the world turning. That's what they do. People sometimes make the mistake of thinking that they're omnipotent gods. But that's not the case. There's only so much they can do with the power they have. A good friend of mine told me that. They have to learn and grow just like we can, as Miss Riesenlied can attest to."

Jacqueline draws out a Crest, fixing Janus with a stare. Hiro gets a nod and a smile, though, for making her point better than she could.

"That's right. People can only get so far on their own. Even you have to realise this, Janus Cascade. The Guardians are no different. Why do you think I'm trying so hard?"

With that said Jacqueline invokes her Crest, this time focusing on Janus herself. A column of earth shoots from the ground, aiming to slam right into him.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Janus Cascade with Pillar Crash!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

Maya exists for a brief moment in the heart of a maelstrom, beset upon all sides by danger. By revelations. By torment, misery, anger, hope, threats, pleas, bullets, spells, swords. Her feet do not touch the ground as she hangs midair betwixt it all. The hand gripping Chevalier, her shotgun, is sore from the recoil. Her mind races to an unhealthy clock speed.

Think! You damn fool girl, shooting first, what are you going to do for Kaguya if you win this scrap? If the boss lady can't talk her down, what hope do you have?

That Gwen is trying to reason with Janus, while she potentially tries to kill him, is heartwrenching. Perhaps not as heartwrenching as the teenage girl dying of an incurable ailment refused help by the force that sustains the world, not as miserable as Asteroid the Kid's soulful struggle between everything she has ever known and the feelings in her heart, but it still feels downright terrible. Maya's trajectory from the attack sends her flitting over the courier's head. Another frustratingly acrobatic twirl.

Inferior species? Wider galaxy? I'm falling into the deep-end again, aren't I? How many veils in front of my eyes are there?

"If you want to save him, you're gonna have to knock him out first, sweetie." Maya cautions Gwen in a mission-critical rumble. Another one of those slow-time cinematic moments, no doubt, before her tumble past the super-courier is completed. It is time for her and Mr. Cascade to have words, of a most serious nature.

Their discussion will be punctuated thusly, by a lethal dance. The gunslinger's feet have yet to find purchase on the shattered cobblestones, Chevalier popped open and empty cartridges tumbling over her shoulder before the assault begins. The hot flash of anger in Janus's eyes mirrors the one in Maya's own. They are briefly depicted opposite one another in noir film grain, with scarlet pupils. She knows she's been caught out of position. It's symbolic.

Quoth Janus, 'Janus Cascade... is no man's dog," as he disappears from the ground where he once stood, the immobile marksman no longer. He successfully guesses where Maya is landing, and she has no ability to change trajectory. The parkour-assisted spinning wheel kick catches the drifter in the pit of her stomach, where her arms have swiftly moved to guard. This is a small comfort: the force of the blow pops the sunshine-colored gunslinger into the air, a stationary and easy target as her wrist seizes from the pain and her pistol whisks from her grasp, clattering away into the ruined city somewhere.

"You tell yourself that, but you've yet to convince me." Maya hisses at the handsome, azure-haired bandit through clenched teeth as they tangle midair like some kind of fucked-up Matrix gun-fu sequence. If he's getting mad, it must be working. "Even if you're your own dog--a dog you remain. A hyena, feasting at the edges of--"

Subsequent kicks fling Maya into the ceiling of a demolished, stone house. Her tirade is cut short. "Boast all you like, Mister Cascade, but if the world stops turning, you're going to die in the dark just like everyone else!" cracks from the point of impact threaten the structural integrity of the building, but far less than the shrieking ray of light that erupts from the barrel of Janus's weapon. It punches through the ceiling and sprays a mile-high fountain of stone shrapnel into the sky. But the Drifter's bones, alas, are not among the wreckage spewed across the beachfront properties.

No, two halves of a shorn orange jacket flutter downwards from the wreckage, but its former wearer still lives. By a hair's breadth. Maya hangs from the shattered ledge of a nearby balcony, down to just a pretty white blouse and her skirts for armor. Her heart thuds heavily in her chest, knowing death briefly knocked on her door.

"Sorry, Gwen," the Drifter mutters as her eyes glow the colour of hazy, distant, green stars. "I can't pull any punches anymore."

Compared to the unbelievable combo Janus just unleashed on her, it seems very underwhelming that Maya extends a hand to one side and conjures, from a thousand whirling motes of light, a long green tube with what looks like a telescope attached to the top. On the other hand, she just pulled a rocket launcher out of literally nowhere, so you be the judge.

There's a tremendous *FWOOSH* and a burst of flame as the weapon's rocket-motor ignites. Janus Cascade has a rocket shot at him. What more can I say?

<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

When Janus shouts about how the Guardians can't save them -- aout how all they do is keep the world turning... that's something that actually gets Lemina upset enough to really focus in and banter. "That was never the POINT!" Lemina shoots back, even as she attempts to throw up ice in front of the gun blasts; the first shot stops, but the second grazes her side and she sags. "We leave the turning of the world to the Guardians and we pick ourselves up and do the things we can do, you mega-greased-up blue wig on a sun-dried turd!"

All the feelings Lemina's still actively trying to process flow out of her, with the magic to match. Lemina's stance is low, but there's magic charging up in her hands, a bright blue-white. "There's tons of problems that Althena, the Guardians, Granas, whoever -- they're not going to reach down and fix them! That doesn't mean we just... get a pass on letting them fall apart! That doesn't mean we help people kick the Guardians when they're trying to do what they can!"

Lemina thrusts her staff forward, and that light that gathered in her hands travels forward. Something in her pack glows faintly, too -- just barely visible through the seams. It's a little dimmer than when she's used this trick before... maybe she's leaning on it less, and relying on her own power more?

Or maybe she's just mad enough to call a little more forward, given what she says:

"Get out of here or I'm gonna take that mega-tacky ARM belt off your ridiculous, uncoordinated same-color-as-my-pants chaps and beat you with it like you stole something! Pulse Explosion!"

The light that travels forward is blue-white, with a hint of yellow in the middle -- a strange set of overlapping colors that somehow never quite becomes 'light green' at any point. It flares out first in a faint yellow, then in a bright blue, as much about keeping Janus off guard as the actual concussive force of the spell itself.

GS: Maya Schrodinger has attacked Janus Cascade with Armaments of Fantasy!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has completed her action.
GS: Lemina Ausa has attacked Janus Cascade with Pulse Explosion!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

        Avril has not yet forgotten that scene at the gallows. Something had happened there that had sent her crackling with righteous fury, a cold consuming rage which she has only ever borne but once since then in full.

        She comments not when Dean brings up that day -- the desperate search that followed and the race against the very sun -- but for the particularly observant:
        She narrows her eyes. Her grip on the blade tightens.

        That Veruni had... broken his word.

        Some circuit within her seeks completion, stirred by that memory, but the point cannot be found. It does not sync.

        But Dean -- as ever -- speaks of Kaguya's pain. Just a touch, the tip of her blade dips in the air, her attention shifting towards her friend. "...Dean..." Then she shakes her head, sending silvery locks aflutter. "...Then it is anger that drives you. Anger, frustration. Your own sense of injustice." Her gaze turns briefly unfixed before she takes one more careful step to the side.

        Rebecca knows more of the Veruni, she thinks, fleetingly. Her own encounters have been brief -- they are not common in this part of Filgaia. Brief, but unfortunate.
        But neither is it just to judge an entire people by the actions of one.

        "Or do you feel that the Guardians have been unjust to us, as well? I admit that I do not understand their intentions beyond the cycles of this planet. However--"

        She lingers, just a moment before taking that opening.

        "Will it?"

        Does hurting others soothe a wound?
        That undercurrent within speaks to her its own answer.

        She has a moment to seek and claim a hit.
        One moment, then that strange(ly familiar) ARM whips out.

        Avril rolls back.
        Not quickly enough.
        Riesenlied's shield absorbs the worst of it, but the light which remains lingers, seeping deep into her being.

        Avril stumbles a moment as she steps back, treading out a good distance from Kaguya. The blade remains raised.

        "I am all right. But--"

        Asteroid's condition earns a concerned look; fortunately Dean -- closer than she is -- is there to assist.

        "...She said that she loved you, did she not? Is this how you seek to treat someone who regards you so warmly?"

        Absolute Zero swings once.
        With the proper arte, one does not need to be close in order to cut.
        The shockwave courses through the air.

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Kaguya with Spirit Saber!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: Kaguya takes a glancing hit from Avril Vent Fleur's Spirit Saber for 77 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade takes a glancing hit from Hiro's Cyclone for 71 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Pillar Crash for 140 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade guards a hit from Maya Schrodinger's Armaments of Fantasy for 108 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

Kaguya can see that Riesenlied is hurt... and she can see that she isn't backing down, either. In the background, the electric whine reaches a fever pitch, like a tea kettle in the background. "Whatever," Kaguya answers about hate. "It's not the same thing. You're just extrapolating because you think everybody can get along if we just try hard enough, that we should."

