2018-12-22: The Weight of the World

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============================<* Northern Steppes *>============================

The northern regions of the Elru continent are composed of broken, barren hills, their soil frozen and crusted over with rime. Little grows there, and even less lives. The monsters and wildlife of the region are notoriously fierce; a monster seeing a traveller will chase that person down for weeks if necessary, as that may be the only protein it sees in that time.

The Steppes have been the dominion of the military Kingdom of Arctica since before the Day of Collapse, but in recent years their castle has been silent and unresponsive. The walls sit shattered and broken, the gate open and scored with long-dead flame.

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Mother is dead.

        The battle, thought to be over for but a moment, continues. The shadow of the Gebler battleship Tzadkiel looms over the glass ceiling of the inner sanctum. Devastating rays of energy fire, puncturing firm through the battered Photosphere's defences. The star drive lifts it from its snowy rest to the heavens, on Mother's last, most spiteful command.

        It is time to leave.

        Whether from the the inner sanctum of Mother or the altar of the Ley within the Gutter, your options for escape are limited with how fast the structure is falling. And in the midst of it, an obvious and intense battle erupts.

        The most notable is a thunderous roar of violence, which sees the Tzadkiel ripping in half. One half of it crashes against a hull of the Photosphere, the other far off into the snowfields of Arctica. A battle had been joined with the invading Gebler forces -- but by who? It is not clear...

        Until the Drifters arrive at the devastated hull where everything happened. Several others had made it shortly before, bearing witness to the moment which has come to be:

        Siegfried is dead.

        The Quarter Knight's fallen form is instantly obvious - clad in armor of blue, a white cloak braced around him. He is unmoving. Glumzambor is gone. Quicksilver blood and viscera smear his blackened, battle-shredded armour.

        Siegfried is dead...

        ... and a red-haired demon has risen, Weltall flying close behind him. He hops into the cockpit, his tear-filled eyes catching with Elly's for a moment. Then he disappears behind the hatch.

        Riesenlied lies on the ground not far from the fallen form of her father, Siegfried, Noeline holding her tightly and propping her up.

        Her form is terrible, a nascent point between that of her humanoid form and what is threatening to grow into the Ley Dragon once more. Her arms more resemble foretalons with the way they lurch forwards; her inert legs to one side possess even more reptilian shape. Her horns streaked upwards, her face buried within overlapping scales as a draconic head threatens to emerge.

        She hears Zed crying out to her. She senses Lanval for a moment, finding a bit of solace in his mirth even as he feels rattled.

        For a moment, Noeline lurches forward as she instinctually tries to defend Siegfried with that enormous well of sorcery and that spike in her hand. She tumbles to the ground for a moment, her crooked, nigh-forelimb-like arms propping her up where her legs won't.

        She hears her indignity. She yells that Gebler can't leave well enough alone even for a moment. It feels strangely intoxicating for a moment. Like those words are the kinds of words she wants to shout out--

        But she fears them.

        She doesn't genuinely know what vengeful anger is like. What it means to embrace and to hold it. She would have a chance, if she accepted Id's offer. But he taunts her, almost too gently, and it almost sounds like he never had the offer seriously on the table.

        She takes hold of that moment in her heart.

        To not let herself doubt again.

        Riesenlied purses her lips. Noeline, a pest? No, far from it. Very far from it, in fact. If people saw her as someone who could endure his pain, and carry the weight of the world...

        It's because she admired and saw the spark of identity and confidence Noeline brought out in her. It was because of Noeline that she could become the person she is today. And not just Noeline--

        "... i am reminded... of what k.k. said to me ..."

        There's a strained cry as the draconic scalp starts to shrink. She regains her vaguely humanoid form once more, her face exposing itself as scales retract onto her cheeks.

        And she looks up with wet, tearful eyes. Eyes that have freshly been exposed to sorrow once more, yet have not been utterly blinded to grief like she once was.

        "that sacrifice is not ignoble, but... i must think of myself as much as others.
         that i would not leave them with naught but memories to protect themselves with..."

        She swallows. She nods to Noeline as she says they have people to go back to. People to see us through. People...

        "... we--
         have people we made a promise to.
         to come back to my children, my daughters.
         to janey, to mikaia, to lydia..."

        Her lips purse for a moment. She clings onto Noeline's hand harder, and she lifts that one unmarred hand of hers. The one part of her that has not ever strayed far from looking human.

        Lily's voice cracks. She feels her mirror's own pain as she yells to her. How she lied. Even with the wool over her mind as it has been, she instinctively knows what she means.

        Sado.

        What for, indeed, if it is to end this way? But she says it doesn't matter if they forgive her-- she wants to yell that it does matter. Because she won't ever give up on her. But her breath escapes her.

        She catches glance of Hiro. She catches glance of Ruby as she makes that offer. It's a noble sacrifice, but... those words of K.K.'s fall back on hers. She wants to call out to her, but it isn't her moment. But...

        But she does look to Elly, who's going through her own shock. She can scarce imagine how she feels, and how similar or dissimilar her surprise might be. The sight of the scarf upon Id...

<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

Id listens to Riesenlied. To Riesenlied's heartfelt resolution he has but one thing to say, and he says it quick--interrupting Riesenlied before she can speak to Elly.

"Ah, you made a promise." He says. "Then you better keep it"

Weltall starts to rise up in the air and soon it becomes apparent that Id's target is the Photosphere itself. And since the structure is currently falling a rather lethal distance toward the ground, getting off it is a top priority. Luckily, an escape pod bay is nearby and for those willing to ride it, the Fereshte swoops around at that moment, shaking under the pressure of the height but certainly safer ground than the alternative.

Id closes his eyes behind the cockpit shield.

"Then." He says. "Lets begin."

He taps a button on Weltall's console and a secret compartment popped open, revealing a DEATH WAITRESS hat. He slides it on top of his head. He drums his fingers along the side of the console before pulling a lever. Music starts to play within his happy little shell. He taps his foot alongside the beat.

"Can't go wrong with the classics." Id says. "Now let's make a funeral pyre for Siegfried, shall we? I'll miss you bro." He wiped the tears from his eyes. "Ahh...don't forget the eulogy. Keep it together, Id..." He flicked on the external speakers, the music blaring outwards.
        'Imagine me and you, I do, I think about you every night, it's only right. To think about the girl you love and hold her tight, so happy together!'

"Siegfried was a man from the stars seeking a future for his people. He was a warlike people, and in that way he was very human, but I think we can all agree his dedication to his people was quite alien."

Id lets out a quick whistle and Weltall responds to the wordless command. Weltall's parts shifted about. Its colors shift gradually, taking on a bright red color scheme with gold trimmings. Its head pops open as did much of its bulky armor, twisting backwards to reveal the demonic visage within in a sleeker deadlier design. Vibrant white and blue wings of flame erupt out from the back of the machine. So that's what all the black boxes were for.
        'If I should call you up, invest a dime And you say you belong to me, and ease my mind. Imagine how the world could be, so very fine, So happy together'

"Siegfried doubted himself after the first war. The humans had showed him honor and he had shown them honor in return. He went on a journey to learn about them and see if common ground could be reached. He befriended a man named Lacan and the Holy Mother of Nisan Sophia. Together they went on many adventures. They were friends, family, as close as you could get. They fought together just like you, went on digs together just like you, shared secrets with one another just like you.They gathered allies and battled the organization of Solaris together knowing them to be the source of rot on Filgaia. But Siegfried learned a secret that Lacan didn't even know he had and on top of that... Lacan's allies betrayed him, sacrificing the Holy Mother to Solaris in exchange for power. They had a falling out."

Id's Weltall, let's call it Weltall-Id, pulls back. He gives one look down towards the resolute Riesenlied before soaring high up into the air.
        'I can't see me lovin' nobody but you for all my life! When you're with me, baby, the skies'll be blue for all my life!'

"He was a leader, a father, a brother, a grandfather! He fought and bled for his people, his comrades, his family, and for Filgaia! His name was Siegfried!"

The gear crackles with power.

"I dedicate this song to him, the song my mother once sang to me, so that his spirit may know a mother's true love." Id says before joining in with the song himself, singing along as the gear pushes even higher.
        "Me and you, and you and me! No matter how they toss the dice, it had to be...! The only one for me is you, and you for me. So happy together!"

The gear punches through the interlocking hexagons, pressing into and then through the Photosphere as if it had no defenses at all. It continues on, ripping through out the other end.
        "So happy together!"

The gear then spins around and makes another run, unleashing assaults against the interior, firing weapons  throughout the city, assaulting the Drifters that have yet to escape.
        "So happy together!"

The gear unleashes a series of explosions along the Domicile area, you can see plumes of fire bursting out the side of the complex.
        "We're so happy together!"

And finally the Gear heads above one of the Gutter entrances. It stares down at it, as if Id was hesitating, waiting, ensuring they have as much time to flee as his impulses can allow. Tears spill from his eyes once more as his eyes close and he unleashes a massive wave of chi energy out from the Gear and slamming down into the Gutter. The plasma sears back up and explodes outward.

CASUALTIES FROM ERADICATION OF GUTTER: 0

Id exhales once as the explosions gradually reverberate throughout the facility as it collapses in on itself. "Once again..." He murmurs. "The Tainted escape. Perhaps this is what they mean by the meek will inherit." He doesn't realize he's smiling.

His demolition work done, he starts to turn towards you.

OOC: This round is for reaction poses/ESCAPE poses only. You don't want to be on the Photosphere when it hits the ground! You can escape through the Fereshte, escape pods, under your power or however you want! Have fun!! There is a presumed minor time skip for the destruction of the Photosphere to give you time to escape.

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
Mother is dead. That solves the problem, right? Filgaia is safe now.

Filgaia is not particularly safe right now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-q4w2QHL8oA

Elly van Houten had staggered out up here on a subtle inclination, a feeling that she had to follow Fei, that she had to know where Fei was. She had justified it by thinking that Fei might have been able to call Weltall, that Gear's capacities being somewhat mysterious to her. If he called Weltall, they could fill its cockpit to bursting and make it to the land safe. People could have climbed on that great black horror. All Fei - or, if it came to that, she, or anyone else with even basic training - would have had to do is go down, slowly. It would be a farcial conclusion.

Well, Elly got the farce, but it's not the farce she had hoped for.

Id. The destroyer of Elru. That monster, that horror that walked in human form. Wearing the scarf she gave Fei. Climbing into Weltall, as he does right now. Weltall knows him.

Explanations and excuses rise in Elly's mind. Malevolence? The phenomenon was unknown, and she knows she can at least somewhat see it. She has been close to Fei. In the cold and the pain Elly does not lie to herself. It's not Malevolence. Something new? Maybe. But Id is not new. An explanation there must be, something cold and clinical they will say in Etrenank while slowly floating towards Lunar away from the shattered husk of Filgaia, Elly is sure of that much.

But that is not the problem for Elly, who saw before her the face of a monster on the face of the man she loves.

The world swims before her. She can vaguely see Ruby, vaguely hear Riesenlied. Elly breathes short gasping breaths as she feels something twisting around in the back of her mind. It is the sense of being at the bottom of the ocean, the tension of being strapped across the front of an artillery piece with no countdown. Id, Fei, gets into Weltall, produces a souvenier, begins to sing.

Elly wonders if she actually died already, and if this is just her brain catching up, strangling in some odd corner after Mother severed her head at the neck. why did i think of that, Elly thinks, swallowing once and tasting bile.

Elly is able to focus herself again, slowly, as Weltall departs and she is left on her knees on the upper deck of a slowly crashing alien spaceship. Her head turns as if to look for something, anything to anchor herself in, something to weigh against this absolute crushing horror. Her eyes are eerily blank.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Id just declared that he would destroy the world. But he's already gotten a head start on that. He's already shattered at least one person's world before even making that declaration.

Xantia had been here all along. After the battle with Mother, the first thing she did was look for Fei. Finding him missing, she naturally went along with the rest of the group who went looking for him. But when they arrived here, Xantia froze up rather quickly when she saw what was happening from a distance. She saw the transformation with her own eyes. Even without that, there are clear signs of Fei and Id having a much closer tie than she theorized. Weltall. The scarf. But seeing it, actually seeing that happen, this irrefutable reality... she hasn't been mentally capable of processing it.

It's strange, too. She's spent so much time with Fei, encountered Id so many times. She had plenty of opportunity to figure this out. The hints were there. Even now, in her mind, she sees the figure of Id standing before her after their fight at Biroclef Ridge, overlapping with the figure of Fei when she spoke to him earlier in the Photosphere Domicile, as they speak the exact same words: 'Choice, huh?' She thinks of Fei's words before they left for Elru: 'Just in case, I want you to know you are as family to me.' Id's words at the end of their fight echo in the back of her head: 'No, I don't think we can be 'friends'. Not when we are already family.'

And yet... she still can't believe it. This can't actually be the truth. It just can't.

The simple wish to remain in the company of Fei, the one she's always felt so sure that she has some past connection to, has guided so many of the actions over the past two years, the only years that she can remember. The strong sensation of feeling drawn to Id, in spite of his actions and all his efforts to rubuke her wanting nothing more than to be his friend. Even if others may feel that there were similarities in her behavior towards them in hindsight, to Xantia, it couldn't be any more different.

She doesn't understand emotions very well, but she's very sure of one thing. The way she feels about Fei and the way she feels about Id are not the same. The way she feels only makes sense if they're different people. What she saw just now, what's she's being forced to acknowledge... is just not possible.

Xantia just stands there. Unmoving, unblinking, eyes unfocused. As if she just... shut down. She may not have even noticed anybody else, anything else that happened after witnessing the transformation. She hasn't moved at all since then. She continues not to move when Id starts to prepare for his attack in earnest. She isn't heeding the obvious signs of a necessary escape. If nobody snaps her out of it, she may not move to escape at all.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

        A FEW MOMENTS AGO

Riesenlied was safe and surrounded by her loved ones. Someone else lurked on the sidelines.

"What do I care. I'm just a piece of shit anyway," Neriah muttered as she folded herself into a hellmouth portal and faded out of existence. Her cult went with her.

They left behind a surprising number of dead Metal Demons and Metal Beasts. Neriah had given them a simple order: Exterminate every Hyadean, except Riesenlied (and, belatedly, the Tainted). Punish their race for daring to hurt one of her sweeties.

        ---

        A FEW LESS MOMENTS AGO AGO

"Shit, did Skylr get out of here alright," Neriah berates herself as she strides back through another hellmouth portal and into the wreckage of the Photosphere. She's got a new dress and robe on. They're the same as the ones that got trashed during the fights with Lolithia and then Riesedragon.

Still feeling entirely too drained for this, she looks up through the halls of the plummeting Photosphere around her. "...Oh hey, those must be Thomas the Medical Student's friends," she muses.

She clenches her right hand. "Step two: Find that asshole and murder him.

"Step three: Make sure Skylr got out.

"Step one: ...Get some power back."

Neriah taps a finger against her chin and sighs. "But where oh where am I going to find a jolt of energy at a time like this."

        ---

        NOW

"That's jolty enough for now," a refreshed Neriah says with a relieved smile as she discards what she was holding in her right hand, then what she was holding in her left.

The body of a Drifter hits the ground, then the body of a Metal Demon. Both are hideously dessicated, drained of life and vigor - as are three or four more bodies that look like they were once Metal Demons, presumably trying to flee the carnage. Only the Drifter is still alive, but not by much, and with the Photosphere falling apart, he's unlikely to stay that way without a helping hand.

Stepping out a hatch, Neriah looks on for a moment towards the source of the shouting. Off in the distance, she can see who it is.

The asshole who caved her face in around a year ago. Neriah's eyes darken a little, but she draws a breath and shoves the feeling aside, focusing instead on his words and what he's doing. It feels entirely too familiar.

When Weltall comes down, Neriah blinks quickly as something occurs to her - and then she casually lets go of the edge of the hatch and falls out into the open sky.

The Photosphere gives way like so much butter. The Red Demon carves through it and continues on down towards the Gutter, drowning it in a personal hell of plasma - but to no avail. The debris of the Photosphere itself tears through the sky around those escaping it, bursting into flame in the wake of the Monster's passage.

Chunks of metal glance harmlessly off a shield that is not made of interlocking hexagons, but of shimmering pale shadows woven into patterns that defy Euclidean geometry, weaving together and then unmeshing again over and over. Hovering well above the worst of the destruction, Neriah hangs in the air a moment, then begins a slow, steady descent towards ground level, closer to where Weltall landed.

The Gutter may be lost, but Neriah doesn't spare it a tear; while she spared the Tainted out of respect for Riesenlied, ultimately they're just lives to her, and lives don't mean much unless she decides they do. She just raises her eyebrows a little, entirely less upset about this than she should be.

"I feel like Fei and I should catch up," she murmurs to herself. "Suddenly I think we have a lot in common."

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Further down the great spherical bulk of the Photosphere, an airlock seizes and shutters open. The sounds of the apocalyptic battle outside have died, leaving only the rush of air, the sounds of screams, the sounds of the Tzadkiel falling to earth for the final time. A figure hauls themself out of the airlock, clambering up onto the Photosphere's battered hull. They're garbed in layers--the outermost is an improvised cloak, literally just a square of cloth obtained from Festina Lente, and originally intended as an improvised stretcher. Beneath that, a steelcloth duster, and beneath that, white linen bandages spotted with crimson and quicksilver. Beneath that, Hyadean combat armor that has endured the wrath of an angry goddess, and shows it.

        Ida is battered, weary, running on her last reserves. Mother's fury punched a hole in her right shoulder, and covered her with burns. She doesn't know where Kalve is, or where any of the others were. It all happened so fast. A blast door slamming down as the Photosphere shuddered. Ida tried to scream through it, to tell the others she'd find another way around. Her path led her here, to this fateful place. The bulk of the Photosphere hides most of the tableau from Ida, but what she sees shakes her.

         Fei cradles Siegfried to his chest. No. He's cradling Siegfried's body.

        Ida's breath catches in her throat. She can't take her eyes off the sight in front of her, not even as Fei urges Siegfried to get back up!, and everything goes blurry with tears. Fei's despairing scream cuts her to the bone, and something deep inside her answers it. Its howl is a tiny, pitiful thing, but no less heartfelt for it. Fei. It must be Fei. It must be weariness. Ida turns her face into the wind, and lets the bitter cold blow the tears from her eyes. When she looks back, Fei is untying his hair. He's... changing.

        Ida can only watch as the terrifying metamorphosis unfolds.
        What strikes her, when it's over, is not surprise--but rather, the lack of surprise. Puzzle pieces click into place. A series of suspicious coincidences where Fei just happened to be missing when Id was around. The similarities in fighting style. The inexplicable knowledge of past events, including Luisa's history. The angry, bitter child-voice in Fei's dreams. That Gebler commander who screamed at Fei, called him a monster and a destroyer. Horror grabs her guts with both hands, and twists. Ida's knees shake, buckle. She's not even surprised when Weltall comes roaring up of its own volition. She stumbles forwards, and sees more of the tableau. Riesenlied and Noeline, holding each other, Riesenlied's form distorted, draconic. Lily, mirroring Id's despair with her own. Elly, struck speechless.

        'But nobody... NOBODY... is allowed to STOP HURTING!!'

        Ida's heart tightens in her chest. Then, she begins to move.

        The martial artist grips the edge of the airlock and vaults back inside, slamming her hand through the transparent box holding the 'emergency lock' button. Shards of polymer stab into her flesh, leaving droplets of quicksilver and red.

        That won't stop him, and you know it. He's going to tear this place apart. Nothing you can do will stop him.

        Ida grabs the wall for balance as the Photosphere rocks, and leaves a smear behind as she starts to walk--crimson and quicksilver intermingling. The walk becomes a run, and then a sprint. Chi boils through Ida's body as she dashes down a hallway that looks like every other corridor running beneath the skin of the Photosphere. She saw a sign she recognized, and--there!

        Someone got there first. A Hyadean soldier lies just outside the lip of the escape pod, his body riddled with shrapnel. The only sign he's still alive is the slow, jerky rise and fall of his chest. Ida swallows, and remembers Old Petra, and Sibyn. The man does not notice as the wounded human hefts him off the floor, dragging him with her. She kneels beside the wounded soldier as numerals count down, fumbles through her cloak, comes up with another ampoule of quicksilver compound. She presses it against the Hyadean's neck. He mumbles something as Ida hefts him off the floor, props him up in a seat, and braces him so he won't fall over. She rushes back to the door, to study the pod controls and to make certain no one else will be left behind.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

        What would Talise do...?
        ...She probably wouldn't fiddle with a piece of a great kraken's nacre-coated shell out of fidgety desperation, for one, the frightened and contemplative Seraph Lanval has to concede as he grasps a moment of reason within the high emotional panic as the nacre disappears back somewhere on his 'person.' (Even in the face of oblivion, Seraphim continue to make no sense to the known physical laws of the universe.)
        He closes his eyes and forces himself to have a drink. He can hear the bargainings being made by Ruby while Hiro seems swallowed up by the emotions of the moment. He can see the rise of emotion in Riese, how she nearly grasps the ideal form in which to express anger, holding it together with the help of her beloved to remind her of what she holds most important. He can feel Elly's wordlessness, somehow, of some greater pain that maybe he can't ever truly appreciate the depths of. He can hear the green-headed one's calls to rise to the challenge. There's the frustrations and surrender of Lily.
        It might seem silly for an entity of over five hundred years look to a mortal who hasn't even lived a tenth of that time for inspiration, but wild circumstances as they are, it falls back to this question for him: what would Talise do?
        Talise wouldn't capitulate, for one. That much he can do (...or not do, as the case may be). He doesn't scream for mercy when the reddening Gear rises and plays some very happy, catchy music he would love to sing along to. (He doesn't know the lyrics, but that never stopped him in the distant past.) What's more eerie is how he can hear the mourning marauder's words over all of that. When the Gear moves to strike through the Photosphere, the magnitude of the threat before them reasserts itself if the crackling power doesn't clue one in. For the very first impact, Lanval actually clings a hand against the debris to hold himself steady, fighting against the base nature of his very element to hold it together. For how portly and flabby his manifestation may appear, he sure does hang on as fat fingers curl and clutch the jagged metal while the Photosphere rocks and rumbles like it were strong enough to carry his own weight and more. He might be water, but he still has a will.
        What Talise would also do, he recognizes soon after, is listen to her friends when they say a situation is beyond them.
        His grip is challenged as the Photosphere rocks and rolls from the damages already being inflicted, until such point Lanval finds himself rolling and tumbling along like a raindrop racing down a hill to join its kind inside a muddy puddle right at the bottom. There is a certain grace to the obvious pratfalls, until he finds himself wedged between another pile of debris.
        Wedged where he is, Lanval breathes. He's a Seraph, he doesn't need to, but it's a fine meditative technique. His position is reasonably stable where he's stuck. This is a small boon, now, as he gets out the fancy smoking pipe and takes a deep drag. From it comes bubbles. Magical, large, floating bubbles that envelop him - and maybe some others nearby - to allow them the ability to float. It will not be a calming journey, because these are bubbles. There's a sense they could pop at any time and drop their precious cargo, or otherwise run afoul of just about anything... but they will, eventually, go adrift to the closest thing to safety in these environs.
        I got to do something about this. He's of the mind to think that. So, what, then? How do you deal with unimaginable power like that, who seems completely unconflicted about wishing to inflict suffering to match or surpass what they've been through? Within his own bubble, the sight and sound of mayhem is distorted and walled off. He hopes he can think of something before the bubble pops and reintroduces him to the rest of the world.
        The only world he has, now.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

A promise was made. That's right, a promise...! That's just it. Filgaia is not just a place, not just a planet, a hunk of rock hurtling through space, it's a world full of memories, full of the people and experiences that make life worth living. This world, struggling so hard to keep itself together, is something that deserves to exist-- something that deserves to be fought for!

Riese's response... Riese's resolve... Brings a broad grin to Zed's bruised and battered face. "Yeah... That's the Riesenlied I know... Those kids need their mother, those people need their guiding light, and this world... deserves and its people... deserve to live! Now...!"

Now, the Weltall Id plunges deep into the heart of the Photosphere, bringing along with it a veritable deluge of destruction. How much is lost in his rampage? The scale of destruction is terrifying and awe-inspiring. But if Zed was someone who turned away just because he was scared... He wouldn't be here right now. He wouldn't have turned his back on the only life he'd known and turned his face into an unfamiliar future...!

"Now, I'll go and cover you! Ahahahahaha! Do what you need to, you two! I'll do whatever I can to save whatever I can!" And so, now, Zed leaps in after the Demon of Elru, his sword-arm trembling even as his face contorts into a vicious, terrified grin. He is a Hyadean. His instincts are to battle. He allows them to take hold, turning fear into another impulse to fight, to survive against all costs. He takes that roaring sense of terror and turns it into frenzied, maddened strength...!

And then a giant robot fist punches through a nearby metal wall and grabs hold of him before going rocketing back out of the Photosphere.

Ten seconds later, Zed gasps for breath as giant robot fingers unfurl all around hm. "What. WHAT!? WHO--"

Zed turns, flailing around to find who is responsible for stealing his NOBLE SUICIDAL DEATH CHARGE, only to come face to face with...

                         Musou Kojin - DaiZedGear!!

"SURTR!?" Zed gawps, "WHAT THE HELL!"

"It would be disadantageous if my Dominus were to kill himself in a futile combat action," the massive mecha says, its eyes flashing brightly with each syllable, "Regardless of your efforts, the Photosphere's engines are damaged irreparably. Whether by that gear or by the force of gravity, the Photosphere is lost."

Zed grumps, harrumphing with his arms crossing over his chest. "Well. Fine. But I'm sticking you on rescue duty! When that guy comes out of there, I'm going to fight him on my own!"

Surtr just sort of... Mecha-shrugs as its thruster systems gradually flutter it and its pilot back down to solid ground, "Fine. Just because you have a deathwish doesn't mean I have to, too."

Zed growls, turning his eyes toward the falling Photosphere. "...We can't let him make good on that threat. This world's too important to lose after all we sacrificed for it...!"

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        The Photosphere is not a good place to be. Between the fact that the structure appears to be compromised, and between the fact that an aerial bombing is now underway...

        A dash had taken place, seeking the nearest exit possible.

        It had taken Josie closer to the sky.

        "What..."

        Emerging from within the Photosphere, still hauling the ancient cannon Nostos with her, the archaeologist stops to gape at the figure standing before them.

        There would have been a time when she would have immediately opened fire on Id.
        But Josie isn't an idiot.
        That scarf. That scarf is unique.

        "Junior... so you were him," she states, setting the butt of the cannon down atop the roof.

        A battle has taken place here. Perhaps one that might echo the fight they had brought to Mother, below. The marks of that conflict can still be seen on the archaeologist:
        In the cold winds that blow across the Photosphere, she is sans jacket. Sans vest. Only her white shirt -- pockmarked with burns across the back -- stands against the chill of this part of the world.
        A stray breeze catches the ribbon at her shirt color. Tugs gently at the single worn bead hanging at the hollow of her neck.

        "...Bastard," she murmurs aloud.
        She had said back then that she promised nothing. And yet.

        "..."

        The rise of Weltall -- before Id seats himself inside, before the machine begins to transform -- exerts a particular sort of urgency upon the archaeologist.

        "Hey, I don't know the plan anymore than you," she shouts at those around her, hauling her weapon up, "but if I were you--"

        The Gear has begun to undergo a change.

        "--I'd get the HELL out of here!"

        She breaks, as the Gear begins its assault upon the Photosphere itself, for the Fereshte.

        Nobody's allowed to stop hurting, huh.
        We'll see about that.

<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

Ashton Anchors has posed this one! It's him! Not me!

Admist the smoke and flames, Ashton Anchors stumbles out of the Photosphere and into the light. He had yet again gotten separated from the others in the chaos after the battle - Mother's death had left so many in a panic as the Photosphere fell. But there's sunlight now and escape. ...Or there would be.
 
It takes time to take it all in - too long, given the crisis of the moment.
 
Siegfried's body is there, stone dead. Likely the last of the Quarter Knights to stand with Mother.. and share her fate.
 
Riesenlied, with Noeline beside her, lays there. It's hard to tell just how injured the Hyadean is - but at least she isn't alone. The other Outreach members will be there to help them soon enough. Of that, Ashton's certain. And thankful.
 
The broken Tzadkiel lays partially on the burning hull of the Photosphere, a swarm of Gebler troops all around. Perhaps foolishly, the swordsman assumes them to be part of the assault force - maybe even what turned the tide.
 
And.. and Fei. But not Fei. And yet somehow Fei? There's no missing Weltall, nor the look between he and Elly. But something is very, very wrong. To say nothing of the raw destruction that Weltall-Id immediately starts to wreak.
 
Around it all, the Photosphere continues to fall.
 
There is hesitation. How do you even handle this sort of situation? What's one man (plus two dragons) to do?
 
It's an answer that there's little time to contemplate. Weltall-Id turns towards the Drifters, chi and plasma from the destruction of the Gutter still searing the air. There's little to do but flee for the moment.
 
Little.. but Ashton still does more than merely that.
 
FOUR DAYS AGO
 
Fei lets out a long sigh, then looks up again.
 
"Siegfried," Fei says. "He was not always the man he is now. I know he has done crimes that can't really be forgiven, but I can't let him die. Even if it's not really my memory...I want to stop him from his current path. He's been harmed by them enough."
 
Firmly, Ashton reaches out and puts his hand on Fei's shoulder.
 
"I will admit - I don't know who he was. All I saw was..." Ashton pauses. "I hesitate to use the word 'monster' given what I am, but there are few other words I can think of to suit his actions and the fearsome nature of what he did." Another hesitation, then a shake of the head. "I don't know who this man that once was you're talking about. But."
 
A little smile creeps to the corners of Ashton's lips. "I know that when everyone else in your dig team lept to try and stab me, you didn't. If you afforded me that courtesy, then it's only fair I trust your judgment when you say the same about someone else. Even if I don't understand it."
 
NOW
 
Ashton could run. And he will - but first, he diverts. Perhaps it's foolish. Maybe even suicidal. But. Fei believed in Siegfried and cared for him. Called him friend. Was willing to risk his life to try and help. And even if the  red-haired terror is what Fei has somehow become? That means something to Ashton.
 
So it is that Ashton does head for the escape pods, but he doesn't go alone.
 
He carries Siegfried, last of the Quarter Knights, with him.
 
Even if Fei's gone mad, Ashton can at least bury the friend of a friend with a trace of dignity once this is over.

<Pose Tracker> Elvis has posed.

It was done.

In screming backlash, those that live upon the rock, Filgaia, have stated their purpose. To live onward, instead of yield to the likes of Mother. A deific creature whose own purpose was akin to the kinds of parasites you see in your nightmares, in the dark recesses of your mind.

In flame and ash she went from this world. To everyone's relief, for the hopes and safety for others held close. It was done.

Among the group was Elvis, oddly enough helping this band of misfit Humans keep their world. And for good reason. It was his world too! They all lived on this planet together, and while some Veruni may see it held different, Elvis was certain it was a place to be shared. At least if they learned to utilize what they are given properly.

The man pants heavily, having tired himself out a good bit in the fight. "Well, guess that is over with..." he offers, straightening out hos moustache. He seems quite calm.

The sudden shuddering of the superstructure jogs his memory. The entire Photosphere had taken flight mid battle! "Oh hell!" he says, looking toward the nearby concoles. He doesn't know a lick of their advanced tech! The man moves to take a look at it. It appears to have been tampered with. "Ghh...!"

A ring from a small device in a satchel gets his attention. He brings it to his ear. "I know that! Can't you feel the shift in grav-- WHAT." He nearly drops it. A Solarian fleet. "Why are they here?!" he shouts over the device. "Surely to get an upper hand on the situation." Elvis almost seethes. "You need to get off this vessel! It's going to crash!" he calls over the device, as explosions rock the interior Photosphere in various areas. Another rumble through the room.

Elvis doesn't wait around. He takes off back through the doors behind.

BGM: Halo 3 - One Final Effort (Extended) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_pAa9252Uo

In mid run as everyone escapes the chamber where Mother once sood, he reaches for something. A silver-ish canister, with black and violet modifications. "I'd advise running through this!" he shouts, pitching it forward. A momentary working of watery magics, and an explosive spray of mist erupts out, coating a hallway around, lingering there. THose that pass through can feel their wounds healed somewhat, their fatigue lessened.

Elvis enters the chamber whereupon the fallen Quarter Knight lay. "I should have... ugh..." The Sentinel holds a hand over his forehead. A true shame. Riese is there as well, back to her normal form. An excellent turn of events, but not one to comment on for the moment. "Who the hell is that?!" he says, looking toward Id and his commentary. They sound familiar.

And like some kind of clockwork event, this strange character begins to open fire on a failing vessel while people are still inside it. "Can this day get any worse?!" he screams, beating metal-heeled feet down toward the escape pods, shuddering corridors and falling debris all the way.

Elvis will ruin any doors and/or barricades on the way to the escape pods! He may even rip a hole in the side of the wall if he has to. "We have enough problems right now escaping a compromised starcraft without someone trying to pre-emptively destroying it!

<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        Not for the first time, in that little analytical part at the back of her mind, Noeline quietly wonders what would have happened if she'd taken Riese and left while the getting was good - if she'd pressed for her partner to leave the Photosphere while they were safe and clear, take the Tainted far away and establish a new home. Would Siegfried have died? Undoubtedly. Would Id have come after them in the aftermath? Probably. Would anything, really, have changed? ... perhaps not. But she can at least say for sure that she wouldn't have been able to forgive herself.

         It's with that in mind that she can face down Id, face down Weltall, without fear. Holding her gaze forwards as the man disappears into his Gear, her eyes are clear with a mixture of anger and sheer bloody-minded determination - the look of someone who in the space of a single day has faced down everything she feared and hated and come out the other side intact. The look of someone who has made a promise to return, and who will absolutely see it through. Her sword, driven into the floor of the metal corridor, is a

         Her hand is tight within Riesenlied's, acting as an anchor for the other Hyadean as the Tainted's form shifts and cracks towards scale and horn and back. Here there is fear, certainly - her heart lodges in her throat for Riese's sake, her fingers twitching as she faces down a new aspect of her partner's physiology that she was hoping might only rear its head far in the future - but there is also trust and certainty, that same rock-solid core of determination in the back of her head. She didn't just promise to come back - she promised to stay at Riese's side no matter what. A little extra scaling doesn't even rate.

         Through all of this, the fact that Id is Fei is pushed far to the back of her mind. There is no more room for surprise in her head, drowned out by the dull ache of fatigue - only the thought of bringing as many people back safe as she can. It's something to process later, when she has the chance to - because Weltall is powering up, its thrusters firing, and Noeline braces herself against her enormous sword, ready to use it and herself as a wall to protect--

         --perhaps there's space for surprise after all. The last thing that Noeline expected was for the Gear to shoot sideways and away; she hesitates for an instant, half expecting a surprise attack from behind and half certain that Id wouldn't bother with anything so tricky when he could just attack from the front. Neither are true: instead, the floor buckles under her, and a series of low booms echo along the surface of the Photosphere from outside.

         Instict tells her what's going to happen next; she doesn't need to see it to realize the noise of the Gutter being sheared away. In response, the entire structure of the already-shattered Photosphere rocks and groans, and Noeline's eyes widen as she grits her teeth, bracing a second time as the floor they're in begins to shake and shudder. "--he's tearing the rest of the Photosphere apart! Get clear, as soon as you can!" she roars over the sudden din, her blade winking out as she urgently turns to Riesenlied behind her, seeing her start to slide from the gantry. Their gaze locks for an instant, as Noeline sucks in an emotional breath.

         But there's no time to discuss what just happened, not yet. All she can do is hope that the Tainted got clear - all she can do is keep them both moving.

         She pushes herself forwards and down. Heedless of the other woman's scales - she thinks she's just gained a long scratch along one arm, but that hardly matters - Noeline scoops her partner up into her arms, twists as she tries to find purchase. Maya is nearby, she registers, and Elly probably needs help getting clear, but she can't help everyone - and whatever Riesenlied has in mind, it's suddenly and abruptly obvious that they're going to need firmer ground to actually accomplish it.

         A familiar roar of engines sounds from the sky - and down swings the Fereshte after them, at a frankly improbable dive that matches the Photosphere's speed. For a confused second Noeline wonders if she should be yelling indignantly, and then the rest of her body remembers to bunch and leap, willing all of her strength to send the both of them soaring across empty, breathless air and onto a heavy slide across the deck of the Fereshte.

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Well, they did it.

Rosaline is still alive, which is already more than she expected, deep down. Unfortunately, this may not remain true for much longer. Rosaline is in a mad scramble to reach the escape pod bay.

"Oh no... Oh no!"

Her catchphrase, while she hasn't been using it so frequently these days, is back in full force, repeated in the form of what is almost a mantra as she runs. This is all very stressful, in some part because no one has gotten to save even once since they defeated Mother. Where IS Kobayashi?!

"Hello, Miss Rosanyan!" comes the Katz' voice, from right outside a crack in the collapsing ship's hull. Rosaline looks to see them floating down in a bubble, no doubt Lanval's doing. Well, that's a relief at least. She can't see the water Seraph amidst this chaos, however, so the question of her own escape is still a problem.

She hears the voice of Id, a once-frequent guest of her castle, back when she co-owned a castle. He sounds... angry, to say the least. She knows the feeling. He speaks of a history with Siegfried, centuries ago. It's all a lot for her to process, especially as she dodges falling debris that are at least partially his fault.

But there she is, at last, in front of the escape pods.

"Is there still room?" she asks Ida, swinging into the pod from its hatch and landing into one of the remaining seats in one fluid motion. "I can heal you," she says, to Ida and her unconscious friend. "Both of you," she specifies. It's honestly hard to tell who needs it most. She's smiling in relief, though looks pale and her voice sounds a little manic, for obvious reasons, but also because she's likely a little hopped up on Rosesols at this point. (Also for obvious reasons. Healing is a heavy responsibility.)

<Pose Tracker> Skylr Paer has posed.

         It's been a hell of a fight. There's ... not a lot of places to go. The ground is an option - for the moment, admittedly not one anyone (unless they have wings). Actually, with the way Skylr is looking - slightly green - at the thought of the ground - makes it a highly disagreeable idea. Skylr clears her throat, shifting her weight on her feet.
 
         She moves - the Tzadkiel rips. The roar of violence from the ship is one she expects from a firing Dragonship Destiny, not one of a ship going completely in half. The thought of the Tzadkiel going like that makes her think of the Destiny. She thinks of Leo - who she is sure she saw. Pearl, same. Althena knows where Eryon. He could be in any shadow at this point. Possibly right behind her.
 
         Sadly, tonight he is not.
 
         She knows not very much what is going on. Indeed, all she registers in the amount of deaths around her. Every good healer knows what a body looks like when it's living - and every good healer knows what it's like when someone is now on the other side. However, her attention is drawn.
 
         "Did someone say my name?"
 
         She misses Neriah entirely.
 
         However, people are moving towards some sort of pods - and she joins that fray. She vaguely recognizes some people! This is absolutely, strangely delightful. However, along the way, she looks down at the blood smears of various colors that are across the dead and everyone else that was involved in the bloody brawl.
 
         Skylr starts singing, inexorably softly: an old funeral dirge, up until just a few years ago a possibly common one for Althenian worshippers. Along the way, she finds herself near the edge of an escape pod, with a ... Demon inside, visibly wounded, but living - and other movement there. She carefully steps over the poor Demon to find ... more people. Thank god. Living, not-unconcious people.
 
         "... hi?" She speaks into the rest of the pod cautiously.

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

For better or worse, Lily Keil is outside when the Demon of Elru leaps away, jumps into the cockpit of his Gear. Exhausted, battered and burned, she watched Siegfried fall... and now she stands close enough to see Weltall rising. She made an answer to this, holding Prissa's greatsword Galatine, but it wasn't the one that would serve.

...Therapy is over.

It brings with it an instant of clarity, and Lily stares after Id for a long moment. But Riesenlied...

"That's right," Lily says, looking at Weltall rising. "My life doesn't only matter to me. ...The reason I was willing to go so far in the first place..."

Lily breathes out, and sets her resolve. With that, the witch turns, looking to the others at the exit here, watching Riesenlied and Noeline, spotting Ruby, who made an offer like her own request, Hiro...

"All right, let's MOVE!" Lily calls to the survivors she sees, and takes off at a sprint past Hiro. She does this because she sees someone else--someone staring. She looks to him in passing, the fatigue in her golden eyes obvious, the slightly glassy quality that comes with the sedatives keeping her moving--and she stops for just long enough to get his and Ruby's attention.

"Come with me if you want to live."

She takes off after that, sprinting despite her injuries for the red-haired woman who has shut down ahead of them. She's seen something like it in Xantia before... so when she reaches her Lily calls, "Xantia!" There is no answer. "Xantia, do you--"

Lily lets out a breath through her teeth, looks to Weltall floating there, and then ducks down, transferring her sword to her left hand and lifting Xantia over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes, switching her grip to a fireman's carry in the next instant. She turns back to Hiro. "This... is going to get very, very ugly," she says to both of them. "We're going to have to jump for it," she says, carrying her burden and looking every inch the soldier as a result. Ruby--hang onto Hiro. Hiro--take my arm." She extends the sword-carrying arm so that they can interlock and thus avoid being separated. "Let's see... the group of us is about two hundred kilograms, the Fereshte is moving forward, should be..." She murmurs to herself, looks up, and nods to Josie, extending her other elbow for the same purpose.

"Run now, jump off the side, and when I start casting cast with me straight behind--match my force. We're going to need about 5.8 kilojoules and I'm almost out of power."

Without explaining any further, Lily takes off, keeping hold with Hiro and leaping off the side just as Weltall is powering up. Thery're in free fall for one brief, glorious instant--and then Lily focuses, and Ether builds around her. "Now!" Lily calls.

There's a great burst of energy--fire, straight behind her, rocketing them towards the moving deck of the Fereshte, making up the difference between their location and its trajectory.

There is nothing past this save to hear a euology for a man Lily had hoped to save.

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

A part of Layna was interested in helping out against Mother, but there was a greater fight she had to deal with - Mother still had her adherents, even with her declaration and the Voice's broadcasts over the hijacked loudspeakers.

She wedged herself and her crew into one of the hallways leading into Mother's chambers and made sure that no one would be able to get through and interfere - leaving the other hallways to the other Drifters who had come to defend those fighting Mother.

The loud cry from within indicates that the job has been completed, and Layna grins a wide, malicious grin.

"Well, well. Looks like the tyrant's been dethroned, me hearties." Layna remarks with a grin and a shrug. A cheer went up...but it was short-lived. They could feel the Photosphere rising. With a curse Layna tries to stabilise herself, casting her gaze about.

"Damn! Looks like it's time we made our exit." She says. She and her crew began to make her exit...but partway through, something attracted her attention.

"Hold on, I'll catch up with you lot later. Don't die on me, y'hear?" Layna says, turning. She was stopped, however, by Dahlia - her Quartermaster - gripping her shoulder.

"Captain, I-" She started, hesitantly, then shook her head. "...Don't do anything reckless."

Layna looked back, offered her a reassuring smile, and then darted off. She ran into some difficulties on the way...

...but that is a story for another time.

This one begins just as Layna emerges atop the Photosphere. She is too late to intervene in the fight.

Siegfried is dead.

Layna stares upon the Quarter Knight's fallen form with a hint of...sadness? She didn't care much for his policies, or even the man himself...

...But it would've been nice to have one final fight with him, between two people dedicated to battle. But there is another problem close at hand.

First there is Fei.

And then there is...

...Id.

A strained grin crosses Layna's face, and she laughs dryly.

"...So that's how it is, aye. So that's how it is..." She murmurs, shaking her head. She watches as he ascends into that Gear, and a truth is made clear.

The world is ending.

This world, at least - the one that had been the home of so many Metal Demons who had nowhere else to go. It was falling. This place that had been the source of so much pain and grief was about to drop the curtain one last time...

...And with it, all those who had arrived to save Filgaia.

Once more, Layna laughs dryly.

"So this is how it is, aye...I guess the world's not so kind that it'd be over once the big bad's dealt with." She comments, and then shrugs.

There was only one thing left to do now - staying on the Photosphere was a death sentence, and Layna had to make sure she made it back to her crew alive. She had to leave.

A bright green light can be seen leaving the Photosphere as it falls. Layna incants at a speed she's never cast spells at before, maneuvering herself in a sphere of wind to what she hopes will be safety.

She's still practicing the technique - it'll be a bit more elegant once she's refined it a little more. But right now, function takes priority over form.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

'But nobody... NOBODY... is allowed to STOP HURTING!!'

"Cheers, I'll fucking drink to *that*, bro."

Nimue, sad little thing that she is, did *not* place herself in harm's way for Riesenlied, did *not* square up against Mother, and is *absolutely* spending the moment holed up in a spot only barely above the Gutter of the Photosphere. A spot which is, of course, now distinctly explosions-adjacent.

That's fine, of course. Nimue didn't die when *she* was the explosion to which *other* things were adjacent. "There are... *so many* things to hate here right now!" she declares, with bright, sunny enthusiasm for hating her lot in life. Her feet start to carry her away before she's even thinking about it.

Nimue, with her floaty jump physics, doesn't need to find an escape pod to escape. No, she just needs to do one blessed thing: find an opening and jump. This is exactly what she does, of course -- though it's going to be really miserable to spend that much energy on a slower freefall, Nimue can't keep track of this tangly-ass spaceship base and would probably give herself *more* of a headache trying to leave in a way that makes any sense. Honestly, probably waste more energy, too!

She turns in mid-leap, looking back at the Photosphere as she escapes with the help of her good friends magic and gravity. Yet another wonder of the past -- turned to evil ends though it might be -- falling apart before her... kind of a theme, she reflects.

A few seconds into her wind-controlled fall, Nimue declares, "Ugh -- *lame*. I'm a beautiful young Seraph of a thousand twelve! Fourteen. Fifteen? Whatever? I'm not supposed to be thinking about this crap!"

She returns to her fall, nose scrunched -- and promptly hits the side of the Fereshte's uppermost portion. "Fuck," she declares, as she slides down it, eventually landing on the deck with a dull thud.

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny has spent the better part of two years trying to get on a spaceship, and now that he's finally managed it, he's spending what may be the last two minutes of his life trying to get off one. Granted, this one is exploding just a little bit, so - you win some*, you lose some**. Thankfully, Hyadean escape procedures are similar enough to Federation ones that his tricorder detects a dozen or so within sprinting distance. "Get to the escape pods!" he yells, scooping up an unconscious ally over each shoulder.

"What the hell's an escape pod?" yells some random non-PC Drifter who Claude has seldom met, but hates already.***

"It's a POD that will let us ESCAPE this place WHICH IS EXPLODING!" Claude yells back.

