2018-09-02: Tiamat's Wrath

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=========================<* Adlehyde - Town Center *>=========================

The centre of Adlehyde marks the intersection between the east-west and north-south roads that carve the city into near-quarters. The large shops packed around the city's main thoroughfares have largely been smashed down. Burnt, blackened shells mark where these great businesses used to say -- and few can say if all of them will ever reopen.

The intersection between the two roads is actually a large circle nearly a quarter-mile across, allowing wagons and other traffic to move with a minimum of collisions and profanity both. This area used to be clogged with carts and stalls, but it is now clogged with tents and ramshackle construction to make up for the destruction of many homes throughout the city. Altruists of all stripes, including Althena's Guard, have set-up makeshift soup kitchens to feed the many newly homeless.

The buildings throughout the rest of Adlehyde are built of stone and tile roofs, which are sometimes smashed and damaged, but still standing. Even now, repairs to broken roofs and walls are underway. As one moves away from the major routes toward the walls, however, they can see that the poorer and seedier enclaves have often been damaged far worse. Unsafe, unsound wooden buildings are a threat to their occupants and the street from collapse. The streets themselves are often lined with pockmarked burns and craters.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MQRL7xws7w
DC: Ida Everstead-Rey switches forms to Martial Artist Ida!
DC: Talise Gianfair switches forms to Alexander!
DC: Talise Gianfair switches forms to Alexander!
DC: Talise Gianfair switches forms to Bladesinger Talise!
DC: Dean Stark switches forms to The Daring Boy!
DC: Lily Keil switches forms to The Traitor Witch!
DC: Elhaym van Houten switches forms to Gebler Deserter Elly!
DC: Josephine Lovelace switches forms to The Dedicated Archaeologist!
DC: Claude C. Kenny switches forms to Red Shirt Claude!
DC: Noeline switches forms to The Fereshte Chevalier!
DC: Elvis switches forms to THE PROFESSOR!
DC: Alhazred switches forms to Quarter Knight Alhazred!
DC: Siegfried switches forms to Quarter Knight!
<Pose Tracker> Siegfried has posed.

Adlehyde is under siege.

With over a year to prepare fortifications, an alliance between Althena's Guard and the rebuilding Adlehyde Army have made preparations that show that the once-peaceful kingdom has prepared for the day it hoped would never come: the return of the Metal Demons.

The city has walls that have been rebuilt, with cannon atop them. An aversion to ARMs has ultimately been tempered by necessity, and some are rather complex, gunsmoke-styled howitzers. Guardsmen, both of Althena and otherwise, are manning the walls against a tide. The outside of the city, with a grassy plain that looks so arid comparedto Lunar, is filled with Metal Beasts and lower-ranking Metal Demons. They cluster around Metal Beasts designed to be living artillery pieces.

A shot slams into the wall, sending stones flying. Siegfried, standing at the rear, scowls. The armored knight looks much the same as he did on the day that they all left -- repaired, with his armor intact, and a dark blue cape that swirls out past him. His eyes look up, reflecting red. "Again!"

And a cannon fires again.

The artillery shot slams into the gates into the city. Wood splinters; stone shatters and breaks; and the gates, finally, come crashing down. Cries of dismay come up from the battlements, and a hurried fire of arrows and shots from gunsmoke rifles rains down. Hound-like Metal Beasts trip and fall, as a cry comes up from the Hyadean host.

Siegfried holds Glumzambor aloft, the massive Dark Spear glinting in the too-bright Filgaian sun. "CHARGE FORTH!" the Quarter Knight roars. "And bring them all low!"

He runs, then, and leaps. In a flutter of cape and a clatter of armor, the Quarter Knight lands at the head of his army, and then runs. And then, he slows. A brilliant golden light flashes in the middle of the city. It shines outward, rolling through the whole of the city. There is a splash of water here. Then, a person appears; a trembling woman, wearing the homespun of an Azado resident. Another flash and another; a bedraggled Guardsman of Althena appears, wide eyed, and then a Drifter with a ten-gallon hat, who turns. She looks at the Metal Demon army running right at her.

She blinks, then pulls out a pistol, and blows out the faceplate of a charging Metal Demon with her shot.

Siegfried's feet slow, as a mass of people begin to appear between his army, and his goal.

That goal is behind them, in the center of Adlehyde's town square: a large statue, showing a trio of Adlehyde royals. However, they stand upon a stylized castle; it has arms and legs, oddly. Once, it seemed a strange choice. Now, however, after months gone by, the answer may be obvious:

The Guardian Statue of Zeldukes, the Castle Guardian.

<Pose Tracker> Alhazred has posed.

 Alhazred has not been idle.
 
 Nor has he been particularly busy - with a good number of his more interesting subjects having vanished during the spatial dislocation incident that had occurred some months ago, he had been left to tinker with what projects that remained available to them. One of those was showing considerable progress, and testing was proceeding well on other countermeasures that he wished to deploy in the near future.
 
 But the destruction of another statue was well worth the effort. Another opportunity to continue to prepare the way for the triumph of the Metal Demons. And so Alhazred has accompanied the main battle force, moving along behind Siegfried at a more sedate pace.
 
 And then people begin to appear out of nowhere.
 
 "This is quite unexpected," the Quarter Knight muses after a moment as he takes in the phenomena. "I would wonder if there was some element working against us for another temporal displacement event to be occurring at such an inopportune moment." A mechanical insect flits around, carrying a device which the scientist consults for a moment before hitching his shoulders in a shrug. "Still, it merely means more humans upon whom I can conduct experiments. The phenotype appears distinct as well... something new and different."
 
 There is a distinctly pleased sound in Alhazred's voice as he observes the displaced humans from Azado.
 
 "Begin the test battery from step one - determine if this human sub-species still uses an iron based hemoglobin fluid for oxygen and nutrient transfer." There is a loud humming sound as several of the mechanical Esperanza take wing, forming up around the Quarter Knight
 
 "Adjunct Step A: Determine how much pain is required to make these humans scream."

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        AT THE STARFALL SALOON

        A nameless Metal Demon footsoldier gulps as he stares towards a Metal Demon-shaped patch on the wall where he got punted out the last time the Metal Demons invaded Adlehyde by a hypermuscular wuxia grandma who had enough of their sass. "Maybe," said footsoldier convinces himself. "Maybe it won't end the same way this time."

        He opens the kitchen door and steps inside.

        A second later, the patched wall needs another set of repairs, to the whinnying cry of: "NOT AGAAAAAAAAIINNnnn!!"

        Aunt Hilda grunts as her enormous muscles ripple from exertion, and then she turns back towards her stove. She takes an experimental sip of her stew. "Food's ready."

        She looks up to the Old Moon through her window. "Don't take too long, Lunata, Shalune."

        THE SQUARE

        The bright flash of light takes a sopping-wet Riesenlied, on her knees, towards fresh air. She instantly smells gunpowder, fire and blood. She sees Metal Beasts coming from around the corner, repelled by some of the other Drifters. Hears the roar of cannon fire. Her expression sinks, but she's not allowed to take stock of the situation--

        Because the fleeing citizenry are looking straight at her.

        "T-the Deceiver...? In our town-- right now?!"
        "She's with the others! She's come to attack us again!"
        "The Deceiver!!"

        Riesenlied's throat dries as what little hope she holds in her heart wicks away, so much like a candle in the dark. She reaches out for one of them to explain, "N-no, I'm not..." she gasps as a nearby townsfolk throws a rock at her, which strikes against one of her horns and causes it to droop. Tears well up in her eyes.
        "You're the worst! Never come here again!" shouts the man before he turns to run, fear evident in his eyes.
        "You are full of lies! How many have been sweet-talked to their doom because of you?!" shouts a nearby woman as she flees with her child.

        Riesenlied's shoulders slump, her breath wan as she hitches back a sob. A vise is very much pressuring her mind; anxiety starts to deeply set in, like tendrils picking away at the corners of her mind. An abscess of negativity and fear wells within.

        Then a familiar child turns the corner. He stares up at her. He's holding a red balloon.

        Her heart seizes when they pull up, as she watches the familiar sights of Adlehyde disappear into the growing mass of metal and violence, flames catching upon wood and paper where they can. People scream and flee in scattered formations, collapsing where fear overtakes their instinct of flight.

        That red balloon cascades up... and floats by her. Her eyes widen slowly. It drifts on by, unwilling to wait for her.

        "Get away from her, boy! Hurry, this way!" screams his fearful mother, scooping him up as he placidly stares. He's far enough away that Riesenlied can't hear him when he asks: "But she was nice to me...?" completely without understanding of the situation.

        Her breath hitches, fain with very little capacity for breath right now. "N-Noeline... someone, I... help, please..." Riesenlied reaches erratically. It feels awful and paradoxical for her, right now, to request help.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"Hey! Stop that!" comes a familiar voice as Lydia Seren, dripping wet for some reason. She runs towards Riesenlied. She's not about to let her adoptive mother get clobbered by rocks. "She didn't have any choice to come here, but now she's risking everything to help you!"

"Why would we trust the word of a metal demon?" A villager asks as they flee.

"I...what?" Lydia says.

She blinks a few times. "What?" A hand reaches up to the metal shards poking out from under her eyes. Perhaps to the people of Adelhyde, maybe Filgaia itself, it's a far more damning trait to have.

She looks down at her hands a moment then back to Riesenlied. "I'm taking Amber to the Fereshte. We're gonna try to get it out of town. I don't think the people here will wanna hitch a ride with us so...do your best, okay?" She gets a-running. She is in no condition to fight off a metal demon invasion any more than she already has to.

Lydia Seren has left the party

Fei Fong Wong has joined the party

Wait no. Did Fei join the party because almost immediately as he appears in Adelhyde, he is already charging for you know who (It's Siegfried, if you didn't know who). He can't believe it. He has the gall to attack Adelhyde a SECOND time after everything. Hasn't he hurt these people enough?

No, he thinks, and it'll never be enough until his heart is healed or he dies. And if he dies, it won't be the end. It'll never be the end and the bloodshed will never stop.

The glow is still lingering on him for a moment as he runs right for Siegfried, his true form only visible as the glow fades when he throws his fist for Siegfried's chin!

He left Filgaia punching Siegfried in the face and he returned to Filgaia punching Siegfried in the face.

"Siegfried!" He shouts. "Must you torment these people more?! We know what happened! We have met Lombardia! Every second you continue this campaign is a second you lose yourself."

GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Siegfried with Hagan!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Yarobeleedt has posed.

        Among those who reappear in the golden light is a waterlogged slug-serpent-worm thing who is sputtering and rasping and looking all sorts of awful. For a moment, it is unclear where the water ends and the rest of him begins. As the teleported water splashes outwards, what's left kind of answers that. Yarobeleedt has returned. (Boooooo!)
        When they last saw of him, he was a half-melted thing whose upper torso and arms were mostly intact. Now he's a three-quarters melted thing, with one arm significantly goopier than usual, and his torso armoring a soupy shifting mess of matter that just won't settle. He has problems lurching completely upright. His eyes, unfocused and gaze rolling around, come to a hard stop when he sees the silhouette of--
        "Load Ziekfriieeeeeed...!" Yarobeleedt squeals, either out of terror or relief or maybe some unique emotion to Metal Demons that can be confused for both. He crawls upright as he eyes the environs... Filgaia... Adlehyde...
        ...They don't know that he's failed to destroy the statues on Lunar yet... he's not up to speed on what's going on right here, right now, but he figures if he makes good on inflicting terror and death right here and now he could believably shift blame onto Malfi for everything...!
        "Fufufu... it is my chants," Yarobeleedt hisses, "to make things east~"
 
        MEANWHILE, WITH LANVAL
 
        Lanval appears, lying on the ground and looking disoriented. "Mmmph... hey, where are weee...?" This doesn't look like Lunar. Oh, hey, there's a lot of stuff on fire and collapsing and making a huge mess of things, which can mean only one thing.
        "...That'sh a lot of fire adeptsh..." He slurs. "...Huh. Ish thish the Blue Shtar? 'caushe a lot of people from 'em are fire adeptsh..." Now is not the time for innocent misunderstandings!!!
 
        MEANWHILE, WITH ETHIUS
 
        Ethius is wounded and exhausted, but some level of composure he should not be having remains. It takes him only a fraction of a second to recognize the sky and hear the familiar sounds of Metal Beasts. He fights back the aches in his muscles and the hunger in his gut to disappear into the melee like something he doesn't quite grasp the scope of rides on it. Like it's a huge scope. Even in the company of those who would have his back (but mostly just tolerate), a part of him moves separately like... he must?
 
        OKAY ENOUGH OF THOSE TWO
 
        Yarobeleedt slithers before a number of surprised soldiers, looking way less threatening but still utterly horrifying to behold because what the hell is he any more other than a blob with maybe a head and malformed weapon-arms attached? "Fufufu... surpriiiiisssse! That is a twisted ending by yoooouuuuurrrrs~"

<Pose Tracker> Tethelle Cirdian has posed.

Welcome back to Filgaia!

Wait, this isn't a happy welcome at all!

Tethelle had been trying to get back home for months, and when it actually happens, she is as surprised by the result when it actually happens, appearing out of a flash of light several moments after the first appearances.

Tethelle is wearing her Lunar gear, which is subtly different to what she'd been wearing on Filgaia, and she doesn't have her sword with her. She's not unarmed; she's picked up a short, heavy spear from somewhere, and she seems to know how to hold it, but it's very clearly not her favourite weapon. It's also already taken damage, as there are a couple chips out of the haft where she blocked something she probably shouldn't have with it.

She knows, almost immediately, that she is back on Filgaia; it just feels right to her. But she doesn't immediately recognize where she is, only that there are Metal Demons in it, and there are other people she knows appearing nearby.

Tethelle whistles, sharp and shrill, to draw attention - both from her compatriots that she knows were around and hopes are appearing not too far away, and to try to get the attention of one of the Metal Demons. She gets the attention of two of the dog-like Metal Beasts; when one charges her, she almost dances to the side, striking the Metal Beast in the flank with the spear as she twists and turns.

Now she knows where she is; her turn pointed her at the statue. "Hey!" she calls, again trying to draw the attention of her allies. Tethelle is seeing people she recognizes show up now, and she bares her teeth. Under better circumstances it might be a grin. "Form up! Defend the Princess and work together!" Where is she? She ought to be coming through right about now.

This is the kind of chaos where, honestly, Tethelle feels at home. She hates the Metal Demons. Fighting them again feels good, even if the situation is bad; she can read the battle well enough to tell that at a glance.

Tethelle raises her spear, looking for another target - and finds Siegfried. She doesn't even think twice before she hefts the heavy spear up and casts it at him, hard, to try to knock him aside from attacking someone else. It leaves her unarmed.

GS: Siegfried takes a solid hit from Fei Fong Wong's Hagan for 107 hit points!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has attacked Siegfried with Spear Hurl!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

"Charge into this!" someone shouts - and then, several Metal Beasts split apart at about waist height, dividing along a horizontal plane. They fall to the ground in halves.

A second later, someone drops to the dusty ground just beyond them. The silvery hum of Rastaban's passage through the air continues to vibrate subtly as Talise holds it out to her side at an angle.

Somewhere - maybe even in the depths of Azado, though she'd have had to stop and change into it - Talise picked up something she does not normally have. It's a set of streamlined plate armour, burnished to a silvery shine and worn over a green and white undertunic. There's no helmet or shield with it. She doesn't need them. Opening her eyes, the swordswoman sets her jaw and takes stock of the situation instantly. They're back on Filgaia. They're back in Adlehyde, in particular. There are Metal Demons. There's a Statue - a STATUE, she realizes.

And there's Siegfried yelling up there - and Tethelle whistling from over there. The stakes become immediately apparent.

Steel clatters but doesn't encumber Talise as she launches herself forward. She's got her sights set on Siegfried, hacking through Metal Beasts as she powers through the front of the Hyadean lines without fear.

"Hey, Siegfried!" she roars over the din of battle. Idiot that she is, she looks for all the world like she's going to charge him head-on. "Fight me, bastard!" She rears -

And then suddenly darts to the side, swings her sword away from her, and reaches behind her to bring her shotgun forward.

Backpedaling, Talise lunges out to flank Siegfried, opening up with a barrage of shotgun shells aimed to catch him by surprise!

GS: Talise Gianfair has attacked Siegfried with Flank Shot!
GS: Talise Gianfair has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

It had always been a desperate plan. The device was deep under water - deeper than she had anticipated. Her potion helped, but only so far. Jacqueline and her friends dove, and they strove, against all hope, to make it to that crystalline device.

...But it didn't feel like it was enough. She was running out of air, fast. But... it was...

right

THERE.

...It slides in as they all push together, and Jacqueline feels relief.

...But she can't hold her breath any longer. She tries, desperately, but it is not enough. She gasps, just as the room fills with light.

That familiar dry air that rushes in felt sweeter than any breath she had ever taken as she collapses to the warm ground, coughing and spluttering for air.

She lays there for a time before reaching out. Her hands grasp against metal. Her vehicle, their home - the Carakin. It came along with them. Very carefully she uses it to support herself as she rises to her feet.

"I-Is...everyone alright!? Is everyone...here!?" She calls out in between gasps, trying to get a headcount of her friends. She hastily reaches into the pouch where she had stored her glasses along with her Crests and puts them on...

...but the gasp elicited from her next is not one of relief, or another attempt for air. It was a gasp of shock and mounting horror as she realized where they where and what was happening. She says nothing. From Jacqueline, there comes only a stunned, terrified silence.

They had returned to Filgaia to view a scene from one of her recurring nightmares. Adlehyde burns once more - demons filtered into the walls. Her home, the place closest to her heart... It had been difficult enough the first time, when she felt responsible for what happened, but to be forced to face this once more - in reality, and not as a dream...

Jacqueline almost trips as she stumbles forward, away from the vehicle. Her eyes dart back and forth, struck silent as she tries to come to terms with what she's seeing. But eventually...

"...T-take the Carakin. Get as many people as you can find, and...and get them out of here." She orders, taking a step forward. A step forward toward the carnage.

"I...I have to protect it. I have to protect them. I can't let this happen...!" She knew what they were after. The statue that Lunata cared so much about, spent so much time with. And...the people she cared about.

And then, she runs.

"Don't think I'll just let you!" She shouts, with a gesture with her right hand. Stone and debris is ripped from the ground before being sent violently toward Alhazred, who seemed to have some degree of authority.

Usually, Jacqueline cast her spells with focus and control...but this time, there's much more power and aggression than some might expect from her.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Alhazred with Rubble-Rouser!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Siegfried guards a hit from Tethelle Cirdian's Spear Hurl for 54 hit points!
GS: Alhazred guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Rubble-Rouser for 61 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
Elly opens her eyes to see a town on fire.

Oh no, she thinks. Not again!

Her head turns then as she takes it all in. There are a couple of seconds, the dizzying shift - the subtle difference in air pressure and gravity between Lunar, the fact that there is a war on with all its clamor and smell - everything - throwing her for a few seconds. Fei snaps to more easily.

See? By the time Elly is looking towards him, Fei is already moving to punch Siegfried. It's like we never left, Elly thinks, smoothing out her skirt even if her hair remains unbraided and untugged. Talise is moving to flank him and so Elly presses her palm to her forehead...

Before sweeping upwards. Three streaking fireballs arc upwards and then plunge down from above, aiming to fence Siegfried in! None of them go for direct center-mass impacts. Trickery, perhaps.

"Tell them to stop their attack," Elly calls forwards. "Enough people have been hurt!" She also shifts, looking swiftly for Cecilia. She's not running in - perhaps her purpose here is to protect the princess.

IN THE DISTANCE: EMMA HETFIELD pwips into appearance too. Looking around, she says, "Goodness gracious. Lunata, we're going underground. There are places... below." Soon enough she's sauntering into a basement entrance. This will probably be fine.

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Siegfried with Etrenank Elegy!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        WHITE KNIGHT LEO

        Space tears and warps at the far end of the battlefield, depositing a quarter of bedraggled Guards onto the grass. At their head is a big Beastman in a ragged white uniform, a tattered red cloak clinging to his sodden back. Leo is exhausted. He is drained in ways he didn't know he could be drained. He just witnessed a monstrous being--a natural disaster in the form of a behemoth--lay waste to the city his sister calls home. He's seen dozens of people die, his own troops among them. As the light took him, he wanted nothing more than a moment of peace.

        It's not happening. Leo recognizes the rebuilt castle walls of Adlehyde immediately, and watches as several Demons take notice of him, and aim ARMs at him. His lips pull back from his teeth in a snarl, baring fangs. He stomps a foot into the ground, and the earth rises up before him, forming a solid wall of rock as bolts of energy fly at his people.

        If he must fight further, then he will. He will fight until he has nothing left. This is his duty.

        IDA EVERSTEAD-REY

        A spatial distortion opens at the foot of the wall, encircled by sorcerous Elw runes. There's a flash of light, and a haggard, weary young woman lands on the ground. It's Ida. To those who haven't seen hear since Lost July, she looks even worse--not quite emaciated, but she's still recovering from weeks of neglecting her own needs. Her plain linen clothes are soaked through, clinging to her frame. Leather boots squelch unpleasantly around her feet. A grey traveler's cloak is draped over her form, and over that, her hair has been tied back in a loose ponytail. Ida looks up at the advancing Metal Demon army, and her eyes go wide. The color drains from her face. She wonders, for a moment, if Luisa Rey ever had to put up with this nonsense, or if people didn't get hauled around like a rich man's trunks a thousand years ago.

        "Claude?!" Ida cries. She can't see him in the chaos. A cannon roars behind her, on the Adlehyde walls. "RUDY?! GARRETT?! BEAST?!" No time. Keep an eye out for them. Right now, assess the situation, oversee the evacuation of noncombatants, determine priority enemy targets. Fortunately, Ida already knows who to look for. She spots Siefried immediately, her stomach twisting as she remembers the last time she ran into him. The figure next to him, though... Ida's heard things about him. Kalve told her things about the Quarter Knight in charge of the division he works for.

        And even if she didn't, the words 'test battery', 'phenotype appears distinct', and 'step one' would be ominous enough in this context, without 'make these humans scream.'

        Ida sucks in a breath, and forces herself to move. Chi surges through her body, forcibly reinvigorating exhausted muscles. She's off like a shot, surging through the ranks of the Demons and Beasts encircling the Quarter Knights. She springs into the air, hops off the back of a lupine Metal Beast, and drives an open palm directly at the massive, robed figure. "HYA!" Ida roars.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Alhazred with Open Palm!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Siegfried guards a hit from Talise Gianfair's Flank Shot for 57 hit points!
GS: Alhazred critically Guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Open Palm for 22 hit points!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Elvis has posed.

A bright light is the last thing Elvis recalls besides an imperious, female voice. The depths of that waterworks system spanned much farther than calculated, as if the current one may be been built atop another. When everything becomes clear... he sees sights that are much more recognizeable.

"What?!" the Sentinel exclaims, looking about the area, having appeared in some sort of terrible time at a terrible place. But this place wasn't just any place. It was a Human settlement with common architecture.

On Filgaia.

"Where is happening?!" the Veruni calls out toward what is obviously a Metal Demon invading force. He quickly leaps his way over that direction, to try and get a bearing. Here is hoping that 'alliance' still stood in his obsence. THe Veruni were so fickle with their temporary allies. However, others have appeared that oppose them. "So that is how it is, huh? I think I get home, and I have to fight again?"

He was still torn up badly from the last fight with whatever the heck that was. Maybe he can try and figure out what it is later. For now, a Human city must fall. He has an idea what may get Metal Demons riled up. Those statues. They involed their matron.

"Fine." He pivots in place, and even with his wounds from before, he looks like he could still put up one hell of a fight. "Bring it ON!"

He will get home. HE WILL GET HOME.

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

For the third time in a year and a half, Claude C. Kenny finds himself subjected to a surprise interplanetary teleport; enough that he's getting used to this as a mdoe of transport by now. This says a great deal about his life choices.

Fortunately for Claude, this time his tricorder gave him an audible warning just before the device beneath Azado activated, giving him enough time to steel himself in advance of the sideways-turning-inside-out sensation of a spatial distortion. He thus emerges from the teleport in full possession of his mental faculties, such as they are, allowing him to perceive certain facts immediately.

First, he's on Filgaia again. By the fact that everything is wrecked and burning, he assumes Adlehyde.

Second, he's about twenty feet in the air - which is a lot better than twenty miles would be.

Third, his contact-lens HUD is lighting up with a hell of a lot of contact reports, as more Hyadean life signs than he can count are suddenly outlined in red.

And fourth, he can see someone he knows - i.e. Tethelle - throwing a spear at Siegfried. Which is really sort of dumb, when you think about it. Claude sucks in a breath and shouts her name, channeling a voice trained to cut across battlefields if need be. "TETHELLE!" he roars, then draws one of the two swords - this, a single-edged cavalry sabre - scabbarded at his hip. "DON'T CATCH!" Claude releases the weapon, turns in a tight circle, and kicks the pommel. This ignites the ruby embedded in the stone, causing the sword to catch fire. I also sends the blade streaking down a dozen feet or so to embed itself in the stones about a yard or so to Tethelle's left.

This leaves Claude enough time to tuck his feet and land on this soft-looking pile of mush in front of a bunch of soldiers... a very strange pile of mush, which is outlined in red like the Metal Demons are. How strange.

<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

Tess has landed from nearly drowning in the desert land again, clad only in her shorts and undershirt with a waterproof duffle containing everything else. Things are going to hell again, she mutters something, as she moves to get up and go for her ARMl she has only time to get the Dead Man's ARM out of her duffle, close it and sling the bag over her back. She also looks like she's been swimming. She's got her rifle at the ready looking at the metal demon for a moment.

 "My song's not ending here, not yet."

 Is all she's got to say to Yarobeleedt. The ARM is levelled at the Metal Demon.

 "You heard Jay! Go! I'll help cover you."

 As for the metal demon he gets shot at. She may never see her home again but like hell she'll let either world in this system fall to the likes of the demons so long as she's alive.

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        LUNATA CROZE

        Lunata was last seen stuck in a pile of laundry when the Carakin teleported with them towards Filgaia. There's a jostle and a line of light--

        Wake up!

        --and the sudden surge of Ge Ramtos' connection with her is just about positively toxic, a reminder of a virulent contract that has seen her lose her life and chained into a wicked undeath that will run her out of time.

        There's a growl as she hears Jay calling to get the Carakin out of there.

        She hears Emma calling her to get to safety underground, but she says, "Sorry, mom, I just... I need to do this."

        Lunata slides onto the driver's seat and pulls on the gearbox. Her eyes narrow.

        OUTSIDE

        The Carakin does a sick jump off a nearby ramp, squishing a nearby Metal Beast on its way down as it does an endo out the Adlehyde gates.

GS: Tesni Inoue has attacked Yarobeleedt with Rapid Fire!
GS: Tesni Inoue has completed her action.
GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Yarobeleedt with head Stomp No Jutsu!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        All is light. As Dean sits with Lily, Dog, and Penelope, his freeze ray having at least blocked the debris out of the way of the swimmers even if he can't swim down along with them, the teleportation device is activated, and a familiar white light floods everything. His last thought before his entire existence blurs is concern and hope that he'll see Avril and Rebecca again, as he promised.
        
        When his existence pops back together, his feet settle on Adlehydian grounds, his hair falls around his face, and he opens his eyes.
        
        To see an army of Metal Demons.
        
        "Wait, what?" he utters, as taken aback by them as they probably are by the sudden influx of people from nowhere. Jay, nearby, appears, coughing and spluttering, and Dean holds a hand out to her. "I think we're all showing up one by one! But we're not out of trouble yet," he says grimly, glaring at the attacking Demons. Riese isn't far away, and a lot of humans are treating her the same as the attackers. "You're wrong! She's here to help, she's not with the others!" he calls to the woman scooping up her son and running away. But they're not listening, and maybe one can't blame them, given the circumstances.
        
        Jay gives her orders to her friends. Dean, meanwhile, focuses over on a Metal Demon who's not only *not* perturbed, but seems quite eager to see the incoming humans. Enough so that, after a bunch of technobabble he doesn't understand, he declares he wants to find out what it takes to make them scream.
        
        "WHAT?! There's no way I'll let you do that!!" he shouts over at Alhazred, Twin Fenrir flashing into his hands. "I don't know what's going on here, but if you're out to hurt people, then I'm gonna stop you!!" And with that, Dean charges at the mad scientist, the far-too-advanced ARMs in his hands flashing as their combat rods lash out and around, heating up to intense levels before they strike in on Hyadean 'flesh'--intense enough to perhaps leave some nasty burns for a while.

GS: Dean Stark has spent 1 Combo on Poison, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Dean Stark has attacked Alhazred with Burning Booster!
GS: Dean Stark has completed his action.
GS: Siegfried takes a solid hit from Elhaym van Houten's Etrenank Elegy for 115 hit points!
GS: Yarobeleedt takes a solid hit from Claude C. Kenny's head Stomp No Jutsu for 125 hit points!
GS: Yarobeleedt takes a solid hit from Tesni Inoue's Rapid Fire for 108 hit points!
GS: Alhazred critically Guards a hit from Dean Stark's Burning Booster for 23 hit points!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Dean Stark has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

... Home. But not home, and certainly not as you knew it.

Matilda appears, damp, in Adlehyde; she's... almost scared, to be home. She feels like she changed so much, on Lunar... can she be the same person again, even? *Should* she be?

There's no time for those kinds of abstract questions, anyway. She appears amid the golden light, and... distressingly, within earshot of Alhazred... but more importantly, within earshot of *Jay*. Without hesitation, she reaches for the bright silver blade she acquired on Lunar, taking a deep breath.

"Jay," Matilda says, softly. "I'm with you. ... Let's do this." While she's started to come around on Hyadeans, in no small part thanks to Riesenlied... an enemy is still an enemy. And unfortunately, it seems as though the same tragedies will repeat themselves until someone strong enough stops them.

Swallowing hard, Matilda starts to move toward 'Lord' Alhazred. She's down much of her defensive equipment -- her shield gone, her armor destroyed -- so she's going to have to fight *very* defensively if she intends to stay safe.

She uses Dean's advance to cover her own, darting up toward Alhazred with her blade; she ducks low, going for a quick, low-intensity slash that she then backs off from hastily, giving herself the space to react as well as the chance to find better footing amid the rubble.

GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Alhazred with Tilling!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Brilliant, golden light encompasses everything--

Lily Keil appears amidst the others, suddenly present with a black dog beside her and a pigeon nearby--pale, drawn, but unmistakbly wearing military attire in the style (though without insignia) of Kislev. She looks around in surprise, hearing gunfire, hearing shouts--

...And seeing the familiar look of Adlehyde with demons crashing towards them--

The Statue. ...The battle. Lily can't feel everything around her, painkillers setting in, pain still clear--

...But at least this is familiar. At least this makes sense. Lily draws in a breath, and looks to the coming army, to a very, very large man turning to face them, calling to them--clearly, an enemy. Lily's single golden eye moves up and down him, considering--

What Elvis will see is a woman in black, an open military jacket over a tanktop and black pants tucked into boots; she doesn't look well. She's bandaged heavily about her head, one eye totally covered. ...And she's pulling a very large pistol from her jacket. "...Josie," she says, as a woman appears beside her. "Looks like you're going to have to wait a little longer to yell at me."

"Consider this a warning shot," Lily calls to Elvis, and fires one bullet center mass. She could probably wait, she could try to talk things out...

But this is war.

Dog barks beside her once, moving ahead of her protectively. Her eye is sharp.

"Cover me," she says. "I'm going in."

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Elvis with Lead Whisper!
GS: Lily Keil has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

        One moment in the sewers finishing tending to injuried she'd come across, then in the middle of a plaza. The pint-sized red-haired elf blinks in surprise, her scuffed clothes making a jingle as she sudden rises up looking around leaving her backpack on the ground. Chime turns, quickly trying to discern her locationg before smiling brightly.

        "Another unexpected sight~ Such nice tales in the forming." she murmurs outloud before a red ballon floats by and she glances the way it came. A familiar face, and horns, and she looks in bad shape. The reaction of the citizens of her hometown tells a great deal, but the short elf simple takes the few steps ignoring the raging battle beginning and says to Riesenlied "Help is always there for those that need it, but some times the more important thing is to grasp it and step on your own. If you need to prove something, to change something, only moving foward will~" in a cheerful, understanding voice.

        "I'm sure you can do it if you try no? The Barber's are generally excellent readers of character if I remember right." reaching down to pat Riesenlied on that shoulder, her hand not quite glowing white. Then she draws her two handheld crossbows and begins to scan the plaza looking to see where she herself can fit in to help.

<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        One moment Noeline is swimming desperately down through the ruins underneath Azado, her hand outstretched to lodge home a crystal in the midst of a mass of Elw machinery - the next, the world is lurching horribly around her, stretching and pulling in ways it should not. It's a mixture of disorientation and horrible familiarity, all too reminiscent of their flight from the Lord of Calamity. Now they're just fleeing from something else instead.

        That instant of familiarity at least gives her time to be able to find her feet when they land; it's a stumbling and uncertain process, but she manages to just about stay upright as the world reverts around them, her hand linking into Riesenlied's more out of instinct than anything else. She doesn't even need to open her eyes to know they're on Filgaia - the air has an edge you don't find on Lunar, the tang of sand and heat and gunpowder.

        There's a blessed moment of relief - and then a scream bolts her eyes open, leaves her staring at a gruesome tableau; Metal Demon forces arranged in front of her, Siegfried slowly stalking towards them, Alhazred's presence at the back of the army causing a physical lurch of fear in her chest. More immediately, scores of eyes upon them both - and the spike of irritation and frustration - that rises in her throat at the fact that, despite everything they did to try to mitigate the last attack, to make recompense... some things really never change.

        Riesenlied's hand anchors her in place; she can't even begin to imagine letting go right at this moment, but that's still enough space for her to dart forwards to intercept a second rock flung in their direction, more tearing it out of the sky with her claws than catch it. "--are you that stupid?!" she roars. "Have you forgotten how much we tried to stop them? Have you forgotten how much we gave up, how much we bled for you--" she gets that far before grimacing and forcing her mouth shut. They don't. She knows that. It's not their fault.

        Instead, she forces herself to suck in a shaky breath, kneeling down next to Riesenlied to gather the other Hyadean into her arms. Lydie's suggestion gets a solemn nod. "Get the people of Azado out, at least. We'll handle things here. We've got something to atone for," she mutters softly under her breath.

        Her attention goes back to her partner, both hands on her cheeks; she leans in, filling Riesenlied's vision for a moment. "Riese. I'm here. I'm with you," she whispers urgently, offering a wan smile that doesn't fit the situation at all. "Even if the world turns against us, remember? Remember that resolve - you wanted to save Siegfried above all else. You wanted to talk to him, above all else. I'll support you."

        She looks up, making sure that Riesenlied doesn't see the way her expression hardens. She was there to watch when Arctica fell to ruins, and did nothing. She was there when Adlehyde was first attacked, and didn't do enough. "... we can't let this happen again," she whispers through gritted teeth.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

A moment after the mass reappearance has begun in earnest, an armored form in red lands next to Jacqueline. She starts speaking, very quickly.

"Miss Jay, it's terrible, the city caught on fire, and then a big wave came and put it out but also washed stuff away, and then this giant monster started destroying the city and most of it's gone, and there were these voices freakin' out, and then I fell underground, and you and the others were there, and we went down to some ruins, and there was a flooded teleporter there, and I thought I was gonna die but I didn't, and-- Wait!! You already know ALL that! Sorry, mind's kind of spinnin' right now!"

It should be noted that as she says all this, Locus is holding a Lunarian child in a fireman's carry. He looks at the superheroine, a little confused. She looks back, tilting her head.

"Anyway, I'm really low on fight juice right now so I'mma focus on gettin' these people to safety!"

And she promptly dragoon-jumps away, to somewhere safe.

MEANWHILE

"So this is Filganya!" a pink Katz observes, next to an unconscious Rosaline's body. They kneel down, put an Apple Gel in her hand and pat her head.

"But it looks like we're in another cat-aclysm... So I'll serenely skedaddle until you need me again. The rest is up to mew!"

As the small feline escapes, the Etone disciple stirs. Rosaline is exhausted, injured and worst of all, wet, but she's alive, and she's home. Sort of!

She opens her eyes and slowly sits up, confused. She then feels something in her hand and squints at it. Sharply, she turns her head to notice Katz's tail ducking into an alleyway. She has a small smile.

"What a day it's been." She pops the Gel into her mouth, feeling some of her wounds close for what may be the third or fourth time today. She wastes no further time getting up then, and runs towards the source of familiar voices, her ears twitching as they scan the chaotic situation. Then, she spots... Alhazred.

Oh, hell.

"Get away from them, you MANIAC!" she screams, drawing Mother's Mercy and blasting away haphazardly as she runs in. The shotgun may no longer fire explosive Malevolence, but it still has an unexpected kick to it!