...Riesenlied heals Dean. Kaguya sets her jaw. "...I like Dean. But he doesn't know." She looks to Dean for an instant, back to Riesenlied. "Some things aren't possible, no matter how hard you try. Some things you just don't get to have. Pretending otherwise... Is just a good way to waste your energy."

Catenna, next. "Still?" she asks. "I'm hitting you pretty hard, you still like me? I told you your gods are bullshit, and you still like me? We're still friends?" She sees that smile--sees the struggle. But that murmur...

"Yeah, vengeance feels good," Kaguya says. "...For a while. But it doesn't matter. You say I'm gonna have less than I started with... But I'm dead anyway. Why not go out angry? Why not--" The sensation that comes next does jolt her, and Kaguya is indeed yanked backwards. She's very strong, but she's also very light, doesn't plant on the ground that well. She can tell that Catenna is holding back. That--"Stop holding BACK already, you could die doing that!" It's a growl, as Kaguya stumbles, feels her breath shallow--

Astie screams. Kaguya doesn't like it. Astie's blubbering and sobbing, and Kaguya doesn't like it either, but she floats on it. She sees the blood. "Our... responsibility?" she asks, skeptically. "Dunno what you're talking about. I came here and I loved this planet before I ever saw it. And turned back on me--"

The green haze washes around her, and Kaguya coughs, abrubtly. It's an ugly, hacking cough. "...We didn't do..." Hack, "Anything! We just--ruled it!" Her friend. Asteroid says that, but Kaguya stumbles back again, coughing, and this time blood comes onto her glove that's her own.

Janus has some points, where he is. But Kaguya's wrapped up in Dean for a moment. "We're stronger than you," Kaguya explains. "...Smarter, faster. We live longer." Cough, with a dark laugh that belies a little real pain, "...Mostly."

The vision Dean gets of Kaguya shows many weak points; it suggests a heart that is in the wrong place, beating away under her armor, but also chinks here and there where it's articulated--the elbows, the neck. Before, it was trouble to hurt her--but his shots strike home, one in her shoulder that tears a rivulet of red from her and staggers her back as it's followed up by many others, and Kaguya roars in reaction. "I JUST WANTED TO KNOW WHY!" Kaguya screams back at Dean. "I--" Huff, as she coughs again, starting to fall apart little by little...

But not slowing down. "You don't know what it's like! She wouldn't even look at me! And they're all like that! They won't cure me, they won't even cure their own precious humans! Atida's mother had to die because the Guardians are WORTHLESS!"

She charges, at that, like a bull, shoulder first towards Dean. Her step when she reaches him is so fierce that the ground beneath her cracks as she brings a knee up towards his stomach, twists her shoulder forward for a pair of straight line punches, then reaches out to a nearby ruined wall and rips a post out of it to swing it straight down for Dean's head. "I HATE THEM!"

Trailing blood, the small Veruni goes berserk for an instant, snarling as she looks to her next foe. ...And calls to Hiro, "You act like it's an option!" She spits, and it comes out red, "We're the Guardians' enemy, remember!? If that's what they want, I can bring it!" ...Hiro talks about what the Guardians can't do. It's reasonable, in a lot of ways. But--

"Aren't you angry!? What are they FOR if they can't help you!?"

Her eyes snap to Avril next. "Yeah. Anger." For some reason, she treats Avril with an unspoken respect--a wariness, that is unlike the way she treats others. ...But she hasn't spoken why. The further question comes--

"Yeah, the Guardians aren't any good to humans or Beastpeople either. That's what really gets me. I used to hate humans for it... But it's not the humans' fault. It's theirs." She says all that--but she stops short, silent, as she considers... will it? Will it give her satisfaction?

"I--" The blade comes in, but the words are at least as bad. The swing from a distance crashes towards Kaguya and rends into her armor with a visible slash; she crashes backwards too, into another wall that starts to crumble around her, and her overshirt hangs open, cut... to reveal Veruni battle armor beneath. "Shut up!" she calls. "We both have things that are important to us! It's not personal!" She heaves a breath, coughs again. "Right Astie!? Right!?" Her chest heaves, and it looks like she's going to be sick--in a more conventional way. But she girds herself again. "It's... It's too late... anyway..." She hefts her weapon, and fires off another strange celestial beam, this time for Catenna, bursting before her and the statue both, though it leaves the statue untouched. The electric whine is louder, and worse than before.

...If only Ethius were awake to find the source of that mechanical noise.

Kaguya drags herself the rest of the way from the wall... and picks up what used to be a fireplace, bodily, the whole stone edifice at once, crumbling where it attached to a chimney. "RAAAAGH!"

She throws the whole goddamn thing at Avril. Just, throws it straight at her. She stumbles with the momentum of it, pulling her ARM again with a cla-CLACK as she loads for Astie. "RIGHT!?" Another loud BANG and the waves of concussive force come for her dear friend--for more than that, really, as finally, Kaguya stares up at Riesenlied, and coughs again.

"I--" She's bloody. And she puts a hand over her chest, a brilliant green, petal-strewn wind erupting from beneath her. "Mom... Last chance. Go. ...Heh. Funny that... I call you..."

She's in pain--but unbowed. Her drugs can only keep out so much. But she bleeds red, like humans do.

GS: Kaguya has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Dean Stark with Blood Moon!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Catenna with Moonbeam!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Orbit Throw!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Concussion Rounds!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Kaguya with Blossom Wind!
GS: Kaguya has completed her action.
GS: Kaguya takes a solid hit from Kaguya's Blossom Wind for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! Statuses applied to Kaguya!
GS: Restore! Kaguya clears debuffs from Kaguya!
GS: Catenna used Mystic on Catenna! 100 Temporary HP gained! All statuses cleared!
GS: Catenna has activated a Force Action!
GS: Catenna takes a solid hit from Kaguya's Moonbeam for 154 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Catenna!
GS: Dean Stark guards a hit from Kaguya's Blood Moon for 194 hit points!
DC: 3 turns have elapsed in the battle against Kaguya! 2 turns remain!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a glancing hit from Kaguya's Concussion Rounds for 76 hit points!
GS: Break! Statuses applied to Asteroid the Kid!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur takes a solid hit from Kaguya's Orbit Throw for 148 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        What Gwen failed to add on, is that certain environments demanded certain tactics to survive. And she, in the end, was someone who was lucky. She had friends. She someone who ensured she survived, back when she was too weak to take care of her wounds. She had things to fight for. She had heroes, even if she was content with the idea that she'd never be able to grow up and be like them.

        DId Kaguya have any of those things? If she did, did she have them now?

        And if so, how painful was it when those things were taken from her?

        If Gwen had the same things happen to her, would she be the one smashing statues? ... Would that impulse be in her still, even now?

        In that moment, it's hard to tell what hurts more: the ARM smashing against her face, the kick afterwards that makes the world sort of tumble out of reason for a few moments, or, most confusing of all: _she agrees with Janus_. Last time that happened, she was nine and it was likely over something like 'If Nightburn got into a duel with Vash the Stampede, who'd win' or 'jelly beans in ice cream: yes or no'.

        "Iss's okay," Gwen replies to Maya as she staggers upwards, her body wavering and her left hand pressed to the spot where Janus jammed his ARM. "He kin handle it. I give yew full permission!"

        It is kind of fun to tease Janus and the gang like this, if she's having to deal with injury after injury either way.

        "I'm all for solvin' problems before they become problems. So the statues gotta be sealed. This world is worth bein' saved, and it's worth turnin' along, whether I'm here or not. I hope Kaguya realizes that too, someday." Extending her ARM and locking it in position, Gwen crouches down, gearing the Mockingbird to fire a higher-powered shot- one that's likely more going to disperse the three members rather than cause any major dmaage. That hit *stung*.

        But not as much as Lemina's comments on Janus's fashion might. Gwen cleares her throat to stifle a snort. Turning her head away.

        Look, Gwen is not the sort to kick a man when his belt choice is being questioned.

         But even with the ringing in her ears, Gwen turns to look towards Kaguya, the sound of their battle seeming to intensify by the moment. Just... what could she say...?

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Janus Cascade with Coil Cannon EX!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Not for the first time, Catenna finds herself dwelling on the horrifying realization that had struck her during the battle with Ambrosius.

If the Veruni are making their move on Ignas... then that means they must be finished their work in Elru. Which means I may be the only Zortroa left alive.

...But that is not Kaguya's fault....

"Yes," the priestess says simply, her voice laced with pain - but there's an unnatural, resigned calm to it. "I could die."

Kaguya does her best to put her there, though the signs of her illness strike Catenna before that massive celestial beam comes into play. It's a terrifyingly electric weapon of a type the priestess barely understands.

Holding her arms wide, she arches her back and squares herself to it.

The sick, anguished girl's beam rips into her like so many furious knives. The screaming electricity of it arcs across Catenna in a horrific torture of celestial agony. Her eyes go blank as her body twitches and shudders. Armour is barely adequate to protect her, even if she were to shield herself; even if it were, it doesn't cover all of her. Exposed flesh sears and burns hideously as the light rakes across her as that beam bursts and casts its fury upon her.