"Wait, how do you know all this?" the Drifter asks, and Claude briefly considers punching him in the dong.**** Unfortunately, his hands are full of unconscious people.

Claude starts running toward a large, open doorway. "Because I'm a Shevat agent or whatever, DOES IT MATTER IF YOU CAN AVOID DYING?!"

"....fair point," answers the Drifter, whose group begins following as he hobbles***** after the strange man.

'30 SECONDS LATER'

"How do you know you're going the right way?"

"MAGIC!" shouts Claude, who has scooped up a third Drifter under his left arm.

"That sounds pretty bullsh---"

"FFFFFFF-----"

'45 SECONDS LATER'

A wall suddenly shatters into exploding, smoking chunks; Claude C. Kenny steps his way through, having now also acquired a random Drifter's dog (who the /hell/ brings a dog to a world-ending fight? he wonders), which he is carrying by virtue of gripping its neck ruff in between his teeth like a puppy. Considering said dog is a 70-pound boxer mix, this is a feat in and of itself. Spotting the row of panels, Claude shuffles forward and hits the big red button (thank you, universal design principles) with his butt. The door hisses open, and Claude swings his head around and spit/throws a very confused mastiff into what appears to be a large metal egg. "Bleh. Get into one of them and then just hit the bid reg button labelled..." Claude shuffles in and dumps his friends and companions unceremoniously to the floor. he frowns. "Uh... the one labeled 'triangle mating with a scarecrow, box in a box, a sort of swirly donut, and then... poop emoji'?"

"....what?"

"The big red button!" Claude shouts over his shoulder as he straps himself into the lead chair and slaps a hand down on said button. There is a hiss, a thunk, a lurch, and then a sudden acceleration as the pod surges forward, one that dies almost immediately as inertial dampeners kick in. Claude's tricorder beams helpful instructions to his contact-lens HUD, eventually dumbing it down to the point that he realizes this thing is automatically programmed to land safely. The blonde-haired man closes his eyes and leans back against his seat, relaxing briefly for the first time in hours... but still worrying about...

Claude's nose wrinkles. His eyes snap open. "Wait... wh.... WHO FARTS IN AN ESCAPE POD?" he yells, his head whipping around.

A somewhat red-faced Drifter gary coughs into one hand.******

"THIS IS WHY NOBODY LIKES YOU, GARY!"

* - Spaceships.
** - Also spaceships.
*** - This is quite unfair (and incorrect) of Claude, as Drifter Gary is actually a very nice man, who donates most of his earnings to an orphanage for kittens.
**** - On his days off, Gary makes tea for blind nuns.
***** - Gary sustained a mobility-impairing knee injury saving a pregnant mother from a burning building. He's basically a saint.
****** - Gary's irritable bowel syndrome is triggered by stress. It's safe to say this qualifies.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

____EARLIER____
        Gwen's mind is not here. Well, it is, but it isn't. Having an ARM for an arm is really exhausting, you guys.
        "You should really wake up, you know."
        Gwen looks up and over at the bandaged child above her, swinging her legs on the rickety metal frame bed. Well, not above her. Just sort of over there, because Gwen was on the wooden floor of the room that Should Not Be Here, with its stucco walls, wood ceiling, and- an open view, to an open sky. She groans, stammering out an answer. "H-hello, uh, me."
        The younger self takes a moment, adjusting the bandages that covered her delicate scalp with her left hand, then looks down at her with a glare that could melt steel. "You can't stay here forever, y'know. Wake up."
        Gwen laughs. "Yeah, but, like, I just-"
        "Wake up, idiot."
        "But-"
        "Wake. Up. Just keep going, don't gawk, *move it*. Don't make me kick you."
        The choice was always the same. To accept meant heat, pain, and struggle. To do nothing meant no pain, no commitment, nothing. Oblivion. There were times it was easier to consider the latter, instead of the former. This time, it was easier than most. What did she have to fear by moving forward?
        "Well?!"
        Gwen sighs. "Damn... I don't even get a chance t'nap, do I?"
        "I am getting off the bed now."
        "Wait, wh, stop-"

        ___NOW___

        Things are sort of jumbled, right now.

        There's a song. It sounds like one of those strange songs she'd hear in Seed cities from time to time, like strange threads trapped and woven into a different weaving. Errant color that nonetheless blended in.

        There's a lot of shaking here, as well. There is also a gear, and a familiar voice, singing that song.

        She's grabbing people as she goes, two lucky souls underneath each arm.

        "Jus' one foot n' front of th' other..."

        Ida's pod is unceremoniously entered by the courier, making her delivery of two unconscious(?) bodies as she just flops into the escape vehicle without much beyond a huffed '... s'really shaky out there... Hi Ida, hi Rosaline, hi whassyername, wait, Skyla... skylar... I'll get it, i promise, I'm really tired right now? I'm really glad t'see you all, really-"

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
On any other day Ruby might shout about Id breaking the spirit of the deal she tried to make. She might yell at him that this isn't the fun kind of nihilism that will win him the girl's heart.
 
The Tzadkiel being torn in half in a roar of metal and an eruption on the end of the Photosphere causes her to simply watch, like one might a train wreck in action. It is the chain reaction of a thousand dominoes falling, and she can't stick out a pawsie to stop them.
 
Even more than usual she feels... so helpless.
 
Hiro on the other hand... This isn't the first time Hiro has seen someone with powers like this at work. There's something different about watching it when it's in a gear, and in the throes of grief. A passionate display of power versus a dispassionate one.
 
To hear the dissonance of the music in his ears as Id ravages the Photosphere. It feels like his whole world is shaking. And Siegfried's body is right there.
 
And so is Ruby... he still hasn't answered her feelings. The feelings that made her willing to go with this guy, if only to stop what is happening. "Ruby... you've been dealing with this all along haven't you? And I had no idea." Ruby is still hovering in one singular spot, gaze fascinated, yet as Hiro addresses her, he can see out of his periphery how she's looking just away now. "... I'm not mad at you. I'm upset with myself. Got too much to deal with to hash this out right now, but... stick a pin in it for later?"
 
Hiro needs to get out of here, while Riese's quote may refer to Id - and all of them right now, he applies it in the simplest way, he has people he has to get back to. Yet he can't leave just yet... because one of those 'people' is right here with him.
 
Ruby doesn't move at first, she's still looking at Id, perhaps imagining herself flying up somewhere in his path and making a desperate plea reaching out to him again.
 
Don't be afraid to reach out but... Well, I suppose I too am just worried you'll get yourself hurt reaching out to a guy like that.
 
It's strange being in mid-air, where the world seems so balanced, yet to feel the quaking like a thrumming in the air of Id decimating this place, Ruby wipes a pawsie across her eyes.
 
It's kind of you to try--but keep yourself safe first, okay? If he really wants you near him, it'll take patience, but he'll reach out to you. Some day.
 
"... yeah." And it's like she's only just now noticing how dire the situation is, as fire geysers out of several distant parts of the Photosphere, "Oh s-" Before she then shouts, "HIRO WHY AREN'T YOU RUNNING ALREADY! YOU REALIZE I CAN FLY RIGHT?"
 
Hiro protests, "Well I wasn't going to leave you here like that! Obviously!" Lily runs past him. 'Come with me if you want to live.' "... Well when you put it like that."
 
Hiro starts breaking into a sprint. There's a lot of questions both of them might want to ask Lily right now, but desire to live reigns over them right now. "Whoa! Elly!" Ruby sees her just kneeling there and calls out to Hiro. "Hiro wait! We can't just leave her here!" And Hiro skids to a stop, doubling back, and rushes up to her, grabbing an arm, "Hey Elly..." He can only imagine what Elly feels, he's had discussions with Fei about Elly after all. Yet, he doesn't know what to say in a situation like this. All he knows is she saved his life once, he's fought with her, and he's not leaving her. "...let's live through this now, and we'll figure it all out later. Right now we have to catch up to Lily so we can do that!"
 
This time when he sprints, he uses a wind cantrip to push him and Elly faster after Elly, reaching her in a stagger-stumble, as he looks at her for guidance. Ruby is silent, mostly because of how dire the situation is. Both of them have questions they want to ask.
 
However, Hiro obeys instructions without asking for clarification, holding onto Lily's arm with one hand, and Elly's with the other. "Got it!" Ruby in turn latches her pawsies onto Hiro's back, and grabs his tunic within her teeth.
 
"5.8 kilo-what now!?" That's the first time he does question, however he tries to take it in stride - because he's already running. "Whatever! I CAN WING IT!"
 
Hand in hand in hand, he's already sprinting, and concentrating. Perhaps he didn't know what the term meant, but he at least had enough magic training from Lemina and sparring with Jean to sense the magic Lily was gathering. And when he does, he starts speaking an incantation spilling out of his lips.
 
The exact moment they start to fall.
 
Lily says 'Now'.
 
And Hiro finishes the incantation, the winds whip up in tandem with the energy blast, giving them the extra boost perhaps they'll need to reach the Fereshte's deck. With her mouth full of Hiro's tunic... Ruby screams, perhaps it's more because Id has started that eulogy than because of their state right now in mid-air. "MMMMMMHHHHHHIK."
 

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        The Photosphere shakes and rumbles. This is quickly turning into a game of odds--the longer Ida stays, the less likely it is that she and the man she rescued will make it out alive. And yet, she has to stay as long as she can. She pores over the controls, deciphering the Hyadean runes--they're written simply, so that any of Mother's soldiers could launch the device. She's going to have to thank her father for teaching her when she gets home.

        If.

        Rosaline asks if there's still room. Ida stares at her a moment, her face twisting in a little smile. It takes everything she has not to grab Rosaline and haul her in herself and hug her tight. "As if I'd push you away! Get in while you still can! Are there others?!"

        Skylr enters after. Ida doesn't recognize her as anything more than another human, but under these circumstances, that counts for a lot. "Sit down. I've almost got this figured out..." A glance back at Rosaline. "Him first. I could use a little myself, but his system could use the kickstart." The poor Hyadean is going to be viciously hungry afterwards, between the emergency serum and the healing, but it's better than being dead. Elvis barrels into the pod, and Ida's head whips up to glance at him. "Professor! Sit down, I'll launch as soon as I'm sure there's no one left!"

        Kalve. Where's Kalve? The uncertainty churns inside her gut, cold and terrible. The voice says nothing about it. It doesn't need to. The uncertainty is bad enough.

        Gwen stumbles in. Ida looks up at the courier, silently grateful. "Get them to their seats!" A deep shudder rocks the Photosphere, underscored by the groan of stressed metal. "Let's not overstay our welcome, everyone!" Galadian humor.

        Ida pulls a manual lever marked with gleaming chrome--something approaching the color of Hyadean blood--and the pod door hisses closed. She rushes over, helps Gwen finagle her Drifter(?) rescuees into place, and sits beside the unconscious(?) Hyadean. The pod activates its escape protocols. Silvery filaments spray out from openings just above its passengers' shoulders, quickly wrapping them in crash webbing.

        The escape pod's engines fire a moment later, their booming roar echoing through the enclosed space. G-forces slam into Ida's chest, pressing her into her seat as the pod streaks away from the Photosphere's hull. It shudders, and she hears the distant crunch of metal slamming into metal, then a sound like hail on a tin roof. There are no windows--no way for her to see what just hit them, and if they'll survive the next five seconds. Five seconds tick past, with agonizing slowness. The strange display at the end of the pod reads REMAIN DISCPLINED in Hyadean script. Ida focuses on her breath, her chest shuddering. She looks beside her, notices the Hyadean as he mumbles something again.

        The pod arcs high over the Arctican coastline, righting itself as its sensors sight land and reorient accordingly.

        "Fei," Ida whispers. Her voice is tiny, agonized. Tears streak down her face, through blood and grime.

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        This is all Lily's fault, Josie considers as she races towards the airship, cannon juggled precariously against her left shoulder. Time was, she wouldn't have even gotten entangled in a mess like this.

        The figure in the mirror had been right. She's been letting other things get in the way of what she needs to do.

        And yet. Here she is.

        This shouldn't be her problem, and yet here she is, in the thick of it. Then, so be it.

        So he says he's going to make everyone hurt? End the world?
        She'll see about that. This is her world, and she's not quite done with it yet.

        A flash of red catches her attention. Josie slows.

        Elly is... just standing there.

        Is it because Elly is one of theirs, as it were? Because she feels a slight fondness for the girl, as strange as she is? Or is it just on a whim?
        Nevertheless, here are the facts: as the Photosphere comes apart under Id's assault, Josie snakes out with her right arm and hooks that elbow around Elly's own.
        With her one arm full of a cannon and her other hand best described as 'severely dysfunctional', it's catch as catch can.

        Fortunately, she's not the only one. A young man -- one she's sure she's seen before -- holding onto Lily (of all people, who is also carrying Xantia) also links arms with Elly.

        "A human chain, eh?"

        A pause.

        "Hope you got the math on that right, Tiger. You mess up now and I'll haunt your ghost."

        Never mind that it's not just Lily involved with that.

        So it goes: there's nothing else for it but the leap into the void.
        Or down onto the Fereshte's deck, if all goes as planned.

        "OUT OF THE WAYYYY---"

        It'd be bad news for anyone on deck to get squished, after all.

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon isn't pretending to rest easy. His opinion on the now-late Quarter Knight commander is neither complex nor difficult; he harbored no real antipathy for Siegfried, beyond as an enemy commander. His concern is for Riesenlied, and the effect it may have upon her. Weglaff, a dark blue Gear, rises up from the Photosphere belatedly -- well after Noeline and Riesenlied, even after Lily. The Gear rises, and lands, leaning forward slightly.

Burnt sections still scar its armor, after the fight with the Ley Dragon. Inside the cockpit, the bangs of Leon's hair cling to his forehead. His hair is soaked with sweat. His expression is a stoic one, a stern mask to hide the turmoil that he feels.

"...Fei," he says. He has a faint idea of what Lily said, but he missed it. Leon can't handle that idea at the moment; the fact that she backed down lets him compartmentalize it and file it away. The Captain grits his teeth.

"We'll deal with him in a moment!" he calls out. "Everyone, get off!"

Weglaff runs forward. The Gear's footsteps echo as they slam into the shredding, heavily damaged outer layer of the Photosphere -- and then it leaps, blitzing high into the air. The jump jets fire -- and the blue Gear goes crashing down after them.

DC: Leon Albus switches forms to Commando Gear Weglaff!
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

Mother is dead. Rudy was harrowed, Jack had fled with Harken (rassum frassum), and the Photosphere was falling apart.

And then the whole thing had rattled, and Cecilia's head had pulsed with pain for the first time in months.

She stumbled over to a console, which burst to light as if commanded, some combination of coincidence and security protocol showing a feed of the battles above. Of Siegfried, dead. And of Fei...

Fei, transformed. Cecilia's mouth goes dry. "No," she whispers, hand hovering over the image. "Fei...No, no, you can't, please..."

He's far too far away to hear her. But as she sees those thrusters flare, she feels her own stomach lurch. "Have to do something. Have to--"

Her eyes widen. She whips a turn to the rest of her party. "I'm going ahead!" she says, to people who can ALL go faster than her. "Give Rudy to me, I'll get him out!"

Roughly six seconds later, she throws herself and a barely-conscious Rudy Roughnight out a breach in the hull and into open air.

                        **

Id turns toward the gathering party, glowing with malice, rage and sorrow near to divine. But from above:

"FEI!!" "OOOOOOOONG"

Asgard, arms pinwheeling as it flies uncontrolled - a full-scale tornado has apparently DETONATED about a mile away, blasting with beyond-hurricane force to launch Asgard the distance - roars down from above. It SLAMS into the ground between Weltall and the rest, clods of dust exploding around as the weighty Earth Golem claims its stance. Its head swings up. Two eyes search Weltall; the golden running lights of Asgard, and the piercing green of Cecilia Adlehyde. In the shadows of his helmet, Cecilia crouches, clinging firmly to the shoulder, held fast by her grip and a faintly flickering barrier. The people behind can tell Rudy has been secured to Asgard's back by a similar barrier.

"You don't have to do this," Cecilia says. "Please."

Asgard's hand rises, gauntlet glowing, a wave of light blasting out from him in all directions, shrouding anyone nearby to protect them from Id's annihilating power.

"Please," Cecilia repeats. "There has already been too much sorrow today!"

DC: Cecilia Adlehyde switches forms to Earth Golem Asgard!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Hiro with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Gwen Whitlock with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Claude C. Kenny with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Seraph Nimue with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Layna Manydays with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Lily Keil with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Skylr Paer with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Rosaline Calice with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Noeline with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Elvis with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Josephine Lovelace with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Zed with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Seraph Lanval with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Neriah Parringer with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Xantia with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Elhaym van Houten with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Riesenlied with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Leon Albus with The Fortress of the Gods!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has completed her action.
GS: Rosaline Calice takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's The Fortress of the Gods for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Rosaline Calice!
GS: Leon Albus takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's The Fortress of the Gods for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Layna Manydays takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's The Fortress of the Gods for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Layna Manydays!
GS: Claude C. Kenny takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's The Fortress of the Gods for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Claude C. Kenny!
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's The Fortress of the Gods for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Xantia!
GS: Hiro takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's The Fortress of the Gods for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Hiro!
GS: Elvis takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's The Fortress of the Gods for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Elvis!
GS: Seraph Lanval takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's The Fortress of the Gods for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Seraph Lanval!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's The Fortress of the Gods for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Josephine Lovelace!
GS: Lily Keil takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's The Fortress of the Gods for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Lily Keil!
GS: Neriah Parringer takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's The Fortress of the Gods for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Neriah Parringer!
GS: Skylr Paer takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's The Fortress of the Gods for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Skylr Paer!
GS: Elhaym van Houten takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's The Fortress of the Gods for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Elhaym van Houten!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's The Fortress of the Gods for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Seraph Nimue takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's The Fortress of the Gods for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Seraph Nimue!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied takes a final stare towards Id as he rises. Her lips are pursed thinly as the Gear manifests into that bristling red demon that was there... on the day Old Petra was destroyed. On the day Wayside was destroyed. She can sense Neriah nearby, quietly; her lips thin as she catches sight of Ida and watches her help some others evacuate. Xantia... is standing there. It must be as great as shock to her as it was for Riese herself. Zed... will cover them.

        But now... she's going to lose another home.

        The Gutter is erased before the Tainted's very eyes, as they watch collectively from the belowdecks of the Fereshte. There is a moment for them, here. Not necessarily a sorrowful one, but definitely... a moment.

        The decimation follows onto the platform that they're both on, Noeline and herself. She can't do a thing about it. She starts to fall... she needs Noeline's help again.

        Her voice is so weary. Her limbs are so cold. She can't stop her eyes from growing wide.

        She flits her glances to Josephine for a moment longer. That ARM that she has... and she sees Ashton as he helps lift the body of her father with him, towards one of the escape pods.

        Her eyes widen further. Her throat is seizing. Her eyes are on fire, like she were out of tears.

        She probably wouldn't have faulted Noeline if she just decided to take her away from here. In hindsight, it all feels so clear... about how inevitable some things are. How much of a cycle things will continue to be.

        Hope, only to be met with despair...

        But it doesn't matter how much despair she feels. Because Lily is right. Her life doesn't only matter to her either... because so many people have grown dependent on that fact. And Hiro has come to help Elly and bring her towards the air in a burst of wind magic, towards the Fereshte's deck. With Lily and Josephine coming in behind them. With Leon, still in Weglaf... with the damage she inflicted on it.

        ...

        She hears Noeline yelling to get clear to the others, and she... gazes towards her. She slumps against her as she quietly and faithfully clings to her. They drop, altogether unceremoniously, against the deck of the Fereshte in a heavy slide.

        "i... i need your help, everyone.
         i have a plan, but... it'll take more than me.
         to bring him back... to surface him again.
         but... i can get us there."

        A familiar crystal sword flashes to existence in a wink of light, held firmly into their interlocking fingers. The length of the mineral blade shines, with an equally familiar light.

        It is that little spark that lit through the darkness in the Gutter. Lit by all of those that have come to her rescue...

        The empathic light of Laevateinn.

        She faces Id again.

        "i met you the first time through this empathic light...
         and it is with this light once more--
         with this spark that has been kindled by so many of my dearest friends--
         that we will loose ourselves from this cycle..."

        Her eyes open as her voice regains strength for the first time.

        "so please give him back."

        The light continues to build as she trembles, but she has Noeline's arm to keep herself steady.

        Because she isn't alone.
        Not in the dark, and not in the light either.
        And it's okay if she carries despair in her heart.

        The light gathers. It is timid, but it is building. But it won't be through her efforts alone that it will shine today. This is not a light of her own, sole making.
        It is a light that will only be fostered by all their strengths.

        The light fulminates around the entire deck. It builds, and builds further-- up until it is ready to be loosed; loosed in the direction of Id-Weltall, a roaring blaze of indefatigable light that draws them in mind, in spirit, and what feels like body as well...

        ... towards a very dark place.

        "Give our dear friend Fei back!!"

DG: A party led by Riesenlied is now entering Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities.
=============<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities *>=============
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Well Now What *>========================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 **********(5)**********                                                       
 **********(4)**********                                                       
 **********(3)**********                                                       
 **********(2)**********                                                       
 **********(1)**********                                                       
                                                                               
 BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lxke2YUjBcM                              
                                                                               
 Your group appears in a village square, but a quick look around reveals all   
 is not what it seems. You are surrounded by stone brick village. Is this      
 Lahan before its destruction? It is, but not only do the buildings seem far   
 too large for normal buildings and the growing heat leaves the sensation      
 this isn't going to be a safe place for long.                                 
                                                                               
 You can try to climb over the buildings in hopes for safety or you can dive   
 into the well which may lead you to where you wish to go.                     
                                                                               
 A voice whispers. Is it Fei? He seems to be talking to someone.               
                                                                               
 They took me in. I didn't even have my memories, and thanks to that accident  
 they were killed, or used for experiments, or worse...                        
                                                                               
 It was you. You got a kick out of the power. All I gave was a gentle nudge.   
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

During his eulogy, Id doesn't make much responses to his--to Fei's friends. He doesn't strike directly, focused on eradicating the Photosphere. His chief concern is to make it as difficult to loot as possible. If a bunch of Drifters rob the place that's one thing, but if the Veruni do? That could be a problem. Id may be a madman, but he isn't engaged in his usual behavior. He strikes methodically and speaks calmly, the malice infused with every word vibrant and sharp but held back like a cat's claw.

His gaze sets on Neriah for a moment, but he doesn't strike at her. His resolution to let Neriah make her own way and live an unshackled life hasn't changed.

Pods are fired out to the cracked Filgaian soil. Others leap off. Or ride bubbles? Filgaia has only gotten weirder with time. Id remembers one of his first memories, seeing those flashing lights in the sky as pod after pod were eliminated.

Can he even kill them, Id wonders. Some of them were even his friends and even if it's a kindness, it does hurt every time. But he made a promise to himself. And he made a promise to others. And if he doesn't do his level best to keep his promises, what do promises even mean anymore? The world has so many broken promises as is, that even dark promises when kept are priceless.

He feels a small relief when Lily seems to snap out of her own brush with nihilism. Don't be like me, he thinks, because I wasn't made for this world. Truth told, I'm also a--

He shakes his head, clearing his thoughts.

The escape pods land, people land. Id's time in eradicating the photosphere and his moments of self recollection give plenty of time to leave the Photosphere at the very least. But now that the drifters have escaped, he seems to be readying his weapons systems once more.

You're right." Id says to Cecilia. "There has been too much pain already. I can't bear to see it anymore. I can't bear to feel it anymore. But... I'm not the Fei that you know. While you were being friends with him, eating burgers with him, sharing secrets...I had to watch. I couldn't reach out to you even as someone who is just a shadow lived the life I should have had." This doesn't seem to be the same as being a Hellion, Id is speaking of Fei as if he's a different person. Or even less than a person. "Violence is Filgaia's language. It became so prolific that even you, Lynn, have become fluent. He never wanted to hurt you, not like this, not again. ... but he and I are not the same. I am the true self and he...he is a fake, a shell of a personality thrust upon my psyche to leave me imprisoned in my own body."

He turns his gaze then to Riesenlied, who also has things to say. Id gives her her due time as well, before Id grins sharply behind his cockpit shield.

"You wish to 'dig' in my mind? Heh heh...then fine. I still have much more pain I promised you. Search all you wish for a useless shadow! The true self will be ripping your friends to shreds!"

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofBUsqpz3cQ

The gear rips up into the sky. "Destruction or rejuvenation!" He shouts. "The coin lands on its edge! Let me show you... MOOR GAULT!!"

The phoenix ripples into existence, still willing to obey Id's requests for assistance. The phoenix screeches and swoops around the falling wreckage, igniting shards and shrapnel of the Photosphere instantly. They crash into the cracked and dry soil, into the dead weeds. The flames start to spread surprisingly quickly, fueled by what plants there are and supernatural energy.

The flames even crash down towards your escape pods or, you know, YOU.

GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's The Fortress of the Gods for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Id has activated a Boss Action!
GS: Zed takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's The Fortress of the Gods for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! Statuses applied to Zed!
GS: Id has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Knight Of Fire!
GS: Id has attacked Leon Albus with Knight Of Fire!
GS: Id has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Knight Of Fire!
GS: Id has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Knight Of Fire!
GS: Id has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Knight Of Fire!
GS: Id has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Knight Of Fire!
GS: Id has attacked Seraph Nimue with Knight Of Fire!
GS: Id has attacked Layna Manydays with Knight Of Fire!
GS: Id has attacked Skylr Paer with Knight Of Fire!
GS: Id has attacked Rosaline Calice with Knight Of Fire!
GS: Id has attacked Elvis with Knight Of Fire!
GS: Id has attacked Zed with Knight Of Fire!
GS: Id has attacked Xantia with Knight Of Fire!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has completed his action.
GS: Layna Manydays takes a glancing hit from Id's Knight Of Fire for 85 hit points!
GS: Rosaline Calice takes a glancing hit from Id's Knight Of Fire for 82 hit points!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Id's Knight Of Fire for 185 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus guards a hit from Id's Knight Of Fire for 179 hit points!
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Id's Knight Of Fire for 182 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Id's Knight Of Fire for 179 hit points!
GS: Elvis critically Guards a hit from Id's Knight Of Fire for 33 hit points!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Zed takes a solid hit from Id's Knight Of Fire for 170 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Cecilia Adlehyde critically Guards a hit from Id's Knight Of Fire for 63 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Id's Knight Of Fire for 184 hit points!
GS: Seraph Nimue has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Seraph Nimue completely evades Knight Of Fire from Id!
<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

In A Dark Place...

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lxke2YUjBcM

Yes interior gets different background music.

The 'dig' team sees something strange at first. It's like it's a projector, or some other strange moving picture device. You see the number 5. Then 4. Then 3. All the way down to one. And then...

Huh! You're in a village square now! That's interesting, but you're obviously not REALLY in a village square. A quick look around reveals you are surrounded by stone brick buildings. Elly at least would recognize it as Lahan before its destruction. But the buildings are larger than normal. Too big to be actually the podunk village Fei is from.

There's a growing sensation of heat here. It's getting stronger with every passing moment.

There's a few ways to go about here. You could try to climb over the buildings and get to safety that way, or there's the well. The well that Fei used to jump in for some reason repeatedly. Which way to go? There doesn't seem to be any signage. Nevertheless.

They took me in. I didn't even have my memories, and thanks to that accident they were killed, or used for experiments...or worse.

It was you. You got a kick out of the power. All I gave was a gentle nudge...

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        The escape pod flies.

        Cameras check the slope and texture of the ground beneath, identifying freshly-fallen, puffy snow. The pod's main rockets spin down, and retro-rockets fire. Force buffets the pod from both ends as it slows, slows, falls--

        And then, impact.

        A sharp, sudden crunch splits the air, and the pod's occupants find themselves thrown against their restraints--but they do their job well, holding everyone still as the pod skids a dozen or so meters. It comes to its final resting place, snow boiling off its hull as steam. The door hisses open, revealing a blue, cloudy sky...

        And Asgard, standing tall against the clouds, his invincible barrier radiating out to protect the survivors. The sight of him makes Ida's chest tighten. She stands, and the restraint filaments snap away from her. Asgard's barrier wraps around the pod, around everyone inside it--as if to protect both those emerging to fight Id and those who cannot. Ida takes a moment to take stock of the unconscious survivors, applying hasty triage.

        Then she emerges into the light, and sees Weltall as it descends.

GS: Skylr Paer guards a hit from Id's Knight Of Fire for 114 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah's eyebrows come up as Asgard's power descends over the battlefield. The bolstering force shores up her already considerable defenses. Inhaling, the Child of Valmar draws in some of the power.

> Neriah's MP was restored! I hope you're proud of yourself.

It's hard for Neriah to really feel Riesenlied; one of them is Metal and the other is the devil and not empathic. Nevertheless, the Priestess's eyes turn towards the metallic heritor of the Fereshte. She can't truly make Riese out from here, but she can see her nevertheless.

Right. If Fei takes a swing at Riese, I'll have to kill him, she decides methodically.

The shield around Neriah stabilizes as she begins to descend towards the ground, out of the paths of some of the arriving escape pods. With a tilt of her head, she watches the pods fly. But her attention is cranked back towards Id as he begins to explain things to Cecilia. Air whistles around her as she lowers herself into a position on the edge of the fight.

When Moor Gault manifests, Neriah raises a hand to touch the edge of her shield. But no fire comes spraying her way. Her eyebrows arch as she realizes Id's not going to lash out at her. "Maybe I understand you even better than I thought," she murmurs, bringing her hand back in to cup her cheek.

When Neriah speaks again, her voice is clearer, pitched to reach Id. "Honestly, you aren't wrong. Filgaia's language is violence, and people are pieces of shit. And I think it's alright to want people to suffer when your pain is real or they go after the few genuinely good people in the world. If I were in your position, I would be doing exactly what you're doing now."

She shrugs slowly. "Maybe that's just me. But hey. You've got a destroyer nature, don't you? And so do I."

Neriah looks away and up towards the escape pods, even as the flames scorch the air. "I'm gonna be kind of miffed if any of my sweeties get hurt, now that I think of it," she muses. She squints intently, as if she could somehow check to see whether or not there's a Skylr hidden away in one of those pods.

But that's all she does. She talks, but she doesn't move to engage Fei. How could she? After all, Neriah and Id aren't so different here.

GS: Claude C. Kenny critically Guards a hit from Id's Knight Of Fire for 36 hit points!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"Riesenlied!" Leon cries out. "Lily! Noeline! Go! Do whatever you can!"

Weglaff's feet slam into the earth. Rock and stone crack on the tundra, permafrost cracking, as the blue Gear slams into the ground next to the Earth Golem. The head of Weglaff doesn't turn, but the swiveling single camera moves on its track to look at the changed, crimson Weltall. He swallows, once.

"Princess," he says over the loudspeaker. "Allow me to assist you. After all... he is one of mine. We need to bring him back home."

The wave of light washes over the blue Gear. A shimmering barrier of light appears, and the wave of fire -- a Guardian, summoned by Id -- slams into Weglaff, but the worst of it is held at bay by that great barrier. For the better, then, Leon thinks. He snaps Weglaff's arm to the side; the blade folded up along it snaps out, too, and gleams silver in the daylight.

"Fei!" he yells. "Or Id, if you would rather! I don't think we fought as long as we did, nor as hard as we did, only to lose you here. Or to lose Filgaia! I don't know what happened in the past. I've no such gift. But..."

His fingers curl, tightly, around the controls. "...The past is best left there!"

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Leon Albus with Steel Stance!
GS: Leon Albus has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
GS: Leon Albus takes a solid hit from Leon Albus's Steel Stance for 0 hit points!
GS: Cover! Statuses applied to Leon Albus!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        The cannon drops heavily atop the deck. Josie takes but a second to heave out a breathe, left hand again reaching for her pocket only to find no flask there. Right.
        No chance for that now.

        Exhaling another breath out through her nose, she turns towards Elly as a great wall of light erupts across the sky. A benediction, of a sort?
        Who knows.

        "Red," she says, looking the younger, smaller woman in the eyes.

        Riesenlied -- really Riesenlied, again -- cries out for the release of Fei from the clutches of whatever this 'alternate' self of his is.
        From Id.

        "Go and try and sort it out with him. We'll hold the line here." She pauses. "But. If you can't... I'll kill him. You can hate me if you want to afterwards. I'd understand it if you did. Hell, even if you wanted to hunt me down for it." She claps a hand on Elly's shoulder, manages a lopsided grin. "So no pressure, eh?"

        Reaching into her pocket she slots the remaining core -- all half the charge that's left in it -- and allows the cannon to start drawing power.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sX6Fbn34oOw

        She pats Elly's shoulder "Do your best. We'll keep him busy."

        And I'll clean up if I have to. Been a good run. Too bad.

        The Nostos cannon begins to draw power. Its lights are a dull red.

        As if to underscore what she said to Elly previously, in comes a wave of fire, drawn out by the Guardian of Fire.
        Josie steps in the way of the cannon, as if to shield it with her body.

        (the birds rise into the sky)
        (seeking to escape the flame)
        (but what of the ones that cannot yet fly?)

        Heat rolls over her. Just like then-- Gritting her teeth, Josie stifles a scream.

        She recovers in the way one might jolt upright from a nightmare: sudden, roughhewn. "To me!" she shouts, recovering her stance and invoking the thundrous rite of the spell she calls upon. Though a lesser twin to the spell she more commonly utilizes, the Symbological incantation sends an arc of electricity sizzling through the sky for Id.

        All she has to do is keep him busy. Long enough to...

        "Don't suppose you'll listen to reason, will you?! Listen, kid -- I'm not gonna pretend I understand you. Hell, I can't even say I rightly understand Junior! ...But what I do know is that she's got it bad for you!" She jabs a finger at Elly.

        The cannon, just behind her, continues draw power.

        "You want to make your girlfriend cry? That it?"

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Id with Spark Spray!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

        Lanval's drifting is aimless. That his bubble carrying him seems to take him close to the Fereshte - barely hovering above the deck - seems more incidental than purposeful. He can hear Riesenlied's pleading, and Lanval opens one eye half-lidded.
        As a Seraph, Lanval lives an existence that is separate and unable to be perceived by most. Maybe in this moment of stress, he seems to fall into that expected distance. A distance where he isn't there, and yet, he is, as she addresses the demon while holding that crystal blade between her hands. A light builds. Lanval makes no effort to go closer to it. He makes no effort to get away from it.
        He's there, watching, present, as the growing light seems to fill his vision - his everything.
        To draw him into In a Dark Place...
 
        ...
 
        A countdown follows. Lanval, appropriate to his spatial position to the rest in a world less dark, appears already sitting on top of a tall building with some sort of distant tranquility. He can feel the anticipation over the horizon. Anxieties about something that has come to pass, that no one can change. He is a Water Seraph of no small amount of potency, but even he can recognize that he cannot erase the fires that have happened - or will happen. He knows not the full story of this place he's in, but the building heat... it speaks volumes in its nature.
        A demon's voice reassures it was them.
        It always did appear strange. Lanval muses not at all aloud, but here where souls are bared, maybe it can be heard. Matters of the heart, by nature, are rarely cut and dry. There was this sense of time about them that far exceeded their years. The way they carried thineselves. A depth of knowing, with initimacy, a scope that seemed impossible for a mortal to truly grasp...
        Lanval stands up. He doesn't call attention to himself, to tell the others which way to go - if there is anywhere to 'go' at all in a place like this. Down the depths of the well, or maybe from up to where he sees... no, he just knows that this is not the position where his strange mortal friend bore witness to what came to pass.
        The Seraph up and walks off the high building to let himself drop along the group, to follow wherever they may. As it is, for now, he can only watch.
        He used to watch for over five hundred years. He can watch for one more hour, if this is the last hour of Filgaia.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

        Lanval's drifting is aimless. That his bubble carrying him seems to take him close to the Fereshte - barely hovering above the deck - seems more incidental than purposeful. He can hear Riesenlied's pleading, and Lanval opens one eye half-lidded.
        As a Seraph, Lanval lives an existence that is separate and unable to be perceived by most. Maybe in this moment of stress, he seems to fall into that expected distance. A distance where he isn't there, and yet, he is, as she addresses the demon while holding that crystal blade between her hands. A light builds. Lanval makes no effort to go closer to it. He makes no effort to get away from it.
        He's there, watching, present, as the growing light seems to fill his vision - his everything.
        To draw him into In a Dark Place...
 
        ...
 
        A countdown follows. Lanval, appropriate to his spatial position to the rest in a world less dark, appears already sitting on top of a tall building with some sort of distant tranquility. He can feel the anticipation over the horizon. Anxieties about something that has come to pass, that no one can change. He is a Water Seraph of no small amount of potency, but even he can recognize that he cannot erase the fires that have happened - or will happen. He knows not the full story of this place he's in, but the building heat... it speaks volumes in its nature.
        A demon's voice reassures it was them.
        It always did appear strange. Lanval muses not at all aloud, but here where souls are bared, maybe it can be heard. Matters of the heart, by nature, are rarely cut and dry. There was this sense of time about them that far exceeded their years. The way they carried thineselves. A depth of knowing, with initimacy, a scope that seemed impossible for a mortal to truly grasp...
        Lanval stands up. He doesn't call attention to himself, to tell the others which way to go - if there is anywhere to 'go' at all in a place like this. Down the depths of the well, or maybe from up to where he sees... no, he just knows that this is not the position where his strange mortal friend bore witness to what came to pass.
        The Seraph up and walks off the high building to let himself drop along the group, to follow wherever they may. As it is, for now, he can only watch.
        He used to watch for over five hundred years. He can watch for one more hour, if this is the last hour of Filgaia.

<Pose Tracker> Skylr Paer has posed.

         "Oh... Miss Gwen, wasn't it? Yes, I'm Skylr." Skylr sits there awkwardly, a tarnished Althena's Guard badge on her vest. She probably should have just found Eryon. Althena knows what he's plotting to do at the moment. Yeah. That would've been the really good move. Make sure he doesn't do anything stupid.
 
         The pod descends. Skylr begrudgingly decides she'd probably fly with Ida Airlines again, hopefully in better conditions. The crunch scares the crap out of her, but it skids to a stop, and Skylr wriggles toes and fingers. Well, she seems to be doing alright. "... thank you." She tells Ida as she also glances over at the unconcious survivors. They'll be fine for now.
 
         Hopefully.
 
         The light covers her, and she breathes in it. Of Asgard, there - of Cecilia, as well. Skylr puts one hand over her eyes over the snowglare, even as fire ascends. Skylr reacts in a simple way: She throws herself to the side into a snowbank. It puts out the fire pretty effectively, but now she's both fireburnt and shivering. She grimaces, a hand lifting up to her scorched cheek.
 
         "Please be careful!" She entreats of the rest of TEAM POD before grasping at her bow and arrows, teeth chattering as she lines up a shot. She literally has no idea how useful this is going to be, but it flies straight ... enough. The arrow isn't hers. She keeps having to replace hers with non-broken ones. Funny how life gets in a battle zone.

GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Id with Simple Shot!
GS: Skylr Paer has completed her action.
DG: Seraph Lanval has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Well Now What.
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
Elly turns her head towards Hiro when he grabs her arm. Her head turns slowly. "Ah - Hiro?" she says, her voice small and poorly inflected. "Don't worry about me," she says, but it does not take a lot of tugging to get her to her feet, and she comes along. She stares at the hull of the dying ship as she goes. She sways some when Hiro stops, and mumbles something to herself.

Hiro pulls her more and she keeps going. She doesn't look up. She stumbles a little as they sprint, not, it seems, having it into her to do more than kind of a half-assed trot, but it isn't a big interference. The wind buoys them up and they sail away, across. Elly's grip on Josie, who is nearest, tightens, but it is a reflex. She does not look at her, her eyes turned downwards, into the gray waste of Arctica beneath them.

Elly sees a yellow flash and closes her eyes. She starts to think something, something quiet and empty, and is only interrupted when the work of Asgard turns out to be a rippling protective veil rather than the annihilating blast she had expected. Her eyes open again, and now she *does* look towards Josie, and Lily, but it is brief.

In a sense, at this moment, Elly is alone. There is no memory and no guardian to attend her. The strange ghosts and memories she has encountered in the past are not present; that strange shade from Fereshte village has returned to whenever-wherever, and those haunting memories seem to have been sated, like an unquiet shade, by the slaying of Mother.

She has no examples, no role-model, no star to follow right now. She had Fei, and the Black Wolves, but the Black Wolves are in abeyance here (Weglaff notwithstanding), and Fei -- Fei is...

Fei is over there, of course.

Elly looks towards Riesenlied as she addresses her.

Riesenlied pleads with her, for her help.

There is a great silence inside of Elly, a place cleansed by the horrid grind of the last interminable hours of battle, washed into barren scablands of the psyche by the hellish revelation of Id's identity. In that place Elly, for the blink of an eye, doesn't exactly exist.

Elly then leans forwards and rests the heels of her hands on the Photosphere's surface. Pushing herself upwards carefully, hissing through her teeth at the pain in her left hand, she rises up to her feet. It takes her several seconds. Riesenlied turns to face Id in the meantime.

Elly walks steadily forwards, if without her usual spring. For a fleeting moment, 'Elly' looks at herself, and she wonders for a moment who it is she's watching: this red-headed woman in a dirty coat as the arctican wind roars around them. That's me, right? she thinks.

Her eyes focus together as she settles in. She feels as if she had just washed her face, though it hasn't happened. Her eyes are bright, brighter than they usually are as she comes near to Riesenlied. As she clutches her left hand against her chest again, she says to her, "Riesenlied... I'm sorry that this keeps happening."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpDvtIt6Lsc

Her head turns to look towards Id. That sense of distortion settles in behind her. It's a feeling like dipping her fingertips in a flowing brook.

"Before we came here," Elly says, "we promised each other that we would rest. If we had to, we'd run away from everything. That we would take a vacation. It's silly, isn't it? Right now it feels absurd, in the face of what everything has done. In the face of who we've lost." Her head turns to look towards where Siegfried's remains had been. It is far away, but she can see that they are gone now. Dimly her memory recalls what happened - Ashton, she thinks; Ashton took the body. Ashton seems like a good man. It is an easing thought. He will treat it as remains, not as parts.

"... I wish we could have spoken... I'm sorry," Elly mumbles, before her head tilts forwards.

Josie calls her name. Elly looks to her.

She takes in a deep breath as Josie speaks, a breathe that seems to swallow in the world or perhaps to draw her spirit back into her body. She manages the faded ghost of a smile to Josie, and says, "Don't worry about it."

Elly reaches up to put her right hand atop of Josie's for a moment. "I understand. ... I won't have any reason to be concerned, anyway. I trust you. Thank you, for being there, and for trusting me despite everything." After this, apparently on a whim, she rises up on the balls of her feet to kiss Josie's brow, and then they part, and Josie puts a power cell into her ARM.

Elly breathes in again, attention falling on Riesenlied and Noeline and Lily.

"... I can't cry out any more. My throat hurts too much. I feel cold all over. But I won't give up," Elly says. "Riesenlied... Tell me what I need to do."

GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's Spark Spray for 8 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

The Knight of Fire descends.

Riesenlied has a plan.

Zed--

Has one too...!

(Woe betide)

"Alright Surtr," the swordsman grunts, dropping low. His hand tightens painfully, anxiously, around the hilt of his mighty blade. "On my cue..."

"Throw me right at that thing...!"

Surtr seems to blink as if stunned into complete silence. Then, its eyes flash again-- "You know we are out of range correct? We can wait for him to finish his opening salvo and then--" "No time, throw me!"

There's a pregnant moment before the massive gear seems to shrug again and... Straight up fastball-pitches Zed straight at the thing called Weltall-Id. "Whatever. It's your funeral, I guess."

"DEEEEMOOOOOOOON--" Zed roars as he goes screaming across the battlefield. The air screams across his ears as he's flung mightily straight into the wall of flames unfolding out of Moor Gault's terrible flight. Why the Guardians are still aiding something that has professed its explicit interest in extinguishing all life is beyond him. But if there's anything that can wreak terrible havoc on a Hyadean physiology, it's those flames...!

And to its credit, that may very well have happened... If Best Golem Asgard were not there to protect him...!

Zed erupts from the flames, fresh burns scored across his face. "--OOOOOF ELRUUUUUUUUUU!!!" He roars, spinning like a veritable top... If tops were armed with swords. The metal demon surges forth, still carried by his tremendous momentum, to smash the business end of his sword straight into Id's chest...! "We've fought too hard to live on this world! Sacrificed too much! To Mother! To humanity! To everything that told us we didn't deserve to live! We aren't about to let someone else destroy it, now of all times!"

GS: Zed has attacked Id with Dark Horse - Supreme Tornado!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny, agent of Shevat(?), has clearly not been planetside long enough to have heard of legends of the Demon of Elru, or else this weird monster Gear's appearance would be reflective of an embarrassing lack of social awareness. (On the plus side, he's found at least four new back muscles to work out since he's got here, so you win some, you lose some.) "Oh man, what the hell is /THAT??" Claude breathes through hushed tones.

"You idiot, it's the---"

"I WASN'T ASKING YOU! rrrgh!" Claude grips the sides of his head, then unbuckles himself from his seat. "You, get in here!" he shouts, gesturing at the seat he is currently vacating. Gary slides in and buckles up, while Claude moves toward the hatch they entered from, then starts pressing buttons, ignoring several perfectly reasonable 'are you sure/are you really really sure' warnings from his tricorder.

Gary, head twisted around, gapes. "Are you going to open the door!?" he asks, shock dripping from his voice. "You're cr---"

Claude stabs the final command sequence in, letting a rush of air into the pod, which begins tumbling from the sudden shift to its aerodynamic profile. "I CAN'T WASTE MY TIME HATING FARTING GUYS!" Claude yells over the howling wind. "I HAVE TO HELP STOP THAT THING BEFORE IT WRECKS THE ESCAPE PODS!"

"YOU---"

"RRRRGH!" Claude yells, gripping the doorframe and hurling himself out of it; the door snaps shut behind him, allowing Gary, and some other people, and a very angry dog, to continue their descent to safety. Claude, now in free-fall, considers his options, which is probably something he should have done before jumping out of a perfectly good escape pod.

On the one hand, he can see Asgard out there, which means Cecilia's up and fighting, which means she can probably catch him before he goes splat. Provided, of course, she knows he's out here.

On the other hand, there's a giant wave of fire hurtling toward him.