She then turns her head, trying to get a better feel for this insane situation. "Ida!" she calls out, "you made it!" It's a shame that so many reunions must occur in the middle of fights to death.

GS: Noeline has spent 1 Combo on Reload, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Noeline has attacked Riesenlied with When I'm With You...!
GS: Noeline has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Noeline has completed her action.
GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Alhazred with Mother's Mercy!
GS: Rosaline Calice has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rosaline Calice has completed her action.
GS: Elvis critically Guards a hit from Lily Keil's Lead Whisper for 23 hit points!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lily Keil has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Riesenlied with Try it out!
GS: Chime Isa has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Noeline's When I'm With You... for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Riesenlied gains 15 extra FP from Noeline!
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Chime Isa's Try it out for 0 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Siegfried has adjusted their boss level for 7 opponents!
GS: Riesenlied has spent 1 Combo on Reload, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Noeline with ...I'm So Scared...!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Noeline takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's ...I'm So Scared... for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Noeline gains 15 extra FP from Riesenlied!
GS: Alhazred guards a hit from Matilda Whitehead's Tilling for 69 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

        TABITHA DEVRIESE

It was too big. Too BIG. A tremendous gravitation, more massive than she'd ever imagined.

They told her she was the strongest. They told her the Faith had been lies. They told her they had to fear her power, and here she saw the apex of this magic, this Gravitation that infuses her.

How many lies?

        CECILIA ADLEHYDE

Cecilia had been laid back - soaked to the bone from having been soaked through twice, but having a moment to contemplate. Gather herself. Feel the resonant fear of the Guardians at the mere concept of what was going on above, and try to steady them through her own calm.

A flash of light. The air goes from cool and damp to hot and caustic. The screams, again. The screams.

The screams.

Cecilia stumbles when the world resituates around her. Her breath comes fast, over-ready neurons triggering and locking into active state like some horrid Golem interlock.

She becomes, dully, aware of her friends. Elly - barely a friend, but at least a person she has recently reconciled with, a person she could believe she could become friends with. Fei, roaring in. Lily and Claude, bipping in around. Tethelle, vocally calling for her protection. Is she even Princess here? She abandoned these people...

A surge from the Guardians roars through the Leyline and into her, a presence...the Castle Guardian, screaming for the Shaman's aid.

Perhaps they're expecting the tender Princess to call for mercy, to beg for a stop.

Cecilia's eyes flash up, a Medium LEAPING out of her Crest case and flashing in front of her. She thrusts her arm at it, raw powers uniting. She vanishes.

"DO I REALLY HAVE TO KILL EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU WRETCHED CREATURES!?" she shrieks, a horrible fire in her momentarily spectral belly.

Grudiev manifests at one end of the plaza, on the far side of the statue from Siegfried. A BLAST from the Earth Guardian, a shocking, cracking light races narrowly over the statue's head, SLAMMING into Siegfried and RUPTURING the ground around him, sending crackling slabs of stone up as a sort of impromptu cover.

Cecilia reappears, charging, murder in her eyes. "SIEGFRIED!!!" she shrieks.

<Pose Tracker> Malfi has posed.

The teleportation was...disorienting. Malfi gazes around, surprised to find herself home on Filgaia, and in Adelhyde, of all places. Milling with humans...and beings who blaze in her kinsight, bright like beacons. Metal Beasts, some of the common troops...and there they were, two Quarter Knights. The forms of the Azure Knight and Lord Alhazred are umistakeable. She flees towards them, shedding her human disguise and manifesting armor, drawing her lance from the substance of her own body, only to find her way blocked by several people who were evidently on the warpath. That's right, the Hydeans had wrought much death and destruction the last time they were in Adlehyde. The humans held a grudge.

She stops in a dead halt, taken aback by what she's seeing -- a dimunitive, red-haired elf healing that traitor Riesenlied, who appears in Malfi's kinsight in a halting, stuttering way. That must not stand. The friend of my enemy is my enemy. Malfi stabs at the elf with her lance, aiming for the vitals but wary. The redhead obviously had special powers, and perhaps some beyond healing...

GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Siegfried with Material - Magnetron Bomb!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Where has Zed been? That's a trick question. Everyone even reasonably familiar in the field of Zedological studies knows for a fact that Zed exists as some kind of strange quantum waveform. Wherever his presence would be the most inconvenient for everyone involved, there he shall appear.

Or in this case, Zed tried to punch a weird space whale scale and got straight up slapped by the source of said weird space whale scale straight into the ground.

Various misadventures ensued, finally terminating with--

A sphere of light falls out of the sky like a glowing golden comet. It screams through the air, bleeding motes of crystalline radiance as it falls faster, faster, faster, and finally comes crashing down...!

Right on top of one Yaro'belly't.

Ah. Yes. The dangers of interplanetary teleportation.

Telefragging.

GS: Malfi has spent 2 Combo on Gatling, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Malfi has attacked Chime Isa with Improv Tango!
GS: Malfi has completed her action.
GS: Alhazred guards a hit from Rosaline Calice's Mother's Mercy for 43 hit points!
GS: Chime Isa takes a glancing hit from Malfi's Improv Tango for 39 hit points!
GS: Zed has attacked Yarobeleedt with T-T-T-TELEFRAGGED!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
GS: Siegfried guards a hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Material - Magnetron Bomb for 76 hit points!
GS: Cover! Statuses applied to Cecilia Adlehyde!
GS: Yarobeleedt critically Guards a hit from Zed's T-T-T-TELEFRAGGED for 21 hit points!
GS: Yarobeleedt has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        Shalune Amira has had better days; she's left as a sodden puddle on the ground, coughing and hacking as she tries to recover from a near-drowning experience. Above her looms the waterlogged form of Big Shal, the pitted twelve-foot construction golem, water streaming out of its many joints. It's the golem rather than the mechanic that looks towards Jacqueline's order for a long moment, then looks up towards the incoming Metal Demon forces.

        It seems to... think... for a moment.

        Jacqueline gets a slow, creaking pat on the head, before the golem picks up the pink-haired girl with a strange sort of tenderness, depositing her on the gantry on its back. Metal squeals and screeches as a protective cage closes over the top, and Big Shal takes one slow juddering step forward as the sound of cracking rust echoes through its frame.

        Then, it uppercuts a demon hard enough to send it through a nearby wall.

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        MEANWHILE, WITH RAGNELL:
        
        Light encompasses everything, and in its wake, Ragnell touches down on one of the surviving parapets of Adlehyde Castle. For her, her disorientation doesn't last long, having experienced this sensation three times now, and also having touched down in the familiar sights and smells of a war. She blinks, peering over the stone towards the Metal Demons assaulting the city below.
        
        "Huh," she utters. "That's unusual. Why...?" But then her eyes skate in the direction of the assault, and she sees the Guardian Statue. Everything becomes clear in that instant. "Hmmmm..." She glances over at the other incoming teleportees, who are placed seredipitously in between the invaders and the Statue. Then she settles in to watch at a remove from above, lips curving up.
        
        "I think y'all have enough muscle on both sides," she remarks to no one. "So let's see how this all shakes out."

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        ... And in a flash of yellow light, Gwen is back home, soaking wet, singed, and a loaned Lunarian poncho hung over her frame and her shaking, sparking ARM.

        Like Tethelle, like many, a part of the courier just *knows* where she is. One whiff of the parched air, the distinctive crunch of dry grass beneath her boots (which appreciate the water she's dripping on them right now), and... uh, the sound of cannonfire and charging troops?

        Wait, if she's here, does that mean-

        Gulliver's nose nervously nudges into Gwen's wet back, as if hiding his sight would make his entire horse self disappear into the ether. With a gasp, Gwen whips around and holds onto his head, a few bedraggled tears gasping from her throat. She then notices Jacqueline nearby. "'Ey! Uh, can you bring Gulliver and my wagon too?!" She still has things in there she can't afford to lose.

        Then Gwen hears a voice.

        Oh god, it's That Guy. That Asshole. The person Gwen really didn't want to meet up with, but now she has, and damn it, Jack's memories, now painfully etched with many painful variations in her memory, come to the fore.

        But there's people here too, including Jay. Jay, and Ida, and Matilda, and Dean. And-

        wait how did that Guardswoman get here, she's not supposed to be on Filgaia, OH GUARDIANS SOMETHING HAS GONE WRONG AGAIN

        In spite of it all, Gwen just gives the scary Quarter Knight a giant grin. "We've come back to kick your ass!" She hesitates. "If you... have them. Whatever!" Swinging her ARM up, Gwen winces at the way the very movement sends sparks of pain up her shoulder.

        But it doesn't matter. She's *home*.

        Now, it's time to take out the trash. "This is for Jack, y'overgrown varmit!"

<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

        CATENNA

"This is not how I thought we would get back to Filgaia!" Catenna yelps as she anchors several Metal Demons to the air and scampers through the town square in her swimming attire, rushing towards the edge of the fight and carrying the Owlet with her. She is NOT fighting Siegfried in her bra, thank you very much.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Alhazred with Crackshot!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Skylr Paer has posed.

         DOwn into the sewers they went. At one point, seperated from Leo admidst the chaos, Skylr has found herself mostly alone; she isn't sure where her boss ended up, but thankfully, 'not here' seems to be the safest option. Besides, so long as she finds him sooner rather than later, she doesn't have to be the one to tell Corwynt Leo has gone and done... something. Not that she's aware of Corwynt not coming back with them. Oh dear.
 
         Deposted in a bit of golden light, Skylr peers around, curious, confused.
 
         Exasperated.
 
         Her dark gaze flickers around the area as she reaches over her back, blindly pulling her bow and a... broken arrow out of the quiver. With an annoyed, exasperated snort, she grinds the arrow underneath her heel as she pulls out a clean one, sighting down it for a few seconds. Then she pauses, and slowly looks around. She spots someone she recognized from, what, hours ago?
 
         "... what are those things?" She shouts to Gwen.
 
         She starts circulating towards Gwen then, whose name she still does not know. After all, Skylr thinks optimistically, if I don't know her name, there's a chance I don't have to beat her unconcious and handcuff her for being something I shouldn't be affiliating with.
 
         Little does Skylr know...

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Beast has posed.

        Have you ever dreamt you're falling? Oh - not that you are falling from somewhere, or to somewhere. Nothing as directed as that. Just the simple, terrifying feeling of nothing rushing up around you, until nothing is all there is.

        Ah, but let's not dwell on the way these strange roads pull you out from inside. Just hold on, won't you?

        -- poit, and an effigy of a Metal Dragon springs into existence in golden light nearby the walls of Adlehyde.

        That's not quite the truth of it - but surely it must seem that way in the rush of a battle. It is small for its kind, roughly the size of a draft horse, segmented and floating under some unseen power. Broken, perhaps, as if it has been shattered and reformed with what remains. Or perhaps it is some insult to art. A Metal Beast designed to intimidate. There are a thousand explanations, none of them good.

        It stands in loose concordance, an easy target.

        A shell fires - almost hits, but for the way it leaps aside.

        It is enough to shake the Beast of Lohgrin from the daze she feels after such a strange feeling as teleportation, to make her realise her position. She does not know where she is. She does not know WHERE she is. She knows enough: it is a battle, pitched and desperate.

        And she hears Ida's voice in the din. Ida - and Dean - and Rosaline.

        When there is no guidance to be had, look to your friends.

        The Beast of Lohgrin charges towards Alhazred, leaping forward to slash into him with segmented iron claws. "Explain yourself!" She cries, to him, should he have the sense to hear. "What is the meaning of this?!"

GS: Seraph Beast has attacked Alhazred with Leap and Tear!
GS: Seraph Beast has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Beast has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Siegfried has posed.

Siegfried watches as, in a moment, all of his plans unravel.

There are more than confused people -- and bafflingly, to one side, a few flopping fish -- appearing in his way. There are the right confused people. He sees a familiar fist, with a familiar person behind it, charging in for him. Siegfried is so utterly shocked that Fei's haymaker collides with his face and snaps his head to the side.

He stumbles backward. "Lom...bardia?" he asks. "Impossible! She died! She died on the field of battle! And where--where in the name of Mother did the lot of you come from!?"

The Dark Spear lashes out, as he swings the sword up in a wide arc across the young man's midsection, and then pivots on a heel. He sees Tethelle's spear coming; he whips up Glumzambor and bats it from the sky, smashing it down. He still has a nick on his armor from where it impacted. He swings his arm up, then.

The forearm plate pops out -- and two bolts of blue-white energy fire. But, over her shoulder, he spots--

"YAROBELEEDT! I do not know where you have been!" he yells, sounding moderately aggrieved, "HOWEVER! If that mold infestation that overtook our organic growth compounder is your doing, then I SWEAR TO MOTHER THAT--"

'Fight me, bastard!'

"As you wish," he spits back at Talise. The shotgun blast pelts into his armor, scarring it; then, he turns, armor scarred and lightly damaged, and gives her such a glare. He leaps for Talise, and then twists about -- and his blade hacks down, slashing at her side. Siegfried slams into the wall of a nearby tavern, then kicks off it.

He somersaults into the sky, then, executing a tight backflip. He comes crashing down and through the fireballs that Elly hurtles for him. They splash off his armor; they whisk up in strands of flame, as he comes crashing down for her. His blade swings back.

"Tell me!" he shouts, "To what end would I do such a thing!"

Then, he stabs the Dark Spear down -- one-handed -- and tries to spear into Elly's side with a desperate brutality. The blade is wrenched to the side, then, in time for him to hear a voice ring out. He knows the voice well; he remembers the day that he killed her father. Siegfried whirls, spinning to look up at Grudiev.

A blast of energy smashes into him. Siegfried stumbles backward, rolling a few times, and then comes up. He spits onto the ground. Eyes that gleam with a metallic red turn upon Cecilia. "The princess returns," he says. "I have no intention of ceasing here! Victory lay within my grasp!"

He lifts one arm up; the forearm cannon fires, two bolts of blue-white light firing for her. Then, Siegfried holds that hand above his head. White light flashes out around him; then it sinks into the armor, giving it a faint glow, as he strengthens his defenses.

GS: Siegfried has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Nemesis Cleave!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Tethelle Cirdian with Ion Pulse!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Talise Gianfair with Nemesis Cleave!
GS: Siegfried enters a Counter stance!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Dark Spear!
GS: Siegfried has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Ion Pulse!
GS: Siegfried has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Siegfried with Hi-Shield!
GS: Siegfried has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Siegfried has completed his action.
GS: Siegfried takes a solid hit from Siegfried's Hi-Shield for 0 hit points!
GS: Cover! Statuses applied to Siegfried!
GS: Alhazred critically Guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Crackshot for 14 hit points!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred guards a hit from Seraph Beast's Leap and Tear for 34 hit points!
GS: Weaken! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
GS: Talise Gianfair takes a solid hit from Siegfried's Nemesis Cleave for 190 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde guards a hit from Siegfried's Ion Pulse for 100 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Siegfried!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian critically Guards a hit from Siegfried's Ion Pulse for 33 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Siegfried!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

         "Metal Demons," Gwen answers back. "And the one in the cape is bad news! And so's the one in the metal armor! And-" There's too many. "Just keep close and for Guardians' sake, don't let that one get you!"

GS: Fei Fong Wong critically Guards a hit from Siegfried's Nemesis Cleave for 36 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has lost 1 Combo!
GS: CRITICAL! Elhaym van Houten takes a glancing hit from Siegfried's Dark Spear for 134 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Except because fate is apparently KIND OF A JERK, the teleportation bubble abruptly goes ~POP~ far too early and deposits its load prematurely.

"-AAAAAAAAA--" Zed screams as he falls out of the sky and lands, skull-first, on Yaro's squishy, amorphous blob-body.

"Augh!" Zed screams, leaping up and out and desperately trying to scrape the lingering Yaro from his bodysuit. "Why! What? Space whale!?"

Zed blinks, turning around slowly to find...

Adlehyde... is on fire.

...

"O-oh no," Zed gasps, "D-did I... Did I travel back in time!? Oh no! Is Berserk back!? I-- Wait."

Zed stares at Ida.

And squints.

"Ida," he blinks, "You weren't this scrawny back then. D-did I fall into an alternate timeline too...?"

MEANWHILE

Cyre is in the Carakin!

There are so many animals piled on top of him. It's almost adorable, except for the fact that they're all terrified and desperately seeking comfort in the one that's most like them.

"You heard Jay," Cyre yells at whoever it is happens to be driving, "We need to pile as many people in as we can! Head toward the Starfall Saloon! They're bound to be taking in refugees!"

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        The most cruel thing about battle is that it doesn't afford you a moment to think, or have a panic attack, or wither and whimper or--

        --well, much of anything, really.

        Just mere moments after they touch down and everything goes to hell, Lydia tries to fend for her and is rebuked for it. "S-she's not a..." she hitches a breath, but nods rather wanly as she says she'll go for the Fereshte and get it out of trouble.

        Tethelle, Talise, Fei... the battle is already being joined.

        That elf lady from before, Chime... she listens to her, eyes widening quietly as she places a hand on her shoulder. "... I--"

        She's off with her crossbows drawn already.

        Noeline tries yelling back at them, but it doesn't help. It doesn't help. None of it matters at all. None...

        I'm here. I'm with you.

        The words cut through the veil of anxiety like a knife through butter, but she still feels that clamminess in her knees, in her hands... it doesn't all go away instantly.

        "We---we have to... we have to..."

        She hears Cecilia's rage, as she feels the manifestation of Grudiev in the distance. She spares another glance to Noeline, and hurries. Hurries, towards the gate where... where...

        Siegfried awaits...

        "He tells the truth," Riesenlied speaks. "I heard it. From... from Lombardia," Riesenlied admits, knowing full well it will have more weight with the name behind it. A trusted companion of Siegfried's... who wearily gave up the world and turned away, never to be seen again. "I heard it, Lord Siegfried... how you--"

        The words hang limply in her throat. Her voice feels cracked and inaudible.

        "You tried to seek peace with the humans. You had hope, and you were willing to coexist with them, like I do now... but..." Riesenlied's head droops to one side. "You were betrayed. The man called Lacan... shattered your trust before his passing.

        She grits her teeth. She doesn't have the werewithal to continue. She wants to drop the mantle right then and there, and buckle under the pressure.

        We, Odoryuk's voice echoes in her like a fond and remembered memory. We can eventually overcome such boundaries.

        Her hands are quivering, balled up into fists. It's not a common look for her. "You were beside yourself when they said they found Mother. I wanted to say something, but to see you so overjoyed... then Arctica fell."

        Her head lowers further. "'Just one more', I heard myself struggling with fallow excuses. 'Adlehyde, then salvation.' And then it continued from there, more and more... I wanted to seek hope where there was only death to be found! I wanted to believe in you... and I still do, but..."

        She rushes him -- which is about the most foolish thing you can do when she isn't even armed with anything but her emotions, and also when a Guardian is being sicced at him and multiple melee fighters are in the way. And not even to do anything particularly clever either, nothing short of a temper tantrum towards the man she desperately wants to call father.

        "How much more?! How much more, Lord Siegfried?! How much more before you'll be satisfied?!" Riesenlied exclaims, frustrated and breaking in voice. Tears welled in her eyes, fluid in her nose and mouth. "I was foolish. I wanted to stay by your side, even when every fibre of me screamed at how wrong it all was!"

GS: Riesenlied has attacked Siegfried with Temper Tantruming at Dad!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Siegfried guards a hit from Riesenlied's Temper Tantruming at Dad for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Yarobeleedt has posed.

        Meanwhile, as a quiet aside to Siegfried's interrupted threat, "no that was epsilon honest"
        Absolutely not honest.
        Yarobeleedt continues his lurch into the fray, daydreaming about all the praise and time with Mother he will receive as her most dedicated and effectual soldier. Everything will be worth it, as he mindlessly slithers along towards the center of Adlehye--
        SQUISH
        A little ephemeral 100 rises out of the momentarily flattened Yarobeleedt as Claude gets to springboard himself higher--
        --or not, as the more melty arm lashes out and tries to wrap around him and bring him back down closer to earth. Er. To Filgaia. ...To the ground.
        "You think walk on me again? No no no. Not a gain of again! It will be aloss! Like it never happen!!" Yarobeleedt gibbers angrily. "^White Sleeve^!!"
        All while this happens, quicksilver splatters everywhere as the Dead Man's ARM's shots embed themselves into the writhing, blobby thing. The melting alien horror hisses, shrieks, writhes some more, and swings about their more solid arm to try and concenrate all the malleable mass nearby into a flat surface to try and shove the shooting Tesni back further and further. "You yield then stop!! Parking will avail? You will not prevail...! ^Rude Girl^!!" Yarobeleedt flings his arms up, regardless of how the attacks resolve...
        Then Zed appears, descending, faster, faster, faster... at a terminal velocity, there will be a dramatic explos--
        Zed strikes true, landing on top of Yarobeleedt as he twists his bulk so that he lies on his back while his arms come to rest as if to wrap around Zed as he springs back up, like it were a loving embrace. Kind of.
        Yarobeleedt's eyes blink irregularly, out of sync with one another.
        "^Silly Greenhead.^" His raspy voice is a lot less screamy. "Is you, is it? You it." ...
        He might be so angry to see him he can't bear to move more right now, but he may or may not have his arms wrapped around Zed.

GS: Yarobeleedt has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Luna Way!
GS: Yarobeleedt has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Yarobeleedt has attacked Tesni Inoue with Push a Bar!
GS: Yarobeleedt has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Yarobeleedt has attacked Zed with Attack Name Untranslated - Too Awkward!
GS: Yarobeleedt has completed its action.
GS: Zed takes a glancing hit from Yarobeleedt's Attack Name Untranslated - Too Awkward for 17 hit points!
GS: Claude C. Kenny takes a solid hit from Yarobeleedt's Luna Way for 68 hit points!
GS: Entangle! Statuses applied to Claude C. Kenny!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        Ancient Elw technology lurches to life, shading everything with a gold-amber light. For a moment, Josephine Lovelace is in an ancient ruin under a crumbling devastated city.
        And in the next she's turning a glance down a familiar street littered with Metal Demon forces.

        "--Adlehyde," the archaeologist says, putting the name to the place nearly immediately. "Looks like we crashed the party, Tiger. Don't suppose we need to guess what they're after." She reaches over in the next moment to retrieve her pack from the younger woman, slinging it over her shoulder before sliding her rifle free.

        A rustle of wings is the only announcement of Penelope's flight to higher, safer, not burning ground.

        "I'd been looking forward to a drink, you know," Josie laments, giving the Gawain-series rifle the once over. Almost absently, she drives a kick at an onrushing lesser Metal Beast of some sort, sending it flying into the burning tinder of a building that had probably only been repaired a few months prior.
        "It's really inconvenient. Inconsiderate, even."

        Her gaze, hooded, falls on the decidedly outsized form of Elvis. Now that's an odd one in the midst by form alone, if that's even a Metal Demon. A partisan, perhaps?

        "Guess I'll have to wait. Well, here's one for my debt to you--"

        There's no such warning to Elvis from Josie. She simply stares down the massive man through the sight of her rifle and takes that barely aimed shot.

        After all, there are only two parties in a gunfight when you get right down to it--

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Elvis with The Quick And The Dead!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Elvis guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's The Quick And The Dead for 90 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Jam! Statuses applied to Elvis!
GS: Tesni Inoue takes a solid hit from Yarobeleedt's Push a Bar for 97 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Tesni Inoue!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
Siegfried comes right towards her. Elly, who is still suffering from some adrenal exhaustion due to having, in the last 24 hours:

* Resolved to betray her country, for keepsies
* Encountered the largest living organism she has ever seen
* Fought that organism and pretty much just 'lost in a non-shameful way'
* crashed a Gear
* Walked away from that Gear
* Limped through a ruin to try to flee the entity from items 2 and 3

stares at him. She feels trepidation but she does not feel fresh. She turns then, and in one of those little ironies of life, it is her ditty bag, slung over one shoulder and sitting on the opposite hip, that probably saves her life. Glumzabor rips into the bag and carves a bloody gash into her hip that would have probably been a pelvic rupture otherwise. As knicknacks, brick-a-brack, and cans of potted meat product from this very planet spill out, Elly turns away, recoiling.

And she hears Cecilia screech. She can feel the passage of power even if the Guardians' ways aren't clear to her. Oh no, Elly thinks as her leg stings. She breathes out, and says, not looking at the general, "Because... I think you'll regret it."

She breathes in deep before raising her voice. "Princess!"

Elly throws out her hand, nearly close enough to touch Siegfried. I wonder what this will do in the end, she thinks, before the Ether comes. She imagines it as a cloth that she is gently draping over Siegfried - like the over-wrap at a barber's shop or the tabard of Emperor Guardsnight.

But of course, it isn't an actual cloth - it is a shape she forms. It holds itself in potential, but then it suddenly erupts into roasting, screaming fire less than an inch from Siegfried, the entire superstructure burning with furnace heat, blue licking flames like a lapel before where his mouth and throat should be.

The superheated air screams! This is not the first time Siegfried has seen this spell. It might be the first time he's on the recieving end, though.

"Lombardia is not dead," Elly says, with a pedestrian insistence because most of her attention is in the Ether construct that is trying to put Siegfried into a heat-induced temporary coma. "I saw her. She's wounded, but she's there. She was in a remote mountain. All of us saw her!" Well, not Cecilia. It is to Cecilia that Elly looks.

"Princess -- Be careful!!"

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Siegfried with Thermo Misericordia!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Alhazred has posed.

 Alhazred was preparing to amuse himself by vivisecting some of the Lunarians who had popped up on the field - but such pleasurable activities would have to wait, as it seemed there were some armed and dangerous Drifters who were appearing from within the spatial displacement event as well. There is a rumble from the ground, and an alarm goes off inside of the Quarter Knight's cowl as his scanner detects magical activity. "Countermeasures deployed," he rumbles, a flickering barrier appearing as Jacqueline's barrage of rocks and stones lash out towards him. Some are deflected away, but others slam into the white robe surrounding the Quarter Knight, and he grunts for a moment.
 
 And then Ida comes out of the crowd, lashing out with an open handed strike. Alhazred narrows his eyes for a moment, before bringing up one massive clawed hand to block the blow with an almost contemptuous gesture. "Hmmm, this one registers as an anomalous presence. ...hmmm. Perhaps you have changed somehow since I was last able to take some readings? Hold still - you must be processed."
 
 And then one of the Esperanza suddenly dives towards Ida, lashing out towards her with what appears to be an underslung vial with a large proboscis attached to the end. Alhazred literally tires to suck out some of her blood for further testing, sending his drone to stab the Drifter and suck out some blood before it skitters off to wherever mechanical bug insects go when they are done harassing people.
 
 And then Dean rushes in, bringing one fist around to try and slam it into some part of the Metal Demon. However, rather than striking some part of Alhazred's rather considerably sized body, instead a gold plated tale snakes out from under the white cloth that covers most of the Quarter Knight and wraps around Dean's hand, bringing his blow up short before it strikes him. "The presence of humans does not rise to the appropriate classification of personhood according to my standards. There is little need to show concern for their levels pain or comfort. Vermin are merely convenient test subjects." The tone is utterly dismissive, even as the situation continues to escalate.
 
 Matilda's lower intensity serves her well - she manages to get in close, her sword thrusting in and piercing the white shroud around Alhazred before he notices the attack. *Something* shifts underneath that cover, and Matilda can feel her blade ring as it is pushed backwards - she's struck something, but the concealed form of the Quarter Knight makes it difficult to tell just what the blow accomplished. Red eyes snap around towards her, but before any attack can be launched Rosaline begins blasting away with her shotgun. The energy shield that Alhazred had deployed against Jacqueline rotates around, deflecting some of the pellets as the woman blazes away. Some of them break through however, slamming into the heavy fabric around Alhazred body and causing him to grunt in annoyance.
 
 And then more and more opponents continue to appear from nowhere. There might just be a bit of annoyance entering Alhazred's voice as he watches Gwen appears, throwing out a quip as she fires off another slug towards him. "'Jack'. There are currently two hundred and seventy four subjects of note who carry the moniker of 'Jack'. If you wish for me to acknowledge your actions as in reference to one of them you will need to be more specific." The Quarter Knight raises a claw, deflecting the bullet to one side with an almost contemptuous flick of one hand... and then a statue crashes into him, although it is apparently moving, able to speak, and is somewhat angry as Beast claws at the Quarter Knight. "Adding new subject to roster. Classified as M-IO #23. In response to your query..."
 
 And Alhazred seems to shrug, flipping over to dislodge the Beast from her grip upon his form. He hovers into the air a short distance, looking around at the group of Drifters arrayed around him. "...we are here to destroy a Guardian Statue. Given the array of combat potential present, I am adding a new operational directive."
 
 Esperanza suddenly flash out in all directions, their eyes glowing as they begin to charge up an array of lasers.
 
 "We will be conducting a full round of pest control as well."
 
 A barrage of lasers rakes the area as the insectoid weapons open fire, blasts of energy cutting through the air towards the Quarter Knight's opponents. Most of them, anyways. One of them ducks and weaves, flying towards Beast with some sort of strange sensor extended, fully intending to gather whatever readings it can on the strange animate statue. Of course, lest anyone think that Alhazred is merely curious, as opposed to actively malicious, it then extends a drill and attempts to obtain a core sample from Beast's statue to boot, sparks flying as it latches on and begins to drill merrily away!

GS: Alhazred has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Gathering Samples!
GS: Alhazred has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Seraph Beast with Gathering Samples!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Esperanza!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Rosaline Calice with Esperanza!
GS: Alhazred has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Esperanza!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Dean Stark with Esperanza!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Esperanza!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried guards a hit from Elhaym van Houten's Thermo Misericordia for 67 hit points!
GS: Break! Statuses applied to Siegfried!
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

God knows how Talise got her armour back on after going swimming under Azado. Presumably she had a moment to pull some standard RPG inventory tricks.

They save her life: Siegfried jumps at her and swings, and Talise whips her gun to the side to bring her sword up to take the worst of it. Steel glances against steel, but not solidly enough, and the big Metal Demon carves into her side --

But the armour stops it from being immediately fatal. Steel squeals beneath the shearing blade; it cuts through and leaves a slash into flesh beneath, but it hurts - it doesn't kill. With a hiss, Talise whips away, letting her shotgun hang behind her as she puts both hands on the hilt of Rastaban again.

Cecilia's out there, after all, and so's Tethelle. And there are a whole lot of innocent people in this town - people she absolutely cannot let down.

"You know what?" Talise growls as she darts around Siegfried, trying to find an angle of attack. "You're gonna cease. I know as well as anyone that a Quarter Knight can be killed, and you're not an exception!"

Hanging out on the outside of the fight and shooting briefly occurs to Talise, but she figures it wouldn't accomplish much. Instead she launches herself again, darting to the left, then to the right, then sweeping in to try and cut inside of Siegfried's guard.

She slashes upwards, aiming to cut violently across his chest, then whips Rastaban back with a couple of lightning-quick slices, each one on a shallow diagonal just shy of horizontal - almost as if she were trying to carve a weak point into him.

GS: Talise Gianfair has attacked Siegfried with Infinitely Rippling Waters!
GS: Talise Gianfair has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Talise Gianfair has completed her action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber critically Guards a hit from Alhazred's Esperanza for 35 hit points!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Tethelle Cirdian has posed.

'Tethelle! Don't catch!'

Now, Tethelle recognizes the voice, and she knows Claude is on her side. She also knows that he would not be saying this for no reason, and so she doesn't try to catch whatever is coming at her. Instead, she kicks the beast-like Metal Demon dog that was menacing her that she didn't stab, driving it back a step.

The descending sword goes pretty much straight through it. While on fire.

"Thanks!" Tethelle was not expecting a flaming sword. She pulls the saber out of the Metal Beast corpse, flicking it side to side to check its weighting; it's a lot lighter than the sword she typically favours, but it will do. She'll have to thank Claude more seriously later.

And then Tethelle starts to move forward. Cecilia is actually getting ahead of her, which is something that rarely happens, and Talise is too. She rushes toward them and Siegfried, hopping on a lost roofing tile and sliding on it like a sled for several yards while using her new flaming sword to slice Siegfried's energy blast at her in half.

She likes this sword, she decides.

Tethelle hops back off the tile as it loses momentum from her hitting it and drives herself at Siegfried from the side. She comes in with her blade moving fast, lashing it left-right-left quickly enough that it blurs, leaving a stream of flame behind it as she slashes.

Tethelle doesn't let up the flurry, and Siegfried can tell that she's better than she was before. More practiced against real opponents rather than the ritualism of her training, but still with that core of esoteric knowledge. That last is proven when she adopts a strange stance, and one Siegfried has seen her use before; the gliding, sweeping motions of the stance of Aru Solatu, never stopping as she circles to his rear, forcing him to follow.

She can help the best by never letting up. Tethelle's face is a mask of concentration. "Do you remember me?" she asks, as she sweeps her blade through a wide arc.

GS: Alhazred has completed his action.
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has spent 4 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has attacked Siegfried with Steel Tempest!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.
<SoundTracker> The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating

Fei hears Cecilia screaming for Siegfried and his heart falls. It's too soon. He has to tell him everything he knows before it's too late. He's not sure who it would be too late for and he's in no mind to find out.

Elly entreaties him in her own way and Riesenlied fills Siegfried in on more of the details, but she's wrong that's not what happened. Or is it? Ugh, his head pounding and he's not sure if it's the battle, the stress, or just his normal life.

"We were transported to another world through the use of the Elw technology. Lombardia was there." Fei explains. "She said you worked with Grahf to destroy the world and in stopping him, the Elw actually hurt Filgaia even more by drawing on the power of the Guardians."

Fei brings his hand in front of Siegfried's blade and catches it with his palm. It still rips a vicious gash into his hand but he manages to avoid a far worse injury.

"And I'm telling you this, Grahf is still alive. I saw him with my own eyes. At Lahan...At Lacour! He has been pushing me, trying to force me to do something for him. Do you want to know what that is?"

He curls his fingers inward. "And Lacan... I've had visions of him."

He slides forward and then swings both arms forward, sending off an explosive array of chi-powered flame for Siegfried's body. Or maybe it's ether. It's hard to tell for sure with Fei.

"He was...a painter, wasn't he?"

GS: Seraph Beast takes a solid hit from Alhazred's Gathering Samples for 125 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Alhazred's Gathering Samples for 150 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Alhazred's Esperanza for 127 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elvis has posed.

This was a madhouse! How is it that this happened at the same time as that event?! Was it even the same time? Maybe that light threw them through time? No, the Quarter Knights look.... relatively the same? It was so hard to judge. Even studying and dissecting deceased individuals yielded little as far as that went. And of course, unlike some scientists, he found them dead.

Not that Elvis is the pillar of morality here, just was worth a mention.

"I am in NO SHAPE to do this!" he calls aloud, A slow turn meets the gaze of a woman that appears to be trained, but in bad shape as well. She raises a gun. Elvis snaps to attention. A pwoerful, high caliber shot rings out.

The man raises a wrapped hand to punch and deflect the bullet, which works per se, but his arm flies back as the kinetic shock ripples up his arm painfully. "GAHHH!" cracks out from him. He doesn't wear armor, but his gloves are capable of deflecting a good deal of things normal materials can't. It does have shock absorption built in, but it functions on the reverse, to prevent him striking hurting himself.

"Look, you don't know what you are getting yourself in to! They are going to get what they want! And I have a task given to me to uphold that!" A wrenching hand beneath that glove forces the earth under Lily to convulse and heave upward, shards of earth tearing out of the ground like some sort of flechette cannon!

...And the attack would have certainly been more severe, if Josephine didn't clip Elvis in the shoulder working that ether-like magic! "Ugh! Hey, where did you get that!" he comments, seeing the grade of Josephine's weapon. "Come here, you!" THe man bellows, the earth craters under a crouch and take-off, as the man is in very close proximity in moments, throwing fists barely able to be seen.

"Both of you should leave, right NOW!"

...He doesn't want to kill them, but he knows the Metal Demons would. He knows, especially for their intellectual Quarter Knight.

GS: Elvis has attacked Lily Keil with Hi-Crush!
GS: Siegfried guards a hit from Talise Gianfair's Infinitely Rippling Waters for 81 hit points!
GS: Elvis has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Rapid Punch!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has completed his action.
GS: Fei Fong Wong has spent 3 Combo on Headshot, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Siegfried with Kakei!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a glancing hit from Elvis's Rapid Punch for 91 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Rosaline Calice takes a glancing hit from Alhazred's Esperanza for 114 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Rosaline Calice!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
GS: Siegfried critically Guards a hit from Tethelle Cirdian's Steel Tempest for 26 hit points!
GS: Siegfried has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Lily Keil critically Guards a hit from Elvis's Hi-Crush for 23 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Dean Stark guards a hit from Alhazred's Esperanza for 114 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

"Gah!" Claude C. Kenny sputters as Yarobeleedt's tentacle winds its way around his legs, bringing him down to the ground; Claude's chin bounces off the cobblestones, stars dancing in his head as he starts trying to yank himself free. Eventually, he just starts kicking like a madman. Kick, kick, kick. It's like kicking Jello. Really sticky Jello.