The light passes. Catenna slouches forward and nearly falls to the ground. Her knee hits the surface beneath her; blood drips down her limbs and torso, more oozing from burns across her cheeks and neck. "Praboan," she practically sobs in her own language, her voice a small, tortured thing.

When she looks up again, she's breathing heavily; blood mats a few locks of dark hair to her cheek. But those eyes still find Kaguya again.

"They are not saviors, Kaguya," she rasps. "They are not flawless, like the god of the Etones. They are not all-powerful, nor omniscient, nor infallible. If they were, no Baskar would ever die... and they would save me from the path I have chosen. The path where I am killed by you.

"Because," she manages, struggling under her own body's screaming refusal to move, each effort to rise sending fresh searing pain igniting through her. Her muscles tremble as she forces herself to rise. Even then, her knee buckles; she groans and pushes, forcing herself to stand again. "...Because you are my friend," she whispers, eyes steady on the girl. "And hope is never lost until you throw it away. But... I am bound to Filgaia, Kaguya...."

With a snap of movement, Catenna brings her hand up to touch to her collarbone. "--And I am prepared to die to protect it!" she shouts, her voice ringing, hoarse with emotion.

Magic resonates subtly from her palm. A shimmer of oceanic blue dances in the air around her. The worst of her burns begin to ebb and fade; her breathing grows a little easier as muscles knit and scorched flesh grows coffee-and-cream brown again.

She holds her ground. Puts Kaguya back at square one.

Forces Kaguya to torture a CaraKin compatriot over and over again.

GS: Catenna has attacked Catenna with Critical Heal!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: DISEASE! Catenna tries to heal Catenna, but it doesn't work!
GS: CRITICAL! Janus Cascade guards a hit from Lemina Ausa's Pulse Explosion for 61 hit points!
GS: Break and Mute! Statuses applied to Janus Cascade!
GS: Janus Cascade critically Guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Coil Cannon EX for 25 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

Janus brutalizes Gwen a bit, and then shifts his stance to look over at Hiro. "See!" he says. "That guy g--" KABOOM

The whirlwind blast scatters the Gang apart, making them easy picking for each in turn. Jay's blast slams into Janus, sending him toppling. He's right there on the ground, ready to get blown to smithereens by Maya's fury--

Except there's a loud BLAM as Dario fires at the incoming rocket, detonating it before it can gib the Boss. "Shit!" he squawks. "How'd she fit that whole thing all the way up there?!"

"There's exercises you can do for that," Romero supplies. JANUS hits him for that one, as the man with the red jacket gets himself off the ground. "Heheh," he laughs, apparently not too put out even by Lemina's verbal scathing. "Y'all got some fire in ya, huh?" he laughs. His ARM comes up, the weapon casting a flickering field of light in front of him; not much, and he ends up right back on his ass, but it means he doesn't get sent ass over teakettle this time. And it means that when Gwen releases that shot at him, he bats it aside with his ARM...and then immediately whips his gun up at her.

Which is when Romero and Dario suddenly cut in. It's tough to tell exactly where they are at any given moment - a sock from Dario, who shoots off to one side just in time for Romero to sweep in with a sweep of needles, or Janus to open fire. Only two things really stand out: One, Janus gets up to Lemina amid the chaos, then BATS her into the sky with inhuman, ARM-boosted strength, and fires another blast up after her like he did with Maya...

And two, all three of them converge on Gwen, punch, kick, and finally Janus swinging his Bayonet down on her back as hard as hey can before all three of them leap to the middle of the square and pose.

And then the bombs Romero put in everyone's pockets explode.

GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Lemina Ausa with Rising Nova!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Trinity!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Hiro with Cascade Gang Cooperation!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Cascade Gang Cooperation!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Cascade Gang Cooperation!
GS: Janus Cascade has completed his action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes a solid hit from Janus Cascade's Cascade Gang Cooperation for 111 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade takes Cover! He gains 50 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

"Nobody calls a race of people an 'ancient enemy' just because they want to piss 'em off," Asteroid the Kid says using the power of L*O*G*I*C. Though the news that the Veruni apparently RULED this planet sometime ago is news to her. Technically, that Kaguya once loved this planet, that's news to her too. "But I don't mean just your people or the Hyadeans. Humans, Beastmen, everybody has done their part to make this world a shittier place. You think I'm not mad about how the Baskar are treated?"

She pants for breath. "Do you think I even like being Baskar?" She asks, tears welling up again. "I hate it! Why do you think I left? I saw Gally do it and thought I could do it too! But I believed... I believed with everything I had, and they let me down, again and again... So why...why do I keep fighting for them?!"

This time she answer herself. She can't find the source of the machine, but she has to try, even if it's pointless, she has to try. Isn't that right, Ginny?

But she stalls for a moment, "...Tilde's mom? She died?"

Nobody ever told her. "Did....Did I hit her too hard?"

In that moment of hesitation, Kaguya sends Asteroid crashing again with a wave of concussive force that hits her right in her face. The rock-like structure around her face cracks, ever so slightly as she hits the floor.

Portals ripple into place even as she lies there, unleashing waves of asteroids flying for Kaguya as she just lies there.

She doesn't even answer Kaguya's question. She can barely even get up. Her head hurts so much. "I'm getting you..." She says to the floor. "..To Lunar...then to space... I will find a world for you... no matter what."

GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Kaguya with Space Rock Soccer!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
GS: Hiro guards a hit from Janus Cascade's Cascade Gang Cooperation for 66 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade takes Cover! He gains 50 temporary hit points!
GS: Kaguya takes a solid hit from Asteroid the Kid's Space Rock Soccer for 142 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Janus Cascade's Trinity for 134 hit points!
GS: Maya Schrodinger takes a solid hit from Janus Cascade's Cascade Gang Cooperation for 115 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade takes Cover! He gains 50 temporary hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Lemina Ausa guards a hit from Janus Cascade's Rising Nova for 130 hit points!
GS: Cripple! Statuses applied to Lemina Ausa!
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        "I don't agree," Dean tells Kaguya firmly. She may be talking to Riesenlied, but she's talking *about* him, so-- "You never know what you can make happen if you just keep trying. If it doesn't work one way, you try another way!" And, although Riesenlied already quoted this from him earlier, he just has to say it: "*Anything* is possible as long as you don't give up! Even understanding each other!"
        
        He hesitates a moment when Kaguya describes the Veruni, explains why they're supposedly superior. Even if those things are true, that's no reason to treat someone so unjustly--to break a promise... His lips thin, but he decides to leave it at that. It's not fair to hold Kaguya accountable for something she had nothing to do with.
        
        Especially since there's much better things to yell about. Kaguya screams at him, and Dean opens his mouth, then hesitates when she coughs. She looks like she's in so much pain... He clenches his jaw and shouts, "Maybe I don't know what it's like! There's a lot of things I don't know! A lot of things I'm too dense to get! But if you want to know why, then--we're a little closer now!! Lucadia said the Veruni were their enemies! Well, why the heck would she say that?! If we start researching into why that is, then maybe we can *do* something about it!! You're so angry that you could tear the Statue apart over it, right?! Well, maybe they're being jerks because *they're* really angry over something too! If you just give up and decide revenge is more important, then you'll NEVER know!!"
        
        But then Kaguya screams about Matilda's mother and charges in at him. The news itself is shocking enough, and he gapes in the wake of it, eyes going wide. When he recovers mentally, she's up in his face, so Dean stands his ground, stubbornly, foolishly--and when she impacts against him, it's like the force of a truck blaring its horn on a rainy midnight. Knee, punch, punch, and then ripping out a wall and *bludgeoning* him with it over the head... Dean goes down like a pile of bricks. Only a slight off-angle strike at the end, a little at the side rather than straight down, prevents that last hit from simply crushing his skull. As it is, it's a good thing he's so hard-headed. And blood gushes out from his wound, pouring down over his face...
        
        "...nngh... nguh..."
        
        That slight groan is the only indication that Dean's still alive at first. Then there's a slight twitch of his half-gloved fingers; then he stirs slightly, grimacing in abject pain. "K-Kaguya... c'mon... you're, ungh... hurting so much... Let's--cut this out..." He scrabbles for a handhold. His head spins, his vision spins, his body spins. Somehow he manages to start to pull himself up. "I don't--like the Guardians a lot... either... They were--so mean... to Avril... but they're hurting too. That's why... I promised... to help them... I can't stand--to see anyone hurting." He props himself upright, using the combat rod of one of his pistols to support himself, one eye shut under the flood drenching half his face. Beneath his feet, the elemental power of fire smolders in the leyline... "I know--if I wanna convince you--I can't hold back... But I don't wanna keep hurting you--either..." He shuts his other eye. Avril speaks reasonably, trying to talk to Kaguya with calmness; Asteroid makes emotional appeals, pointing out she hates her lot in life too; Catenna offers herself as a shield for the Statue, risking her very life to protect it; and Riesenlied... she might be in worse shape than all of them. But they're all trying their hardest. He can't back down either.
        
        "If you just wanna--take out your anger on, someone, 'til you're satisfied," he breathes, raising up his free ARM, "then let's keep fighting, 'til you've had enough. But, after that..." Flames gather around Kaguya via the will Dean channels through his Medium, then explode with concussive force. "...let's all sit down and take a rest together... okay...?"
        
