2019-01-26: Conduit of Despair

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===============================<* Dazil City *>===============================

Located a few miles from the southern edge of the Great Aveh Desert, Dazil serves as the staging point for expeditions and travels deeper into the heart of the continent. Wells dug deep intot he earth with the assistance of the Ethos still produce water, and so the small city remains viable despite the ongoing desertification.

With its proximity to the excavation sites dotting the Great AVeh Desert, Dazil attracts a great deal of attention from Etones, Drifters, and anyone else interested in uncovering ARMs. Aveh's military keeps a close eye on the goings-on in Dazil, and stands ready to confiscate ancient weapons or Gears uncovered by fortune-seekers...although with the battle lines ever shifting, those forces are occasionally called away for a few precious hours.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-u3RUAeYWM
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

The city of Dazil, mid-day. Though busy streets are fairly common around this time, today is open market day, and thus the streets are exceptionally packed. Many one-day stalls have been set up all over the inner city, drawing a sizable crowd in search of bargains and specialty goods. Among this crowd are a number of the Black Wolves, mostly for the sake of a cheaper than usual supply run, but it's also a good opportunity for a little R&R.

Xantia didn't really care to take advantage of the latter opportunity. She preferred to keep herself busy, make herself useful in some way. And so, as is often the case, she volunteered to help out transporting whatever heavy things need to be transported. Which is the reason why she's currently carrying a large wooden crate through the city streets, periodically saying "Excuse me!", "Coming through!" and the like to make sure people clear the way. It doesn't cost her much effort to carry, but she can't actually see over the massive container.

This is just one of several such crates, merely the latest one that she was sent to pick up and carry over to the city outskirts, where Leon awaits with Weglaff, significantly less armed than usual, and the designated cargo-carrying Gear for this venture. Everything's been going smoothly so far. There was no reason at all to believe that Xantia would have any more trouble with this crate than she did with the others. And yet...

                                    *CRASH*

For no apparent reason, Xantia drops the crate she was carrying out of her hands. Though the wooden container is slightly damaged in the fall, its contents do not spill. Xantia however makes no effort to pick it back up, having frozen in place, right hand on her forehead, grimacing as if in pain. A young man who was passing by right next to her when the incident happened quickly approaches, asking, "Are you alright, miss?"

Without even looking at the man, Xantia removes her hand from her head and uses it to violently push him aside, with enough force to send him flying several feet to land on his back. And then she starts to run, leaving the crate behind without a second thought. Anyone in her way gets shoved aside, now with merely enough force to get past at least. An apple cart gets knocked over along the way, and if things weren't strange enough already, Xantia doesn't even pause to look at the spilled edibles.

If one should catch a glimpse of her expression, there would be at least the beginnings of an answer there. More than anything else, it says 'desperation'. There's something she needs to do, and it's urgent to the point where nothing else matters. Not even bumping into anyone she knows. If familiar voices were to call out to her, they will go unheeded.

Unheeded, but not completely ignored. Soon enough, Xantia ducks into a series of winding alleyways, which seems to be a calculated move. Perhaps to make herself more difficult to follow, in case anybody comes after her. Or to try and obscure her destination instead of heading directly for it.

But in the end, considering how close she was already, it won't be too difficult to see or even guess where she's going, as it's a wide open space and she was heading in that direction to begin with: she storms out the gates towards the city outskirts on the far side of the market, featuring the lowest amount of general activity, exactly why the Wolves chose it to do their business. Weglaff towers over the area, and Xantia is making a beeline straight for it at top speed. Finally acknowledging somebody, she calls out to the nearby Leon from afar, as soon as she believes herself to be within earshot.

"Leon! There's no time to explain - I need to use your Gear, right now!"

Oh, is that all...?


(OOC: Welcome, everyone! To be clear: feel free to notice and follow Xantia, or otherwise find your way to the city outskirts during this round. If you do, you'll see a bit more of what's about to happen, but fair warning: you're likely to also get caught in the middle of Trouble. No worries if you'd rather arrive a little later, there'll be plenty of reason to come investigate the situation after my next pose!)

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon is not one to complain about R&R -- at least, not overly much. A little part of his mind, the part that demands he always keep working, always keep moving, always be doing something to further his goals, whispers that he hasn't done anything of import since December. He ignores that little voice.