Claude C. Kenny, ever the pragmatist, chooses to address both problems simultaneously; he draws his sword and focuses on gathering energy, grateful he had time for a brief snack break in te moments after mother fell. Greenish-golden power flickers around the blade, and then Claude whips his sword forward, emitting a booming---

"AIR SLASH!"

---at which point a massive energy blast streaks forward, parts the wave of fire to wash past him on either side, and then streaks toward the crimson Gear.

And then he starts waving at Asgard because, y'know, help.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Id with Air Slash!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Elvis has posed.

RUnning as fast as he can, and smashing every object or door that ma ycause even the slightest bit of hidnrance, Elvis makes it to the escape pods, and quickly piles in to one-- it turns out there are folks in this one he knows! Like Ida and Gwen!

That makes things slightly better. Only slightly, THere is still a good chance of conflagrating death, and that is bad. He looks back down the hall they came to make sure no one else is running their direction. "Launch! LAUNCH!" he calls, quickly shutting the hatch. "If my calculations are correct, we have only a tiny window left to escape! Hit the throttle!""

Who the hell is that guy? It seems like the others know him. They could be with the Solarians. "Were gonna have to deal with that when we land no doubt. I hope you are all ready," he comments.

Elvis came out rather wall in the Mother fight, fighting large creatures was something he was proficient at, Volsung often sending him out to dispatch such targets, usually beasts for study. Occasionally dismantling a Gear. But there is power in that Gear.

A sudden jolt and shift indicates that they have landed, albeit roughly. It doesn't take long for Elvis to file out with everyone, as the great Asgard sends waves of protection to those on foot. He feels it, the power of earth. It resonantes with him.

He hears others talk over speakers and emotion-filled voices. It seems this person has a relation to Fei. "Hum." Little more is said as waves of elemental fire wash over to lands to burn it, and create it anew. "Look out!" he calls to others from the pod. A fist strikes the ground, and the land splits open, as a trio of water spouts erupt upward as the flames come in. The elements clash, the fire victorious but diminished. Elvis brings his hands up to block the remaining, and loses most of the hair on his arms as a result. Also burns, but those aren't as important.

"OoooooOOOOHHHH!" He bellows a single note, and points a massive finger toward Weltall. "I've torn Gears and Golems apart with my BARE HANDS twice your size! What chance do you think YOU stand, whelp?!"

A working of the hands, a visual stimulant for the will of the Sentinel, causes several large bounders to split and crack out of the ground, and begin to careen toward Weltall! "I'm going to rip an arm off that mech and BEAT YOU WITH IT!" he shouts.

Team pod may be coated with a flurry of snow afterward, as there is an explosion of momentum, Elvis having conjured stone to propel him upward along with a powerful jump, sending him airborne and following his attack!

Sorry, Team Pod...!

GS: Elvis has attacked Id with Hi-Crush!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Layna descends to Filgaia below, still wreathed in the winds. It's going to a rough landing...!

...But soon, she finds herself engulfed in a wave of light. She slams down into the earth below, but the light protects her, absorbing the impact for her. Layna looks up, spotting Asgard interposing himself between the descending Id and themselves. Layna grins.

"...Remind me to thank you later, Princess." She comments to no one in particular, standing to her feet. ...But she's not out of the woods yet. The Guardian, Moor Gault, appears, spreading flames all over. Over them, as well. "...After we survive this, I guess...!"

Layna hisses, making to move out of the way before the flames can consume her. She doesn't quite succeed - they reach for her, wrapping her up within themselves. Her windy shield and Asgard's light help dull the heat down to bearable levels, but even so, it's intense.

"So now we have to deal with this asshole..." Layna mutters, shaking her head. She takes a deep breath, reciting another incantation. In an ideal world, she'd have the Crimson Corsair here to challenge Id and his own Gear.

...But this is not an ideal world, and her Gear is far from here. Escape isn't an option here. Maybe she'd be able to manage it, but even if she could it'd eat away at her conscience if she did.

Layna moves quickly, seemingly flying as she darts around the battlefield. She isn't quite capable of freeform flight just yet, but she can do something similar by taking long, flying leaps and adjusting her speed and direction with wind sorcery.

"What even is your stake in this, lad? Who the hell are you - really?" Layna asks. As she speaks, her lips move over doubly - reciting an incantation inbetween words. She lets the spell loose, sending blades of wind flying toward Id - or Weltall, if its in the way. "What makes you the one who gets to decide this?"

There are others around, fighting. She isn't alone here - she focuses on that, using it to keep going. Layna was all for a good fight, but this level of power...

...Well, there was a gap there she couldn't ignore. But she was Layna Manydays, Captain of the Ruby Empress. She wasn't going to let it stop her from trying.

She liked this world more than her own, after all.

GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Id with Cutlass Gale!
GS: Layna Manydays has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Skylr Paer's Simple Shot for 10 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Skylr Paer has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

"...Sorry," Lily says to Hiro, as she takes an instant to breathe on the Fereshte's deck, in what has become a vague, pile-like arrangement of people.

In the distance, there is a roaring scream of triumph--of... greeting? Golem Sado turns towards Golem Asgard, staring somehow proudly towards its counterpart, its claws rising. ...But the moment passes, and it turns away, takes off on its snakelike lower body into the distance at great speed. A gigantic trail is left in its wake through the snows.

"Didn't know if you used different units on Lunar. You did what was necessary regardless."

Lily does not immediately answer Josie's promise to haunt her if she screwed that up--she has, perhaps, a few things weighing down on her still, even if she has stepped away from the edge of true nihilism. "Thank you," she says to Hiro and Ruby both, as she drags herself upward... But she listens, too. She listens to the talk of what Siegfried was... The reminder that she has other lives to worry about can help her focus on her training, on her mission--but it doesn't make the sting of loss go away. It merely numbs it a little. So, Lily turns, to look towards the devastation of the Photosphere... and then she hears Risenlied's voice. She does not think that her words may have helped Riesenlied; she only knows that she is listening, that Riesenlied has landed too and that she has... a plan. Faintly, Lily can feel the pull of Laevateinn, gently beckoning her mind forward.

But she feels the defensive power of Asgard, too--Asgard, the Golem offered a chance to stay out, to avoid this entire mess. Lily lifts the radio at her hip.

"Captain," Lily's voice crackles over Leon's radio. "No, Leon. We're going in."

"And Josie..." Lily lets that hang for an instant, as she draws in breath, feels Riesenlied's light building. "Maybe I'll be the one haunting you when this is done. Do what you have to do. ...But we'll do what we can to bring him back. And if we can't..."

"...I'll see you at the funeral."

The light builds, and builds, and builds; Lily Keil is standing by now in her red fatigues. It breaks--

In A Dark Place...

Lily looks up, and then around; the strange feeling here is something she can't ignore. ...The countdown... That, too. But she looks around, still holding her weapon, noting the buildings. They're unfamiliar to her, frankly, but there's something different anyway. The heat is here...

"There are plenty of things that are awful that you can enjoy a little," Lily says. "...There's a satisfaction in dispatching a large group, in knowing that your skill and power overcame theirs."

"...If you don't admit that, then you can't process what you've done, and you can't move forward." Maybe she needs to do that, herself. Maybe she needs to learn, and understand...

"Elly," Lily says, now that they are in this space. "Whatever you need--we're with you. I'm with you."

That delivered, Lily starts to step forward, and moves towards the well. She reaches the edge, looks down into it, and then closes her eyes long enough to conjure a ball of fire that hangs in the air--before she opens her eyes, and directs it down, down, down to light the darkness, to see what is there and whether it is where they must go.

Her sword in the intervening time has been strapped to her back, next to her rifle. She doesn't speak to Riesenlied just yet... but her presence is here, and there is a tiny light in it, not bright and warm but a light nevertheless that had been gone before.

GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Zed's Dark Horse - Supreme Tornado for 17 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Id guards a hit from Elvis's Hi-Crush for 46 hit points!
DG: Lily Keil has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Well Now What.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

Nimue would really, really like it if she had Sundowner with her right now. It would be extremely better. On the other hand, it probably would've been really hard to do a header out of the Photosphere without leaving it behind, if she did...

Nimue hits the deck and stays solidly deck-hit as the flames sweep in all directions. Her head pops up after a few moments, and she calls out, "HEY! I thought you were super cool and relatable until this part! You're totally ruining the moment!! Jerk!!!"

No, actually, this makes Id even more relatable. If Nimue had that kind of power she'd probably want to pitch everything into the garbage, too. That part's extra depressing.

But, fate being what it is, Nimue is on the side of not blowing everything to bits today, simply by dint of being in the category of potential explosions rather than potential exploders. ... Though maybe potential exploders, too, just -- of Id.

Giving her sling-staff a quick twirl, Nimue tosses something from her pack into the air, hooking it with the 'cup' at the end and then flicking it in Id's direction. A moment later, it explodes in a hail of shrapnel.

GS: Seraph Nimue has attacked Id with Razor Monsoon!
GS: Seraph Nimue has completed her action.
GS: Id guards a hit from Seraph Nimue's Razor Monsoon for 64 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Id speaks. He speaks of himself as being real, of Fei being something created to imprison him. Ida steps through the snow, the ragged sheet-cloak billowing out behind her. She clenches her right fist, and quicksilver boils up from between her fingers, slithering up the limb to encase it from the shoulder down. The metal flesh solidifies, hardens into armored plates, colored royal-blue and gold like Ida's family colors. The white lotus stands out at her shoulder. The armor gleams in the light, brand-new--unlike the rest of Ida's burned, battered, wrecked body armor.

        What Id says makes a sort of twisted sense. If Id can't find peace--if Id can't stop hurting--then why should anyone else be allowed to? She remembers Wayside. She remembers laughing bitterly--helplessly--because the alternative was to sob, to want to die. It was there that Ida found kinship, of a sort, in the Destroyer. For the longest time, she was deeply ashamed. What sort of monster would view Id as someone they could relate to? What sort of horrible person would look at him and not feel revulsion for everything he is?

        But Ida remembers.

        They're in the middle of a miserable, God-forsaken swamp and the Malevolence is sharpening everything, especially the anger. Josephine won't shut up. The urge to punch her--to give her something more pressing to worry about than passing judgment--grows stronger every time she opens her mouth. Id shoots back for her, but with words. He says that Ida is sick, and that the sickness can be treated. She's not defective. She's not a monster. He tells her that he knows she will emerge from this, stronger.

        "Id." Ida addresses the Destroyer, and while her voice almost breaks, she does not. She keeps walking towards Weltall-Id, chi boiling up inside her. "I can't imagine what the weight of your world must feel like," Ida says. "But I remember the weight of mine. I remember the pain. I remember wanting nothing more than for the pain to stop. I remember falling asleep, and hoping I would die before I awoke."

        Moor Gault appears. Ida stares at the apparition of the Guardian who chose her, and feels terror. She sets her jaw anyway. "And I also remember you. I remember that you gave that weight a name. You told me it wasn't weakness. You told me I wasn't broken. You told me that it could be treated. You told me that I would learn from it, and grow stronger. You were right."

        Apocalyptic flame surges across the battlefield. It surges across the pod, but Asgard's barrier holds--for now--glowing bright gold as it shields those inside. Ida is less lucky. She raises her hands to guard herself, and the Hyadean flesh on her right hand catches flame, melting, distorting. A scream of agony tears free from her raw throat. For a moment, it looks like this might be Ida's funeral pyre.

        It isn't. She surges out the other end, scorched and bleeding, her right hand a molten, distorted claw--but she's running. Embers trail from the hem of her coat as she sprints towards the Gear.

        You're going to die here.

        Something shifts and uncoils beneath the flesh of Ida's forearm. A sharp twang splits the air, and a dart flies at Weltall-Id's cockpit, trailing a silvery, tendon-like tendril. The dart lodges itself in the Gear's armor. The tendon retracts, hauling Ida off her feet even as her system reinforces itself, tendons snaking around her bones to distribute the weight more evenly--to keep her augmented arm from wrenching itself free from the rest of her.

        Ida's left hand boils with chi. She locks eyes with Id, or where she thinks Id is beneath all that armor. She lashes out, driving her left palm at him as though there weren't a layer of reinforced Gear glass between them. Hit or miss, she's still clinging to the machine.

        "I grew because I saw what I did. I saw there was another way. And I grew because Fei, and you, pulled me back before I could jump off that edge!"

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Id with Open Palm!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 3 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia isn't exactly in any state to argue with Lily. She doesn't move a muscle when addressed. She doesn't protest in the slightest when picked up and slung over a shoulder (this girl doesn't weigh nearly as much as she should given how much she eats, proof positive of life being unfair). Not even when Lily and company blast off towards the Fereshte--

"AHHHHHHH WHAT'S HAPPENING?!"

Okay, THAT snapped her out of it. Thankfully screaming is all she does, the last thing anybody needs in mid-flight is an uncooperative passenger.

The landing itself is... out of her hands, for the most part. She prepares for it mostly subconsciously. In the likely event that the impact is a rough one, and she'll need to break her own fall, she'll be ready to roll with the landing. Asgard's protective power taking effect just beforehand aids in assuring that she's fine upon impact with the Feresthe's deck.

Immediately upon rising to her feet, she looks up to Id's gear above, and reality comes flooding back to her. She hears Riesenlied's voice, imploring to join her. Though she doesn't fully know the plan, she has a vague idea of what it'll be like.

She looks over her shoulder to Lily. She doesn't say anything. She shouldn't need to. Lily knows how she feels. The way that Riesenlied wants to save Fei, the way that Riesenlied herself needed to be saved... Xantia doesn't believe that she can help in that way. There's only one way she knows how to deal with her problems. But Lily, Lily can help in the other way. She should help in the other way. It's what Xantia is asking her to, even if she doesn't use words in doing so.

Xantia instead starts to walk forward, towards the bow of the airship, to make herself as visible as possible. Just in time to get herself caught in flames. She cries out in pain, falls to her knees, though still attempts to speak.

"Id... Id..."

That name has been on her lips so often. Though she must be in agony right now, she's still going to reach out to him. Perhaps try to reason with--

"IDIOT!"

Or, maybe she was never trying to say his name at all. Or maybe that's his new name now. It's hard to say for sure. What can be said for sure is that Xantia is now on fire.

It's not as worrisome as it may look. These are not the flames that resulted from Id's summoning of Moor Gault. These flames aren't burning her skin, or her clothes. She brought them into existence herself, the result of accomplishing what she's been trying to do for months, with Lily's help. Of course, she can't really feel too accomplished about that, not right now.

"This isn't what you want! This isn't what anybody wants! Stop lying! Stop hiding! You're not that much of a coward! If you want me to really believe what you're saying, come down here and convince me, in person!"

Called out by Xantia, of all people. What does it say when even she's not buying what you're saying?

GS: Xantia has attacked Xantia with Awakening Flame!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Xantia's Awakening Flame for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Xantia!
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        Noeline is not the only one to tumble down onto the Fereshte's deck from above, she dimly realizes, aware enough of that much as her vision swims; the world spins and lurches for a moment as they scatter across the deck, and she hisses out a breath as she feels a friction burn from her skid across the wood. She might be the most experienced amongst them when it comes to landing on the airship like this, however - and she can find the strength to lever herself up to her elbows quickly, watching for an attack or the sight of the Weltall circling back around.

        Instead, she gets to see the destruction first-hand, and finds it enough to pull a gasp of surprise from her throat; she'd thought she had no more attachment to the place, but to see the Gutter eviscerated in a flurry of explosions lurches something primal deep inside of her - and then she catches a snippet of that song, feeling a rising anger in her stomach. "... and in his memory and his name, you tear apart the thing he loved the most," she mutters darkly under her breath, feeling her head gently shake.

        One hand clenches into a fist for a moment in response - but she's well aware that Id is not an opponent they can match strength for strength. When relief comes, it is with the growing strength in Riesenlied's voice, the way her ring glimmers as it matches the strength of the feelings projected through the Dragon's Tear. Without saying anything further, she twists a little, watching as Riesenlied extends the Laevateinn; without a word, her hands slowly enclose her partner's where they lie around the hilt. The meaning is clear enough, the silent support - that whatever happens next, she will stay at Riesenlied's side. That this time, she won't let Riesenlied take on Id's pain all alone.

        She pulls at herself, feels the last threads of Duras Drum's power-- and pulls at it as she summons up reserves she didn't know she had, an aura flickering around the both of them as the cloud of power billows and grows adding the sorcery around Riese's empathy. Illusions, and dreams - perhaps it's there that they'll find Fei. She doesn't even realize she's yelling in wordless defiance until the last moment, as her perception of the world lurches and falls away.

        * * *

        Awareness filters back, and Noeline-- watches the countdown with patience, watches as the too-large shape of Lahan dissolves into place around them. Perhaps it's her sense of identity that keeps her grounded in a more literal sense; she's at ground level before she knows it, feeling as if she's slowly getting the hang of this sort of thing. Even if she's approaching it from a much more logical direction than Riesenlied tends to, she can still pick out details to focus on: the size of the buildings suggests an oppressive sort of fear, or perhaps that Fei came to Lahan when much younger. The rising heat suggests it might be the time to get the hell out of here. She turns for Riese--

        --and realizes Riesenlied isn't in her grasp, torn away by their differences, and that she's momentarily alone. "--Riese!" she calls out in a wild moment of fear, her legs moving before she even gives the command, spurring herself upwards to her feet. The thought of Id somehow managing to spirit her away, to subject her once more to that mental torture that nearly broke her once before... for all of Noeline's trust, she's not entirely sure she could take that this time, let alone Riesenlied. But where to go to find them--

        It's in that moment of fear that there's a low whistle behind her - and somehow Strife hovers there, looking as real as could be. Is it their own sense of identity, Noeline wonders hazily for a moment, or something else that lets them persist here?-- but there's no time to think on it further as she leaps atop the pod, spurring it upwards. "--we're finding them all! And Fei, too!" she tells the ARM - and, she can admit, herself as well.

DG: Noeline has used her Tool Strife toward her party's challenge, Well Now What.
GS: CRITICAL! Id guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Open Palm for 60 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied quietly gazes towards Lanval, the Mirthful Wellspring. She quietly closes her eyes as she does so, lips pressed in silent thanks. A gratitude... for what he'd done before.

        She quietly stares up towards Elly, after she entreats her. She purses her lips more tiredly. Shivering. As Josephine speaks about how if they fail, she'll kill him. How Lily says they might be the one haunting her. Noeline's hands are still with her, she keeps reminding herself to still have faith in the world, but...

        Her lips purse in further. Is this... what it feels like?

        Riesenlied... I'm sorry that this keeps happening.
        This... keeps happening...
        Over and over...
        Over and over again...

        And...

        ... Riesenlied winds up flying through the air, nearly crashing against one of the carts in the still-hale, beautiful village of Lahan. At some point, she was separated from Noeline's grasp, and whatever translated to the movement between the physical realm and the realm of the mind had sent her rolling against the ground with considerable impact.

        She can't feel her legs still.
        She can't feel much at all.
        It all feels... incredibly numb.
        Is it what... despair feels like?

        She hears someone speaking. Fei? They took him in. Even though they didn't need to.

        ... they took me in too. even though they didn't need to.
         And... in the end... they lost their heritor.
         they lost nasrin... the fereshte lost their heiress...
         then...

        She plants a twisted arm against the ground to try to lift herself up, and finds herself failing. There isn't much give, with how much energy Laevateinn has taken from her.

        just leave me... just leave me behind... fei should be ahead... now...

        The billowing sensation of heat is welling ahead of them. She slumps to one side, closing her eyes-- but then she can hear the feathered flutter of wings from within the well. Riesenlied blinks. Cresting the well rim, there's a.... strangely familiar frigidly dead cucco with a large seam across its dead-blue body.

        The cuccorpse stares at Riesenlied.
        Riesenlied stares back at the cuccorpse.

        I told you. I told you I won't let you create another 'me'. I don't care how much it hurts. I don't care how much you're hurting. Because you're not just living for yourself anymore.

        "... ... ... nasrin...??" Riesenlied's eyes widen--

        You made me as your punisher. Well. Consider this your--

        --and then the cuccorpse seizes her by her hair and forcefully lifts her up into the air and away from the heat and towards the group with a cry of 'aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa' as Strife clearly spots her being lifted up into sight.

        Punishment!

DG: Riesenlied has used her Tool Flute of the Cucco Queen toward her party's challenge, Well Now What.
GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Layna Manydays's Cutlass Gale for 18 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Layna Manydays has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Air Slash for 18 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        "Hee. Skylr! I was close!" Gwen laughs as she flops into her seat (or whatever space there is left), probably only bothering to strap herself in when she witnesses others doing the same. "Heeyy, Professir Elvis, y'kin come right in too."

        It's likely becoming clear that Gwen is used to doing her job and seeming amiable at the same time... while being simultanously sleep-deprived or, in this case, utterly exhausted.

        It takes a crash landing and the blessing of an ancient, mighty golem to rocket Gwen back into something much closer to awareness.

        _'Destruction or rejuvenation.'_

        Oh guardians, that's Id in that giant Gear.

        _'The coin lands on its edge! Let me show you... MOOR GAULT!!'_

        The snow that Elvis kicked up with his attack is quickly melted by the force of Id's contract with the Fire Guardian.

        Just keep running. It's just like the house in Lastonbell, just keep running, straight towards-

        A slightly more charred Gwen crashes out of the fire, her legs sprinting as fast as her lungs will allow, the pendant around her neck barely managing to keep within the loose undershirt she had tucked it into.

        And as she attempts to land her first punch, up on the very *shin* of the giant gear threatening to possibly destroy her, Gwen yells out one question, out of the core of her very being:

        _"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOIN', ID?!"_

        It is the cry of a person that is not entirely sure what's going on.

        But would she really be that much more prepared, even if she did know?

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Id with Special Delivery!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

To tell the truth, Rosaline would also appreciate an Ida hug in these troubled times, but she's soon too busy healing the others' wounds and subsequently getting strapped into metallic safety webbing (not without a high-pitched, surprised scream). She remains as disciplined as she can as they sail through the air, reciting prayer after prayer under her breath, though her heart skips a bit when she hears Ida speak Fei's name. Did something happen to him?

The pod slows down and crashes to a halt before she can ask. She climbs out, only to see Asgard towering over them all, conjuring an impregnable wall. And just in time, too, for Moor Gault's flame soon washes over them, and the barrier slows it down just enough for Rosaline to take cover right behind the fallen pod.

As she peeks over it, drawing her ARMs, she hears back-and-forth over loudspeakers. Id speaks of being real, and Fei being a fake. Some of it is confusing to her, but soon enough, she puts two and two together.

Oh. So THAT'S what happened to Fei. That's... a lot to process. Luckily, she's quite good at repressing.

"Everybody out? We should close the hatch to protect the unconscious ones," she says, turning around, though someone may have already beaten her to that idea. This is about when Elvis kicks up a wave of snow that, while unpleasant, is only just that.

She wishes Zephaniah were here, though even if it were, it isn't as if the Gear could fly to begin with. Instead... Her options are limited. She knew Id was monstrously powerful, but only now is she realizing to which extent. Her ARMs may not be terribly helpful against a Gear, let alone this one. So she runs towards the flying Gear, though she has to admit she doesn't have much of a plan.

"Id," Fei? No, Id. Rosaline isn't sure her voice will even carry far enough for him to hear, but she can't just NOT say anything. "I know it must feel like your rage doesn't have an end to it, like a raging inferno." It's a rage of centuries by the sound of things. "But I remember feeling that way," she glances towards Ida, who is already leaping off, "and I remember friends who risked their lives to quell that flame before it consumed us! For their sake, I won't back down now!"

And so, she springs into the air after her running start, spraying bullets from Esdras and Judith in the Gear's direction. Individually, each one might not do much, but maybe she can get a lucky hit in, especially considering that she's not skimping on ammo usage after saving it up for Mother.

GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Id with Spray and Pray!
GS: Rosaline Calice has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Hitting the deck of the Fereshte into a hard roll even as the flying ship lurches forward. All of them are momentarily stunned. "S'alright. Lemina taught me how to at least... sense... your magic build up enough to try to match it." It takes him a moment to stop wheezing, and get up.
 
Ruby unlatches from Hiro, and flies just forward to watch the devastation, to hear Fei's words to...
 
Riese's light shines down, and Hiro finds himself getting up, and Ruby looking his way. "..." There's something about the plan perhaps that she doesn't like. An insecurity. A fear. She certainly wants to see Fei again, but...
 
After a moment though, pragmatism wins the day, she shakes it off and flies over closer to the light of Laevateinn. "Let's do it. Let's bring him back out." It's what needs to be done right now, she knows it more than ever as Id declares how he'll be ripping them to shred. "...quickly." She whispers.
 
Hiro on the other hand is less insecure about the idea. "I know what we're facing is pretty dire - but let's not jump to 'haunting' and 'funerals' just yet. Riese has a plan. Let's make it work." Perhaps his feelings on Fei and Id are less complicated right now, as he looks forward. "Hey Fei..." Hiro says as he looks down the Phoenix of Moor Gault rippling into existence. It's just like that day, when he called himself the Knight of Fire. "... see you soon."
 
-=-=-
 
A projector flashes before them both and... Hiro looks around... "Lahan." Ruby says, and Hiro echoes, "Has to be..."
 
Though the last time he saw it, he'd seen what K.K. had done with it, when Virginia had unveiled herself... a place swirling with malevolence. The thoughts sink in and Ruby...
 
Ruby gets upset. Perhaps in this place she feels less helpless and so she starts calling out, "... Look. Can't things just be complicated? Id you know that Fei didn't want to kill his town. So what if he got a kick out of feeling powerful? I know I would! It's still an accident no matter how you look at it! Stop being a jerk and trying to twist the knife just because you can't deal with your grief either!"
 
... yet perhaps in the end, it's just her yelling impotently at the sky. And Hiro just listening...
 
It's a dark place. And it's also getting really hot. Yet all the same, Ruby agrees with Lily, flying up to Elly to nuzzle her lightly, Yeah Elly. You must be suffering worst of all of us here... so whatever you need - we're here for you."
 
"Down the well huh?" Hiro pulls at his collar, "Good thinking..." Ruby volunteers, "Here - I'll go down myself and make sure it's safe... if you don't mind keeping that light up Lily?" Ruby flies down, ready to give the all clear... if indeed it is
 
Probably better than getting incinerated alive.
 
Meanwhile Hiro had been watching Lily work at the well but he then finds himself taken aback by Riese's state as a dead cucco seizes her by the hair... "Uh... I know she likes cuccos... and that this probably isn't what it looks like..." Yet his voice starts to shift tinny high as he starts gesturing for Lily and Elly's attention to point up high, "... but are we just going to let this happen!?"
 

DG: Hiro has used his Tool Ruby Being Helpful toward his party's challenge, Well Now What.
<Pose Tracker> Skylr Paer has posed.

         "Um- setting things on fire?" Skylr points out to Gwen, possibly helpfully.
 
         Not helpfully.

<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

The lines draw up. Id against them. Riesenlied summoning a crew to engage in...something. And a few people join to her side. Cecilia sets her hand against Asgard's helmet, breathing quietly. Steady. Steady. Lynn? Her middle name, yes, the name the women of the Adlehyde line have shared for centuries. An ancestral memory. But the way he says it she can tell means something more than just whimsically perverting what he's called her. "That may be true," she says to him. "Maybe...you aren't the same. Maybe he was a shadow."

Her free hand curls against her chest. That pained gesture she makes, remembering the heirloom she lost - the heirloom she thought would be in the Photosphere. "Maybe we don't know each other as well as we thought. But still...I feel Filgaia's voice again after so long. It's weak, and it's tired...and it's telling me that this isn't right."

"You're wrong," she says, slowly rising on Asgard's shoulder. "I do not believe that Filgaia is a world of hate, even now!"

The blast of fire from Id slams across Asgard's barriers - they spark and crackle, hexagonal interlocks glimmering in the light before shuddering away, the assault suppressed.

She nods to herself; looks off to Leon, nodding for him. Asgard's head swivels, and a low grunt brings Cecilia's attention up. "Ah," she says. "Then let's get him."

Asgard charges. He dashes forward toward Id and then LEAPS skyward, and even if it's not the catastrophic blast that launched him previously, he's still able to get enough height to reach out and snatch Claude out of the air. He slams back down into the ground, only remaining free arm up to form a barrier between him and Id, which pulses and then returns that fire to him, a searing blast roaring across that distance.

GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Id with Absorption Barrier!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has completed her action.
GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Absorption Barrier for 24 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
In A Dark Place

"If you could - before we continue - um," Elly says, half turning towards Lily and raising her left hand. The injury on the pinky finger, or what's left of it, is pretty selfexplanatory. Fortunately, it was done with a horrid fire ray.

As she does this, Elly looks around. "... Lahan," she says. "This place. I don't understand what those numbers meant. They reminded me of that machine on Lunar." She blinks once, slowly. "... I don't know what that means."

Her eyes then focus on Riesenlied as she is born to them by the dead. From her expression, Elly also doesn't know what that means, but on automatic pilot she says to Riesenlied, "Thank you. Are you alright? I suppose we're all in better shape than we have any right to be, right now."

"He blames himself," Elly answers Ruby then, with a terrible sort of clarity. "He was motivated by helpful feelings, but if he hadn't gotten into Weltall the situation might not have gone as it did." And then Ruby comes up, and she reaches up to pet Ruby's head on reflex.

"... Yes," she tells Ruby, "but it's funny. I feel a little like I'm outside of it. That's probably bad... but it's like I'm not making decisions any more. They've already happened... it's hard to describe." A beat passes. "The well is a really great idea."

After recieving some brief field treatment from Lily - look forward to it, true believers - she follows towards the well. And somehow, despite her hand, she finds it inside of her to vault over the side of the wall, even as she cranes her head up to look at the bird, carrying Riesenlied.

"... Is that abnormal for this? I've never done this before, Ruby. Have you?"

DG: Elhaym van Houten has used her Tool Expedition Boots toward her party's challenge, Well Now What.
=============<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities *>=============
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Well Now What *>========================
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 **********(5)**********                                                       
 **********(4)**********                                                       
 **********(3)**********                                                       
 **********(2)**********                                                       
 **********(1)**********                                                       
                                                                               
 BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lxke2YUjBcM                              
                                                                               
 Your group appears in a village square, but a quick look around reveals all   
 is not what it seems. You are surrounded by stone brick village. Is this      
 Lahan before its destruction? It is, but not only do the buildings seem far   
 too large for normal buildings and the growing heat leaves the sensation      
 this isn't going to be a safe place for long.                                 
                                                                               
 You can try to climb over the buildings in hopes for safety or you can dive   
 into the well which may lead you to where you wish to go.                     
                                                                               
 A voice whispers. Is it Fei? He seems to be talking to someone.               
                                                                               
 They took me in. I didn't even have my memories, and thanks to that accident  
 they were killed, or used for experiments, or worse...                        
                                                                               
 It was you. You got a kick out of the power. All I gave was a gentle nudge.   
=Dungeon Conditions: Hesitate=================================================
========<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities - Round 1 *>========
=========================< Results - Well Now What >==========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Elhaym van Houten                   0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Expedition Boots                    2   Agility Effects: Stalwart             
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hiro                                0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Ruby Being Helpful                  2   Agility Effects: Resilient            
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Seraph Lanval                       0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lily Keil                           0 --(0)--> 0                   Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Riesenlied                          0 --(0)--> 0                   Fail
Flute of the Cucco Queen            3   Agility Effects: Fanfare              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Noeline                             0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Strife                              1   Agility Effects: Cleanse              
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Riesenlied                  0 --(20)--> 20                 Pass
Conditions: Hesitate(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Resilient(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Riesenlied has passed this challenge! The party gained 20 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Rosaline Calice's Spray and Pray for 2 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rosaline Calice has lost 1 Combo!
GS: CRITICAL! Id critically Guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Special Delivery for 22 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Id!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

Id says, "I've been hearing that a lot today." to Neriah. He isn't taking a swing at Riesenlied. At least not in the typical sense. He knows what Riesenlied's strengths are and he seems to be willing to fight those strengths head on rather than to just step on Riesenlied. He gives little explanation as to why. "When even flower girls are packing, there's wisdom in that."

Leon challenges him. Fei...Id...both are his responsibility. Id can respect that. Navigating the social bonds is tiring. Killing Leon might cement his dominance in this body, but it would also certainly make Lily very much like him. Roll the dice and let the Guardians sort it out? Roll the dice and let the Guardians sort it out.

Weltall-Id throws a fist right towards the gear in a sudden burst of movement.

"You know what it is like to be betrayed...you're not the only one." Id says to him.

Josephine unleashes an electrical assault against Id. It crackles through the armoring of the gear and into Id. He hesitates as she speaks on Elly but not as long as you might think.

"...Elly is strong. Far stronger than me."

He raises his hand and fires a red beam of light in Josie's direction. It won't hit directly, but the blazing eruption resulting from the blast will still connect if she just stays still. "We're all children in this ocean of stars. This world's history is young."

He readies another shot but the gear takes fire from an arrow. The gear turns towards Skylr and just looks at her incredulously. He doesn't fire back. The arrow comically remains stuck into the gear and...just sticks there. Honestly it's pretty impressive it stuck at all considering it's an arrow.

Zed slams his blades into Weltall-Id's chest. Weltall-Id gestures forward with one hand and grabs at him before punching him towards the ground, trying to stick him in their head first.

"This isn't the first end I have witnessed. It won't be the last." Id says.

It's Elvis who gets the first truly palpable hit in as he soars through the sky, swinging his fists into Weltall-Id's arm. It's enough to send the gear stumbling back even in midair and it flies several yards before steadying itself. He doesn't insult Elvis. He just answers his punch with one of his. Perhaps it's like with Riesenlied, he wants to challenge Elvis in his strengths.

It can be pushed! This nightmare creature can be beaten!

Nimue capitalizes further on this. He's ruining the moment! Perhaps. Relatable? Certainly. Good? Not really. Id is shocked. "Is that the staff Fei gave--" The explosion sends Weltall-Id crashing to the ground, thin layers of soot covering the gear's frame. Then it gets up.

Xantia tells him what's up.

Weltall-Id turns towards Xantia and walks in her direction. "Do you know why Fei doesn't have memories? He doesn't have amnesia. He remembers everything." It's a strange way of convincing Xantia as the gear throws a single open palm in her direction. "He simply only has 4 years of memories. He didn't exist. He can't help you find out who you are. I thought you enjoyed fighting me, our destructive encounters. Having second thoughts?"

He even tries to capitalize, clearly okay with fighting on foot people with his gear. He swings Weltall-Id's fist back for another go but Ida has her own words for Id. For Id, not Fei and she intercepts her strike with her own palm. Surprisingly, a shockwave ripples through Weltall-Id's arm and steam blows out through the breaks between armored plates. "Then show me." Id says. "Show me you're not the universe's toy. I won't be either!!" Id uh ... he punches back. In a gear, that may sound simple but it's real problematic.

Layna unleashes several wind blades along towards Id, shortly followed up by Claude's air slash. The strikes combine together, forming an x slash that ripples across Weltall-Id's frame...then dissipitates.

"Kenny." He says.

"You want to know my stake in this, Layna?" Id asks as he stomps towards Claude. "Who I am? Why I get to decide?" He sneers that last bit as if he felt the idea that he has had a choice insulting. "Why don't we ask Claude C. Kenny?"

He raises a foot down, slamming it for Claude's body.

"Lightspeed Kenny!" He hisses. "In any world, on any planet, there exists an order that must be protected. The Collapse of that order means the collapse of the planet. One speech amongst many, I'm sure. But it was a lie. You Kenny, I will leave alive. I will cripple you and leave you in your bed, helpless as you watch the world die. Just like the fate you left me. I will leave you...BURIED ALIVE!"

HE CRUSHES CLAUDE TO DEATH.

No wait, just above Claude is a barrier. The barrier prevents Id from striking. He is promptly thrown off of Claude and the gear crashes to the ground.

"...Asgard." Id says. "Very well. Let's try this."

He soars back into the air again, ripping free a large chunk of the photosphere, a rain of fire crashing down alongside him. He rears back with his hand and CHUCKS it before firing several blasts into it, sending shrapnel crashing down towards Asgard, Layna, and Skylr.

He reaches for another scrap but Rosaline starts pelting it with gunfire. It drops down suddenly in front of Gwen who punches it in the knee.

"Starting over." Id says an eruption of energy explodes around him.

DG: Riesenlied has drawn a new Challenge.
=============<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities *>=============
====================<* CHALLENGE - Memory of a Painting *>====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 You feel at peace.                                                            
                                                                               
 You are sitting still, in a place of stillness. There is a tranquility, a     
 peace, a sense of something religious - a feeling of hush and reverence. It   
 is deep, deeper than most things here in Filgaia in this dry age.             
                                                                               
 There's a man there. He is painting your portrait. You feel a thousand        
 things about him. But he is painting your portrait - not some light on        
 silver trickery, not one of the (untranslatable) you've heard tell of. Oil    
 paint on canvas.                                                              
                                                                               
 You sit still, and you hold your expression.                                  
                                                                               
 Your nose itches.                                                             
                                                                               
 Don't scratch, whatever you do. This moment is too precious to spoil.         
                                                                               
 Don't want to stop painting...                                                
 Coward...                                                                     
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
GS: Id has attacked Claude C. Kenny with I Need A Golem!
GS: Id has attacked Leon Albus with Demon Fist!
GS: Id has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Id has spent 3 Combo on Headshot, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Id has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Crimson Shot!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has attacked Zed with Rude Headslam!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Zed completely evades Rude Headslam from Id!
GS: Id has spent 5 Combo on Gatling, including 4 on Gatling!
GS: Id has attacked Elvis with Mountain Crusher!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus guards a hit from Id's Demon Fist for 181 hit points!
GS: Id has attacked Xantia with Demon Fist!
GS: Id has gained 4 Combo!
GS: Id has attacked Layna Manydays with Raging Wave!
GS: Id has attacked Skylr Paer with Raging Wave!
GS: Id has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Raging Wave!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Xantia completely evades Demon Fist from Id!
GS: Layna Manydays takes a glancing hit from Id's Raging Wave for 114 hit points!
GS: Id has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Nightmare Shockwave!
GS: Id has attacked Rosaline Calice with Nightmare Shockwave!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde critically Guards a hit from Id's Raging Wave for 59 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: CRITICAL! Elvis takes a solid hit from Id's Mountain Crusher for 427 hit points!
GS: Skylr Paer critically Guards a hit from Id's Raging Wave for 49 hit points!
GS: Skylr Paer has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny guards a hit from Id's I Need A Golem for 0 hit points!
GS: Rosaline Calice takes a solid hit from Id's Nightmare Shockwave for 167 hit points!
GS: Id has attacked Seraph Nimue with Id Is Like DID YOU STEAL LILY'S GIFT!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has completed his action.
GS: Seraph Nimue has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Seraph Nimue completely evades Id Is Like DID YOU STEAL LILY'S GIFT from Id!
GS: Gwen Whitlock critically Guards a hit from Id's Nightmare Shockwave for 63 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: CRITICAL! Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Id's Crimson Shot for 353 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Josephine Lovelace!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"Do your best," he says to Cecilia. "We'll hope Riesenlied and the others might reach him. If not, we'll bludgeon him until he does. Or die in the trying. But, I'm partial to living."

Weltall-Id throws a punch.

Gears are things of physics and construction. They are made of frame and steel armor, and frames and steel armor do not quite match the sheer energy and force of whatever Id -- and whatever Weltall-Id -- is. The fist slams into the right arm of the blue Gear, the armor distending and bending in a deep, wicked dent.

"I have," he says. "It isn't a feeling that I should wish on others. I know what the others are saying -- about overpowering despair, about the world burning down. But... you're summoning fire. If I had to guess, yours isn't a fiery, sudden hate."

He glances, briefly, towards Josie on the monitor of his Gear. Then, back to Cecilia. He takes stock of both, before he sends the Gear rushing forward by moving both controls forward. The blue Gear charges, silver blade after it -- but the right arm is the one that swings up. "It's a long, cold despair. The fire's to warm you, isn't it?"

He slams the right hand out for Weltall-Id -- giving a fragment of a godhead and taste of physics and construction, of frame and steel.

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Id with Break Duster!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"Yeah, honestly, but I figured you'd mostly hear the other side," Neriah muses to Id as the pugilist in question starts trying to coax him back to the light. "The preachy shit asking you to deny your feelings. Like Ida there. I mean, honestly? She was much more tolerable when she was a Hellion. But I think that's often true, isn't it? We all wear masks to disguise our monsters. It's just some of them are locked in place. And I like Fei, but if this is the real you, at least it's...."

Neriah's voice trails off. Something has occurred to her. The glances she's been casting across the field have identified something, and she remains silent for a moment, a shot of ice racing up her back.

"...Just don't let people try to convince you your anger isn't valid or genuine, okay?" Neriah asks with a tilt of her head towards Id. "Oh, and, uh. If you want to do me a solid, I'd appreciate if you didn't murder anyone in cute round glasses."

Then Neriah closes her eyes and bursts into flame. Her silhouette collapses into a point in space, shrinking down into a little pinhole in the air before vanishing in a flicker of ghostlight.

The boost from Asgard helped. So did sucking out the souls of a few innocents. Neriah flickers across the battlefield, appearing in split-second flickers of light before vanishing again as if she's trying to appear in twenty or thirty places at once. But the split-second images have a clear trajectory: Towards the landing sites of some of the pods. Or rather, a particular pod.

Or rather, a particular snowbank. A little distance from where Skylr landed, a burst of flame and light in the air can be seen.

"There you are," Neriah says entirely conversationally, but she winces as she realizes Skylr's trying to fight back against the Red Demon. A twinge of pity flickers through her. "Yooooooouuuuuuu might want to run while you can," she says with a bit more tangible worry. "The Red Demon here is pretty terrifying. And I know you're tougher than people think you are, but just... be careful, okay?"

She trails off as she realizes someone else is here. Eyes widening, Neriah blushes as she stares at Rosaline for a second.

"...You might also want to get out of here, Ros'," she says, her voice a bit smaller, almost embarrassed at something.

GS: Neriah Parringer has attacked Skylr Paer with Do It For Sin Mom!
GS: Neriah Parringer has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Neriah Parringer has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

In A Dark Place...

There is little violence directed at this team. So far. Maybe there won't be any violence at all.

Ruby gets a response, but it's just a quiet, knowing chuckle. Unsurprisingly, Lily and Riesenlied, lady with walking problems, have difficulty getting down the well but as a group it's easy enough. You can drop right on down easy peasy. The hard part has yet to come.

Maybe you'll get lucky and you won't get the hard part at all as is made evident by the next area because almost immediately, you feel at peace.

You are sitting somewhere, in a place of stillness, there's almost something religious about it. A feeling of hush and reverance.

A man is painting your portrait. He is painting your portrait. You feel a thousand things about him. Oil paint on canvas. Maybe it'll be a magnificent piece.

BUT THEN TRAGEDY STRIKES.

Your nose itches.

He said you had to sit still!

BUT YOUR NOSE ITCHES!!

Somehow it's unsurprising that Riesenlied's team found the cutest card in the dig first thing.

Don't want to stop painting...
Coward...

This is certainly not Lahan. But where is it? Fei had said he never left his home before but...

GS: Skylr Paer takes a solid hit from Neriah Parringer's Do It For Sin Mom for 0 hit points!
GS: Skylr Paer gains a Combo from Inspire!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny has known mockery before - from the time he was in primary school, he's been called the admiral's brat, the son of a hero, and a dozen variants of curses implying he's an entitled, spoiled, fortunate brat. And in a few ways, the Guardians showed him during his Trial, they were right. But 'Lightspeed' is an epithet he's heard only a handful of times before, and never in a kind way; to be sure, his family is descended from the ancient test pilot who bore that name, who forged an alliance that lives still among the stars, spread now across two galaxies.

It is a name, in other words, that this ginger dude in the giant robot should have no way of knowing.

"What in the---" he manages to get out before that massive Gear leaps down toward his tender brainmeats; fortunately, the invincible shield known as Asgard intervenes before he can so much as blink, forming a brilliant barrier that intercepts the attack. "Dude, you rock," he says, offering the Golem a couple of ENCOURAGING SHOULDER PATS and a THUMBS UP, BRO. Claude likes Asgard. he's seen enough of Golems to know he wants to keep this one on his side.

"So, uh... who's the suzuki dancer, anyway?" Claude asks Cecilia as he fires not one but TWO air slashes at Weltall's face. Take that, nerd.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Id with Twin Slash!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: Id guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Twin Slash for 67 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

Nimue raises an eyebrow at Id's question for a moment. "Huh? Someone else had one of --" She closes her eyes, and thinks for a moment. After a few seconds of extremely careful thought, she puts it together. "Oh! No, this is mine! Lily's got the only one I've seen in the last couple hundred years besides me!" A pause. "And that one used to be mine too, actually!!"

Id's surprise seems to buy Nimue a brief reprieve -- which she accepts, of course, and decides to capitalize on. It feels a little premature, but -- in a situation like this... surviving means going full blast. Quite literally. Nimue gives her whole pack a quick, unceremonious toss into the air -- and takes to the skies after it. She gives her staff an aggressive twirl, snagging one grenade, then another, then another.

"I can tell you already get it!" Nimue calls to Id, as she kicks off an invisible wall of wind to snag more grenades, hurling them in Id's direction. "None of us are allowed to stop hurting! Ever! It's just like this! So... from me, to you -- a thousand years of despair!"

Nimue's lips turn up in a knifelike smile as all her grenades start going off, one after another, around Id. "It's pretty familiar, right?"

GS: Seraph Nimue has spent 4 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Seraph Nimue has attacked Id with Millennium Desperado!
GS: Seraph Nimue has completed her action.
GS: Id guards a hit from Seraph Nimue's Millennium Desperado for 101 hit points!
GS: Id suffers Infect, extending negative statuses by 1 turn each!
GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Leon Albus's Break Duster for 21 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Id has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Ultimate Pressure Point!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

In a Dark Place...
 