        He breaks out into a violent coughing fit of his own after that. His knees buckle underneath him, and while he doesn't yet fall, dark red splatters the ground at his feet.

GS: Dean Stark has attacked Kaguya with Elemental Crush!
GS: Dean Stark has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline hears Kaguya and grits her teeth. She wishes, desperately, that there was more she could do for her. That there's something she could say...but...she has a hard time believing that her voice could do any more than the others could. That there was something she could that that wasn't already said.

But...there was something strange. That noise...what was that noise?

"Ethi-" Jacqueline looks back.

...Oh right. He was already unconscious. It wasn't something she could deal with...for now, she'd just have to try and remove Janus as an obstacle.

She decides that, but...then she explodes.

The bomb detonates one of her bags, knocking her off her feet and sending her toppling to the ground.

She lays there for a moment. Nodody told Asteroid...shouldn't someone have? Maybe she hadn't been as attentive to everyone's problems and situations as she should have been. If she had kept a closer eye on Kaguya, and been there for her more often, would this have happened...?

...But...it was too late to worry about that now. Now, she could only take care of the things that were right in front of her.

Jacqueline hauls herself to her feet, expression defiant.

"Sorry...fire's not something I've really been good with. But I'm working on it. For now, you'll have to settle with this." Jacqueline draws out a pair of Crests and invokes them.

It almost might seem like a single spell. The sky crackles. Energy tears at the ground beneath Janus, beneath Romero, beneath Dario, ripping up rock and stone and sending them all flying upward if they can't escape it in time...before a vicious storm of lightning crashes downward, forcing each of them back down into the ruined earth.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Janus Cascade with Dualcast - Voltaic Quake!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Kaguya takes a glancing hit from Dean Stark's Elemental Crush for 135 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade critically Guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Dualcast - Voltaic Quake for 55 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

Luckily for everyone involved, there's no fragmentation sleeve on the incoming warhead that Dario plucks out of the sky with some expert anti-air fire, so it flares into an impressive, but not immediately lethal blossoming vortex of flame. The shockwave, if anything, is the dangerous part.

The spent launcher is discarded from Maya's hand, tumbling into the street with a clatter. Stupid mistake, the drifter chides herself briefly, releasing her grip on the balcony she'd been hanging from and plunging to the cobblestones in short order. Anti-gear weapons only work against soft targets in the comics, you ditz. The long-barreled pistol glints on the ground briefly before it's scooped up into her waiting hand, as the gunslinger drops into a recovery-roll and comes up again on her feet. To say she feels naked without her costume's jacket is an understatement.

Damn, how does she stay so calm about it...? Maya ruminates briefly on Gwen as she snaps her pistol open, while sprinting for the statue. The scrap has kind of moved them away from it, and she needs to protect the hell out of it. And why do I keep losing my cool?

Perhaps it is the very palpable heartache that pervades the area, knowing the tragedies unfolding, and the inability to stem the tide in any meaningful way. However, one particular sight drives her to shout some support. It's something, anything, for she cannot bear to stand by and do nothing. "Astie! Even when it hurts too much--on your feet!" she shouts, desperately trying to reach Virginia's one-time loyal minion, for whom conflicted feelings of friendship and worry still linger.

The Rage snaps shut again, reloaded, and Maya flattens herself against the statue, peeking out from behind it. Just in time to see Janus repeatedly resetting Lemina in the corner with a cheap combo. Her mind is on the fight once again, taking a breath to steady herself. Focus. Find your center.

A pause.

         Where the hell are the other two jokers in the Cascade Gang?

Maya is faintly aware of a weight in her pocket that should not be there, because she doesn't actually carry any ammunition in them for a variety of reasons related to conjuring things from the realm of ideas, and fishes a hand in there quickly. Being the elder sister to a young pyromaniac who makes a lot of home-made bombs, Maya comes to the obvious conclusion quickly and takes the only corrective course of action imaginable.

A discarded skirt wrapped around a bunch of bombs flies into the Cascade Gang's sentai pose from offscreen, and then detonates. Its former wearer is completely out of armored garments by now, and things aren't looking any easier.

GS: Maya Schrodinger has attacked Janus Cascade with This is for you!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.
<SoundTracker> Yuka Kitamura - Sister Friede and Father Ariandel ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mk0Gm26aqiw

        In the background, something seems scream. What is that, Avril thinks distantly. Whatever it is, she can't see it, let alone where it's sitting. ...It's not something near the statue, is it?

        The Veruni ruled this planet.
        They're better strong smarter.
        They--

        Something. There's something there. If she could reach a little more--

        Yes. It's for anger.
        Matilda's mother? Shock flattens its path across Avril's expression. No. She hadn't known, either.
        Yes. It's for justice.
        Set what's wrong right.

        Kaguya wanted to love this planet.

        --Something about that--

        Words wound sometimes more than swords. Avril has but one response: "Then why must you fight? If it's justice for the forsaken you seek, then let us find that justice. ...Do not rend this planet's future for the sake of your revenge."

        She will do what she must even if it comes to the bitter end, but
        she still wants to find -- desperately? why is it so desperate? -- the third path.

        And then Kaguya turns on Dean and all such thoughts are wiped clean from her mind.

        "DEAN--!"
        Her scream rents the air in those moments before Kaguya -- not at all DONE here -- shifts her attentions towards Avril.
        There's enough time to stare dumbfounded -- and horrified and sick with worry and--

        And then there's no time at all -- there is no escape. Kaguya tears off what once was a family's treasured hearth and hurls it right for Avril.

        Only the shield granted by Riesenlied -- what remains of it -- prevents Avril from being crushed by the thrown fireplace. As it is, the force of impact sends her crashing into the ancient paving stones -- here was someone's walkway, there, there may have been a garden -- and Absolute Zero goes skittering from her grasp. What's left of the barrier pulses once, shedding stonework around her where she lies.
        She does not immediately move.

        The first sign that anything at all is amiss is the cold that seeps into the stones and spins outwards from the point that she lies and quickly rises from mere chill to form a slick of ice. Several seaplants, desperately awaiting the return of the tide become encased in a crackling rime.

        This is a warm coast off of Ignas, normally.
        Now it isn't. The ambient air temperature plunges.

        Avril rises to her feet. Or, perhaps the phrase 'lifts to her feet' may be more appropriate -- she moves more like someone standing and more like something buoys her from within. Faintly, bluish light burns from her form.
        Avril opens her eyes.

        That is not a kind look. That is not even merely a serious look. This is all the malice the heart of winter can bear forth.

        All for Kaguya.

        She treads forward, ice spreading and crackling beneath her feet. Slowly, slowly now.

        "You."

        She is displeased. She will hand down her own justice. "How dare you. This is the manner in which you treat someone who reaches out with an open hand? Instead, you hurt him."

        She lifts a hand. Ice gathers there easily in a blaze of blue.

        "I will not forgive you."

        With barely a gesture the shard grows, gathering into something nearly the size of a spear. This, she hurls for Kaguya; not once does her expression shift. There is no mercy to be found here.

DC: Avril Vent Fleur switches forms to The Ice Queen!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Kaguya with Cristaux de Glace!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has been weakened by Disease! They take 0 hit points of damage, and burn off their temporary hit points!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Avril Vent Fleur's attack becomes clear!
GS: Kaguya takes a glancing hit from Avril Vent Fleur's Glace Noire for 87 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Jay gets a smile as she backs him up there. And Hiro whistles as Maya summons a rocket launcher to blast the whole gang - even if Romero shot it out of the air. But the way the gang responds, "Hey don't make it weird! Maya is just really amazing like that." He says in slight boast of his friend.
 
Kaguya asks him what good the Guardians are, "What is anything for!? Wouldn't you get upset if I asked you what you're for if you can't help Lucia? You can't look at people or the Guardians just from the perspective of how you can use them!" But - seeing how bloody Kaguya is, he grimaces, "Just stop. Please just stop..." He quietly pleads.
 
But then Janus comes right at Lemina with a rising stab. "Lemina are you alright!?" Watching Gwen get smacked around by the whole gang - "Gwen!" Filgaians are tough, but there's a note of desperation as he watches that. He's about to rush all of them when he realizes something - "Huh!? How did-" Suddenly he grabs the thing in his pocket, and tosses it high. Ducking down low at the same time.
 
The explosion knocks him end over end. And he looks dazed for a moment, ears ringing.
 
When he stumbles back to his feet, he looks a little shell shocked. Raising his sword up to his middle chest, the whole Cascade gang looks like they're doubling in his vision.
 
While that isn't a good sign for his accuracy, he feels it's perfect because it feels like there's more of them for him to hit. Lining himself up, the currents of wind follow behind him and he takes the first step. It causes him to bound forward at an almost uncontrollably high speed. His sword igniting into a blazing trail.
 
His path takes him driving straight on a course past the the six of them. Slashing wildly as he goes, unleashing a wave of flame. Once at each image of Darius - "Burn!" Then Romero - Burn! And Janus- "BURN!"
 