At the moment, he is standing in the city market. His Gear, Weglaff, is behind him. For the first time since the Photosphere, it is walking. It is not able to do much more than walk or lift things, though; the Gear is devoid of most of its armor, being a shiny silver and iron color, with much of the frame revealed. Only the head and shoulders have the trademark blue armor.

He turns from the stall he was at -- he has a spanner in one hand -- and looks at Xantia. He wasn't expecting her to approach.

He blinks, once, at the request.

"Xantia?" he asks. "Ah--no, I'm afraid I can't allow that. It's less operational and more... minor outpatient procedural, I'm afraid. Now, what is it you need?"

His brow furrows. "Perhaps we can help?"

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily, on the other hand, is one many of the Wolves would know to complain about R&R--at least, she certainly didn't enjoy it much on Lunar. Not this time, though. Lily is standing near Leon when things get weird--she notices the commotion, naturally, before Xantia comes to them. She turns, looking at Xantia, and frowns. Desperation--

Lily has, rather than machinery, a couple of kebabs. ...And more empty sticks. They seem entirely forgotten for the moment, though--the gold-eyed woman looks over Xantia quickly.

"Slow down," Lily says, though she immediately adopts a more limber stance; if there's trouble, she needs to be ready for it. "And tell us what's going on. Obviously we'll help."

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius might be understood - to the extent he ever /can/ be - as at least being some nebulous force of whimsy and weirdness that might be vaguely understood as 'getting in the way of some pretty bad people/things.' Then there's the weird things in day to day life like Ethius' recent unexplainable obsession with sandworms while day-to-day life on Filgaia is making a few spirited strides back towards normalcy.
        'Nope, don't mind me,' Ethius might be all but saying as he sits in a shady alleyway reading a book on the subject, 'you go where you want to, life, I exist in a world where I am reading a book about sandworms cleverly hidden underneath more base and vulgar fare.' Like, he doesn't even want to sit down in a library and read it, it's like... he doesn't want to be seen reading about sandworms.
        This window dressing of weirdness aside, it is all the reader gets as a glimpse to the hows and whys - by sheer coincidence - he watches Xantia rush past the alleyways he inhabits as he hears an apple cart topple not too long before. The event alone is worth at least a modicum of attention, but he calls no additional attention towards himself.
        ...
        The urgency in which Xantia seems to move is noteworthy. He doesn't see anyone going after her from this direction. He doesn't hear calls or shouts, angry or otherwise, from where he sits by a stack of barrels.
        He's not compelled to give up his position. He just reasserts where he sits so he can continue reading about sandworms in secret in double secret, and thus in peace.
        Then he hears her words, faintly. 'need to use your Gear, right now.'
        ...
        Ethius rises from where he sits. He doesn't feel or notice any of the signs of trouble, having taken great pains to familiarize himself with the ambient noises of day to day life and mechanisms in these parts. Sheer curiosity suggests to him that he should follow to the outskirts.
        Maybe find another place to sit down and continue reading, the white-haired Symbologist figures, finding himself by chance arriving to near where the Black Wolves are conducting their resupplying run for further operations like he were a harbinger of terrible coincidences.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Ragnell is not a Black Wolf. Arguably, she might be a cougar. But that's neither here nor there. She's in Dazil to people-watch, as is her wont, seated atop a large wooden stall that overlooks the open market with arms folded behind her head. If anyone could see her, they'd no doubt be annoyed by her swinging legs, especially as she kicks through their heads; fortunately (?) for most, that's not a problem. But then a certain redhead comes rushing and crashing through the crowded streets, normally bright expression torn with desperation...
        
        Ragnell watches her come. Ragnell watches her pass. Ragnell watches her go. She sucks a breath through her teeth thoughtfully, regarding the air; then, she hops down from her perch and, like many others in the area, stalks after Xantia. She catches up, glancing up at Weglaff and the enormous shadow it casts, just as Xantia demands to use Leon's Gear.
        
        Well, *this* ought to be good.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei is also helping carry crates to help with Leon's work with Weglaff because--lets face it--he wants to make himself useful. It's nice to do nice simple work without having to worry about some new catastrophe. He even just recently did some low level drifter work just to have a good time out with his friends without some sanity damaging brain-assault ruining his day.

"Xantia, there's no rush--let's just take it easy--" Fei says, lagging behind when suddenly--

--suddenly there's a CRASH.

Fei sets down his crate, "Xantia, are you okay?" He pauses as he sees Xantia frozen in place. He blinks a few times. "Xantia?"