        Outside of this place, a part of Elru is on fire. This fire is going to spread, left unchecked.
        This place is not on fire. This little place, here in the dark... does not reflect that stress. It does not reflect the rising heat of what they just escaped, that traumatic turning point in this (once more) young man's (current) life. Somehow, from falling from up on high, Lanval seems to land and transition into a seated position like he weren't a part of a tumultuous drop from on high.
        A place of hush and reverance... it's not his own, from a time long past now. But he understands the importance of it. For the time they have, mortals want to capture the ones they can unto the closest they can aspire to eternity. Art is but one thing. Why, long ago, someone chiseled his likeness when he was much, much younger into a well.
        Lanval sits quietly, eyes half-open, looking far too dignified for someone with the appearance of a morbidly obese wastrel with ragged, worn clothes to match. It might have something to do with the fancy smoking pipe he holds. The 'itch' doesn't bother him. There's a lot that should. He doesn't quite know this man ahead of him, but he gets the gist of what this whole picture means to him.
        Take as long as thou need. Lanval tries to reassure, even with just thought. The air seems to grow a bit more... light, in the emotional sense.
        Lanval's particular blessing imparts an air of, appropriate to his name, mirth. A better sense of a time and place feeling worthy of celebration, to simply find some kind of joy within the act of life itself, as two voices duel over the expenditure of this time, in pure abstract of their headspace.
        ...But, in this moment, so many are laying down their lives to convince Id to doubt his desire to bring ruin to all. If Lanval is trying to impart a certain peace without having to worry or doubt, so, too, might he yet be unwittingly endangering the world further - for this man's painting may be the perceived equivalent of what the demon is doing within the corporeal world.
        The Seraph nonetheless exercises patience, calm, and an uncommon dignity considering his natural state of being tends to be 'lazing around, slurring, drinking everything, insulting the very concept of locomotion every time he moves.'

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

In a Dark Place...
 
        Outside of this place, a part of Elru is on fire. This fire is going to spread, left unchecked.
        This place is not on fire. This little place, here in the dark... does not reflect that stress. It does not reflect the rising heat of what they just escaped, that traumatic turning point in this (once more) young man's (current) life. Somehow, from falling from up on high, Lanval seems to land and transition into a seated position like he weren't a part of a tumultuous drop from on high.
        A place of hush and reverance... it's not his own, from a time long past now. But he understands the importance of it. For the time they have, mortals want to capture the ones they can unto the closest they can aspire to eternity. Art is but one thing. Why, long ago, someone chiseled his likeness when he was much, much younger into a well.
        Lanval sits quietly, eyes half-open, looking far too dignified for someone with the appearance of a morbidly obese wastrel with ragged, worn clothes to match. It might have something to do with the fancy smoking pipe he holds. The 'itch' doesn't bother him. There's a lot that should. He doesn't quite know this man ahead of him, but he gets the gist of what this whole picture means to him.
        Take as long as thou need. Lanval tries to reassure, even with just thought. The air seems to grow a bit more... light, in the emotional sense.
        Lanval's particular blessing imparts an air of, appropriate to his name, mirth. A better sense of a time and place feeling worthy of celebration, to simply find some kind of joy within the act of life itself, as two voices duel over the expenditure of this time, in pure abstract of their headspace.
        ...But, in this moment, so many are laying down their lives to convince Id to doubt his desire to bring ruin to all. If Lanval is trying to impart a certain peace without having to worry or doubt, so, too, might he yet be unwittingly endangering the world further - for this man's painting may be the perceived equivalent of what the demon is doing within the corporeal world.
        The Seraph nonetheless exercises patience, calm, and an uncommon dignity considering his natural state of being tends to be 'lazing around, slurring, drinking everything, insulting the very concept of locomotion every time he moves.'

DG: Seraph Lanval has used his Tool Bubble Pipe toward his party's challenge, Memory of a Painting.
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Ida Everstead-Rey completely evades Ultimate Pressure Point from Id!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied can feel Noeline's concern, even from a distance away. That she might be gone, that Id might have her again. Subject her to the same punishment that he did before Lacour, in Old Petra.

        Nasrin-cucco rather cruelly and unceremoniously throws her down with the rest of the group, where she kind of is left in an unmoving heap... at least until Strife lifts her up, since that is the ARMs' wont to do.

        She looks to the rest of the group for a moment. She looks at Ruby. She has a lot more energy and words than her right now, even if she knows the dragonet is hurting too. She looks to Hiro. At Lanval, as well, her voice hitching for a moment longer.

        Thank you. Are you alright? I suppose we're all in better shape than we have any right to be, right now.

        Riesenlied is quiet for a moment longer. "... no," she answers honestly, because maybe some part of her has finally internalised that it's OK to say you're not OK.

        "but... that's not important right now.
         stopping id... getting fei out... that's more important."

        Noeline helps coax her down the well, no matter how much she's swallowing the terrified feeling of having been there and wanting to just throw herself down into the dark, murky waters and have that be that--

        --and suddenly she's seated on a comfortable chair. In a tranquil place of religious reverence. A swarm of hush and genteelness overwhelms her for a moment.

        She's in really nice clothes. They're predominantly pure white, with the tribal markings of the Fereshte upon them. She takes a moment as she realises that a traditional Fereshte wedding hood, a horn-hider, is over her head, gently covering her horns and her scales.

        ... is that... right?
         is that... correct?
         what are we... why are we... right here...

        Noeline is probably right beside her. They're taking their painting together. Is this what it's like? To encapsulate this memory forever, as their two rings glimmer with a fond light, their hands laced together...

        ...

        But she's feeling her scales grow. She's feeling her head twist. The Dragon is coming out. The more she doubts, the more she despairs... The more she dwells on Josephine's words, as it hurts her for some reason she doesn't quite understand. How the inevitability of everything is violence... even if they avoid a near-miss here...

        It might not just be her nose that's the problem.

        The bride's face might be a dragon if she can't sustain herself.

        And--

        Don't want to stop painting...

        Riesenlied's eyes widen as she stares at a certain DEAD CUCCO who's followed her from Lahan, perched on the palette of oils and pigments, munching her dead beak on an entire tube of prussian blue paint. Streaks of verdant green, of rose red and other paints that she's gulletted down weave her body.

        what now boy i'm eating your paint, that's what you want right, to paint forever then maybe i'll make you run out so you have to go get some more NOM NOM NOM

DG: Riesenlied has used her Tool Flute of the Cucco Queen toward her party's challenge, Memory of a Painting.
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
"If you're not making decisions anymore..." Ruby asks Elly, "...then doesn't it feel a little like you're running into walls?"
 
Ruby then swiftly looks up trying to ascertain what's going on when Elly calls hher attention towards-!
 
Ruby suddenly lurches and feels at peace.
 
She's sitting in a chair, on her hind legs. Forepaws in front of her. Ribbon all fluffed up. She looks her best.
 
Completely frozen. She doesn't want to move, because Fei is painting her and that makes her happy.
 
Yet something is changing, with every brush stroke, like the artist's brush is transforming her into something...
 
... else.
 
BGM Change: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoEMaWrQBQM
 
Her pink pawsies are becoming pale flesh with every stroke. Her hind legs are stretching out beneath her, she's sitting down, hands crossed in her lap, the sensation of clothes upon her. Still staring at the artist painting at the canvas.
 
She wants to look at herself so badly - but she doesn't - as if entranced, fascinated by this new sort of sensation.
 
There's a sort of strange beauty - romance, in being painted this way, in having your image captured and having the artist's soul imbued into it. She wants to look at herself, but she's trying hard not to blink.
 
And then her nose itches! It doesn't even feel like her normal nose...
 
It's a horrific moment, like she might break the enchantment if she says anything. Does anything. So instead... she tries to will herself not to sneeze. Forces herself not to look at herself.
 
I can wait.
As long as it takes.
Just when you're done.
Please show me how I truly am.
 
-=-=-
 
Elsewhere Hiro stoically sits in a chair, trying hard not to sneeze. In fact he's about to when...
 
Coward...
 
Hiro wills it back, because he feels a certain empathy between cowards right now. He can't explain it. It is simply that he feels for the cowardice of the artist really keenly.
 
And because of that... he doesn't want to give Id that pleasure of interrupting Fei.
 

DG: Hiro has used his Tool Ruby Being Helpful toward his party's challenge, Memory of a Painting.
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily does not have to speak aloud, nor ask--she knows Xantia's feeling. She just nods, and leaves it to her.

In A Dark Place...

Lily is a woman who, even while exhausted, keeps track of what's around her. In this way she spots Lanval, a strangely soothing form to her open mind, the Mirthful Wellspring a balm to her fractured nerves. She doesn't really understand why, but before she can dwell on it, Elly's answer brings her back to the moment, and Lily looks to her injury. "...Mostly cauterized, but still a fresh wound. Yes, I can help you with it. One moment." Lily reaches into her pack and pulls a roll of bandages. Before she applies them, however, she takes Elly's hand in both of hers and, with a soft red glow, begins to soothe some of the irritation, mend some of the skin. "I don't have enough power right now to even try to reattach it even if you had it... But I can prevent it from hurting." With that, Lily concentrates, and the red glow turns to violet, and the feeling of Dark Ether pulses for an instant before Elly ceased to feel the remnants of that finger at all; it's as if it were never there, completely numbed. Then she wraps bandages to prevent it being reopened and infected. The process takes all of thirty seconds; she was a field medic.

But after that she hears Noeline's call, looks towards her--and then sees Riesenlied being floated towards them. "...Yes," Lily agrees with Noeline's words, though perhaps too quietly at first to be heard, and turns towards Hiro and Ruby for a moment. "I'll keep the light up," she tells Ruby, and then adds, "...And Lemina's a pretty good teacher. Still, for funerals--I'll say that I don't intend to die here, at least."

In point of fact though, Lily definitely seems like she's going to let this happen, in terms of Riesenlied and the cucco. She's fine with this. Instead, "Accident or not, it's true that his actions led to this. ...But if he doesn't let himself process that, then he can't move past it." She pauses. "Elly--it sounds like you're in shock. My suggestion is that you pay extra attention to your body, so that you don't injure yourself while you're in this state. Your emotions will normalize once your body and mind have time to step away from the trauma." She turns to Riesenlied though, and while she doesn't have something she can say to just make it better... "Thank you," she says instead.

With some help, Lily gets down the well; her magic is very good for scouting, but she's tired and kind of weighed down with gear. Despite that, things get smooth and easy an instant later.

Becauuuse she's sitting down. Sitting down, and noticing a strange room, a religious stillness and quiet over this place. It is, frankly, something Lily might seek out... but under different circumstances.

She blinks a couple of times, looking at the man. One doesn't want to stop painting; one thinks the other is a coward. ...It is almost assuredly a great painting in the strictest sense, but...

"I'm sorry," Lily says, speaking quietly, without moving overmuch. "But this isn't the time for this. You know that, don't you?"

Lily pauses, thoughtfully, switches language to an ancient one, "<Is this one of your memories? Or one of his?>" Switching back to the one most use, "I know I didn't understand, at first."

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Id explains Fei's situation - he only has four years of memories. He didn't exist before then. Layna frowns slightly, and stows this away. And then he responds to her - he says to ask Claude, and talks about Order. That gets a raised eyebrow out of Layna.

"'Order'? I don't know a damn thing about any 'order'. That sounds like real, big, complicated talk to me - you're gonna have to pare things down a bit, aye?" Layna remarks. She watches as Id flies off...and then she moves abruptly as a massive chunk of the Photosphere is sent flying toward her. She avoids it just barely, but it shatters into shrapnel that goes flying everywhere upon contact. Some of it flies toward her, managing to slip through her windy shield and leave bloody trails across her coat. Layna hisses from the pain, but manages to endure it.

"...And hell, I ain't really cared one bit about any 'order', anyway. Guess that's what comes from being a dirty pirate, aye?" She says with a wry laugh, touching down on what's left of the destroyed chunk of Photosphere. "Filgaia ain't my world, but I've got an idea of what it's like from my time here."

Layna folds her arms in front of her, and grins wide.

"It sure as hell ain't perfect, but it sure beats Lunar! It's so much more exciting! I've got no intention o' dyin' for it...because I sure as hell don't plan to die just yet. Not to you, not for your 'pain'." Layna says, then casts her arms wide.

"And the same better go for you lot too, aye!? I'm not here fighting just so you lot can give up!" She shouts. "So you keep fighting, too! I'm not makin' that an order - just a suggestion!"

GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Skylr Paer with Captain's Orders! !
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Rosaline Calice with Captain's Orders! !
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Zed with Captain's Orders! !
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Captain's Orders! !
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Captain's Orders! !
GS: Layna Manydays has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
DG: Lily Keil has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Memory of a Painting.
GS: Rosaline Calice takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's Captain's Orders!  for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Rosaline Calice gains 15 extra FP from Layna Manydays!
GS: Rosaline Calice gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's Captain's Orders!  for 0 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Reload! Cecilia Adlehyde gains 15 extra FP from Layna Manydays!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde gains a Combo from Inspire!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"It doesn't matter how many ends you've seen!" Zed yells defiantly. "All things end. So what!? THIS is the world we fought for-- the world Sieg fought against Mother for. I can't just let this slide. That punchy girl is right-- this isn't helping anything! I get it, your friend's dead. You're hurting, but he was my uncle too. He was Riese's father. He was, to all of us, a light of hope that someday, something could be better!"

Weltall-Id slams its forehead down, but of anything of Zed's, his skull is by far the thickest. The metal demon roars and slams his own face into the Weltall's cranium. There's a great, thunderous *CLANG* of metal smashing hard into metal as Zed flips backwards, coming to a skidding halt in the middle of a snowdrift. "...It hurts." He says, quietly. For a moment, it's not clear whether he means his head or Sieg's loss. But...

Zed raises his blade high, silvery blood dripping from a great gash across his forehead. "...It hurts, knowing he's gone. I don't... I don't know what happens to us after we die. But I know that he would have wanted us to carry on. The people he loved so much. You might have seen other civilizations come to an end, but this is our only chance. This is our one, single chance to things right again. To make Hyades and Siegfried proud...! I can't let you kill us before we even have a chance to leave the starting line!"

The Doom Bringer blazes with white-hot light-- and Zed swings it. A shining column of power somehow erupts from a point above the Weltall-Id, coming down like a fist of pure concussive force...! "Before you wipe us out, at least give us the chance to show what we can give back to the world! We're not Mother's puppets anymore!"

GS: Zed takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's Captain's Orders!  for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Zed gains 15 extra FP from Layna Manydays!
GS: Zed gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Skylr Paer takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's Captain's Orders!  for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Skylr Paer gains 15 extra FP from Layna Manydays!
GS: Skylr Paer gains a Combo from Inspire!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        "'Don't worry about it'?" Josie arches a pale eyebrow, but seems more amused than baffled by Elly's response. She shakes her head. "...Red, you're a better person than I am. Here I am, painting a damn target on my chest, and you won't even take it. Well then."

        Elly does the unexpected then and plants a kiss on Josie's forehead.
        "...You're gonna make an old lady blush if you keep doing that kind of thing, Red," Josie says matter-of-factly, a tone that is somewhat undone by the catlike smile on her lips. "...Go to him. If anyone's going to be able to reach him, it's you."

        A pause, a sidelong glance away. "And if not, we'll pick up the pieces after. Now, get with it!"

        She lifts her hand away, turns her attention towards the cannon.

        Or rather, to Lily.

        "Somehow... I figured you might understand. ...Though I gotta say, if I have to get haunted by anyone, you're not a bad pick."

        You remind me a little of...

        "Got it." And she... winks at Lily. "But let's make it a wake if we must."

        This is how she sees her fellow Black Wolves off, in a manner of speaking.

        Before making use of a little of her sorcery and letting fly with a crackling arrow of electricity.

        It's a minor spell. The most she had hoped for was to draw his attention, to needle him.
        Buy the lot of them a little time.

        "And? You don't think a strong girl'll cry about all this?" she shoots back.

        His retort comes in a wave of red. The edges of the glow streak for her.

        A counterspell threads the gap -- "Thou lightning," Josie invokes -- and in a heartbeat the sparkling wall snaps into being before her.
        Maybe, if she had done this as such back then, he would have been...
        The thought melts away. As does her barrier. It's not enough. Not nearly enough.
        The light finds her, burns into her, sends her sprawling back and away across the deck to smoke and smolder.

        At first the archaeologist doesn't twitch, let alone move or stand.

        "Not... not done yet..." she hisses out, reaching out a hand.

        Light flares. A single solitary bead, in a display of a spell she's demonstrated before. It begins to rise into the air -- keeps rising, high above.
        It detonates in a dazzling flash -- no wounds for the flesh, but an explosion of light that might just serve to play nastily with the red Gear's cameras.

        Dropping a hand to the deck, Josie hauls herself forward.
        If that's what it takes, she'll drag herself back to the cannon.
        Every stinking inch.

GS: Zed has attacked Id with Saint Arts - Empty Sky Form!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        From her elevated position, Noeline can sight the rest of the group, and that's a distinct relief - and then she sights Riesenlied being lifted into the air by something coloured blue rather than an angry red that heads towards them, and that's an even bigger one that leaves her breathless and speechless as Strife wings down towards the rest of the group.

        It's only as she reaches up for Riesenlied to soften her passage to the ground that Noeline actually registers what exactly is bearing the Hyadean to them - and that stops her short for a terribly confused moment. "... I-- er?" she starts to say, drawing her hands back out of sheer and open confusion before she redoubles her expression and takes Riesenlied into her arms. Thoughts and instincts war in her mind as to the cucco's significance; she could offer a pretty educated guess, but that in itself leaves her uncertain on what exactly to say. What she could possibly say.

        She settles for a quiet, respectful 'thank you' as she nestles Riese closer to her for just a moment.

        Her only response to Elly's question is a quietly amused breath; she can't really seem to muster anything more than that right in this moment, feeling fatigue through every inch of her body even if she's well aware that this may not actually really be her body. "... we need to push on," she simply offers, even if patience and sympathy resonate through her frame as they lower down.

        * * *

        She's not quite used to being moved so abruptly - and despite the feeling of peace, she still jolts as she feels their surroundings shift and change. Her hand is entwined in Riesenlied's, and that's a blessing and a relief that keeps her in place as the rest of her senses start to fill in the gaps. They're being painted - they're having their painting taken together. A flush of colour is at her cheeks as she realizes the rest of the context; even now, even after everything, she can admit to some bashfulness at a time like this, right?

        She glances to one side as much as her pose will allow her to do so without moving her head - and it's only Riesenlied's struggling that brings the rest of the world back into a sharp, sharp focus. Gently and wordlessly, her hand tightens around the other woman's - but that doesn't seem like quite enough, in the moment.

        "... Fei. Even if you need to stop for a while, I think that's fine. Or rather-- I would like to believe you're a good enough painter to pick up again later if you need to," she offers quietly, not wanting to disrupt the peaceful air too suddenly. "... things have been tough, I admit. But we have all of us made promises. We have all said to someone that we'll return. And when we do - then there will be time to rest and finish this painting off. I'll be looking forward to it." She glances aside for real this time, meeting Riesenlied with a smile. "... no matter what else happens."

        The emotion of the moment is a little ruined, as Strife works in tandem with the dead cucco to knock a mixing tray to the floor. Oh no!

DG: Noeline has used her Tool Strife toward her party's challenge, Memory of a Painting.
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
In A Dark Place

Elly had thanked Lily for what she did, nodded along with her assessment, and proceeded forwards. She had nodded once to Riesenlied when she said that no, she wasn't okay exactly. She had *not* nodded to Ruby's question - she had instead said "what do you mean?"

But now she is sitting here in a warm place, being painted.

This feels comfortable. Soothing.

Elly actually lapses into a two-minute nap while others are getting their bearings. Possibly someone she loves dies in this period. But that could be any period! That's the happy thought of the moment. She almost startles awake, then, and there is a hint of new freshness around herself as she comes to consciousness and hears a voice around the edges.

In a language.

A language she... does not know. Elly lets her lips part a little, and speaks sotto voce, without really moving her mouth. "I thought I recognized what you said, but I didn't understand it. Lily, what are you talking about?"

Noeline speaks up with somewhat more force. And length. Elly is kind of glad to let her do it.

"I'll sit still like this, even if my nose itches itself off," Elly then says: "As long as you care to draw me."

Draw, not paint.

Her eyes turn towards -- she can't quite make out the painter, but she can feel that presence. Also, see the bird eating the slightly disused paint. As she shifts her feet in her comfortable boots, she says, "But... right now, there's a lot going on. Fei..."

"Can you hear us?"

Worry starts to trickle, like warm oil, into the corners of Elly's mind. It's just a little drip, for now.

DG: Elhaym van Houten has used her Tool Expedition Boots toward her party's challenge, Memory of a Painting.
<Pose Tracker> Skylr Paer has posed.

         Id, his Gear, and Skylr all stare at each other. She actually looks surprised the hit registered enough to get his attention, and then she just ... registers that she's getting stared at by something, oh, A Lot More Than She Is. Skylr suddenly finds it hard to swallow, but she manages after a second. "Uh..."
 
         Skylr adjusts her cute, round glasses. She blinks a little as things sort of light up around her, right as Neriah pops up. "... uh..." She's repeating herself! Delightful. "I can't." She tells Neriah, practically. "They're going to need my healing skills and I don't know where Leo, Eryon, or Pearl are. I may not know who really many people are here..." Her gaze flits between Neriah and Gwen... "But from what I know of those that are here, is that we all have that light here."
 
         She touches her chest. "A Red Demon that may be in the sky- but right here..." Her gaze goes a little bland as her gaze goes back to Neriah firmly- "But I've seen what happens when we all go full bore." She gestures at Layna. "We've come this far... why stop fighting now?"
 
         Indeed, if they give up out here... Skylr's hands clasp together, and around her, the wind suddenly builds up in a massive burst, aimed towards the Gear. It's not hurricane strength, but it is pretty sudden. Sometimes, all you can be is the distraction.
 
         Or the sheep near the wolf.

GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Id with Sky's Strong Winds!
GS: Skylr Paer has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Rosaline's bullets do little but knock shrapnel out of Id-Weltall's hand, but it's the thought that counts. As she sails through the air, she soon finds herself right in the path of an expanding wave of energy, sending her flying back the way she came, twisting through the air and skidding down to the ground. Cats land on their feet, most of the time, but this one is an exception, as Rosaline rolls down the snowy slope.

She winces in pain, pulling herself off the ground. The sensation is familiar, but part of it is something she can't quite immediately place, something spiritually upsetting. She looks up, and...

"Oh, hello," she tells Neriah, who advises her to get out of here. This is awkward, especially considering that Rosaline's goth phase is over, while Neriah all but dialed it up to eleven since they last spoke to each other.

"I really should," she agrees, taking her eyes off Neriah and back towards the red Weltall. "But I can't back down now. Friends need my help. Even him!" She points to Id's Gear with a trembling hand. "...Technically."

She steps up to the top of her hill, granting her a better view over the battlefield. It's... It's not going very well. She hears Layna shout words of encouragement, and nods along with a little smile. They're certainly welcome right now. People are getting injured, not the least of whom herself. She closes her eyes. How did it go last time? She did play it by ear, at least a little...

"O Lord,
Shine Your light on we humble sinners,
Show Your endless mercy to us heathens,
To break the cycle of violence in Your name."

Once more today, golden light filters through the grey clouds of Arctica, dawning upon a chosen few with their healing rays. It may not mend all wounds, but it may at least grant some the strength to keep going.

"Grand Gospel!" Rosaline announces.

With that said, if Neriah hasn't already left, chances are high that holy light is bad for her skin.

GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Elvis with Grand Gospel!
GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Rosaline Calice with Grand Gospel!
GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Grand Gospel!
GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Layna Manydays with Grand Gospel!
GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Grand Gospel!
GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Xantia with Grand Gospel!
GS: Rosaline Calice has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rosaline Calice has completed her action.
GS: Layna Manydays gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Rosaline Calice heals Layna Manydays! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Elvis gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Rosaline Calice heals Elvis! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

Cecilia nods to Leon's words. "We won't let him hurt anyone. We've come this far! Asgard, protect them!"

Asgard groans an affirmative, although he protected them a while ago. He also grunts an affirmative at Claude. He is rock, yes. He doesn't return the thumbs-up because he needs his hands right now.

"It's Fei," Cecilia replies to Claude. "Or...someone who was inside Fei. Or the person underneath Fei. Or..."

... "It's someone who lost someone he cared about," she says, instead. "And I think he aims to make everybody pay."

"But I won't let you just do that," she says, turning her attention to Id. 'Let's try this', Id declares, and fires raining chunks of space fortress down around them. But Asgard just stands there, arm extended, his barrier flickering as flames slam into it and shatter as if they'd struck invincible stone. Unharmed as a segment of Photosphere that must've been an entire lab cracks across his field.

And on his shoulder, Cecilia holds forth her staff. Asgard pulses with light, and outside that field, a Crest forms - an unfamiliar, ancient sign, lost Elw inscriptions of ancient, interlocking magic. The sign above that booster crest forms, inerlocking and merging with the booster, black magic and muse and fray.

Lightning.

"I will save what I can, Fei! Or Id, or whatever! And that includes you!"

The ffield turns dark as a column of lightning bursts out of the space before Asgard, a Boosted Spark spell dimming the sun as it tears across the gap toward Id.

GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Id with Boosted Spark!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has completed her action.
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Rosaline Calice heals Ida Everstead-Rey! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Xantia gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Rosaline Calice heals Xantia! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Well, Xantia got her wish. Id came down to her, if perhaps not entirely of his own volition. She's still expecting him to address her demands. Not that he can. She has the right of it, she knows she does. She's completely convinced that Id doesn't really want to do is, and nothing he can say can convince her otherwise.

Perhaps that's why he doesn't try to do that in the traditional sense. Id knows very well that memories, any and all matters relating to memories, are the way to get to Xantia. Perhaps he's expecting that telling her Fei doesn't actually have amnesia, isn't actually like her, will demoralize her in some way. He's not entirely wrong. Xantia doesn't believe Id is lying about this, which makes it hard to hear.

Two things keep this from having the effect that he perhaps was expecting. The first is that with four years of memories, that still means he has two years over Xantia. There's still a chance that there's some kind of connection in their past, even if the possible timeframe for it is shorter than she thought.

The second... the second is enough to make her grin confidently, as if this is her victory. That's how it feels to her when she responds, "I knew it. You and Fei aren't the same person at all."

That's all she needed to know, all the confirmation she had to hear in order for things to make sense again in her head. It means that, as far as she's concerned, things can still be okay. Rather than being demoralized, she feels emboldened.

Weltall-Id's lashes out with its palm, but she moves with Ether-enhanced speed, leaving a trail of flame in her wake as she avoids the strike entirely... and lands on top of the Gear's arm. She immediately proceeds to run across its entire length, to attempt to press her own palm violently against the machine's chest, striking a single super-heated blow against it. Afterwards, she somersaults backwards, landing effortlessly back on her feet, taking a defensive, defiant stance.

"Second thoughts? Never. I'll keep fighting you, as many times as it takes. As many times as you want. I told you, didn't I? No matter what you do, no matter what you say, I'm always going to be there. For you... and for Fei."

The fight moves away from her then, but as if to lend credence to her words, Xantia continues to follow along with Id's Gear. She can never quite catch up to it, especially not after it takes to the air again, but she's always there. Always somewhere Id can see. Always smiling at him. No matter what he's doing, and to who, Xantia only smiles.

"You're trying too hard," she finally speaks again after some time, just as she shines with Rosaline's holy light washing over her. "Trying to be the Demon of Elru, a Destroyer. But I know that that title isn't a complete truth itself." Those are Lily's words she stole, but she couldn't word in any better herself. "I won't let you be alone, Id."

=============<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities *>=============
====================<* CHALLENGE - Memory of a Painting *>====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 You feel at peace.                                                            
                                                                               
 You are sitting still, in a place of stillness. There is a tranquility, a     
 peace, a sense of something religious - a feeling of hush and reverence. It   
 is deep, deeper than most things here in Filgaia in this dry age.             
                                                                               
 There's a man there. He is painting your portrait. You feel a thousand        
 things about him. But he is painting your portrait - not some light on        
 silver trickery, not one of the (untranslatable) you've heard tell of. Oil    
 paint on canvas.                                                              
                                                                               
 You sit still, and you hold your expression.                                  
                                                                               
 Your nose itches.                                                             
                                                                               
 Don't scratch, whatever you do. This moment is too precious to spoil.         
                                                                               
 Don't want to stop painting...                                                
 Coward...                                                                     
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
========<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities - Round 2 *>========
======================< Results - Memory of a Painting >======================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Elhaym van Houten                   0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Expedition Boots                    2   Agility Effects: Stalwart             
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hiro                                0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Ruby Being Helpful                  2   Agility Effects: Resilient            
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Seraph Lanval                       0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Bubble Pipe                         3   Agility Effects: Rally                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lily Keil                           0 --(0)--> 0                   Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Riesenlied                          0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Flute of the Cucco Queen            3   Agility Effects: Fanfare              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Noeline                             0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Strife                              1   Agility Effects: Cleanse              
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Riesenlied                  20 --(25)--> 45                Pass
Conditions: Hesitate(1)|Treasure(1)
Effects: Cleanse|Resilient(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Riesenlied has passed this challenge! The party gained 25 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Layna Manydays's Captain's Orders!  for 0 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Reload! Gwen Whitlock gains 15 extra FP from Layna Manydays!
GS: Gwen Whitlock gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Gwen Whitlock gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Rosaline Calice heals Gwen Whitlock! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Xantia has attacked Id with Elemental Fury!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
DG: Riesenlied has drawn a new Challenge.
=============<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities *>=============
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Memory of Wayside *>======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 The city flickers and twists in time and space, transforming from its         
 previous form into one not unlike Wayside. It is burning and presently under  
 attack from Metal Demons.                                                     
                                                                               
 And Weltall-Id for that matter. He seems busy, at least, engaging in          
 violence n the direction of images of Xantia, Josephine, and Neriah.          
 Sometimes he just rips apart a building for funsies.                          
                                                                               
 Nevertheless, periodically moving through this area you are going to have to  
 deal with Metal Demons assaulting you periodically. They are actually out to  
 get YOU this time so they don't seem all too distracted. It may be best to    
 pick your battles wisely, however, since you certainly don't want to be here  
 when the city is wiped off the map.                                           
                                                                               
 It was me. I destroyed Wayside. How could I do something so horrible? Oh      
 God, Neriah...what we did to Neriah...                                        
                                                                               
 The city was doomed from the start. Destroying the city saved them. Solaris   
 found them soon after. Neriah is strong now.                                  
                                                                               
 OOC: You will remain in the Wayside area until you get another City card.     
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright===================================================
GS: Rosaline Calice gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Rosaline Calice heals Rosaline Calice! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

"It's Fei."
 
Wait, what?
 
Weary. Beaten. Burned. Bruised and cut and tired. But here. Ashton is here, stepping up beside Claude and Cecilia.
 
Where has he been? Isn't clear. But he no longer carries the fallen form of Siegfried with him.
 
Blades in hand, the spellsword comes to the ready, despite the gear that they're facing down. But as much as he's armed with weapons? He's also armed with assurance. "It's Fei. I'm not about to let whoever that is take him. Or whatever is going on there."
 
A glance is given over to Claude - they have their differences. Their disputes. But Ashton knows Claude is worth a damn in a fight. (Not that everybody else isn't, but he knows Claude better.) Still have to get in a jab, though.
 
A little smirk passes his lips. "Lightspeed, huh? Having seen you run, I'm not sure I'd call you that fast. But.."
 
And the Double Dragon Duelist follows the pair of Air Slashes with a tornado bolt of his own.

GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Id with Hurricane Slash!
GS: Ashton Anchors takes 9 damage from Poison!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

Lily makes an inquiry in an alien language. The artist pauses, looks confused, then goes back to painting. "It sounds familiar... But I don't recognize it. Is it a dead language? You say some of the strangest things, Lily. You have such a kind soul, I can see it in your eyes, but you hide it so well. It's a tough portrait to paint, but you're worth it." It's a memory, but it's also a dream. Sometimes this can happen.

The artist considers Ruby. "It's not who you are, but it is who you are. Sometimes there are two sides to us. And that's okay, I think. We can be more than one person at the same time. Everybody's like that. Sometimes the differences are a bit more striking than others. If you're not careful, you can forget that, but you won't forget who you are Ruby. You are a strong, proud dragon. Your friends are lucky."

The artist paints Noeline. "You are a strong backbone for her but it's okay to cry yourself. Maybe you've learned that already, and I just missed it. You can't carry the burden for her, you can't even help her carry her burden, but you can share your burden with her, and she can share it with you. It's not quite the same, in my head."

"Fei?" The artist asks of Elly. "Heh, I thought you were the one with two names." But he pauses. "Draw...?" He stalls for a moment. "Ah, that's it... you're right. There's no time. Let me help you on your way."

The dead cucco eats paint. The artist seems disturbed.

"You're a tricky one," The artist admits to Riesenlied. "But you have your father's eyes. There's so much sadness in there, but I hope I could take that sorrow away and fill it with joy. Kind eyes...such kind eyes."

Strangely Lanval seems to evoke a certain reaction in the artist. "You know... I know what it's like to lose your home, to be trapped in a new one."

The artist turns to look square at Lanval. "Filgaia is harsh. It will be hard for you, no matter the truths you speak. Especially beacuse of the truths you speak. I think that's why I have such sympathy for you, Lanval."

He finishes painting. "That's enough for today." He says.

And the image shifts about, leading into Wayside of all places.

Not just Wayside. The battle of Wayside. Now that you are here, you have to contend with metal demons assaulting you periodically. In fact, they seem especially eager to assault you, leaving other shadow people alone to turn on you. It will be best to pick your battles wisely throughout this area. Welcome to the gimmick of the dig!

You can see Weltall-Id there, fighting Neriah, Josephine, and Xantia. Periodically, he just rips something apart for the fun of it all.

It was me, I destroyed Wayside... How could I do something so horrible? Oh God, Neriah... What we did to Neriah...

The city was doomed from the start. Destroying the city saved their lives. Solaris found them soon after and Neriah...Neriah is strong now

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        'Show me. Show me you're not the universe's toy. I won't be, either!!'

        Ida feels the outermost plates of Weltall's armor give, ever-so-slightly. It's all she could ask for, but it's not enough. She's not attached to the Gear's torso, like she planned, but to its hand, which balls itself up into a fist and rockets towards the tundra below. WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING, screams the rational part of Ida's brain. Tendons in her right arm tense, yanking the barbed spike out of the Gear's plating. Ida simply lets go, and drops clear of Weltall-Id's hand with seconds to spare, landing in the snow. Her left ankle twists, awkwardly, but Living Metal twists around the joint, letting it flex. The heat lingering on her gauntleted arm feels painful against the chill of the ground beneath.

        The dread machine's hand slams into the ground behind her, spraying her with snow and earth. A plume of vapor rises into the air from flash-boiled permafrost. Suffice it to say, Ida would not have been in any shape to fight if that landed.

        Healing light floods down on Ida, and the pain of the burns becomes bearable. Her mangled right hand shifts back into armored, human shape as she flashes the 'OK' sign to Rosaline. She tries to put Neriah out of her mind. One person lashing out in grief and agony is all she can deal with right now.

        "I know," Ida says to Id. "This world is sick, cruel, dying." She leaps to her feet, surging towards Weltall-Id as the wave of energy fades. "Of course you're angry!"

        Ida hooks the fingers of her gauntleted right hand around one of the Gear's leg plates, sets a foot on it, and hoists herself up. "If you weren't angry, I'd question your sanity! But that's not--" Leon's words flicker through Ida's mind.

        "You're depressed, too," Ida whispers. It's like a quiet, personal revelation in the middle of horrific violence. Ida draws back her hand, and swings it at Weltall's ankle-joint with all her strength!

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Id with Gotta Get Doll Back Atemi!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Zed's Saint Arts - Empty Sky Form for 18 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        "...." Fei is...

        No, Gwen's just gotten it wrong.

        _He simply only has 4 years of memories. He didn't exist. He can't help you find out who you are._

        Is Fei...? Is he dead? Did Id kill him? If Fei dead?

        Cecilia's words to Claude manage to filter through to Gwen in the wake of the explosion. It's Fei. Someone who was inside Fei. Someone underneath Fei. Someone who lost someone he cared about. And the world will pay for this.

        She never got to apologize for yelling at Fei. For unloading on him, as he did.

        She never did get that portrait. Or sketch. Or anything, really. But why is she selfishly focusing on that? .... Maybe, in the end, a part of her wanted to be the sort who would be sketched, by someone else. Is it normal, to have some vanity?

        And what of Id? Of the person named Id, the individual, who managed to surprise her, time and time again, but refusing to rigidly confirm to the idea of the selfish child, closed into himself.

        She lowers her ARM, the appendage still shaking from taking on the reflective heat of Id's fury.

        ".... But why."

        The words are a question, but the tone implies a command.

        Defiance.

        "If seeing many ends is what it takes to be the one who decides..."

        She lifts her hand up, as if to touch the gold light that washes over her, courtesy of Rosaline. She closes her eyes.

        And, for once, she speaks carefully, betraying the thoughtful, quiet part of herself, buried far within.

        "The world is flawed, cruel, and full of pain. But it never, ever, ceases to surprise me with the sheer depths of its kindness."

        She sucks in a breath, and opens her eyes, clear grey blue, like a shock of rain against a dry desert. Her ARM begins to charge, quickly, siphoning off the energy and encouragement granted to her from the likes of Layna, Rosaline, Skylr, and others beyond.

         She smiles, her expression nearly obscured from the pulsing glow of her ARM. "You still owe me a portrait, y;know. Or maybe another lesson. From either one of you. I don't care who. Xantia can't go hoggin' you guys all to herself."

         She lets go. The blast leaves her ARM, throwing her back against the sand.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Id with Corona Discharge!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Ida Everstead-Rey's attack becomes clear!
GS: Id guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Quicksilver Blade for 88 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elvis has posed.

Elvis closes the distance quickly, using the thrown boulders as cover from random blasts. His fist collides with the Gear's arm. and as he reaches for the arm to begin the fun part of tearing it off, he gets popped.

He REALLY gets popped. That gear is unnaturally fast. Elvis doesn't even get to block it. On Id's end there is a satisfying THUD as that fist connects he can audibly hear. The man streaks, flying at high speed at a downward angle, crashing through several icy outcroppings fully, and causing a cratered impact on a jutting rock wall and disappearing within.

There is a good half minute where nothing is heard from him.

And then the rock wall practically explodes outward, Elvis standing in the farthest back divot. He nearly crashed all the way through the rock. The right side of his face looks bruised and swollen, his right arm bleeding in a few spots and hellishly bruised. That punch would have surely killed a normal individual.

But Elvis isnt normal. Wait, that sounds bad, why did it come out like that? Oh great this pose is ruined--

"Damnit, why did I waste that canister earlier..." he grumbles to himself, spitting out a fleck of blood. "GOOD HIT," the Sentinel says, slow-clapping. "My bad, I didn't know I was supposed to be using everything I had on you!" Big talk aside that hit was ridiculous. That Gear is definitely something special. Who made such a powerful machine? His face is going to be half a tomato later!

Healing rays wash down upon him, easing the bruising. Maybe not so much a tomato anymore. "I don't know who did that, but thanks!" he shouts. He was pretty sure it was that cat lady.

The man looks to his fist. He flexes it, making sure nothing is broken. "Fine, I will take you seriously this time!" he yells, rushing Weltall again with a bounding leap that could clear a village to reach the mech. dozens of punches are thrown in the space of seconds as he closes the distance!

GS: Elvis has attacked Id with Rapid Punch!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        It's a feint. Ida's whole arm lengthens, sharpens, the edge honing itself to a filament the thickness of a human hair. She drives the blade through the Gear's armor, jaw tensing, the tendons in her neck sticking out. "I'll pry you out of there if I have to!" she thunders.

GS: Id guards a hit from Elvis's Rapid Punch for 75 hit points!
GS: Id guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Corona Discharge for 91 hit points!
GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Skylr Paer's Sky's Strong Winds for 10 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Skylr Paer has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied blearily lifts her head up, just a little, perhaps confident in the bizarre angle of their painting where the bride is hidden underneath her horn-hider. It's a strange painting, but perhaps one that's suitable for her state at present.

        She's hearing Noeline's words in her stead. Her voice continues to feel as if it'll lock up, again and again and again. She feels shame at needing her to pick up the slack in reaching Fei at this moment. It feels as if her words will vanish forever.

        If she doesn't have words...
        Then what does she have?

        Elly implores of Fei and wonders if he can listen to them. Worry is pouring onto her mind. She can feel it... and she can hear Lily's words too. Her emotions... will normalise once the body and mind have time to step away from the trauma.

        Is that... true?

        The artist says that it's okay for Noeline to cry too. Maybe she's learnt that already... has she? She's grown up so much in the time since she last saw her again... in the time since she left her, for a time she thought was forever. She seizes up for a moment.

        She can't carry her burden.

        You're not just living for yourself. No matter how much it hurts, you have to carry that burden yourself.

        Riesenlied seizes up further as she stares to the artist, pupils shrinking. Kind eyes. Kind eyes...?

        You have your father's eyes.

        The eyes that will never ever return to them again... Noeline turns to her and reaffirms that again. 'No matter what else happens.'

        What else...
        What else...
        What else will happen...?

        Wayside... Wayside...
        Wayside manifests in front of them.

        That's what will happen next. The battle of Wayside. On that day Siegfried came thundering back into her life with a betrayed, vicious roar as he questioned what all of this was. As he questioned where her sword was.

        it's easy to forget all the bad things he did do...
         so how should i feel...? what am i allowed to feel...?
         what's 'correct'...?

        Several Metal Demons shout and holler for her location. They point out words that she can scarce pick out, dazed and on the ground as she always has been. She gets grabbed by the nearest one--

        A neonate whose Hyadean make is broken and shattered, a metallic corpse that shambles on and grapples her. Frost hangs off her armour, as broken and bloodied eyes stare towards her.

        You heard him. You can't just pass this off to Noeline. This is your burden to bear, even if you can share it. And you'll have to keep grinning and bearing it no matter how much it hurts. Because there's no running away.

         No running away...

         Not now... not forever...

DG: Riesenlied has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Memory of Wayside.
GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Xantia's Elemental Fury for 20 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Xantia!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Boosted Spark for 23 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

In A Dark Place...

Lily hears Elly's question, and barely even considers not telling her. So quietly, she murmurs back, "I asked Id something, in a language he knows. I don't know why he knows it. But I asked if this was his memory, or Fei's. I know it's... complicated, with the two of them. With them."

How does Lily know this?

She doesn't explain. Instead she looks to Riesenlied for a moment. But she doesn't answer her, doesn't say anything... yet. Because the figure answers back.

Her expression is pained, at his assessment of her. A kind soul. "...Yes," she says simply. "It's a dead language. I was just wondering if you were the one who'd help me revive it."

Lily regards Lanval, in the matter of truths, and quietly commits to something. Shortly, though... Shortly it all shifts. And they are in a place Lily remembers well. Wayside--during its destruction. Another home lost, another place she could have belonged that she had to harden her heart towards. They got out the most important things, didn't they? And yet...

"...It's your nature," Lily answers the voice quietly. "But maybe it doesn't have to be forever."

"And there was no kindness in this destruction. I expect more honesty out of you, Id."

Again, Lily speaks like she knows him, like they're friends as much as she and Fei are--were? But the battle is ahead...

Lily looks to where Weltall-Id is, and she does not go in that direction. Instead, she prepares; straightening her back, Lily draws out the greatsword Galatine, and focuses; the shadows begin to cling to their entire group, a barrier that saps the life out of attacks meant for them. "I don't..." She says, "I don't have much energy." There's already dried blood under her nose, suggesting she's gone too far as it is. "But I'll do my part. I won't let you all go."

Lily stops, though. She stops, and turns towards Riesenlied even as the Metal Demons begin to shout. "Riesenlied," Lily says. "...You're allowed to feel however you feel. It's complicated; there's no easy, simple answer. ...So you're allowed to have the difficult one."

She says that--but then she rushes forward. "Ruby!" Lily calls. "If you can use your fire, I still have enough power left to amplify it!"

With that, Lily rushes towards the first crew of Metal Demons assaulting them, adopting a stance much like Leon's, though a little less crisp. She swings out--and hacks downward at the next coming, delivering a kick for the broken one assaulting Riesenlied with the tip of her boot. "Haah--!"

DG: Lily Keil has used her Tool Dog toward her party's challenge, Memory of Wayside.
GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Ashton Anchors's Hurricane Slash for 9 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashton Anchors has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

Id is immediately struck by two more twin slashes from Claude who has known mockery before, not all of it undeserved, but it's almost as if Id is conflating Claude and this Lightspeed Kenny into one person. Maybe it's because he can't strike back at the man he's really mad with, but Claude is the next best thing.

But his hate doesn't seem to be directed at his ancestor's compliments but rather at some failure that he has yet to describe. This time, the X sticks on his frame. Then Weltall-Id's fist bursts into flame and he slams it for Claude's body. The golem can dissipitate some of that damage, but not all of it.

Leon challenges him, but not just physically. Id is surprised to see Leon can see into him so well. "...You're right. You really are our commander. If only you acted on your insight earlier!"

Frame and steel punch into Id's gear. For Id's part, a radiant glow erupts around him and threatens to start boiling his gear's arm, the head gradually rippling to the rest of his gear if he stays in close range.

Nimue blasts Id away from him, a slew of grenades pinning Weltall-Id down for a moment. Explosions erupt around it and she offers a thousand years of despair.

Id listens. And he says, "That's fair. My turn."

He throws a vicious punch down towards Nimue, grenades detonating alongside his arm. "One thousand years." He says. "I've lost count myself. You Seraphs act like you're the only ones who understand time, it's refreshing to see one who recognizes otherwise."

Josephine uses this opportunity to send several flashing lights into the gear's cameras. Weltall stumbles about for a moment in shock before going very still, like it's trying to recalibrate them. Eventually, Weltall fires ANOTHER crimson shot towards Josephine but because of the dead cameras, it again isn't going to hit directly. In fact, it outright misses but the dust and dirt billowing up from the blast might crash down around her and make it more ANNOYING at least. Fighting smarter rather than harder is working out for Josie so far.

Zed makes a request. Show what we can give back to the world. A light comes down from the heavens and crashes down upon the gear and Id...walks through it all.

"I did." Id says. "This world is out of chances." He takes a few steps back before trying to kick Zed like a football. He is much better at kicking footballs than Fei (OR IS HE??).

Id can't hear Ida's prognosis of his condition but it probably doesn't take a doctorate to tell that depression is at play here. Of course, a symptom of depression isn't typically an alterego that ruins continents. Ida's strike shreds ankle armor and the gear is placed to its knees, her own limb becoming a blade. Elvis follows up shortly after with a series of combo punches slicing away layers of armor with each strike.. "Fine!" He says. "Try this one then!" He throws a quick flurry of punches of his own and Ida's just as likely to get caught up in these. Getting punched by Elvis sounds like something he enjoys.

"Gotten used to it already huh?" Id says. "Can you become a ball yet? Let me know."

Gwen tells Id what he owes her. More to the point, she fires a blast from her ARM. It burns through that metal plating Ida sliced through and Id jumps into the air and fires a red blast down towards Gwen. "What is kindness if it gets crushed into dust? Hope." Id hisses the word. "The greatest of disasters from Pandora's box."