But he doesn't stop there. Perhaps it's something in the air. Maybe it's the icy chill of Avril's anger that alerts him to something being wrong. Or the way that Dean looks really messed up after appealing to Kaguya. As he keeps on careening past - he goes straight at Kaguya. "Kaguya!" Closer and closer. But with every step he can't see anything other than a bleeding desperate and angry girl.
 
But he still slams the burning brand into her armor. She's so strong that he feels he can't afford to do otherwise, "... please stop." He doesn't know what to say, to make things better, but he makes his plea all the same.
 
Before things get even more dire than they already seem.
 

GS: Hiro has attacked Janus Cascade with Battalion Sword!!
GS: Hiro has attacked Kaguya with Battalion Sword!!
GS: Hiro has completed his action.
GS: Kaguya takes a glancing hit from Hiro's Battalion Sword! for 96 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

Lemina gets the Fun Janus Treatment and it goes great. She's able to protect herself from the actual force of the first blow with a barrier of ice, but physics still applies -- and oh, what a followup that leads to. She's sent flying by the sheer force of the blast, to say nothing of shredded shoulder fabric and blood. ... on the other hand, it puts her extremely above Janus -- a fact that she's absolutely willing to use to her advantage.

Her staff comes up, and she twirls it once, creating a block of ice in the air that she springs off of; continuing the chant of ice magic, she starts to form a long, scything set of claws along the tip of her staff. Once they're established -- and boy, are they dire-looking claws -- she calls to Hiro, "Just fine!" Then, a beat, before, still descending: "Actually no! I'm in terrible pain that can only be solved by the direct application of Gella to my purse!"

Then she descends with pointy, icy wrath on Janus himself, unable to get quite the reach necessary to also attack his idiot friends.

GS: Lemina Ausa has attacked Janus Cascade with Freeze Claw!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        "You ain't dead until you are! Maybe you'll have days, n' maybe you'll have years, but you can't waste that time bein' angry. The world deserves to live on long after we're gone. It deserves a future where it gets to exist. You think I wasn't mad too, back then? Hell yeah, I was. But some of the times I spent, and the people I met... it made it easier! Heck, even Janus and the rest of them-" Which, kinda composed a main component of the group she ran around with, plus a few others. But there were others, weren't there, like-.... -------, during the fire-

        who?

        "GH-" The full team of Janus's remaining gang descend on Gwen for a friendly beat down, ending with Janus just slamming that ARM into her back.

        She can hear Hiro calling her name. Wow, if it feels this bad, it probably looks even worse for him to watch it, right?

        Just like how bad it is, when Gwen manages to spare a glance towards the bleeding, struggling Dean. ".....--" He's the real thing. She's thought that before, but never has she felt it so badly than to see him grasp onto that optimism of his with an earnestness Gwen could never hope to achieve.

        He can't die here. And neither can Kaguya. Not until she finds out what Gwen found that day, resting on Frea's shoulder, glancing out at a horizon that seemed to stretch on forever, so beautiful she had to cry.

        While Janus and the gang take their time to pose, and explosions rock all around them, Gwen then something she just may regret. Staggering to one feet, she undoes the binding on the tablet in her vest and grips it against her chest, feeling the slow warmth of the medium against the beat of her heart. "We decide our future. The Guardians just gave some of us the tools to do so. So if they can't..." She grunts as she closes her eyes and focuses her will through the channel the tablet provides, the round figure of Rigdobrite appearing and turning its round eye around to regard Asteroid, for a split moment. Then it slowly dissipates, as motes of stardust are cast into the wind.

        "... I'll be kind for them. I'll be kind for all the times someone was kind for me. And for all the times I forgot to be. And all the times I chose not to be. Because I don't know if I'll be able to, always."

        It can't heal Kaguya's pain or her illness. Gwen knows that. It won't heal the pain of Avril's icy glare, but Gwen doesn't want it to. That's something Kaguya needs to know about and remember, too.

        She'll just try her best to show Kaguya the spirit of that horizon.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Dean Stark with Medium - Starstruck Fool!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Kaguya with Medium - Starstruck Fool!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Hiro with Medium - Starstruck Fool!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Lemina Ausa with Medium - Starstruck Fool!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Medium - Starstruck Fool!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Medium - Starstruck Fool!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock heals Jacqueline Barber! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock heals Hiro! He gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock heals Dean Stark! He gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock heals Maya Schrodinger! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock heals Kaguya! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock heals Lemina Ausa! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade takes a solid hit from Maya Schrodinger's This is for you for 107 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade critically Guards a hit from Hiro's Battalion Sword! for 35 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Janus Cascade takes a solid hit from Lemina Ausa's Freeze Claw for 236 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Janus Cascade!
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

Gwen's unasked questions go unanswered. Catenna's calm, however... Gets a scowl from Kaguya. "Why!?" she asks. "Why bother dying for a bunch of useless things!? Do you think Filgaia needs them!?"

Catenna, bloodied, talks about the path she has chosen. ...The Guardians, they are not saviors. "Tch," Kaguya answers, looking only sidelong at Catenna's pain, for some reason. "...Then what good are they? Why follow them like you do?" Hiro's question seems to strike the same chord for her. "The Guardians aren't people! Why should I treat them like that!? They ask people to follow them so they should deliver!"

Catenna tries to heal herself, and Kaguya keeps scowling at her. "You really are, huh? ...But it's useless." Catenna's shout disturbs her all the same though; it's clear, with the strange way she looks at her, uncomprehending. ..But Asteroid speaks up. Kaguya blinks at her, the logic seeming to at least penetrate her anger a little.

"...I guess," Kaguya answers, but then... the talk of everyone. Kaguya could answer that--but Asteroid talks instead about being Baskar, shows her tears, talks about what she believed, and--and... "I don't know why!" Kaguya calls back at her, anguished for a moment.

But when Asteroid is on the ground, from her attack, Kaguya shakes her head. "Not your fault--" The asteroids fly towards Kaguya in an instant, and Kaguya throws her arms up to defend herself. The first two asteroids, accordingly, explode on her armored forearms--and that drives her back. More come, and more, waves and waves as the words echo to her. It's different from an answer. ...It is an answer. Kaguya finds herself forced back until they stop, though. And then...

"Heh. You really believe that..." Kaguya says it softly. It is the last soft thing she says for a while, snapping at Dean instead, "Understanding isn't going to make me better, Dean!"

Dean... His words start to sink in a little, after Kaguya's rage abates long enough that she can think straight again. Her eyes widen as she looks at the blood, at the near death of him. She coughs, again, bloody still, wracking her whole body with pain. "You... You're too-"

Dean is so good that it gives Kaguya pause, for an instant. Avril's question sounds so reasonable, in that way. To find that justice..

Kaguya's anger abates enough that she can see her, too--but she cannot hear Jay's wonderings, her self-recriminations. "Dean--" Take her anger out.

But Avril is there, and the temperature plunges. Kaguya blinks, turns towards Avril as she sees the ice start, feels the ice start. She lifts to her feet. Kaguya stares, taking a step back, as she sees that malice. "...No," she answers the 'You'. "No. That's not possible." She's too high on adrenaline and painkillers for the fear that tries to take root to hold, but she sees that displeasure. How dare she...

"I warned him," Kaguya starts--and the spear hurls at her. Kaguya sets her jaw and darts to the side, avoiding the spear... Or at least, avoiding the obvious spear. One from beneath comes instead; the ice slips up her boots, holds her in place as a jagged piece of ice runs through her side, piercing her armor and coming out the other end with her eyes widened. "Wh--" She stutters, "But why would you be..."

Fire comes next. Hiro is here. he moves past, he strikes at her, and his plea is made as surely as his fire, which hits her on the arm as she moves to block it, sends flames darting down her person. The whine, all the while, is getting far worse. It's piercing now, painful to the ear, while Kaguya is bleeding freely from the new wound at her side, that may have hit something important. "Ha... haha..." She steps back again, coughs one more time. "Maybe..." She lifts a bloody hand, curls it into a fist, eyes the others. "I..."

BEEP BEEP BEEP.

From all around the statue, light picks up as the whine suddenly stops. Sickly, strange light, like that of the rising moon, rises from the ground--and intensifies, broader, as the red-lined box begins to shine... and then bursts. Columns of light erupt around the statue, and the first crack comes. ...Then the next, and the next, portions exploding and those close to it suffering the debris as well as the bomb's effects. Asteroid... Catenna... and Maya, those close enough, and the debris launches towards all the others, Kaguya included. She throws up her arms to shield her face, and then....

The small Veruni turns to look, dull-eyed, at her target, as Gwen's healing washes over her. She seems stunned... emotionally anyway. "...Maybe it did take my anger out..." Gwen first gets her attention. "You weirdo. You think you're gonna show me the light? ...Whatever this world deserves, it's dying anyway." There's no anger in her voice now though. She turns to look to the assembled others, a dead quality in her eyes that pairs with a laugh of triumph that lacks mirth. "...It took a while... for my weapon to activate, see..."