...

"Okay, maybe this isn't the best plan," Claude snarls, then pushes a surge of chi out through his legs, the pulse of energy enough to allow him to scramble free. He starts to come up to his feet, then sees something flicker in the left edge of his peripheral vision. Something lit up in red by his contact lens HUD. Which means a Hyadean life sign. Which means an enemy.

In Claude's defence, he has spent ten years of his life under the tutelage of a master (i.e., his mom) who would devise some of the most fiendish ambushes imaginable in an attempt to test his reflexes. Kicks to the head after the third buzz of his alarm clock, for example. Or punching through the front door just as Claude got home from school. Or, on one memorable occasion, while Claude was playing catch with a friend from the other street over, he looked up to catch a pop fly and then looked down to see a car hurtling toward his head. For more than a decade, Claude has been conditioned, his reflexes hard-wired, to react to the emergence of a threat by immediately directing violence to end that threat.

Which is why, by the time he registers that the Hyadean in question is in fact Zed, he is already throwing a chi blast at his friend's face. "OH MY GOD I'M SORRY!" he shouts, trying to catch the fireball. "MY TECH IS SUPER SPACIST, I'M SO SORRY!"

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Zed with Friendly Fireball!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: Zed takes a solid hit from Claude C. Kenny's Friendly Fireball for 92 hit points!
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a glancing hit from Alhazred's Esperanza for 92 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline accepts Dean's help in getting to her feet - she needs it, half-drowned as she is. She doesn't look very intimidating, soaked to the bone as she is...but that look in her eyes might be something else.

She hears Gwen respond to her request, and nods. Jacqueline can't help but be proud of the sick jump Lunata makes, and will have to praise her for that later...

...Though she hopes Gulliver can also make the sick jump.

And she sees other familiar friends, too. She's...not really in the mood to do more than just send them a nod of acknowledgment, though. That blanketed fiend...every word it says just makes her angrier.

"Vermin?" She repeats, disgust in her voice. "The gall, to hear that from a parasite. You would have your people know nothing but death and destruction! And I am NOT standing for it! And I'm not-!"

Jacqueline dives to the side and gestures quickly with her left hand. A burst of raw sorcerous energy lashes out, smashing into one of the insectoid weapons firing upon her as it blasts her with a beam. She manages to avoid it just barely...but even that scrape was excruciating. She doesn't give him the pleasure of hearing her gasp, though. She bites it back.

"...Letting you destroy this statue!" She concludes, making a downward swiping motion with her right hand. Lightning falls from the sky, crashing right down toward Alhazred!

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Alhazred with Lightning Strike!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

Tesni Inoue is soon joined Claude and Zed? Wait Zed? She'd not seen that metal demon and still, she wasn't sure how a he was one. That still baffled her more than anything else on this planet or Lunar itself. She was glad for the backup she also notices the jacket Kenny has. She'll have to talk about that later for now though she's keeping on the move, which fails to work this time. Yaro gets her pretty good and given she has nothing in the way of armour on right now lordy does it hurt.

 "the name is Tesni!"

 She keeps shooting form her Arm trying to keep on the move but it's clear that Yaro got a good hit on her.

 "Hey watch out!"

 She calls out to Claude who is distracted by Zed and the friendly fire incident well she can get why he's so freaked out. Well the good news is Zed shouldn't be dead from that, and Claude shouldn't be shooting him again.

 As for Yaro? Tess keeps on shooting at him for the moment.

GS: CRITICAL! Siegfried guards a hit from Fei Fong Wong's Kakei for 143 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

        Chime catches sight of the attack at the last second, having not expected a head on attack. MAlfi's lance catches and adds another hole and scratch to Chime's arm and despite the pint-sized red-head's agility batters her body as she twist away bringing her far hand up to deflect the rest of hte lance upwards off the metal guard on the front of her crossbow.

        "Oh my~ So aggressive! I guess you're not here to just say hello?" her tone full of cheer like her bright smile, with more than a hint of snark oozing out of it. Without missing a beat as she finishes her spin both crossbows come up and a flurry of bolts from both handheld-crossbows going flying at Malfi as the short elf continues to slide to the side away from the Riesenlied and Noeline.

        "My, today is just full of surprises." she remarks in her cheerful tone, slamming the grip of one crossbow on top the other rearming the string manually and then the other, more bolts already visible and ready to go.

GS: Chime Isa has spent 2 Combo on Gatling, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Malfi with Heavy Barrage!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
GS: Tesni Inoue has attacked Yarobeleedt with Shooting!
GS: Tesni Inoue has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Tesni Inoue has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Yarobeleedt guards a hit from Tesni Inoue's Shooting for 75 hit points!
GS: Malfi critically Guards a hit from Chime Isa's Heavy Barrage for 24 hit points!
GS: Malfi has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Chime Isa has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred critically Guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Lightning Strike for 30 hit points!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Kaguya remains on Lunar. She has work to do.

Lily, however, hears Cecilia's screaming, and... concludes that she's in at least reasonable health. She talks to Josie--

"Probably not," Lily agrees about guesswork. Dog remains in front of Lily for now, and the ex-soldier shrugs lightly at her companion. "I agree. I could use about five drinks, myself. Just as soon as I'm sure I don't have a damn concussion."

She considers, with Josie. "Here goes--"

Josie's shot goes off, and Lily starts to shift apart, making them divided targets to force the powerful man ahead to divide his attention in turn. He says he's in no shape, and Lily is about to answer--before the man literally punches her bullet. The fact that it still hurts him to do doesn't change the look of disturbed surprise Lily gives him for an instant--but she doesn't let herself be caught up on it too much. "That's--"

Lily throws up her arm to shield her face when she sees the magic coming... and abrubtly, as Elvis's spell erupts before her, the circuit-markings on her throat, her hands, elsewhere covered up all flare to brilliant life, gleaming in shifting colors of red, orange, gold, blue--violet, as an aura of shadow surrounds her and the Dog beside her. The first few shards get through, one carving a furrow in her cheek, more bashing against her already-hurt form--but as soon as the aura appears the rest are devoured by the void.

"I respect that you've got a task," Lily says, suddenly flooded with relief at the return of her magic, "...But so do I."

Elvis's sheer power is incredible; the ground quakes at his leap. ...So that means--

Elvis can likely feel the magic--like his own, but unlike. Her markings, bizarre, gleam blue as she throws out her non-gun hand, before a great lance of ice appears in it. She launches forward, spinning towards Elvis and stabbing straught for his back with the makeshift weapon that explodes into frost on contact. "Josie! Let's do it!"

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Elvis with Ether Impact!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Elvis guards a hit from Lily Keil's Ether Impact for 39 hit points!
GS: Break! Statuses applied to Elvis!
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        So private is her bubble of attention span that it takes the metal demon a long moment to even realize someone is next to them offering their own brand of assistance and advice; the spy looks up at the unfamiliar elf, her eyebrows raised almost in surprise before she ruefully shakes her head. "... they aren't wrong. Not really. But-- I'll be damned if I let this go on any longer," she mutters, looking back down to her partner for a long moment.

        Noeline holds Riesenlied's gaze as long as she can, pulling the both of them up to standing as she does so; her eyes dance with a mixture of fear and uncertainty and brimming anger, but also a sheer well of conviction - of trust in her partner. "... let's go," she prompts, declaring the words alongside a solemn nod--

        --but she's unprepared for the speed with which Riesenlied slips away from her on her mission of peace, and it takes her seriously fatigued mind a moment of basking in prideful warmth before the more alert part of her brain catches up and reminds her that Riesenlied is more or less stumbling directly towards the most dangerous place she could ever be.

        Swearing under her breath, Noeline shakes herself out of it, trying to force herself back to the present moment; she glances at Josephine, her brow furrowed for the instant it takes for her to reassert herself and push back against the dull throb at the back of her mind. "I'll take you for five drinks later, if you pull your weight," she grins without any humour whatsoever - then begins to race forwards after Riesenlied, pumping her legs as she races towards the bulk of the Metal Demon army, giving chase after her partner.

        She has never, ever thought of herself as a fighter. She is the strongest of the Tainted, certainly, but that is only by means of default - the only 'true' Metal Demon amongst them, offered chances and training that many of them never had. In terms of raw strength, she could never hope to be a match for a Quarter Knight--but that doesn't seem about to stop her right at this moment, sweeping past Riesenlied with her sword in her hands and twisting to bring it down in a shattering, downwards blow on Siegfried's guard, the edge of her massive blade lit up with an eldritch green light that signifies the power of the Guardians following behind it.

        The attack isn't intended to kill-- more than anything it's an attempt to pin the Quarter Knight down, to steal away his attention from the fight for a precious few seconds. Whether it will be enough for Fei, for Elly, for Riesenlied's words to reach him, Noeline cannot say - but she's willing to make the attempt, willing to do what she can to leverage that chance.

        "--pained, and suffering-- but Lombardia still lives on!" she growls. "And even if she's given up hope, we are not about to! I've got enough in the way to make up for first, here and now!"

GS: Noeline has attacked Siegfried with Hades Tear!
GS: Noeline has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Noeline has completed her action.
GS: Siegfried takes a solid hit from Noeline's Hades Tear for 92 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida hears a familiar voice. Her head snaps in the direction of its source. She smiles a grim little smile. "Rosa!" Another voice. "Dean!" Another. "Beast!" There's no time to do more than acknowledge them, though. Ida's gauntleted hand slams into Alhazred's much larger claw, and a jarring impact travels up her arm. She hits the ground, slouching a little, and her head whips up. Those drones are everywhere--

        When did she last see this man? Ida thinks, as Alhazred notes she's different somehow. Ida's thoughts settle not on the physical side-effects of a major depressive episode, but on Malevolence. Is he--

        No. He's distracting you. And it works.

        The Esperanza slams into Ida's shoulder, its needle deftly finding a vein. Ida's eyes shoot open as the horrible proboscis stabs into her, as the Esperanza's little legs grab hold of her back to try and steady itself. The vial slowly fills with Ida's blood. Her left hand reaches up to claw at the bug, but it's to nimble. She can't reach. "Dean!" Ida chokes out, "The bugs!" The bug eventually retracts its proboscis, flits off of Ida's back, and flies back to its master. A fresh patch of red blooms on Ida's cloak. "Quarter Knight Alhazred, I presume," Ida says, as her vision swims and wobbles, unsteadily. She breathes deeply, rerouting chi to staunch the flow of blood. "I've heard things about you."

        Part of her feels lucky--Dr. Bridges might be a terrible human being, but he fell far short of being a monster. Is this what Kalve has had to deal with for as long as he's been a scientist?

        "Elmina Niet," Ida snarls. She takes a step to the side, trying to circle Alhazred. She throws a left jab, then a right cross, then another left, trying to keep Alhazred occupied in more ways than one. "Start talking."

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Alhazred with Relentless Combination!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Alhazred guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Relentless Combination for 73 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

JANUS CASCADE

Janus Cascade appears in a flash of golden light, followed soon after by Dario, who lands on his feet, and Romero, who squawks like a chicken and does not.

"Well, well," the blue-haired outlaw drawls, and then takes a shot at a Demon, blowing its entire torso off. "Looks like this town's even more doomed than usual!" he laughs, meanly. "Not doin' this."

He starts...walking away. Just calmly sauntering for the outer portion of the city.

"Uh, Boss?" Romero says, rolling his neck to fix the probable spinal damage from landing on his neck. "Are we not, y'know, helpin' the thousands of people currently screamin' an' dyin' an' such at the hands of an immortal menace? Just, 'cuz--"

"Hell no!" Janus quips, and with one hand tucks into his pocket, idly producing a small metallic object. A ring, silvery metal, with a large blue stone nearly the size of his thumb.

"...'s a ring?" Dario grunts as he tromps up, squinting. "Thought you kept that on yer--"

Janus slams the butt of his gun into Dario's gut, giving the man a cold stare. "Don't you talk about that," he says, with ice fit to extinguish the whole city. "This I got from our new...acquaintance. We got much bigger fish to fry than a doomed kingdom, boys." His lips split into a wide grin. "You'll see. C'mon, now. Don't fall behind."

And so the Cascade Gang saunter into the flames, making to simply walk out of the city by the simplest expedient of murdering everyone in their path.

        CECILIA ADLEHYDE

Cecilia's anger is hot enough that she does not, quite, actually catch what the heck anyone is talking about with this Lombardia character. Fortunately at least, she does hear Elly calling for her to take caution and it slows her run, allowing Tethelle to bullet ahead of her. Cecilia can take up the back row. Yes, that's right. An ion blast bolts at her and Cecilia thrusts her hand up, a shield of white light flashing up before her. Siegfried's first strike crashes into it, and the second shatters it, sending Cecilia tumbling backward. The shock brings her words back, at least, as she fumbles up to her feet, eyes flashing. "My people....you make them suffer again and again...I will not ask you to stop. You won't. Like Berserk before you, there is only one thing to do with you, Demon! So I will CAST YOU TO THE STONES!"

Her hand shoves into her Crest case, shoving forward the small stone card of one of her Crest Graphs. With her staff she whirls, a magic circle drawing itself around the Graph. Black magic. Geo, Geo.

The stones rise at her feet, bulleting at Siegfried with intent to batter him apart.

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        Dean smiles to Jay as she accepts her hand. "Glad *you're* okay," he says, soaked as she is. There are worse things than being wet.
        
        Gwen, Ida, Matilda, and Rosa all join in on the fight against Alhazred too--as well as Skylr, but he doesn't know who she is. It's reassuring to Dean either way, even when Alhazred catches his ARM and his fist along with it before saying a lot of frankly cruel things.
        
        "I didn't understand a word you just said, but I'm pretty sure it was awful!!" Dean shouts back at Alhazred, even as he struggles against the Quarter Knight's block. Behind and to the side of him, Matilda shows Alhazred her stabs, and Dean glances to her slightly. "Nice follow!" he says, smiling--but that doesn't last, when he sees that metallic mosquito stab Ida and suck her blood.
        
        "Ida!!" he calls in concern--but with the Quarter Knight literally right in front of him, Dean doesn't have the space to try to go to her side, especially when Alhazred explains what he's here for in terms he can understand. "The Guardian Statue?! So then--" He half-turns, finally seeing the Statue at the group's rear. But when he adds a comment about 'pest control,' and Jay reacts with fury even as Alhazred unleashes a barrage of searing lasers...
        
        Dean does his best to defend against them, but being right there, there's only so much he can do. The beams slam into him, knocking him back several feet and burning through his under-clothing armor. The stink of burning cloth and slightly cooked flesh rises, and Dean grits his teeth in pain, absolutely refusing despite the agony of the attack to give the Quarter Knight the satisfaction of screaming. Ida calls to him; he nods to her, then focuses back on the fight.
        
        "The real pest here," he pants, pulling himself together, "is YOU!" He lifts up his copy Sword Medium, which flashes with light just before summoning a physical mass of ice to sail down into Alhazred's center mass, where it might either pierce or crush him if it gets in a good blow--and if not, it may shatter apart and crush some of those metallic bugs Ida shouted at him about instead. "So get lost!!"

GS: Dean Stark has attacked Alhazred with Elemental Crush!
GS: Dean Stark has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Dean Stark has completed his action.
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Siegfried with Heart of the Crests!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

There's something amiss.

Something is crawling and creeping around someplace that it really shouldn't be.

There's this awful, uncomfortable feeling like damp tendrils groping around his chest and--

Zed looks down. His eyes widen in horror. Oh. Oh god, it's worse than he thought.

YAROTENTACLES.

"Kyaa!?" Zed screams in a manner and pitch not unlike that of your average mahou shojou protagonist. "Get it off get it off get it o-- OH CLAUDE THANK HEAVENS IT'S Y--"

Three things happen in short succession.

First: Claude's racist targeting system gets everything as wrong as something like that possibly can and tells him that Zed is as red as the rest of these quicksilver commies.

Then: Claude, conditioned by a lifetime of training, a crippling overreliance on technology and far too many action movies, hurls a fireball at Zed's head just fast enough to realize his mistake only after it's far too late.

And finally: Zed's eyes... Go wide. And the truth is rammed like a dagger straight through his heart.

Claude, the man he trusted with his life, the one he thought was his best friend in all the world...

Has given him exactly what he needs...!

Both Claude and Yaro get front row seats as Zed's jaw unhinges. His maw drops open, surrounding the whole of Claude's mighty fireball. And then...!

                                  *CHOMP*

Zed... Eats it.

Just, straight up consumes an energy field approximately as large as his head.

A moment passes, then another. And then...

Zed... begins to shine...!

Light lances out of his body! His temperature skyrockets! He turns BRIGHT ORANGE and finally... Bursts into flame!!

...And leaps free of Yaro's terrible embrace.

"CLAAAUDE," Zed yells, still thoroughly on fire, "MY FRIEND. You... are not Past Claude, are you!? No? Then we truly are back home... Good! Ahahaha! Now, help me beat up my own species before they do something they might regret!"

GS: Zed has attacked Yarobeleedt with Immunity From Ninjas Prana!
GS: Zed has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
GS: Yarobeleedt guards a hit from Zed's Immunity From Ninjas Prana for 67 hit points!
GS: Alhazred guards a hit from Dean Stark's Elemental Crush for 72 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Dean Stark!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude's mouth just sort of... opens and closes for a few seconds.

"....EXACTLY AS I PLANNED," he lies, shamelessly.

GS: Siegfried critically Guards a hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Heart of the Crests for 29 hit points!
GS: Siegfried has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Siegfried has posed.

A lot of things, today, have given Siegfried pause.

In that, Riesenlied is not unique -- but the pause is different. There isn't the shocked look of a battlefield commander, facing something he never saw coming. There isn't even the pained rage at Fei speaking the name of a wyrm he thinks dead. Instead, Siegfried finds himself face to face with Riesenlied, after he butchered Wayside.

He feels something strange; something almost foreign. He has experienced regret many times before, but this one is different. It feels different. He forces himself to quash it; he forces himself to be what he knows he must be.

Mother's Knight.

"Riesenlied..." His voice, despite its depth, sounds almost soft. That is a falsity, as it turns into a shout a moment later. "BE SILENT! You... you think I ever wanted anything but death for these insects!? After all they have done, after they cut down Mother--believe in me, yes. Believe that I will KILL EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM, IF I MUST!"

Siegfried's bellowing, enraged scream is cut short by the burning, snapping blue flames that are so like a ribbon. It burns through some of his armor; portions of it melt. He snarls, turning to her, and his eyes catch flickering light -- and shone red as he looks right at Elly. That look is his response to her idea that he would regret it.

And what a response it is.

Then he turns, staring at Talise. "You dare sully Enkidu's name, after what you have done?" he spits at her. "Bold talk from A CORPSE!"

Rastaban's slashes batter against the gauntlet, as he raises it, expertly parrying each. Deep cuts are left in the armor, but sparks fly. However, it ties him up, for Tethelle to rush in. He can see that she is better than before; there is a warrior's respect in his eyes, but his expression is far harder -- and far angrier -- than before. The sweeping motions of her blade are caught, each with a titanic ring of Glumzambor-upon-flame blade, and sparks and fire dance with the swords.

"I broke one sword, and I shall break another!"

Light surges up from the two huge pauldrons of Siegfried's armor. Lances of light explode upward, and then rain down -- a storm of swirling bolts of bright white energy, which fly out for Elly, Talise, and Tethelle. They scar the street -- they shred through a few nearby sheds.

"That--"

Siegfried's eyes widen. That, perhaps, suggests that Fei knows and spoke the truth -- or at least a part of it. He stares at him for a moment, and then the high-powered flame blast slams him backward, sending him flying. He hits the ground and rolls; his cape has wisps of fire and smoke coming off it. "...He was," Siegfried answers. "You remind me of him..."

His eyes narrow, further. "...And it is why I will END YOU TODAY, FEI!" he screams, before he starts to charge forward. Glumzambor rattles after, the Dark Spear's blade dragging over the ground. Sparks explode and fly in the sword's wake. Then, he swings the sword around, and chops it straight across Fei's midsection -- with an afterimage of blue light trailing after the weapon.

Noeline rushes in before he can follow-up. Noeline's blow slams into him, her blade's green fire biting into but not through his armor. The Quarter Knight spins around, to face her -- to tower over her, with his great height. "You...! She should die in obscurity, after abandoning our cause, then!"

He changes his blade's course -- and the backswing of his massive Dark Spear comes tearing 'round, trying to chop into Noeline's torso with that characteristic directed brutality. Then, he turns, holding a hand out--

And the rocks that Cecilia threw with a spell are caught. Siegfried's armored fingers crush down, into so much dust. "The suffering of your people... the death of your father," he answers her, his voice a low rumble. "...they are nothing to A THOUSAND YEARS! A THOUSAND YEARS OF LOSS, STRIFE, AND DEATH FOR A GODDESS YOU TOOK FROM US!"

Then he turns, teeth bared, and throws Glumzambor. The blade whirls through the air, turning over, and stabs for the center of the princess's mass -- and then whips out, and flies back into Siegfried's waiting hand.

GS: Siegfried enters a Counter stance!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Blue Destiny!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Riesenlied with Curse the New World!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Sieg Impulse!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Talise Gianfair with Sieg Impulse!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Tethelle Cirdian with Sieg Impulse!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Noeline with Nemesis Cleave!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Nemesis Cleave!
GS: Siegfried has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has completed his action.
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Siegfried's Curse the New World for 0 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied has been afflicted by a Curse!
GS: Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken! Statuses applied to Riesenlied!
GS: Talise Gianfair guards a hit from Siegfried's Sieg Impulse for 93 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

As Mother's Mercy blasts away, Rosaline looks left and right to take stock of familiar faces. Gwen is here, and so are Dean and Ida's friends, Lily and the Beast. Even Matilda and Josephine! It's a relief, in a sense, though hopefully they can somehow all make it out alive. Rosaline has felt this very specific emotion several times now over the last year and a half. It's almost become comforting.

Ida rushes ahead fist-first, and gets an alarming amount of her blood sampled out of her for her troubles. "IDA!" Rosaline repeats, before dodge-rolling behind a half-destroyed stone wall's cover as lasers blast away. This works very well, until the wall decides to collapse on her.

She emerges a moment later, looking significantly bruised. God, she can't do anything right-- DON'T YOU START NOW, she tells herself, clutching her crest and looking at Ida while she takes Alhazred to task over Elmina. She listens in intently, having heard the same stories Ida has.

"Praise be," Rosaline incants, "Thy Sins Be Cleansed!"

She really needs to have that spell name changed, Rosaline thinks, as two green motes of light appear in the palm of her hand, one flying right into her chest, while the other homes in on Ida.

There's something ironic, or at least strangely appropriate, she reflects, in the way this sort of healing wasn't actually part of her considerable Hellion bag of tricks.

GS: Tethelle Cirdian critically Guards a hit from Siegfried's Sieg Impulse for 93 hit points!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Rosaline Calice has activated a Force Action!
GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Thy Sins be Cleansed!
GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Rosaline Calice with Thy Sins be Cleansed!
GS: Rosaline Calice has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rosaline Calice has completed her action.
GS: Rosaline Calice gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Rosaline Calice heals Rosaline Calice! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Malfi has posed.

Chime's bolts hit Malfi directly in the chest -- where her "armor" is already shifting and flowing and thickening in anticipation. They don't seem to bother her much, though spots of quicksilver blood appear and start seeping, slowly. Chime was far too cheerful-seeming for someone being threatened by a Hyadean.

That worried Malfi. Doubtless the elf had other hidden powers.

"You're a friend to traitors," Malfi hisses. She doesn't bother adding "and apostates"; Mother wouldn't mean anything to a native Filgaian -- except, perhaps, as an enemy to the Guardians. "Stop helping them and I may let you live," she announces, catching sight of Riesenlied and Noeline racing away, towards Siegfried. Well, that was suicide. Of a certainly. No need to trouble herself about them, then. She could concentrate on the elf. That was fine with her! She aimed at the redhead again...

GS: Malfi has attacked Chime Isa with Dead Reckoning!
GS: Malfi has completed her action.
GS: Elhaym van Houten guards a hit from Siegfried's Sieg Impulse for 109 hit points!
GS: Chime Isa takes a glancing hit from Malfi's Dead Reckoning for 53 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Chime Isa!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Rosaline Calice heals Ida Everstead-Rey! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong critically Guards a hit from Siegfried's Blue Destiny for 41 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Fei Fong Wong used the Force Action Protect! He takes Siegfried's attack on Cecilia Adlehyde on himself!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has activated a Force Action!
GS: Noeline takes a glancing hit from Siegfried's Nemesis Cleave for 93 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Fei Fong Wong critically Guards a hit from Siegfried's Nemesis Cleave for 63 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Yarobeleedt has posed.

        The crawling slime-bug-whatever sort of rights themselves, but they are more like a puddle trying its damndest to stand up. The degree of damages suffered by this insufferable, suffering sufferer is, to anyone remotely empathic, a sad thing to watch.
        "It???" Yarobeleedt cocks his head like it might slide off his neck. It could, maybe. "Is it ^It^ to ^Silly Greenhead^?!" Yarobeleedt seethes ever more. Quicksilver leaks out of his mouth. That's not drool. He must have bit down so hard that he just broke metal flesh.
        Claude turns around and accidentally throws a fireball at Zed, who consumes it and glows such a bright, hot color that Yarobeleedt has to let go - but it's more like he shoves Zed away, like he was jilted. Very much jilted.
        "Is funny?! I give fun grade E!!!" He screeches. "Fun E! That is now funny!!!" So it's not funny. Off-handedly, he shoves a shield-arm in Tesni's direction for a while as she continues to shoot. The solid matter of that arm buckles under the continued focused fire, until it pierces through the shield. In a panic, Yarobeleedt swings that arm towards Tesni, trying to envelop her in what looks like it's trying to turn into a syringe b ut doesn't get much further than 'sharp, deep-stabbing edges' that nonetheless still try to shove something venomous into her - inefficiently, but painfully.
        "^Silly Greenhead^ always get ten ignored," attention, he means, not a ten being shunned, what the hell Agetec, "Belselk always speak of ^Silly Greenhead^." Yarobeleedt edges closer. Angrier? Very much so. "Never stop! Quarter Knight always know! Watch! Say! Always for ^Silly Greenehad^." Is he... jealous? But he also feared attention from the likes of Berserk and was jealous that Zed got so much of it?
        If it weren't for the biological incompatibility with Malevolence... well, let's not dwell on that.
        "You!!" He coherently but angrily incoherently screams at Claude as the blobbier arm tries to splash on him and just... stab deep, as though pencils were tring to poke through a plastic bag. Very sharp pencils. Very sharp pencils probing at that distinctive white-ish coat of his. "You take my anger of ^Silly Greenhead^ that way? Any way? A way!! No! Nononono. Not like you take Chupacabra!" ...Chapapanga.
        Yarobeleedt's face leaks. Tears? Alien blood? Both? He looks awful. He is always awful. But this is even moreso. "y? Spite on Yarobeledt?! Spit on Yarobeleedt?!" He spits.
        He spits enough as he edges way, way, way too close to Zed that the sheer volume of spittle can be legally considered a kind of assault where venomous fluids of an indistinct character are spraying all over him as the slug-bug-thing lurches closer.

GS: Yarobeleedt has spent 1 Combo on Disease, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Yarobeleedt has attacked Tesni Inoue with Lily River!
GS: Yarobeleedt has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Yarobeleedt has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Spin Less!
GS: Yarobeleedt has attacked Zed with Pail Faes!
GS: Yarobeleedt has completed its action.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

It's good enough; knowing that she managed to hit *something* is enough. She continues to back away, giving herself some space to operate -- but it's not *quite* enough to get her out of the way of the barrage of lasers, leaving one leg singed. Matilda's stance sinks a little, but she manages to stay up in substantial part.

With a slightly strained smile, Matilda says, "Ah -- yes, Dean, that was all *quite* bad," even as she tries to figure out what -- exactly -- her plan is. It's remarkably difficult to aggress against something whose form one can't quite see -- at least, for Matilda, who relies so heavily on creating openings and exploiting them.

Matilda draws the Freeshooter with her other hand, now wielding *both* of her chosen weapons... though a little awkwardly. She takes a few steps back, firing a blast of rock and gravel at... what she *hopes* is something vital.

Her eyes widen a little as she notices Jay's intensity, though. ... she can't say she minds seeing it, though...

GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Alhazred with Gravel Bullet!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: Claude C. Kenny critically Guards a hit from Yarobeleedt's Spin Less for 17 hit points!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Yarobeleedt has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred critically Guards a hit from Matilda Whitehead's Gravel Bullet for 22 hit points!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Zed takes a solid hit from Yarobeleedt's Pail Faes for 72 hit points!
GS: Shieldbreak! Statuses applied to Zed!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied feels something really strange for a moment, perhaps due to empathic senses, or perhaps just because of the bond she has--

        She's looking onward, with those miserable eyes of hers, those tears. And there's something in the way they look at each other, feels that difference, feels something incredibly awkward...

        ...

        And that moment washes away.

        Siegfried's soft speaking of her name is almost enough for her to mellow -- and the ensuing enraged scream is enough to rattle her to her core. Beyond her core.

        BE SILENT!!

        Unsurprisingly, it is a horrible idea to just be in Siegfried's space when nobody else is stopping their battle -- they shouldn't.

        Elly creates that superheated blast of thermal energy and she's forced to move away from him; even if she didn't, Tethelle and Talise's strikes would've pushed her far away regardless.

        Fei takes a moment to explain further, before adding to the fire with his fist -- and fortunately, Riesenlied doesn't have to scramble away from Siegfried all that much because Noeline's there to tear through and save her from a mixture of dadly aggression and friendly fire.

        When Noeline takes hold of her and picks her up, she's still visibly shaken as she holds her hand to one side, choking for a moment.

        "I do believe that... I do," Riesenlied wanly expresses, gazing towards Siegfried from a distance. Noeline can at least see, in the midst of all the despair and whimpering--

        --that there is still a glean of hope within her eyes.

        "... I will continue your work," Riesenlied whispers. "That mantle of Sigmund's that you bequeathed upon me, so long ago... I will wear it. I will continue what you started... even if you cannot bear to turn upon it again... because that is the grace and caring that you have shown me, when no one else would."

        She wicks her tears away with her hand.

        "Even if it is not what you want for me..."

        The word just hangs in her mouth. She wants to say it. 'Father'... just like that... but something holds her back. A fear, an anxiety...

        ...

        A word she'll have to muster up the courage for later, for now, she will fight hatred with hope. And the light from the Dragon's Tear shines. She opens her mouth, and chants...

        She chants the song of the giants, vocally.

        The song echoes across the field, across every Metal Beast and footsoldiers, across the Princess and her retinue, across Talise and Noeline and towards Fei and Elly as well. It may not have lyrics, it may not have words...

        ... but few can deny the raw emotion that fills through them.

GS: Riesenlied has spent 1 Combo on Reload, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Noeline with Empathic Prayer - Riesenlied!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Empathic Prayer - Riesenlied!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Empathic Prayer - Riesenlied!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Empathic Prayer - Riesenlied!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Talise Gianfair with Empathic Prayer - Riesenlied!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Tethelle Cirdian with Empathic Prayer - Riesenlied!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied heals Talise Gianfair! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Reload! Talise Gianfair gains 15 extra FP from Riesenlied!
GS: Riesenlied heals Tethelle Cirdian! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Reload! Tethelle Cirdian gains 15 extra FP from Riesenlied!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        For the record, Gulliver *totally* made that sick jump. Just not as impressively. He probably should have chosen to ford instead. Or pay the Baskar to help him across.

        --------

        'Perhaps you have changed somehow since I was last able to take some readings? Hold still - you must be processed.'

        "Oh, like *Hell* you will!" Gwen's emotional state, understandably, dips into anger as the Quarter Knight shows considerable interest in her friends.

        ... Even if it means a small, dark part of herself is glad it's not her.

        A small, vengeful piece of anger burns still as Alhazred, understandably, shows no recollection of anyone named 'Jack'. Well, of course he wouldn't know. 'Jack' probably chose that name for that reason alone.

        Gwen just grins wide, still riding high on the feeling that she's *home*. "Nah, nah, don't worry about it. You will." Jack, pleasepleaseplease make sure to ensure that Alhazred knows your name, Gwen's making herself look stupid enough as it *is*.

        What doesn't help is when a storm of mechanical insects fire at will, lasers cutting through Gwen's worn body and already damaged ARM, held in front of her as a temporary shield. She didn't really have the time to do a proper defense.

        ... Because she's dashing after that insect that had just sipped of Ida's blood like a blasphemous mosquito. "Damn it!" Forced back, Gwen hears Rosaline's familiar chanting. She turns and looks at her out of the corner of her eye. "We have a lotta stuff to catch up on, Rosaline."

        And Gwen can make all the apologies she feels Rosaline deserves. But for now, she looks to Rosaline, to Dean, Matilda, Ida, and the others beyond-

        "I'm gonna try to weaken those drones of his, so get ready!" The sparking of Gwen's ARM grows more and more intense, until she extends it forward in front of her, casting out a widening field of electric energy all around her. "Gh... There! I can't hold it for long, see what you guys can do!"

        It may not even have an effect at all, but it was worth it to try and see.

<Pose Tracker> Skylr Paer has posed.

         "Oh.... they're scary." She murmurs softly.
 
         Skylr seems at least more at ease with someone she knows isn't afraid, and in fact, seems more than slightly annoyed at the situation. It's kind of amusing, actually: All the annoyance is kind of like how Skylr feels when that one Guardsman keeps showing up to medical with bruises and such. There's only so many times Skylr will give you nice heals, instead of the needles and bruises.
 
         "Oh, dang!" She watches the damage get dropped out.
 
         She winces. but then shrugs. "Hey! Hi! How are you?" She asks Alhazred. Why are you talking to the scary metal demon, Skypear? Oh, that's why. That arrow set in the bow fires the instant she says it. It's not magical. It's just a plain old arrow from a plain old bow.

GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Alhazred with Simple Shot!
GS: Skylr Paer has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Skylr Paer has completed her action.
GS: Alhazred guards a hit from Skylr Paer's Simple Shot for 55 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Alhazred with St. Elmo's Fire!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Alhazred critically Guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's St. Elmo's Fire for 13 hit points!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

        Despite seeing it, the pint-sized elf gets almost outplayed as she mostly dodges the second strike of Malfi's. Her crossbows come up helping to mostly knock the strike away, but not enough as the bolts in the magazines get knocked askew and a new scoff gouges across her vest.

        "Mmm, I'm friends with lots of people, but I wouldn't say with any of yours just yet. But I'm willing to see what happens~" a cheerful Chime remarks, as she jumps back onto a wall and then over Malfi landing and firing a night-black bolt at the warrior after she comes out of a rolling landing. "If nothing else, it'll make a fun story I hope!" she says with a bright, cheerful, beaming smile, "After all, the future isn't set in stone, but built one brick at a time in the present."

GS: Chime Isa has attacked Malfi with Crippling Shot!
GS: Chime Isa has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
GS: Tesni Inoue takes a solid hit from Yarobeleedt's Lily River for 130 hit points!
GS: Tesni Inoue has been weakened by Disease! They take 0 damage, and burn off all temporary hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Tesni Inoue!
GS: Malfi guards a hit from Chime Isa's Crippling Shot for 0 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Malfi!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Beast has posed.

        A metal demon, Gwen replies. Something dangerous, and she ought to keep close. It tells her that she certainly should keep close - to protect them.

        The Beast of Lohgrin leaps upon this creature which is not human at all; he flips himself like a boat capsizing, but for the way her still-damp plates do not fall into water but instead catch just above the ground. (She does not, notably, go slamming into it, as if she is cushioned from her fall. The green-tinted energy about her, perhaps?)

        And just as she asked - Alhazred explains.

        BGM Change: Vivaldi - Storm https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqAOGduIFbg

        An iron mask cannot reflect the horror which floods her voice. "You cannot do this!" She cries, in indignation. "This is the world of Men - it is for them!" As for the statue, well - statues have an affinity for statues.

        "If you mean to do them harm," insists the Beast as those lasers charge, "I will stop you!"

        But she cannot get in the way of all of them - and she has herself to worry about, as a sensor darts out to catch her. She leaps away, swiftly; it darts through the eddies of wind about her to latch about a wingplate and start drilling.

        She does not cry out, or express any pain at all, but she does whip about to try and dislodge it. Successful, eventually - though perhaps just because the little bug has taken all it has sought.

        (The readings are standard medieval iron. It's old - perhaps a few centuries old - and of Lunarian forge. It shouldn't be able to move like it does. So, why...)