Skylr's wind punches Weltall-Id back (THAT ARROW IS STILL THERE) but it doesn't knock it out of the air. He aims his hand at her, sees Neriah is there, and just leaves her be for the moment.

Xantia seems to recognize what Id is saying. She agrees they aren't the same person. "We're not the same person." Id agrees. "Cowards we may be, but at least I will bear the weight of the world, at least I will feel the pain! Not that I have any CHOICE!" But when Xantia says he won't let him be alone, he growls in wordless frustration. How do you argue with that? You can't.

"Why... I'm useless to you..." He says before flying back up and grabbing a larger shard of the Photosphere and attempts to slam it into Xantia's skull. The piece is larger than the gear swinging it unfortunately. "Just shutup!"

"Good, Lynn." Id answers Cecilia. "Believe your own beliefs. But I will free you from that responsibility you hated." Id rushes towards Asgard, rearing back with a fist. He can't seem to hurt Asgard TOO well but then again, Asgard doesn't seem to have an easy time hurting Id back. And Asgard is protecting everyone with his defensive barriers, they're keeping you alive. And if he beats the golem, then there will be nothing left to stop him.

"Gghh.... fine..." The gear gestures into the distance. "Weltall! Form a lock on to Adelhyde! Time for me to make good on my promise!"

But before he can rise up and escape, there comes Ashton, his tornado crashing down from above and pressing Weltall-Id to the floor.

"You..." He murmurs, his gaze turning from Claude then to Cecilia. "Did he tell you about him? About his 'Urth'?" Id says. "Did he tell you how they abandoned us? Did they tell you how they sent us here to die?!" What the hell is he talking about? Good question. "We wanted a better life!!"

GS: Id enters a Counter stance!
GS: Id has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Inferno Burster!
GS: Id has attacked Leon Albus with Radiance!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has attacked Seraph Nimue with Demon Fist!
GS: Id has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Id has attacked Zed with Rude Kick!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Hateful Flurry!
GS: Id has attacked Elvis with Hateful Flurry!
GS: Zed takes a glancing hit from Id's Rude Kick for 93 hit points!
GS: Id has spent 3 Combo on Headshot, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Id has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Crimson Shot!
GS: Id has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus guards a hit from Id's Radiance for 208 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Elvis critically Guards a hit from Id's Hateful Flurry for 8 hit points!
GS: Elvis enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Id has attacked Skylr Paer with Nepotism!
GS: Id has spent 5 Combo on Gatling, including 4 on Gatling!
GS: Id has attacked Xantia with Mountain Crusher!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Id's Hateful Flurry for 112 hit points!
GS: Skylr Paer guards a hit from Id's Nepotism for 0 hit points!
GS: Id has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Ultimate Pressure Point!
GS: Xantia critically Guards a hit from Id's Mountain Crusher for 49 hit points!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Id has attacked Ashton Anchors with Monologuing!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashton Anchors critically Guards a hit from Id's Monologuing for 0 hit points!
GS: Ashton Anchors enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ashton Anchors has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny critically Guards a hit from Id's Inferno Burster for 41 hit points!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde critically Guards a hit from Id's Ultimate Pressure Point for 40 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Cecilia Adlehyde!
GS: CRITICAL! Gwen Whitlock critically Guards a hit from Id's Crimson Shot for 60 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

There's already one locus of spiritual wrongness present. Neriah's is similarly palpable, but at least she isn't killing anyone right now.

When both Skylr and Rosaline rebuff the idea of quitting the fight, Valmar's Child presses her red-painted lips together into a tight line of intense consternation. Part of her wants to insist. Carrying the pair of them off would be well within her power. She opens her mouth to say something.

She stops herself. Neriah just sighs, touching two fingers to her temple and closing her eyes.

I wonder what would've happened if I'd befriended a couple more people like Ros' and Skylr before all of this shit happened, she reflects with a certain nagging bitterness.

"Just try not to get yourselves killed, okay? He's pretty dangerous," Neriah asks the pair, and for someone with as much blood on her hands as she has, there's something in her voice that seems entirely geuine and underlaid with hope.

Rosaline calls forth the holy light of Granas; Neriah grimaces and shields her eyes with one arm, recoiling and stepping back a few metres to get herself clear of the immediate halo of the spell. But it doesn't seem to kill her so much as annoy her. Just like Granas powers have always annoyed me. I miss when Rosaline was a Hellion, too, she reflects a bit bitterly.

Not far from her, she can hear Ida throwing her case in Id's teeth. A lance of frustration races through Neriah's mind, and she closes one hand, then relaxes it. There's no point in sassing back at her right now - nor really any of them. At least not when they're trying to help a friend. And it would be useless anyway. She just sets in to observe, a cold, passive beacon of negative energy, more or less safe behind the flickering eldritch sphere she tends to keep up most of the time as if to cut herself off from the rest of the world.

But Neriah doesn't wade into the fight. Not on Id's side and not on everyone else's. The former might turn this situation from bad to certain death. The latter might do the same.

Maybe I should be lashing out at Id a little, she muses. But then again, I don't know if what happened was for the worse or for the better.

The memory of it still burns itself into her consciousness. Or perhaps that's not quite it. The memory of it digs into the soil of her being like foundation-stones, and she finds herself acutely aware of the rest of herself standing on it.

        -~-









        In the Sunken Memories...

she can feel the snap. parts of her face have given way. then a thud. and just
like that, it ends for her.
she had thought she could do it. control the darkness within her. turn it to
the cause of good. show riesenlied that she could be someone who could help the
people of wayside. the only place on filgaia where she had head someone utter
the words...
welcome home.
and it amounted to this. life draining out of her with the greatest ease.

        TEARS SHED BY A WEAK THING BOUND BY THE CHAINS OF ARIUS.
        A WEAK THING WHO COULD HAVE DONE SO MUCH MORE.
        A WEAK THING BOUND BY THE CHAINS OF CAUSALITY.
        BECAUSE FEI IS NOT WRONG.
        WE HAVE A DESTROYER NATURE.
        YOU KNOW WHAT YOU NEED TO DO, DON'T YOU?

raise up defiance. embrace valmar. become one with the darkness. accept that
this power is her birthright. rise against the statue of the curse guardian
that bound her. test the limits of her powers.

                                  find none.

the world changed for her. for me. i could stop being weak and helpless. and
now nothing can stand in my way.
i have come to understand the truth because of Fei. the truth that filgaia is
        hateful
                                        violent
                        murderous
                                                        bloodstained
                dying
                        no place for weak things
                                                hell
                        fit only for the powerful.
and i owe that all to him, in a way

                    THANK YOU, FEI. YOU DID THIS FOR ME.

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

The rear-view monitor on Weglaff gives Leon a view of the blast of light that obscures Josie. He tenses, in his chair; back rigid, eyes wide. "Josie," he says, through the Gear's loudspeaker. A hint -- a drop -- of worry is evident in his voice. "Report in, if you can."

The punch does not do much -- and heat begins to burn and boil away the armor on the Weglaff. The right arm draws back, a ruined and burnt mess; rivulets of molten metal run away from it and some of the frame is visible through the torn armor.

"I've never pretended to be perfect," Leon says. "Or to know the right thing to say. Or when to say it."

Weglaff stumbles backward. Heat has scored deep burns across its armor, and the Gear isn't fully incinerated only because of Asgard's great shield. Leon grits his teeth, then rushes forward. The left arm still works.

"Has destroying a continent made your pain any less? I've not found vengeance to satisfy the cold feeling in me--and it sounds I've nurtured it a fraction of the time you have!" Leon shouts back at Id, as he makes Weglaff leap. The Gear rises, and the heat saber comes up.

He doesn't activate it. Instead, he carves the blade straight down -- and then pulls back, before he tries to ram the saber into the hip joint of the Weltall-Id. Which is when, with a flick of a thumb-switch, he activates the heat blade.

In a moment, it superheats to a bright red.

GS: Leon Albus has activated a Force Action!
GS: Leon Albus has attacked Id with Commander's Strike!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

Meanwhile, even though Id doesn't strike them directly (or respond to Rosaline, Id doesn't seem to have some dark truth to share with the catgirl just yet), Id does say to Layna with a soft chuckle. "I don't believe in his order anymore neither."

Instead he gestures with his hand and sends more flaming shrapnel crashing down towards Rosaline (THEMED ATTACKS!) and Layna.

And then Id straightens up and does say something to Rosaline. "How's your rage doing..?" But can Rosaline here it, from all the way over here?

GS: Sneak! The true nature of Leon Albus's attack becomes clear!
GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Leon Albus's Heat Saber for 28 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Id has attacked Rosaline Calice with Photosphere Bits!
GS: Id has attacked Layna Manydays with Photosphere Bits!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has completed his action.
GS: Layna Manydays takes a solid hit from Id's Photosphere Bits for 201 hit points!
GS: Rosaline Calice takes a solid hit from Id's Photosphere Bits for 193 hit points!
GS: Seraph Nimue takes a glancing hit from Id's Demon Fist for 109 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Most people would find the sudden appearance of two dragons unnerving, but Claude C. Kenny is more put off by the person who said dragons are attached to. His face burns red as Ashton reminds him of their first encounter, deep in the Salva Drift... but he forces the surge of emotion down, choosing instead to focus on the task at hand - and also trying to stop Fei from telling EVERY SECRET HE HAS, OH MY GOD.

"If it's really Fei in there, and we get him out of that machine... I do have a technique that should be able to stop him, at least for a bit," Claude says softly, gathering strength in his legs. Chi flickers and builds in a shimmering, watery aura, hamstrings and quadriceps shivering as they stand, poised to explode. The boy from 'Urth' watches Weltall's attack rip toward Asgard's shield, scatter across the barrier...

...and then Claude leaps forward, almost exploding away from the Golem, propelled like a human bullet toward the ebon-crimson titan. The blonde swordsman sucks in a breath, gathering himself, then twists his body to its left, rotating to build even more momentum. As he comes around to complete the 360-degree loop, Claude's hands whip around in a silvery arc, slashing Gamgee's sword - a single-edged, shisel-tipped blade forged by the greatest blacksmith Claude has ever seen or heard of - around in a half-moon arc.

The strike is aimed for the point in the chest where - on an AMWS, anyway - the cockpit hatch can be found, ripping across in an attempt to expose Fei - or the whatever-Id-is - to the rest of the world.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has spent 3 Combo on Headshot, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Claude C. Kenny enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Id with Helmet Break!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Id critically Guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Helmet Break for 22 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Elvis has posed.

Elvis begins to land punches, denting and breaking armor, each one a detriment to this weapon of a person and machine combined. Weltall comes in with a blitz of attacks, but this time, Elvis is ready. You won't catch him off guard twice. His mind is a tool equal in power to his raw strength. A sheet of rock is suddenly conjured in front of him; a thin sheet of granite-like rock. Weltall abliterates it no problem, and Elvis takes some blastback from it and suffering some minor lacerations. But on clearing, the Sentinel is no longer there. "HEY!" comes a voice.

Far above. Falling quickly. Elvis is propelling at high speed at Fei/Id, with a fist raised and charging. "If you are gonna hit me, you gotta put everything in to it! LIKE THIS!"

Closing the gap, that punch is thrown. So strong that it will leave an impact mark on the ground even if it misses. And it is probably a good suggestion to not get hit by it. He is clearly putting his back in to this one.

"I intend to keep what I said earlier as astanding threat!"

A sound barrier break peals out.

GS: Elvis has activated a Force Action!
GS: Elvis has spent 3 Combo on Headshot, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Elvis has attacked Id with Locus Upper!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Armor plating shrieks, groans, and gives way. There's something deeply satisfying in it. Id responds with a strange, sarcastic quip that Ida doesn't entirely understand. "This was Luisa's arm," she says. "And she gave it to me because she knew I could bear its weight. Tell me, Id!" Ida steps back, towards the wounded Professor Elvis, as Weltall shifts. "If you don't care about us--if all you care about is seeing the world burn--then why are you bothering to talk?"

        Of course, like any self-respecting martial artist, Id can talk with his fists, too. Weltall explodes into a flurry of blows that only spare Ida from grievous injury because Elvis is their primary target. The edge of Weltall's right fist clips her, and it's like being grazed by a meteor. Ida goes flying backwards, blown off her feet; she skids across the snow, kicking up plumes of white in her wake. She twists in mid-flight, rolls, stops.

        Ida drags herself up to a three-point crouch. Her gauntleted right hand darts around to her back, and comes up with Devil's Due. "Why?" Ida says. The question hangs in the air. A moment later, she pulls the trigger. A bullet screams downrange at Weltall's cockpit block, and the smoke billows outwards, forming a protective screen laced with Ida's chi.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Id with Ebon Devil Cloud!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

"Too much stuff sticks around for me to think otherwise," Nimue admits, with a small shrug at Id's clear understanding. As he comes in for a punch, though, she forces herself back; she's not as fast as Id is, though she's fast enough that the punch only rattles her a little rather than laying her entirely out.

Nimue gets the distinct sense that she's about to have a bad time, and decides to kick it up a notch; what's that old saying about once bitten? She hops toward the pack she discarded to make her previous assault, snagging something unexploded off the ground with the 'cup' of her staff.

When she hurls it at Id, it almost immediately blows, rather than taking a few seconds like some of her other grenades of choice have; the explosion also seems rather more *directed* than that of most of her other attempts, facing distinctly toward Id. Maybe she can get him to ignore her with a few good smacks...

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Layna can see that her words have affected people. She smiles privately to herself and nods. Good. But if they weren't going to stop fighting...well, then she should probably get back to it herself, shouldn't she?

But before that...Id gestures, sending flaming shrapnel crashing down toward her. Layna moves to get out of the way...but he seems to have accounted for that, as it adjusts its path for her new location.

Before it can crash down on her, she suddenly finds herself wreathed in a familiar, warm light. The bits of Photosphere debris crash into and around her but this light absorbs the impact, leaving her largely unharmed. She exhales, then grins and sends Rosaline a thumbs-up.

But, now it's time to close the distance. Layna recites an incantation and the winds begin to howl, whirling around her again. She rushes toward Id in enough time to hear his comment.

"Well, now that's good and cryptic, lad. Who's 'he'?" Layna asks...then jabs a hand, glowing with energy, forward toward the Gear and ID within it. "Also, I'm taking this."

The attack itself is not very damaging...but its almost as if she's trying to siphon his stamina, to drain his strength and add it to her own.

GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Id with Plunder Power!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Nimue has attacked Id with Jetstream Scatter!
GS: Seraph Nimue has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Fei you're going to make me blush and I don't know how I'd look blushing like this.
 
Ruby protests, though there's a sort of mental giggle of delight at being called a proud, strong dragon.
 
Hiro slowly gets up from his seat, "I definitely know I'm lucky to have her." He says to the artist. And Ruby looks at Hiro. "Wait you're here!?" Then suddenly shyly, "Hiro uh - how do I look?"
 
"What do you mean how you look Ruby?" Hiro asks, with a smile, "You're you."
 
Whatever meaning - or lack of meaning in that. The idea that Ruby is herself still predominates.
 
And she starts to laugh, not even really mad, but she tries to pretend to be, "Hey Dummy! When a girl asks how she looks you should say more than that!"
 
-=-=-
 
Hiro was there... and yet not for the fall of Wayside. The place is familiar to him of course, but... Riese's words manifest and, despite the fighting, he turns to her, "I think all my biggest regrets come from not knowing how the other person was feeling..." He confides. "... who cares if it's correct - or incorrect? It just... is. And no matter how messy they are... I'd rather know than make someone feel afraid to share - make them deal with it alone."
 
"Hey Id - don't try to justify something that's senseless. Remember how you tried to kill my friends just so I'd grow up? Yeah I don't buy that you think that was a mercy either."
 
Hiro reaches for his sword and... there's nothing there. "Ah. Guess I lost it here too..." Instead he grabs the White Dragon Wings around his neck. "So we're counting on you Ruby." Invoking it, it brings a feeling of peace, succor. This idea of rest that makes mental fatigue easier to deal with.
 
Tapping it up against her, before he then rushes in to assist Lily fisticuffs. He doesn't do too badly with Jean's training, shoulder throwing one Metal Demon down for Lily to kick it while it's grounded. Ruby then says, "Wait - Lily you can do that!?" Ruby then looks positively gleeful.
 
The knowledge she can causes a Ruby cut in of a close up of her eyes appear with several exclamation points. "I've been waiting for this!"
 
Ruby then flies straight at them, faster and faster as effect lines gather, and strafes the Metal Demons. They become silhouettes. The tiny stream of flame from her mouth becomes amplified several times over by Fire Ether until it's a roaring inferno that incinerates them.
 
Afterwards she lands on Lily's shoulder and offers her a held up paw five.
 

DG: Hiro has used his Tool White Dragon Wings toward his party's challenge, Memory of Wayside.
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

The Weltall goes to punt Zed across the battlefield like some kind of particularly hardheaded sportsball. Zed responds by leaping up right at the very last moment, pulling the metaphorical sportsball out from under Id's kick. The lingering air currents still twist and turn at him, pulling his body in unpleasant directions that make him briefly envious of Yarobeleedt's fluid form.

The notion is a brief one.

"That's not what I meant, damnit!" Zed answers, turning his rotational momentum into a veritable rush of movement. The Metal Demon rushes forward like a dervish, hammering blow after blow after blow into the Weltall's guard-- not necessarily with an aim to cause damage, but something far more insidious, and perhaps downright unexpectedly tactical from someone like Zed.

It seems that, by attacking and occupying the Weltall's limbs, he's trying to keep Id from guarding against far more decisive blows.

"Give us a chance! It's not just the world you're trying to kill now. It's Siegfried's people! The people he gave his life trying to defend! I don't understand it. I don't understand it! If you were his friend, then why!? Why would you come after US instead of going straight for those... Those Solarians who took him from us!?" Always. Always the Solarians were a threat. How long were they just... waiting for the Photosphere's shield to drop...? "Anger? Rage!? We'll gladly mourn WITH you if you let us! We've all lost someone important here today-- just... Just stop this! We're all hurting, but we can hurt together!"

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

In a Dark Place...
 
        There is an urgency to everything here. That is something Lanval appears to forget... or, perhaps, a willing concession on his part, for the circumstances. He gives the painter the time he needs.
        He is given direct words of advice and understanding - this world is harsh. It will be hard for him, for the truths he speaks... especially because of them. Still, through it all, Lanval does his best to hold himself for the painter until they're done.
        "Mmm." He vocalizes aloud, the proper way, in so much as anything physical is proper with his kind, in this dark locale. He doesn't need to see the painting to understand what the painter says is true. It is going to be hard... he's already making a hard choice right now with his approach. Any of his close mortal friends, right this very moment, could be dead from all the chaos that has happened on that great metal... ball-place--
        Now he's somewhere else entirely. A place he was not here for, but the character of what has transpired here bears chilling similarity to New Arctica. New Arctica held, if only just so, against the hordes. Hordes that he sees right now. Hordes that seem keenly aware of his very presence, as a coward laments and a demon shrugs. Everything is turning to ruin, fast, in this desert oasis now long lost.
        Lanval stands up from where he was once seated for his portrait, stowing away the fancy pipe as he stands tall and not at all wobbly. His eyes open widely, a shine of aquamarine from them. A smile graces his face. This is not an appropriate place to be smiling. This is a horror being relived by several here.
        "Enough." He walks forward - actually walks - trying to lay a hand on the frost-rimed corpse that tries to grapple onto Riese. There is a gentle attempt made in which to try and push them off - as if to gently escort them back to where they lay. "There be no running away here."
        The fixation on destruction is overwhelming, here. The guilt, the satisfaction, the familiarity. He can't bury it. He can't ask them to bury it and forget it. Lanval holds a shining white bottle full of equally shiny, bright water, throwing his arm up into the air that the sanctified water splashes about. He pours some of it into his old gourd, takes the attached ratty rope...
        And spins it over his head, sprinkling a circular zone of repelling sacred water to try and keep the attacking Metal Demon hordes at bay. Metal Demons who exist within this moment, this memory, as being opportunistic murderers who struck against those whom believed a different way existed. Those who struck without remorse or reservation, replicated in place.
        "Come, come." Lanval says, ushering the group through it all. He is pointedly moving in the direction of where the strongest emotions and intensities of violence and destruction lay. It seems an insensitive gesture, for how much this very day weighs on many of the gathered.
        The same person who, not long before, was shaking scared at the very raw sense of power he had no understanding of beyond being able to look upon them and believe that it was something - is something - beyond any one of them.

DG: Seraph Lanval has used his Tool Holy Bottle toward his party's challenge, Memory of Wayside.
GS: Zed has attacked Id with Secret Sword - Lightning Flash!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Ebon Devil Cloud for 16 hit points!
GS: Riposte! Statuses applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Layna Manydays's Plunder Power for 0 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Layna Manydays!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Layna Manydays has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

The burning blush of emarrassment on Claude's face is enough to make Ashton grin. It's not that he doesn't... okay, he's mostly gotten over what happened. (Mostly). But Ashton can't say that it isn't a bit satisfying to needle him.
 
Claude says he's got something and starts to build up power. Ashton, in turn, nods and braces himself as Weltall comes crashing in. "A bit will do to start."
 
The strike comes in, smashing into Asgard's shield. The Symbological Swordsman braces himself as Claude leaps. Shouted words slam into him - and he retorts. "Fool! Damn fool! If you are not Fei then relinquish your control because you are the lesser man! He's no coward - and he's not useless! If you believe that you are, then that makes him your superior!" Pointing one of his swords at Weltall's cockpit-area, Ashton growls with draconic accompaniment. "Fei is a man. You - you're just a monster. And I've put more than my share of those down."
 
Then, abruptly? He is also on Weltall.
 
Oh right, short-range teleportation. That must be how he got up on Asgard to begin with.
 
Ashton is only a step behind Claude, following him in. He's not trying to get up into Id's face offensively, however - this is a defensive move on Ashton's part. Weltall's big enough and hopefully slow enough that the safer place is up close.

GS: Ashton Anchors enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Id with Guard Sword!
GS: Ashton Anchors has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Id critically Guards a hit from Elvis's Locus Upper for 67 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        It takes time to reach the cannon, still perched and upright atop the Fereshte's deck. Grabbing onto it, Josie hauls herself halfway along its length.

        "Funny-- you should ask," the makeshift canoneer calls back to Leon.

        "I think-- I've had better! But I'm not dead--"

        The cannon's lights have reached a brilliant yellow. It's still not ready. Leaning against the cannon as a sort of brace, Josie levers herself up. What she wouldn't give for a little dose of healing now.

        Or a drink.

        But she'll just have to make do without. Electricity spills down her left arm, her lips enunciating syllables that are largely lost in the ensuing chaos.

        And then -- as best as she's able -- she lets fly a more powerful charged bolt Id's direction than before. Maybe it'll help unbalance his tempo in the face of so many other fighters. Maybe it'll find some weakness in whatever-the-hell is its electrical systems. Maybe it'll just add to the chaos.
        Anything's fine if it works. Keep him busy. Buy a little more time.

        For those trying to reach Fei, and for her cannon to finish its power-up routine.

        It's already growing warm beneath her body.

GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Seraph Nimue's Jetstream Scatter for 25 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Nimue has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Id guards a hit from Zed's Secret Sword - Lightning Flash for 37 hit points!
GS: Shieldbreak! Statuses applied to Id!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
In A Dark Place

Two names? Elly thinks.

He must mean that ghost, Elly thinks - her name was two things, wasn't it? It was just funny how the initials came together. Liabelle Emily, Elly thinks. She breathes out, and looks towards Lanval just as the paint smears, the world seems to break, and they're somewhere else --

Wayside!

This was her fault, Elly thinks. She looks down at the ground then, gazing at her hands, bandaged and unbandaged. "... Fei... I don't understand what happened, but if anything happened like this, I was as much to blame as you." She curls her fingers, then winces, then breathes out.

Shock, Elly thinks. Am I in shock? I don't feel cold but I'm warmly dressed, and this may not be a 'normal' place. Her eyes come back up and she can see Weltall in the distance. That strange, distorted form of Weltall. Is this Weltall's true form? she wonders, or does Id somehow corrupt it, the way Malevolence corrupted Ida's form for a while?

But -

"If this is Wayside from earlier this year," Elly says, "then that means the Tzadkiel is nearby." Elly looks up from her hands and towards the Metal Demons, even as Lily attacks. Elly's response is to dig out the Lunar Rod from where it was on her hip, almost fumble it in her left hand, finally bear it down - she raises it up, the copper embrasure of the moon on its head held up as high as she can reach. Her left hand, she slides into her coat, reaching around gingerly.

A battered piece of plastic comes out and she presses it against the Rod as hard as she can. She mashes a key with her right thumb. A light flashes three times... and turns red.

"Come on," Elly breathes, mashing the button again. Flash flash flash... red.

"Please," Elly says. "Fei - I don't want you to do anything you'll regret. Please, forgive me for being in a hurry. But this place, this time, I was able to stop you from doing worse. And - and - PLEASE--" Elly squeezes her eyes shut and mashes the button again. Flash, flash, flash... Green.

ELSEWHERE: Lights come on the head component of the heavily repaired, borderline-salvaged Vierge.


In A Dark Place



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GvpjwTM8p0

Vierge appears without preamble, because Elly's conviction called the Solaris new-model Gear into existence, perhaps; or drew it from elsewhere in memory chains. Chains that bind. The ascent cord whips down, and Elly grasps it, and she rises upwards. The feeling is like a simulator loading graphic, but that is fine enough with Elly.

As Vierge reaches down to flick a Metal Beast that had been setting up some kind of sick sniper perch off into the next postal code, Elly speaks aloud.

"Are you revisiting these things because they hurt? I know it's easy to say - I know it's so stupid to say, it's so basic and elementary that it feels even worse to say it - but you can't just keep revisiting moments like this. I don't understand what's happened to you, Fei, but I WANT to! I want to know why this happened, because everything I love about you says this isn't you! So whatever this, this is, whatever magic Riesenlied has brought before us, please - help us to help you--!"

Vierge strides forwards. It follows after Lanval's way. The Gear walks like a merciless titan, occasionally reaching out to smack away interlopers even as Elly speaks through the resonant amplifier of the Gear's public address system. "Seraph Lanval - do you understand anything like this? I can still barely believe it... Something must have happened to Fei. I thought it might be Malevolence, that was the only thing that made sense. But everything on Arctica happened before we had ever heard of it. Even Gebler had no records... the closest we had was an Ether sensing course to detect old psychokinetic echoes in remote areas."

DG: Elhaym van Houten has used her Tool Lunar Rod toward her party's challenge, Memory of Wayside.
GS: Id guards a hit from Ashton Anchors's Guard Sword for 25 hit points!
GS: Cover! Statuses applied to Ashton Anchors!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia flashes a smile Gwen's way too when she hears her name. She has no idea what 'hogging' is, thinks it might have something to do with food, but that doesn't really matter. It sounded like a statement of support, which is pretty welcome right about now. Rosaline likewise gets a smile directed towards her. Xantia didn't see who cast that healing spell, but she's pretty sure she knows who's to thank for it.

Regardless of how true it might actually be, she honestly feels like this is working, that they're managing to get through to Id, and all they have to do is keep it up. It's like she's so fond of saying, you can't fail as long as you don't give up. And she's certainly not planning on doing that, not now, not ever.

And there, once again, is that word. This time it's Xantia who says it. "Choice, huh?" ...She doesn't have anything clever to follow that up with. But it shouldn't be necessary. Hitting Id with the same thing he always says whenever she brings up the matter of choice is just her way of letting him know that she's finally understood the reason for that. Why he thought having a choice made her lucky. It's because he himself felt like he had no choice.

Her continued insistence on following him, her stubborn refusal to let him be alone... While completely genuine, Xantia was perfectly aware these things were going to frustrate Id. She's ready for it when he lashes out at her. She wasn't quite expecting him to come at her wielding a piece of the Photosphere as a giant improvised club, however. There's no getting out of the way of that. Id tells her to shut up...

"No!!"

Sometimes the simple reply is best. But a bit of extra force behind it can't hurt. Gathering the elemental energy in her right hand, Xantia's fist glows with red-hot fire, somehow feeling entirely natural even though this is the first time she's ever used the element of fire, as far as she can remember. When the Photosphere shard comes down, she throws her arm forward, blasting straight through with a violent fiery explosion, melting through metal like butter, perhaps with enough power left over for some of that explosive force to travel further and strike the Gear's frame.

Xantia grits her teeth, shaking her hand as she withdraws her arm. That one hurt, a lot. But better to just hurt her fist than to get crushed outright. Especially since that means she gets to stand triumphant at the end of that exchange, and use it as more evidence to support her claims. "You're not getting rid of me that easily!" ...Easily, sure, that counted as easily.

That being the case, she of course goes right back to following Id's Gear around to wherever it goes. As close as she can get, anyway, since she can't exactly fly after it. While doing so, she has more to say to Id. "You can't be useless to me. Because I don't need you to do anything for me. I just... want to be around you. That's all I ever wanted. Is that still so hard to believe, after all this time? You still don't think I'm strong enough to keep my promise?"

GS: Xantia has spent 4 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Xantia has attacked Id with Exploding Fist!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        The voice is quiet, and as peaceful as their surroundings. It tells her in its gentle confidence that Noeline can't carry Riesenlied's burden, that it's okay to cry, that it's okay to just share burdens rather than carry them. It is clearly meant to be gentle and wise.

        And instead it leaves her teeth gritted hard enough to send a spike of pain through her head, and a sudden frustrated fury glinting dangerously in her eyes. "... how kind of you to say," she mutters, feeling a bitter taste at the back of her throat. "I am well aware of how little I can truly do. How little I can truly understand of what she is going through. How hollow my words must feel to her right now. All I can do is keep her on her feet; all I can do is try to encourage her forwards, time and time again, even when this world and its inhabitants do their callous best to drag her right back down with them yet one more time. Perhaps even that much is overstepping my bounds."

        She's crying now, she realizes, or at least her eyes are wet; she sucks in a shaky breath as she lifts her hand to let the ring sparkle on top of it. "... but even if it is futile, even if all I can do is hinder her further, I still made a promise to remain at her side. And I will follow that promise as long as I can. Whether she were dragon, or Tainted, or a hundred other things, it would not mean the slightest difference to me. Whether it is the whole world against us, or a lone painter, I will stand up again and again if I have to. That is what she means to me, and what she has accomplished means to me."

        The artist doesn't respond to her - instead, the world shifts, twists in on itself. There is a disembodied moment where it almost feels as if her consciousness is flying, separate to her body as it is drawn into another of the artist's works; a fiery blaze, and a familiar makeshift town in the midst of being razed to the ground.

        She recognizes it in an instant - it is Wayside, she thinks to herself, even as her blade - or a copy thereof - winks into her hands in a spinning sweep, the flat of the sword knocking away several of the Hyadeans in one wrenching swing driven more by instinct than by skill. Even if they're just illusory figures, even if this is merely a memory, there are some sighs she doesn't want to subject Riese to in this moment. It feels like an absolute lifetime ago since she'd seen it last - but at this point, in her addled time frame, so does 'yesterday'.

        With the immediate threat removed, her arm goes to Riesenlied, pulling the other Hyadean to her side as she stares defiantly up at the air above. She should be searching for an exit, she knows - she should be searching for safety. And yet, here and now, saying this much feels more important.

        "... we knew, from the start, that Wayside's days were numbered. It was never intended to be a permanent location - its destruction was all but assured. If not Id," she adds, purposefully making the distinction between the two, "Then by the Metal Demons. What matters is not the location, but the hope that it brought to her people - a hope that has survived. A hope that even Id could not snuff out in his destruction."

        She glances down at Riese, then heaves out a long breath. "... that hope is what means everything to me. I do not want you to forget it either. Either of you."

DG: Noeline has used her Tool Rings of Promise toward her party's challenge, Memory of Wayside.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

"I'll do my best," Rosaline tells Neriah, still not directly looking at her, mostly because summoning healing light takes up a lot of attention. At least it doesn't actually harm Neriah. That would be incredibly awkward. "I survived Mother and the Photosphere's collapse, I think this day is blessed enough."

Or this might just be hubris. Oh, Granas' Blood, that's hubris, isn't it?

Rosaline only briefly contemplates that thought before a piece of flaming debris as large as she is crashes straight in her direction. She starts to move, but only starts before it collides with her body. The hit is solid, but her movement and the still-shining golden light combined ensure she is only knocked away painfully, rather than flattened to a burning pulp. She rolls away in the snow, putting out flames in the process.

"I still feel it!" Rosaline calls back to Id, whose words she heard either thanks to very sharp beastwoman ears, latent Newtype powers(???) or simple plot contrivance. "Rage at the injustice of the world, at the misfortune of friends who don't deserve even half of it, at what I have to endure everyday, at, just... everything..."

She shakes her head.

"I don't know if I got better at handling it," she sets a hand on her heart, "or just at holding it back, but my friends helped me! They help me to this day! And we can be there for you too, if you'll just let us." She feels the others' continuing presence here is a testament to that, at least in some cases.

It's a sentiment others have already expressed, but one that bears reiterating. It's unclear whether Id can even hear her too, but if not, Rosaline can only hope her sorcery can somehow carry them. IN SWORD FORM.

"Swords of Revealing Light!"

She extends her hands wide, and swords of light fan out around her, like a halo, before flying towards Id's Gear. There probably isn't that much left to reveal after all the revelations there already have been, but it's fine. It's just a name.

GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Id with Swords of Revealing Light!
GS: Rosaline Calice has completed her action.
GS: Id takes a solid hit from Xantia's Exploding Fist for 127 hit points!
=============<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities *>=============
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Memory of Wayside *>======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 The city flickers and twists in time and space, transforming from its         
 previous form into one not unlike Wayside. It is burning and presently under  
 attack from Metal Demons.                                                     
                                                                               
 And Weltall-Id for that matter. He seems busy, at least, engaging in          
 violence n the direction of images of Xantia, Josephine, and Neriah.          
 Sometimes he just rips apart a building for funsies.                          
                                                                               
 Nevertheless, periodically moving through this area you are going to have to  
 deal with Metal Demons assaulting you periodically. They are actually out to  
 get YOU this time so they don't seem all too distracted. It may be best to    
 pick your battles wisely, however, since you certainly don't want to be here  
 when the city is wiped off the map.                                           
                                                                               
 It was me. I destroyed Wayside. How could I do something so horrible? Oh      
 God, Neriah...what we did to Neriah...                                        
                                                                               
 The city was doomed from the start. Destroying the city saved them. Solaris   
 found them soon after. Neriah is strong now.                                  
                                                                               
 OOC: You will remain in the Wayside area until you get another City card.     
=Dungeon Conditions: Fright===================================================
========<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities - Round 3 *>========
=======================< Results - Memory of Wayside >========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Elhaym van Houten                   0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Lunar Rod                           1   Combat  Effects: Stalwart and Rally   
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hiro                                0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
White Dragon Wings                  1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Seraph Lanval                       0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Holy Bottle                         2   Combat  Effects: Resilient            
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lily Keil                           0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Dog                                 2   Combat  Effects: Stalwart             
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Riesenlied                          0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Noeline                             0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Rings of Promise                    4   Combat  Effects: Efficient and Rally  
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Riesenlied                  45 --(20)--> 65                Pass
Conditions: Fright(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Resilient(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Riesenlied has passed this challenge! The party gained 20 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
GS: Id guards a hit from Rosaline Calice's Swords of Revealing Light for 24 hit points!
GS: Break! Statuses applied to Id!
<Pose Tracker> Skylr Paer has posed.

         Once again, Skylr, Id, and Id-Welltall share a moment.
 
         Shame boils in the pit of her stomach, and she drags her eyes away. There may have been no real physical attack, but she nevertheless feels like she got smacked around by an angry mother. She remembers her mother's good temper... and the bad sides too. She tears her gaze away, watching Neriah for a moment.
 
         Her gaze is steady, and thoughtful. Sky turns, heading towards the nearest hill or large, steady object she can climb and/or perch on top of, minus Cecilia's wonderful Golem.
 
         "Everyone is a star in the dark, even those who are of the dark!" Her hands lift into the air.
 
         "And what do stars do?"
 
         Skylr hums, deep in the back of her throat. "Light's Shine!"
 
         Spiraling out from her is a glowing pattern, a column erupting from the ground under everyone effected that diffuses into glowing motes. This is basically a giant Neon Look At Me sign for Skylr, not to be confused with Similarly Light Shenanigans Rosaline. Please don't attack Rosaline on accident, actually.
 
         Skylr's not half as muffin-y.

GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Ashton Anchors with Light's Shine!
GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Zed with Light's Shine!
GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Layna Manydays with Light's Shine!
GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Seraph Nimue with Light's Shine!
GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Light's Shine!
GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Elvis with Light's Shine!
GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Leon Albus with Light's Shine!
GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Light's Shine!
GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Xantia with Light's Shine!
GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Rosaline Calice with Light's Shine!
GS: Skylr Paer has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Skylr Paer has completed her action.
GS: Skylr Paer heals Layna Manydays! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Skylr Paer heals Ashton Anchors! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Skylr Paer heals Rosaline Calice! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Skylr Paer heals Zed! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Skylr Paer heals Elvis! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

In a Dark Place...
 
        The Seraph continues swishing sanctified water along every which way, defining vague red lines in which to not have the illusory figures cross. (That they'd be 'red' at all is merely figurative.)
        "This not be Malevolence," Lanval remarks to the pilot of the Vierge following them. "This Id... he is no Hellion." These are not reassuring words. As a native of Lunar, and someone who used to be a part of maintaining its spiritual ecosystem, to not be able to define something that looks like that as being that...
        "I hath but no recollection of anything of this sort." He couldn't succinctly define what this is, in a broad, technical term. He can't say 'this is a Qilfphletti' because that is a complete nonsense word, for one.
        "I would bid, instead, that one hold onto the reason they art here above all else...!"

GS: Skylr Paer heals Ida Everstead-Rey! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Skylr Paer heals Xantia! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
DG: Riesenlied has drawn a new Challenge.
=============<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities *>=============
======================<* CHALLENGE - Memory of Weight *>======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 You come upon a vision of Id and Lily. Lily is talking to him while also      
 tending to his wounds.                                                        
                                                                               
 "Solaris..." Lily says. "Doesn't matter. I'm going to kill them anyway.       
 Every single one of them. ... Except that girl."                              
                                                                               
 "Why?" Id asks. "Why do you hate them that much?" That might be a strange     
 question in retrospect considering what Id is up to now.                      
                                                                               
 "When I was little, I learned how to fear. I learned that being what I was,   
 /who/ I was, was dangerous. That if I wasn't careful, if I didn't hide, and   
 lie, then someone would find out, and come and take me away from everything   
 I knew and loved. That they'd take me away and that would be it, and          
 horrible things would happen." Lily explains.                                 
                                                                               
 "...So I lied. Every day of my life. /Every day of my life/, every friend I   
 ever made, everything I ever did... I was keeping my secret from everyone.    
 This thing that was part of me, that I loved, that was... the real            
 expression of who I was... I had to keep it secret. I couldn't tell my        
 friends in school who or what I really was. Leon was the only one who knew.   
 He was the only one who could ever know. And then, when Gryndille             
 happened... I knew I could never go back. Because they'd know. I lied to      
 them, all along."                                                             
                                                                               
 Lily looks back to Id. "...They took that from me. They took that innocence   
 from me, made me hide what I was, made me into a liar and a sneak. They made  
 me worry, and fear, and always look over my shoulder. And I hate them for     
 it. I hate them so much it makes me /sick/. Death is too good for Gebler,     
 but death is all I have to offer them. ...I'll make them suffer for what      
 they took from me."                                                           
                                                                               
 "I'll show them what it's like to be hunted."                                 
                                                                               
 "The Orthodoxy wouldn't judge you for lying." Id says. "But they would judge  
 you for grinding so many shards into oblivion."                               
                                                                               
 "The Orthodoxy has other reasons to judge me," Lily says. "Many, many other   
 reasons..."                                                                   
                                                                               
 These topics are heavy. So heavy, in fact, you might have trouble lifting     
 that weight. Weights appear and latch onto your arms and legs even as you     
 move through this area. They'll vanish on their own eventually, but only if   
 you prove you can endure it.                                                  
                                                                               
 Lily...                                                                       
                                                                               
 Though we were innocent, we were punished, abandoned...                       
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

"Lynn again," Cecilia mutters. Asgard rumbles, prompting a glance from the Princess. But Cecilia keeps her ground. Ashton comes along - she doesn't know him, but Asgard and Claude don't seem to mind his presence which is as good of a vote as she needs at the moment. "...yes. I suppose you're right. That's Fei, even now."

And then he says something inexcusable, and Asgard groans in alarm. Cecilia squares herself. Don't panic. Don't panic. Don't panic don't panic. Id's right, though he doesn't voice the thought; this clash between Id has been a battle of taps, neither able to truly pierce the other's defenses. Words seem to be working better than those fists of his. "He has," Cecilia says, to the first question. The third and fourth, though, makes her pause. He didn't mention anything like THAT, but....what? When? "What do you mean!? They don't even know we're here!"

Asgard, more focused, collects power in his fist, energy building and building. But not yet - she doesn't call for it yet. Instead, she thrusts her arm forward, and that Booster crest forms in front of Asgard again, crackling power licking the edges of Asgard's barrier. But this time the icon is different. "BOOSTED MATERIAL!" Cecilia screams, instead, and an icon of crashing waves looms in the air.

Then it shatters apart, and Lucadia, tremendous and glorious, swirls in the air, weaving about as the great serpent it is. "I won't let you, Id. I won't take your twisted gift."

Motes of seawater form behind Lucadia, gathering together...

"Adlehyde is my home! I will do everything in my power to protect it! If you've mistaken what I feel for hate, then you understand NOTHING!"

It comes - it's not geysers, it's not waves, it's more like a thrusting pillar of seawater, a hyper-pressure blast slamming into Weltall-Id and grinding its armor to so much silt.

"SEA GRINDER!"

GS: Cecilia Adlehyde enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Id with Boosted Material - Sea Grinder!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has completed her action.
GS: Id guards a hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Boosted Material - Sea Grinder for 126 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        Claude's plan may hold the key. If they could get IdFeiWhatever out of the Gear, they'd have... well, still a goddamn powerhouse, but one where they wouldn't have to fly (if they can) in order to fight them eye-to-eye.

        It'd certainly be a lot easier than dealing with deal from right above your head.... as Gwen is doing, right now. The Mockingbird's ability to shield Gwen struggles to hold up under the red blast, only managing with the help from Asgard's energy protectively holding out against the blast.

        But it's Id's response that draws a wounded pause from Gwen. The words themselves aren't hurtful; she's heard much, much worse. Even scarier things, that threaten to overthrown her very understanding of the world, and her place in it.

        It's just how much Id truly believes in it, each word swimming with all the things in life he was denied, even by himself. Both his selves. She bites her lip for a split second, momentairely overtaken by the depths of the man's utter despair. She sucks in a breath, relaxes her right arm.

        ... And she then chuckles, a small lines of tears on her cheeks. "Man, Id. If hope is a disaster, then Little Twister's a goddamn paradise. Look to any one of its many citizens, and you'll see the effects a world free from such disasters'll getcha." If he really is as old as he says, there were likely multiple similar towns he's seen come and gone, collapsing into the dust of ages. But that, Gwen hopes, will only solidify her point.

        "You were kind t'me, even. Even when you should've left my stupid ass to drown in that clear ocean. I mean," she says, a breathless laugh escaping her lips, "what sorta idiot just jumps into an ocean because they could see the ocean floor? But you didn't let me drown. And you did _as Id_. Probably met a ton of people like me, like any one of us.
 She rolls her shoulder. "Maybe you're right, in some ways. If a person saw a dying dog, the 'kind' thing would be to kill the dog, right? T'put it out of its pain. There are people who treat other people the same way, usually, people like I was. Maybe, the person I still am, considerin' I still have t'deal with it. Kindness can really be in the eye of the beholder."

        Adelhyde. He's going to- no. nonononono. Not after all the work everyone's done, including *him*. Or, at least, Fei.

        .... Maybe that's the point of it.

        She forces in another breath, and points to her chest.

        "So I'll define my own, on my own terms. My kindness will be to stop you. And then, properly, get to know you as a person. You, as well as Fei. Even if you've murdered so many people... I think this is a world where someone could just, maybe...-!"

        Claude strikes.

        Gwen moves, her ARM drawing up that leftover energy from all her friends' hard work in keeping her alive, and safe. She'll wad that up, acknowledge their hope for all-

        and she will charge ahead, her ARM shining brightly in the winter sun.

GS: Skylr Paer heals Gwen Whitlock! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock enters a Counter stance!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Id with Return To Sender!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Id critically Guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Return To Sender for 20 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Id!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

Leon slams his heat blade into the Weltall-Id. He activates it and it scissors the limb off neatly and it falls to the ground. Weltall starts to tumble before the leg lifts itself up and slams it back into the socket, heat surging around the wound to close it shut. This does take some focused effort on Id's part as he focuses on that rather than counterattacking Leon.

"What? you think I was the one who wanted to destroy Elru?" Id laughs. "That was just a job, man, but I gotta say...turning on Solaris and ripping them apart, that...brought a smile to my face. But I left too many alive. I see that now."

Ida asks him why he's bothering to talk. Id hesitates, then says, "Do you want me to just go around with a mask on my face going 'you don't understand the truth of this world' or 'let me test your power' or 'i love destruction so much i'm going to marry it'? Communication is how we connect to one another. Sometimes you communicate with your fists."

The already damaged cameras are further aggravated by Ida's cloud. Id takes another big rock and attempts to clobber Ida with it. "Luisa." He says. "Ran off to settle a personal score. Maybe if she stuck around, Elly would still be alive."

Uh Elly is alive but okay.

Layna asks him who 'he' is. "Kenny obviously." He says, without further explanation. Layna lashes out to try and drain power into her own body. It is successful!

Ether darkness erupts around her. It was too successful. "Any amount of ether compared to infinite is zero." Id says, disspassionately.

Elvis may be hurt but he clearly can give as much as he gets. The Veruni lectures him on how to properly hit people . Despite Weltall's impressive defense, the gear is thrown backwards and crashes down into a crouch. Id looks at Elvis.

"Everything?" He asks.

Moor Gault ripples around Weltall-Id once more, wreathing it in flame. "Okay." He says before soaring up and slamming down into Elvis.

And he punches. And he punches. And he punches down and down repeatedly, focused almost purely on Elvis. "Die." He says, simply enough. Despite the destructive power, there's no grand speech for this. Just an acceptance of a request and a followup.