She straightens her shoulders, rolls her neck. She doesn't make an offensive move--but she doesn't relax, either. "...That machine was what was keeping the monsters at bay. These ruins will be crawling with them soon."

She pauses. "...I guess I'll tell you all later. If my revenge made me feel better."

GS: Kaguya has attacked Catenna with Moonbeam!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Moonbeam!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Moonbeam!
GS: Kaguya has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Collateral Damage!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Lemina Ausa with Collateral Damage!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Hiro with Collateral Damage!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Collateral Damage!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Collateral Damage!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Dean Stark with Collateral Damage!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Janus Cascade with Collateral Damage!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Kaguya with Collateral Damage!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Riesenlied with Collateral Damage!
GS: Lemina Ausa guards a hit from Kaguya's Collateral Damage for 54 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Kaguya's Collateral Damage for 106 hit points!
GS: Kaguya takes a solid hit from Kaguya's Collateral Damage for 82 hit points!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur takes a solid hit from Kaguya's Collateral Damage for 88 hit points!
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes a glancing hit from Kaguya's Collateral Damage for 43 hit points!
DC: 4 turns have elapsed in the battle against Kaguya! 1 turns remain!
GS: Maya Schrodinger takes a glancing hit from Kaguya's Moonbeam for 88 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Maya Schrodinger!
GS: Dean Stark guards a hit from Kaguya's Collateral Damage for 60 hit points!
GS: Dean Stark enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Janus Cascade guards a hit from Kaguya's Collateral Damage for 58 hit points!
GS: Hiro takes a solid hit from Kaguya's Collateral Damage for 86 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Kaguya's Moonbeam for 175 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Asteroid the Kid!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Kaguya's Collateral Damage for 49 hit points!
GS: Catenna takes a solid hit from Kaguya's Moonbeam for 194 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Catenna!
GS: Catenna has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

The Cascade Gang release their ultimate, true power...TEAMWORK!! And what do they get for it, well it turns out the answer is 'blown up.' Romero hisses, "Boss! Eight o'clock!" just before the ground turns to explosions; all three scatter, moving with grace across scattering debris that means the storm that crashes down strikes only echoes. Maya's (second) skirt full of explosives creates a huge blast wave that somewhat deletes the control of their departure. Romero and Dario both nimbly counter Hiro's rapid, furious attacks. Janus--

Isn't there to receive it, because Lemina just drove a ice claw directly through the floor via the medium of his chest. "WHOOF!" he coughs out. He lies there for a few minutes with what should probably be life-threatening injuries.

He shoves a Potion Berry in his mouth so he'll be fine, but he's still not really moving.

After a few seconds, instead of attack, he holds up a hand. "Hey, Green," he begins. "You gonna make your pl--"

                *BOMB*

"holy shit"

GS: Janus Cascade has completed his action.
GS: Kaguya has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        "Asteroid...!" Riesenlied whispers, her expression sinking as she bites her lip. People are falling apart, in front of her eyes. Asteroid isn't happy to be a Baskar, questions why she keeps fighting for them... nobody is happy.

        She thinks Kaguya knows that too, is perhaps the worst part.

        The pain of thinking what they could, collectively, achieve... and how so many factors get in their way... Riesenlied's expression drops further, face pale as she-- hears that bludgeoning crack from Kaguya, hurrying towards Dean's side as the Veruni lays a savage beating down upon him. "Stop-- Kaguya-- no!" For a moment, she's genuinely, genuinely terrified that Kaguya may have just -killed- the boy outright--

        ...nngh...

        --and as he groans, a pang of relief washes over her stomach... as does a pang of deep pain, as she feels her time coming to an end. She really shouldn't have been fighting... or even walking, depending on some people's assessment.

        "A-Avril, Dean is--"

        Her eyes shrink as she casts a look to what Avril has become, and she can't help but shy away. Something deeply cold has struck at her spine... it was as if her blood had just frozen, and her nerves had gone numb. "Avril...?"

        Avril charges onward, drawing that spear of ice and -piercing- through Kaguya's side. Her own eyes widen. "Kaguya!!"

        She doesn't get much respite, as the beep comes and echoes onto her ears. She doesn't need her rational mind to tell her that's bad-- and as she casts her eyes about, gasping--

        And those columns of light erupt through to the skies, shining defiantly as a piece of Lucadia's statue simply just-- -strikes- her, her barrier gone. The deep blue piece of rock, dimly ebbing with the power of the Guardian, fades away... and turns red as her blood coats over it.

        "A-aah... Kaguya... are you--"

        Her eyes are blurry as she stumbles forward. Her vision is unfocused... focusing again... she sees Kaguya. She limps towards her... and finally, at her side, she holds the younger woman in the battle armour, embracing her like a mother still would her daughter.

        At that moment, she releases the last of her power--

        Thousands upon thousands of errant particles fly free through the area, as she looses what feels like the last of her power. They coalesce and draw an outline around Kaguya's wound to mend it... and towards Dean too, who was the last person she worried consciously about. It's like an instinct at this point.

        "... are you... all right? I can't see you..."

        She droops her head. "Oh... I'm so... glad..."

        And then her head slumps against Kaguya's shoulder.

GS: Riesenlied has attacked Kaguya with Rising Heart - 'Seek the New World'!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Dean Stark with Rising Heart - 'Seek the New World'!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Riesenlied with Bleeding out...!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Bleeding out... for 57 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Riesenlied heals Dean Stark! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Even as Catenna heals away much of what should've been a fatal shot, it's clear that not even Lucadia's arcana will be enough. The worst of her burns lessen, but many still remain. Blood still oozes from countless burns and lacerations. She still sways on her feet, able to keep standing only through sheer strength of will.

For all that punishment... she has not moved from her spot.

A spot that suddenly feels much colder. Catenna stares in utter amazement as something happens to Avril Vent Fleur. Or is she Avril anymore?

It's just a distraction, though. She holds her arms out at her sides again, inhaling to steady herself, then letting it out.

"Because this is the world I love," she says, her voice low, but full of conviction. "And I do not need a savior, and would not ask for one... nor for reward. Only that my spirit become one with the world, and live beneath the light of the moon."

Perhaps, Catenna realizes, Kaguya will never understand that. But faith is pretty hard to explain.

Taking a slow step backward, Catenna keeps her arms held out. She waits for Kaguya to shoot her again. Everyone else lashes out at the Veruni girl; Catenna looks on with a simple, resigned sadness. So it must be.

* BEEP BEEP BEEP *

The whine in the room suddenly stops - and the red box begins to glow. Slowly, Catenna turns, to see the first ray of light rising up around the statue. And then she takes a step.

She holds out her right hand.

And throws herself into the explosion.

Catenna has, let's be honest, average upper body strength at best. Her polarity-reveral trick is designed to push something that is not rooted to the ground. What she is doing is probably completely useless and will probably kill her for absolutely nothing.

I am prepared to die to protect it.

The force of the bomb hits her almost at point-blank range; only the fact that she's trying to propel everything in front of her away from her prevents her from being killed instantly. A sickeningly scattered vomit stream of debris and fire spews out from one side of the luminous explosion as it swallows up the priestess.

Some of it is rock debris. There is only so far that a wounded human, even a Shaman of Celesdue, can push a statue, or shield it with her body.

When the light passes, Catenna is lying on her side among the rubble. Several large chunks of rock are scattered around and on top of her. One of them has been driven through her stomach. Her left arm twists off in another direction partway along her forearm, revealing a flash of bone. There's shockingly little blood because anything bleeding has mostly been burned along with the rest of her.

While she's breathing, it's very thin and terrifyingly weak - the fading pulse of someone on the brink of death.

<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

There's no warning before it strikes, but that's okay. Maya's off-hand still grips the corner of the statue tightly as she hunkers behind it, the long-nose revolver in her other hand, held high. Barrel reaching for the sky, the Schrodinger girl is trying to still her breathing when a oddly familiar, magical warmth envelops her.

This feeling is...

Her eyes flutter briefly, as if threatening to shut. It's like being lulled to sleep by the distant warmth of the autumn sun.

        It's like the smell of a pie cooling in the kitchen,
                a warm bed prepared by loving hands,
                        a tender hug.

The pistol slumps to the ground briefly, Maya's shoulders ease for the first time since the firefight began, and her head slowly lifts upwards. Towards the Heavens.

Just like back then...

The stars glimmer beautifully in the skies. They remind her of her childhood. But she doesn't remember the gleaming so brightly--or growing like that.

Wait, no--that's not--

A high-pitched, keening beep is the only warning Maya has, but it's enough. It pulls her from whatever strange reverie the Guardians' power, and Gwen's warmth, had in mind for her. Her every sense screams at her to begone, to flee, lest a great danger befall her. Looking a lot more like someone out for a sunday stroll in her chic blouse and thin white skirt, the gunslinging girl hurls herself as far from the statue as she can, which means that when the bombs go off, she is only thrown bodily through a crumbling stone wall instead of being torn limb from limb.