        She is just fast enough to see the harm done to Jay and Dean and Rosaline and Gwen and a woman she doesn't quite know and - Ida, as the bug takes so much blood instead of iron filings. "Ida!" But Rosaline is there, already, to soothe her ills.

        The Beast of Lohgrin whirls on Alhazred. There is no no reasoning with someone who calls humanity vermin. She closes into his space again, and headplates separate at ill angle to bite down - right on one of those oversized claws, as if she means to twist it into uselessness. Perhaps it is fair to say she has not met many Metal Demons.

GS: Seraph Beast has attacked Alhazred with Stubborn Bite!
GS: Seraph Beast has completed her action.
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Riesenlied heals Cecilia Adlehyde! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Reload! Cecilia Adlehyde gains 15 extra FP from Riesenlied!
GS: Alhazred critically Guards a hit from Seraph Beast's Stubborn Bite for 11 hit points!
GS: Cover! Statuses applied to Seraph Beast!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Beast has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Malfi has posed.

Chime's ebony bolt hits Malfi square, but, surprisingly, does no damage. Instead, in decreases her powers. Malfi assumes this must be some sort of magic...

The elf is still annoyingly chipper and upbeat -- and standing between Malfi and her kin. "A story does no good if you're not alive to tell it," she warns, counterattacking with a brutal stab.

GS: Malfi has attacked Chime Isa with Beyond the Impale!
GS: Malfi has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Malfi has completed her action.
GS: Chime Isa takes a glancing hit from Malfi's Beyond the Impale for 48 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

Tesni Inoue calls out "Good to see you too Zed."

 She calls out still if Zed is seeking to stop his kind along with the others she's heard rumours about? Well there's hope for things not having to drown eveyrone in blood. The question is how to get their kin to stand the heck down? As for Yaro he keepos coming after them.

 "Is there something wroing with you?! The spit comes her way and she's going to need a bath after this she's also not feeling so well she loads another round grimly and fire. This one will combust after it breaches the target.

 "What's your problem?!"

GS: Tesni Inoue has spent 1 Combo on Poison, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Tesni Inoue has attacked Yarobeleedt with Incendiary Round !
GS: Tesni Inoue has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Tethelle Cirdian has posed.

This time, Tethelle knows better than to try to take Glumzauber head-on. Hence her adoption of a sliding, slipping stance.

It makes her a slippery target. Rather than hitting Glumzauber straight - even though Siegfried is parrying, and not her - Tethelle has her slashes always arc and twist, skipping alongside the edge of the blade. It denies Siegfried a chance to carve through her borrowed sword, and stops him from locking Tethelle down.

Which is why, when he fires the blast, Tethelle isn't there to meet that either.

Tethelle uses the last parry against her own strike to push off the flat of Glumzauber and throw herself backwards, bringing the tip of her saber through a figure-eight and leaving a trail of fire in the air. It can't possibly absorb the entire blast from Siegfried, and doesn't, but the lingering energy from the Symbological blade combined with Tethelle's mobile stance means that she is hit more by the shockwave of part of the street exploding than the actual blast.

Emotion runs through her at Riesenlied's song. Riese... Tethelle doesn't entirely trust her, and certainly doesn't know her well enough to like her, but she has to admit that she's chosen her side. Her thoughts wander. But only for a moment. She needs to keep Siegfried focused away from the city, away from his goals, and ideally on her. Cecilia and Talise - and everyone else - needs it. She has to fight as well as she ever has before to handle Siegfried, who is increasingly her nemesis.

Tethelle abruptly switches her stance. She hops toward Siegfried and then plants her feet, bracing wide. Her sword is held high, pointing upward like a flagpole, an image only amplified by the ribbon of fire that trails behind it like a banner. She keeps her free hand raised in front of her, held out palm-first as if she was going to block with it.

It is the Stance of the Castle, Zelduke's Tower. It's one of the ones Tethelle rarely assumes because its immobility rarely strikes her as a good idea. But here and now, Siegfried is the only person who is old enough to just possibly recognize it from its last users a thousand years ago.

She is also standing between him and the approach further in toward the city square where the Statue sits.

"Well?" Tethelle makes a 'come-on' gesture with her hand before slashing down and vertically, a single stroke that streams flame and chi in an arc-shaped projectile toward Siegfried. When she raises her sword again, the flame burns brighter, with a core of blue-white from Tethelle's energized chi. "If you want to break it, try. If you want to break me, try. You'll have to get past me to get the others!"

GS: Tethelle Cirdian has attacked Siegfried with Comet Blade!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has completed her action.
GS: COUNTER! Siegfried strikes at Tethelle Cirdian with a counter attack!
GS: Siegfried takes a solid hit from Tethelle Cirdian's Comet Blade for 130 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Tethelle Cirdian!
GS: Yarobeleedt has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Tesni Inoue has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Yarobeleedt completely evades Incendiary Round  from Tesni Inoue!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian critically Guards a hit from Siegfried's Counter Attack for 67 hit points!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

Talise has fought Siegfried on more than a few occasions. This time, though, there's something palpably different. He's still stronger and faster than she is - but she's missing something.

There's no doubt in the way she swings anymore. She carries herself more authoritatively and swings more decisively. And even when the attacks he hammers her with look likely to hurt, she faces them without flinching.

Even when Siegfried turns on her. Her eyes flash with intent. "We weren't there to dishonour that man's tomb, Siegfried," she growls - but she can't finish before Glumzambor swings.

Thunderous lances of light pound into the streets. Scarring the pavement, blasts fall closer and closer to Talise. Debris showers across her, battering her armour. But the steel is made of something stern and robust; it shoulders the worst of the shining light, the power of Mother's Knight hurling Talise back and driving her nearly to a knee, but she's able to reverse her sword and hunker defensively.

She stands. Six months ago, she couldn't. Not before the sepulchre of Enkidu. But here, in Adlehyde, Talise looks up through the white light even as more blasts swirl to swallow her.

"...I respect that you fight hard because of the feelings in your heart," she says, her voice sharp through the din even as the light obscures her from view. "But you're fighting because of hate, not love. And I know now that I wasn't entrusted with this blade so I could stand by while good people are murdered and conquered, Siegfried...!"

And then a song reaches her ears. Riesenlied.

At her most basic level, Talise is a creature of song. Even as the light swallows her with searing pain, Talise's heart soars with the gentle but aching beat of Riesenlied's emotion - and a couple of tears stand at the corners of her eyes. The rawness of love and pain, twined together within those gentle words.

For just a moment, a second voice joins with Riese's. It's quieter. Talise sings a few notes of that sweet song.

The glow of Siegfried's rain of punishment splits. Slicing through the light, Talise powers forward once more, her last sung note hanging to fade in the air - but it beats on in her heart. She rips through the halo of deadly light. Smoke trails behind her. She can see Glumzambor striking out at Cecilia - her eyes widen - and Fei's got it. The dread weapon is coming back to Siegfried like a beckoned dog.

Perfect.

Clenching her teeth, Talise rears up as she closes with Siegfried. "RUOOOOOAHT!" she roars as she brings Rastaban down.

It's not with one mighty blow. It's with a series of them. Talise strikes down at Siegfried with a rain of lightning slashes, her blade moving so fast that her arms seem to blur even with the incumbrance of her new armour. There's no magic to it, just skill and fitness. Her body moves constantly, Rastaban practically singing in the air as she directs her blows in a series of arcs from either side, carving into Siegfried from every angle she can muster.

GS: Talise Gianfair has spent 3 Combo on Headshot, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Talise Gianfair has attacked Siegfried with Cascading Steel Dragon!
GS: Talise Gianfair has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Talise Gianfair has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied heals Noeline! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Reload! Noeline gains 15 extra FP from Riesenlied!
<Pose Tracker> Alhazred has posed.

 "Nonsense," Alhazred responds to Jacqueline with a bored tone of voice. "The Metal Demons will enjoy a rich and fulfilling existence once we have fully converted this world into a habitat which favors our kind. The ability to experiment endlessly upon humanity will certainly bring me considerable joy..." There is a hiss of ozone, but this time he is ready for the burst of magic from Jay, and the shield snaps into place, absorbing the worst of the electric discharge. "...although I doubt your limited mind can encompass the endless uses to which you can be put."
 
 Ida throws a series of blows at him, even as the Esperanza flits away and buzzes around Alhazred's head. He looks at it for a moment, and nods. "Return for processing," he instructs, and the device darts off into the distance, its task fulfilled for the moment. Several of Ida's blows strike home, but there is something shifting underneath the robe as she delivers her blows, and it feels like each punch is striking something underneath the surface - its hard to tell what with that concealing cover, but her blows don't deliver as much force as she might expect. But the Quarter Knight looks at her for a moment, and then replies: "You have not yet earned the right to elevate yourself to a sample worthy of having *questions* answered. You exist as a point of inquiry. The lab rat must earn the right to make queries."
 
 And then Dean is pushing him, and he throws blow after blow towards the body of the Quarter Knight. But Alhazred is massive, and its while he grunts as several blows slam home, he merely lashes out with one claw to keep the distance open, even as Dean shouts insults at him. "You show a thirty percent improvement in performance over your previous attack. Impressive. However your ability to make classifications remains woefully inadequate."
 
 He watches as Rosaline goes to work trying to protect her allies, unleashing healing magic to keep them from being weakened as much as possible. "That is... inconvenient," he states, sounding annoyed by the reinforcement.
 
 The shield swings around again as Matilda begins blasting away, several of her shots slamming into the barrier, although it crackles and sparks as the sheer amount of rocks and dirt being slammed into it begin to make the system overload, reducing its effectiveness. It produces another sound of pain and annoyance from Alhazred - perhaps the shield shorting out has caused some damage that can't be seen, but he continues to speak as dispassionately as always. "As I was saying before the healer began making my job more difficult, your classification abilities are poor. If you believe I have not prepared appropriate countermeasures for attacks you Drifters have used in the past, you fail even as opponents, and are simply vermin waiting to be exterminated."
 
 Gwen's idea of trying to disable the drones is a good one, and Alhazred counters the effect by commanding them to all rise above the battle. In a moment all the Esperanza are gone, retreating out of range of Gwen's attack. Without the more generalized targets, the amount of damage that manages to affect the Quarter Knight himself is not significant - but she has cleared the chaff off the field for the moment. A moment later an arrow slams into the drape covering where the 'chest' would be on the Quarter Knight... and he just turns and *looks* at Skyler. "...you shot me with a piece of WOOD with a METAL TIP?" he asks. Just... exasperated as he pulls the arrow out and snaps it in two. "I do not know if you are commendably brave or fascinatingly foolish. Still... ow." He rubs the spot for a moment, looking bemused.
 
 The drone that was assaulting Beast has taken off with the rest of them - Alhazred is unfortunately engaged at the moment and cannot look at the readings, which annoys him to no end. Instead as the statue leaps at him again, he brings one claw around and catches the huge mass of metal as it hurls itself at him once more, bringing Beast around and crashing to the ground before her teeth can manage to gain much purchase. A cloud of dust rises as his tail lashes out to knock Beast away once more, and the scientist snorts. "It is debatable if humans are even capable of feeling pain as we understand it. Further testing is required in order to properly ascertain this fact. Thus, I cannot agree to your hypothesis that I can doing them 'harm' any more than I would 'harm' an ant."
 
 Turning his attention to Siegfried, Alhazred muses quietly. "It appears he has lost a significant degree of his composure. How terribly unfortunate... for his opponents, at least.
 
 "Hmmm. Perhaps this is a good opportunity. Transmit experiment number four twenty two." The Quarter Knight extends one clawed hand out to the side, and there is a flash of light as something appears there, dropping down into his claws with a clatter. It is...
 
 ...it's a tiny box. It looks absurdly small, all things considered. There is a stick with a red ball on the end, extending from some sort of rotating housing, as well as a variety of buttons all around the sides and the front. Holding the device between two of his claws, Alhazred takes hold of the control stick, and brings his tail around to begin manipulating the buttons.
 
 "Setting field terminational radius. Excluding user from multi-variable equations. Adjusting output for local quantum state. Interfacing with trans-dimensional overlay."
 
 Red eyes narrow as Alhazred looks up at the group opposing him. "Beginning universe manipulation."
 
 He twists a knob and pushes a button... and all of a sudden up is down, and gravity within a thirty yard radius around the quarter knight suddenly points away from the planet. Enjoy falling upwards... until you exit the area of effect and then begin to fall back downwards. Up until the moment that the ground rising up from below slams into you, at least. Which is all well and good until Alhazred tilts the stick to the side and suddenly everything is moving to his (relative) right, creating a large pile up of dirt and debris for everyone to slam into as part of the ground screams upwards in response to the strange device in his hands. He reaches for another button which would invert the weak nuclear force - an act which the scientist is SURE will have FASCINATING repercussions - when there is a spark from the control and it goes dead.
 
 Reality resumes relative normality.
 
 "Curses." That said, he pulls out a strange ampulse and crushes it in one claw, a flash of red light covering his body for a moment as the energy booster goes into effect.

GS: Alhazred has attacked Alhazred with Booster Type 217A!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred takes a solid hit from Alhazred's Booster Type 217A for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
DC: Noeline switches forms to Hyades Guardian!
DC: Noeline switches forms to The Fereshte Chevalier!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Universe Manipulator!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Dean Stark with Universe Manipulator!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Universe Manipulator!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Seraph Beast with Universe Manipulator!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Universe Manipulator!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Skylr Paer with Universe Manipulator!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Rosaline Calice with Universe Manipulator!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Universe Manipulator!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied heals Elhaym van Houten! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Reload! Elhaym van Houten gains 15 extra FP from Riesenlied!
GS: Jacqueline Barber guards a hit from Alhazred's Universe Manipulator for 139 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Skylr Paer guards a hit from Alhazred's Universe Manipulator for 150 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Skylr Paer!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
GS: Riesenlied heals Fei Fong Wong! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Reload! Fei Fong Wong gains 15 extra FP from Riesenlied!
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

What is momentary suffering compared to a millenia of pain?

Judging by the raising of Fei's eyebrows, he isn't expecting Siegfried--after telling him that he reminds him of Lacan--and he is promptly sliced across his midsection before he can bring his guard back up and he is cleaved into two pieces.

Or at least that's what it looks like for a moment, as Siegfried goes after Noeline, but when the two halves of Fei part fully--they fade into nothingness and Fei, himself, grazed along his midsection stands behind it. An after image of his own it seems. A half second late and he would've been cut in half.

He sees Siegfried going after Cecilia.

He thinks of her fallen father. Is he going to fail the daughter as well? In the last battle of Adelhyde, Fei was terrified, but this time the loud thrumming of terror is a mere buzz in the back of his mind. His movements are unrestrained.

In another blur of movement he interposes himself between Siegfried's Glumzambor and Cecilia's body. Another close one taking a strike meant for her.

But this time, it's Fei's hand once again, pressing against the Dark Spear and preventing it from punching straight through him.

"You've taken enough from her." He presses his palm against the blade, pushing it back with unusual strength.

"All the people who love you are trying to stop you, Siegfried. I remember Mother too. I saw the corpses of Elw, humans, and demons alike laying before her. Is that a savior's legacy, Siegfried?"

His eyes narrow. Chi ripples around his body, a perfect harmony around his body, the darkness and light within him coexisting with one another in stable fashion for once.

What is momentary suffering compared to a millenia of pain?

"So tell me, Siegfried. What is the pain of millions unleashed by your hand compared to the suffering of one? What is the loss of one love compared to the loss of countless? And what is the loss of one God compared to the loss of the whole of this world including yourself? Tell me, how has your many wars helped your people?"

The chi erupts from his body in a strike threatening to send Siegfried flying away from Siegfried in a sudden burst of energy.

"Do you think that just because you have suffered, you have earned the right to hurt everybody else?!" Fei shouts. "Do you think that just because you have suffered, you have earned the right to DOOM your people?! They need your wisdom, not your rage, and it is too late for you to convince me that your heart is dead!"

GS: Fei Fong Wong enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Siegfried with Yin Yang Strike!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
GS: Siegfried guards a hit from Fei Fong Wong's Yin Yang Strike for 94 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Siegfried guards a hit from Talise Gianfair's Cascading Steel Dragon for 208 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        "A concussion, huh?"

        From above, in a safe roosting spot, Penelope peers down on the chaos with dark eyes as she settles in, fluffing her feathers. Slowly, the pigeon closes her eyes, as if deciding this is about as good as it's going to get and opting to make the most of it.
        ...At this point, maybe she's just used to it.

        "How many fingers am I-- hmm, maybe not," Josie says, frowning in a lopsided way. It is perhaps not the most tactful option right now.

        Over the din, Noeline's voice -- and her statement -- carries. "Five drinks, Sugar?" Josie calls on back as she lets the Gawain-series rifle drop down a handful of degrees in a lazy arc. "Then we'll just have to make it official, won't we? And no skimping on the price! I'm not so easy as to be bought by five drinks in a dive bar!"

        He's not in any shape to do this? Technically speaking, neither is Lily. Neither is Josephine and she didn't even pick a fight with a hateful whale. Still, Josie responds in the only way she can: "Heh. Unfortunately, I've got too much riding in this one. One misstep," here she jerks a head Lily's way, "and this little lady's gonna cause me a world of trouble I don't need. So, it's really pretty simple, big guy."

        She pauses, glancing over at Lily, then down the street into the chaos beyond where Elvis stands. "Get out of my way or get shot."

        Before that onrush of jagged earth lets fly--

        Josie's timing is fortunate. "Sort of like yours," she comments.

        Any satisfaction Josie might have gotten from that shot is tamped down as her target manages to handily... punch one of Lily's bullets aside. Dark eyes widen. "A problem," she comments to Lily, sidelong. Elvis might not have pulled that one off unscathed but the fact that he still has a hand says a number of things that the trigger-happy archaeologist doesn't particularly care for.

        She juggles her rifle from one hand to the other, digs in a pocket for a certain cartridge. "This? A long story. Why, do you want one--"

        Her head snaps towards Elvis; he's little but a blur to her view. Cradling the rifle against her body as if it were an infant, she moves to twist out of the way. Even this only partially spares her pain and suffering; she catches the back end of a few strikes of those flurried fists and with a shout takes a step backwards, staggering for a moment. And breathes, staring Elvis down. She slots in the round without looking down at her ARM (it's as familiar to her as a loved one after all), rolling back her shoulder before slinging the modified rifle back to her left hand.

        And fires off a stiff salute with her right hand. "--Right with you, Tiger!"

        Falling back a step, using Lily's own body as the cover she needs, she takes but a glance down the front sight and fires while the younger woman lunges forward. Lily will have the sudden impression of something ripping right past her ear as the 'special round' fire seeks its target.

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Elvis with Bitter Pill!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrW6JpeRc8Q

        It's a shame that only a few things in life can wipe the smile and bright, cheerful, hopeful nature of Chime away. A raging fight in the middle of her already once appearently wrecked hometown soon to be again wrecked hometown likely no matter the outcome does not appear to be one of those things.

        "Oh sweetie," the elf chimes, as she again twirls to the side reducing the impact and tear of Malfi's strike using her body and crossbows with agility protect herself through it's quickly becoming appearent close range is a bad range. "Stories will always survive beyond one's death. After all, how many have already escaped do you think?" her voice bright and cheerful.

        "And even the saddest of tale will in time spark a light in someone to learn not to be afraid of what may come." as she backpedals trying to open distance again as she unleashes another barrage of bolts.

GS: Chime Isa has spent 2 Combo on Gatling, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Malfi with Heavy Barrage!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Ida Everstead-Rey completely evades Universe Manipulator from Alhazred!
GS: Elvis critically Guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's Bitter Pill for 20 hit points!
GS: Elvis suffers Infect, extending negative statuses by 1 turn each!
GS: Elvis enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Oh god! Oh god what is this, why is there all this weird goopy spittle all over everything!? Zed recoils far too late to escape his fate. Even being on fire doesn't protect him from that awful, toxic sludge. "What-- Yaro!?" Zed gasps, shielding his eyes (and mouth) from more of Yaro's... Tears? Saliva? Whatever! His gross emissions! "Stop that! Only humans are supposed to produce weird face liquids, you goon!!"

Oh! So Zed does know Yaro's name. But...

Can he... understand him!? Does Zed possess the ability to reach beyond himself, to penetrate Yarobeleedt's impenetrable diction, and connect with this jealous, jilted heart...!?

...

No, probably not.

"Aaah, what're you even saying!? Why are the Quarter Knights ignoring tens!?" No, Zed just doesn't get the right kind of subtitles. "What!? They were talking about me!!?? Hmn, have they... finally understood my worthiness...!?"

Quick, Siegfried, disabuse him of this notion before it's too late! His ego can only get so large before it exceeds the schwarzschild limit and collapses into a black hole!

"But... Yaro...! Do not be mistaken! Being so famous... It is a difficult thing...! There is too much responsibility. Too much. Sometimes, I falter under the weight of it all...! Do not envy me, Yarobeleedt! For I... I suffer for my art...!"

"Behold, the proof of my pain...!" Zed clenches his fist... And draws his sword! It gleams in the firelight. "Here I go! ZED...... POSIIIING!"

Zed poses.

His sword gleams.

And then everything around him explodes.

GS: Malfi guards a hit from Chime Isa's Heavy Barrage for 63 hit points!
GS: Zed has attacked Yarobeleedt with That Thing That All Cool Guys Do!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
GS: Yarobeleedt takes a glancing hit from Zed's That Thing That All Cool Guys Do for 69 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

The boy from Earth regards the Yaro from Photosphere with no small amount of confusion. "Take your ang... Chupa... what?" sputters Claude C. Kenny, who is finding Yarobeleedt harder to follow than pretty much all of his Space History classes.* He could have sworn his professor was a zombie or something... at least until he came to Filgaia and witnessed the real thing in action - they are much more entertaining than Dr. Herbert was. Why all this focus on history, anyway? It's not like knowing about the Cygnan Missile Crisis** ever did anything for anyone!***

"I don't even know what you're upset about!" Claude snarls, meeting Yarobeleedt's driving spines with chi-charged fists, blue and yellow sparks lighting up where kung fu meets Hyadean fury. "If you're mad because I hit Zed, just punch him! I don't have a monopoly on it! Hell, he likes being punched!" For a while Yaro and Claude just keep trading blows, again and again, but then Claude's arms accelerate further, blurring out of sight, as he tries to sneak a few extra hits in on Yaro's face.

Faces.

"Whatever, I HAVE PUNCHES FOR ALL OF YOUR FACES!" Claude yells, as Zed's henshin explosion lights up he sky.

* - Yes, they really call it that, in order to distinguish it from Earth History.
** - The Cygnan Missile Crisis erupted in 6,381 SD, in the Deneb system of the Cygnus constellation. The Cygnan Star Empire, as it was known, split following the death of their Empress, with partisans on Deneb's fourth and fifth planets rapidly ramping up for war. As the Cygnan Star Empire was the centre of production for Pangalactic Federation missile weaponry, the only weapons immediately ready to go were missiles, which Deneb IV launched at Deneb V. Deneb V fired missiles at those missiles, turning them into anti-missile missiles. Deneb IV fired anti-anti-missile-missile missiles. Deneb V fired anti-anti-anti-missile-missile-missile missiles. This continued for several minutes; by the time the two planets were firing anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-missile-missile-missile-missile-missile-missile-missile-missile-missile-missile-missile-missile missiles, the whole lot met in the middle, causing an explosion that wiped out both planets. (And, in the year 8,997 SD, gave the Cygnus constellation a very bright belly button when seen from Earth.)
*** - Certainly not the Cygnans, at any rate.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has spent 3 Combo on Headshot, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Yarobeleedt with Helmet Break!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Yarobeleedt takes a solid hit from Claude C. Kenny's Helmet Break for 169 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
Elly looks at Siegfried, blue eyes against red. Her Ether burns itself out - she cannot sustain that indefinitely. Even a pinprick flame, probably not indefinitely. Panting for breath, she has to raise her arms up at the calling of those bursts. One of them hits some kind of screeching static, getting broken up into prismatic shards and losing much of its energy. Another twists towards the ground near her, and the backblast staggers her. She sways, sinks to one knee.

She looks towards Cecilia as she makes her vow. Gasping for breath, Elly squeezes her eyes shut.

She can taste blood in her mouth, smell something like blood over the smoke and chaos of battle. For that moment she is tremendously weary, and gravity seems as though it's reaching up for her. I could just fall, she thinks. No one could blame me. I was already tired when I got here, and sore, and...

Elly feels a sense as though she is in a line. It is a strange feeling, one rarely entered since grade school.

Grade school. Something in her mind sparks off of what Siegfried said. For some it might be a sense of destiny, for some it might be a legacy of the past, but for Elly it is a trivia fact.

She speaks. "A thousand... years... Siegfried, the - the average human generation... is twenty-six."

Elly rises up, feeling her legs cry out. Be quiet, she tells them inwardly. You are the legs of an element, behave.

"Nearly forty generations... Even this nation isn't nearly that old. A grudge like that... You won't find your satisfaction because every human who has wronged you -" not every one, she thinks, but she doesn't know why, "is dead."

Up. Up, she tells herself. The expedition boots bear her as she reaches a fully upright stance again. "... Time got them. Siegfried...! Do you want to be understood? Or is your grudge more important?"

Even Riesenlied is putting her faith in her. Elly feels her stomach lurch, and the lingering ghost of a twinge from when Corwynt kicked her in the abdomen comes back. Ah, she thinks, it must recognize the town. Elly forces herself to breathe in deep again. Her hands clench. There is plenty of fire out here, and so Elly reaches out towards -

A cloud in the sky abruptly starts falling. It isn't an entire cloud, of course, but it's a few thousand gallons of water. Good enough. As it falls it reaches where Elly is shaping things, pouring around her and becoming hoarfrost on the ground. The outer fringes melt into water almost immediately and re-melt, preventing any gorgeous fractals - but the effect radiates outwards. The ground complains, but then ice spikes begin to sprout. She sees Fei -

The spikes knot and tangle like vines. An effort to catch Siegfried - even, paradoxically, to guard him? What is she doing?? This may aggravate Talise and Tethelle's barrage but there is room to run around.

Elly has to work herself to breathe again. After Fei speaks, she says her own peace: "Did you come to this world - across uncounted years of light - to punish children for their grandparents' crimes? Was this truly... what your hand is for? You can strike me down--" And the ice suddenly crackles, a veritable living thing, aiming to fence Siegfried in. (please don't murder him cecilia, Elly prays.)

"But I want to know!!"

GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Alhazred's Universe Manipulator for 149 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Matilda Whitehead takes a glancing hit from Alhazred's Universe Manipulator for 142 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Matilda Whitehead!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has activated a Force Action!
GS: Elhaym van Houten enters a Counter stance!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Siegfried with Sacred Elemental Boundary!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Malfi has posed.

This time Chime's arrows strike home, hitting Malfi in the right shoulder and bringing forth more quicksilver blood. An inconvenient, painful wound, though not fatal. Malfi pauses to yank them out, wincing -- she trusts her native regeneration to repair the damage momentarily. "But some stories don't survive at all," she responds. Fortunately for Chime, Malfi is right-handed and temporarily unable to use her weapon.

But that doesn't mean she's helpless. Her kind rarely are. Malfi draws on her internal batteries, sending an electrical charge straight for the petite elf!

GS: Malfi has attacked Chime Isa with Assault with Batteries!
GS: Malfi has completed her action.
GS: Siegfried guards a hit from Elhaym van Houten's Sacred Elemental Boundary for 117 hit points!
GS: Seraph Beast guards a hit from Alhazred's Universe Manipulator for 112 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Rosaline Calice takes a solid hit from Alhazred's Universe Manipulator for 154 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Rosaline Calice!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
<Pose Tracker> Elvis has posed.

A few quick breaths, and Elvis has regained composure from that folley of punches. The sight of Lily, masking, protecting herself with some sort of scintillating magic that resembles circuitry or ley-lines. "Impressive!" A beat. "Be happy you both fight ME instead on this path we walk! Any others standing in this way on my side would happily kill you if they bested you."

The Demons are ruthless. Those not killed suffer a far worse fate, as well...

"Come, let is fight!" he shouts, almost with anticipation. It was in fact, a mix of fighting on familiar ground, and the fact that he was home. Normally fighting was always a thrill, but the current condition he is in has stymied that. At least this time.

The man closes distance toward Lily this time, and attempts to fake out, but judges incorrectly, and that spin throws him off. Lily finds purchase with her arctic implement. Ice coats the connecting area, though his flesh seems rather durable. The piercing doesn't go deep, but the icy effect remains, clings and numbs. "Why you...!"

The Veruni leader spins back around, and throws a straight punch so fierce a localized sonic boom goes off, causing deafening noise all around!

While that arm is outstretched, Josephine takes the chance being so close to Lily, and makes quite the callet shot. It bypasses her team-mate unscathed in the swirling melee, and bites completely down the Sentinel's outer forearm, leaving its 'special delivery' behind. "My arm! What was laced in that?!" he yells, divided down the middle from anger and scientific curiosity.

Whatever was coursing through him would have to persist, as he has nothing to counteract it. THe man does take to the sky however, before screaming downward with both well-maintained heeled boots pointed down. "YOU WILL NOT STOP ME!" he roars, as he comes hurdling downward.

It would be recommended to reach a 30 meter distance from the impact. Most everything else will be fractured or in a crater, as the impact comes with an earthen SNAP.

GS: Elvis has attacked Lily Keil with Dropping Straight!
GS: Elvis enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Elvis has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Avalanche Heel!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has completed his action.
GS: Chime Isa critically Guards a hit from Malfi's Assault with Batteries for 20 hit points!
GS: Chime Isa has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Malfi has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Lily Keil critically Guards a hit from Elvis's Dropping Straight for 30 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has lost 1 Combo!
GS: CRITICAL! Dean Stark critically Guards a hit from Alhazred's Universe Manipulator for 77 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Dean Stark!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
GS: Dean Stark has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline glances to the side as Ida speaks. Quarter Knight Alhazred...so this was a Quarter Knight too...? That just makes her hate it even more. This Quarter Knight...!

"While I must thank you for calling me useful..." She says sarcastically. "I'm going to have to refuse."

She watches this 'Alhazred' carefully, waiting to see what it was capable of next. This one...she was used to them being passionate melee fighters, but this one was...cold, detached, and, more importantly, fought from afar rather than up close.

And then it summons in...a small box, and begins to speak. It's a little hard to follow, but Jacqueline can process it enough to know that it would be bad news.

She prepares to try and attack it, but it's too late - she suddenly finds the pull of gravity reversed. She's seen Catenna do this to threats before, but this is her first time being on the receiving end of something like this. She struggles against it...but is unable to. She braces herself as she falls, slamming into a pile of dust and debris.

She lays there in the middle of one of the piles, unmoving for a time...but, in actuality, she is very subtly drawing a potion from her bags. She picks one out, and waits for just the right time...before dragging it out of the pile and hurling it at Alhazred. As soon as it makes contact with something the bottle shatters open, splattering strength-draining lavender liquid on everything exposed to it.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Alhazred with Sapping Solution!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Alhazred critically Guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Sapping Solution for 7 hit points!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Josephine Lovelace completely evades Avalanche Heel from Elvis!
GS: Rudy Roughnight guards a hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Turbulence for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! Statuses applied to Rudy Roughnight!
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

"I'd love to," Rosaline tells Gwen, mustering a tiny smile as a green healing glow envelops her own body for a moment. A part of her fears they won't get the chance to, but then Rosaline has spent her almost entire existence waiting for the other shoe to drop in some way or another. Meanwhile Jacqueline fights with rare intensity, and how could she not?

She hears the Quarter Knight complain about her healing. This prompts a small grin, as she weaves towards another piece of makeshift cover.

"'Debatable'? 'Pain as we understand it'?!" she snaps, as she keeps moving. "You can't even see suffering when it's right in front of your eyes! You're not just heartless, you're a blind idiot!"

Gwen's attempt to disable the drones meets no success, but gives Rosaline an idea. First, however, she has to deal with universal manipulation.

She falls upwards, her body twisting as she drops the grimly competent facade to let out a yelp of surprise. As she does, however, she holsters Mother's Mercy and instead draws Esdras and Judith, her trusty SMG-type ARMs.

While in mid-air, she points her weapons towards the flying drones as best as she can, spraying bullets nonstop in the hopes of at least clipping some of them. She doesn't skimp on bullets, since she is back on Filgaia, where the Ethos lets her buy in bulk.

But of course, gravity reasserts itself and the ground suddenly seems much closer than it has any right to be. Cats may land on their feet, but honestly it's probably for the best that Rosaline lands in a crumpled heap instead.

She doesn't let go of her ARMs, however, as she flies to the side next, and even sprays some more bullets towards the drones until she impacts dirt and debris and the experiments mercifully ends.

And there Rosaline is now, on the ground, bruised and battered but ARMs still in hand, putting her in no position to immediately heal herself. Was it worth it? She looks up to see.

GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Alhazred with Spray and Pray!
GS: Rosaline Calice has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rosaline Calice has completed her action.
GS: Alhazred guards a hit from Rosaline Calice's Spray and Pray for 15 hit points!
GS: Weaken! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
<Pose Tracker> Skylr Paer has posed.

         Skylr is looked at, and she takes a few steps nearer to him. She looks back at people, then back at Alhazred, adjusting her still very broken glasses on her face. "Look... I don't have a lot of options here." She says, simply. "Like, literally, the level of options I have against something called a 'metal demon' is..." A pause, as she racks her brain. "Kind of non-existent?" Skylr why are you talking to the weird person attacking the town. Stop.
 
         Stahp.
 
         A long pause, before she points at where the arrow hit. "Beside, you still said ow! It counts as decent attack!"
 
         Skylr gets lifted up as gravity goes wonky again. She is very displeased by this. Especially after the last fight she's in. But up, up she goes, knees holding her skirt down for the long moments she's off of the ground. When she hits the edge of the gravitional field, Skylr blinks. "Ah. I'm going to fall now. There's probably no cute guy down there to catch me, though."
 
         Skylr falls.
 
         At the opposite end of things, she impacts with all the force a one hundred pound brick hits the ground with, crashing to the ground in a beautiful sort of way. If she were liquid, she'd splash people. She screams: Something might be broken. She's definitely more bruised than she was before, that's for sure. More arrows in quiver get broken; her bow remains, thanks to her terror-fueled grip on it, whole. Eventually, though, she struggles to her feet, coughing faintly.
 
         "Oh, for Light's sake. Why can't anything be simple these days?" She asks crossly. Her fingers twitch in Gwen's direction, and more of that lovely golden light curls around Skylr's newest 'friend', a Blessing of the Light.

GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Smallest Blessing!
GS: Skylr Paer has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Skylr Paer has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Rudy Roughnight has posed.

 A powerful shot rings out tearing through the battlefield, perhaps crossing past other epic battles, a single shot lancing toward a single target even as it speaks to others. Whether it misses or not, the source is easily seen from the edges of the battlefield. The red bandana waves in the breeze of battle, the currents of combat causing his blue hair to gently waver as Rudy Roughnight walks calmly to be a more active presence. Where he was? It doesn't matter, but like the hero some claim him to be, he is there when he's needed most.
 
 There are those that struggle with ideals and philosophies. Even on the battlefield while blood is being spilled, people desire the moral high ground, the final attempt to persuade, or even the basic need to be understood. Words are important, but far from necessary to show one's desires or intentions.
 
 Rudy calmly walks toward Yarobeleedt as if everyone else is not in the room. No allies, no other foes. There is nothing but a calm ire within the brown eyes the simple demeanor of a young boy taking the mantle of killer and having been broken just enough not to care bout harming the 'monsters' that have hurt this place a second time. With a machine-like precision and grace, Rudy switches out one cartridge for another, clearly planning a different sort of round for his next attack. It's clear that sometimes the strongest thing to say...
 
 Is nothing at all.

GS: Rudy Roughnight has attacked Yarobeleedt with Swift Shot!
GS: Rudy Roughnight has completed his action.
GS: Skylr Paer heals Gwen Whitlock! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        At some point in the future, Noeline will wonder how she managed to do it. Her face-off against Lady Harken in Wayside was a chaotic mess of a dance, too mobile to really be considered standing her ground; an attempt to stall for time until the Fereshte could launch. Against Berserk, their assault was more of a chaotic rush and a panicked scrum, overwhelming the Quarter Knight through sheer numbers and no little amount of a Guardian's favour.

        This might be the first she's stood her ground against one, toe to toe, Siegfried clearly and vastly more of a presence than she is. Part of her mind screams that she cannot hope to manage something like this, her instincts try to pull her into hit and run tactics - and even she's not sure where the strength to stay standing is coming from, gritting her teeth as she twists her blade awkwardly to one side in an attempt to block. The impact of Siegfriend's strike knocks her to one side, very nearly takes her off her feet - but she manages somehow to keep her footing, appreciating the lancing bolt of pain and the adrenaline that follows is for the way in which it focuses her mind on the here and now.