And then she shoves the man aside. Fei sets down his crate and runs over to the man to check up on him and make sure he hadn't clocked his head or anything. "Sir, are you okay? Xantia! What's going on--"

He pauses as he sees Xantia knock over an apple cart and not even take an apple.

"Oh no." Fei says.

Leaving his crate behind (so much for the job), he chases after Xantia, hitting various button combinations to dodge obstacles. TRIANGLE. SQUARE. UP. UP. DOWN. LEFT. RIGHT. CIRCE. He keeps shouting her name. No response. He can't see her eyes but he knows she's desperate for something.

Fei makes it out shortly after Xantia, out of breath and bent over his chest. "Xantia..." She's talking. It sounds like Xantia. It can't be that other side of her, can it, if she is calling out to Leon? But truth be told, there is much that he doesn't know about Xantia.

He straightens up. "Xantia, I can call Weltall. What's such a matter that you're throwing people off their feet for? Is it your memories?"

<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

Dazil is the closest thing to a home Rosaline even has anymore. She may find big cities intimidating, but she's at least somewhat familiar with this one's streets from her childhood. It's a bustling place, but sometimes, by tuning out the ambient noise, she finds she can even allow herself to relax.

That is, until Xantia zooms past her, the wind nearly pulling her coif off. She straightens it, looks ahead, blinks...

"Xantia? XANTIA, what's wrong?" she calls out. No answer.

Well. Knowing Xantia, it could be something very serious or something very silly. But Rosaline wouldn't be Rosaline if she didn't take the former possibility very seriously. She sets down the bag she was carrying for her errand, tucks it behind a nearby empty stall, hopefully out of sight, and...

Takes off running.

Those who know Rosaline should be familiar with her quadrupedal (for lack of a better term), hand-aided way of running. She does her best to avoid bumping into anyone, letting out an apology or two along the way, but manages to catch up to Xantia quickly enough despite their distance. By that time, however the young woman has already reached her destination. Rosaline slows down, too, recognizing Leon, Lily and Fei and giving them a very confused nod as she catches her breath. "W-What's going on? Why are you in such a hurry?"

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Where there was coin to be made selling goods, Jacqueline was usually there. And for that reason she'd found herself in Dazil, set up her stall, and settled in for a day of nice, relaxing merchant work. Truly nothing could go wrong this day.

The fact that this is still continuing should be a sign that that is not exactly the case.

She was, at the time, setting out a new allotment of potions, humming to herself as she arranged them by size and color into a veritable rainbow. She had already been cleaned out of the last batch, so it was time to put a new one out...

...that is, until a red blur rushes past her, nearly knocking her over. She stumbles, a bottle flying out of her hands. She catches it at the last second, but it nearly slips a second time, forcing her to carefully balance the rest of the potions in her arms as she reaches out to catch it once more, stuffing it back into her bags as she looks in the direction the red blur went.

...That was Xantia, wasn't it? It was hard to tell, but...it had to be. And that look on her face...she had only caught a glimpse of it, but it was hard to mistake that look on her face.

Desperation.

"X-Xantia? Xantia, what's-" Jacqueline stops herself. She's long gone. With a sigh, she quickly sweeps her carefully-arranged potions back into her bag with one arm and sets an 'Out to Lunch!' sign on the stall before hurrying off in the direction the red blur went.

It's more difficult than she expected to follow her trail, but she manages to catch up.

"Wait! Please wait! Xantia, what's going-" Jacqueline stops herself. In following Xantia, she'd somehow stumbled upon the Black Wolves - and Rosaline, too. It looks like she wasn't the only one who was worried. "...On...?"

Jacqueline stops herself.

"Ah...hello there. Pardon the intrusion!" She says, with a nervous wave of greeting.

<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

Xantia runs out the gate.
 
Ashton comes walking in. It's been a rough journey from-- hey, wait, what's she running for? The Double Dragon Duelist's head turns, following the quite desperate woman who runs past.
 
Perhaps predictably, the sellsword does what comes naturally to him - he follows, waving. "Excuse me! Miss? MISS! Is everything--"
 
It's at about this point that Ashton sees who she's running towards. Wait, that's Weltall. The mercenary frowns. Okay, what's going on here.
 
The hairs on the back of his neck stand up, warning him that fate - and luck - is in play once more.
 
And then other people Ashton knows start showing up, and it's confirmed.
 
Not that he doesn't keep walking to approach, mind, but at least now he knows something's up.