Nimue detonates grenades against Weltall-Id's cockpit shield, damaging the hinges and leaving several shrapnel embedded nearby. Id is jostled by the assault and he decides to punt Nimue. KICK. "Nice talking to you." He says, about as friendly as he gets with that.

"Don't see any Solarians around, do you?" Id says. "You think if I could stop Solaris, I would have? You don't think we haven't TRIED? FOREVER we have tried! Why don't YOU try to stop Solaris!? The people of Filgaia will accept Solaris as their masters every time."

He finds himself getting frustrated. he tries to hit Zed with the big rock (that's also on fire). This time it shatters around him.

Claude throws himself at the cockpit shield preparing an attack to let him rip it open and show 'Fei' to the world. It's a good plan but there's one problem.

The moment Claude throws himself at the cockpit shield, Id....opens the cockpit shield.

The single edged blade forged by the greatest blacksmith Claude has ever seen lashes out towards Id and Id--

--he catches it in one hand, then he grabs for Claude's throat with the other.

"Why?" He asks him. "WHY?!" He squeezes his hand around Claude's neck. You know, Asgard could have protected Claude if he stayed put, so Id is on his guard, but even if he could snap Claude's neck like a twig, he doesn't. "What is it like, Boy from 'Urth'? Your home?" His rage seems to focus on that, like if he's going to get any answer out of Claude, that's what he wants.

Ashton lands on Weltall and makes his way in. Id sets his blue dragon on fire and his red dragon on ice. With HIS MIND.

"Color coded." He murmurs. "You sure became fast friends with him."

Xantia follows after Claude and Ashton, rearing back with her fist. Id closes the cockpit shield because Weltall may be invincible, it's controls are not. An intense heat erupts around Weltall, hot enough to make even Id sweat. Hopefully Claude won't get cooked here.

He doesn't answer Xantia, hesitating, guard lowering in the moment.

Swords of light punch into the cockpit, they don't reach Id. Or Claude--it's fairly spacious in there, but Id lets out a low whistle. "Yeah that'll work."

The swords of light pull themselves free and throw themselves at Rosaline. "Nice job. Good ether control. But I'm afraid you activated my trap card."

And the blades throw themselves back at Rosaline. Hopefully the dig team knows what they're doing.

Skylr uses a blessing Id can't control--the blessing of Althena. At the last moment Id diverts one of the blades of light flying for Rosaline towards Skylr.

Cecilia says her peace. He seems surprised. "Why is it..." He murmurs. "Something's missing..."

And then Claude doesn't have to worry about the cold anymore because Weltall-Id is blasted by a high pressure wave of water and is sent crashing onto its back.

"Right. Cecilia." He seems to remember. "Maybe the only reason I want to destroy it is because my true memories of it are kept from me."

He gets up, slower this time.

"Moor Gault."

The phoenix then throws itself for Asgard, crashing against it.

"Of course they know." He says. "They know exactly what this planet is. They know precisely why to avoid it. They know that of all the worlds of worlds, this is the world--no the galaxy that matters. But it's my fault. It's always been my fault. This is my cell. And the great blessing is Kenny gets to share it."

Gwen strikes with all her hope, scratching deep into Weltall's armoring.

Gwen's words are more effective. Why did Id not leave her to drown. "Did that...happen?" He murmurs. He doesn't strike back, for now.

<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

"Will I?" The artist wonders though who he is answering there is unclear. "Ah, sorry, I'm not Fei. I'm just a memory." No kindness in the destruction. "Maybe not." He admits. "But sometimes you just have to obey your 'id' or you break. If you lose enough, sometimes you just want to share it, sometimes you need to share it, and sometimes you don't know how."

"Sorry, Ruby." He adds, embarrassed. "My words get away from me when I work."

In Wayside. So many words. So many kindnesses. But they seem absorbed by the darkness. You haven't reached Fei yet, but you are getting closer aren't you? With every step.

Your responses are catalogued. They are saved....

...but perhaps Elly is right. Perhaps you haven't found the true centers of Fei's suffering yet.

Naturally you can quite readily fend off the metal demon shadows. That's ancient content. There is an amusing minigame where Ruby chases off Metal Demons with her flames allowing the others easier passage through the area. Vierge frankly discourages assault because it's a friggin' modern gear but her impassioned words are recorded. They are catalogued. They are saved.

But no response.

With all that the rest of the team can readily fend off metal demons as they progress, though they might have to deal with periodic ambushes so long as they are in this area.

GS: Id has attacked Rosaline Calice with Revealing Swords Of Light!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has attacked Skylr Paer with Revealing Swords Of Light!
GS: Id has attacked Leon Albus with Monologuing!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has spent 5 Combo on Gatling, including 4 on Gatling!
GS: Id has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Mountain Crusher!
GS: Id enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Id has attacked Layna Manydays with Radiance!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Layna Manydays takes a glancing hit from Id's Radiance for 120 hit points!
GS: Id has activated a Force Action!
GS: Id has activated a Force Action!
GS: Id has spent 8 Combo on Headshot and Gatling, including 4 on Gatling!
GS: Id has attacked Elvis with Flying Blaze!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has attacked Zed with Demon Fist!
GS: Id has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Zed enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Zed completely evades Demon Fist from Id!
GS: CRITICAL! Elvis critically Guards a hit from Id's Flying Blaze for 101 hit points!
GS: Elvis has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Elvis has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
GS: CRITICAL! Rosaline Calice takes a solid hit from Id's Revealing Swords Of Light for 348 hit points!
GS: Rosaline Calice has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Id has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Lightspeed Arrested!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has attacked Ashton Anchors with Nightmare Shockwave!
GS: Ashton Anchors critically Guards a hit from Id's Nightmare Shockwave for 32 hit points!
GS: Ashton Anchors has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: CRITICAL! Claude C. Kenny guards a hit from Id's Lightspeed Arrested for 179 hit points!
GS: Id has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Radiance!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde critically Guards a hit from Id's Radiance for 57 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has activated a Force Action!
GS: Id has attacked Xantia with NOOOOOOO FEEEEEELINGS!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has activated a Force Action!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has activated a Force Action!
GS: Id has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Incomplete Memories!
GS: COUNTER! Gwen Whitlock strikes at Id with a counter attack!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Id's Incomplete Memories for 0 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Id critically Guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Counter Attack for 41 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Id!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Id enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Id's NOOOOOOO FEEEEEELINGS for 0 hit points!
GS: Xantia enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Skylr Paer heals Leon Albus! He gains 400 temporary hit points!
GS: Skylr Paer critically Guards a hit from Id's Revealing Swords Of Light for 40 hit points!
GS: Skylr Paer has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: CRITICAL! Leon Albus guards a hit from Id's Monologuing for 0 hit points!
GS: Id has attacked Seraph Nimue with Rude Kick!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde used the Force Action Protect! She takes Id's attack on Ida Everstead-Rey on herself!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has activated a Force Action!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde guards a hit from Id's Mountain Crusher for 188 hit points!
GS: Seraph Nimue takes a solid hit from Id's Rude Kick for 224 hit points!
GS: Skylr Paer heals Seraph Nimue! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

In A Dark Place...

Noeline's promise... it resonates with Lily, as surely as any magic. Its impact lingers for her. What she says of Wayside... It's what she has to try to remember, herself. What is hard to focus on in the sight of the destruction. But Lily does not, in the moment, understand the downside of that air of Lanval's; she is not aware enough of it to puzzle through it, finds it a background element that hums along behind as she focuses on the figures ahead. ...And on those around. Hiro helps, and frankly his hand-to-hand technique may be better than hers, focused as she's been on the magical side of the equation, even setting aside her war experience. His support allows her to dispatch another quickly. But Ruby?

"Yes," Lily answers her, and as Ruby flies, flies forward, sets loose her flame, Lily puts out one hand, focuses--

Amplifies. Lily responds to the paw five with a gloved hand, naturally, and then puts that hand back on her weapon. She notices Lanval's smile, and wonders--but there is such a glow, and his voice is strange. The water he spreads around, too, has a strange feeling to it.

"...Who are you?" Lily murmurs. "A Seraph? ...I should've realized." And this is the point at which Vierge appears; the sheer conviction of a woman brings it here, and frankly Lily doesn't much care about the how in this instant. "Good thinking, Elly!" It's practically a relief; exhausted as she is, the more firepower the better. But while that was an exclamation...

She is quieter, much quieter, when Elly begins asking about Fei--what happened, how it happened... Why. What this is. Lily goes still for an instant, turning her head away, as Lanval begins to answer first.

When he finishes, Lily responds with certainty.

"It isn't Malevolence," Lily says, raising her voice enough to ensure she is heard, returning to a quieter tone after. "He's right about that. And it isn't just some Ether enhancement, though there is that. What happened..." Lily begins to trail off, and looks to Lanval, and then Elly. "It happened before all of this. And I believe it's related to Grahf's interest in him. ...Fei... has shared a body with Id for as long as I've known him. I don't fully understand the boundaries between the two; Fei has no access most of the time to Id's memories, but draws on his power now and then. The red light--you've seen it, I'm sure. But Id knows about Fei... And somehow he's ancient. Far older than there's any way that Fei could be, with the history he's given us." Lily begins to explain. She begins to explain, but before she finishes, they reach a place without many Metal Demons for the moment--but it's strange. Around them is the darkness and chaos of the attack on Wayside, the horrors of the battlefield. But rising like an island is a small patch of forest, of the brilliant green that could only be Lunar's. It's hilly; people may, or may not remember the lower hills of a certain mountain.

A mountain where Hiro, and others, faced Id themselves.

Id and Lily are both there; Lily has her medical kit out, bandages, disinfectant; Lily is talking to him while also tending to his wounds. But the watchers--the watchers all feel weights rest upon them, bound to them. The scene plays out:

"Solaris..." Lily says. "Doesn't matter. I'm going to kill them anyway. Every single one of them. ... Except that girl."

"Why?" Id asks. "Why do you hate them that much?" That might be a strange question in retrospect considering what Id is up to now.

"When I was little, I learned how to fear. I learned that being what I was, who I was, was dangerous. That if I wasn't careful, if I didn't hide, and lie, then someone would find out, and come and take me away from everything I knew and loved. That they'd take me away and that would be it, and horrible things would happen." Lily explains.

"...So I lied. Every day of my life. Every day of my life, every friend I ever made, everything I ever did... I was keeping my secret from everyone. This thing that was part of me, that I loved, that was... the real expression of who I was... I had to keep it secret. I couldn't tell my friends in school who or what I really was. Leon was the only one who knew. He was the only one who could ever know. And then, when Gryndille happened... I knew I could never go back. Because they'd know. I lied to them, all along."

Lily looks back to Id. "...They took that from me. They took that innocence from me, made me hide what I was, made me into a liar and a sneak. They made me worry, and fear, and always look over my shoulder. And I hate them for it. I hate them so much it makes me sick. Death is too good for Gebler, but death is all I have to offer them. ...I'll make them suffer for what they took from me."

"I'll show them what it's like to be hunted."

"The Orthodoxy wouldn't judge you for lying." Id says. "But they would judge you for grinding so many shards into oblivion."

"The Orthodoxy has other reasons to judge me," Lily says. "Many, many other reasons..."

The words fade, but Lily and Id are still there. The Lily with the group begins to speak--but in the same instant, the Lily who is sitting with Id turns her head towards the others, and they speak at the same time.

"This happened," they say quietly. The only difference in their voices is the source of the sound; one sitting, one standing down looking at the figures. "I came upon him after a battle. I told him... that maybe he didn't have to worry about his condition, but when Fei took the body back over, he might suffer infection from untreated wounds. ...I knew, you see. I've known for a long time. But how was I supposed to share it? If people found out the truth, the logical answer would be to kill Fei while he's weak--a normal man--and hope it killed Id with him. Or Id himself might strike out against them for knowing too much. ...No, I kept it to myself."

But that doesn't address the things that Lily said, at all. Maybe she doesn't notice the way the other Lily stares into her eyes and speaks with her. ...Maybe. Maybe she just doesn't react.

"And I said all of those things. You..." Lily trails off, and lifts her eyes to the sky. "None of you can understand. You can't understand that level of hatred. It's... It's not in your natures. Not like it is in mine... and his."

The Lily in red turns to the others. "That's the truth. He and I... are alike. But I think he wants it to be different. He doesn't want me to turn out like he has."

Lily can barely move her arm under this weight, but she clenches her fist, looks to the chains worked into her glove. She has almost no force left...

"So I kept another secret. I kept it because I felt that he understood me. I can't lie either, I can't run from it; Id would expect me to face it... So would Fei. So that's the real reason I hid it. And I meant every word of what I said."

Shadows grow around Lily, as she tries to handle the weights, but--

"...And..." She lifts her eyes, looks to Elly in particular, as if she might apologize. She can't get that out though. "I don't know how to let it go. Even now, I hate them so much."

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"Gh...! This Gear--"

Leon can't quite form a coherent thought, at the way that Weltall-Id heals itself. The Gear's repaired leg draws a long disbelieving stare from the former Kislevi commander. His fingers tighten on the controls; he realizes how well and truly outclassed he is.

"I don't have regrets when Solarians have to die," Leon answers Id. "I'm not going to claim to be a better man than I am. I'm sure that Riesenlied would be disappointed in me, to hear that, but... I'm not in the business of lying. But that's not what I meant."

If Elru was a job, then who commanded it?

Focus on Fei, he reminds himself. "Even if it brought a smile to your face, it didn't make things feel better in the end, did it?"

Skylr's light washes over the battered, burnt form of Weglaff. Leon looks down at her; he nods once. "Stay clear," he advises her, over his Gear's loudspeaker. With that light infusing his Gear, he darts forward. The blade is no longer superheated; Weglaff closes with Weltall, and then swings the sword around. The last of the steam and smoke roil off the blade, before he chops it down for the Gear.

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Id with Rip Slasher!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Light shines down (or rather, up) on Rosaline once again, and not even her own. It is cast by Skylr, whom she mostly just knows as someone she just shared an escape pod with. "Thank you!" Her strength returns, her wounds mend further, and she feels like she can keep going just a bit longer. But how much, really?

Hopefully the people on the Fereshte are making progress in... whatever they're doing, precisely.

The flying swords strike true, digging into Weltall's cockpit. Rosaline didn't intend to actually kill anyone, but she knows she can't hold back against an opponent like this. It's a good thing that Claude didn't get hurt, either.

But of course, this should be the least of her worries.

The swords are wrested from her control. The Etone's eyes widen. She knows she's still learning to use this new power, despite the great strides she already made, but she didn't realize this could happen. Or is it only Id?

But the precious few seconds she spends theorizing in shock disbelief would be better spent running. The swords fly right back towards her, and while she tries her best to will them away, they're well and truly out of her metaphorical hands now.

And so, they pierce her chest.

Only then do they vanish, as she collapses into a heap in the bloody snow. Skylr's spell is still shining upon her, yet again narrowly saving her from what could have been a fatal wound. Her body is rocked with a spasm as a white, flame-like aura briefly engulfs her, then flickers away.

She isn't dead, not yet at least, but she's already unconscious from pain and exhaustion. Hopefully that will be the end of it.

GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Leon Albus's Rip Slasher for 20 hit points!
GS: Mighty! Statuses applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"When you live through this, let's talk later," Neriah manages with a glance after Rosaline and a tight smile, but she fades back a little ways, giving the Etone room.

Because raising a hand against Id seems out of the question. She'll have to deal with him eventually, to be sure - they'll have their showdown one day or the other. But for now, he's earned the right to kill these people. Most of them, anyway. And she owes him one for punching her in the face and demonstrating why power was more important than morality.

Neriah pauses and looks down at herself a moment. No, of course I'm right. NO!

She shakes her head briskly and focuses again, watching the way the Demon of Elru lashes out. Something deep in her heart tugs at her consciousness. A familiar sympathy of emotion - the sort of thing the Neriah of two years ago would have found alien. He shares her bitterness and sense that Filgaia is garbage and so are the people in it. Mutual nihilism.

maybe i would be better off joining with id and killing them all. NO I CAN'T
none of these people matter. SKYLR DOES
not one of them treated me with any semblance of decency. RIESENLIED DID
all of them are uniformly shit. ROSALINE ISN'T
they never thought of me as their friend. MIKAIA DID
they'd all turn on me in the end. JAY DIDN'T
and in the end they'll oppose my mission anyway. IT'S WRONG
        they're all
WELL-MEANING PEOPLE AND I WISH I WASN'T SO vile AND THINGS COULD BE
DIFFERENT AND I WAS LESS evil AND LESS FULL OF THESE bitter FEELINGS AND
DIDN'T ALWAYS FEEL hurtful AND I HATE FEELING SO vindictive ALL THE TIME

          I'M A HATEFUL BALL OF T R A S H AND I WISH I COULD DIE

"Ugh," Neriah sighs as she forces her troublesome thoughts to one side and steps back to watch the fight, crossing her arms beneath the curve of her chest. She presses her tongue into her cheek, letting her gaze drift from Id and on out towards Skylr, then Rosaline, then Ida again.

Just in time for Id to call forth those swords. Neriah clicks her teeth together and lets out a low hiss. "Motherfucker."

Blades of light roar in and punch through various priestly healers - but as Rosaline goes down, something else happens.

Energy suddenly intersects energy with a boom that's loud enough to rattle the earth. The last couple of energy blades crash into the eldritch field surrounding Neriah as she strides between the last of the attack and the falling Rosaline - and the Chosen of Valmar snarls with the titanic effort of holding off the Demon of Elru's spell. But the field holds. Energy bleeds off that demonic shell and bursts into the surrounding air in sheets of golden flame that disintegrate into motes of light, leaving the air crackling in their passage.

"Skylr!" Neriah shouts over the sound of her ears ringing, stooping to crouch over Rosaline and slip an arm behind her shoulders and another beneath her knees. "This is a losing fight. If you stay here, you're going to die!"

Her eyes narrow as she looks down at Rosaline, checking if she's alive - but that gaze soon snaps up towards Id. "What'd I tell you, Fei," she whispers, inaudible beyond Rosaline. "Id. Whatever you call yourself. Even if you're the one who caused me to be this way, carving my pumpkins is off-limits."

But she doesn't join the battle. Collecting Rosaline seems to be her limit right now.

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny gets choked out by a red-haired kabuki dancer who is the evil twin of a homeless artist who can't afford shoes that cover all his feet. On the scale of strange things that have happened to him since he arrived on Filgaia, this is still pretty up there.

But Id isn't trying to kill him, and so it's only like half a strangle; he can still get some air in. And this is not the first time he's been choked - it's not even the fiftieth time. His master and mother, Ilia Silvestri-Kenny, is a great believer in preparing her students for the worst by subjecting them to even worse than that. By the time Id has his hand around Claude's neck, the boy from Earth is already building chi in the muscles there, gathering power, reinforcing flesh to keep his airways partly open.

He wasn't expecting the sword catch, though. That is pretty bogus.

Despite that little hitch, however, this entire situation has worked out close enough to Claude's plan that he manages to retain a spark of optimism; he sucks in as much air as he can, face reddening, and turns his gaze to meet Id's. Claude's first attempt at speaking is a half-strangled "Hrks..." that is designed to get Id to slack his grip; the red-haired monster wants him to talk, but he can't do that if he can't get the words out. The Gear around them shivers with repeated blows, and Claude utters another choking noise, waiting for Id's grip to slacken just that fraction too much. It's then that he speaks.

"It's... pretty... balls..."

The next time the Gear shakes - Cecilia's impact shivering Weltall's frame - Claude throws his body to the left, tearing himself free from Id's grip, blotchy lines of red marking his throat. Oxygen flows into Claude's lungs in a rush; invigorated, he shifts his body, eyes blazing, sword lifting slightly in preparation for a backhanded slash.

It never comes. Claude breaks off the feint, chi blazing off his body in a sudden rush. His sword vanishes into its sheath, his left hand rising up in a wicked diagonal smash hook, flickering toward the side of Id's skull.

It also stops short.

Claude's body shifts downward in a fluid motion, knee barking off the metallic floor of Weltall's cockpit. There is a sudden flash of light and then Claude's arms move forward in a flurry of strikes, arms accelerating rapidly into a flickering streak, eventually blurring out of sight. Again and again and again the punches fly out, smashing with every bit of force Claude can generate, a wordless battlecry shaking Weltall's core.

And every single punch is aimed for two specific points.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Id with Taisetsu Na Mono - Destroy His Balls!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Claude C. Kenny's attack becomes clear!
GS: Id takes a solid hit from Claude C. Kenny's Freestyle Combat Arts for 133 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Hyadean-Nasrin gets kicked by Lily as she tumbles and nearly falls into a pile of bones. Her gaze is still unfailingly staring at her, even as their eyes lock. Even as she's fallen into a heap.

        wayside failed people... it was doomed from the start...
        even if we tried our hardest... sometimes...

        ... I'm your punisher. Not your pep-talk. I'm not about to remind you of how many people it did work for.

        The frost-rimed corpse pauses for a moment as she looks to Lanval, as he walks -- yes, walks forward and rests his hand on hers. She relents.

        ... show me. That we aren't just back where we all started.

        Hiro addresses her. Not knowing how the other person was feeling...
        Did she ever know how Siegfried felt, even all of that time when she was under his wing?
        So many words left unspoken, so many words that can't ever be spoken anymore...
        So many opportunities just thrown carelessly to the wind...

        She tries to turn her face away from him. She fears there's so little of whatever Riese Hiro may have in mind right now. Just a shell of a person...

        "... it's too late... for him...
         it's all too late..."

        Riesenlied lets out a faint, struggling noise as he gives the White Dragon Wings, placed around his neck. He taps it against her.

        The Dragon's Tear, for the first time, starts to kindle from the pitch, obsidian black that it had been trapped in. Ruby calls Id out, and it reminds her of Janey as well.

        She stares almost too listlessly even as Vierge emerges out. Like on that day after their escape, on the deck of the Fereshte. When Solaris, when Gebler visited them... in hindsight, after Elly told them of how they'd done it. Because of the tracking device.

        She wants to cower at this point. She wants to huddle up and roll up into a little ball as Noeline speaks of how little she can truly do. Is that true? How little she can truly understand of what she goes through...

        that's not true... that's not true...

        She said as much, at the beginning of all this. Noeline was not someone to be underestimated, that her entire sense of identity was what enamored her to even believe she could be someone she never thought she was...

        And... even if Wayside's days are numbered...

        Noeline's arm hoists her up, and she looks up fearfully to her. Eyes shrunk, pupils dilated. She's crying.

        "... we promised.
         we promised to equites on that day. that we could make something happen--
         even if it were a little seed buried in infertile soil..."

        She chokes for a moment. She's trembling. She sputters whimperingly. But she's grappling Noeline at the shoulders.

        "... don't ever say how little you can do. don't ever say you can't understand.
         do you think everything about what i am would be possible without you...?"

        She sags for a moment longer. She helped bring them here. But she's basically said nothing to Fei. She should be saying more. She should be... ... trying to get through the fear... ... the fear... ... but no one else is fearing, are they? Is it because they've internalised that Id and Fei are different people? ... is it because she has Nasrin that she doesn't quite have that feeling so settled? .... is it because they're stronger than her?

        Lily explains, of what Id and Fei are. It scarce makes sense to her what has happened. But she does know Id is ancient. That much she knows. But--

        --Taben's Peak happens next.

        From one traumatic, stressful place to another...

        She drapes her arms around each other as she listens to Lily speak. About who she is. About how she had to lie. About how Leon was the only one... and then Gryndille... ... and from there, she knows.

        "... i don't... blame you," Riesenlied wearily says to Lily, finding it possible to speak again, even as she's being dragged down. "... what would i have done? i probably would have nurtured him, even if it wasn't just for fei. ... we... you... are all in the business of having to make impossible decisions. ..."

        A pause.

        "... i first tried to reach out to him, to understand him. like hiro said -- i was more terrified of not knowing, than my own safety."

        The shackles are continuing to descend around her. But it's not just that. A rotting hand is emerging from under the ground to try to drag her down too.

        "... just a little more... right, nasrin?"

DG: Riesenlied has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Memory of Weight.
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

It's a close, furious melee now in the cockpit. On the plus side, this means less chance of being Gear-punched into oblivion for Ashton. On the other, it means being trapped in close quarters with Id.
 
Blades at the ready and in a guarding stance, Ashton thinks he's ready for anything, as Skylr's light shores up his defenses even more. They've got him cornered, and hopefully can get some sense to him. Fei's in there. He's sure of it. They've just got to--
 
Fire. And Ice. But not in the places they should be. Creepy and Weepy cry out in surprise and pain... and then are cut off. Both heads flop into the tattered remains of Ashton's robe, vanishing into the wide collar.
 
"....."
 
The mercenary stops dead, stunned. Eyes wide, he stares at Id even as Claude gets strangled.
 
~ ~
 
Guys?
 
 
 
Creepy?
 
 
 
Weepy?
 
 
 
~ ~
 
They're a curse - his curse. Involuntarily fused to his body, perhaps his soul. It's been Ashton's greatest goal and desire for the last year to be rid of the two dragons.
 
But not like this.
 
A feral growl comes to Ashton's lips. Green eyes glare, full of fury and tears. "You... YOU SON OF A BITCH." And Ashton explodes.
 
All across the swordsman's body, Symbological tattoos light up. Not one or two - all of them. A rainbow of colors as he pulls on every ounce of mystical power at hand, lighting up his body. Ashton's robe catches flame; some of the more damaged sections of armor are blasted off as they're unable to contain the overspilling energy. Stray arcs of elemental energy shoot off like tiny stars that burn bright and brief.
 
With that - Ashton becomes a dervish of blades and power. It isn't even the careful, calculated dance he normally performs. This is a furious barrage of strike after strike, driving at Id's face with a single goal in mind: payback.
 
"YOU HURT CREEPY! YOU HURT WEEPY! YOU'VE DONE NOTHING BUT BRING PAIN AND FAILURE." Ashton's half crying as he shouts and stabs and drives and rages. "YOU CALL YOURSELF ID BUT YOU'RE ALL EGO! IF YOU WANT TO DESTROY SO MUCH - START WITH YOURSELF!"
 
"SWORD DANCE!"

GS: Ashton Anchors has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ashton Anchors has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ashton Anchors has spent 4 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Id with Sword Dance!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

'Kenny obviously', he says. Layna nods understandingly. So, it's like that...maybe she did need to have a talk with Claude after all this was over. But for now...

Darkness erupts around Layna. It's enough to force her back. It's...immensely painful, and yet...a wide grin crosses Layna's face.

"...H-heh, so this is what you're workin' with, huh...?" She remarks, curling her fists. The power was immense - even if it was barely a fraction. She settles back, and as she does so a glowing pattern appears beneath her. A column erupts outward, consuming her - but it rejuvenates her, strengthens her to keep going. Unfortunately, others aren't so lucky...

"Rosaline! ...Dammit..." Layna hisses, shaking her head. She closes her eyes for a moment, exhales, and then flies toward Weltall-Id - the etheric darkness still surrounding.

"Well, it's good, but it's not my style...you can have it back, then!" She says, unleashing a fury of strikes. She doesn't really know the first thing about ether, but it doesn't take any real know-how to force the ill-gotten power into an attack.

GS: Id takes a solid hit from Ashton Anchors's Sword Dance for 186 hit points!
GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Id with Swab the Decks!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
DG: Lily Keil has used her Tool Rune Chain toward her party's challenge, Memory of Weight.
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Through the city they go, and there Lily is... tending to Id's wounds. Wounds that look familiar. It wasn't his hand that infliected them. It was instead the Dragonmaster. Yet there is guilt and regret, not knowing this interconnected weave of emotions.
 
Not knowing how Lily felt, not knowing Id and Fei were connected...
 
How long after did Fei show up at Taban's Peak?
 
If Id had destroyed that place - whose fault might it have been?
 
He tries to stave off what his ignorance is wrought though, simply because he knows if he wallows, he'll miss the point of this. How everyone felt.
 
Lily outlines it though, and Ruby nods because even if she didn't understand the specifics... she at least... knew that much. They both share the same body, and one is ancient.
 
"I kept it to myself too Lily... so... if any of you want to judge her for it - then you're going to have to judge me too. I felt pretty similarily - if I told anyone - who knows what they'd do to Fei? And the fact is that... well... Id may be a jerk - but he's also sad - and hurting... and I think I feel for him a lot." Ruby takes a deep breath and says, "I don't want to just save Fei. I want to save Id too." She takes a furtive look at Hiro, though the youth is remaining silent.
 
"Then don't let it go." Hiro says simply, as Lily finally says it to Elly. He says as he rubs the nape of his neck, "Look you said it yourself. You're allowed to feel how you feel. And they took something from you that you can never get back. Maybe I don't know how that feels... but I can understand what you lost. I never had to hide what I was like growing up - from anyone. Never had to live in fear."
 
Putting both his hands behind his head, he holds them up there in thought, "Maybe they deserve to be punished for that - but I think the better revenge is to just live how you want from here on out - be the first rate Sorceress you want to be - rub their noses in how good you are at magic."
 
There's a light shrug of his shoulders and a smile, "You're one of the strongest people I know Lily. A bit stronger and I bet there won't be anyone on Solaris who can make you live in fear ever again. As for the rest..."
 
Hiro hesitates for a moment then says, "I think you and Ruby made the best call you could have made. Now that we know though, let's figure this one out together."
 
Slowly his eyes slide over to Riese, "It's fine Riese. I think I'd be the worst kind of hypocrite if I judged you for putting that over your own safety."
 
Shackles descend on him, and Hiro perhaps winces at the weights, before he looks at the sky, "Hey Id if you think these are going to slow me down..."
 
More fall, chaining his ankles up, and while he has to pause for a moment to reassess, he keeps going, "...then you haven't been paying attention to what Lucia goes through each and every day."
 
In the end, he starts with a single step.
 

DG: Hiro has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Memory of Weight.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

Nimue is *completely* not ready for a punt. While Skylr's light suffuses the area and makes it feel a *little* less bad, the fact remains that Nimue is essentially completely open because she was hoping that being threatening enough would discourage Id outright.

She goes tumbling across the ground, eventually landing face down; she does not get up for a few seconds. Maybe if she looks dead enough she can get away with just this amount of pain -- which is less than great, of course, but far from the worst she's experienced.

It doesn't work out quite that way. It takes conscious mental effort for Nimue *not* to do what everyone around her is doing, and everyone around her is still trying to fight Id, so...

She groans, rolls over, and locks her eyes on the destroyer before them. Planting her staff in the ground, Nimue starts to summon forth the power within her. Gusts of wind start to lance out from her; they're small and sharp, rather than massive, pushing affairs -- designed to kill with a thousand cuts rather than bowl someone over.

Nimue can't keep that knifelike smile on her face while doing it. Honestly, she looks a little sick.

GS: Seraph Nimue has attacked Id with Witch of November!
GS: Seraph Nimue has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Elvis has posed.

Elvis lands his attack cleanly, but Weltall refuses to crumble. While his attack surely caused damage, normal Gears would have shattered. The more Elvis fought, the more intrigued he became of this extension of a man. "YEAH! This time, hit me like you mean it!" the Veruni says.

He probably shouldn't have said that.

In but a moment, there is an impacting crater in the snow and rime. The ground spiderwebs open for quite the distance, tiny fractures reaching out. Elvis is sprawled out in the center. And yet, the man begins to lean up. Further bruising beginning to crop up, especially on his back from the ground impact. His shirt and vest are torn up. It seems he won't give up! He refuses!

"Th-That's anoth... uhm, anoo-- er, another! Yes! Good one, two, three..."

He falls back down. Okay, yeah he gave up.

Wait, what is that sound? Is he...? Did he fall asleep?! Yeah, he seems to be trying to sleep it off. Okay, yeah sure Elvis.

But at least he won't be bothering Id any more for now. He also looks like he could use some medical treatment.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"So you're lashing out at us just because we're the most convenient targets you could find!?" Zed growls, charging up into the giant flaming boulder. With a quick swing of the black sword, Zed cleaves a path through the flames and sprints up the jagged rock. He leaps from the other end just as the boulder explodes, leaping safely away from the ensuing blastwave like the cool guy that he very clearly is. "We've fought against Solaris for years! You should know that, if you've known Sieg for as long as you say! We've tried, but we can't do it alone!"

And then Id throws open the cockpit doors.

And clenches a hand right around Claude's neck.

Zed's eyes go wide. His lips draw bag in a fierce snarl as he kicks off a chunk of exploded boulder. "Let him go, you spaghetti-haired apocalypse monster! That's MY BEST FRIEND you're manhandling...!"

And THEN Claude goes for the nads.

Which is approximately when Zed comes down with HIS sword like some kind of potentially suicidal maniac.

GS: Zed enters a Counter stance!
GS: Zed has attacked Id with Forbidden Move - Astral Dance!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Skylr Paer has posed.

         "Light knows light." Skylr says to Rosaline, seconds before, well, Rosaline gets impaled. It's not great. It's not even bad. It's horrific. Skylr realizes, thanks to those little blades, of what's coming, and her own arms come up, shielding her face and her upper chest. The blade comes down, slicing across her as she shifts, drawing a deep wound - but unlike some, she's conscious, and unlike even more, she's in pretty good condition.
 
         Honestly, this is kind of backwards.
 
         Id needs to rethink his strategies.
 
         Sky looks at Neriah, draws another arrow, and, with only the barest twist of her body, shoots another arrow at Id-Welltal. At this point, it's not even for the *damage*. This is mostly just SKylr being the most asshole that Skylr has ever assholed. Then, she twists her head just back to face Neriah.
 
         "There's something happening - we can't go. Not yet. But you take her - go."

GS: Skylr Paer has attacked Id with Simple Shot!
GS: Skylr Paer has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

In a Dark Place...
 
        Lanval nods in Lily's query. He is one! She can see him. It is a phenomenon he needs to be careful not to take for granted, just having the fortune to have so many mortals he can interact with more directly. (Even if it tends to be, outside of these dire contexts, 'haaaay cool drinksh gimme glug glug glug ha ha ha shweeeet'.)
        His pace halts as Lily finds herself in a time and place where she is the one holding the most answers, the most know-how about the whole deal as to the young man Fei, and... the ancient Id. He feels a weight through it all that compels him to sit down. Maybe even press further than that, but Lanval takes that seat. He finds it difficult to bring his gourd up to slake his thirst. He can feel the metaphorical weights as such he doesn't even notice the (meta)physical manifestation of them.
        It is curious. Lanval thinks to himself. I too hath lost those close to me. The one whom enshrined me, from when I was but a child taking on the mantle of Lord of the Land. How long has Id been around? 'Ancient' to mortals like Lily could mean as little as maybe a few hundred years, but based on the familiarity in which Id talked about a number of things, it could be... a lot longer than even Lanval himself (and even he's nowhere near 'ancient' in Seraphim terms - unusually powerful relative to age, sure, but even so!). To say nothing of what else time and the machinations of mortals took... mmm.
        What strength Lanval has to spare is instead being dedicated to keeping any of the Metal Demon phantoms at bay, as he idly pours more of the Holy Bottle contents behind him to create a small stream, a sanctified line of water to forbid the hostile phantoms from crossing, from attacking further. He doesn't seem too compelled to stand right back up as he continues to contemplate the anger on display.
        In the end, I told myself, mortals are going to do what they're going to. That helped me through centuries of watching over them. I cannot fathom the very idea of living a moment of loss... a revulsion... across the whole of mine centuries of being. Seraphim grudges can last a long while - forever, potentially - and be a great influencer on how they spend all that time they often have to simply be, but they are often tempered somewhat by the understanding of just how much is ultimately transient and will disappear before and around them.
        This Id... if he be truly ancient, 'twould be that he may never have stepped beyond the understandings and importances mortals place on their limited times. Lanval continues to think. He must have said goodbye so many times... that is but an inevitability among those of us who are not so bound by time itself. He must not have forgotten how difficult the first true meeting with 'goodbye' can be... or mayhaps, 'twas a solace that he found a friend he need not say goodbye to. The thousand-year-old Siegfried, now deceased. Only to be reminded of that first pain anew...
        Lanval's eyes start to close. Now he thinks to get up. Maybe he has an inkling of how he can approach all this... and then he faceplants, under the weight.
        "Mmmph." He fights against his nature as water to come to rest where he will, to stand back up, while many lay down their acceptances and/or grievances about the impossible choices Lily had to make for the sake of many - including Id and Fei.

<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

He seems to recognize her better now. Calls her by the right name. "I thought you said you were the real one. But you aren't even that, are you?" she asks.

There's no spite in it; determination, sure, but none of the hatred that always boiled off her when she had to contend with Siegfried or Harken. She just doesn't understand, and wants to. Suspects she needs to. "You're--"

Moor Gault. Cecilia starts, but Asgard thrusts his glowing hand forward, a blazing field of light swirling around the oncoming Guardian. The Guardian's form shatters against that barrier, fire licking across its surfaces, interlocked hexagons crackling with power. When the barrier falls, Asgard's fist burns brighter.

Then he sees that rock Id picked up, and Asgard moves. He dashes about like a trained warrior, charging across distance to throw his hand up as Id's thrown boulder barrels toward Ida. It's like a blur - one second it's tumbling toward her, the next a mountain stands before her, wide-stanced, ready and waiting, hand extended.

The boulder slams into Asgard's hand, and there's a phenomenal eruption of energies, a ripple passing through the entire shield, quaking the ground at its base...but the boulder shatters, losing that particular clash of Newtonian laws.

And Asgard's fist glows brighter still. He groans. Cecilia nods. "Leon! Clear out for a moment! And, uhm, Claude, maybe..." ...

is he sacking him over and over

"...get clear?" she asks, not entirely sure etiquette in these situations. Asgard roars, as Cecilia forces herself to refocus.

"Id...Fei...you were wrong before."

She sucks in a breath. "I have heard the voice of this world! It isn't a song of hatred! I've felt anger. I've seen violence. Berserk was nothing but spite and brutality! And even...even if I can't forgive some things..." Her hand hovers over her chest, remembering that day at the castle. "...even so, I know. We need to continue to believe! ASGARD!"

"OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG!!" Asgard roars, and charges, the light on his fist blazing like a second sun as he rushes Weltall, rears back, and with that barrier of his burning with energy stolen from incoming attacks, SLAMS his fist directly into Weltall's chest.

Then the barrier around that fist detonates, an explosion of power trying to rip Weltall apart from within.

DG: Seraph Lanval has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Memory of Weight.
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has spent 5 Combo on Gatling, including 4 on Gatling!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Id with Barrier Punch!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has completed her action.
GS: Id guards a hit from Zed's Forbidden Move - Astral Dance for 85 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
In A Dark Place

The Seraph explains matters further. Elly answers him, quietly, "Thank you," and then she considers his words. Hold onto the reason they are here, above all else?

As they progress, the simulation of Vierge begins to fade. (Elly thinks of it as a simulation... perhaps it is more correct than she thinks. Either way she is not troubled.) The Gear seems to telescope into her, as they move to a new stage, a new realm,a new place.

Lily explains and Elly looks at her. There is a place where her eyes widen and she takes in a deep intake of breath, sharp and astonished. Her face, though, remains stonelike, and she does not reply as they walk among the tree trunks. Lily-in-memory and Id-in-memory exchange words.

"You knew all this time," Elly says, not looking at Lily, but then she speaks further. Elly turns to look at her, expression still cryptic. Lily isn't looking at her anyway, and after Lily looks at her, Elly begins to walk towards her.

And that is where Elly feels it. Each step seems to put a kilogram of lead shot into the lining of her coat. There are a lot of steps between her and Lily even in this whatever space there is. After twenty she is struggle. At forty, each one is an agony. At fifty, she is sweating, face drawn and agonized. At fifty-two she has reached Lily. She reaches up - raising her arms with strain. She feels her back pop as her arms come up and then she throws them around Lily and

Squeezes.

As she leans partway forwards, her chin rests on Lily's shoulder.

"I'm sorry," Elly says softly. "You must have been so afraid..."

She stays there for a few moments. The exact count may not matter. For in Elly's mind, she is remembering the words of the thousand-year-old alien spiritual-force entity: 'Hold onto the reason that you are here, above all else.'

The people are out there to stop Id. Elly is here to save Fei. But these operations are rarely simple, she thinks, are they? The stray thought, the double meaning of operation -

"I can't apologize enough for them. I was willing to pay what I could out of my own blood," Elly says quietly, if clearly. "... What always stood out to me, almost from the very first, even when I lied about who I really was, was how forgiving you all were. How much you cared for each other, even when you thought it was useless, or weak, or pathetic. How so many people put so much effort into telling you that... telling you it so often that you began to agree with them."

"Everyone... what makes you good, or bad, or positive or negative... it isn't the feelings or desires inside of you. Those are just things that could be. What matters is what you do with your body - your mouth, your legs, your hands." A glance to Ruby, as she offers herself. "Or paws," Elly amends, though her tone doesn't waver.

That seemed to be something enough to make her begin to loosen her embrace with Lily. "That's what defines you. What you do. You've helped people. Over and over again. Even when you could have done otherwise and no one would have known."

"I have to help her," Elly says to Lily quietly. "I'll come back, if we don't get past. I promise." Her arms slide off, and she turns towards where Riesenlied has fallen. She takes one step forward and ignobly topples forwards, spread-eagled onto the ground, cushioned mostly by the lush grasses of Lunar.

Obviously it also hurts, but at this point Elly is almost entirely functioning on determination. The referred cramping in her arm fades quickly anyway. She begins to push herself forwards, as if swimming in slow motion. "mrrghrhr," Elly mumbles into the grass, in lieu of another grand thought.

DG: Elhaym van Houten has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Memory of Weight.
GS: Id guards a hit from Layna Manydays's Swab the Decks for 62 hit points!
GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Seraph Nimue's Witch of November for 16 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Nimue has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Skylr Paer's Simple Shot for 10 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Skylr Paer has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Id guards a hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Barrier Punch for 163 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        The cannon's getting close; already shifted up to amber. Josie can see that much as she clings to it, attempts to stabilize it against the deck of the moving ship.

        Won't be long now.

        So Solaris -- the ones fielding Gebler -- are behind Elru?
        Interesting. What was it about Elru that needed destruction like this?
        Were it any other moment, perhaps she'd even ask.

        Hope you kids are getting through to him.

        She'll have, perhaps, enough power for two or three shots.
        It isn't much.
        Especially if she will need to try to put him down.
        In this moment she bides her time, silent.

        Waiting.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Id isn't responding. Is it working? Xantia thinks it's working. She knows for a fact that Id doesn't want to kill her. It feels like he's finally being honest about that much, since she doesn't have to worry about another attack.

At the same time, Xantia is healed once again. She can identify the sensation as 'different from that other healing', which means she doesn't know who to thank for this one. It should be implied, anyway, who wouldn't be thankful for healing? With that, she's feeling more than fine again. She feels like she could keep this up forever. She can't help herself - as usual, after a while she starts enjoying the fight, no matter the stakes or the circumstances. It's an easy trap to fall into.

She is brought back to reality when, for the first time in a while, she takes a moment to take stock of the general situation. It's... not looking good, for some. She gets a really good view of Rosaline's magic swords getting sent right back at her, and... She gasps. That looked... really bad.

It's happening again. Like so often, she gets into a fight that should be way over her head, and ending up being just fine. But others around her are not. Why is all this power never enough to keep everyone safe?

She turns back to Weltall. Id's having his own problems in there, which means that, while he's distracted... this may be a chance to disable the Gear. It certainly wouldn't mean the whole situation is is taken care of, but it would be a major inconvenience to any plans for mass destruction, at least. And so...

"Id! Enough already! You know that everything I ever said to you is true... including when I told you I'd stop you if you did anything I can't agree with. And this... this has to stop, now!"

Without even thinking about what she's doing, she rushes Weltall-Id, bringing her hands together, funneling the flames surrounding her towards them. She needs a weapon, one appropriate for what she's about to attempt. If she can shape lightning in the form of a weapon, then surely she can do the same with fire.

Sure enough, acting upon her thoughts, the ether-generated flames push outward, past her connected fists on both sides, not fanning out, but remaining compressed, stretching out in a long pole shape. While remaining contained on one end, at the other, the tip breaks apart, and roaring flames form into a fiery tip.

Xantia lets out a loud yell, as she drives the improvised shape of a giant fiery lance towards where she believes might be systems essential for normal operation of the Gear.

GS: Xantia has activated a Force Action!
GS: Xantia has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Xantia has attacked Id with Inferno Lance!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Id guards a hit from Xantia's Inferno Lance for 84 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        The armor barely manages to give way to the power of Gwen's ARM. It's cold as hell out here in the tundra, and Gwen's wearing nothing except her undershirt, pants, and some miscellaneous charred pieces that were once articles of clothing. She should be shivering.

        "Yeah. You did. You saved my useless ass that day." She's sweating like she's in a furnance, each exhale of her breath casting hot steam.

        "So, yeah, it ain't like you just princess-carried me outta the water like some fancy painting." She continues to dig, painful arcs of lightning spasming up her right shoulder with the effort.

        "You kinda just, uh, fishin' me out by one leg. Looked... really dumb, but that's your style, eheh... waited to teach me a lesson."

        Something feels like it's giving way. Maybe it is? She reaches in.

        Who is they? What is this planet? Why does this galaxy matter? And why is it Id's fault?

        "... Why do you care about that part, and not the part that you're gonna make things hell for everybody? We're in here with you. It's clear you *know* some of our ancestors." At least, the famous ones. Or ones like... Kenny? Or maybe that's just a really weird nickname Id's made for Claude. "If you possibly know what Fei knows, then you *know* my secret. Though, not really much of a secret, at this point..." Hiro only knew it existed, but not the secret's content. There's a prick of guilt at that realization, but Gwen continues on.
        
        Weltall's shin is an impossibility of design, causing Gwen to marvel briefly. What could have made something like this? It's nothing like the gear that sat uselessly in her aunt's garden. It's probably not even really the inside of the gear's shin; Gwen's ARM is impressive, but could she even get that deep?

        It'll have to do, for what she's about to do. "... I regret the way I treated him that day when Ida got her new arm, and I take back the words I said to him. I'm sorry. I'm sorry Fei had to deal with that, n' I'm sorry you had to deal with this! Even if you hurt so many people... I hate that it had to come to this!" She pauses, slouching over her position. She's still... so... damn tired.

        Just keep walking. "... The only cell I see here is the one y'made for yourself. So if ya need a spark of inspiration to get yourself *out*-"

        She pauses. look at this magnificent machinery(??) ohgodamnitauntiefrea is SO GOING TO BE ANGRY THAT GWEN DID THIS

        In the end, it's just like that computer in the Berry Cave, right? "-I'll give you one!" The hand of her ARM clenches at some part of that shin that looks vital. Just a current, maybe, something to at least overload the inner workings of that Gear-

        The fact that she's doing this RIGHT AS ASGARD IS CHARGING AT ID is likely going to hurt.