        "That's how you repay her?!" she yells, pure and aghast as her eyes flick with anger. "--she pours her heart out for you each any every day! She wants you to understand - to show you the same things she's seen! Do you feel for her that little you'd reject that so readily?!" she growls as she rounds back on the Quarter Knight, refusing to give an inch as Riesenlied's song washes over her and fills her with surety. Somehow, it bolsters her, and lets her manage to slip under the next sweeping blow, dragging herself down close to the ground - doing her best to use the size difference against him to her advantage, rather than his.

        "She's found a cause - she's found your cause, walked the world in chase of it! And if it takes every bit of myself to keep her alive to follow it, then so be it," she mutters fiercely, her sword shifting in her hands as she twists and rolls past the Dark Spear stabbing down towards her, feeling it bite along her side.

        By rights, she should be too tired to control her metal well right now, but the effort is too practiced; the shape of her sword twists around the spear unnaturally in an attempt to tear it aside, then melts away and reforms just in time for her to bring it up in a lunging blow. It gives her time to reposition, placing herself in the way of Siegfried's line towards Riesenlied as she follows up by using her momentum to pour her strength and the weight of her sword into another downwards slam.

        A bitter feeling has choked her throat; she thinks of Mother, the cult of hatred and anger. "Because that cause is the only one in which we move forwards. The future I want to put my faith in for the Hyadean race-- it isn't your path, Lord Siegfried. And I'm not going to move aside, not this time." She pools that bitter feeling, wells it inside of her - pushes it outwards as her sword explodes with Duras Drum's flame, stronger than before.

DC: Noeline switches forms to Hyades Guardian!
GS: Noeline has attacked Siegfried with Bloody Square!
GS: Noeline has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Noeline has completed her action.
GS: Yarobeleedt guards a hit from Rudy Roughnight's Swift Shot for 49 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Rudy Roughnight!
GS: Siegfried critically Guards a hit from Noeline's Bloody Square for 33 hit points!
GS: Siegfried has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Noeline has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

Should there be some other emotion here? Some sorrow at the battle, some hidden understanding? The others seem so intent on getting him to quit the field. So intent on telling him this is wrong. It is wrong, yes. It is hideously wrong. But...

Riesenlied's calming prayers wash across her, and though the powers within are soothing in their way, bolstering and empowering clearing her head...It also gives Cecilia the clarity to feel it when the hatred sparks back off, like wildfire with a bucket of water thrown upon it - calmed for mere seconds.

She will never be satisfied as long Siegfried lives.

They scream about lost memories and stolen moments. Cecilia throws up her magic shield, unsure it can withstand Glumzambor, the same as it failed to withstand Berserk's terrifying wrecking ball of a weapon. Fei takes care of that for her. "FEI!" she screams, with the primal panic of someone too gripped by emotion to do much more than scream names.

But he lived. He lived. He had the power to survive. "Fei..." she whispers. "Thank you," she says. And then she reaches for her mediums again.

She dares to stare at Siegfried, and meet his eyes, blazing red and vibrant green. "Then we understand each other," she says, and feels the word pulling themselves out of her.

"This will not end as long as you live," she says, and on some level she feels it like an oath. She casts the rune forward, and the air grows crisp and cold around it - Aru Solato bursting into life and screaming defiance, raining spears of ice down on Seigfried, hopefully restraining his movement enough for Cecilia to act further later.

GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Siegfried with Material - Icicle Edge!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has completed her action.
GS: Siegfried takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Material - Icicle Edge for 155 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily laughs humorlessly when Josie starts to ask about fingers. "Head injury, headache, disorientation--I've got all the signs. Not ideal."

A beat, as she pipes up to Noeline, "Better make that five each, Carver!"

Though she doesn't care so much about whether it's a dive.

"I'm troublesome," Lily agrees with Josie--but as she feels the sting of Elvis's magic she agrees with Josie. As for defense--Even when Lily's magic fades, the markings remain--circuitry seemingly glowing in her skin, faintly metallic and gleaming with the colors of her magic when she uses it.

"Big problem," Lily agrees as the melee grows chaotic here, too. But Elvis's words are a surprise. "Thanks," she answers, guardedly. "Ordinarily I'd do the same thing," the sorceress answers. "You saying you're not the type?"

...Apparently he is. When he rushes, Lily's certain she can feel it--an enjoyment of battle itself. And frankly... It's a little infectious.

The fakeout doesn't work--her ice works, and Lily keeps her single eye (the one on the right) sharp. Before she can actually answer, though, she sees the Veruni leader turn, and Elvis's fist impacts a wall of gleaming, golden light just big enough to interpose--and Lily can't talk as she grits her teeth to hold the barrier. It lasts... precisely long enough for Josie to take her shot, before the magic shatters and the one-eyed woman goes flying backwards, crashing through the ruins of a market stall.

She starts to stand immediately. "...You're strong," she tells him openly, rolling her shoulder and setting the pain aside. "...No argument there." Dog stands her ground, growling up at Elvis and starting to circle around him. She's a mid-sized black-furred animal, with sharp teeth--and a frightening howl.

"Dog, return!" Lily's voice snaps out, and indeed Dog rushes over to her--as Lily starts to put out her hand, then draw it back, a slight counterclockwise motion through the air as she bends her elbow, as if pulling, twisting something--

"Josie, heads up!"

Her markings gleam red and there's a sudden point of darkness right beside Elvis that pulses with a tiny shockwave before it starts to draw something out of it--and if Lily can pull it off, seems to draw power from Elvis himself. Whatever she's doing, she appears to still be doing it.

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Elvis with Red Draw!
GS: Lily Keil has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

        Chime continues to smile, even as they electrical charge comes at her. She adjust her stance slightly and crosses the crossbows in front of her causing a large amount of the energy be diverted so the remainder just singes the elf as it runs up her arms.

        "Hmmm, only those forcibly forgotten are lost, and well. Sometimes not even those judging by the remains across the lands~" she remarks casually, in a cheerful voice. She might as well not be fighting for total lack of concern in her voice and eyes. With a casual movement, she flips one of her crossbows into the air and shakes an old crest out of her sleeve and touches it to her forehead as she says "But even then, new ones are always waiting to come forth. Even a dead world would still have a story to tell I imagine." her tone a touch curious as if she's actively thinking about such a thing. In the middle of the fight. With a war waging around her. In her hometown. Bless all hopeless optimists in their.

        A bright blue aura appears around Chime, and then the crest is gone back up her sleeve and she handily catches her crossbow with a bright smile as if performing.

GS: Chime Isa has attacked Chime Isa with Hi-Heal!
GS: Chime Isa has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
GS: Chime Isa heals Chime Isa! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<DICE ROLLER> Fei Fong Wong rolled 1d100 <3> + 0 = 3
GS: Elvis guards a hit from Lily Keil's Red Draw for 37 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        "Yeah, no kidding," Dean says over his shoulder at Matilda. To Alhazred, he does his best to send that iceberg crashing down on him, but Alhazred is even bigger than the iceberg. Perhaps there's only so much a Medium can summon, even if he *is* standing on a water leyline right now. Meanwhile, the Quarter Knight says more words that Dean doesn't understand. He vaguely gets the sense that Alhazred is complimenting him, but also being sarcastic? Maybe?? "TALK IN WORDS I CAN UNDERSTAND!!" he yells. Kalve could be kinda bad, but he was never *this* bad! Sheesh!!
        
        Then the Quarter Knight takes out a box.
        
        Dean doesn't understand this either. He's made to understand when he starts to float. He scrabbles in surprise and confusion, but there's nothing he can do until he sails up high enough for gravity to reassert itself, and he comes sailing back down. While ground is rising up. Dean reacts quickly enough to smack rocks coming his way away with the combat rods of his ARMs, but it's not until he hits the ground again that he manages to grab hold of a piece of stone jutting up from the road, ARMs vanishing into the ether. It's a good thing, because then all of a sudden everything is topsy-turvy in all directions. Only by clinging for dear life does Dean ride out the storm, though debris still smacks him enough that he's pretty dizzy by the time the gravity storm is over.
        
        "Ugh," he groans, staggering up to his feet and holding his head with one hand. "What *was* that?" Still, now that the abnormality has died down, and Alhazred is messing with his box thingie anew, it looks like there's an opening. Chance!! Summoning Twin Fenrir back into his hands, Dean aims the paired pistols at the Quarter Knight and opens fire with a barrage of bullets, aiming not just to tear through the hateful creature's massive body, but also attempt to shred the control device itself. The latter might be hard, given how small a target it is, but he's going to do his best regardless!

GS: Dean Stark has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Dean Stark has attacked Alhazred with Violence Vice!
GS: Dean Stark has completed his action.
GS: Alhazred guards a hit from Dean Stark's Violence Vice for 94 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Malfi has posed.

Malfi scowls as the nimble elf deflects most of her electrical attack, then heals herself. She's not surprised by that last: she knew she was a healer. With her right arm still too crippled to use (although temporarily), Malfi changes tactics: using the shapeshifting gift that is her birthright, she forms her left arm and hand into tendrils, barbed and razor-tipped. She lashes at Chime with them. If they hit, they'll cause a myriad of tiny cuts as well as take some of her lifeforce. Such a wealth of healing should be shared!

GS: Malfi enters a Counter stance!
GS: Malfi has attacked Chime Isa with Transfuse!
GS: Malfi has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        A familiar sensation of calm washes over Ida, numbing the pain and staunching the flow of blood for good. She rolls her right shoulder, releasing the chi that had been bound up in the wound there, and flashes a grateful smile to Rosaline. That's all she really has time to do. It's all she has the presence of mind to do, as Alhazred keeps talking, and her temper begins to flare. It's not like it was when she was a Hellion--it's not as pronounced, not as overwhelming--and part of her feels as though she should feel guilty.

        She listens to what Alhazred has to say, and decides that while she does feel guilty about feeling angry, she doesn't have to. In fact, feeling angry is perhaps completely understandable.

        Ida looks at the tiny box as though it's about to emit a death ray at everyone. Her fear is almost proven right. Her feet leave the ground as gravity reverses itself. Ida's eyes widen. This again, she thinks--

        MONTHS AGO, IN THE NAMELESS SPIRE

        Ida screams an obscenity as she falls down a corridor, roped to Garrett Stampede and Rosaline Calice by Malevolence-infused lotus vines. Gravity has different plans for each of them, and the result is that the three of them go flying along like some sort of horrible Hellion whirligig.

        Ida chokes back her dinner. The lord of this place is not making a good impression.

        NOW

        Ida falls. This time, she's not roped to anyone, and she can twist in mid-air. She sees some sort of beast in the air--maybe a Metal Dragon, maybe an avian Metal Beast--and whips a hook-and-line off her belt. She throws. The hook flies as it, and Ida, leave the gravity field. The beast lurches under the weight, twists, gains altitude as though trying to shake its passenger off--Ida holds firm. Gravity reasserts itself below, dumping Rosaline and the others to the ground. Ida feels white heat engulf her heart. She falls, twisting into a diving kick. Chi glows around the soles of her feet as she channels everything she has to absorb the force of impact.

        Ida plummets at Alhazred like an enraged meteor, chi blazing around her. At some point she started screaming a war-cry. She's not sure when.

<Pose Tracker> Siegfried has posed.

Siegfried expected to strike Fei. He did not, however, expect Fei to leap before the strike aimed for the princess. Glumzambor bites into Fei's flesh -- and then he reaches his hand out, clutching the blade wetted with a hero's blood. His head lowers; his eyes blaze, his teeth bared, and he spits once. "My heart, boy... is not dead. My wisdom is my rage. Lombardia, Enkidu, the others may be gone..."

His fist clenches, and he looks up at Fei with a howl of anger. "My rage is what will guide me to crush the reality of this world... and make anew our birthright! To give their loss meaning!"

But, he has no answers; he catches Fei's blows, at first, with his own fists and gauntlets. The last one, however, is punctuated with a blast -- and that sends him flying backward.

Armored boots scrape over the ground.

Riesenlied's song echoes -- and Siegfried's anger comes to a boil. He looks at her with a sharp, stark glare. And then, his eyes are back upon the battlefield and the many before him.

And Tethelle Cirdian is upon him. She stands between him and her -- her blade's fire dancing across it, and then Siegfried roars. He rushes forward, and slams his blade down -- only for her to strike into him. With a bellow, his blade cleaves out and slams into Tethelle's, and it is familiar all at once. Swords meet; sparks fly.

And, like before, he tries to rip through her blade in but a stroke.

But, unlike before, Tethelle's sword holds the Dark Spear at bay. He draws in a sharp gasp, even as the blade cuts into her side -- but not deeply in the slightest. A light wound, showing that he could not hurt her the way he once did before.

And then Rastaban comes crashing down into his side, over and over. Armor bends inward; armor crumples, and folds, and then it shatters. Her blade slams in -- and quicksilver blood splashes out in a gout, as the Quarter Knight screams.

And his face is smeared with that quicksilver blood as he whirls to face Noeline, and he reaches his gauntleted hand up -- catching the blade even as it comes alight with Duras Drum's fire. It burns and scars at his fingers; it melts through some of the armor. His eyes drill down into Noeline's. "It is a cause that I abandoned!"

He throws the sword to the side, smoke wafting from the gauntlet. His eyes shift, to meet Cecilia's -- and his lips curl into a rictus grin. "It will end when every last of you is broken!" A spear of ice slams into him; then a second, batting him backward further.

"What do I care for your understanding!?" he screams up at Elly.

High-powered, quickly freezing water erupts all around him. Siegfried is left trapped in spikes and blades of ice. Some strike into his armor; some of it makes frost and rime gather on his armor, and he turns to look at Elly. "We came for a home," he says. "And it is one we will wrest from you--for the sins your people have committed, and will commit again!"

But the ice seems to cool him off. Siegfried stands there, bloodied and battered, but far from stopped -- far from broken -- in the maze of ice. He turns his head, slowly, and with finality, back to Riesenlied. Metallic red eyes meet hers.

"That work... was the work of a deluded fool," Siegfried says. "A moment of weakness. A moment of misguided hope. Humans, and the Elw, and the Guardians... have shown what they truly are worth, Riesenlied. If you would continue that... then I will kill you, and spare you the indignity of repeating my failure!"

He swings up Glumzambor, in a salute, and then makes as if to strike at Riesenlied -- to rush through the ice. The blade swings around, locked into both hands. His eyes blaze. "I will let my rage guide me... I will let it give me the focus to carry on! You humans..."

And he strikes. His hands swing, and the Dark Spear with them. "To the last, I grapple with you!"

...and his hands release it. The Dark Spear flies, end over end, and then slams into the Guardian Statue. It ruptures the base of the thing; halfway into the hilt. "From hell's heart, I STAB AT YOU!"

And then he thrusts an open palm out, fingers outstretched, and there is a mighty pulse of light. Then, erupting from Glumzambor are the blades of energy that are so familiar: the powerful, black and white, green and yellow, cyan and and blue blades of shifting, prismatic light explode outward. The statue shatters into flecks of stone, and then the lances of light whip and slash across the battlefield -- at all those there, as the Guardian Statue crumbles into so much dust.

And Siegfried, without his blade, screams: "FOR HATE'S SAKE, I WILL SPIT MY LAST BREATH!"

GS: Siegfried has activated a Force Action!
GS: Siegfried has activated a Force Action!
GS: Siegfried has spent 5 Combo on Gatling, including 4 on Gatling!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Riesenlied with Negative Rainbow!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Tethelle Cirdian with Negative Rainbow!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Talise Gianfair with Negative Rainbow!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Negative Rainbow!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Negative Rainbow!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Noeline with Negative Rainbow!
GS: Siegfried has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Negative Rainbow!
GS: Siegfried has completed his action.
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Siegfried's Negative Rainbow for 223 hit points!
GS: Talise Gianfair has activated a Force Action!
GS: Talise Gianfair critically Guards a hit from Siegfried's Negative Rainbow for 45 hit points!
GS: Talise Gianfair has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Alhazred with Furious Rebuke!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: COUNTER! Elhaym van Houten strikes at Siegfried with a counter attack!
GS: CRITICAL! Elhaym van Houten takes a solid hit from Siegfried's Negative Rainbow for 403 hit points!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Chime Isa takes a glancing hit from Malfi's Transfuse for 69 hit points!
GS: Malfi drains Chime Isa! Malfi gains 34 temporary hit points!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has activated a Force Action!
GS: CRITICAL! Tethelle Cirdian guards a hit from Siegfried's Negative Rainbow for 247 hit points!
GS: Siegfried guards a hit from Elhaym van Houten's Counter Attack for 67 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Noeline takes a solid hit from Siegfried's Negative Rainbow for 351 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong critically Guards a hit from Siegfried's Negative Rainbow for 46 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Fei Fong Wong used the Force Action Protect! He takes Siegfried's attack on Cecilia Adlehyde on himself!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has activated a Force Action!
GS: Fei Fong Wong critically Guards a hit from Siegfried's Negative Rainbow for 46 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Siegfried has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        Gwen smiles at Rosaline, just about to say something back when she spots Skylr out of the corner of her eye. "Nonono, don't talk to them!" Gwen squeaks to Skylr, her motivating anger, as well as that pleasant hum of happiness over coming home, evaporating in an instant. "You don't know these guys, they're not like, uh." They *did* just battle a giant demon whale. Even the might of the Quarter Knights would pale in comparison. "Nono, don't walk towards him! Uh, look, just *listen* for a sec!"

        Alhazred's disturbing comments are shoved to the side for now in Gwen's mind, allowing the courier to make a mad dash towards Skylr, in order to drag her back. "He's no joke!" Ignore the fact that Gwen was doing *just that*. It's just like a Fiend to say one thing, then do another.

        And it's just like Alhazred to run an experiment right then and there like the resourceful scientist he is, earning Gwen a nice little trip into the air, the courier flailing in the air with panicked yelling. Then down. Then to the right, with a bunch of debris to accompany them for the trip.

        Gwen's mouth opens to issue a pained cough. "... Why couldn't we've landed closer to Auntie Frea..."

        Nonono. That is *not* happening again.

        That wonderful healing light of Skylr's helps Gwen manage to get up to her feet. She pauses, using the corner of her poor, poor poncho to wipe at an ugly cut on her head. "... Goddamn it..." Glancing to Dean, Gwen makes a weak laugh. "So sorta gravy device?" No, wait. That doesn't sound right.

        Somewhere, Frea looks up from her tea, and grits her teeth.

        "Gravity, right, right. Like, the force that makes us stay on the ground." Gwen's fist clenches. "Stop messin' with the planet's grave- GRAVITY!"

        The head injury might explain why Gwen's just running at Alhazred, no flash of energy or poise to show any amount of planning or expertise in her next move. It's just all instinct.

        Just like a Fiend, to say one thing, then do another.

GS: Tethelle Cirdian has activated a Force Action!
GS: Alhazred critically Guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Furious Rebuke for 20 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

It is *deeply* unfortunate that Matilda's entire approach to combat relies on the world making any damn sense. She gets thrown about by the sudden inversion of gravity like a rag doll; she has nothing for this but to hit the dirt unceremoniously. She's not sure if what she hears is bone breaking, but that it's plausible is... unpleasant enough.

Getting up is a bit of a chore; she has to roll over, then shift her 'still-good' arm, then press up... it's honestly kind of a nightmare. Once she *is* standing, though -- then she manages to aggress again.

She's still hurting enough that she doesn't really want to... aggress, at all, honestly; on the other hand, she knows full well that ceding space to one's opponent is *always* a mistake, because then you're just going to be steadily moving backward forever.

So, naturally, she doesn't. Instead, she steps up toward Alhazred, blade-first, and just... moves conservatively. Freischütz -- and its holding arm -- hangs limply at her side; it doesn't look like she could do terribly much with it. Her strike with her blade is quick, simple -- and hopefully hits something vital.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock enters a Counter stance!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Alhazred with Return To Sender!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Alhazred with Darting Strike!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

        As she finishes reseting her stance and getting ready to move again the suddent rush of tendrils appears to surprise Chime. Not in the OH MY GUARDIAN way, but in the 'Hey that's pretty nifty' way. Even as a few connect and sap her. Her smile seems to only get brighter through, an despite seeing Malfi is ready for an incoming attack she goes ahead and fires a pair of bolts at her.

        From the right a toxic purple looking bolt, from the left a nausous green bolt. Chime snaps off both at the same time aiming center of mass as she says "Now now, stealing is rude~" with an amused tone, "Through I suppose I have heard all is fair in love and war~"

GS: Chime Isa has spent 2 Combo on Poison and Disease, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Malfi with Toxin Shots!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Yarobeleedt has posed.

        Tesni may wonder how to get them all to stand down. Yarobeleedt doesn't look like he's going to get to stand for much longer. His time in Lunar has taken its toll. One too many grievous wounds that a regenerative torpor couldn't fix. He may just be a blob of metallic biomass that is only kept together by sheer spite, and maybe a typo on whatever subroutine that determines whether to give up the ghost and just melt into an inert puddle for recycling into a new Metal Demon later.
        The incendiary round sails just over Yarobeleedt as he undulates underneath the line of fire while rapid slap-fighting with Claude like back at that weird casino where the Chapapanga statue decided to play some games of chance over the whole thing. The stalemate is broken - decisively - as Claude gets in a punch to the face at the coincidental exact same time that Zed poses explosively, which is an incredible visual as Yarobeleedt is washed over in the COOL GUY HEAT (he's so cool that the heat is also cool, that or he was overcome by dramatic room temperature). His face buckles like a crumbling brick, staining quicksilver across the cobblestone of Adlehyde.
        Yarobeleedt lies pitifully, broken and weak. His breathing grows irregular... and he snaps up again like he was just this shy of expelling a significant amount of his body mass to do so, his upper body throbbing and bobbing like it wants to be free of whatever skeleton is within.
        Rudy appears, stoic and all with clarity of purpose and the means in which to enact it, leveling that Hand Cannon and firing off a shot with no hesitation. He aims, he pulls the trigger, he fires.
        The creature flinches. The more solid arm just happens to be over his head where it would have struck were it not there. The round sinks into the biomass, punches out the other side, and strikes against the side of the head like Claude punched him there. Imagine what that would've been like if it hit clean.
        "Fufufu... is this what Yarobeleedt is reducing to?" Yarobeleedt... gibbers... slightly more coherently? Um... wait a second... whoa! It looks like someone actually got an editing pass on this cutscene bit, or maybe this was an earlier editor who got fired... but anyway, he makes slightly more sense?

GS: CRITICAL! Alhazred guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Return To Sender for 50 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
<Pose Tracker> Yarobeleedt has posed.

        "Even the hated enemy dismisses a Yarobeleedt?!" Yarobeleedt screams as he edges backwards. A coward. He's always a coward. He might not have much more space to go, because there's an entire wall to his back. The four of them could start to crowd around him easily. "No no no. I hate you more! It is more like hanine you more!"
        "You! ^Silly Greenhead^! You play so much! You play so much instead of working so hard! Yarobeleedt work so hard! Yarobeleedt does not get anything but misery!" He screeches. Faces like that shouldn't leak, but this is as close to crying as anatomically possible. As far as Metal DEmons might care, bleeding as profusely as this may as well be the same as crying. "I love Mother more! But Belselk like ^Silly Greenehad^ more?!" Okay, they didn't catch the name problem... but as it so happens, there is a frustrated resentment. "Yarobeleedt tried so hard to be better than ^Silly Greenhead^!! Now even worse off than you?! You do not understand! You do not overstand! You do not stand at aaaalll!!" Screeching.
        "You already forget Chapapanga?!" Yarobeleedt spits at Claude. "Yarobeleedt doesn't know what you don't know about knowing about what Yarobeleedt doesn't know that you don't know!!" Evidently, every failure has weighed upon him. Every statue that evaded him. To be casually forgotten as though it weren't but a little thing along the way... the creature huffs, as though ready to hyperventilate.
        "Treat me like I will lie down and die?!" He screeches along to Tesni. "Think me weak like ^Tainted^?" Technically he is one, look at him! He's... not really that battle-worthy, now. "Think I can stop to be stopped?! No no no! Never ever! I give all to Mother! Giving all! All almost gone... they keep striking down Yarobeleedt... Yarobeleedt has less to stand... but still reach to Mother... still reach the statue... this one, this one, this one, thisonethisonethisonethisone...!!!"
        His eyes go wilder, the pinpricks of his eyes such pinpricks of pinpricks they might be invisible now as he sizes up Rudy. Appropriately, the two are in complete comfort of how they might see one another. No fancy weird name calls. Just two opposite forces who want to kill one another, as Yarobeleedt recognizes Rudy is physically the only one standing in the way b etween him and the statue of Zeldukes.
        "Fufufu... Fengalon runs from Yarobeleedt?! Solais Emsu out of Yarobeleedt's reach... Chapapanga cheat... Ge Ramtos not die... Celesdue treat me like fool... but Zeldukes... Zeldukes... Zeldukeszeldukeszeldukeszeldukeszeldukes--"
        Yarobeleedt chants the name like it were a madness mantra as his arms start to flail about, indistinctly, between all of them. It is a demonstration of what he will do to the statue if he is allowed to draw close. His arms are a whirl of stabbing, malformed weapons trying to pulp them.
        "Zeldukeszeldukeszeldukeszeldukes!!!" Yarobeleedt gibbers.

GS: Yarobeleedt has activated a Force Action!
GS: Yarobeleedt has activated a Force Action!
GS: Yarobeleedt has activated a Force Action!
Seraph Beast (Beast) pages Dean Stark, Jacqueline Barber, Rosaline Calice, Ida Everstead-Rey, Skylr Paer, Gwen Whitlock,
and Matilda Whitehead: okay i am thinking i'm gonna toss out a heal/restore since a bunch of people got negative
statused to hell, who would like in on this
GS: Malfi has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Chime Isa has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Malfi completely evades Toxin Shots from Chime Isa!
GS: Yarobeleedt has spent 5 Combo on Gatling, including 4 on Gatling!
GS: Yarobeleedt has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Faint Hard!
GS: Yarobeleedt has attacked Tesni Inoue with Faint Hard!
GS: Yarobeleedt has attacked Zed with Faint Hard!
GS: Yarobeleedt has attacked Rudy Roughnight with Faint Hard!
GS: Zed enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Yarobeleedt has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Zed completely evades Faint Hard from Yarobeleedt!
GS: Tesni Inoue guards a hit from Yarobeleedt's Faint Hard for 79 hit points!
GS: Claude C. Kenny takes a solid hit from Yarobeleedt's Faint Hard for 127 hit points!
GS: Claude C. Kenny enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Rudy Roughnight takes a solid hit from Yarobeleedt's Faint Hard for 131 hit points!
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Matilda Whitehead's attack becomes clear!
GS: Alhazred guards a hit from Matilda Whitehead's Harvest for 46 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
Ida Everstead-Rey (Ida) pages Rosaline Calice, Skylr Paer, Gwen Whitlock, Matilda Whitehead, Dean Stark, Jacqueline
Barber, and Seraph Beast: I'm good!
Ida Everstead-Rey (Ida) pages Rosaline Calice, Skylr Paer, Gwen Whitlock, Matilda Whitehead, Dean Stark, Jacqueline
Barber, and Seraph Beast: I have THP and the Restore knocked the Statuses off me
<Pose Tracker> Malfi has posed.

Chime's Toxin Shots hiss pass Malfi, who writhes out of the way. How she manages to do this with her tendrils still wound around Chime is anybody's guess. Malfi withdraws her tendrils and prepares for a more conventional attack. Her shoulder is healed enough now, thanks to the lifeforce she's stolen from her opponent...

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied can feel her... well, only half of them would consider her companion, and definitely not friend, but... she can feel her emotions nonetheless. Tethelle, as she once acknowledged her... Talise, as she joins in with that song for a few notes... Fei, as he questions Siegfried who deserves to be hurt, just because he has suffered. Elly points out that human generations don't last that long... that every single one he would like to enact revenge on is gone. Noeline, as she questions what Siegfried is really giving back... Cecilia, as she resolves that she will not have satisfaction as long as he lives.

        ...

        Is she ready to see him die?

        It's a question that gives her so much pause, no matter how much she's taken a stance. With the Tainted, with Wayside, with their way of living, yet... yet...

        Siegfried is rebuking her. HE does not need to say words, just a glare that could melt steel.

        "I know that fool is in there somewhere. Because I--"

        She recalls those conversations she's had with Noeline, Dean, Rebecca and Avril. As they laughed and spoke of themselves as fools--

        "I am a fool too. It wasn't weakness, Lord Siegfried... it wasn't misguided. It wasn't a failure--"

        Her eyes widen as Glumzambor strikes at the air, and a swarm of energies flutter and stream throughout the entirety of their retinue. Each weave of power strikes towards her, prismatic lights rattling her further and further back and prompting more of a cry of pain as she's brought low and down towards her knees.

        The Dragon's Tear, however, has finally ebbed towards a climax. It flows with the reverberation of all-emotion.

        "Elly... Miss Elly--"

        Her lips thin as she suddenly is awash with that light of feeling. She's aware that behind them, the Statue shatters into so many pieces.

        "With heavens' soul, I hold my hand to you...
         For love's sake, our breath shall hold strong!
         The seven lights of a world so effulgent..."

        Riesenlied isn't actually sure what's happening, her conscience brought up towards a cascading light on some level higher than she can fathom or perceive.

        Seven lights have welled in a gathering formation around her, each coloured for the entire range of the spectrum of light. Each of them, an incandescent sphere of emotion that reverberates within her soul.

        But in this moment, she can feel it all--

        "With the tutelage that you have so granted me...
         With the love that you have shown me!
         With all my passion and desire for coexistence!
         For the new world that I so seek...!"

        The lights launch in a way that looks suspiciously similar, as she calls its name:

GS: Riesenlied has attacked Siegfried with Positive Rainbow!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Malfi has attacked Chime Isa with Rakurai!
GS: Malfi has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Malfi has completed her action.
Matilda Whitehead (Matilda) pages Gwen Whitlock, Seraph Beast, Dean Stark, Jacqueline Barber, Rosaline Calice, Ida
Everstead-Rey, and Skylr Paer: i would love a restore
GS: CRITICAL! Chime Isa takes a solid hit from Malfi's Rakurai for 181 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Disrupt! Statuses applied to Chime Isa!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Malfi!
Seraph Beast (Beast) pages Dean Stark, Jacqueline Barber, Rosaline Calice, Ida Everstead-Rey, Skylr Paer, Gwen Whitlock,
and Matilda Whitehead: i just did the maths and i'll only be able to punch two people with this so i'll punch matilda
and rosaline
Rosaline Calice (Rosa) pages Seraph Beast, Dean Stark, Jacqueline Barber, Ida Everstead-Rey, Skylr Paer, Gwen Whitlock,
and Matilda Whitehead: Thank you ;_;
Dean Stark (Dean) pages Seraph Beast, Jacqueline Barber, Rosaline Calice, Ida Everstead-Rey, Skylr Paer, Gwen Whitlock,
and Matilda Whitehead: works for me, go for it
GS: Siegfried critically Guards a hit from Riesenlied's Positive Rainbow for 0 hit points!
GS: Siegfried has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Beast has posed.

        For some reason, biting Alhazred's main visible armaments doesn't work very well. Who could have seen that coming?

        (Everyone could have seen that coming, Beast.)

        And so the Beast of Lohgrin gets slammed into the dirt, and promptly swatted aside with a tail which might as well be a bludgeon. Roll, roll, roll, and pieces slide over each other discordantly until she stops and rises in proper configuration again. "Are you truly mad, or just that disconnected?!" She demands, and the anger in her voice, at least, is apparent. "Pain is essential to mortality! Else how would they know to avoid those things which would do them harm?!"

        (Let's not get into the specifics of Drifters very specifically not avoiding things which do them harm.)

        "They are alive! Perhaps their thoughts differ, their perceptions - but they are alive! And all that aside, there is more harm may be done than to the flesh." The wind puffs about her. "Do not be so cruel to Ida and Jacqueline!" IDA IS A GOOD GIRL WHO HAS WORKED VERY HARD TO GET TO THAT POINT. And Jay stands in defence of all the Carakin!

        (Who might be heretics, but surely it's a misunderstanding. Again, that's a conversation to have later.)

        Unfortunately, Alhazred has little interest in listening. He'd rather play with... a small box. It is not a thing which looks threatening, but it soon proves her wrong as gravity inverts.

        Now - here is the thing about sending a Wind Seraph into the sky.

        It is, very literally, their element.

        The Beast allows herself to be carried through the air, sailing up, sailing down. She worries not for herself at all. But for those mortals surrounding her -- these cause her great concern. She summons the wind to try and cushion their fall against the earth; it is her strength, after all, to cause the ground to give way to the sky. But it is a manoeuvre executed in a moment, and imperfect for it: perhaps she will be able to stop them from impacting with lethal force, but slowing a body from terminal velocity and depositing it safely to the ground are two very different things.

        Well... she tries.

        The effort sees her own vessel crashing to the ground unchecked, but there is no flesh about her to bruise.

        She rises from where her pieces have scattered to the ground, and those hollow eyes turn to the mortals about her. She is unconfident in her healing abilities - but if it causes Alhazred such consternation, surely it is a thing she ought try. A breeze picks up, about Rosaline, and extends to that woman she is unfamiliar with; it is spring's comforting warmth.

        "You do them harm, and I will not allow it!"

GS: Seraph Beast has activated a Force Action!
GS: Seraph Beast has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Soothing Breeze!
GS: Seraph Beast has attacked Rosaline Calice with Soothing Breeze!
GS: Seraph Beast has completed her action.
GS: Alhazred takes 8 damage from Poison!
GS: Alhazred has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Tethelle Cirdian has posed.

Tethelle realizes once again that it might not be the best plan to try to absorb everything Siegfried can throw at her.

At first she's all right. She holds the position as Siegfried swings at her, absorbing the impact after partially deflecting it - and in this stance her feet simply do not move, as anchored to the ground as the foundations of the tower her stance is named after.

But this is not something she has ever practiced without a two-handed sword; it's not her favoured stance, it's not her favoured weapon, and she is a little out of her comfort zone.

Siegfried's energy radiation blasts into Tethelle and she loses her stability, tossed end over end by the prismatic light. And it's not just her; she hears people blasted around her, and echoing in her ears, the sound of shattering stone.

"NO!"

Tethelle vaults to her feet. The sword is in her hand and she has no idea how she managed to hold onto it through everything; she's bleeding, battered, and generally not in great shape. Her hand squeezes around the hilt of the sword so tight she can feel the tendons in her fingers strain. Others have fallen, and she has failed. It's not a good feeling.

"Even if you destroy the statues," Tethelle spits, "I will not let you do what you will to Filgaia. Do you hear me?" She raises the sword, the flame burning brighter and brighter, except for a streak down the side which is sizzling instead - Tethelle has bled on it.

"Your cause is evil! It will be stopped!"

Tethelle throws herself at Siegfried. She isn't using any of the esoteric stances she has been trained in, but only sheer martial skill as she rockets toward him, striking again and again and again; the flame streaming behind her sword is so tightly crowded now that it looks like she's half-caught in a flaming net as she hammers, repeatedly, at Siegfried's flank and back with all her strength.

"I swear to cut away this evil! I swear to stand against the darkness, as those before me did, and cut a path to the light! I will stand and protect others!"

Tethelle, if anything, speeds up. The ringing of steel on whatever metal Siegfried has in his armour, or in his shield, is so rapid that it becomes a single note, reverberating weirdly in the streets.

GS: Tethelle Cirdian has activated a Force Action!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has spent 5 Combo on Headshot and Gatling, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has attacked Siegfried with Whirling Juggernaut!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Tethelle Cirdian has completed her action.
GS: Rosaline Calice gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Seraph Beast heals Rosaline Calice! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
Skylr Paer (Skylr) pages Seraph Beast, Dean Stark, Jacqueline Barber, Rosaline Calice, Ida Everstead-Rey, Gwen Whitlock,
and Matilda Whitehead: I should be able to at least heal up everyone else (minus Ida, who said she's good.) Then. Unless
Ida needs it after the next check from Al. I THINK I can get 5, should manage 4 for sure.
<Pose Tracker> Alhazred has posed.

 Well, that was fascinating, although the end result did not include as much death as Alhazred would have liked. But he holds the box up... just in time for Dean to knock it clear of his hand. The tail comes around however, snatching the disabled control out of the air and snaking it back under the Quarter Knight's drape before any MORE damage can be done to it. "THAT IS PRICELESS TECHNOLOGY YOU BUFFOONISH APE!" Alhazred roars at Dean, and suddenly rears up, a large device extending from beneath his concealing drape. He grabs onto the two handles on one end, aiming it towards the Drifter and pulling the triggers.
 
 For a moment nothing happens.
 
 And then for a moment there are two Deans - one normal, one in negative, twisting around in space for a moment in a STRANGE DISPLAY OF SCIENCE before everything goes back to normal. ...it probably hurts like hell, whatever it was. Alhazred breaks out the weirdest shit when he gets angry.
 