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
Elly has NOT been doing heavy labor because she has very long hair and is upper class. Heh heh! However, she was assisting with several key problems -

*crunch*

As Xantia comes running in to talk about Weglaff and how she needs to use it RIGHT NOW, Elly is dealing with the problem of 'who wants to eat the grilled bell pepper'? The answer is Elly. Elly will eat that up. It tastes like Solaris rations, but she will not tell people that, because she knows that might be a negative. (The stuffed peppers are EXACTLY like a dish they have in the catering packs.)

Fei comes in after Xantia and they are not alone. Ashton! Rosaline! Jay! Elly gets off the self-sealing stem bolt she was using as a seat, sets the skewer down, and steps forwards. "Are you alright?" Elly asks Xantia - her brow knitting slightly in concern.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Hammer, bless his soul, was able to hook Ida up with most of what she needed to repair the Dust Dragoon. The one item he didn't have in stock was a set of dissipator coils made out of a particular alloy, so Ida headed to the Ethos workshop in Dazil.

        The workshop's door opens, and Ida steps out into the street, donning her wide-brimmed hat to shade her eyes from the sun--even in winter, it still beats down on the desert. She tilts her head, catching the scent of fried foods on the wind, and she remembers the churro stall she saw at the edge of the market. Churros sound good, perhaps she can bring some home to--

        Someone rushes down the street, coming close enough in her mad dash to almost bowl Ida off her feet. The naturalist reacts with reflexes honed by almost two years of constant danger--she twists out of the way, turning the stumble into more of a clumsy dodge. She presses a hand to her chest, takes a breath, and glances after the fleeing woman. Who was that?

        And then Fei and Rosaline dash past, and Ida's face twists into a frown. She sets off after them, jogging through the market crowds and keeping track of the trio as best as she can. Ida arrives at Xantia's destination a few minutes after Fei and Rosaline, breathing a little heavily. "Is everything all right?" she says. Her face is the very image of concern.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        Gulliver snorts at some appetizing-looking apples on display, his gentle horsey eyes looking at the crisp, red streaked fruit like a cat burglar looking upon precious jewels.

        "Nono, that's not the contract we worked out, Mr. Tahan." Gwen folds her arms. "I mean, I'm not a merchant."

        "Look, I just don't have the right currency on hand, but I'm more than willing to trade the worth in produce. I have some of the best apples in all of Dazil, just ask anybody! The finest stock imported from the eastern coast!" The man spreads his arms wide. "Just, far too much of it. I mean, look at your horse, eh? He knows a good deal when he sees one. Take that cart, over there. That would be worth your labor today and then some!"

        As he gestures, palm out, towards the cart, Gwen looks on, assessing the stock. "Well, those are some pretty fine apples, I gotta admi-"

        ... And then Xantia crashes into them like a speeding train, without even so much as a glance backwards as she moves out of view. "Uh-"

        Like Fei, Gwen is perplexed. Xantia crashed into some food, and she didn't even stop to at least consider the possibilities?

        "I'll take 'em," Gwen states with a solid nod towards the shocked Mr. Tahan. "Can you watch my horse? I think that's a friend of mine."

        -------

        From there, it was just a matter of following the other friends that are called into action, Gwen hanging back just a little further behind in case the situation has resolved itself. A glance towards the person that was shoved away, a quick inventory of any other damage that may need to be addressed later... man, what is up with Xantia?

         "Hey," she finally states as a bit of greeting towards the many familiar faces. "Everything good here? Just got concerned cause she... wait, Gear?" She peers at Fei, eyes wide. "Wait, are her memories in the sky or somethin'...?"

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

"I know that!" Xantia shouts in response to Leon, distress reaching its peak. "It doesn't matter, as long as it can move, I can--"

Lily approaches, urging her to slow down. She turns an incredulous look towards her fellow Black Wolf. "I can't slow down! There's no time! If you want to help, convince Leon for me, I really need to--"

Fei shows up. By this point, Xantia has started to look like she's in pain. "That... that'll take too long, I can't..."

She doesn't get to react to anyone else. Xantia clutches her forehead again, first with one hand, then with both, now very obviously in pain. "Th-that's why I told you... there's no time...!"

Abruptly, she releases her head, arms limply dropping down her sides. After a short moment's pause, she speaks again, all the emotion drained from her voice. "But, I suppose something had to be done sometime. It might as well be now. It is regrettable, but..." Xantia raises her eyes back up, allowing those close enough to see the emotionless visage one would expect to go with her tone for voice.