        Gwen can take it. Maybe.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Id with Quasar Palm!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Id guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Quasar Palm for 10 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Id!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has lost 0 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        "That's not what I meant, Id," Ida says, "and you know it!" Her voice emanates from somewhere within the blowing, twisting screen of gunsmoke, a cloud that would choke her if it weren't infused with her own life-essence. It would blind her, if she weren't already laser-focused on Id, whose lifeforce burns like the sun itself. If nothing else, the cloud buys her time to catch her breath. Yes, she's fighting an enraged, depressed, grieving demigod in his monstrously powerful Gear, but the alternative is worse.

        The alternative is leaving her friends and comrades to their fates. The alternative is knowing she could've done more. The alternative is abandoning both Fei and Id when they need her.

        Id has already revealed some terrifying things in his 'discussion' with Claude and Cecilia, and now he reveals himself. Some might see this as a chance to finally strike at the Destroyer himself--Claude surely does--but Ida knows that in many ways, the Gear is largely a formality. "Claude!" Ida shouts, as she sees his lifeforce waver and flicker, as if something were strangling him. "Get back!" People are falling around her. Ashton screams in rage, somewhere. Ida feels more than sees the light of Rosaline's lifeforce guttering, fading, and burning low. Something rushes towards the fallen Etone, then, and Ida can feel it like a negative space on a field of light and color. It picks up Rosaline, and flees.

        Of course, that's not the most immediate threat. Weltall throws a boulder like a fastball, seemingly intent on killing Ida through collateral damage even if its pilot can't see her. Ida lets out a hiss of breath, and the cloud of gunsmoke responds, thinning, billowing out. As it does, she dives and tumbles to the side, but it's like the boulder has its own perverse intelligence--its trajectory arcs, ever-so-slightly, as if chasing her--

        A shadow falls in front of the sun. The ground trembles, and a thunderous crack splits the air. Ida looks up and sees the colossal form of Asgard looming above her. The boulder falls to the ground, reduced to so much rubble. She raises her gauntleted right hand in a silent 'OK' sign, and smiles a weak little smile. As the Golem engages Weltall, Ida runs forward, staying at Asgard's flank. Watching him break open the Photosphere's shield was one thing, but this is more immediate, more personal.

        "Id," Ida says. The cloud has thinned enough that Id can see something vaguely like Ida's silhouette. "Fei. I don't care which of you is 'real'. I don't think I would be here today if not for both of you--and if stopping you is how I can repay you, then I will!"

        Ida pulls the trigger three times, sending three white-hot slugs downrange.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Id with Chi Bullet!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Id critically Guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Chi Bullet for 21 hit points!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

Id goes back to being dispassionate. "You all are lasting longer than they did. Pretty impressive, but Gebler's just the beginning." He pauses, curiously as he lashes out with a hand to catch Weglaff's blade. "There are no ends. There's only--urk..." He quickly throws a kick to push the gear away from him. So much for conversation.

Why so much for conversation, because Claude is punching him in the crotch. It's a bit hard to specifically aim for the balls since Claude can't...see them... but he does get punches in around that area.

"Yes good....!" Id says. "Strike where you can, Kenny! But I'm afraid..."

He whispers. "My mom hits harder."

And with that he follows with his own ORA ORA ORA ORA and sends several sharp strikes towards Claude's Blade of Light. This is pretty comical considering the situation but frankly the situation could use some levitty.

Claude can see the controls of the gear being manipulated not by Id's hands anymore, but by his mind. Punching Id in the balls probably hasn't disrupted his concentration. If anything, the pain seems to be enhancing it.

Suddenly fury comes from Ashton who promptly stabs a sword through Id. And then stabs a sword through Id again. Id collapses against the back of the gear, bleeding from the wounds. "Yes...." He croaks. "That's what it feels like....like you've always taken them for granted."

He slides down the back of the gear, panting for breath. He closes his eyes tightly and then there's a sudden push and Claude and Ashton find themselves flung away out from the cockpit and onto the ground. Zed can jump past them and drive his blade in the cockpit shield as it closes back up but it holds. For now.

Id lies on the floor, bleeding. As he does, Layna uses his own power against him even as she suffers through it. Not a bad idea, can destruction destroy itself? The gear shakes from each blow, weathering the assault with each strike. Nimue's wind washes off Weltall's armoring in a series of tiny cuts. Would have turned Id's flesh to ribbons, but Weltall is made of sturner stuff. Behind that red paint is blue. With enough time, Nimue can flense it off. But does she have the time?

Id doesn't seem to be engaging in much strategy right now. Skylr punches an arrow through her first arrow. This time it actually punches into the armoring. Not much but, well, third time might work.

Josie's electrical assault ripples across the frame of Weltall. Id's body convulses as electricity crackles around it. He doesn't shriek in pain, his body just jerks around. The lack of screaming is unnatural. He isn't dead. Is he? Or is he dead again?

He can dimly hear Xantia's calls. She punches fire through into the cockpit, setting fires within. Id struggles to prevent as much damage as he can, an icy mist filling the room as he manages it. "Xantia..." He murmurs, his stab wounds gradually knitting themselves closed. "Some problems you can't talk through." He sits himself up with effort, panting for breath. He reaches a bloody hand up to the controls and pulls himself up and thunks himself into the pilot's chair.

Gwen tries to overload the gear with her ARM, but it's just not working. The circuit damage she's doing is not enough to disrupt its operations. It's like it cannot be stopped. It cannot be killed.

Even Ida's force bullets which punch through the cockpit shield and slam into Id's chest aren't enough. Bleeding anew, Id stares towards the ceiling.

"Repay me..." He murmurs. Is that Id...Or Fei?

But Id takes over shortly after.

"Not strong enough yet, not strong enough... next cycle...we'll do it next cycle, Sigmund..."

He raises his hand and presses a button with a bloody hand. Weltall-Id begins to grow.

"All children of Cain..." Id screams. "MUST DIE!!"

And with that energy erupts from Weltall-Id. The same force that devastated Elru, the same force that devastated Lahan, the same that destsroyed Wayside.

But this time...

GS: Asgard has protected Xantia, Josephine, Cecilia, Skylr Paer, Zed, Elvis, Seraph Nimue, Layna Manydays, Ashton
Anchors, Claude C. Kenny, Neriah Parringer, Rosaline Calice, Leon Albus, Gwen Whitlock, and Ida Everstead-Rey!

The golem throws itself into Weltall's space and clamps both hands on the energy before it can expand. It does this
independently of Cecilia's will. Asgard is not Cecilia's golem and sometimes he will do things regardless of her will or
intent. This is one of those times.

He presses his hands into the energy and surprisingly of all things, it starts pushing back. A second late and he would
not have been able to put his hands around it. The Barrier Golem, the Earth Guardian, CRUSHES Id's assault until it
dissipitates around him.

"No..." Id says. "Why...Why Asgard??"

Id is reenergized by his own fury. Weltall-Id steps backwards for a moment and then howling in rage, Id strikes at
Asgard.

He strikes at the golem repeatedly. Furiously. Without quarter. He ignores everybody else in this moment, just
determined to hurt Asgard as much as he can.

"DIE!" Id screams.

GS: Asgard has protected Cecilia Adelhyde.

"DIE!" Id screams again, unleashing a shockwave against Asgard's frame of pure ether power.

GS: Asgard has protected Fei Fong Wong.

Id's screams howl as his dispassionate frame crumbles with each strike. He starts sobbing partway through. He just
strikes again and again, well after his energy is truly spent.

"Die....die...why won't you....die..."

GS: Asgard has protected Id.

"Why won't...I die?"

And then it's quiet.

And then something dangerous. "Adelhyde..."
GS: Id has become ENRAGED!
GS: Id has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Big Bang!
GS: Id has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Nightmare Shockwave!
GS: Id has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Hateful Flurry!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Nightmare Shockwave!
GS: Id has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Nightmare Shockwave!
GS: Id has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Id has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Hateful Flurry!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Hateful Flurry!
GS: Id has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Nightmare Shockwave!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Hateful Flurry!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Id has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Hateful Flurry!
GS: Id has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Id has completed his action.
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has activated a Force Action!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde critically Guards a hit from Id's Big Bang for 68 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde critically Guards a hit from Id's Nightmare Shockwave for 106 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde guards a hit from Id's Hateful Flurry for 127 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde guards a hit from Id's Nightmare Shockwave for 89 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Cecilia Adlehyde critically Guards a hit from Id's Nightmare Shockwave for 41 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde critically Guards a hit from Id's Hateful Flurry for 33 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde critically Guards a hit from Id's Hateful Flurry for 26 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: CRITICAL! Cecilia Adlehyde critically Guards a hit from Id's Nightmare Shockwave for 21 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde critically Guards a hit from Id's Hateful Flurry for 17 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
GS: CRITICAL! Cecilia Adlehyde critically Guards a hit from Id's Hateful Flurry for 14 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        Noeline pants softly in the aftermath of her challenge to the sky, a mixture of fatigue and emotion and - if she's quite honest with herself, against Riesenlied's expectations - a crawling and low but constant fear. Id's pain resonates between all of the group in a way she can't deny, playing on their worries and insecurities. More and more, she feels deeply uncertain, and deeply tired - that all she can really do in this space is be a voice of defiance that urges the others onwards as best she can. She doesn't honestly know how much she has left; all she can do is her best to continue onwards and hang on, tossed around amidst Id's mind like flotsam.

        That thought drags a dry chuckle from her mind in the space before Riesenlied turns to her - and she meets those tears with a sympathetic look, reaching up to wipe them away with a thumb. "... we promised... but you were the one who bought them all together, and myself as well. You are the one who gave all of the Tainted the hope that they might be something more. You were the one who made me hope that something might change. You have always held those beliefs - you have always been the one to draw me forward with you in chase of that hope," she whispers softly in return, leaning down to place a kiss on Riesenlied's forehead.

        "... all I can do is be at your side on your path. If that makes such things possible, then I am glad for it. If you need reminding of those beliefs, then I will remind you of them again and again. If you fall, I will do my best to pick you up." She hesitates - closes her eyes for a quiet moment. "... I can't tell you what you should or shouldn't think. What you should or shouldn't do. But I trust in you completely, and I will be at your side for as long as you wish, so long as it gives you strength. And then some more, for good measure," she tries to make light of it all, huffing out a soft breath afterwards.

        The world has already lurched around them, and she simply missed it; she blinks with surprise at the sight of Taben's Peak, her eyebrows raising slightly - and she buckles suddenly as a chain appears around her ankles, the weight of it threatening to drag her down the hillside she's stood upon before she manages to get her bearings and bring her strength to bear against its bulk. She hisses a second time as another joins its twin, scrabbling momentarily for purchase before she manages to find her footing, hauling the both of them to flatter ground.

        If Noeline's strength is failing, she refuses to show it, gritting her teeth as she begins to hunch over. A solid ball of iron manifests hanging from her neck, and the muscles on her back bunch as she does her best to hold herself upright, listening solemnly to Lily's quiet, careful tale. "... hah... do you really expect me to blame you for that decision? ... really," she finds it in her to offer a rather theatrical sigh. "You just said it yourself. You had your reasons for keeping it quie--t."

        It's increasingly difficult to keep both herself and Riesenlied in some semblance of upright position; that last hitch in her voice was her going down to one knee, even if she immediately pushes against the ground in defiance to try to stand once more. "... once, I thought I might understand that kind of hatred. I helped kill Berserk - kill, not defeat, and I was glad for it, or so I thought at the time. ... now, I wonder. But I will-- gh-- not-- damn anyone else for the same."

DG: Noeline has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Memory of Weight.
=============<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities *>=============
======================<* CHALLENGE - Memory of Weight *>======================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 You come upon a vision of Id and Lily. Lily is talking to him while also      
 tending to his wounds.                                                        
                                                                               
 "Solaris..." Lily says. "Doesn't matter. I'm going to kill them anyway.       
 Every single one of them. ... Except that girl."                              
                                                                               
 "Why?" Id asks. "Why do you hate them that much?" That might be a strange     
 question in retrospect considering what Id is up to now.                      
                                                                               
 "When I was little, I learned how to fear. I learned that being what I was,   
 /who/ I was, was dangerous. That if I wasn't careful, if I didn't hide, and   
 lie, then someone would find out, and come and take me away from everything   
 I knew and loved. That they'd take me away and that would be it, and          
 horrible things would happen." Lily explains.                                 
                                                                               
 "...So I lied. Every day of my life. /Every day of my life/, every friend I   
 ever made, everything I ever did... I was keeping my secret from everyone.    
 This thing that was part of me, that I loved, that was... the real            
 expression of who I was... I had to keep it secret. I couldn't tell my        
 friends in school who or what I really was. Leon was the only one who knew.   
 He was the only one who could ever know. And then, when Gryndille             
 happened... I knew I could never go back. Because they'd know. I lied to      
 them, all along."                                                             
                                                                               
 Lily looks back to Id. "...They took that from me. They took that innocence   
 from me, made me hide what I was, made me into a liar and a sneak. They made  
 me worry, and fear, and always look over my shoulder. And I hate them for     
 it. I hate them so much it makes me /sick/. Death is too good for Gebler,     
 but death is all I have to offer them. ...I'll make them suffer for what      
 they took from me."                                                           
                                                                               
 "I'll show them what it's like to be hunted."                                 
                                                                               
 "The Orthodoxy wouldn't judge you for lying." Id says. "But they would judge  
 you for grinding so many shards into oblivion."                               
                                                                               
 "The Orthodoxy has other reasons to judge me," Lily says. "Many, many other   
 reasons..."                                                                   
                                                                               
 These topics are heavy. So heavy, in fact, you might have trouble lifting     
 that weight. Weights appear and latch onto your arms and legs even as you     
 move through this area. They'll vanish on their own eventually, but only if   
 you prove you can endure it.                                                  
                                                                               
 Lily...                                                                       
                                                                               
 Though we were innocent, we were punished, abandoned...                       
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
========<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities - Round 4 *>========
========================< Results - Memory of Weight >========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Elhaym van Houten                   0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hiro                                0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Seraph Lanval                       0 --(0)--> 0                   Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lily Keil                           0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Rune Chain                          1   Brute   Effects: Cleanse              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Riesenlied                          0 --(0)--> 0                   Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Noeline                             0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Riesenlied                  65 --(25)--> 90                Pass
Conditions: Fright(1)|Treasure(1)
Effects: Cleanse
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Riesenlied has passed this challenge! The party gained 25 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
DG: Riesenlied has drawn a new Challenge.
=============<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities *>=============
=======================<* CHALLENGE - Knight of Fire *>=======================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 That last path took you back to another Lahan village, but slightly           
 different. This Lahan is in flames. Kislev and Aveh gears are storming        
 around the city, firing on each other and civilians alike. Bodies tumble to   
 the ground but one dark blue gear draws your eye.                             
                                                                               
 It's Weltall.                                                                 
                                                                               
 Desperately, it destroys gear after gear, careless for which side in a vain   
 attempt to save his home. Eventually the movements become quicker, more       
 brutal, as its pilot becomes used to the machine or maybe as something is     
 taking over.                                                                  
                                                                               
 Grahf's gear, in the distance, waves a hand down and a soldier turns its gun  
 on a civilian.                                                                
                                                                               
 He is promptly gunned down in cold blood. There's a scream of agony and rage  
 within the gear before, suddenly, it turns on you!                            
                                                                               
 Timothy... He was my best friend. I...                                        
 He was doomed the moment we set foot in that village.                         
                                                                               
 Timothy's corpse flickers, shifting form. From Timothy to Siegfried. From     
 Siegfried to men and women you've never met. You never see the same face      
 more than once.                                                               
=Dungeon Conditions: Overwhelm================================================
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny gets punched in the dong. To be fair, he kind of earned it.

He bends over, wheezing and sputtering, and looks up faintly at Id. "So does mine," he gasps. "That's not an insul---"

*SMASH*

The boy from Earth becomes a ballistic projectile, exiting Weltall's cockpit and bouncing in the general direction of Asgard. He... might need a minute.

He might need... all the minutes.

DG: Lily Keil has used her Tool Dog toward her party's challenge, Knight of Fire.
DG: Elhaym van Houten has used her Tool Lunar Rod toward her party's challenge, Knight of Fire.
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

OH NO, CLAUDE C KENNY GOT PUNCHED IN THE DONG.

Zed stares after his bouncing body with a ghastly, pale, horrified face. "You..." Zed turns, snarling at the red giant. "YOU BASTARD! YOU KILLED KENNY!"

Beat.

Zed looks back and checks and sort of sees Claude's body twitch.

"YOU BASTARD!" Zed yells at Id again, "YOU SHOULD HAVE KILLED KENNY! Nobody deserves to suffer BOULDERCRUSHED BALLS!"

DG: Noeline has used her Tool Rings of Promise toward her party's challenge, Knight of Fire.
DG: Riesenlied has used her Tool Rings of Promise toward her party's challenge, Knight of Fire.
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

On the plus side, Rosaline doesn't seem to be dead. At least Neriah hasn't lost another sweetie today. Losing Yarobeleedt was bad enough.

But there's another friend who might be in danger. Neriah clicks her teeth together and sets her jaw, seemingly intent on putting Skylr in her place and carting her off.

The moment of tension passes, though, and she exhales through her teeth before flashing Skylr a faint smile. "Make sure you don't die, then. Your life has too much value to just throw it away."

Energy crackles around Neriah as she takes charge of Rosaline -- but before she can begin to move off --

'All children of Cain MUST DIE!!'

"Who," Neriah asks, before tilting her head as she realizes what Id's about to do.

Even in her wounded state, Rosaline can feel what happens. Skylr and Ida can feel it as clear as day, too. The unsettling feeling Neriah gives off amplifies - and a shudder runs through the earth. A few chunks of snow and debris lift from the ground as the Child of Valmar begins to ramp her power up again. Dark curls begin to drift up around her head.

"Bring it," Neriah declares.

GS: Neriah Parringer changes armor forms to Neriah Unbound.
DG: Seraph Lanval has used his Tool Holy Bottle toward his party's challenge, Knight of Fire.
DG: Hiro has used his Tool White Dragon Wings toward his party's challenge, Knight of Fire.
==============<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities *>==============
========================<* CHALLENGE - Knight of Fire *>========================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 That last path took you back to another Lahan village, but slightly           
 different. This Lahan is in flames. Kislev and Aveh gears are storming        
 around the city, firing on each other and civilians alike. Bodies tumble to   
 the ground but one dark blue gear draws your eye.                             
                                                                               
 It's Weltall.                                                                 
                                                                               
 Desperately, it destroys gear after gear, careless for which side in a vain   
 attempt to save his home. Eventually the movements become quicker, more       
 brutal, as its pilot becomes used to the machine or maybe as something is     
 taking over.                                                                  
                                                                               
 Grahf's gear, in the distance, waves a hand down and a soldier turns its gun  
 on a civilian.                                                                
                                                                               
 He is promptly gunned down in cold blood. There's a scream of agony and rage  
 within the gear before, suddenly, it turns on you!                            
                                                                               
 Timothy... He was my best friend. I...                                        
 He was doomed the moment we set foot in that village.                         
                                                                               
 Timothy's corpse flickers, shifting form. From Timothy to Siegfried. From     
 Siegfried to men and women you've never met. You never see the same face      
 more than once.                                                               
=Dungeon Conditions: Overwhelm================================================
=========<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities - Round 5 *>=========
==========================< Results - Knight of Fire >==========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Elhaym van Houten                   0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Lunar Rod                           1   Combat  Effects: Stalwart and Rally   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hiro                                0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
White Dragon Wings                  1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse              
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Seraph Lanval                       0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Holy Bottle                         2   Combat  Effects: Resilient            
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lily Keil                           0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Dog                                 2   Combat  Effects: Stalwart             
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Riesenlied                          0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Rings of Promise                    4   Combat  Effects: Efficient and Fanfare
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Noeline                             0 --(0)--> 0                   Pass
Rings of Promise                    4   Combat  Effects: Efficient and Rally  
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Riesenlied                  90 --(0)--> 90                 Pass
Conditions: Overwhelm
Effects: Cleanse|Resilient(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Riesenlied has passed this challenge! The party gained 0 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

In A Dark Place...

Risenlied would have done the same; doesn't blame her. ...Just like Id told her she wouldn't, just like part of her knew, and yet... It still matters to hear it. "...It's how you are." Lily says it quietly. "I understand."

Ruby, too, knew. Lily looks to her as she speaks, and then to Hiro as he answers her. Don't let it go, he says; something so simple. "So, we both knew. ...What you say... that's true. I see it in him, too."

But to Hiro, "I guess I did. ...I'm not much good at following my own advice. We hear it in our training--that it goes that way." She thinks, though. "...Heh. You think..." Lily is unsure, at first--but the one she waits for, the one she prepares for, is Elly as she steps, agonizing step by agonizing step, towards her. Lily can imagine, easily, what Elly might do upon reaching her--what she might do, in her shoes. So, she answers that first question. "I knew," Lily answers Elly. Elly, of all people, may have had the most right to know, and yet...

What she expects, what she imagines she deserves, is replaced by a different kind of weight entirely; the weight of a person, of feelings that themselves are heavy. Elly apologizes, and Lily goes stock-still, her eyes widening as if she'd been struck the way she expected.

"..."

In silence she stands for an instant, and as Elly speaks... Eventually, Lily lets one of her hands rest against Elly's back for an instant too, instead of just standing there. Everything she says is too much to easily encapsulate. Care.

"..." Lily inclines her head, and then as Elly steps away the black-haired woman looks into her eyes. "Go," she murmurs back. "And..."

She looks down. "...I... We'll... talk."

She has helped people, has she? Lily draws in a breath, quietly, composing herself. What has happened is not something that she can easily answer, and yet...

And yet, from the very place she rested her anger, came something else.

Lanval's presence remains. Lily cannot hear his thoughts, but she feels the shape of his emotions in the moment, feels just a fragment of it, as she processes Elly's words.

"...All right, Hiro." Lily looks to him for a moment, then to Noeline. "...When you say it that way, it was silly to worry. You praise Riesenlied for the same thing. ...So do I. I think..."

Lily watches the others struggle with the sheer weight here, metaphysical and otherwise. Riesenlied, speaking again to Nasrin; Noeline, with the heavy iron holding her down; Lanval and Elly, hitting the ground... Hiro and Ruby--Hiro speaking of Lucia, and what she deals with every day.

"...We can't give up the weight that holds us so easily," Lily says, echoing what she has heard here, "But neither... does it have to prevent us from moving forward."

She was out of force. And yet... the force the others have given her is enough, and she is able to lift her hand... and in an instant, the weights--though not the hand reaching for Riesenlied--disappear, fading into dust in a flash of darkness.

"I know it won't be that easy," she admits, "...But we can talk about all that later. We have a promise to keep. Right, Riese?"

She flashes Elly a grateful look--but she cannot stop to fully process her own feelings now. ...Maybe, though... Maybe now she can, when they have the chance.

DG: Lily Keil has drawn a new Challenge.
==============<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities *>==============
=============================<* CHALLENGE - I Am *>=============================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VynZTYtvWFA                              
                                                                               
 Upon Defeating (or Surviving) Weltall, it stumbles back and crashes to one    
 knee emitting a bright flash of light that engulfs your bodies. The shadow    
 world twists around you, flashing repeatedly.                                 
                                                                               
 It becomes a village in flame, gears gunning down each other and civilian     
 alike.                                                                        
                                                                               
 It becomes a battlefield in flame, with great battleships that soar through   
 the air and blasting one another down from the heavens.                       
                                                                               
 It becomes a metal demon fortress in flame, the bodies of countless Elw but   
 even more humans and Hyadeans.                                                
                                                                               
 It becomes a great city with skyscrapers striking the roof of heaven, in      
 flames. In nuclear flames. In flames so hot that even the girders melt.       
                                                                               
 It becomes Wehaca. It becomes Felkirk. It becomes Adlehyde. It becomes        
 Azado. It becomes Hope Springs. It becomes Wayside. It becomes Old Petra. It  
 becomes Lastonbell. It becomes Nisan, or a town like it.                      
                                                                               
 In flames.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Within those flames, Moor Gault takes form as a blazing phoenix. The flames   
 pass through you but they do not hurt.                                        
                                                                               
 "Unyielding fire cast down from the heavens only to rise again. He can only   
 burn that which he touches. All turns to ash in his grip and that ash         
 becomes the foundation of Filgaia."                                           
                                                                               
 "His eternal punishment for his innocent sin, but he was not made to suffer   
 his sentence alone. My gift is the hearth. My gift is the wildfire. There is  
 no Guardian of Wisdom. Destruction. Rejuvenation. It is your coin to flip."   
                                                                               
 The Guardian vanishes with those words.                                       
                                                                               
 Within those flames, Fei stands. He watches the world burn. All you need to   
 do is wake him up.                                                            
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Skylr Paer has posed.

         "You know I'm a healer, right?" Skylr shouts after Neriah. "I'm tankier than I look! You said it!"
 
         Skylr takes a seat and waits for the world to burn. It's fine.

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Weglaff's blade is bent backward, slightly, when the Gear catches the blade. Weltall bends it back in the housing, which ordinarily would let it snap back and forth like a switchblade. It gets stuck in place, thanks to Id's blow. Leon grits his teeth, a slight hiss in his breath.

The armor on the chest is further dented in, by Id's blow.

"Damn..." he murmurs. Then, his eyes start to widen -- and he sees that terrifying build of energy. He never saw what destroyed Elru, but he can gather. The glowing, fiery red power is so far beyond what any of them can do. Weglaff, battered and damaged as it is, takes a couple of shakey steps backward.

And Asgard intervenes.

The Earth Golem stops the assault, even as Id lays into the golem. Somehow, the Golem withstands it -- and Leon, for the first time, begins to realize how powerful an Elw construction is. His eyes are locked onto Weltall-Id, even as Id says the name 'Adlehyde.'

"We're running out of time!" he calls out. Leon sends Weglaff rushing forward by practically punching both of the controls forward, in the cockpit. The battered blue Gear charges in; armor plates damaged by the Ley Dragon and Id alike fall off, as he rushes for Weltall. Weglaff leaps, the damaged arm blade swinging back up. The weapon shines in the light of Filgaia's sun, that light tracing up the edge until it shines in a single point.

And then it cleaves down, trying to slash into the far more powerful Gear.

GS: Leon Albus has activated a Force Action!
GS: Leon Albus has activated a Force Action!
GS: Leon Albus enters a Counter stance!
GS: Leon Albus has attacked Id with Vicious Shear!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah stops in mid-flyaway.

Skylr gets the privilege of watching Neriah actual float backwards and land beside her after a few steps in reverse.

"Gosh," she says, blushing intently.

<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

The interior team sequence skips Timothy and that whole fight. It means they miss out on the rare item of 'Timothy's Shirt' but that's ok, it's just a cosmetic.

It's as if by being open (or maybe Id being opened by Ashton's stabs) that a path opens up for our heroes. It's something strange, like the world itself is being ripped open. Was there even a path along this world to escape from? A path opens now. Your bodies must still be safe or otherwise you wouldn't be here, right?

The world becomes Lacan. It becomes a battlefield with great airships in the sky. It becomes a metal demon fortress in flame. It becomes Wehaca. It becomes Felkirk. It becomes Adelhyde. It becomes Azado. It becomes Hope Springs. So many cities. So many. In fire. In flames. Infected. Broken. Shattered.

Within those flames, a phoenix appears, perhaps his presence now is the very reason he bonded with a creature like Fei, and a creature like Id.

Unyielding fire cast down from the heavens only to rise again. He can only burn that which he touches. All turns to ash in his grip and that ash becomes the foundation of Filgaia.

The form of Fei flickers into position behind him.

His eternal punishment for his innocent sin, but he was not made to suffer alone. My gift is the hearth. My gift is the wildfire. There is no Guardian of wisdom. Destruction. Rejuvenation. It is your coin to flip. The new soil is yours."

Fei stands in the flames. Your words have been catalogued. They have been saved.

But he is here, watching the world burn.

And Id himself points a hand in the direction of Adelhyde. Can he really hit it from here?

Do you want to find out?

Asgard did all he can. It's up to you now.

Time is running out. Have you been patient enough?

GS: Id guards a hit from Leon Albus's Vicious Shear for 76 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

In the back of her mind, Layna knows that she's doing something ridiculous here. Even if her sorcery is giving her pseudo-flight, she's pretty sure it won't be fast enough to get her out of the way in time if Id decides to attack back.

She isn't about to second-guess whatever it is she does, when any moment of hesitation could equal death.

They hammer down on the Gear, but...it seems that he is not, in fact, as down as they might hope. It stands. It channels a dread energy and Layna flies back, trying to get out of range. Layna knows her Sorcery is not fast enough to get her out of the way...

...But Asgard is.

The mighty Golem wades in, taking the hit - and further hits, as Weltall-Id strikes it again and again and again, until...it stops.

Layna watches from a safe distance, her eyes wide. It was that durable? She grins slightly...but Id's words became worrying.

"...Damn! He's still not out!?" She says, then curses before nodding toward Leon. "Aye, lad, I heard! Nothin' else for it, I guess...! Don't hold back, me hearties - give 'im hell!"

Layna takes a deep breath and tightens one hand into a fist. The gold and red bracer on her right hand ignites. And then, with an incantation, she punches forward toward Id himself as he points toward Adlehyde. A shockwave of wind joins with the flames emitted by her bracer, sending a terrible cyclone of wind and fire toward Id.

She doesn't know if he can really hit Adlehyde. She doesn't want to know.

The only thing she could do now was try to stop it.

GS: Layna Manydays has attacked Id with Searing Tempest!
GS: Layna Manydays has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Layna Manydays has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

There's no ceasing the attack. Ashton is blind now - even if his rage and sadness subsides (it isn't going to), the raw sorcerous power he's unleashing is far beyond flipping an off switch. It's out of control now, tattoos burning at his skin as they pulse with energy.
 
Even drawing blood from Id isn't enough to satisfy Ashton. A small part of him cries out - that's Fei in there. That's enough. He's your friend. And the rest... the rest roars in unslaked bloodthirst.
 
 Because deep down? Ashton knows Id is right. He had taken the dragons for granted. Always treated them as a burden, even when they'd helped. Always looked to be rid of them. And they were.. they were his friends.
 
The shove hurls Ashton away from Id, preventing more stabbing. (And there would be more stabbing. Lots.) Dirt kicks up as the spellsword lands, feet digging into the dirt. Sparks continue to fly off his body, sorcery out of control. Claude is down. A momentary glance around - so is Elvis. And Rosaline. And Josephine. They're running out of people.
 
But before he can act - Asgard. And Weltall clashes with it. As bright light shines and the world becomes an absolutely stunning series of blocks? Ashton's mind trembles.
 
~ ~
 
I'm touched.
Weepy?!
We're dragons, boy. You couldn't kill us, how would he?
Creepy!
Just stunned.
But you're in trouble.
I know, that thing's ripping through us and nothing seems to stop it.
No, we mean that you've lost control of your sorcery. It really hurts, you dummy.
....whups.
 
~ ~
 
Ashton braces himself, trying to push down the power he unleashed. The emotional storm's subsiding, but the mystical one isn't. He heards Leon shout - and a part of him knows the man's right.
 
Just as quickly as he started to fight against the raging sorcery, Ashton stops. And lets himself be carried by it. The power is needed right now - it just requires a direction.
 
That direction rises up from his back. They may not be Moor Gault, but the two dragons still rise as if they were a phoenix. They rise, snaking upwards. They grow, siphoning the magical force from Ashton's body. They reach upwards, once more taking on the size and form of true dragons - towering above the comparatively small man now.
 
Gyoro and Ururun reach up and glare at Weltall. And they save Ashton's hide - they take the seething sorcerous power he's summoned up and vent it outwards in a swirling storm of flame and frost. As Layna says - no holding back now.

GS: Ashton Anchors has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Id with Dragon Breath!
GS: Ashton Anchors has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
GS: Id guards a hit from Layna Manydays's Searing Tempest for 61 hit points!
GS: Id guards a hit from Ashton Anchors's Dragon Breath for 74 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

Asgard's hand snaps out, bubbles the rapidly-exiting Claude, and then throws him away from the field. He bounces on the ground a few times like a hamster in a ball.

Which is all he has time to do before Id attempts to kill them all. Asgard moves - he is indeed his own beast, and Cecilia trusts him when he moves this way. "Please..." she whispers, trying to feed him her own strength across what little bond they have. "I believe in you...!"

Asgard slams his palms together, the nascent annihilationg wisping away. Gold eyes track up to Id.

"I told him to protect them," Cecilia whispers, from Asgard's shoulder, pure green eyes scanning up. "No...I asked him to. This world is...ugly, and brutal. People scream and weep and die. I thought...I thought it didn't deserve a shield like him."

"But that was wrong," she says.

        'DIE!' Id screams, slamming relentlessly, blow after blow raining down on Asgard's barrier. It seems for the moment like Asgard's barely feeling it. One hand up, a barrier of light sparking off one after the other as Id attacks.

Cecilia watches that point, her voice in her throat. "He told me it was wrong," she says.

        'DIE!!' Id screams again, and that shockwave crashes across the barrier, a blast wave of unimaginable power. Asgard thrusts up his other arm, and the whole barrier lights up just before it hits. The ground around the barrier burns and turns to glass; the ground behind for a dozen yards scorches. The barrier cracks, as Asgard's arms tremble.

"He showed me it was wrong," Cecilia says.

        Id howls in rage, and though his power is slowly withering, Asgard's shield shudders as well with each hit. The immovable object and the unstoppable force. What happens when they collide?

Well....something goes somewhere. Asgard groans.

But he keeps up. As the Golem's shield-emitting jewels flicker, as his feet slide backward, as the barrier cracks and cracks again, splintery lines running across invincible glass.

The glass does not shatter, though Asgard clearly suffers from the fury of it all. And in the end, Id slows. Stops.

And turns.

Asgard slumps to his knees, barriers sparking. Alive, intact, his shield awake. He visibly struggles to force his legs to move, but he fails.

Asgard did his best.

Now it is Cecilia's turn. But she doesn't attack. She steps down his arm, walks out the distance. Steps up to the edge of Asgard's shield, walking with confidence even up the length of craggy arms.

She steps up between Asgard's upraised fingers, securing herself against them. She doesn't attack, or reach out.

She says, "This isn't how you want it to end, Fei. Id. I know. I wanted to burn the Photosphere to the ground when my father died. Part of me....part of me still wishes I could have."

        "Please don't make my mistakes."

GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Id with Please.!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has completed her action.
GS: Id takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Please. for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.


        BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYrDKUZx7T8

        All children of Cain MUST DIE!! is the scream that rolls out into the air. Josie, steeling herself for it, slings one protective arm over the cannon, akin to a mother shielding her child.

        (the mother bird shielding her hatchling from the inferno).

        The touch of Id's fury never reaches her. Asgard intervenes.

        Wonder if you can buy a Golem a drink, Josie thinks, watching on as the Golem sustains blow after blow on its body.
        But...

        Even something like Asgard can't hold out forever.

        Leon has felt similarly.
        They're running out of time.

        The Nostos cannon picks this moment for its array of lights to glow a luminescent green.
        Josie slides off an ARM that has become too warm to even slightly lean against. Down on her stomach, she leans alongside the cannon, lifts her head a fraction.

        Two shots, if she's to judge by the glow. Just two.

        Down to the wire now, Red.

        She pulls the trigger.
        The cannon complies with a long high-pitched hum

        that breaks into the discharge of an enormous artillery shell, screaming through the air for the red Gear.

        It's to slow the Gear down. Crack its armor plating. Give Id something to think about, perhaps.

        And meanwhile, prepare for her second and final shot.

        "Now or never! If you're going to break through to him, you need to do it now! JUNIOR, WAKE UP!" Josie shouts into the sky, one last time.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

Nimue's whole body sags after her magical assault. She feels like crap. Honestly, she never feels perfect, but there's a reason that despite being a Seraph, she leans so hard on grenades both technological and magical.

Layna calls for everyone to lay into Id, and Nimue tries... but it's a struggle. The magic just isn't there, and the bag -- after what feels like an eternity in the Photosphere -- is empty. She doesn't have anything to give, as much as she'd like to.

"Bbbbbbbbbb..." Nimue mumbles. "Bbbbluh. Bleh! Bleh!" With a small groan, she lists to one side, and eventually just falls to one side.

Id trades blows with Asgard; Nimue watches. Her expression is a little flat -- almost uncharacteristically so, especially after earlier.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia may not be able to hear Id's reply to her, but she can tell well enough that he isn't listening to her right now. She can also tell that he's working against her, her lance of flames falling apart in her hands when met with a stronger force of the opposing element. No... if he uses the Gear now... She's not certain what to expect, but she's convinced something terrible is about to happen. She didn't need Id's scream about 'children of Cain', a meaningless phrase to her, to be able to tell that much. For a fleeting moment, she fears all may be lost...

But no, there's still hope. Asgard stands strong, manages to contain even Id's terrible power. Repeatedly. It would be an incredible sight to behold. But Xantia isn't just going to stand there and watch while this is all happening. It's no use calling out 'Xantia no'. Not this time. She's got her mind set on what she's going to do, so she's doing it. She's climbing the Gear. Right in the middle of all the fireworks.

At least she has the good sense to climb it from the back, while Id is directing all his rage towards the golem in front of him. It's still a harrowing affair. She nearly falls off more than once as Weltall-Id shakes and shudders, unleashing everything it has. But she's not giving up. She has to do this. She has to get in there.

Except, once she finally makes it to the hatch... she realizes that she hadn't actually thought about how to get in there. Even for her, it's going to be difficult to force it open with her bare hands. If only she had some better leverage, or some pre-existing damage to work with...

That's when Weglaff arrives, handily providing both for her. And - lucky her - not ending up cutting her in two. That's just one of the many ways in which this could have gone wrong. Could have, but since it didn't, Xantia is not bout to worry about it. Instead, she places her hands in the newly created groove, and pulls, pulls, as if her life depended on it. In a way, it does. Losing Id, and in the process Fei as well... she would feel lost all over again. The hatch groans, buckles... and finally tears.

So it is that Xantia finally makes it into Weltall's cockpit, and wastes no time to act... by hugging Id from behind. Powerfully, without holding back her strength, making for an effective physical restraint if nothing else. She doesn't have any words left to try and convince him, and actions do speak louder than words. There's only one thing that she can think of to say at this point.

"Id... it's time to stop."

GS: Xantia has attacked Id with Everything Will Be Okay!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Id takes a solid hit from Xantia's Everything Will Be Okay for 17 hit points!
GS: Slow! Statuses applied to Id!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Id is bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds. This is not the satisfying coup some might see it as--Ida knows that backing someone into a corner reveals just how dangerous they are, and Id is no exception. Claude just goes flying; Ida's gaze tracks him, and her heart leaps into her throat. Catch him, Asgard, Ida thinks, as though she needs to. And then, Weltall-Id erupts. The surge of power is blinding, deafening. The gunsmoke cloud dissipates, blown away by the sudden surge of power--streamers of chi coil back into Ida's body, surging into her lungs with each panicked breath. She can feel that horrible nails-on-a-chalkboard sensation growing, too. Neriah. It has to be her. Does she think she can--

        Asgard steps into the way. Ida's mouth falls open. She watches, face locked in an expression halfway between horror and desperation as Id vents his fury on the Elw construct. Asgard's struggling, wounded. Id's coming apart. He's coming apart, just like how she came apart in the castle, when Lily and Kalve and Fei and the Beast and all the others came to help her.

        'Why won't... I die?'

        What is it like to remember every single horrible thing that's happened to you over the course of centuries? What is it like to know that when you die, you'll just be born again, somehow, and endure more suffering?

        'Adlehyde...'

        "Id," Ida says. There is steel in her voice. "I won't let you." She makes a motion like she's holstering Devil's Due, but the ARM just... rolls back, out of her grip, to slot into the side of her forearm. It locks seamlessly with the armor. "I can't let you. I know that all you want is for the pain to stop. That if you just do something, anything that makes you feel powerful--that the helplessness will end. It won't. That's how it gets you. That's how it drags you down. 'The world is nothing but endless cruelty, and it deserves what it gets.'" The Medium, still secure in Ida's coat pocket, grows warm against her thigh. "I've been there. And no one deserves to feel that way, not for a year, not for millennia.'

        Id points his hand towards Adlehyde. Ida runs. She's tiny when compared to Asgard, but she still dashes out in front of the Golem, as if she thinks to take over for him. Her eyes lock on Id's. She sets her jaw. About three meters away, she starts to skid, her boots kicking up plumes of snow behind her. She draws back her gauntleted right hand, but not in a fist. Dragon Filaments criss-cross her palm like gridwork. Ida drives that hand towards Id's solar plexus, searing dragonfire erupting from within with a thunderous, draconic roar. Flame licks back along her armored hand, but it doesn't burn through. Her gaze stays locked on Id's, even in the middle of the inferno.

        And then the flames die. Ida sags forwards, reaches out, and puts her human hand on Id's shoulder.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has spent 5 Combo on Poison and Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Id with Dragon's Breath!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

But, regardless of Claude's present state of life or death, there's another matter that is... Almost certainly more concerning.

Id flies into a rage. His fists, imbued with pure, absolute power are suddenly unleashed. Zed feels it before he even sees it. It's an aura of wrath and malice that he has only ever barely felt once before. But...

Before he can unleash that flood of power, something comes to their rescue.

Something... That touches Zed's heart more deeply than anything yet tonight.

"Asgard--" Zed whispers as those fists connect with that barrier, pounding again and again and again at the Fortress of the Gods. The machine, built by the Elw to exterminate the Hyadean people...

Is... Protecting him.

Protecting all that remains of Hyades.

The walls crack and splinter. The barrier fails in a dozen separate points, cracks creeping like spiderwebs across the invincible shield. It seems as though it might break, but it does not.

Asgard gives everything.

And so... It's only right.

It's only right for Zed to do the same.

"You... Hahaha, to think you'd do something like this... For something like me." Zed laughs, a halo of viridian energies radiating all around him. "...Then. It's only right. It's only right that I do this! You protected our home! So I'll protect hers!"

"PRINCESS ADLEHYDE," Zed roars, his body giving way one more time to that strange, mechanical form. Zed is no more. Now there is only... Zedder Robo...! "I know this can't possibly make up for what we did to Adlehyde, but...!" Zed roars, his cloak hardening into a single broad wing as thrusters ignite beneath his feet. He surges upwards, taking suddenly to the sky to hover between Id and his far-off target.

Zed gathers his burning aura, the light of his very soul to his most central, core meridian... And unleashes it! A beam emitter lenses out from his abdomen, and Zedder robo fires a beam of BLINDING LIGHT right at the crimson destroyer's outstretched hand! "I don't know how long I can hold his power off, but I'll give it my all! For as long as I can, I will be Adlehyde's wall!"

DC: Zed switches forms to Monsterous Zedder R!
GS: Zed has activated a Force Action!
GS: Zed has spent 5 Combo on Gatling, including 4 on Gatling!
GS: Zed has attacked Id with Zedder Beam!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied hitches, pausing to cup her mouth as she glances away as Elly confronts Lily. She doesn't expect it to come to blows. But it doesn't make it any easier... still. Elly apologises, though.

        She listens to Elly as she speaks. About the time when she lied about who she was... about how forgiving she was.

        She lowers her head.

        She's ashamed that it's more difficult for her to feel that way right now. And every single little time she feels that shame, it feels like her person is being eroded further and further away. The shell of a person that has, up until now, held her up so much...

        She listens to Lanval's tale of his time as Lord of the Land. She quietly tucks herself in, remembering the time she suffers. It wouldn't have been a great ask for someone of his stature. But...

        The moment of living a moment of loss across all time.
        The 'weight of the world'.
        That which Id spoke of all that time...

        She finds her expression twisting as Noeline continues to speak in that way she does. 'All I can do--'

        "STOP IT!"

        Riesenlied whimpers, further, sobbingly as she holds onto her soulmate's hands as she finds herself tested more and more than ever. "why do you always speak so resignedly? all i can do this... all i can do..."

        They're being dragged further and further into the morass.

        "why are you belittling yourself so much?
         'i'm the one who brought the tainted the hope they need',
         'i'm the one who held the beliefs'... don't push it all away from yourself!
         or you'll belittle those who look up to you too!"

        There's a dourness that's crossed her face for a moment inbetween her choking sobs. She's broken loose of the feelings that have suddenly caved in so hard against her heart now.

        "i'm tired of it...
         are those really the words of someone sharing the burden with me...?
         together? not just wayside, not just the outreach or the tainted...
         i want you to benefit from this stage of our lives too...
         you and i...
         living our lives out... together?"

        Riesenlied stirs, like she's about to throw up or have the ground vault underneath her. She's finally said it. The fear welling up in her every time Noeline says it, as if she's afraid to be too involved than to be supportive... that she might disappear again any time. But the expression is heart-felt.

        She sobs further. She reaches for Lily's hand in turn, quietly clinging towards it and her other in Noeline's. There is a louder sob still. In another time, within that card, Riesenlied may have succumbed to the eerie light of the Ley. Yet still...

        The world becomes Lahan. A battlefield of great Airships and sweltering towns on fire, battered, infected, shattered.

        A phoenix arises. Perhaps the metaphor is not lost upon Fei -- and Id, both.

        She trembles further-- and-- stumbles forward. She nearly drags Noeline and Lily down, with the way she still can't function.

        She needs to function right now.

        "... we have a promise.
         and... we're going to fulfill it..."

        She sucks in a breath, as she feels that ominous portent start to well upon her neck where the Medium is still grafted. The pulsating feeling of the Ley is still with her as she speaks the foul command-word taught to her by Mother, and brought to execution by Alhazred.

        But to <CUCCO> with that right now.

        She's not going to feel any shame. Hiro has told her as much. Whatever she needs to do to be able to reach out and feel. That was how this all started.

        And as such--

                                "-Accession-."

        The word sunders the flames about her in an instant-- a loud thunderclap seems to pop as if Noua Shax or someone else were to join Moor Gault. The Original Artificial Medium of Life thrums as if it could burst at any moment, and the lines of the Ley continue to flow past her--

        And it explodes into that self-same globe of pitch-black energy.

        ... and when it subsides...

DC: Riesenlied switches forms to -Accession- Ley Remnant Riesenlied!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied is -- Riesenlied, and not the Ley Dragon. But she is standing, her legs thoroughly shifted, white and blue, crooked and taloned in draconic fashion as she pushes herself forward and reaches for Noeline and Lily with thoroughly misshapen Dragon talons, genteel enough to still be able to hold them.

        "fei..."

        A pause.