 But there's still the rest to deal with. "Activate primary armament. Begin charging for specimen sterilization," Alhazard states, more to himself than anyone else. "Index as Experiment One hundred and twelve million, seven hundred and eighty-three thousand, four hundred and ninety-three."
 
 An additional, smaller pair of robotic arms appear from under Alhazred's concealing cowl. One of them is carrying a large device with a pair of prongs attached, both of which spark and crackle with electricity as it begins to charge ominously. The other holds some sort of ranged weapon, with several glowing coils and a large glass chamber mounted just behind the barrel. As Jay throws the bottle towards him, the Quarter Knight turns the ranged weapon around and points it towards her. The barrel glows for a moment, air being pulled into the glass chamber - and then it flashes, a spread of glowing energy erupting from the barrel and blasting the bottle into pieces before it strikes him. The blast continues straight forward, aiming to slam into Jacqueline if she doesn't get out of the way in time.
 
 "A clever attack, but your transition from defensive to offensive is lacking. Humans have an unfortunate tendency to tense their muscles before committing to offensive action. Still.." He turns, being pushed backwards by the barrage of shots as Rosaline begins blazing away towards him. One huge claw comes up, blocking several of the shots from hitting his PERFECT OBSERVATONAL INTERFACE (not the face, not the face!) as the rest continue to slam into him... and then the two-pronged device activates.
 
 A bolt of electricity discharges, and bullets are transformed into molten droplets as the lightning arcs among the shots back towards the Etone. The discharge crackles and leaps across the area, giving Skylr a moment to react before the electrical discharge lashes out at her as well. "Hmmm, secondary discharge effects are acceptable. Note for further study on voltaic plasma discharge prototype #91." Those glowing red eyes turn back to Skylr, adding, "Please consider your 'ow' properly replied to. Further exaltation of the strike will not be forthcoming after this point."
 
 Ida on the other hand seems to come out of the gravity manipulation without too much trouble, although as she comes down towards the Quarter Knight he suddenly turns and looks up at her, bringing the pronged weapon around once again. "Subject's quality grade is diminished several points by failing to capitalize on an excellent surprise attack by making unnecessary, irritating noise," he comments, bringing the electrical weapon up to slam it into Ida on her way down, knocking her away. He discharges it a moment later, more as a 'now be QUIET' moment than anything else.
 
 Gwen on the other hand comes running right at him, and her lack of noise actually allows her to get in close. She slams into him with a considerable amount of force, knocking the Quarter Knight away and leaving him to skid across the ground for a moment. He looks at her, surprised, and then chuckles. "Ah, potential and improvement. You should take notes from this one, specimen," he shoots at Ida. "She may actually earn the right to ask a question."
 
 The weapon comes around, aimed at Gwen. "Or she might die. I give it thirty to seventy odds for the latter."
 
 As he discharges the weapon at Gwen, Matilda comes in with her sword with a clever strike. She manages to get the blade in, punching a hole through the flapping drape and striking one of the large arms. There is a bellow of pain from the Quarter Knight, and he spins around to try and knock her away, a jolting blast of electricity arcing from one of his weapons as he does so. "Wretches! Such actions are illogical! If you submit for experimentation, I guarantee that your continued existences will be subjected to at LEAST seventeen percent less discomfort!"
 
 And then the statue goes and starts throwing around healing magic as well. There is, perhaps, a small twitch to Alhazred's eye as the statue begins using magic in some sort of display of support and care for these strange humans. And then he just sighs, and slumps over a little bit. "I was hoping this would be something INTERSTING, but instead you appear to be just another Guardian remnant, a disgusting shard of the cancer which attempts to excise us from this world. How disappointing." He brings the ranged weapon up once again, aiming it at Beast's statue as the Quarter Knight considers the target. "Still, there is ALWAYS something fascinating to be gained from a good vivisection. Please stop moving for me, if you do not mind."
 
 Another blast of energy rends the air, aimed at blowing chunks out of Beast's vessel.

GS: Alhazred has spent 3 Combo on Headshot, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Photon Blaster!
GS: Alhazred has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Rosaline Calice with Electrigger!
GS: Alhazred has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Skylr Paer with Electrigger!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has spent 3 Combo on Headshot, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Dean Stark with Particle Annihilation!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Electrigger!
GS: Alhazred has spent 3 Combo on Headshot, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Photon Blaster!
GS: Alhazred has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Electrigger!
GS: Alhazred has spent 3 Combo on Headshot, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Seraph Beast with Photon Blaster!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred takes 6 damage from Poison!
GS: Alhazred has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        "You can say that again, Tiger," Josie mutters, only the narrowing of her eyes on her otherwise near-playful expression suggesting her opinion on that facet.

        So he wants to fight them? Her own lips split into a grin. "The honorable warrior type, hm?" Josie remarks, gazing off and up into Elvis' eyes. "Normally, here's where I'd say you should think about being practical instead, but..."
        Unfortunately, he's the honorable warrior type who clearly can bring the heat -- even the edge of those hand-to-hand jabs had hurt. It's probably a bad idea for her own continued existence to openly push the issue.
        So instead she shrugs and lopsidedly smiles. "So! Let's dance, shall we? I'm getting a little cu~ri~ous~!"

        Elvis is without a doubt the least sketchy person in this three person fight.

        "Hm? Oh, well now, that's a secret," she answers Elvis' demand about her 'special' rounds. "I never kiss and tell--"

        "Ah."

        The playful banter dies a second short in her throat: Elvis leaps for the skies, still redolent with smoke and cinder. The rifle swings low, held loosely in her left hand. For a heartbeat, all she can do is stare up at the enormous man as he falls in a descent the likes of a falling star. Wheeling back a step, she is for a split-second uncertain of where to go -- where it is possible to go...

        "Heads up!"

        Before there is a flare of red light. Lily's magic. Perhaps she thinks it might be enough.
        She leaps, as if to meet Elvis as he falls, her rifle traded to the right hand, her left reaching for his shoulder.
        It's leverage: she flips herself over him, upwards, higher. A white braid comes loose, untangles, flies free. He was falling at an incredibly fast speed after all, and she's just borrowed a little bit of it.
        Landing will be a problem.
        Landing is a problem for a Josie five seconds from now.
        The earth below buckles in a shockwave as the force of his impact spreads outwards. A damaged building nearby outright collapses, spitting more ash into the air. Bad luck if she'd been caught in that one.

        As it is, she hangs upsidedown, still falling; Elvis' back is for the moment to her.

        From her hip she draws her sidearm.

        She pulls the trigger. The shot rings out.

        Josie never claimed to be honorable herself.

GS: Josephine Lovelace has spent 1 Combo on Poison, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Elvis with Getting Away With Murder!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Elvis guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's Getting Away With Murder for 126 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, Slow, and Toxin! Statuses applied to Elvis!
GS: CRITICAL! Jacqueline Barber guards a hit from Alhazred's Photon Blaster for 105 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Jacqueline Barber!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
GS: Talise Gianfair has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

Before everything that happened to her happened, Talise was a bard by trade. Her faith in Althena is tied up in song. She's felt the Song of the World spill from her lips, and from the ghosts of the past that led Rastaban to her hands. Riesenlied's song invigorates her more than it has any right to.

Enough that she hears something that she has never heard before. Siegfried, the mightiest Quarter Knight, screaming in pain as she strikes him. Talise can't find joy in a main's pain - only a grim certainty that this can be done. That the battle can be won here on the field of Adlehyde.

And a sad realization. Where before it was Talise fighting with a heart of fear--

"You can't even control yourself anymore," Talise realizes with a widening of her eyes.

But he can do enough. Enough to unleash an attack that's laid Talise and her friends low before. He spits his last breath - and his rainbow of hell is unleashed.

Rastaban flashes in the air as Talise cries out with alarm, shielding herself with her blade and sheltering her face behind one of the pauldrons of her new armour. The earth itself quakes and rumbles beneath the cyanic flashes of negative light. Debris slams into Talise in waves, pelting what few bits of her body are exposed, leaving angry cuts across her cheeks - yet somehow she holds. Wherever she got this armour, it's enough. Burnished steel plates rattle dangerously, heating as light rakes them - but they bear it. Her muscles scream as the punishing light drives her backwards - but she clenches her teeth, steels herself, and endures. It takes every single last ounce of fortitude in her body.

But other things do not hold. A limbed castle wrought of stone shatters into fragments of utter, gut-churning defeat. Talise's stomach tightens, a hot, steely sensation filling her mouth - the taste of defeat. Zeldukes' Statue.

Talise swallows the surge of frustration. Don't let your anger rule you. Uncle Piet was right. I have to honour what he asked me to do. I have to honour all of them. My friends... the Green Knight... even Althena.

"You've got the Statue, but you don't have us, Siegfried," Talise growls. "And so long as that's true, we won't let you do what you want. Not on your life!"

Tethelle. I promised, she reminds herself. Her mind burns with intention.

Tethelle comes in swinging and Talise sweeps in to her friend's right. Wrapping the hilt of her sword up in a tight grip, she surges forward to come in under the rampaging steel hurricane that is Tethelle's fusillade of slashes.

"TIDAL BLOOOOOOOW!" Talise screams as she unloads on Siegfried with a massive, rising arc of a strike - a single powerful blow aimed to slash through him and carry her past him with an enormous burst of momentum!

GS: CRITICAL! Skylr Paer critically Guards a hit from Alhazred's Electrigger for 48 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Skylr Paer!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
GS: Skylr Paer has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Talise Gianfair has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Talise Gianfair has attacked Siegfried with Tidal Blow!
GS: Talise Gianfair has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Talise Gianfair has completed her action.
GS: COUNTER! Gwen Whitlock strikes at Alhazred with a counter attack!
GS: CRITICAL! Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Alhazred's Photon Blaster for 170 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

        Chime makes a little chu noise as her bolts miss the writhing Malfi. "I need to learn to dodge like that~" she practically hums outloud in a cheerful voice, even as she takes a solid hit from Malfi's strike that sends her tumbling to the side.

        Chime comes back up on her feet through quickly enough, looking a little worse than when she started. The bolts visible in both crossbows begin to glow a bright white as Chime brings them up aiming not directly at Malfi but up in the air. Both fire six times, and then a few seconds later lance sized bolts of bright white energy come raining down around Chime's opponent, vanishing shortly after impact.

GS: Chime Isa has attacked Malfi with Arrows of Light!
GS: Chime Isa has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
GS: Matilda Whitehead guards a hit from Alhazred's Electrigger for 107 hit points!
GS: Matilda Whitehead gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Seraph Beast heals Matilda Whitehead! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Seraph Beast critically Guards a hit from Alhazred's Photon Blaster for 36 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Seraph Beast!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
GS: Seraph Beast has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Malfi takes a solid hit from Chime Isa's Arrows of Light for 124 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Rosaline Calice critically Guards a hit from Alhazred's Electrigger for 42 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Rosaline Calice!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
GS: Rosaline Calice has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Alhazred's Electrigger for 88 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Siegfried takes a solid hit from Tethelle Cirdian's Whirling Juggernaut for 301 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Shield! Statuses applied to Tethelle Cirdian!
GS: CRITICAL! Siegfried guards a hit from Talise Gianfair's Tidal Blow for 133 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

Tesni Inoue says "You don't know the human species very well if you think we will do and I never said that. I will respect that you won't at least."

 She's not going to quit she's not even sure how much damage her round has done it's hard to tell with the Metal Demons really given how much punishment some of them can take. Yawo seem to be chanting in his madness and something is coming for them it's not good it's not good at all, she barely keeps from getting hit worse than she did and she's looking pretty scruffy as well from this. She's able to avoid the word she's battered but not impaled and with her ARM still in hand she levels it again.

 She also took note of Rudy, it was good to see him again too as he joins them in the fight. She makes ready she loads another round into her rifle the nano forge in the butt has finished producing a heavy anti-gear round and she darn well intends to use it as she lines up the shot.

 "It's come up Aces and Eights."

 She levels the weapon and fires the shot at the metal demon, the round if it impacts the demon? Will explode after it's burrowed in a bit into their form.

 Rudy may have been correct the best thing to do is not to say a darn thing, but it's too late for that, a second after the round is fire? Tess is on the move again.

GS: CRITICAL! Dean Stark guards a hit from Alhazred's Particle Annihilation for 113 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, Mute, and Reaper! Statuses applied to Dean Stark!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
GS: Dean Stark takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Tesni Inoue has attacked Yarobeleedt with Dead Man's Hand!
GS: Tesni Inoue has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Tesni Inoue has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Malfi has posed.

Chime's light attack connects solidly -- at least as solidly as photons could. Malfi staggers under the impact, chrome blood evident. "I knew you had...powers," she murmurs distractedly. "You're between me and my kin! Stand aside!" Her wounds are already starting to close. Metal Demon resilience is legendary. Malfi presses the attack, aiming to disrupt Chime's connection to her ARMs...

GS: Malfi has attacked Chime Isa with Dead Reckoning!
GS: Malfi has completed her action.
GS: Chime Isa takes a glancing hit from Malfi's Dead Reckoning for 55 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Chime Isa!
GS: Chime Isa enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Elvis has posed.

This would be about the point Elvis would rant how two-on-one isn't fair, but this is a different situation. War isn't fair. It never is. Unlike all the other fights lately, honor is difficult to uphold completely in a brawl where everything both sides care about is on the line. People get dirty.

After tha tfirst hit is thrown, Elvis grins. "Not at all. I will definitely beat you into the ground! But not kill. I am personally rather against it."

A thought back to those of Valmar.

"Most of the time anyway. You two fall in to the 'most of the time' category." The hit is partyl suppressed by ether-like barrier segments, though enough gets through to throw her back. "I have spent my entire life working toward where I am now. It takes more than just muscle to reach such ranks however."

Elvis made it to where he was because of his brilliant mind. In combination with such fearsome power, it makes for quite a Sentinel. Lily calls for her companion to return. The Veruni jsut sweats while holding his wrapped hands out. "I'm not going to attack the dog, okay?! You don't have to worry about him!" he says suddenly.

Only true evil would do such a thing. That dog didn't do anything, and even if it did, he would just bop it with a newspaper or something!

Why is he thinking about this so much anyway?

Wait what is that strange #-1 FUNCTION (ANS) NOT FOUND

Some sort of strange energy is being ripped from Elvis' right side! He quickly jumps away, but not before the energy has exacted its due. "Guh... nr..." he chokes out, having to shake himself back to proper senses. He regins them just in time to see Seigfried to land his attack amongst those that would see him stopped. A statue topples. "Hum. So it was a Statue... interesting portents. This will need to be reported to Volsung..." he says, completely forgetting about the combat for a moment.

In that moment, Elvis left himself exposed. Chambered pangs resound as impacts enter his back. He staggers forward, spitting out a bit of blood. "You really are intent... on seeing this through...!" he remarks, wiping blood away from his mouth. "Fine! I'll give you everything I have!" The man crackles with purplish blue energy, as detonating ether surrounds him, fueling him to greater power, and suppressing whatever horrid concoction laces Josephine's bullets. If there was even anything on them.

Maybe she just knows how to place a bullet. It is hard to tell. It could be psychosomatic for all he knows in the throes of battle.

"READY YOURSELVES!"

THe man looks down, and with his boost of power, lodges a fist into the ground, spidering cracks throughout the battlefield. WIth the fist comes up, a massive chunk of earth and rock comes with, which, with great effort, is dislodged and lifted out of the ground. "HEY!" he yells, as he throws it, sending it hurdling at the both of them.

He hsouts in a mocking tone.

"HEADS UP!"

GS: Elvis has attacked Elvis with Ready Yourselves!!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis takes a solid hit from Elvis's Ready Yourselves! for 0 hit points!
GS: Elvis gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Hyper, Quick, and Shield! Statuses applied to Elvis!
GS: Elvis has attacked Lily Keil with Bring the Mountain Down!
GS: Elvis has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Bring the Mountain Down!
GS: Elvis has completed his action.
GS: Alhazred takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Counter Attack for 111 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

        Chime's bright smile naver falters as she ducks mostly under the lance strike, HEr shoulder taking a deflecting hit that makes her duck turn into a spin as she moves away. "Powers are simply the means of a person. Your determination is no less a power than my crossbows~" she remarks with a cheerful voice and smile as she again flips her crossbow up. From her sleeve the old crest, and this time she's envelope in a blue light right away as she says "But sadly, you're in my home~ I really can't just let you rampage on the others while I can distract you here~" she chimes in a almost singsong voice giving away just how she was viewing the fight. Then her crossbow is back in her hand and she's taking off at a run to the left circling.

GS: Chime Isa enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Chime Isa with Hi-Heal!
GS: Chime Isa has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
GS: Chime Isa heals Chime Isa! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Lily Keil guards a hit from Elvis's Bring the Mountain Down for 99 hit points!
GS: Elvis has lost 0 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
"Once, you did," Elly tells Siegfried; or at least, the words come from her mouth to him. Her ice boundary snaps forwards, trying to close like so many teeth and fangs onto the Quarter Knight, but this strategem is being tested with sore force against great foes. It will no doubt work far better against gobs, but... The chance may not yet come.

For even if he did not answer Elly directly, she has her answer from Siegfried. From there, in a sense, the outpouring of violent force, that familiar negative corona, is almost an afterthought. Except in the sense that it rips forwards and smashes Elly clean off her feet, sending her tumbling back. She raises her Ether, a strange vibrating construct of ice buffering the wave for a moment - but it cracks, and shatters, and she is thrown back.

Back... Tumbling...

Elly strikes something. She doesn't see it. Her left arm hits it hard enough to send a sickening pulse of agony up her shoulder. (It was a stone component of what was, in nicer, less Metal Demon-y times, a hitching post.) A moment later she smashes into a horse's water trough, which douses her anew.

Through the pain, she thinks: How absurd.

She does not get up.

...

Nor does she swoon. To herself, she thinks: Cecilia... I heard her words. She has every right, doesn't she? She is not the aggressor here. Her kingdom is assailed simply because of something that they had, due to an ancient conflict.

How can that be breached? Elly thinks. Or bridged? How can... can...

"Fei," she mumbles, before lapsing into semi-consciousness. "... l..."

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

All around Jacqueline streams of energy fire off, bombarding the field. If they were being aimed at her specifically, she's not sure she would be able to have evaded them all... But, before she can even do anything to protect it, they impact with the statue of Zeldukes.

"N-no!" Jacqueline cries out, whipping her head around. She feels her heart sink, as she watches it crumble into dust. ...That Statue...the one Lunata cared so much for. She'd failed it...

And as she watches it crumble, the Quarter Knight fires at her. There's not enough time to get out of the way. It impacts her solidly and she lets out a strangled cry, collapsing back into the debris pile.

Jacqueline shuts her eyes tight. She feels tears welling up. It was yet another blow she'd experienced today. Adlehyde...she was failing Adlehyde again.

For a moment she feels as if she'd lost all the strength in her body, but...

She has to keep going. She has to keep going, for Adlehyde and everyone left in it. Her anger was blinding her - she was telegraphing everything. She needed to calm down. She inhales, her hands tightening into fists.

"Illogical...get your head into the real word. 'Illogical' would be giving up and submitting. This world doesn't revolve around you and your twisted, incoherent, selfish view of science!" She mutters, hauling herself to her feet. "Now...here's a little science of my own! Everyone, catch!"

Calculating trajectories and wind currents...tracking the movements of her allies...!

Jacqueline grabs one of her bags and pries it open, hurling it into the air! Bottles rain down all around. Those who catch them and drink them will find themselves protected against negative effects.

...It'll have the same effect if the bottle breaks and splashes on them, but the former is the most preferable option.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Rosaline Calice with Potent Panacea!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Seraph Beast with Potent Panacea!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Dean Stark with Potent Panacea!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Potent Panacea!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Potent Panacea!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Potent Panacea!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Skylr Paer with Potent Panacea!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Potent Panacea for 0 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Lock and State! Statuses applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Seraph Beast takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Potent Panacea for 0 hit points!
GS: Seraph Beast gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Lock and State! Statuses applied to Seraph Beast!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Potent Panacea for 0 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Lock and State! Statuses applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
<Pose Tracker> Malfi has posed.

The elf's bright, cheery optimism was getting annoying.

                Really annoying.

                Almost as annoying as the face that she was between Malfi and her people and exulting in it.
                So she was a distraction? Very well, then, let her be a distraction. Malfi aims at Chime with deadly intent. She'd show her just how misguided such chirpiness could be!

GS: Malfi has attacked Chime Isa with Rakurai!
GS: Malfi has completed her action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Elvis's Bring the Mountain Down for 167 hit points!
GS: Elvis has lost 0 Combo!
GS: Chime Isa takes a glancing hit from Malfi's Rakurai for 69 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Chime Isa!
GS: Dean Stark takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Potent Panacea for 0 hit points!
GS: Dean Stark gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Lock and State! Statuses applied to Dean Stark!
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Potent Panacea for 0 hit points!
GS: Lock and State! Statuses applied to Matilda Whitehead!
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"Siegfried..." Fei murmurs. He hears Riesenlied's singing. He hears her thoughts. He hears her hope. He hears her desperation. He hears her love. He hears her determination.

"'Do not succumb to the weakness that grips so many in this world,'" Fei says quietly. "'...when they lie to themselves.' Do you remember who said that, Siegfried?"

But then something more powerful than Riesenlied's song starts to intrude on Fei's mind, and that's saying something because Riesenlied's song has a direct connection to Fei's heart. In this case it is rage. It is the anger of a princess who lost her father, the rage of a woman who has seen much death, the pain of someone seeing their home burning to the ground, feeling as if they had abandoned it, had done too little to help.

Why is it more powerful? Because it's more resonant to Fei Fong Wong than Riesenlied's life experiences. Riesenlied is more like Elly, Fei has learned long ago, someone who sacrifices so much for a philosophy few can ever obtain. Cecilia's hate? Fei understands that. He understands it super, super well.

People who love greatly can hate greatly too, and the line between Guardian and Clysmian is very thin if you think about it for even just a moment.

It's not that Fei hadn't felt it before. He expected it, even, but when Cecilia thinks in red ink that she will never be satisfied as long as Siegfried lives, it hits him like an avalanche.

He nows what it's like to think that.

He is thinking it, on some level, even now.

But he holds it together. He holds it together just barely. He has enough wherewithal to throw himself through the air. He has to protect Cecilia. If she dies, there can't be peace. If Siegfried dies there can't be peace. No Siegfried has to die for there to be peace. He screams in agony well before the Negative Rainbow hits.

He is lanched through his hands (RELIGIOUS SYMBOLISM) and also his side and well his legs too, the energy outright punching through his body as he crashes to the ground in a heap.

But even then he is able to stand up once more, his wounds healing thanks to the power of Riesenlied's song. Or at least, one hopes it's Riesenlied's song.

Fei's bloody body starts to stand once more, his eyes dull as he stares ahead at Siegfried.

Even now he is strong enough to live. "It's my fault..." Fei murmurs. "If only I was there...if only I could have stopped you the first time. If only I wasn't so afraid..."

Of the metal demons? Of Siegfried? Of Zed???

"...of what I might do, if I was there."

Fei then sinks to his knees. He's resisting something. He's trying very hard to NOT punch Siegfried again.

But then it happens. He doesn't need to see it. He doesn't need to hear it. He can feel it. Fei's pain, Cecilia's pain, Riesenlied's pain. Those are all things Fei can bear.

But her pain. A pinprick becomes an impale, so what does throwing Elly so hard that her arm break become?

Fei does not become someone else. Instead Fei allows Fei to act. Fei screams in anger, pain, rage, and a sorrow of ten millenia. Does Siegfried know what a sorrow of ten millenia is like? Surely one millenia is nothing compared to that. That's Siegfried's way of thinking isn't it? Isn't it? ISN'T IT!?

A malevolent (the not purple kind) aura ripples around his body as he howls defiance to the heavens.

And then, Fei who is definitely Fei, and nobody else, runs right at Siegfried with wide eyes full of hate and love both as a darkness explodes out of his fists and towards Siegfried's body, threatening to envelop him whole, a darkness that would very much like to swallow him up. It is a move Fei has never used before.

But Siegfried might still find it familiar. How's your arm, Siegfried, HOW IS YOUR ARM!?
Seraph Beast (Beast) pages Gwen Whitlock, Skylr Paer, Dean Stark, Jacqueline Barber, Rosaline Calice, Ida Everstead-Rey, and Matilda Whitehead: i've still got 200 hit points left so i'm not doing too bad, but i wouldn't say no to heals

GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Siegfried with The Suffering Of The Millenia And The Pain Of The Now!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

        Chime graceful lets herself do a half step that helps her mostly dodge Malfi's attack, spinning into and around it to turn a solid hit into a glancing blow. Then she's away and clear slamming one crossbow ontop of the other manually rearming both crossbows. "Aww, sorry~ That was pretty upsetting to just tell you wasn't it?" Her voice cheerful and snarky.

        "But sadly~ Lying wouldn't make it any better." as she begins to unload a barrage of bolts at Malfi while trying to keep and get more distance from the metal demon. Close range was really not a good spot for the four and half foot tall elf.

GS: Chime Isa has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Malfi with Heavy Barrage!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Fei Fong Wong's attack becomes clear!
GS: Siegfried takes a solid hit from Fei Fong Wong's Ultra Idstinct for 228 hit points!
GS: Siegfried has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
GS: Skylr Paer takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Potent Panacea for 0 hit points!
GS: Skylr Paer gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Lock and State! Statuses applied to Skylr Paer!
GS: Malfi takes a solid hit from Chime Isa's Heavy Barrage for 102 hit points!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has activated a Force Action!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

'Yarobeleedt work so hard! Yarobeleedt does not get anything but misery!'

Claude C. Kenny... stops fighting for a second, staring at the creature, an odd feeling working its way through him. There is... legitimate desperation in this thing's voice. And something familiar, as though it is giving voice to a complaint Claude has heard before. The words that... Fengalon...?

The Trial.

You did not refuse these benefits.

I could have.

Your marks. Your contacts. Your graduation. Even your position on your father's ship. You refused none.

I didn't.

Because it suited you to reap the benefits... but complain about the unfairness.

It did.

You are a reckless and foolhardy child. Clinging to resentment over your inadequacies instead of seeking your own strength.

Scything blades lash into Claude, bloodying his torso where they lash through the open part of his jacket, others bludgeoning into the Boy from Earth as epiphany erupts, Fengalon's words a supernova within his mind.

Even here where the name Kenny means nothing... why do you cling to it so?

"Because... because..."

The statue of the Castle Guardian explodes into a towering blast of light and darkness, Siegfried's rage vented upon the world. Claude's first desperate instinct is to turn upon the leader of the Quarter Knights, to vent his rage in a blinding blast of photonic fury. It's what he thinks he should do. It's what he wants to do. It's the sort of thing he's always done. And it has failed, every time. But maybe... the blonde swordsman sucks in a steadying breath. Maybe it's time to do something different.

Maybe it's time to take some advice from the Guardians... and from another unlikely source.

And so in, he turns his full attention to Yarobeleedt, warm blood sliding down his lacerated chest. "I tried," Claude says, his voice low and quiet. "When I was a kid, I mean. I tried hard. But no matter what I did... all I ever heard was... that it was expected of me. That as the son of a hero, of course I'd succeed. Of course I'd get good grades. I was Ronyx's son." Claude's laugh is bitter, dripping with ancient pain and self-loathing. "No matter how I tried, I'd never get credit. He would. And no matter how I tried, I couldn't fail. Not the son of a hero."

Claude's right hand tightens, fingernails digging into the armourweave of his gloves. "So I figured... if it didn't matter how hard I tried... why bother try at all?"

Blue light begins to dance around Claude's fingertips as he walks forward, channeling chi and gathering power with every step. "No wonder they failed me," he says, stalking slowly, inexorably ahead. "And no wonder they hate me. I've been coasting my whole damned life. And now when they need a champion..." Claude shakes his head. "God, do I suck." Claude's right arm suddenly blazes, a draconic visage formed of pure chi roaring its hate to the sky. "But I guess... it's not late to do better."

THe young man's eyes rise up, meeting whichever Metal Demon face seems like the one calling the shots. "Thanks, Yarobeleedt," Claude C. Kenny says. his hand coming down. "I'll never forget you."

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Yarobeleedt with Dragon's Howl!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Skylr Paer has posed.

         Skylr gets pulled back. She looks at Gwen. Gwen gets mad and rushes in. She stares at Gwen. Al talks at her. She stares at Al. She then looks back at Gwen. Then over at Al. Back at Gwen. She lifts a finger up, her mouth open slightly as if she is about to ask a question. Then, perhaps wisely, her finger lowers and her mouth shuts, but she gets the most terribly grumpy look on her face.
 
         She doesn't *say* anything, probably for the best considering how upset Gwen was at her before.
 
         Then there is electricity. A lot of it, even, and it fries her, dropping Skylr to her ground as her breath catches in her throat, practically curling up into a ball for several minutes before her muscles start untensing, her breath coming out in harsh gasps that she practically swallows the air outside back into herself, staggering to her feet. Jay's bottle, however, promptly knocks her in the head, and the young sheep-girl finds herself back on her ass on the ground.
 
         She groans.
 
         "F...fine... if that's how we want to play it..."
 
         She closes her eyes, hands clasped in front of her. "Light in the stars, light in the sun, light in the flame, flickering in the hearth of the home. Light from you, Althena, light to guide us in the darkness. Light heated, to melt the metal of our enemies. Light of her blessings, soft and warm. Light to guide us back to you."
 
         "... light to lead us home."
 
         Ida, Seraph Beast - Gwen, Rosaline, Matilda, Dean, Jacqueline - the same light some of them have seen before comes now, from the ground, rising upwards, little motes that dance, and sway, and boost them.
 
         "Light to remind us we're not alone!"

GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Chime Isa with Light's Shine!
GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Seraph Beast with Light's Shine!
GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Light's Shine!
GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Rosaline Calice with Light's Shine!
GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Light's Shine!
GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Dean Stark with Light's Shine!
GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Light's Shine!
GS: Skylr Paer has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Skylr Paer has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Alhazred... is honestly intimidating enough that Matilda ends up abandoning her initial plan -- that device with the prongs attached scares her enough that she very much isn't willing to square up in the way she set herself up to. "... I've known discomfort enough," Matilda hisses. "It's not that you can't do worse to me -- but I'm not the sort of person to be cowed by a petty tyrant's threats of discomfort. After all..."

The breeze picks up around Matilda, and her arm starts to sing out in a little less agony. She doesn't have the free hand necessary to catch Jay's potion; the potion breaks against the skin of Matilda's midriff, and, well, that's enough. For a moment, she weaves close to Dean -- but it's only a moment, just enough to make sure the young man's okay. ... she likes Dean. In battle, 'like' tends to mean 'worry.'

"Humans," Matilda breathes, "can endure anything so long as it doesn't kill them. And no matter how much more powerful you think you are, Quarter Knight -- and you're *not* the first of your kind I've told this..."

Matilda steps in *again*, taking a deep breath before driving her blade squarely for his midsection. There's bound to be *something* vital there, if she can drive deep enough, twist hard enough...

"... everyone sleeps eventually."

GS: Skylr Paer heals Jacqueline Barber! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Skylr Paer heals Gwen Whitlock! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Rosaline Calice takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Potent Panacea for 0 hit points!
GS: Rosaline Calice gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Lock and State! Statuses applied to Rosaline Calice!
GS: Skylr Paer heals Seraph Beast! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Skylr Paer heals Dean Stark! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Dean Stark enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Skylr Paer heals Rosaline Calice! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Malfi has posed.

Chime's bolts strike home, more solidly this time, landing across Malfi's torso with metallic twaaaangs. Malfi had been unable to adjust her "armor" in time. She steps forward, launching an attack, arrows still protruding from her. Chime was retreating, or at least putting some distance between herself and the Metal Demon, which proved a wise course of action. Unfortunately Malfi only has one distance attack -- which she uses, before pulling the bolts out of her body. Silverblood courses down from the fresh wounds. Malfi would be in trouble if she didn't regenerate!

GS: Malfi has attacked Chime Isa with Assault with Batteries!
GS: Malfi has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Malfi has completed her action.
GS: Matilda Whitehead has activated a Force Action!
GS: Skylr Paer heals Chime Isa! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Skylr Paer heals Matilda Whitehead! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Alhazred with Core Thrust!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Chime Isa guards a hit from Malfi's Assault with Batteries for 76 hit points!
GS: Cripple! Statuses applied to Chime Isa!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Malfi!
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Matilda Whitehead's attack becomes clear!
GS: CRITICAL! Alhazred critically Guards a hit from Matilda Whitehead's Iron in the Garden for 44 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, and Poison! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
GS: Hyper, Quick, and Shield! Statuses applied to Matilda Whitehead!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Noeline has activated a Force Action!
GS: Noeline has attacked Siegfried with The Errant Blade!
GS: Noeline has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Noeline has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        Whatever else that Noeline was going to say in response to Siegfried, however she was going to try to rebut him, the words die on her lips as she feels the Glumzambor's power begin to rise in the air. That, more than anything, is what pulls her back from her assault, sends her darting backwards in an attempt to regroup and cover Riesenlied's next attempt to reach the Quarter Knight.

        She isn't ready for the way that the Dark Spear sweeps over their heads, nearly taking hers off in the process; she hadn't honestly expected Siegfried to give up on the melee right in front of him, and for a single moment she begins to turn back towards the Metal Demon leader, ready to press their advantage now that he's without his weapon. The statue may be lost, but perhaps they can still make something of this after all--

        --but then the air crackles ominously with power, and her instincts scream at her. Siegfried hasn't given up on this fight, not one bit.

        She drops to the ground, or at least she starts to; it's much too slow, her body too punished by one thing after another to respond as quickly as she'd like. The negative energy rips through her, slamming into her side and straight through her chest - in response, every inch of her living metal vibrates as if ready to tear itself apart and split into its component atoms, the shards of Medium feeling all too brittle and fragile embedded inside of her, an alien element spiked through her body only adding to the sense of rejection. She gurgles something indistinct out, lurching to one side in the aftermath...

        But there is a voice. Riesenlied's song is almost plaintive at first, barely heard over the rush of blood in her ears - but something catches in her heart, takes a hold of it and grasps onto it as hard as possible. It's enough for her to catch her fall, and it's enough for her to somehow set her feet - and then the explosion of light rips through her almost in reverse, drawing a shocked gasp as it lifts her up and carries her forwards with its emotion, with the pride she feels in its wake.

        Without even fully knowing what she's doing, she's suddenly running, arcing herself towards Siegfried; the bulk of her sword has fallen away, leaving only a pair of featureless spikes protruding from her hands. Dimly, she's aware of Fei's lunging assault as well, and pivots around it in a diving roll before she twists, finds herself at Siegfried's back-- and much like with Berserk, simply tries to ram her blade home wherever it might find purchase. One last push, knowing it's the last of her strength right now, and the flames of the Guardian of Hades tear across Siegfried's form.

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily isn't against killing, and she doesn't care about fairness... But she's not going to try to convince Elvis to change his ways now any more than she's going to throw herself on his mercy. She just inclines her head. "Then let's see how we do."

His entire life--he's older than she is, certainly. Lily assumes he's a man of rank with what he says, with how he shows what he is. ...Which means she can't discount him as mere muscle. But--

Dog barks back at Elvis in ackowledgement, as if she understands him. Does she? "..." Lily honestly has no idea what to actually say to it though--she just gives him a dubious look for a moment before, "...Sure."

Her power draws out energy though, and she inhales sharply. It's... different from her usual Ether, but not so strange that she can't use it. But--

"Damn--" Lily glances to the shattering statue, looks to Siegfried, sees Elly flying, and quickly looks back to Elvis. "Josie! We might need to think about an escape route!" Lily calls--...except... Except for the fact that Josie has moved up not down, and Lily blinks before she starts running. She stows her gun along the way, moving as quickly as she can. Thinking of how to get the others out as they fall... Lily can't just let Josie fall, in the midst of that. So she rushes. She rushes, and hears the gunshot as she throws out her arms--

Lily is intent. When Elvis says to ready herself, she does--and she catches Josie in the midst of that, her shoulders jarring painfully, her arms wrenching enough to force an ugly sound from her throat, but she catches her all right. She turns towards him--

There isn't time for her to create a barrier. "Hang on--"

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

'But Belselk like ^Silly Greenhead^ more'

Something changes.

It's as if the wind itself shifts. The atmosphere suddenly grows dire in a way it wasn't only moments ago. Zed has gone completely silent as Yarobeleedt unfolds into a typhoon of grotesque weapons. The only sign that the green-headed demon is still there is the rapid flash of steel meeting steel. Zed turns aside blow after blow, dividing the storm like a blade divides a flowing river.

'I give all to Mother! Giving all! All almost gone...'