It doesn't hurt nearly as much as it should. Vision and sense return to Maya mere moments after impact, and the silvery shards of the last of Riesenlied's force-shield boil away into nothingness. A final kindness for this miserable showdown from her not-so-secret boss. "Not yet..." she groans, casting the pistol away and sitting up, head still ringing from the force of the explosion. Rubble sloughs off of her clothes in a grainy stream. "Not like that...!"

                                     -*-

Maya charges through the swirling dust of the explosion's aftermath, clawing the smoke out of her face. One silhouette she saw on her trajectory out of there burned itself into her mind, and if she didn't make sure of things, well... for once, she wouldn't forgive herself. "Where are you...?" she growls to herself, kicking aside the rubble. The smell of residue is enough to make her sick, but another scent suggests she's found what she's looking for.

The smell of blood.

The Schrodinger girl drops to her knee, having spotted the greviously-wounded Catenna through the mists. The girl who leaned into the explosion. Giving her life for the Planet's, whether it'd succeed or not.

It leaves a lump in Maya's throat to think about.

"Come on, with me..." she tries to sound reassuring, even though she's not sure where to begin. Moving Catenna might hurt her, but leaving her here is just as much a death sentence. "I've got you, I've got you. Come on, come on..."

Maya's clothes are soon soaked in blood as, with a really surprising amount of physical clout for such a thing, she scoops Catenna into her arms and turns to bolt from the bomb site. Her mind races. Jacqueline is here. Riesenlied should still be up (she's not). People have magic. She just has to reach them.

"I'm not gonna leave you here to die, she'd never forgive me...!"

Ace bounty hunter Maya Schrodinger, stopping to rescue a stranger. Has she grown soft... or stronger?

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

        For a moment terror rules Avril's heart. Dean is struck down.

        And then everything
        changes.

        If she were asked afterwards what had happened, she would not be able to present an answer.
        Where this power came from.
        What she was trying to do.
        Anything, except the terrible chill fury of the moment.

        Right now, she does not stop.
        Cannot stop, anymore than a glacier might.

        "No. That's not possible."

        Briefly something -- acknowledgement? a question? -- lights in Avril's gaze.
        But as the advance of winter, she is implacable.

        "Yes. You warned him," she agrees, blue light clinging to her form as she takes another slow step forward. "You warned him that you would hurt him."

        She closes the gap between herself and Kaguya.

        "I will be kind, and grant you the same warning. Kaguya, I am now warning you--"

        The crack of her hand may well ring out in the cold dry air. There, winter's grasp riming her, she strikes the Veruni soldier across the face.

        Not once does her gaze relent.

        At least not until those seconds after Avril withdraws her hand and, still staring Kaguya down--

        Something detonates.

        As if surfacing from an icy lake, Avril thinks hazily as fire -- pain -- arc across the distance:

        Oh, that was the statue...

        Oh, she thinks as she rises from where she was flung, staring at what remains.

        Before she sights Dean and committed to a singleminded purpose once again runs to his side across the fractured plaza.

        "Dean--"

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Kaguya with Jardin de Givre!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied heals Kaguya! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Kaguya takes a glancing hit from Avril Vent Fleur's Jardin de Givre for 0 hit points!
DC: Avril Vent Fleur switches forms to The Amnesiac Girl!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Asteroid the Kid says, "Because someone has to do it!" to Kaguya. That's why she fights for the Guardians. That's why she has to be the Baskar. Certainly, it seems like in this moment, more people are fighting for the Guardians that they could ever hope for.

But before the threat of Mother, it was just the tribes scattered across Filgaia, the Zoa Priests, pushed outside of the cities and into the wildernesses. They who took the most thankless of jobs and raised their head up every day.

Even though Filgaia kept dying.

Even though it was pointless. In the end, did the Guardians turn to the Baskar, their loyal servants? Or did they turn to anybody, everybody, even people who wanted them dead. But they still did it.

Asteroid the Kid stands up just in time for an explosion to occur. It hits her in the face and shatters it. Silver sprays everywhere. Lucadia said her heart was big.

Honey, that just makes it a bigger target.

Each strike, Asteroid thinks, every time that stuff comes out, she gets more of that stuff. The more she loses the more she gains to compensate.

Asteroid the Kid struggles to stand up. each hit from Kaguya is like getting sucker punched by a golem, but she stands up anyway, that hideous rock head of his flaking away, the eye in her forehead bruised shut. Something's off about her left one too, it looks a little off color.

She's tired. The statue is gone. Did Lucadia know that would happen? Was this all about the choice, in the end, not the statue? She can't stand seeing Kaguya right now. She just wants Kaguya GONE. So she draws her portal pistols and she launches two portals. One goes for Kaguya's feet, the other leads.

Huh, where does the other lead? She didn't use the portal gun earlier did she? There's gotta be a max distance.

And then she stumbles over to Catenna. She channels Rigdobrite one last time to give her what healing she can before slumping over her friend's body.

Looks like the Rowdy Three is an inaccurate title for now.

GS: Asteroid the Kid has activated a Force Action!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Kaguya with Walk Into the Empty!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Kaguya takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Walk Into the Empty for 154 hit points!
GS: Poison, Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Kaguya!
GS: Asteroid the Kid used Mystic on Catenna! 0 Temporary HP gained! All statuses cleared!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

The sound intensifies...and then stops. Jacqueline feels a pit in the seat of her stomach...and then there's an explosion of great intensity. She quickly invokes a pillar to protect herself, but even from her distance the shockwave is still enough to knock her over.

When she gets to her feet, what she sees is...

"O-oh...oh, no..." Jacqueline murmurs, horrified. Riesenlied...Catenna...

Oh, Guardians, Catenna...

The look on Jacqueline's face as she stares at Kaguya, responsible for it all, is one of fear, and regret...and a hint of betrayal.

Jacqueline reaches up to her ruined pillar, trying to force herself up as she scrambles toward Catenna's ruined form. She slips once, colliding with the ground, but forces herself up yet again, her body shaking.

Fortunately, Maya comes through. Jacqueline can't make it all the way to her...but Maya does. Maya brings Catenna over to her and Jacqueline cradles her friend in her arms, tears streaming down her face.

"C-Catenna...Catenna, please, hold on...I'm here...d-don't leave me...not like this...!" Jacqueline whispers urgently, drawing a bottle from one of her bags that was still intact and applying it to Catenna as best she can. It's one of her strongest potions, used only in circumstances...

...Circumstances like this.

"Please..." She murmurs...

...But she's not alone. Asteroid is there, too...Asteroid, her probably feels more hurt about this than every one of them, using the last of her energy try and help Catenna as well.

...There's nothing more she could do. From here on, it was up to Catenna whether or not she would pull through. The only thing Jacqueline can do now is sob quietly, and hope...

She was supposed to be the Caravan Kinship's leader...she was supposed to be the one who would prevent this sort of thing from happening...

<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

Riesenlied is right in that: Kaguya, too, can see the misery this night is wreaking on the people she's come to know, and some she hasn't. ...Just as she can hear Janus's question to him, his reaction that brings a little amused breath out of her. It worked, all right. And it's nice, to be praised for a plan. For a move.

...But less nice is the knowledge that she almost killed someone she likes in a fit of rage. She heard Riesenlied's fear, all right. In that... and from her own wound. But something curious happened in those moments. ...In the moments before the explosion.

Avril, glowing with blue light. Avril, who speaks of warning. She is implacable, and she is here, regardless of impossibility. "You--"

Kaguya's slapped. ...As powerful as she is, a slap isn't going to move her much... But her face turns to the side as a result, the skin there stinging painfully on her cheek. It's possible that she deserved that one. Kaguya's lips are tight before she starts to look forward again.

...But now, after the explosion, Kaguya cannot see Catenna among all the glare. SHe saw her rushing the statue, and she wonders if she really did give her life for these Guardians. But Riesenlied comes to her, and her power draws into her wound. "...Mom..." She starts, "I'm--fine," she lies, and starts to say something else. But Asteroid told her--someone has to do it. Now Kaguya turns towards Asteroid, holding Riesenlied--and when she sees the portals, she shoves Riesenlied. "Asteroi--"

Jay's look of hurt, betrayal, fear... regret. It lingers in Kaguya's mind. But Kaguya does not linger here.

She slips into the portal, and is gone. All her hidden technology, the shrapnel of her bomb, remains. ...But the young Veruni is gone.

As gone as the statue.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

There is no resistance when Maya hoists Catenna into her arms. The woman's limbs dangle all but lifelessly in the Schrodinger girl's grip. There's absolutely no resistance as she's laid across Jacqueline's arms as well.

Asteroid the Kid - one of the remaining of the Rowdy Three - helps. The power of the stars does its work, however little juice Lydia has left. Catenna stirs faintly in Maya's grip as some of her injuries begin to mend.

Unlike Asteroid's arm, Catenna's is abundantly healable. The spell affects that most: Her arm twitches and tenses, then relaxes as her forearm straightens out. The injury's still there, but at least the actual break itself is dealt with. The chunk of stone buried in her stomach begins to push outward before dropping to the ground as knitting muscles simply displace it.