 "...All of you must disappear."

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7QMqk541EI

Xantia's arms fly outward, and a wave of force travels outward in all directions, an invisible dome that expands outward a considerable distance. Where it travels, stalls splinter, the ground is torn asunder, and anyone caught in it is violently flung backwards. Until all that's left is a sizable circular crater, with Xantia standing at its center.

Needless to say, this event produces quite a bit of noise and attention. Most who were tossed aside by this event panic and flee, and most onlookers aren't eager to stick around after that either, causing a rush of people flooding back into the city proper. The guards hired to protect the market grounds flank the gates leading in that direction, covering people's retreat, but deciding that as long as this apparent threat doesn't pursue, this is somebody else's problem. The problem of those who still remain in the area.

Slowly but purposefully, Xantia starts to move away from the center of the crater. On top of everything else that's quite obviously wrong with her, she now has what looks at first glance like an alarmingly red glowing aura. But that's not quite accurate. An aura typically takes shape because of energy flowing outward. In this case, energy is flowing inward. Xantia is somehow extracting Ether from her immediate surroundings, absorbing it into her body. Even those who can't sense it outright may be able to work out what's happening just by looking - Xantia is growing in power with every passing second. Given her stated intentions, and the baleful glare she wears now, this is more than a little cause for concern.

Why is this happening? There's little time to wonder - the more pressing question right now is 'what is she about to do?' Can you afford to wait and find out...?

DC: Xantia switches forms to One With The Ether!
GS: Xantia has fully healed herself. She is now in Boss mode for 11 opponents!
GS: Xantia has attacked Leon Albus with Aura Burst!
GS: Xantia has attacked Lily Keil with Aura Burst!
GS: Xantia has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Xantia has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Aura Burst!
GS: Xantia has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Aura Burst!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Aura Burst!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Aura Burst!
GS: Xantia has attacked Rosaline Calice with Aura Burst!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Aura Burst!
GS: Xantia has attacked Ashton Anchors with Aura Burst!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Aura Burst!
GS: Xantia has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Aura Burst!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber guards a hit from Xantia's Aura Burst for 78 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Jacqueline Barber!
GS: Fei Fong Wong guards a hit from Xantia's Aura Burst for 75 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Fei Fong Wong!
GS: Elhaym van Houten critically Guards a hit from Xantia's Aura Burst for 26 hit points!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Xantia's Aura Burst for 135 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Xantia's Aura Burst for 67 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Leon Albus takes a solid hit from Xantia's Aura Burst for 136 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Ethius Hesiod guards a hit from Xantia's Aura Burst for 76 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Ethius Hesiod!
GS: Ashton Anchors guards a hit from Xantia's Aura Burst for 88 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Ashton Anchors!
GS: CRITICAL! Rosaline Calice takes a solid hit from Xantia's Aura Burst for 231 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Disrupt! Statuses applied to Rosaline Calice!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Xantia!
GS: CRITICAL! Lily Keil guards a hit from Xantia's Aura Burst for 141 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Disrupt! Statuses applied to Lily Keil!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Xantia!
GS: Seraph Ragnell guards a hit from Xantia's Aura Burst for 75 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

A lot of people follow after Xantia. Leon meets Fei's and Elly's eyes -- he meets Rosaline's, too. The confusion is plain on his face; then he rolls his neck, head turning, in time to look back at Xantia and see the change that comes over her. The hung head; the limpness in her arms.

"Xan--"

But she speaks, and the words are alarming. Leon is, in no way, prepared for the wave of force. He was on guard to deal with an emotional crisis. The invisible dome catches the Black Wolves' captain, and throws him back into a market stall. He smashes down, rolling a few times. Then, he comes up.

He turns his head, neck craning; there is a popping noise. "...Xantia," he says. "Or... whoever you are, that's taken her over."

He sees the red aura. It reminds him of Id. "Does anyone have any idea what is happening to her?"

He makes his intention clear. Leon draws Argent Divider; he isn't ready to be hurt again without retaliation. But, nor does he rush in. He presses a button built into his belt's buckle. A trio of small triangles fall away.

They lift, on small anti-grav cushions.

Plates unfurl, one after the other, until they become more elongated, fang-like triangles. The air between them shimmers -- and a translucent golden wall of light appears between the trio of Raid Funnels. It moves to hover, protectively, before Lily.