        "can you hear us...?
         everyone is still fighting outside. so hard...
         i know where that desire comes from... because... in my short time here...
         i'm struggling with it too.
         i'm struggling with feelings i haven't ever quite.... Felt...
         anger, vengeance, a deep despair that i'm not sure has left me..."

        A longer pause.

        "i was scared those feelings would warp me.
         make me cease to become who people knew me as.
         it was as if my mask was crumbling...
         But... you're not wrong to feel this way.
         and i'm not wrong to feel the way i do either."

        The Draconic form about her bristles, oozing with the flow of the Leyline around her that constantly drains her energy.

        "and... id isn't wrong to feel the way he does either.
         But if there's one thing i know now...
         ...
         it's that... it takes all of the 'us' inside of us.
         a single hand can't clap...
         they might just hit someone by mistake."

        Behind, a frost-rimed corpse watches from a distance in silence.

        "i know we'll need a lot of time to work out the things that've happened.
         like old petra. like wayside. like taben's peak. like here...
         ... like when we first met, no matter how indirectly, in garlyle."

        She lifts her head as she lets out a little draconic hiss.

        "... but that's what we do at wayside. it's what noeline always says.
         be beaten, but unbowed. to get back up as many times as we need to...
         and like a smarter daughter told me when i was still stuck...
         we have... so much adventure awaiting us. it'll be wonderful, and scary,
         and at times harrowing but also kind of lazy.
         i want to envision this future she can see.
         the future that's outside of this cycle that has trapped father and you for so long..."

        She pauses further, the flow of the Ley pouring from her 'eye' sockets.

        "... i'm... we're ready to step forward to a new part of my life...
         won't you... and elly... and the wolves join us for that......?"

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

In a B urning Place...
 
        The Water Seraph has to gain a new appreciation for how much the weight of it all feels in the mind of someone who seems to be bound, by much of it. Contrary to the previously displaced graces, he has to roll across the fields like a pudgy log before the weights lessen enough that he can rise again. Into a tear in the world. Into... fire. There is a lot going on, but there is a single commonality in all of this.
        They are walking into fire, and it is a fire that is destroying - has destroyed. These are memories, then, and he catches onto that when it gets to flickering towards Azado.
        Lanval's nature, to Lunar's elemental theory, is what keeps fire in check, but even he can feel how hot it all burns. He has no idea that fire could get so hot. This fire is beyond even his own ability to quench. He feels like he could turn into steam on the spot, as the phoenix appears to address them about the unyielding fire, the ash that comes from his grip...
        Lanval breathes in and out again. He looks to his bottle of Holy Water whose contents he accidentally poured the entirety of since dealing with the weight of Lily's and Id's conversations. These are fires that cannot be quenched. He looks to Id, who has pointed a hand out in the direction of Adelhyde.
        Id is unstoppable. Lanval knew it looking upon him, when he saw the surges of power. He may be the single most powerful thing he'd ever felt. It's frightening to feel powerless and out of one's depth, and then it kind of hits Lanval as the fires feel like they draw in closer.
        There are many grand, profound, sweeping statements and promises one can make. Words, Lanval recognizes, that Id might have heard countless times over. Words, he suspects, will not sway the demon. If he is to look upon every scene as one of countless tragedies Id's been involved in, maybe there... aren't any words. Lanval, who mostly kept to himself and watched rather than reach out and appeal, sees that now. He can't promise 'this time will be the last' or 'this time will be different.'
        Just as we struggle, he, too, must feel helpless. Helpless to do naught but destroy. Lanval muses to himself. In a way, he, too, struggled with helplessness. He saw a hope spot, and then got driven into greater despair again, to be further banished as an apostate from his very world. Maybe there is a part of him that would have joined in the inferno.
        ...
        Lanval has himself a drink. He seems to drink more from the gourd than there is any actual space in which to put in a beverage. At the end of it, he casts a Seraphic Arte whose name seems lost in the roaring inferno, and spreads a wave of water to try and beat back the growing flames as far as he can that surround Fei and Id alike.
        ...
        And then he just stands there, with a stupid cat-like smile, eyes close, face flushed, wearing a pair of truly idiotic novelty glasses with huge beer bottle lens while making giggling noises. It is a discordant, nonsensical sight. Among ruin, among sadness, among fire...
        ...a giggling, silly fat water spirit, who tries to imprint only one small thing to coax either Fei to awaken, or for Id to lose focus, to instill just that tiny bit of joy in a world surrounded by all-consuming fire.
        Mirthful laughter.

DG: Seraph Lanval has used his Tool Amber Tinted Glasses toward his party's challenge, I Am.
DG: Riesenlied has used her Tool Tainted Medium of Life toward her party's challenge, I Am.
GS: CRITICAL! Id guards a hit from Zed's Zedder Beam for 142 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
In A Dark Place

"Yes," Elly says, when the pressure eases and they rise. "We'll talk about it later... and that includes you, Ruby. You knew too. I forgive you... but..." The trailing part of that is left hanging, perhaps Elly is confident the meaning is transmitted.

Then there is a city before them, aflame. It is the echo of thousands of cities, many of them perhaps not of this world. Elly gazes at the flames, and they flicker in her eyes, and then her attention turns towards...

"Moor Gault," she says. "... Was this your doing, all this time?" she asks, though the question is without rancor. "Was he your agent...?"

Taking a deep breath and letting it out, Elly's head lolls forwards for a moment. She is deeply, profoundly tired and it makes her head sway. No, she thinks, I can't flame out at this point. Not at this last stage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4-_Thyvs3c

"Fei," Elly says. "Do you remember when we met, for the first time?"

"In the Blackmoon Forest," Elly continues, as if she felt a need to specify. "I know I tried to be bold. I tried to force you at weapon's point to do my bidding. But even then I could see the softness in your eyes. I suppose you were already also 'this person' then. I don't know why - even what Lily has said has only told me the what's, not the why's. But... It doesn't matter. That moment, I fell in love, and it just took me such a long time to admit it."

"I suppose that's my confession," Elly says. "I could have run away from everything and gone and hid back in Solaris. No one would have held it against me. They would have thought I was brave to even try, and I could have had a job like my father. I came to love everyone too but the reason I was able to hold fast and - and do everything I've done, good and bad, was because I love you!!"

She sucks in a deep tight breath through her nose. "Enough people have died. This war is over. Don't start a new one. If you're afraid to be around other people, or if you just want to be alone - I'll come with you. I know I can't cook anything, but I promise I'll keep you safe. Just - don't burn yourself up like this - there's something even you don't know about - just -"

        "Just -"

                "Just live!"

Elly runs towards the figure of Fei to throw her arms around him, now unhindered by the burdens of metaphysical weight, and press her lips to his. It may burn a little; she's alright with that.

GS: Id guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Dragon's Breath for 84 hit points!
GS: Toxin! Statuses applied to Id!
DG: Elhaym van Houten has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, I Am.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        Gwen's able to reach into that gear, her hand pressing into that circuitry. She feels the current pulsing underneath her fingers, knows it to be true. Or, at least, true enough. It's... just-

        Like running a thumb over the side of an infinite lightning bolt. It's endless. It's unknowable.

        _It can't end._

        It's too much. Even if her ARM was capable of stopping it, which it wasn't, her human body wouldn't be able to take it in the process.

        She wheezes, droplets of blood dripping from her lip. At some point, she must have bitten something in her mouth.

        That was really, really dumb. Thank Guardians that's all over with, and Gwen didn't even die! Now she just has to. Uh.

        It's probably very telling that the infinite lightning bolt, or the snake eating its own tail, or whatever her mind is visualizing this power source as, well-

        It's beginning to charge. And on a primal level, Gwen feels what is about to happen.
        
        "NO, please, no!" Gwen latches onto that circuitry again, trying to throw all her might into it. Throw her ARM's reserves, her own energy reserves, her mental reserves, something, anything, take it, her lif-

        She finds herself unable to go one step beyond, her ARM protectively shorting out before she could get to that point of no return. It isn't a coincidence. She knows that much. But she still has to ask. "Why won't you let me..."
        
        Because she won't let herself. She falls from her hold on that leg, watching as each blow from Id, against Cecilia,

        Asgard, however, is made of different stuff.

        "Cec... ceilia..."

        She still remembers the young woman who came to see her father, laid out on Gwen's own old wagon. Now, she holds herself against the hand of the mighty Asgard, not merely just a master, but an equal. A friend?

        "...."

        She watches Xantia and Ida claw, kick, and tear their way into that cockpit, and reach out to Id.

        ".... Heh, Id, Fei you can see it, right? Why I'd do it all over again. This world is..." She reaches up from where she lays on the blessedly cool snow, reaching out a hand.

        As if there wasn't so much distance between her hand and all of them, up there.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Id with so beautiful!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Id takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's so beautiful for 5 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
"There's a lot to praise you both over. Give me a few hours and I'm sure I'll embarrass you both thoroughly later." Hiro says to Lily, with a sense of earnestness that might seem strange to some in a situation so dire.
 
Ruby can sense what Elly is trying to convey, and while she winces at the implications she simply says, "That's fair."
 
There's a chaotic swirl of imagery and...
 
In the end there is a Phoenix. Moor Gault to be more precise.
 
"You know - back at the Guardian Temple I wanted your medium so badly."
 
Ruby says, however then her voice takes on the idea of anger, as she gesticulates at the Phoenix. "Now I guess I know why I wasn't suited - how is this fair to Fei!? To Id!? You failed to mention that there's no Guardian of Justice - or Compassion either! GUESS WE HAVE TO BE THAT FOR THEM TOO!"
 
Hiro's expression looks queasy, like he finds a profound unfairness to this situation too, however he's focused on what to do here... because he sees Id pointing in the direction of Adelhyde.
 
And he says - remembering a conversation that night from Taban's Peak - about Lucia and him - about Fei and Elly.
 
"Hey Fei, I get that you're feeling awful now - but I shouldn't need to remind you where your priorities ought to be. So take a good long look at Elly and listen to her."
 
Ruby turns to Fei, flying in a little closer to say, "Hey Fei... whatever's going on with you maybe I don't fully understand everything yet - on where you and Id came from - but whatever happens, what I said to Id wasn't a lie. I'm your friend for the long run. And I bet it's the same way for all of us. If the Guardians or the gods won't be kind enough to grant you answers or peace... then it's up to us. It's up to all of us as your friends to figure this out with you. To be those things for you that they won't."
 
Ruby sucks in a breath through her nostrils, squeezes her eyes tightly shut and dares to hope as she says... "Now Fei you wake up right now or I'm really going to cry when Id does something else horrible that I just know you're going to blame yourself for!"
 

DG: Hiro has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward his party's challenge, I Am.
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

In A Dark Place...

No. In a place of fire.

Lily takes hold of Riesenlied's talon in the sane way that she had allowed Riesenlied to hold onto her hand. She has said before that she doesn't prefer being touched... But it isn't always a problem. In this, it is a way to communicate without speaking; with deliberateness, then, Lily closes her fingers around that claw. She looks once more to Elly, and lets that look alone be her answer for now, before she listens. First to Riesenlied... To elly, too. Her confession...

Lily glances down, and feels a faint tightening in her chest, but a glow of nostalgia, too. But she answers Riesenlied first. She looks up to her, and needs to say as much.

"...Maybe in the mirror, we both only looked at what set us apart. ...Maybe, if you can let yourself feel your anger... then I can let myself feel hope."

Lanval laughs. She doesn't find herself annoyed at it. She looks, instead, towards Fei, as Elly runs towards him. Yes, it may burn. "...Seems you're stuck with her," Lily says. Then... Then she turns towards him.

"Fei." Lily says that name, first. "...Id. I don't even know if you have another name for yourself. I met you as both. ...And I told you, once, what friendship meant to me. ...That I was handing you the very dagger that you could place in my back, because I thought it was worth it even if you used it. And you--every version of you that I've known--has told me that I'm not what I think I am."

"...If we can stop me from turning out that way, then why can't we bring you back from the brink? There's more to deal with--it won't undo what you've done... But if facing it means being free of this, moving forward--isn't that worth it? ...It's not like I'd let them condemn you."

Lily looks down, and pulls a small mirror from her things. She realizes, in the moment, that she never took it back. Here it is, though, in her hand, where she can see it. "...No, Ruby," Lily says after a moment. "It's not the Guardians' fault. They're here to try to keep the world going... But they aren't the ones who are meant to figure out what to do on it, how to live. That isn't what they're for."

"We're meant to find that for ourselves. To come together... and with the other parts of our selves, learn to fly."

Lily steps towards the fire, and lifts her hand, the mirror in her other. "...Because... When the fire destroys everything you had... When you lose it all..."

Ice rises from the ground, in front of the flames. It is not a wall; it is not a barrier. It is a pair of figures with one wing each, made by the reflection of her magic in Mikaia's mirror.

"...We rebuild. I spent so long unwilling to let go... That I couldn't see that we'd already started."

DG: Lily Keil has used her Tool Mikaia's Mirror toward her party's challenge, I Am.
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        Riesenlied cuts off her self-deprecation, and leaves her gaping in open astonishment.

        Noeline is... well aware of the mode in which she talks, sometimes: the way she automatically tries to make space for herself to slide to one side and move out of the way for others. If pressed, she might admit it's part instinct and part training - she was born a spy, after all, and neonates in the Photosphere learned quickly not to stick their neck out too far just in case someone else decided to try to take it. Just as much, it's a natural sort of armor, the same detachment as her Crimson Noble exterior, a form of social dancing around her true feelings.

        But...

        ... it isn't just that. Noeline can admit that much, in the face of Riesenlied's cries. From the ruins of Arctica to the mad panic of the Photosphere to the pressure of the inside of Id's mind. She's-- tired. It is as the painter says - even she needs to take a moment to herself, and it's been much, much too long. "... that's unfair," she mutters through gritted teeth, her voice already thick with emotion. "... do you know how much I've hurt, on this path to find you again? Do you know how much I've had to push myself to say 'one more step' each and every step? ... do you know how terrified I have been at the prospect of losing you? Of having to push that feeling down every time I caught sight of you?"

        "And then I found you, and nearly lost you again. And again. ... and all without being able to help you. Where I'd reach you for a tiny moment, then lose sight of you once more. And anything I could say seemed to just make it worse. You couldn't even believe that you'd done the things you'd done. What else could I do but try to be patient? Try to leave you the space to come to terms with things yourself? To listen as you belittled yourself, time and time again?" she whispers fiercely.

        She meets that dour look from Riesenlied with one of her own, having to catch her breath; she chokes out a sob of her own, and then-- immediately tries to bite it back. After all, habits die hard, even in the face of your partner telling you off for them.

        And then she swallows, and dips her head down against Riesenlied's shoulder, heedless of the scales there. Finds her hand back in Riesenlied's. Quivers just a little against her. "... I... I want to benefit from this stage of our lives. I want it to be with you. I could imagine nothing better," she mutters. "But I don't want it to be at your expense. It felt as if-- you would have done anything to push yourself back down, and I didn't know what I could do to show you how proud I am of you. I was scared," she admits, tiny against Riesenlied's shoulder. "I was... terribly scared."

        She sucks in a shaky breath - but it's a stronger one, and when she looks up the determination and the light is back in her eyes. The world flickers around her, stealing her senses back and forth, but this time she can meet it more clearly, her head clearer than it's felt for a long time. "... I think you mean 'talk to Leon'," she grumps sourly over at Lily. "Even the two of you need a bit of pampering from time to time. ... you can't keep going forever," she adds quietly, more solemnly. "Even if you think you can. No, especially if you think you can."

        Lahan dissolves back into focus, this time fiery and broken, beset by flame and chaos and death. Above it hangs a Guardian, watching over the cycle. She's lived long enough, watched enough Drifters come and go, that she doesn't doubt that Lahan will live again, if the phoenix wills it... though here in the moment, Noeline can't help but feel a little bitter about that cold thought. Humans don't have her sort of lifespan to see these things... and Id's not really in a position to appreciate the fact.

        She sights Fei amidst the destruction, and for a moment she can't even imagine what to say. But Riesenlied's grip is strong in her hand, and she can feel through her Medium the wellspring of power next to her, looking over in astonishment as Riesenlied breaks away to access her power. It is not the time to hide the momentary look of panic on her face - nor her relieved breath as Riesenlied's new form takes her hand anew. For a moment, she searches the dragon's expression, sheer force of habit making sure that Riesenlied is certain about this course of action - and then she's supporting her partner forwards along with Lily.

        "... Fei. For the longest time, I was sure that it would be better to dance through life without a care. To live in the most superficial way possible. To experience the world, and to think nothing more of it. Those feelings were born more from apathy rather than hopelessness, perhaps, but-- I would like to think I understand, even a little."

        "But if even Riesenlied can get mad at me, it clearly can't be the best of outlooks," she huffs out a soft laugh. "... and I think you know that. I am sure that part of you still hopes in people - you would not be able to summon up your anger and indignation, your sadness and fear, if you could not." She leaves it at that, and says nothing more - but only because she is at Riesenlied's side, to support her as she stands proud.

DG: Noeline has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, I Am.
=============<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities *>=============
============================<* CHALLENGE - I Am *>============================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 1          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VynZTYtvWFA                              
                                                                               
 Upon Defeating (or Surviving) Weltall, it stumbles back and crashes to one    
 knee emitting a bright flash of light that engulfs your bodies. The shadow    
 world twists around you, flashing repeatedly.                                 
                                                                               
 It becomes a village in flame, gears gunning down each other and civilian     
 alike.                                                                        
                                                                               
 It becomes a battlefield in flame, with great battleships that soar through   
 the air and blasting one another down from the heavens.                       
                                                                               
 It becomes a metal demon fortress in flame, the bodies of countless Elw but   
 even more humans and Hyadeans.                                                
                                                                               
 It becomes a great city with skyscrapers striking the roof of heaven, in      
 flames. In nuclear flames. In flames so hot that even the girders melt.       
                                                                               
 It becomes Wehaca. It becomes Felkirk. It becomes Adlehyde. It becomes        
 Azado. It becomes Hope Springs. It becomes Wayside. It becomes Old Petra. It  
 becomes Lastonbell. It becomes Nisan, or a town like it.                      
                                                                               
 In flames.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Within those flames, Moor Gault takes form as a blazing phoenix. The flames   
 pass through you but they do not hurt.                                        
                                                                               
 "Unyielding fire cast down from the heavens only to rise again. He can only   
 burn that which he touches. All turns to ash in his grip and that ash         
 becomes the foundation of Filgaia."                                           
                                                                               
 "His eternal punishment for his innocent sin, but he was not made to suffer   
 his sentence alone. My gift is the hearth. My gift is the wildfire. There is  
 no Guardian of Wisdom. Destruction. Rejuvenation. It is your coin to flip."   
                                                                               
 The Guardian vanishes with those words.                                       
                                                                               
 Within those flames, Fei stands. He watches the world burn. All you need to   
 do is wake him up.                                                            
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer===================================================
========<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities - Round 6 *>========
==============================< Results - I Am >==============================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Elhaym van Houten                   0 --(17)--> 17                 Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hiro                                0 --(12)--> 12                 Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Seraph Lanval                       0 --(12)--> 12                 Pass
Amber Tinted Glasses                3   Wits    Effects: Fanfare              
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lily Keil                           0 --(12)--> 12                 Pass
Mikaia's Mirror                     1   Wits    Effects: Enlighten            
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Riesenlied                          0 --(12)--> 12                 Pass
Tainted Medium of Life              3   Wits    Effects: Sacrifice and Enlight
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Noeline                             0 --(12)--> 12                 Pass
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC                
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Riesenlied                  90 --(30)--> 120               Pass
Conditions: Suffer(1)
Effects: Enlighten(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Riesenlied has successfully explored Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities!
=============<* Photosphere - Shadow World of Shattered Cities *>=============
==========================<* CHALLENGE - Ending A *>==========================
|Type: Discovery   |Dungeon Ability: Conclusion|Challenge Rating: 4          | 
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 Challenge Rating: Inf.                                                        
 --------------------------< Challenge Information:                            
 >---------------------------                                                  
                                                                               
 You live your happy little lives as normal, forgetting that this is just an   
 experience forced upon you by me. There is conflict, but you are strong.      
 More importantly, you have tight bonds with your friends that make you feel   
 unstoppable. Then the very people you were fighting for betray you for a      
 little piece of power, a little peace of mind. You see the person you love    
 most killed in front of you. They beg for you to live...and maybe you do.     
 But maybe you're lucky and you only live a little longer before you are       
 mercilessly gunned down until the life leaves your eyes. And then you wake    
 up. It was as if it was a bad dream. You live your happy little lives as      
 normal, forgetting that this is just an experience forced upon you by         
 me...It's just different enough that hope can continue to taunt you with      
 possibility. But the ending is always the same. It never ends. It never       
 ends. It never ends. It never ends.                                           
                                                                               
 =Dungeon Conditions: Empathic Assault From 4D                                 
 Mind=============================                                             
                                                                               
 There is no escape for a 3D mind.                                             
                                                                               
 Can you endure it until help comes?                                           
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

Weltall-Id takes desperate strikes from all comers. Leon's blade slices thick carves into Weltall-Id. It nonetheless seems to keep going. It shouldn't be able to keep going. But it's still going. Layna and Ashton strike with wind and fire and ice but it just keeps rising.

Cecilia makes her plea. Does Id even hear it?

Is he in condition to hear it? He did get stabbed a lot.

Xantia rips off the cockpit shield in a single gesture. She hugs Id from behind. It's time to stop, she says, even though Id said that it won't stop. Ever.

Ida follows Xantia in and takes advantage of Id's present restraint to swing a fist back and clobber it directly into his gut.

Ida tells a story about how where she's been. Id knows it to be true instinctively. He slackens in Xantia's grip. And yet Weltall rises.

No one deserves to feel the way he's felt.

So why does he?

Zed slows the gear down with his blindening flash. But it still rises. Just more slowly.

"She sounds...familiar..." Id says. "More familiar than before... Lynn....Why didn't I see her... Lynn..."

Gwen reaches out with a hand...

And then Josephine takes the shot.

There is no cockpit shield to block it. The artillery shell punches through the lack of cockpit shield as if it were made out of air. Which it is. Because it's not there.

Just barely it whizzes past Xantia and Ida and, well, Id. It slams right into the controls of Weltall. Sparks fly everywhere. Weltall stops hovering up. It starts to hang right there in the air.

"Adelhyde..." Id murmurs. "I..." Is something going on inside of Id's head right now? Is the inner team being successful? Weltall's arm powers down and the machine collapses to the ground in a heap. Something happened? But what the heck happened???

<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

Fei turns to look towards you. "Riesenlied I...I'm sorry I...I didn't know, I wasn't sure...I...couldn't save him. I failed you." He lowers his head. "I couldn't save your father...my brother... And then...then I was here. I ran away...I...I want to but what if I hurt you again? I don't want to be that person. I've made you cry enough. I've hurt all of you enough."

But Riesenlied makes an offer and that shuts him up. What can he say to that? "A new life...can we do it? A peaceful world? He'd be so proud of you." He pauses. "I'm proud of you."

You can't defeat Id with violence, but can you beat him with the strongest medicine in the world: Laughter? Lanval beats back the flames. Fei can see clearly now. His vision is no longer warped by tears. He gets a small break from the fires that render him unto ash and then build him back up again. "Lanval..." He says. "We haven't known each other long, but you have always moved with kindness, you spoke the truth and you paid the price. Even if what I say is painful, will you listen?"

He laughs faintly. He can't help himself. "Of course you would."

Ruby says there's no Guardian of Justice or Compassion. Fei admits to her, "There isn't. You're right. We have to be justice. We have to be compassion. Don't blame Moor Gault. He didn't hurt me. It's just...a connection, we share."

Ruby sees right through him. Of course she does. She always has. Nothing new there. He hugs Ruby close. "Thank you." He says to her. "All of us, together huh...?" He pauses. "Yeah I guess I was trying to carry it alone. Acted like my pain was only my pain. Not anymore."

Lily tells him something that's a surprise even to him: All the versions of Fei have said the same thing to her. She is not what she thinks she is. We can stop Lily from becoming the person she fears being, fears that she is. In this, she and Fei are very similar. She and Id are very similar.

Destruction and Rejuvenation. Wildfires bring fresh soil.

"If you can do it...then maybe I can do it...then maybe..." He murmurs.

Noeline speaks of her own growth, a subtle growth that you could've missed it, but as subtle as it was is as powerful it was. "...Zephyr gonna leave you feeling blue huh..." He murmurs to himself. "Then I guess....I guess we'll have to go find it and take it back. I still believe...right?"

Elly speaks to him. She speaks of Blackmoon Forest. She speaks of when she couldn't cook properly. She speaks of what she could have done, and what she fell in love with, and who she fell in love with. Elly makes a confession--the moment she saw him, the moment she saw him they were in love. Such moments are impossible, aren't they? True love at first sight? But for them, maybe it wasn't really first sight after all.

Or maybe...it was, and wasn't, one more duality amongst a slew of dualities.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OX6xpVVNF2o

"Elly..." He says. "Ever since I saw you... I was yours. It was like a storybook fantasy. But it can be reality. The painful moments, the happy moments, there's nobody more I want to be with through all of it than you, no matter how many times it happens, no matter how many lives or whatever, I...!"

Elly shuts him up with a demand to live.

And a kiss.

Fei doesn't close his eyes but he kisses back, hugging Elly in a tight embrace (Ruby, at least, is let go of by this point).

Id, in his boy form, appears by Riesenlied. By Nasrin. He watches this happen. Visions of your loved ones dying slams into your conciousness and then is repelled. He throws horrifying vision after horrifying vision at you and it does nothing. It bounces off. No. Not exactly.

It's more like lifting a pillow and shucking to the side. The weight of the world, together, is nothing to you.

"He makes her resistant." The bloody boy says. "...But I can't feel her warmth. I can't feel her touch. These beautiful memories you make, I can't hold onto. I--"

And then he pauses. "What....a memory?"

There is one last flash of light...

<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

One Thousand Years Ago

When Lee opened his eyes one more time, he saw Lynn standing over him with Valeria. He wanted to close his eyes again.

"He's awake." Valeria said. "But with burns like that I don't think he's going to..."

"I did my best," Lynn said. She was warming her hands by the fire. She'd said she got cold when she cast her magic too heavily. On the table, a golden tablet sat quietly. She moved, with that swift, poised gait, to his side, smile edged with worry. "But I'm afraid..." She failed to finish, lips pursing.

It hurt. It hurt tremendously, but he could move. "Elly's dead." Lee grimaced. Just saying it made it feel more real, more grounded. He wanted to lie back down and die with her but there would be time enough for that soon. "Just leave me here and escape. I'd only slow you down." He looked down for a moment and admitted, "I couldn't help her, I couldn't negotiate with the Metal Demons, I couldn't even stay true to myself. All I could see was red...but at least it's over. I'm sorry that I couldn't stop it from getting this far. I guess that's just how Filgaia is, huh? Was I naive, Lynn?"

Lynn listens. Hesitates. Fidgets, fingers fussing, held together before her. But then she draws in breath, spearing Lee with those bright green eyes. "No, Lee," she says, firmly. "You were the wisest of all of us. The Elw bent their oaths of peace as far as they could...the Guardians called for Demon blood and wept. The men from the sky came in armor and war, the Demons came with bloody claw...but you, Lee, you always hoped. Even as we prepared ourselves to face her you still hoped, Lee. Every strike a scar across your heart. Elly knew. I saw it, too. The pain you feel now, I know is because you still believe that there must have been a way."

She steps forward, gently cupping his hands in hers. "I didn't know what to make of the voices when Emiko first gave me that jewel, Lee. The sounds this world's heart makes, the pain and anger and fear. But I understand, now. The world, Lee, she hates this violence. She's frightened of it. She is injured, and we bear the brunt of her pain, but...

The tear-shaped jewel dangling from her neck glitters as her fingers curl more tightly around Lee's damaged hands. "I wish I knew how to show you. Please believe me, Lee. You knew better than any of us. This violence is a sickness, but it is one that we can cure. The language of this world is still one of love and hope!"

Lee wasn't expecting that. "...Lynn..." He closed his eyes. "...You sound so much like her now. Thank you...I pass my dream on to you. Please make an Adelhyde the world can love." He wanted to close his eyes and let this moment be his last memory but...

"My Lady! Lord Valeria!" Who was talking? Lee couldn't see them. His vision was dimming. "The Deus Ex Machina! It's falling towards Adelhyde!"

There was a moment of shocked silence. Mother was going to have one last laugh at the world.

Then Lee pushed Lynn's hands away, reluctantly but firmly, and stood himself up. "Then---" He grimaced. "It's a good thing you have a spare dying man. Think I saw an engine room on the way in. Do what you can..." There was no time for any more remarks.

Or so he thought.

"Lee," Lynn said. She didn't put hand on him, though if he looked back he could see the tremendous sadness in her eyes, hands folded gently around the sacred jewel the Elw leader had trusted her with.

"...we will be waiting," she said, and forced that brave smile of hers on her face, the same she always wore when she was struggling to suppress the tears. "No matter how or when you return to us. Adlehyde will always welcome you."

Lee grinned back. "And I'll always protect Adelhyde."

And so he walked.

He walked to the engine room.

And there, in an eruption of fire, an explosive flame, the engines are destroyed, the Deus Ex Machina is knocked off course. That is not memory. That is history.

But what is memory is Lee lying on the floor, taking his last breaths. He says something lost to time. But not lost to memory.

<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

"Guess this is it..." Lee murmured. "It's funny how death can be quick and slow at the same time."

"..."

"Hey. I don't know if this will be heard by you. But to the one who carries this burden in the future, I want to tell you...Don't let your sight of the past blind you."

"Pain as ever stands out more sharply than joy, but that doesn't mean there isn't joy. That doesn't mean you can't be grateful for your life, however short it is. I know this power is a privilege and responsibility you never asked for, but your sight can be a gift if you carry it with them. I know you wish to forge your own path. But you don't have to carry the weight of the world on your own."

"I got to meet Adelhyde, Luisa, Val...Elly... We carried it together."

"..."

"Elly...  Our time was short. And it was hard. But I don't regret it. Were it not for you, my dear friends, I would have been alone in the world. I just wish we could have done more."

"..."

"But it's in their hands now. I'm feeling tired, Elly. I should rest... I'll see you...next time...alright?"

REALITY

Id's crying again. "Why...why didn't I remember that..." He whispers to Xantia and to Ida. "Those words... he kept them from me... I... I didn't think we could have a happy ending."

And then he closes his eyes, his body shifts form back into that of Fei.

You have won.

ENDING A:
Alone in the world

Thank you for your time, my friends. I hope you enjoyed it. Next time, perhaps, we'll dig a little deeper? You can treat the surface trauma, but the wounds are deeper than this.

But well done. Rest, for now. You have saved the world

Words you don't remember, but the memory of one thousand years ago is crystal clear in your mind, as if you were there yourselves.

Words you don't remember, but you still have the knowledge. You saved the world.

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied blinks a few times as Noeline whispers that she, too, is being unfair. Through gritted teeth, voice thick with emotion, she meets her. Her eyes are already wet and full of tears anyway. "... I know. Because I was fighting, every single way. I was fighting and losing... but like the Wayside, I wasn't going to be bowed..."

        She clings tighter towards Noeline, towards her hands. "It was so difficult. Every single time I felt as if I could sneak a hand out, to reach out to you, the cloud withdrew back in once more." She chokes for a moment as she closes her eyes. "The horrible things I've done... again and again..."

        She listens to Noeline's own words to entreat Fei. To go through life without a care. To live in the most superficial way possible. To experience it, but no more... a feeling borne out of apathy. She furrows her brow.

        "... I think you did more than that," she's still with that actually-able-to-go-tit-for-tat mode, perhaps because being Draconic has given her mass. "Lest I tell the girls all those stories about the Crimson Noble were all untrue."

        A pause.

        "There was... such a great, big cloud over us." She sucks in a deeper breath. "I was scared too," as she feels equally tiny against Noeline's shoulder, except for the part where she's a Dragon Monster.

        Fei speaks to her. Her eyes widen slowly. "... each of us...
         Each of us has been terrified of being 'that person', Fei.
         I've cried a lot. I'll cry more. I'll be crying about father...
         I'll be hurting about your loss as his brother too..."

        She purses her lips.

        "But it's okay. Noeline just shouted at me about how unfair I was being.
         Because we're all a number of people who do unreasonable things at times..
         We do things that make our friends and family and loved ones scream.
         ... and that's... the kind of thing we'll have to watch out for, together."

        Id, in his boy form, appears. Nasrin, back to her child corpse form, looks at him. They both watch Fei and Elly hug and kiss in a tight embrace. They watch. Visions of their loved ones dying, slamming into their consciousnesses.

        I can't feel her touch. These beautiful memories you make, I can't hold onto. I...

        Nasrin pauses. She looks to Riesenlied.'

        "It was difficult, Noeline. Being within that murky, dark cloud... all I could do to reach you... to guide you to where I was... was to sing."

              In hard times we argued, and others still we cried
                Nonetheless shall I still be dreaming with you

        She does what she's certain she can best do. To sing. To denote, perhaps to whoever can hear them, that they've had a measure of success. Because when she was trapped in the dark, all alone, so lost in thoughts... song was what helped her defeat Alhazred's dark programming.

        So sing she does, from her diaphragm to her throat, expelled out loud in melody...

                This world which always has been waiting for us
            I wished to go, but I lost my way, and in that time....

        As she dwells through the memory. A memory that is not hers, but a memory pertinent to Id -- and of Siegfried too. That even back then, there was hope that the language of Filgaia was love and hope. The beginning of such a kingdom... where this all happened for them, instructed and imposed upon her by her father's devotion to Mother.

                  Chance you happened to be there, and gently
                You took my hand out of the dark so present...

        Lee walked to the engine room. In an eruption of flame, Deus Ex Machina is consumed and knocked off course. It is history. It is an apocryphal tale only seldomly told to her. And she listens to the final words, as she hears it all...

                    The sweet approach of night or morning,
                In sight of spring's bloom, and summer roses...

        Don't let your sight of the past blind you.

        It's such telling words right now. Here, as she chances to be usurped by thoughts, a singular dark temptation to be carried forth into another destructive cycle. To do what father did back when his beloved fell, to do what father did back when Lacan...

                Oh, am I happy? An unbounded hope had me raised
             O'er the head of the clouds, past the coming dusk...

        Riesenlied's voice quiets down as she enters her denouement. She looks exhausted. Her form has begun to finally shift back towards her usual self; she's leaned against Noeline, looking... as contented as she can possibly be, at this point, with her hands still embraced to hers.

        ...

        ~*~

        Nasrin insistently seizes Boy Id's hand as he cries, where he's standing next to Riesenlied.

        You're wrong, by the way. Remember, in the village of the Fereshte?

        Nasrin shakes her head as she remarks to him, her fingers still freezing and rotten.

        You told me about how happy you were to have tears of your own to spill.

        She quietly turns to one side, as she gazes towards Fei and Elly, towards Noeline and Riesenlied, towards Lily, and Lanval of the mirthful laughter...

        Then back at him. There's an upturned scoff from her nose, which looks like it's about to break off.

         ... we can make... more memories of our own. Memories that are genuinely....
                                    ours.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

The light of the Zedder Rays finally fade as Weltall Id sags under its own pilot's emerging catharsis. For a moment, Zed hangs in the air...

And then he promptly goes plummeting to the ground, landing in a fresh crater with a distinct 'poof' of snow and dust.

A flash of emerald light follows as the Zedder Robo disappears, becoming Zed once more who, sessile and still, seems to have finally given everything he had to give... for the sake of this world...

...

Oh. No, he still seems to be breathing.

Well. He's probably just exhausted. And for good reason, too. Today has been... quite a day.

But it is a day.

A day. With a night to follow. And a new day after that, with a night of its own. And on and on and on.

Somehow, they've done it. They've saved the world.

And so Zed... Can sleep easily, at least.

Though uh, he'll probably be pretty hungry when he wakes up...!

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        ...What?

        ...What is this?

        Is that Fei? No. It looks like him, but it's not a perfect match. He's dying. There are people around him. Harthcourt Valeria--Fei mentioned him, he was part of that RUST group.

        Then, as the story unfolds further, Ida stops trying to make sense of it and just soaks it in, commits the dying moments of Lee Beyong-Ho to memory. Luisa Rey never saw them. She lived the rest of her life with only her comrades' memories to go by. Here, everything is crystal-clear.

        REALITY

        Ida opens her eyes. She blinks, and tears stream down her cheeks, smearing the blood and soot on her face. Both of her hands--the soot-stained human one and the gauntleted Hyadean one--rest on Id's shoulders. "Remember it now," Ida whispers. "Remember this. You are loved--both of you are loved, and always will be." An echo of Fei's words, from when she was lying on the floor, pained and terrified, as Kalve stabilized her new augmentations. Id closes his eyes and becomes Fei again. Ida reaches out with metal-sheathed fingers--Luisa's fingers--and brushes away his tears. "Rest now," she whispers. "You're safe. I promise."

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Layna prepares another volley of attacks...but then, she can see Id changing. Returning back to Fei. She watches him for a moment, waiting to see what he does.

...But he doesn't move. He doesn't fight anymore. And Layna laughs and collapses backward where she stands. The adrenaline's pretty much left her at this point. If the fighting starts up again she'll probably be able to pull something together, but...

Somewhere, in the back of the mind, she can feel it - they won, at least for now.

"Damn, that was a fight..." Layna says, laughing to herself. She casts her gaze around. The area is...pretty wrecked, to be honest. "...Dahlia's going to kill me if she hears what I involved myself in here..."

Layna shakes her head.

"...Ah well. I'll deal with that when it comes down to it..."

<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

Cecilia watches him. It's all she can do, really. Watch and hope he doesn't do it. She's cast her lot. Now...

He weeps. Closes his eyes and changes. The tension leaves Cecilia's arms, and she knows the strength will soon after; she hops down Asgard's quaking arms, taking her seat on his shoulder. She sees Zed - his bold declaration did reach her, even if in the moment she didn't have a chance to acknowledge it. "Our wall..." Cecilia hems. "I'm glad he didn't have to do that, but..."

She glances to the side, at Asgard. "Is it strange?" she asks the exhausted giant. "I think we can take another step, now. You were right, Asgard. Thank you."

One of his shield generators makes a horrible POP, and the barrier around them gutters. Asgard lowers his arms, shifting his position to a somewhat less leg-breaking sit.

"It isn't whether you deserve the world, or the world deserves you. We do the best with what we have," she says to him, breathing in cold Arctican air. "We'll have Emma take a look at you later. Rest now. I'll check on the others."

<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        Noeline listens solemnly to Riesenlied's response, recognizing that the two of them have a lot to catch up on - a lot that has been unsaid in their fear, back and forth. There may not be a clear-cut answer like one she's like to find, she knows that much, but the two of them have at least taken that first step together and been drawn a little closer for it. "... you did well," she whispers against Riesenlied's temple. "I'm proud of you." Perhaps there is more to say... but that can come later.

        Instead, she closes her eyes, and lets the piece of the Dragon's Tear within her ring reverberate with its twin, nestling Riesenlied against her as best she can given their difference in size as the dragon sings. It's a nostalgic, sorrowful, and terribly warm feeling; Noeline feels her eyes close and her chest hitch from the emotion of it, hissing out a sound that might be another choked sob of relief.

        She barely even recognizes the world as it returns around them or as Riesenlied shifts back to her natural form; there is nothing but the other woman in her arms for a moment, and even when the song ends she can't bring herself to let go for a moment, even as her legs quiver and threaten to give way; even as she feels the last of her strength start to leave her. All she can do is let out a long sigh.

<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

There is no further commentary from Ashton.
 
He likely would, because the day is saved - and his friend is back. And probably needs to be apologized to for stabbing.
 
However? He's out cold. The last few days of constant battling through the Photosphere, confronting Siegfried and Yarobeleedt and Mother, and now this? The exhaustion if venting that sorcerous overload has been too much. He simply... lays on the ground, two snake-like dragons watching over him.
 
ELSEWHERE
 
In a crashed and scarred Photosphere escape pod, the still form of Siegfried lays. Unattended - and unobserved.
 
Before the camera cuts away ominously.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

With Rosaline consigned to Skylr's tender mercies, Neriah has stepped back to the edge of the field. Memories play out before her - a glimpse of a time she can scarcely fathom. A time that tugs at some deep string within her psyche, older even than the rage she's inherited. And then it's past, and with it comes that feeling.

It's over. It's over, and she didn't even have to raise a hand. The dark-haired woman pulls her hood up.

The shadow of it casts a deep veil over her eyes, but the spark of them can still just be made out. A year and a half ago, they were a pale blue. That's been gone for at least ten months - they began to change colour the very day Id punched her in the face in the middle of the ruined Wayside Village. Even that orchid colour has given way to a more unsettling violet-red hue over the past few hours after fighting for Riesenlied forced her to tap into things she hadn't tapped into in months.

Skylr and Rosaline didn't die. Riesenlied didn't die. Fei seems to be fine. She lost one friend in the fighting, and it was Mr. Garbles. And now, the Demon of Elru seems to have been brought to heel, and he ends his day surrounded by friends and well-wishers.

nothing like that day all those months ago when she was practically left for dead in the middle of wayside streets. only jacqueline bothering to treat her like her life was worth anything. waking up in a hospital bed on some airship, knowing that her only hope at this point was to embrace valmar and break the chains of arius. knowledge that the demon put into her by injecting them into her jawbone one knuckle at a time in the space of a nanosecond. and from there, her path was set. saving her could never happen. or perhaps nobody could ever try. but there's a side of her that wonders who would walk into her mind and appeal to some side of her that time and space forgot. or is there anyone?

Neriah presses her lips together intently and lets out a long, slow breath through her nose. Beneath her robe, her shoulders sink a little.

"Ultimately," she says quietly, her tone low and deliberately level, "the life I have is the only one I could have. The path I have is the only path I could have. And maybe it isn't a path that ends this way."

Neriah lowers her lashes. "It ends with Filgaia being mine," she says as her body begins to break down into coils of shadow and flame, vanishing as if folded into a hellmouth.

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
SOMEWHERE, WELL AWAY FROM ALL THIS NONSENSE,

Emma Hetfield looks up, as she is invoked.

HERE NOW

Elly wakens on the deck of the Fereshte. She is sprawled on her back - the sky above her is gray, but it seems warmer, now, somehow. The pain is seeping back into her hand, and the terrible chemical high of the adrenal system - Nature's own version of the Drive - is wearing off, very quickly. She takes a deep breath, lets it out, and swoons.

She dreams of a car going very fast, down a dark road with bright lights here and there. It's really a peculiar thing.

<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

Fei doesn't wake up. His body has been through a lot and he was intensely sleep deprived and then he fought a goddess AND Solaris and then, quite frankly, all of you. He isn't waking up.

The others can, though, if they wish.

In the post credit sequence, the inner-Fei smiles at Riesenlied's wisdom. He is already convinced but he does allow a small laugh. He still has Lanval's giggles. "We can carry those difficult times together. That's the only way to carry the weight of the world. Together. If we're all terrified of being that person, maybe it becomes a little less scary for each of us."

Boy-Id's hand is seized by Nasrin.

Id is reminded of his own tears. That little memory that was supposed to be sad but was happy for him, because it was his own sadness.

"Nasrin..." The boy says. "...There's still so much to do but..."

Boy-Id leans against Nasrin, closing his eyes. Riesenlied's song, like a lullaby, soothes the last smoldering emberse of anger and pain within him. A temporary solution, but a solution nonetheless.

For one night, at least, the boy feels no pain and is allowed rest. That too, in a way, is sharing that weight.

The two dream and the weight is weightless.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

        "'m good at lishtenin'~" Lanval laughs, clumsily, back to his oafish, less sagacious self as Fei smiles at him. "Ha ha ha...! Good ta shee ya--"
        When Lanval is beset upon by visions of his loved ones dying, it is helped kept at bay only by the understanding that he already has - the mortals around him will pass on sooner than later. Maybe even too soon, by his estimates... so he holds onto it best he can, alongside the others, by doing his best to make good with the now.
        The past isn't quite done with him - with anyone - yet. He knows it's a place he hasn't been before, filled with things he doesn't quite get (loud, on fire, lots of complex shapes) - but only the sense that the world - Filgaia - is safe. It was saved... before? Set up to be saved later? It was saved. He can worry about tenses later. He is a Water Seraph. He is not a Grammar Seraph. There is no such thing as a Grammar Seraph. He can make up any words he wants!!! Like Qilfphletti!! (He will forget that word soon enough, like the rest, and it can return to being nonsense. That word.)
        ...Drinking will take care of the rest (of forgetting that awful nonsense word), as they will eventually return to everyone else with the full knowledge that Filgaia is, once again, safe.

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Elsewhere... a woman stands alone just outside the fringes of the battle.
 
It is hard to imagine what she could be thinking right now. Next to impossible to read her expression.
 
After a moment, her lips part and she simply asks a question to noone.
 
        "...what if it shines too brightly to do anything but?"
 
Her red cloak is suddenly disrupted by an arctic crosswind. She has to put a hand to her head to hold on her hat.
 
And she stands alone.
 
-=-=-
 
Hiro /doesn't/ wake up on the deck of the Fereshte. Nor too does Ruby, who is sleeping on his abdomen. Perhaps it is simply that their danger senses have decided after all they saw in Fei's mind... and experienced...
 
... that everything will somehow turn out to be alright. It's a simplistic kind of optimism, yet it's the kind which gives them uninterrupted sleep.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        It seemed like the moment hung forever, just like, for a moment, Gwen felt like she could reach up and touch where they are now.

        And, as always, time marches on. Id- or, well, Fei, now, it seems, is okay, just sleeping the sleep of someone who's needed it for centuries. Gwen's hand falls to the earth, and she, too, rests.

        Just for a moment.

        Wait. There was someone she should-
        Maybe she should rest-
        No, she needs to get up.

        And so, Gwen does.

         As Cecilia speaks to Asgard, the courier moves unsteadily up to the shaman and her golem friend. "Is he asleep now? I was hopin' I could, uh, thank him." Gwen rubs some remaining blood from her nose onto her sleeve, looking rather worse for wear, but still standing.

        For now, at least. And it's a lot easier when she has this nice hard boulder to lean on oh that's his knee nevermind sorry

        "... I'd... shake his hand, but I think he'd crush either one. I'd rather let him rest, but, uh, Cecilia... when he wakes up, could you... do me a big favor? Tell him, ah, thank you, from the bottom of my heart." Literally? Maybe. She's... not sure how that works, but the sentiment is there. "And also, as for you."

        Her lips widen slightly in a soft, subtle smile. "... I'm glad that you were the one he met. I don't think he'd... bother, otherwise. So thank you."