Jacqueline Barber's skills as an apothecary prove up to the task of saving a life. Catenna can't even begin to drink; the substance drips over her instead, wherever Jay applies it. Horrific burns, still lingering even with the touch of the Star Guardian's magic, give way beneath it; the potion foams with a soft, healing froth as it drips over grievous injuries.

A young, wounded leader sobs her plea.

Beneath Maya and Jacqueline, Catenna's chest rises a little - and with an unconscious parting of her lips, she draws in a shuddering breath - and lets it out more steadily.

The priestess is still unconscious, lost in a haze of ever-decreasing pain, and still wounded. But alive.

But alive.

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        When Dean cracks his eyelids open, the first person he sees is Riese, fretting over him. He smiles a little to see it. She feels a lot like Ida in this moment... he feels so sorry for Ida that she can't see that. The two of them would be such good friends if she could just let go of her jealousy, he's sure. "Th-thanks," he croaks. "I'll be--I'll be okay--you just... take care of yourself, Riese--"
        
        'Understanding isn't going to make me better!' Kaguya snaps. Dean nods his head, on his feet by now, and nearly falls over from how badly he wobbles. "No," he agrees, "but neither--is revenge, and... at least this way... you won't... be alone." And he buckles, and vomits blood, and...
        
        And Avril changes.
        
        He's seen this change before, once, when Janus nearly got him and Avril killed in the Den of Miasma. Dean doesn't understand it any better now than he did back then, save that it's like she's become a different person entirely. His blue eyes widen as he sees Avril take on a regal self-assurance, unleash ice upon Kaguya-- "A-Avril, wait!" he calls, but he breaks into another bloody coughing fit before he can say anything.
        
        Fortunately, Gwen then summons Rigdobrite to unleash healing sparklies, and that gets Dean to at least stop feeling so wobbly and be able to stand up straight. He's in tremendous pain, but it's better than it could be. He looks back at Kaguya, sees the way her anger starts to ebb, and opens his mouth--
        
        And then the Statue explodes. Columns of light, bursting, exploding, rampaging--Catenna literally throws herself upon it, and Dean distantly hears himself scream to see her, thinking for a moment that she's dead--an then, as suddenly as it began, it's over. He staggers again in the wake of the concussive force, though he doesn't fall thanks to using his combat rods as supposed. "K-Kaguya...!" he shouts. But then Riesenlied's stumbling over to her in wake of Avril cracking a hand across Kaguya's face, and Riese collapses, sending motes of her body not just over Kaguya but to him, too, knitting together wounds, easing pain...
        
        Jay hurries to Catenna's side, Asteroid banishes Kaguya with her portal guns and pours more healing over Catenna, and Avril returns to her senses. "Avril!" he shouts, still soaked in his own blood but now put-together enough to hurry over to her, meeting her halfway across the plaza. "It's okay, it's okay, I'm okay--" He looks back over towards the spot where the Statue once stood. Kaguya said that this place would be teeming with monsters, soon. "Everybody, we've gotta get outta here," he calls to the others, voice shaking a little. "Let's get somewhere safe and heal up...!"
        
        He will, of course, do his part by helping move anyone that needs it, like Asteroid or Catenna. Asteroid looks to be in almost as bad shape as Catenna, after all, with all the wounds on her head and the silver blood pouring out.
        
        With the Statue destroyed, there's no reason to keep fighting. Dean's top priority now is making sure everyone gets out and survives.

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
It all goes to hell far too quickly. Kaguya is bleeding, and he doesn't follow up on the attack. He let's her step back. Coughing and bloody. He remembers the times they went into the ruins together. He doesn't say anything more in these moments.
 
But he'd give a lot for her to just turn out to be okay. To say his name wrong again.
 
But then he looks up as he hears the beeping. His expression can best be described as 'Oh shi-' Lifted up and carries across the room by the explosion of the statue, he hits the wall hard with a clatter - blacking out for a moment. Which is when Gwen's Medium fueled healing catches hold of him. In the wake of the explosion he can't hear much, but Gwen's words feel like they're repeating to him.
 
"...kind..." He echoes.
 
For a while it's all he can do to sit there as he watches Janus getting up from being impaled. As Riese collapses against Kaguya. As he spies Catenna laying in the rubble, barely alive. And Dean not much better off. As Ace Bounty Hunter Maya stops to rescue her and Jay pours her efforts.
 
And an Ice Queen strikes Kaguya with winter's frost.
 
It'd be easy for him to make the mistake that the world has gone mad - or that it was an instrinsic quality that it always was.
 
But there's more than enough kindness here.
 
He's not messed up too badly, thanks to the immediate application of healing, so after a while he pulls himself up to his feet so everyone can devote their resources where it counts. He's not a healer but he's gonna get off his butt at least to help everyone out of here as Dean tries to organize the evacuation... he just needs a minute.
 
Ruby who hid herself when the firefight just started because she thought maybe Janus was the type of guy who might shoot pink dragons just because - finally emerges atop a fallen pillar. Her eyes first look upon each of the fallen in particular. When it looks like they're probably gonna be okay, she clears her throat and-
 
"So the moral of the story here is revenge always gets ugly..." Then she looks Gwen's way in particular, "... and Gwen your childhood friends suck more than anyone has ever sucked!"
 

<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

Revenge won't either. Kaguya, for an instant, looked towards Dean's eyes at that. Just an instant. But as for one thing...

Riesenlied is right in that: Kaguya, too, can see the misery this night is wreaking on the people she's come to know, and some she hasn't. ...Just as she can hear Janus's question to him, his reaction that brings a little amused breath out of her. It worked, all right. And it's nice, to be praised for a plan. For a move.

...But less nice is the knowledge that she almost killed someone she likes in a fit of rage. She heard Riesenlied's fear, all right. In that... and from her own wound. But something curious happened in those moments. ...In the moments before the explosion.

Avril, glowing with blue light. Avril, who speaks of warning. She is implacable, and she is here, regardless of impossibility. "You--"

Kaguya's slapped. ...As powerful as she is, a slap isn't going to move her much... But her face turns to the side as a result, the skin there stinging painfully on her cheek. It's possible that she deserved that one. Kaguya's lips are tight before she starts to look forward again.

...But now, after the explosion, Kaguya cannot see Catenna among all the glare. SHe saw her rushing the statue, and she wonders if she really did give her life for these Guardians. But Riesenlied comes to her, and her power draws into her wound. "...Mom..." She starts, "I'm--fine," she lies, and starts to say something else. But Asteroid told her--someone has to do it. Now Kaguya turns towards Asteroid, holding Riesenlied--and when she sees the portals, she shoves Riesenlied. "Asteroi--"

Jay's look of hurt, betrayal, fear... regret. It lingers in Kaguya's mind. But Kaguya does not linger here.

She slips into the portal, and is gone. All her hidden technology, the shrapnel of her bomb, remains. ...But the young Veruni is gone, before Ruby comes out from hiding. Wherever she is, her answer to the charges given her--the kindness given her--is not to be heard today.

But she's spoken loud enough for now.

<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

The healing light of Rigdobrite reaches Lemina as she pulls away from Janus -- and not a moment too soon, because it's still coursing through her as the collateral damage of the statue's destruction rains down on her. She winces... but once her footing's stable and the energy of Rigdobrite subsides, Lemina honestly feels...

... it's hard to call this feeling okay. Physically she's fine, certainly -- but... she just watched something happen for which there's no real easy answer. Is it right for Kaguya to be upset? To lash out like this? Does the threat of Mother change either of those answers?

... Lemina has no answer for this question, herself, and thus decides to pretend like she's more injured than she is, lying next to a fallen pillar and just... trying to get past the moment, because the moment is miserable.

<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

Maya looks very little like a dynamic, rocket-shooting Drifter who pals around with traitorous Metal Demons and heathens from another planet, without the rest of her ensemble. She also looks a sight with Catenna's blood all over her, a mottled mosaic of scarlet blooming across white silks. Her mind is a whirl of uncertainties, and she certainly feels powerless, but--

--as Jay, as Asteroid, and others show, as they sprint to the blonde scion's side as quickly as she ran from the site of the explosion, their many talents and magics lassoing the comatose Catenna back from the precipice of death, you don't have to do everything yourself.

"It's--it's okay." Her voice is missing it's usual firmness, but she finds her feet quickly. Jacqueline weeps openly, taking the frail girl from Maya's arms to hold in her own. "She's okay now," Maya tries to soothe Jay, Asteroid (who she has no right to, having stole her best friend and confidant away from her), suddenly feeling her age. Not like the teenage dynamo she pretends to be.

Nothing is okay. The statue lies in rubble. Young lives are torn further apart. Hearts are broken. A madman with a high-powered weapon is assisting Aliens and Alien Gods in Filgaia's destruction.

"It's okay," Maya's hand rests in the small of Jacqueline's back.

It doesn't mean you don't try.

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied kind of just-- flies, as Kaguya shoves her in an urgent manner out of the way. She thuds on one side and rolls to the other, her arms and legs useless where she's just about entirely switched off at the moment... and the fragment of Lucadia's statue seems to have aggravated that prior wound that's now somewhat saturated her dress.

        She breathes, but she won't be awake anytime soon...