The Hyadean's counterstrikes grow more rapid. A subtle turbulence develops in the air around him. His expression is unreadable, inscrutable, a mirror of tranquility that seems so utterly wrong when worn on Zed's face

'Yarobeleedt has less to stand...'

"You," Zed mutters. He takes a step forward, swings Doombringer in a devastating arc that bursts with Hyadean energies. "Yaro, you dumbass," Zed roars, the tranquility shattered by a desperate fury. "Your life is more important than that. What kind of mother asks her children to throw away their lives!? I won't! I can't! How many more of us have to die!?"

"If that's what she wants us to do--" Zed's voice reverberates, even over the din of not so distant Zeldukes being turned into so much dust. "If there are no more Hyadeans, then there's no point to making another Hyades! Yaro, I can't let you keep throwing away your life like this-- that's why... That's why...!"

He takes another step. When his foot falls, he's gone. No. Not gone. Disappeared into a flurry of motion. Vanished into an unwinding storm of violence.

A cataclysm of colors that can only be called eye-searing swallows the space between the two metal demons, until finally washing over Yaro like a tidal wave.

"...I won't..." The swordsman growls, flicking a lingering sheath of energy from his sword. "I won't... let any more of us throw away their lives... Trying to please monsters like Berserk, or goddesses who send their children to die...! I'll stop you here, before you can kill yourself, Yarobeleedt!"

GS: Zed has activated a Force Action!
GS: Zed has spent 5 Combo on Headshot and Gatling, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Zed has attacked Yarobeleedt with Split Ladle Sakura Supernova!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        "Yes!" Dean shouts when he knocks the box from Alhazred's hand. "No!!" he adds when Alhazred catches it with his tail. Finally, the Quarter Knight yells something at Dean that he can understand. He, being a mature and reasonable young man, responds by pulling down an eyelid and sticking out his tongue. "Bleeeeh! Like I care about your stupid technology!!"
        
        He pays for this disrespect twofold: one, indirectly, by seeing Sigfried unleash the Negative Rainbow not just on the people he's fighting but on the Statue itself, shattering it into a million pieces in an instant; then two, directly, when Alhazred does something beyond description and then suddenly there are two Deans, and Dean is watching himself in negative die in terrible agony, and then they're one again and all of that agony is his. Fortunately not the death, too, but all the same, it knocks him right on his face, where for a moment every muscle and every nerve and every ligament howls in anguish, and all he can do is twitch.
        
        But still, he refuses to scream.
        
        Jay cries out then, hurling a downpour of potion bottles in every which direction. One smashes and pours on top of Dean's head, and he can feel that twitching die down, the shrieking in his body ease to a mere whimper, the twitching ease and then allow him control of his body again. Stiffly, he eases back up to his feet. Still in pain, but--this is worlds, *worlds* better. Now he's got the energy to get back into the fight again.
        
        "Thanks a million, Jay!" he calls, winking an eye shut as he gives his friend a thumb's up. He can't quite smile--not after the Zeldukes Statue has been shattered; he can only manage a grimace as his gaze passes what remains of it--but the fight isn't over, so he's not going to give up. Even if it *were* over, he still wouldn't give up. And thankfully, Skylr sends light energy soaring up from the earth, bolstering Dean's body as the motes pass into and through it, easing the excruciating pain that still lingered as a result of Alhazred's beyond-mad, *infuriated* science. Here he *does* grin, and he waves at the stranger. "Thank you!!" he calls--because he indeed does know he's not alone.
        
        He nods firmly to Matilda, spotting her as she weaves close; like her, he's glad to see that she's all right, relatively speaking. Then turning back towards the Quarter Knight, Dean sucks in a breath and concentrates his strength--his focus, his will--on putting a stop to this madness. Maybe he couldn't protect the Statue, but he can still protect this city and the innocent people who've been sent from one terrible battle to another. And so, raising his Twin Fenrir, he focuses in as best he can on what he can perceive of the Quarter Knight's weak points. Perhaps he has none. But even so, he will unleash every bullet he's got to try to take him down. Firing bullet after bullet over every spot that seems like it might really hurt--!

GS: Dean Stark has activated a Force Action!
GS: Dean Stark has attacked Alhazred with Twin Fenrir - Sonic Vision!
GS: Dean Stark has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Dean Stark has completed his action.
GS: Alhazred critically Guards a hit from Dean Stark's Twin Fenrir - Sonic Vision for 36 hit points!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Dean Stark has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline winces as her oversized ears pick up the sound of stone crumbling. Maybe something about her spiritual sense tips her off that this is no ordinary stone, because a part of her intuits, correctly, that the worst has happened. She looks to the side, and confirms that... Yes, they are too late.

"Oh no... Oh no!"

But she has to focus on what's in front of her, rather than on the rainbow duel, if she wants her friends and herself to survive. She feels a soothing breeze pick up around her, granting her the healing she needs but can't quite muster right now. "Thank you," she tells the planetarily-displaced Beast of Lohgrin as she staggers back up to her feet.

Rosaline immediately resumes running and gunning, because somehow she still has bullets to put into Alhazred's face. However, her attack is interrupted by powerful streaks of lightning that are, ironically, attracted to her ARMs. Shrieking, she drops her weapons, but not before a very unfortunate dose of electricity courses through her. The Quarter Knights are not messing around.

But not a moment later, Jacqueline tosses her a bottle. Rosaline's hands may be numb, but they're free and, honestly, a little oversized. It takes some fumbling, but she catches the bottle and quickly downs it. Just then, Skylr, a friend of a friend, beseechs Althena to help them. Rosaline can't say no to this, not here and now. Strength returns to her, and she stares Alhazred down.

"I don't think we're getting through to you. Get OUT of this city, or else!" She glances at Ida, then back to the Knight, taking a deep breath to scream the rest, spittle flying out of her mouth. "WE'VE KILLED A QUARTER KNIGHT BEFORE! WE CAN DO IT AGAIN!"

She reaches into her bag for something she hasn't held in a long time. Once upon a time she was loath to, having mixed feelings at best about this. But right now? She doesn't even care anymore. All she wants to do is hurt Alhazred, and this is almost certainly her best way to do so. She incants, the whisper her voice gaining reverb even amidst the noise and fury surrounding her. It's not quite a prayer, more like a polite request for help.

She holds up the tablet over her head. "Material."

Clouds part above, allowing a beam of light to shine through. A being of unfathomable majesty, bathed in a radiant halo, descends over the violent scene, eyes upon the robed Quarter Knight. The Guardian is an androgynous figure, partly masked and garbed in robes of immaculate white and blood red, held aloft by wings seemingly woven of the blue sky itself.

Solais Emsu regards the twice-besieged city and the crumbled statue with great pity. They wave a hand, directing the light surrounding them to split into several halos of red, green, orange, blue, yellow and purple. They whirl about in bedazzling patterns, before splitting again to strike down at Alhazred.

"Heaven Spectacle!" Rosaline cries out, an arm extended, her kimono flapping in heavenly wind, lit by the multicolored barrage in front of her.

GS: Rosaline Calice has spent 3 Combo on Headshot, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Alhazred with Material - Heaven Spectacle!
GS: Rosaline Calice has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rosaline Calice has completed her action.
GS: Alhazred has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

        Chime winces as she attempts to guard the electrical charge a second time. This time was much less successful. A little smoke wisps from various hidden pockets all over her vest. "Shocking!" Chime quips with a giggle, giving her self a little shake as her spiral-curls get a little fritzy.

        The bolts on Chime's crossbows begin to glow a bright white again, as the smiling elf finds and aims along a new high arc and firing. Again twelve white bolts launch into the air, twelve lance sized bolts come raining down on and around Malfi.

GS: Chime Isa has attacked Malfi with Arrows of Light!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Alhazred takes a solid hit from Rosaline Calice's Material - Heaven Spectacle for 211 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Rudy Roughnight has posed.

 Cecilia speaks her words and as if a broken toy or an awkward parrot, the quirkly warrior repeats the words, taking them as if some shared battle cry for survival.
 
 "This will not end as long as you live," Rudy repeats softly.
 
 While it may seem creepy, it at least shows that on some level, the Drifter Outcast understands there are allies here, people he cares for.
 
 As Siegfried turns the battle on its head by taking out the statue and devastating his friends, Rudy breaks from his combat zen to look toward Cecilia and so many that he's fought with. Alhazard tears in with powerful magic toward Gwen and the heroes that he knows, some he may have kinship on one level or another. Rudy wordlessly opens his mouth as Elly falls and speaks to Fei. While true understanding is not capable for Rudy, as he considers Zepet and how the old man left him, his heart goes out.
 
 As often in the case of war, the moment of humanity and compassion is what costs Rudy. Looking away from the enemy is the worst thing one can do, more so for extended periods of time and more so when dealing with the extreme speed and unpredictability of a foe like Yaro. The powerful barbs stick and tear into Rudy's arm as he brings it up just in the nick of time, but the limb is savaged by the assault. A trail of red pour down the forearm, but it doesn't lower, even if there are still bits of Yaro lodged in him.
 
 With his left forearm glow blue through the blood, it's clear that defense is about to turn into offence. The right hand spins the Hand Cannon about, the round already locked and loaded. The powerful ARM is leveled right for Yarobeleedt and Rudy opens his mouth to speak. No words escape however, Claude's speech far more eloquent and meaningful than anything that can be said. Zed's plea as a brother overwhelms mantra of hate that Rudy can muster. Instead, Rudy just pulls the trigger.
 
 In the wake of the attack, a powerful explosion will escape that is condensed but painful in scope. If Yaro is caught in the attack, it will be far more powerful than when Rudy previously defended. In keeping to his word, Rudy's weapon has improved, he himself has strengthed. The question however, is if the benefit was worth the cost.

GS: Rudy Roughnight has attacked Yarobeleedt with Boosted Shell!
GS: Rudy Roughnight has completed his action.
GS: Malfi has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Chime Isa has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Malfi completely evades Arrows of Light from Chime Isa!
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Noeline's attack becomes clear!
GS: Siegfried takes a solid hit from Noeline's The Errant Blade Extension - Pyrrhic Flame for 222 hit points!
GS: Siegfried has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

Fei, and Riesenlied and Elly, they burn at the empathy in her. The hatred boiling away at her insides, a fire in her that she can't put out, can't damp down. The others recall trial after trial of learning, searching for some path to a new tomorrow.

Cecilia sees in the swing of that blade the blow that killed her father. She sees in the charging of that weapon the fires that claimed her home once and now claim it again.

She watches in helpless horror as the Statue of Zeldukes, the sacred Guardian of Castles, the anointed guardian of Adlehyde, explodes.

Fei again protects her. She watches in horror as his body is flensed by Siegfried's horrible light. Again, the Princess finds a friend withering before Siegfried's power. They are so desperate to reach him, to kindle his heart of hearts.

She finds only an interest in pulling his heart from his chest and immolating it in front of him. Kindling of a different kind.

As the light fades, the shield around Cecilia flickers, and the Princess sucks in a breath. Her head throbs from the agony of the Guardians, at another statue lost. Another failure. Another thing taken by this beast. "I... will not...BREAK!" she screams, and slams her staff to the ground. "IF YOU ARE SO EXCITED FOR YOUR FINAL BREATH, I SHALL EXTRACT IT PRESENTLY! MATERIAL!!"

She draws forth a stone, cracking and sparking. It whirls around her fingertips, not quite in her grip so much as guided through the Leyline soup about her by her fingertips. She thrusts it forward, the stone whirling and twirling into place, and then flashing, an impression of a summoning circle crackling through the air before Cecilia fades and Noua Shax appears.

The Guardian of Lightning has a clean line of fire. It screams, and what comes forth is a bolt of lightning so condensed and direct it defies 'bolt' to be more like a beam, crashing into Siegfried and blasting him with a voltage nature cannot produce.

GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has activated a Force Action!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has spent 4 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Siegfried with Material - Rage Hammer!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has completed her action.
GS: Siegfried takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Material - Rage Hammer for 187 hit points!
GS: Siegfried has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Malfi has posed.

Malfi watches as Chime puts bolts in her crossbows, makes them glow, raises them to the sky, and fires. She's seen this move before.

Which means she's prepared for it now. She dodges and ducks, somehow managing to avoid them all. Chime looks just as astonished as Malfi feels at this: Malfi isn't exactly the quick, deft, agile type. Maybe one should chalk it up to motivation! She moves in for the attack before the elf can nock more arrows! At least she seems to have stopped chirping for the moment...

GS: Malfi has attacked Chime Isa with Beyond the Impale!
GS: Malfi has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Malfi has completed her action.
GS: Chime Isa takes a glancing hit from Malfi's Beyond the Impale for 47 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Alhazred's bizarre and terrifying contraptions are physical evidence that he's at the top of the food chain in the Metal Demons' science division. His insistence on irritably explaning how things should be done to people who already have considerable experience only cements the matter. Ida doesn't have much time to think on it, though. Metal slams into her side, and she rolls with the blow, letting Alhazred knock her to the ground. She catches an elbow on the turf, shoves hard, and launches herself to her feet as the bolt of electricity fires. It grazes her, and even that light touch is enough to make her limbs twitch and spasm. The bulk of the bold slams into the ground where she lay mere seconds ago, turning grass to ash with a sickening pop.

        It's not enough to drown out Siegfried's bellow, or the sound of shattering stone. Something twists in Ida's gut as she realizes what just happened--the Demons accomplished their objective. Ida bites the inside of her cheek. Self-reproach boils up in her heart like fire. She thinks she can hear Fei and Riesenlied and Elly, still desperately trying to reason with a man who seems to have already set on his course. Is that it? He's so deep in his own suffering that he can't--

        Ida thinks back to a black mirror and a poisoned Earthpulse, and swallows.

        Jay Barber, God bless her, wings some vials through the air. Ida rises, her hand darting out and snatching the vial up with practiced ease. She uncorks it, downs it in a single swig, throws the empty glass to the ground. "It's strange," Ida says, to Alhazred, "how much you're like them. But I suppose I shouldn't be. Hyadean and human are more alike than either cares to think about."

        'WE'VE KILLED A QUARTER KNIGHT BEFORE! WE CAN DO IT AGAIN!'

        "My friend speaks for both of us. For all of us." Ida's face twists into a dangerous smile. "And besides. If I gave up every time some self-absorbed piece of shit talked down to me, I never would've made it through school." As she talks, Ida jukes around, circling Alhazred; with the Esperanzas out of the way, she can do a better job of dividing his attention. Ida strikes with both hands, alternating between quick jabs and knife-hand strikes, testing the man's defenses. When she changes tactics, it's completely without warning--she surges forwards as Matilda goes in for the shiv, chi boiling up around her hand so fast the air blows away from it. The shockwave is just the first thing to hit home. The next is Ida's fist, blazing a bright golden-white as it strikes with all the force of a pile-driver. The chi around her knuckles surges, and boils. Fei, she thinks, silently, I'd better not have to carry you home from this one.

        The boiling chi explodes in a brilliant display. The impact is enough to shred through armor.

<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

        "Mmm, really. Teach me how to dodge like that~" the pint-sized red-head says to Malfi in a cheerful voice. "I might even be able to effective fight in close with moves like that~"

        Chime again moves to escape, but this time takes a moment to fire a bolt up close at Malfi before she's away trying again still for distance.

GS: Chime Isa has attacked Malfi with Striking Bolt!
GS: Chime Isa has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
GS: Malfi has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Chime Isa has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Malfi completely evades Striking Bolt from Chime Isa!
<Pose Tracker> Siegfried has posed.

The dust clears from around the statue, and Glumzambor falls. It embeds itself in the shattered rubble in the center of the plaza. His fingers tremble -- and then he looks towards Riesenlied. He stares, at the blast of seven lights -- and thrusts a hand out at the last moment Riesenlied's rainbow-colored shots strike, and each hits the open, outstretched hand. He takes each, holding the blasts at bay.

He then turns that hand onto Glumzambor. The Dark Spear flies, end over end, and lands -- caught in his grasp. He stands with it, and then turns towards Tthelle. Her blade slashes into him; each blow sends splashes of quicksilver blood out, his grip unprepared to parry.

But he knew that -- and the grin spreads across his face, even as he bleeds. "No... no, it isn't evil. Evil is what your Guardians bring forth. This--this will bring a true goddess back to this world--"

Rastaban strikes. He swings his hand out -- and he catches the Tidal Blow from Rastaban, even as it splits the gauntlet down the middle and digs into the flesh of his hand. Quicksilver runs down the blade. "This... this is...!"

Noeline smashes her blade through his back. It doesn't shoot out the front of him. It still rips clean through his side. He staggers, backward, and his hand drops from Rastaban. Quicksilver blood drips down onto the ground. He turns, and he looks at the princess.

"You... do the shamans of the past credit, princess," he says. "They had your rage."

He grins -- and then the Guardian of Lightning fires a beam that catches him, sending him flying across the field. He slams through the cobblestones of the plaza, leaving a deep rut in them. He crumples, half-kneeling, and he looks up slowly. His eyes fall on the last one approaching.

Fei Fong Wong, surrounded in a nimbus of power, and ready to deliver the second half of the one-two punch that Cecilia began.

Siegfried knows he has the power necessary -- and despite his words, that he would end Fei here, he knows that facing him is dangerous. He knows it would be better to leave the boy to Alhazred or Boomerang. They would not be moved, as he is. But, the fact that Siegfried can be moved is why he has led for all of these millennia.

And so, he keeps his ground. He stands it -- and Fei slams into him with all of that power. It smashes into him. It sends him flying, energy exploding outward. The pain felt in his new arm reminds him of the old pain, before he rips through a tree in the square. It topples over, and he lay there, slumped against it. He looks up at Fei.

And Siegfried is smiling.

"It doesn't matter, Fei," he says. "What I say to myself... no longer matters." He hears it, now, in his mind; he knows it, as sure as he could know anything. "Because she has awoken."

Then, he crumples. He almost falls into a heap. Instead, he falls into a pair of arms that come around him. Boomerang lands, and looks over the whole of the battlefield. His duster floats out behind him. He looks on, impassively, at the lot of them.

"What a shitshow," he says. "I should have fought you lot instead of a bunch of guards."

Then, he leaps -- vanishing with Siegfried with a blur and dark words left in his wake.

<Pose Tracker> Yarobeleedt has posed.

        All while Yarobeleedt tantrums, the Zeldukes statue explodes. His eyes come just shy of popping out of his skull. He should be happy that a statue is going down - Siegfried's Negative Rainbow strikes true, and brings Mother one step closer to being awakened...
        ...but it won't be by his hands. Always made a fool of, always cast aside, always bullied and bested, that he just gets even more angry and frustrated - this last sight confirms the final statue's fate. There are no more to find, no mroe in which to redeem himself.
        He has drawn a two and a nine, off-suit, as Tesni fires off the explosive round. It buries itself deep in Yarobeleedt's lower torso. The explosion of quicksilver is gut-wrenching as he flinches and rears back, pushed closer to the wall. He quivers.
        Claude starts talking. Yarobeleedt doesn't care about Claude's suffering, he only cares about his suffering, but the openness in which Claude talks is unnerving as those eyes watch the Boy From Earth talk as he bleeds. He wants to strike him down. He wants to lunge through him and shred away at the fragments of the Zelduke statue just so he can feel like he destroyed it. Claude promises to remember him by name as an energy-wreathed fist comes for him--
        The sound of the Dragon's Howl hitting Yarobeleedt is disappointingly understated, but the wall behind Yarobeleedt disagrees as it all collapses in a great big halo of dust and debris. That should be enough to force him into his regenerative torpor. One that might even kill him, for how it seems to have fixed less and less of him each time.
        Zed's voice shocks Yarobeleedt awake, raising his head shakily as Zed approaches and puts his game face on. He holds up his arms feebly to try and hold back the initial swing of the Doombringer, throwing his arms up. His goopier arm comes this shy of flying off entirely, as Zed rattles off his resolve and why he turned his back. Yarobeleedt is bewildered anew - he only knows to keep giving his all to Mother, and so he lets himself degenerate further, constantly flinging himself into situations and combats he is steadily becoming less and less able to handle. The storm of violence is total, clearing away the rubble surrounding Yarobeleedt in a colorful storm of energy, sword, and sword energy as gashes form all over. Gashes that won't close.
        Gashes that, suspiciously, do not bleed quicksilver. He may have bled out. Why is he still alive. Zed's intent to stop him before he stops himself in service of Mother seems to come short only because - and only because - of Yarobeleedt's devotion, for what little fruit it has borne.
        "M... M... M...." Yarobeleedt trembles. He wants to close his eyes, hide inside that security bla-- protective cocoon shield, and wake up to see Mother's approval after all he's done (...after all he's failed to do). Just from beyond Zed, he can see Rudy pointing the ARM at him impassionately.
        ...When he stabbed him--
        KABOOM
        There is a crater where the Boosted Shell goes off. Yarobeleedt does not so much as give the dignity of a blood-curdling scream of terror. He's bled all the quicksilver he has. There is an ochre metallic mass a ways away, unmoving.
        Another enemy down. Another statue down.
        Another step towards Mother's awakening, but also another step towards ending Mother's ambitions.
        Yarobeleedt is robbed of all sensation. Motionless, without sight or sound, only his mind clutches onto anything resembling reason. No. No reason.
        Only Mother. Mother. Mother. Mother. Nothing else.

GS: Yarobeleedt takes a solid hit from Tesni Inoue's Dead Man's Hand for 193 hit points!
GS: Break! Statuses applied to Yarobeleedt!
GS: Yarobeleedt takes a solid hit from Claude C. Kenny's Dragon's Howl for 205 hit points!
GS: Yarobeleedt has Fallen! It is no longer able to fight!
GS: Yarobeleedt takes a solid hit from Zed's Split Ladle Sakura Supernova for 236 hit points!
GS: Yarobeleedt has Fallen! It is no longer able to fight!
GS: Yarobeleedt takes a solid hit from Rudy Roughnight's Boosted Shell for 189 hit points!
GS: Yarobeleedt has Fallen! It is no longer able to fight!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has spent 4 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Alhazred with Steel-Breaking Fist!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Alhazred critically Guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Steel-Breaking Fist for 30 hit points!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Malfi has posed.

Chime's arrow whooshes past Malfi, who moves in for the kill. Malfi is desperate to get to her kin, the elf is Really Getting In the Way. If Chime decides to retreat, Malfi won't follow...

GS: Malfi has attacked Chime Isa with Rakurai!
GS: Malfi has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Malfi has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Chime Isa takes a solid hit from Malfi's Rakurai for 118 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Disrupt! Statuses applied to Chime Isa!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Malfi!
GS: Chime Isa has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Beast has posed.

        "A Guardian remnant..? No. I am known as the Beast of Lohgrin, I number amongst Althena's holy Wind Seraphs, and your conflict is alien to me." She identifies herself to Alhazred without fear - forgetting, perhaps, Gwen's warning. Or, perhaps - she simply has a different idea of what is threatening to her. "Were the situation different, I would prefer to speak to you about your innumerable misconceptions. But you threaten humanity - and this I cannot allow."

        Plates lock together and the Beast does, indeed, stop moving for Alhazred.

        It is not a kindness.

        The sick light washes over her, catches at her edges, and she does not flinch or cry out. There is no reaction at all. She has no flesh to sear. It is silent declaration: bring your scalpels unto me. They will break.

        No - he cannot touch a body made of iron.

        Of course, flesh is not the only manner in which one may be hurt.

        'They will carve your loving heart from you and replace it with their sick ambitions. There will be aught left of you by their end.'

        'I know.'

        An iron mask betrays nothing of her wavering, even as it snaps to see the destruction of the Statue. Jacqueline's sorrow is overwhelming and for a moment she is lost in it - but she rises, she rises, and she speaks her defiance. It comes with bottles - one shatters against a shoulder-plate, seeping into the air about it. "Thank you," calls the Beast, who does not know what to say to someone who has clearly lost something so important.

        And then there is more light - but it is kinder, now, dancing motes which bolster a wounded spirit in so many senses of the word. "I thank you, as well!" She says, though she does not know the girl at all.

        "As for you -" She rounds on Alhazred, though hollow eyes have no indication of their focus. "- humanity is not your plaything!" And neither is she, she thinks, silently.

        The wind picks up about her, launching her forward, and she charges. At some point, she stops bothering to mimic the gesture of feet hitting ground: she is a missile of metal, slung by storm-winds straight towards Alhazred's core. And she's coming in horns-first.

GS: Seraph Beast has attacked Alhazred with Ramming Speed!
GS: Seraph Beast has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Beast has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Malfi has posed.

Malfi leaps over the fallen body of the elf, trusting that she can heal herself -- if she's still alive in the first place. She rushes to join the rest of the Metal Demon troops, rejoicing to be home...

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        The plan went so smoothly. Fei might be a little proud, even! ... Though he showed Gwen more how to throw a person using their own momentum, not, uh, whatever she's doing here. Just get a hand against the Quarter Knight's ???chest??? and then, just press whatever charge she's got left in that ARM of hers into Alhazred's ??core?? and then *push* him somewhere close to oblivion. And then-

        ... The statue falls. Wait. There was a statue?

        Not only that, there's a gun aimed at her. Gwen flinches, but doesn't get a chance to do much else as she's sent flying backwards, limply tumbling over the hard cobblestone of the street. The odds were definitely not in Gwen's favor.

        Moments pass, and Gwen stirs. She coughs blood and spittle as she struggles to rise. Skylr's motes of light give her that needed boost to raise to her feet, her short damp pale red hair now properly bathed in the grime and dust of her home planet.

        Jay's potions fly through the air. "Thanks, Jay." With a grateful sigh, her right hand snakes out to grab one of Jay's potions from the air, but the bottle instead crashes against the hand's metal surface as it refuses to grip in time.

        Well, it still works.
         
        She gathers herself, and raises a finger towards Alhazared.

        ".... I think... I earned a question..." Her tired blue-grey eyes squint. "... And I'm gonna pass it to Ida." The palm behind that finger begins to charge, the entire hand spreading out to hold the charge. "But against us, your odds ain't lookin' so hot either, right now."

         Inwardly, Gwen just feels something twist, and she realizes that she's probably going to have to deal with a limp right arm after all of this is over.

GS: Alhazred critically Guards a hit from Seraph Beast's Ramming Speed for 29 hit points!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Beast has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

Metal plates creak as Talise whirls back, having left her mark through Siegfried's gauntlet and drawn Quicksilver. Mangled him, from what she can tell. A silvery chord hums in the air like a plucked harpstring, left by Rastaban's strike. She's holding it out to her left in both hands and in a defensive position, her chin tucked and her jaw set.

She wheels her sword and plants a heel, ready for whatever is next. Siegfried is one of the deadliest foes she's ever faced, outside of Ghaleon. There's no way that even what has been thrown at him should kill him.

And yet, it is enough. Not to kill him, but to lay him low. Punishment drives in and thunders into the Quarter Knight again and again - and for the first time, Talise finds herself looking on in disbelief as Siegfried is hurled away and rendered a beaten man.

A smiling beaten man.

'Because she has awoken.'

"Althena's hat," Talise swears reflexively - until she starts as someone else comes in to catch Siegfried. The big swordswoman blinks at Boomerang in surprise, scratching her head as he vanishes with the beaten Siegfried.

"Who's this douchebag?" Talise asks blithely.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Alhazred with Coil Cannon EX!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Alhazred critically Guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Coil Cannon EX for 16 hit points!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied has no idea what phenomenon had just happened to her.

        Where those seven lights came from... the surge of emotion that had welled through her... her empathic senses have always been something of a mystery to her, spurred on by the touch of Equites when she was exposed to him directly in the Guardian Temple.

        What she does know that she's in a lot of pain, dropping down to her knees as she briefly looks on with terror at the pain Noeline is feeling -- that she can feel--

        --yet it's all undone for a moment, when Siegfried...

        ... smiles?

        As Fei strikes and reminds him of that old pain, as Cecilia summons the Guardian upon him... as Tethelle and Talise subsume their strikes into him. As Noeline rips that Hades-tinged blade in...

        "... Mother... has awoken?" Riesenlied asks quietly--

        --"Boomerang! Wait!" she's suddenly crying aloud. But it's too late. He's gone... Siegfried is gone...

        Only now, now that the Quarter Knight is gone, does she slump to one side and wraps her arms around herself, does she find some courage.

        "... father..."

        You coward, Nasrin's eyes roll in her head.

        She pauses, hitching her breath for a moment at the battle still ensuing... with Siegfried gone, it should wrap up soon. And their presence will become less and less welcome. She looks to Noeline, her second, in Wayside and in life too.

        "We... we should reconvene with Lydia and the Fereshte... we--"

        That adrenaline is dying in her voice as she adds, "... I'm not welcome here."

<Pose Tracker> Alhazred has posed.

 The Guardian Statue crumbles, and Alhazred looks on in approval. "Well, that is a positive step in the right direction at least," he muses, finding the process to destroy these things to be less than accommodating to his own plans and schedule. Better to just destroy the entire city at once... but alas, budgets. Resources. Lack of horrifying city destroying super weapons. What WAS the world coming to, when he had to work under such constraints?
 
 Still, his opponents continued to work to save themselves, reinforcing and healing each other, doing everything that they could to scrape by and survive in such a desperate situation. Watching as Jacqueline begins throwing out healing items to help her compatriots recover, as well as Skylr unleashing another wave of healing energy Alhazard chuckles quietly. "Ah, such good specimens. Scurry and struggle, and fight to the last. Giving up early does not provide me with satisfactory results."
 
 Matilda unleashes a direct and brutal hit, and it punches straight through Alhazred's 'chest' area (for whatever definition of chest we are choosing to use) and it strikes... something. Enough that a shower of sparks erupts from the wound, as well as some liquid that spatters down on the ground underneath him. But the blow itself feels strangely shallow, as if despite the precise placement there was something off about where Matilda had attempted to strike. Whatever strange body lies under that cover, it confounds many of the attempts to seriously wound it, even as Alhazred continues to be battered. He gazes at her for a long moment, eyes narrowing before the Quarter Knight swipes out, not aiming to wound by merely to knock the woman away. "Sleep is for those who have nothing better to do with their time, vermin. Do not seek to lecture me as you would one of my compatriots. I need at least a Ph.D, or at least a Masters, before I will find your diatribe worth recording."
 
 One clawed hand comes up as Dean continues to unload with his firearms, but as the guns spit hot lead in his direction another shield manifests, deflecting most of the bullets aside with a rather contemptuous ease. "This one's stubbornness index is high - he shows excellent signs of resisting physical discomfort, although the desire to continue attacking does show a lack of common sense. An excess of stubbornness overriding basic survival instincts? Schedule another experiment for lobotomizing another subject to test this theory..."
 
 Beast of course continues to raise Alhazred's interest - hearing about new and interesting test subjects always manages to get his interest, and he turns fully towers the statue as it comes charging in. This time he raises both claws, catching the statue and driving his tail into the ground. The two slide backwards, shards of rock flying in all directions before the Quarter Knight manages to gain a certain degree of equilibrium. "No, 'play' implies a certain degree of amusement. I am a SCIENTIST. I do what I do for the good of my people. Inquiries must be made. Experiements must be conducted! There is no morality before the inquiring mind's needs!"
 
 "You do not get to PASS QUESTIONS," Alhazred snaps at Gwen. "Nor have you actually EARNED a question yet. Work harder, and you may one day enjoy the privilege. Perhaps I will answer while I am decoding your genetic sequence. That takes enough time that one question will be enough to assuage my boredom." As Gwen turns to unload her weapon, Alhazred uses Beast's own momentum to push himself back out of the way, the round slamming into his shield before it slips off the metal statue and goes flying off into the distance.
 
 
 And then Rosaline brings up killing one of his compatriots. And Alhazred laughs. "Oh, killing a warrior who thinks with nothing but his arm? Quite a spectacle, I do admit - but I think you will find me a bit more survivable than that fool Berserk." Both she and Ida might be proud of that moment, but for Alhazred it was not terribly impressive. As the martial artist lashes out towards him, the Quarter Knight brings one arm up... and the claw catches Ida's fist in mid-blow, the discharge of energy blasting out from both sides, tearing long gouges out of the ground as it rips outwards. "Very well then. Your further queries will hereby be ignored. Of course, that does little to answer the question you asked earlier - or are you perhaps fishing for a bit of determination to keep you going in the middle of a desperate moment?"
 
 Then of course, the other one calls upon the Guardians for aid.
 
 The blaze of light from the heavens slams into Alhazred, blasting him backwards and into a nearby building. The onslaught of divine power continues, blasting into him again and again, relentless blows raining down upon the Quarter Knight in an attempt to smash him with the power of this planet's protectors. The ground around the Quarter Knight glows brightly, tiny sparkles of divine light rising upwards before vanishing into the sky as the last of the divine power disperses from the air.
 
 And then Alhazred raises a claw and pulls himself out of the hole in the ground, looking at Rosaline for a moment - or more precisely, the Material she had used. "A potent tool. But one that will become insignificant soon enough. Do not think that you are the only ones who have an understanding of how this planet works, vermin. Anything that lives can be killed."
 
 "Regardless, I am finding that this battle has become less amusing - especially since it appears my compatriots are not faring as well as I am." Alhazred sighs, looking over in the direction of his fellow Metal Demons. "Yet MORE interruptions to my experiments, all so I can handle repairs and making sure everyone is up and running properly! Still, I can at least conduct one more experiment today. LAUNCH THE HIGH CAPACITY TRANSMISSION STATION!"
 
 There is a flash of light, and a large device appears in the air above Alhazred. It spins about for a moment, covered with an array of various antennae and other strange coils and devices. A small device launches out of the top, hovering high over the battlefield for a moment.
 
 And from elsewhere, a bolt of energy leaps from over the horizon, slamming into the smaller device that had been tossed into the sky. It pulses for a moment, glowing like a tiny star... and then all of that energy is discharged downwards, striking the larger transmission device Alhazred had just set up. Energy crackles and arcs, tiny blue sparks jumping from every exposed point on the Quarter Knight's abomination of science as he laughs heartily.
 
 "Very well! Setup successful! Energy levels at maximum! SUPER TRANSMITTED MEGA CRASH! FIIIIIIIREEEE!"
 
 The light goes out on the device. For a moment, nothing happens.
 
 Then a wall of energy erupts outwards in all directions from Alhazred, sweeping up debris, buildings, and people alike and sending them flying in all directions!

GS: Alhazred has activated a Force Action!
GS: Alhazred has spent 5 Combo on Gatling, including 4 on Gatling!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Super Transmitted Mega Crash!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Dean Stark with Super Transmitted Mega Crash!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Super Transmitted Mega Crash!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Seraph Beast with Super Transmitted Mega Crash!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Super Transmitted Mega Crash!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Skylr Paer with Super Transmitted Mega Crash!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Rosaline Calice with Super Transmitted Mega Crash!
GS: Alhazred has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Super Transmitted Mega Crash!
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes a solid hit from Alhazred's Super Transmitted Mega Crash for 361 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        It's not so very far from here to the shattered streets. Josie kicks her legs out into empty air, attempting to lift, twist her body. There's a good and a bad way to fall but--
        She never was too skilled at nowing the difference between the good or bad option for anything.

        Something in the distance scratches across her senses; she glances, in time to see it. See what remains. What doesn't.
        Oh-- they broke it--

        The street is--

        From below she's caught, awkwardly sprawled in Lily's arms. Dark eyes meet Lily's single gold; Josie glances from her over to Elvis, and there is for a moment understanding. That look in his eyes, even his words only an echo of what his body already speaks.
        That subtle twitch to Lily's grasp.
        Something that passes beyond language and pierces deep into whatever ancestry all of them may share in this universe.
        So this is where it's gone.

        She acts as always on impulse.

        OST INTERRUPT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K02TdueorS4

        "Do me a favor," she says, lurching up out of Lily's grasp to land unsteadily upon broken stones. Cracks spider their way throughout.
        She slides the Reaper's Hand sidearm into Lily's belt.
        Holds that rifle of hers close with her right hand.
        Earth rips upwards in a shuddering lurch.
        And in the same instant Josie pushes the former soldier back with her now empty left hand.

        "Try not to lose it--"

        He lets fly with the chunk of Filgaia flagstone.
        And her lips split into a smile that's outright manic, an expression that's almost but not entirely mirrored by that particular shade of intensity in her gaze.
        As she intrudes upon that incoming boulder with her body.

        It would be hard to label the sound Josie makes as anything other than a scream. It's cut off, ending in a hard gasp as she impacts the ruins of a toppled building and there slumps, for the moment unmoving, the Gawain-series rifle loose in her arms. Blood smears stickily across part of her face and continues to spread, just the most notable of what has to be whole host of injuries.

        And there, one eye cracks open and Josie exhales a sigh, focus slow to follow.
        She's not dead, and that's a start.
        Her left hand twitches, limps slowly inside for her coat. Tugs at a pocket deep inside.

        And there, she pulls forth that old Aveh sidearm.

        She's still armed and dangerous, and that's the next best thing after not being dead.

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Elvis with Out Of The Blue!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: Elvis guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's Out Of The Blue for 88 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock critically Guards a hit from Alhazred's Super Transmitted Mega Crash for 70 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Tethelle Cirdian has posed.

Tethelle's attack flags when she starts running out of strength to sustain it. It slows before it stops, and ends with her trying not to gasp for air in front of the Quarter Knight. If he actually was in any condition to try to finish her, he'd have the best shot at it he's gotten all night.

He says she has awoken. It is what Tethelle has fought to stop. It is more proof that she has failed. And yet...

"Then I will stop her too," Tethelle says. It's a boast, and not one she can back up. She cannot fight the Metal Demons' Mother, certainly not by herself. Even the Guardians were afraid of her, and what is she - a priestess who was chosen a year ago.

But she can't see any way forward but to try.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Alhazred's Super Transmitted Mega Crash for 244 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Skylr Paer guards a hit from Alhazred's Super Transmitted Mega Crash for 182 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Skylr Paer!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Alhazred!
GS: Seraph Beast guards a hit from Alhazred's Super Transmitted Mega Crash for 219 hit points!
GS: Dean Stark critically Guards a hit from Alhazred's Super Transmitted Mega Crash for 69 hit points!
GS: Dean Stark has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Alhazred has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Rosaline Calice takes a glancing hit from Alhazred's Super Transmitted Mega Crash for 185 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Talise Gianfair has posed.

"Wait, but that guy didn't have a boomerang," Talise protests as Riesenlied utters a name. "Why is he--"

With a creak of armour, she presses a gauntlet to her face and sighs into it. "Ghhh. Questions for when we're not hurt and tired."

Talise takes a look back to make sure everyone around her's alive. She saw Elly go down; she takes a moment to figure out where she landed but can't quite do it amid the chaos still unfolding around them. But she's got a clear moment to at least do something.

'Something,' in this case, is to step up to Tethelle's left, reaching out to rest an armoured hand on her shoulder.

"Like I said back when we first got to Lunar," she says with a slow, grim nod. "I'll help you however I can."

GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a solid hit from Alhazred's Super Transmitted Mega Crash for 358 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

There is a sudden clap of thunder that rings through the town, echoing like the strike of a gong.

Ripping out of a golden flash in the air, a bolt of shadow erupts from the ether of this place well behind everyone else. It soars towards the sky, ascending like a black star rising in the heavens over Adlehyde.

Those close enough may catch a glimpse of what it really is, though. It's a bubble of dark energy wrapped around several people - a couple dressed like Rolance soldiers, four children, and a woman in a red robe with long black curls.

Neriah.

She doesn't stop to say hello. Within a few seconds, she's hurtling into the air above Adlehyde - and there, the Black Star stops for a second, like a dark sun newly dawned in the sky. Within the maddening patterns of her eldritch sphere, Neriah hugs one of the children - a little girl about Mikaia's age - close to herself, then surveys the landscape below her.

She laughs. It is a low, rich, menacing sound.

Then there's a flicker, and the shadow orb contracts, vanishing with a ripple of darkness and taking Neriah and her little group of presumed Valmar worshippers with her, away from the battle raging below. The Sinbringer is gone... but to where?

<Pose Tracker> Yarobeleedt has posed.

        MEANWHILE, A WAYS OFF NEAR THE SIEGFRIED TEAM
 
        Lanval finishes up putting out a bunch of fires, because that seems to be all that makes much sense of the situation. So much violence, so much mayhem, and also a big ol' statue exploded and that's probably not good? He remembers all the effort to try and save another one. There's just a lot of strong feelings and confusion all around.
        "Hey, Talishe," Lanval speaks, like he were a toddler tugging her sleeve. Maybe he is one. Sort of. "Ish everything on fire becaushe there'sh sho many fire adeptsh...?"
 
        MEANWHILE, WAY FURTHER OFF
 
        Ethius stares at the rising clouds of dust from the exploded Guardian Statue. He looks away sharply to the golden flash in the air... his eyes narrow. Her. There is nothing he can do from here--
        He refuses to listen to that. He pushes himself when he's on the brink for a reason. Multiple reasons. He must. He goes about preparing the cast of an electrical Symbological spell that cannot reach her from where he stands, though he tries. The rumbling in his stomach protests how much closer he pushes himself to starvation, but he does so anyway.
        Electricity flashes not far from him. By the time it does, it's too late - the shadow orb vanishes entirely.
        He stares some more.

<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        The rush of blood is still in her ears; the din of the attack around them clashes against her senses, and yet it all comes to a halt as Siegfried speaks three little words: she has awoken. Noeline can't help the shiver that runs through her, staring in disbelief as Boomerang escapes. They've beaten Siegfried, they've perhaps saved Adlehyde's people from destruction-- but suddenly, she's a lot more concerned about whether they might have lost the war.

        Riesenlied's words pull her back to the present; she sucks in a pained breath, tamps down the ball of tension in her gut down, and forces herself to begin moving anew, and though she's limping she's still at her partner's side in the space of an instant. "We should," she agrees, quiet and solemn. It would be the right decision, given the reaction of the Adlehydians, but... but something keeps her in place, at least for a little while yet.

        Rather than immediately flee, she pulls the other metal demon into an embrace, doing her best to hold Riesenlied and not simply lean her weight against the other woman's form. "... you did well," she whispers privately. "People's lives have been saved by your being here today. You reached him, if only a little. Next time." To Noeline, it seems important for her to voice it - to make her thoughts clear.

        Then she huffs out a rattling breath, and nods her head, hoping that her headset will still work after everything. "Cetiri. We're-- on our way."

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny stands, gasping for air, staring at the crumpled form of Yarobeleedt. His fingers twitch convulsively, little motes of blue chi still dancing in the air. He licks his lips, opens his mouth---

And then light explodes out from the area around the ruins of the Guardian Statue, light summoned from... God, something, Claude can't even be sure what, although his tricorder is providing several live-action guesses. More concerning is the readout of its power level, which is... higher than that of his Federation-issue phase gun. By a considerable margin.

On the plus side - the Federation probably can't kill him for lasering things if other people started lasering first. There have been little nuggets of good buried in this awful day.

But for now, only a single red-outlined figure is left in the middle of the fray, off in the direction of the energy blast. Claude reaches down to his sword belt and draws the second of two blades he took to Lunar - this one a single-edged, curved katana forged by the smith Gamgee in Lacour Kingdom. It's more sword than Claude is worth - but he might need every bit of it right now.

"ZED!" Claude shouts as he breaks into a run, gathering power as he moves toward Alhazred, angling to his right, giving the green-haired swordsman the chance to come in from the other side...

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei Fong Wong is obscured by the energy coursing through him. Siegfried knows him well.

Fei is not so kind as to just LET Boomerang leave with Siegfried. At least, not now. He runs right at Boomerang, intending to clobber him but Boomerang leaps up the moment that Fei punches a SECOND black hole where he was a moment before, avoiding his strike and vanishing with Siegfried's body.

She has awoken.
She has awoken

Fei remembers the corpses. He remembers how many dead bodies it took to stop Mother the first time. How the world had taken a mortal blow five hundred years after. He feels the rage of the princess. He does not feel like someone who is withering at all, but perhaps Cecilia was thinking of a withering of the spirit, of the soul.

But it wasn't Siegfried's hate that made that happen, Cecilia.

The aura fades from Fei Fong Wong. When it does, his wounds are gone.

He walks towards the fallen Elly. He looks towards Cecilia for a moment and because he took a negative rainbow for her (and a stab wound for that matter) he feels like he's earned the right to speak his mind.

"On the day your father was killed," Fei says. "I was running from this city, even though my head was screaming to run for the castle."

He ducks down by Elly's fallen body. He looks at her with deep sorrow and pain. Gently, he picks her up. It's too late, now. Mother has awoken. It's too late, Siegfried's last words were, what he says to himself and he's not wrong. He'll get to see what Mother is like himself in all her awful glory. He might even like it as he is now, and that's what hurts him more than anything.

"Your hate, Cecilia... I can feel it dwell powerfully within you, like it's threatening to rule you and in ruling you it's threatening to rule Adelhyde. I see it in their eyes."

He turns towards Cecilia and he looks like a tired old man of 19 years old.

"But I know that the line between hate and love is very thin. I can't blame you. If I were in your shoes, I would hate him so much I wouldn't be able to breathe. I kind of do, already."

He shakes his head slowly.

"...But I can blame myself, for failing to protect Adelhyde."

He starts walking away with Elly. To where? He's not sure. Somewhere with a hospital bed. He'll figure it out when his head stops pounding.

"Twice now, I've failed my new home. So many homes I've failed."

He laughs faintly. "Maybe that's why I don't deserve to have them."

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Off in the near distance, there is an amorphous pile of ochre metal, broken and crumbling, even its mind is broken. But...

An arc of quicksilver splashes across the strange, withered surface. From where? From whom...?

Zed turns away, wrapping a scrap of scarf around the palm of his hand. His expression seems unusually downcast. After so long on the moon, did he just... get used to the peace? The absence of this stupid war?

Maybe.

Maybe it would have been nice to keep dreaming that pleasant dream.

Zed sighs. But...

"ZED!"

Zed grins, gripping his sword tight. "Right. This time, it's a bit different. HERE I GO, CLAUDE!" Zed races after Claude, a bolt of green blazing alongside an azure comet. That's right. This time...!

This time, he can fight without regrets!

Zed charges in from the left, his sword raised to deliver a single crushing blow for his rival to exploit...!

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Nearby, Siegfried falls...and he says something that gives her pause. 'She has awoken'. Mother...

"I-It can't be..." She breathes. ...How long? How long had she been awake for?

She feels light wash over her and she looks in Skylr's direction and sends her a thankful nod. ...The fact that the girl is of the Guard is a little worrying, but the fact that she is healing her is enough reassurance that she's not about to try to arrest her.

Besides, they soon have bigger problems.

Jacqueline's eyes open wide in shock as she stares at the large machine that just appeared.

"Stop him! STOP HIM!" She cries out, and prepares to hurl a bottle in his direction...but it's too late.

A wall of energy erupts from Alhazred, consuming Jacqueline. She cries out as it buffets her, and the sheer force of it sends flying backward. She doesn't know where she ends up. She's just aware that she loses consciousness before she hits the ground.

...But she isn't dead. She might have the Guardswoman to thank for that. ...But even so, it hardly feels like it matters.

...Adlehyde...

Jacqueline faints. Someone will probably be by to pick her up out of the rubble eventually, if she doesn't wake herself up before then...

<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

Tesni Inoue is able to keep alive against Yarobeledt and holy fiddle sticks the round worked, well givne Yaro while danderous isn't a quarter knight? This gives her an idea about just how dangerous the Metal Demons are in general. She however zees Zed going own and she follows after Claude. Her rifle ready, yet things were going to end up giving Claude covering fire, she can't really get up close and she hears thing of nightmares.

 She has awoken.

 Things just got real...

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

"Doctor of Pharmacy isn't -- good enough for you? Fine, then, a better question -- what did you do to Lady Harken?" Matilda asks through gritted teeth, as she finds it impossible to actually get anything out of striking out at Alhazred. ... Does he even have an anatomy? Skylr's magic winds around Matilda, giving her cause to stop gritting her teeth quite so much --

Oh, no, never mind. Things don't stop from being bad. A giant wall of energy explodes out from Alhazred, smashing Matilda through the window of a building. In her unarmored state, she's...

... well, she's not quite knocked unconscious, but she decides not to press the battle from the windows. She... would really rather just sit for now -- maybe try running, before long...

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Beast has posed.

        The Beast of Lohgrin locks in with Alhazred, one strange and inhuman form against another. And perhaps, for a moment, she gains ground; but he has more than his claws at his disposal. "Morality," says the Beast, and how strange that she does not speak with exertion despite their struggle, "is the only method whereby you might derive the right path for your people!"

        He claims that passing questions is impossible - but passing the Beast is possible enough, as he deflects her momentum to fling her aside. She crashes twenty metres before she can summon the wind to slow her to a stop, too far to stop his other efforts.

        But not too far to speak. "No!" Cries the Beast in her indignation. "Anything that lives is worth defending!"

        Alhazred disagrees quite virulently, and the Beast of Lohgrin locks her plates together and digs her claws in and yet all it does is ensure that as the energy washes over her, it flattens her, forcing every piece over each other to the ground. The individual segments are, mercifully, not bent too out of shape. She seems entirely out, for a moment.

        And then those pieces form around each other again, in loose, lagging concordance. "Anything," she repeats, stubborn and defiant, "which lives... is worth defending!"

        And far and wide, those people who were hit the worst by Alhazred's horrific strike are caught by a soothing breeze, a salve for wounds which denies his attempts to terminate those subjects.

        She does not try to pursue him.

        Humanity is more important.

GS: Seraph Beast has activated a Force Action!
GS: Seraph Beast has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Soothing Breeze!
GS: Seraph Beast has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Soothing Breeze!
GS: Seraph Beast has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Soothing Breeze!
GS: Seraph Beast has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Soothing Breeze!
GS: Seraph Beast has attacked Skylr Paer with Soothing Breeze!
GS: Seraph Beast has completed her action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Seraph Beast heals Jacqueline Barber! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily stares at Josie for an instant--understanding. She feels it, despite her wishes, and something subtle is there, something is understood too much. So when Josie gets up--"Josie--" she starts, and the gun is shoved into her belt. The earth rips upward, "NO--!"

Lily is shoved backwards, just hard enough. The stones hit Josie, not Lily; Lily simply hits the ground behind, falling, and from a tactical perspective, it's the right answer. Lily is badly injured as it stands. ...And yet--

...Josie falls, even if she isn't dead. She falls, and Lily hears it--

'She has awoken.'

She remembers what Ethius told her. She remembers a city that could have been a home, under siege again. She remembers returning again and again...

She remembers a week on the Yggdrasil drinking until she couldn't think of anything at all.

Elvis can feel, most likely, the pulse of power on Lily's part, the way she rises and stares for an instant. It is not fair, to hate an honorable man for behaving with the honor he claimed, for striking back in the same way. And yet--

And yet she feels it flood through her for an instant. Is it her own? Is it Cecilia's? ...Is it this city's, Siegfried's? There is so much hate, all of a sudden, and she stares forward with it.

Lily straightens her shoulders, closes her single eye. "..."

She puts out one hand this time, simply points. A tiny point of light forms, turns into something slightly larger, a marble-sized bolt of gravitic power--one, another, five moving around Elvis.

GS: Lily Keil has activated a Force Action!
GS: Skylr Paer gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Seraph Beast heals Skylr Paer! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        On the other side of the battlefield, Siegfried is defeated, only for another Metal Demon to cart him off the battlefield. Dean and his friends aren't faring quite so well against Alhazred. Maybe that's what happens when someone is specced more towards defense than offense?
        
        "You'll see just how stubborn I can be!" Dean shouts at Alhazred. The Quarter Knight wouldn't be the first to criticize him for a lack of common sense! So whatever a lobotomy is, he can take it and he can stuff it up his weird robe. That barrage of bullets from before might not have done the trick, but Dean takes the opportunity, while Alhazred is setting up another device, to reload his ARM. That station charges and sparks and sets itself up as the Quarter Knight laughs, and then--
        
        "TAKE THIS!" Dean roars, once again aiming in towards the foul Metal Demon. Just as the device is commanded to fire, Dean fires with both barrels, with every single bullet he's got--and then the energy wall ERUPTS. Perhaps his bullets will pierce through it and strike the Quarter Knight; perhaps not. Dean, for his part, is swept up in the assault and sent flying. However, he's still conscious, and when he sees his friends caught up in it, he launches himself from rubble to rubble to catch the side of a building. Nearby, Matilda crashes through a window. When the force dies down, he lands on his feet, then hurries on inside.
        
        "Matilda! You okay?" he calls as he looks around for her. When he spots her, he hurries over, then kneels down at her side, expression one of concern. "That looked terrible--you need me to help you out of here?" He looks over towards the smashed window, eyes narrowing. "I don't know if that creep's going to keep attacking, but... it sounded like he was going to go after his friends after this, at least." Or 'friends,' rather, but it's Dean.
        
        At least there's a nice breeze in here. It must be even nicer to Matilda.

GS: Dean Stark has spent 3 Combo on Headshot, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Dean Stark has attacked Alhazred with Twin Fenrir - Sonic Vision!
GS: Dean Stark has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Dean Stark has completed his action.
GS: Alhazred takes 5 damage from Poison!
GS: Alhazred has completed his action.
GS: Alhazred has activated a Force Action!
GS: CRITICAL! Alhazred critically Guards a hit from Dean Stark's Twin Fenrir - Sonic Vision for 58 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Dean Stark!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Dean Stark has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Elvis with Impact Rain!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Lily Keil's attack becomes clear!
GS: Elvis takes a solid hit from Lily Keil's Anima Breach for 149 hit points!
GS: Elvis enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

The tiny globes around Elvis abrubtly change--they pulse once, and begin to implode, blotting out light around him and drawing on something worse than the body--there is an instant of what feels like spiritual poison, of awfulness--

Of raw hatred given physical form, as Lily's golden eye becomes featureless black.

"They already destroyed it," she says, and it is a strange voice to Josie.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Alhazared is unimpressed by Rosaline's threat, even as it's seconded by Ida. Can they even back it up, though? This Quarter Knight is not nearly as predictable as Berserk was. He may not have his cataclysmic brute force, but what he can bring to bear is cataclysmic in other ways.

But that won't stop Rosaline from trying. Solais Emsu's heavenly beams-- Rosaline, despite everything, refuses to think of them as 'divine' --put the Quarter Knight on the defensive, damaging him in a way that feels viscerally satisfying to the wayward nun.

And yet... Alhazred is still defiant, making a threat that... can't possibly be true, right? Are they planning to kill the Guardians?

And meanwhile, Siegfried announces that She has awoken. "W-What?" Rosaline's head whips to look at the other Quarter Knight, and this distraction proves dangerous. Even as the Alhazred rants and shouts about a high capacity transmission station, it rings hollow in her ears.

Her reflexes do kick in, however, when the large device appears over them. She doesn't want to find out what it is and what it does. She just turns tail, literally, and runs, using her hands to give herself an extra burst of speed.

It's too little too late, however. Energy strikes her from the back, courses through her as pieces of debris better her and send her flying right across the ruined street. She mutters a prayer to Granas as she sails, feeling like a hypocrite for doing so but hoping against hope nonetheless.

It seems someone up there DID hear her, as she lands right in the back of a cart full of hay. She's still more than a little injured, but at least she survived this. She can only hope her friends will also make it.

As her vision swims and blurs, however, she catches the sight of a dark orb up above. Inside it, familiar shapes. One she recognizes. Wait, what?

"...Neriah?"

Mercifully, she loses consciousness.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        'Your odds aren't looking so hot,' Gwen says, and the world responds thusly, upending a Little Twister native's nasty streak of pride. ... Well, the one native that didn't decide to go the more logical route, give or take several dead bodies in their wake.

        The Mockingbird calls out its scornful note in the form of one final shield, pyrite gold energy radiating from the core of that right hand. Gwen is pushed back, resists, then is blown completely off her feet, slapping up against the remains of a wall that had most of its structure blown away already.

        ...

        ......

        Gwen stands.

        She's *alive*.

        And it's a wonderful, wonderful feeling that almost manages to overshadow all the times she's looked at her ARM, and that incriminatory metal stain on her chest, and wonder just how much of her truly could be considered human. Especially if the wrong people knew.

        If she sees Dean out of the corner of her eye, she merely gives a small tip of her chin in a nod. He's going to go after the others. She'll take this moment to distract Alhazred.

        Except, when she calls on her ARM for support, it sparks ominously and shakes, sending sharp stabs of pain up into her neck. "D-damn!"

        She can still do one thing, though. Clouds of dust are kicked up in Gwen's wake as she runs forward, her right hand raised back to deliver one parting shot to the remaining Quarter Knight.

         ".... What about now....!" she gasps.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Skylr Paer has posed.

         "Metal can always be melted and reformed, you know." Skylr says quietly to Alhazred.
 
         High capacity transmission station.... that's not good. Skylr watches the machine. It's the first time she's seen something like that. .... Fire.... fire, but no fire. With everything else the Metal Demon's done.... Skylr is blown backwards, again, taken into the air... taken into everything. She gets cast a long, long way, too, skidding to a stop on her back and on her side. The roadburn from it will sting in a second. It starts stinging.
 
         Seraph Beast, hits her; with wind. A salve; a thing of comfort to a wind user as well. With a choking noise, Skylr drags herself back to her feet. The healer's nose is bleeding, but she can't stop. People went down. Leo's back there, somewhere. Presumably. Maybe. Hopefully. She doesn't make any moves towards Al, however. Instead, she starts looping towards Rosaline and Jacqueline, and also looks down the way, towards Gwen. ".... hey."
 
         "... hey." Her voice lifts, louder, raspier. "D...don't die... I need you to not die. Please?"

GS: Gwen Whitlock gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Seraph Beast heals Gwen Whitlock! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elvis has posed.

After throwing that building sized earthen chunk at those two Humans, Elvis has to stop and take a breather. That aura is still erupting all around him, but he is jsut out of breath. "Huh.... Heh... Heheh..." he laughs weakly, trying to regain fighting composure.

A voice calls out, from one of the Quarter Knights. THeir job was done. They got what they wanted, and now their Mother has awoken. It was time to see just what kind of promises were held for this alliance. A dark feeling in his gut tugs at him. Metal Demons were so akin to Veruni in goals, but so very different in operation. Was it possible to have a similar end goal that could co-exist?

Time will tell. He never finished his synopsis on the situation.

Another firearm screams to life, as a bullet lodges into Elvis' shoulder joint. An attempt to dodge yielded little result, as his breath is still gone from him. "Augh!" A hand reflexively reaches to that wound. It went deep. Use of that arm probably isn't going to happen for the rest of this fight, he wagers.

And while Josephine seems to have taken the brunt of his attack, Lily has fared better. "It's over. They succeeded. You should leave!" he commands. Not that they will listen. And as the standing Human launches her pinpricks of light, Elvis launches himself at them to dodge around them. Which ends as a mistake, as they erupt with dark power as he is amidst them. Immediately, they drain him of energy, of spirit, of magic.

His Detonation Aura is the first to go within seconds.

Mustering of ether leaves next.

Color of the skin departs.

"What are you doing... to me?!" he rages, forcing himself to disengaged and backstep away. "D-DAMNIT! You... Humans... are so headstrong! You lost, yet you still fight!" A sigh, as what little energy he can muster is palmed into a fist, as a Hydro Pressure is slapped into the ground. And while that is the telltale sign of geysers erupting under enemies, it instead does so all around Elvis. And a mist forms up all around. A mineral like scent cloys in the air. "I can't say I think you have misused your determination. I myself am wary of the Metal Demon's motives. But an alliance is an alliance, and I must honor it."

"For now."

"I wish you well on your escape." THe ground from under the misted area shatters, and a shape can promptly be seen leaping quite far repeatedly. Drips of blood follow where they go, and a familiar bullet coated in blood can eb seen on the ground once the mist departs.

At least now, he gets to do the one thing he has been wanting to do for months now.

Go home.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has spent 2 Combo on Gatling, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Alhazred with Special Delivery!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        It's easier, in a way, when the derision is coming from someone you don't have to kiss up to. Ida doesn't second-guess herself, doesn't wonder if Alhazred sees something in her that she herself cannot--something that makes her unfit to be here. Ida sees light blazing around the strange ARM in the sky, but there's no time to run. There's no time to get out of there. Ida breathes, kindling the fire of her chi, stoking it until it permeates every part of herself. Skin, bone, and muscle grow stronger, harder. All she can think about is Siegfried's words, words that carried across the battlefield.

        The light sweeps over her. Ida goes tumbling like a thrown toy, twisting end over end as she flies. Horrible light washes over her body, burning her skin, raising welts and burns across her forearms and face. She lands in a heap, her cloak fluttering like a tattered flag before falling atop her. She's silent a moment.

        "A student is tested," Ida croaks, "over and over. A warrior is struck again and again. From this pain comes victory. These are one and the same."

        The Beast's cool, soothing wind washes over her. Ida pushes herself upright, slowly. The adrenaline is washing out of her system, and the all-too-familiar stimuli of the battlefield sink in again. The smell of burned flesh, some of it her own. Screams. Fire. Blood. "A challenge to be overcome." It happened again. This time, for keeps. Mother is awake now. Ida didn't even see what got the statue. Thoughts start to tumble as familiar self-loathing creeps up in her heart. "A pinnacle to stand atop, with defeat swept aside." Her voice wavers. She glances at where Matilda fell, and as a familiar, sickening sensation comes over her, she can't help but wonder if Neriah just now showed up like some sort of perverse, Valmar-slave vulture. No. Focus.

        "And so the master says. But the student will ever be tested. But the warrior will ever be struck. What truth does the master speak?"

        Ida settles into a low defensive stance, wobbly but resolute. "Thank you for this lesson." Keep his focus on you. Let the others withdraw or recover, as they see fit. Ida keeps track of the Beast, watching her out of the corner of her eye. She is absolutely confident that the Beast will intervene if Alhazred tries to start shit again.

GS: Alhazred critically Guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Special Delivery for 29 hit points!
GS: Alhazred has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Seraph Beast heals Ida Everstead-Rey! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Alhazred with Method II - The Tempered Blade!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Alhazred guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Method II - The Tempered Blade for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

Cecilia's blast of lightning takes Siegfried square on. Did he just let his guard down because his mission was accomplished? Or did she actually--

dThe adrenaline starts to fade. Her knees shake and she finds herself just falling; not quite a faint, but tipping down into knock-kneed sit, breathing in thick, smokey air amid the rubble of her home's demolished protector. She watches Boomerang leave with Siegfried, unable to conjure the energy for another spell.

The tears flow freely but silently. She barely has the energy to sob. Another funeral, she thinks, barely able to conjure the energy to think of the memorial that will come as much more than an icon, a shape of itself on the horizon.

"You...should go," she murmurs, in Riesenlied's direction. She can't look her or Noeline in the eye. Not now. Not with this horrible feeling inside her, crawling and burning her like acid. "Please. Y...you won't be safe here."

She's not sure who from. Herself, possibly.

Her eyes turn up, wet and weeping, to Fei as he arrives. He does have the right to speak, of course. She has denied it to so very few. She can't reply at first. It feels like a rebuke, somehow, from the man she's known, gentle but so terribly powerful. It's not something she's aspired to. She has let it lead her, guide her, this fury in her lungs. Now she's the one whose spirit is withering, a choking sob bursting from her, her hand coiling in the black shirt beneath her vests, her face coiling in a graceless grimace. How is she supposed to not hate them? How can she POSSIBLY not HATE them!? She wants to ask him that and all she can do is wail, the words turning into a hoarse cry as her shoulders quake.

She breathes. Slow and horrible. She finally squeezes out the words, "Come...to the castle," to Fei. "There will...be healers." Provided anyone still lives, she thinks.

And then she sits there, quietly in the streets, struggling to compose herself enough to stand.

<Pose Tracker> Alhazred has posed.

 There was a DISTRESSING LACK OF DISINITIGRATION following that attack.
 
 Alhazred was expecting either an EARTH SHATTERING KABOOM or at least SKELETONS OUTLINED IN LIGHT before they CRUMBLED AWAY INTO NOTHING.
 
 "...does NOTHING work the way that I intend it to? DO YOU SEE WHAT RESULTS FROM NEEDING TO USE INFERIOR MATERIALS?!?"
 
 There is more than enough annoyance at the moment, and the objective HAS been achieved. Alhazred looks around for a moment as he considers the large, blasted crater around him. And then the others who are beginning to gather again to oppose him, with the others having retreated.
 
 His shield snaps up again as Dean continues to fire on him, bullets racing in from the distance to try and add just a little more pain to Alhazred's current level of annoyance. He grunts, red eyes turning to look in the direction Dean had gone flying - but it wasn't worth the effort right now, not in a city more or less by himself. Claude and Zed gather themselves to charge, preparing to do their best to put a deep hurting upon the Quarter Knight... and Alhazred turns to give Zed a terrible, terrible look. It's deifnately time to go, before more heroes move to pile in on him. But first... he raises one claw towards him. "We will have WORDS, Zed. LONG, COMPLICATED WORDS. I expect you to make a few noises as well, mostly INCOHERENT SCREAMING."
 
 And then he staggers, as Gwen slams into him with one strike. He manages to turn, guarding against the blow... but it hurts. More than the Quarter Knight would like to admit. He turns and gives the woman a long, less than pleased look. "...next time, woman, we will have a more protracted discussion. Unfortunately, as Siegfried has stated... we have work to do. I am certain that we will be seeing each other again soon. And soon enough, you will not have your Guardians to protect you."
 
 There is a ripple from under the drape covering the Quarter Knight, and suddenly he too leaps into the air - although unlike Siegfried's prodigious leaping ability, Alhazred seems to be gliding away at a more leisurely pace.

<Pose Tracker> Yarobeleedt has posed.

        A would-be Metal Demon corpse is left to rot, save for the automatic process of some of the lingering Metal Demon hordes to reclaim precious materials as to ensure none are recycled and reused by the human hordes. The quicksilver of a mysterious source seeps into the flaccid husk, and the body's natural auto-repair systems try to make due with what materials are availabe to it. It's not much. The body of the puddle-slime-coward thing shudders imperceptibly as it is dragged off.
        Mother.
                Mother.
                        Mother.
                                Mother.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Prying herself up, Matilda screws her eyes shut and tries to hear in Dean's general direction. "I'm -- fine," she manages, sounding exactly zero percent fine. "Fine enough to walk, at least...?" That one *does* seem to be true, even if she's got... quite a bit of broken glass stuck in her.

She's not very talkative... but who would expect her to be, given the circumstances?

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei was about to just walk right out of town. Maybe he was hoping to run away from everything, to duck and hide while the world battled against a nigh-unbeatable force once more.

But Cecilia is crying. She is warning Riesenlied that she has to get out of here because it isn't safe for her.

'How can she possibly not hate them'? If Fei knew the answer to that, maybe he would have a better handle on his own spirit. All he has is a strange experience that is both new an old at once.

He doesn't know how. All he knows what works and what creates monsters out of men and women. He had believed that Cecilia would be one who would pass that nearly impossible test.

But then Cecilia calls out to him and he stops. Despite his words, Cecilia still offers a hand. He had expected...he's not sure what he expected. The remaining logical part of Fei's brain tells him that castle healers are probably going to be the best healers available.

Fei doesn't look back to Cecilia immediately. He actually finds himself lookig across the battlefield towards Rudy Roughknight. He's not entirely sure why. Perhaps he remembers how he managed to draw the princess out of the umbral mirror's illusion, perhaps he remembers how his soft, simple words can resonate like a cannon if you try to listen.

He turns back to Cecilia afterwards, bowing his head. "Thank you. And--I'm sorry."

He still can only blame himself for Adelhyde's suffering and it's anger...but there's still hope.

It's not something he often expects much of, frankly he often downright denigrates it, but it hasn't left Filgaia yet. Not by a longshot. For now, Fei can rely on that.

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        Dean looks at Matilda, and then looks down at the loads of glass stuck inside her. "I guess that was a dumb question," he admits. He digs into a pocket and holds out a gel. "Here. I've still got a couple left, so chew on this, and I'll help you get to... wherever everyone's going to regroup." They'll figure it out. And, once Matilda takes the gel, he'll keep holding his hand out until she takes it.
        
        From there, it'll be a trip to Castle Adlehyde.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Beast has posed.

        The Beast of Lohgrin has a broad saddle. She'll use it to bring any unconscious Drifters to safety. Safety is - probably where everyone is limping off to, right? Right.

Alhazred goes home.

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        Meanwhile, above...
        
        The battle winds down. Warriors fall, Drifters fall back, Statues shatter. Ragnell watches from above without interfering in either side. She's kept watch over the entire battlefield, but her eyes--and ears--linger in particular on Riesenlied and Cecilia in the wake of their fight against Siegfried.
        
        Then she stands, stretches, and hops over the side of the parapet to discreetly join in with the regrouping Drifters... or perhaps slink out of the city. Whichever way it ends up needing to go first.

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        Mother has awoken.

        The Iron Cobra-series ARM remains trained on Elvis, though Josie's arm trembles under the weight of even holding this aloft. Slowly that level gaze she turns on Elvis softens, unfocuses.
        Mother has awoken.

        Huh...

        Did they mess up somewhere? Did those shamans get it wrong?
        Maybe those Demons and their friends really did break more of those things.
        Or maybe there was some way they'd gotten past it.

        "You won," Josie croaks out, acknowledging the undeniable as smoke swirls up into the sky above her. "...This time. Do you think... do you think for a moment..."

        It's not her problem, she'd said. If the world dies, so be it.
        The statues are finished. Humans are finished. That debt of her's is gone. It doesn't matter. It shouldn't matter.

        Except she never found--

        "...that we'll just... let you take this?"

        'This'? The planet, perhaps.

        "I don't care if I have to cut my way through 'Mother'. I'm not done yet--"

        Her arm steadies for that one moment. Her forefinger twitches as if she were about to take a shot at him again--

        And there, light unrolls into darkness, sapping Elvis' very strength from him.
        "Huh... Lily? Is that your..."
        Her arm again trembles. Even if she pulled the trigger now, it would be an act of god if she hit Elvis. Her aim's completely off. "Their motives, huh...? Heh heh... you're almost too kind, you know..." she utters. She finally lowers her arm, shakily let down in stages though her grip on the weapon remains.

        Mist suffuses him. He wishes them well.
        She, being herself, does not do similarly and only watches him through a single heavy-lidded eye as he removes himself from the scene.

        Her gaze shifts to Lily, hangs there.
        Black as night...

        "I... heard," Josie sighs out, at last loosening the death-like grip she has on that salvaged military firearm. She closes that eye, apparently unwilling to move immediately.

        It's a few minutes more before she dares to lever herself up and lean, as if dizzy, against broken mortar.

        "Damn..."

        She rolls her head back.

        "Guess now I have to save the world, or I'm just another liar.."

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

They should leave. ...It's true. They should, there's no reason to keep fighting if the objective is over, if there's no intention of destroying the rest of the city. And yet...

Lily indeed doesn't leave. She stares one-eyed forward as her dark power blossoms. The aura is gone; she can feel it winking out. The touch of Ether fades. ...He grows pale. His enraged question--

"Destruction." This is her only answer--...But when he steps back the spell continues, until the mist forcms, the strange scent--

Lily binks, stops as she starts to return himslf. He wishes them well, and she blinks upward as he starts to move. "You..."

Lily wavers, lowers her hand. She turns to look at Josie for an instant, check to ensure she's speaking, breathing. Josie's question--

It's as if Lily didn't even hear it. Whatever change was present is gone now, though.

Lily's eye is still night-black, still inhuman, and it's hard to tell that she's looking at Josie. "...Honorable man, I guess. Whoever he is. ...And strong. We're lucky he was already hurt."

She pauses, and closes her eye, inhaling. What was that feeling...?

"...They haven't won yet," Lily says to Josie. "...We have a plan."

Lily opens her eye, looks to the distance, where she thinks that beam must have fallen...

"If she's a god... then I guess we're going to kill a god."

That hangs on the air before she stops, and then--pauses, lets herself slip down, sit beside Josie. "After... After we... get... some treatment."

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        She watches Alhazred make his strategic retreat, a cold sliver of fright going down her spine.

        Why did she do that? Why'd she stick her head out, when she could have fought just as well taking potshots in the back.

        A new, selfish sort of danger presents itself to Gwen, then: as her ARM grows more powerful, the more noticeable she becomes not just to normal folk that could see her as a monster, but to the sorts of monsters that would be all too happy to see just how those same parts of her ticked. Just like Ida, and the statue Seraph, and so many others.

        But things'll be okay. She has her friends, and even if this statue is destroyed, the seal's still up and going, right? They still won.

        Wait. Alhazred also mentioned Zed. And it sounds like he tried to help them.

        Gwen turns around, searching the torn surroundings for the Dark Hero, then stills, her gaze settling on the weeping Cecilia, and the departing Fei.

        Suddenly, her burning need to punch her fist right into Alhazred feels selfish for entirely different reasons. "... Cecilia." Why is she crying? She never cried like that not since the last time Adlehyde fell.

        Why is everybody so sad? They're back home.

        "C'mon, guys." Gwen tries to raise her right ARM, but then quickly switches to her left in a wave. "Let's get the wounded to those healers. They may have gotten that statue, but if we weren't here, they could've done a lot more, so..."

        She trails off again, hearing Lily's words. 'If she's a god... then I guess we're going to kill a god.'

        "..." Gwen looks at Lily, her lips thin. "... Then we're right where we need t'be." Her words bear none of the cheery denial as before. "Filgaia needs all we can give it."

         And maybe, if Hiro and the others are back on Lunar still, that'll be okay. They have their own world to save, just as everyone here does.