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Lily Keil with Raid Formation!
GS: Leon Albus has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
GS: Lily Keil takes a solid hit from Leon Albus's Raid Formation for 0 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil gains Restore, shortening negative statuses by 3 turns each!
GS: Reload! Lily Keil gains 15 extra FP from Leon Albus!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
Ida! Gwen! This is escalating quickly, Elly thinks. Did she go and get everyone else? Does she need everyone else they know here, and a Gear? But -

Why? Xantia is desperate. Why?

Elly van Houten is no ace detective, but perhaps it is this moment of uncertainty that is why when the flatness of total despair - or perhaps total determination - enters Xantia's face, she tightens up. When Xantia's arms spread and that horrid wave crashes out with sufficient force and energy to compact the soil, to dig into the upper layers of Dazil's regional bedrock, Elly is already raising a hand.

What happens EXACTLY is known perhaps only to god, or to someone who happened to point a high speed recorder at the energy frequency where Ether operates. Those who would have done so, would have seen a Earth-type tension appearing in front of Elly. When Xantia strikes, the ground rises, and in fact it rises unduly swiftly, cresting over Elly like a sea-wave of soil and swiftly collapsing as she weaves to the left side, even as people flee.

Xantia, Elly thinks with despair. Is this why you and Fei felt so similar? Were you bearing this same pain? Maybe he's your sibling. Elly has no great time for depth because in the aftermath of the burst Leon speaks, and Elly feels that strange drawing inwards.

It makes no sense to her. And to her, it may not feel the way it does to others. Even so, she takes a deep breath, pushing past her pricking eyes, and answers Leon. "She's - drawing in Ether, I don't know. I'm going to try to end this before it can get any further." At her hip comes forth-

LUNAR ROD!
* Applies 'Sleep' in battle.

As she snaps the weapon from another world into place, Elly raises her voice, staring dead on as sweat runs down the back of her neck.

"With the POWER in this weapon - I won't let you let anyone disappear," Elly says in a loud deliberate poorly acted voice.

AND THEN she runs forwards, gripping the weapon with both hands and raising it above her head. Instead of a magic attack she is going to try to hit Xantia upside the head!

Maybe it will all end before it can really begin.

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Xantia with Lunar Rod!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei's eyes widen at Xantia's declaration and brings up his arms to protect his body as he's flung violently backwards. He slams into a nearby wall, cracking it before he sinks to one knee, panting for breath. "Why now... why is this happening now...?" Fei murmurs to himself. "We were just carrying crates..."

You need to get away.

"What...? What are you saying...?" Fei says, having his one sided conversation with himself.

She's absorbing the ether around her. We don't know her upper limit. It could kill her or, worse, she might not have a practical upper limit.

Fei looks down at the floor. "So ... so you're saying we should just run away? so she doesn't get stronger?" He sways up to his feet, spitting out some blood to the side. He looks towards Xantia's eyes. She looks at that baleful glare. He looks into her eyes. His fingers tighten into fists. "No. No we're not leaving her. Leon! Be careful! She's asborbing all the ether! We have to stop her quickly, the longer this goes on, the more dangerous the fight will be!"

He looks down again. "...Sorry, but she helped save us when we needed it. She was even there for you. I..."

Guh, shut up already. I get what you're getting at. Fine. We can work together this time... Calling me an idiot...shove it right back in her face...

Fei runs towards Xantia, looking over to Elly as she darts in. She goes for the head while Fei drops down low at the last second and throws a sweeping kick for her leg.

"Xantia! We won't let you become like us!" He shouts.

GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Xantia with Hoten!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        What exactly is the source of the disturbance, Ethius is left to wonder from a distance he believes is 'safe' and 'passive' in terms of positioning to watch, to not get caught up. The number of people who catch up, and who they are, are largely in line with known working relationships. The only question is what is worth the panic.
        A hand goes to his forehead out of habit rather than any pain, timed with Xantia's forehead clutching. He's not inclined to draw much nearer, with so many gathered. There's other matters at--
        There's another voice in that mass he can't identify at first. The way Xantia talks now is so different he misconstrues it as there being another individual present. He can't see where among them, but he holds a hand up in the beginnings of a defensive spellcast when he hears 'all of you must disappear.'
        The wave of force erupts. Even standing at the peripheral edge of the force, there is enough detritus present in which to strike and batter Ethius as he staggers down to a kneel to brace against the force alone. Shattered wood and other rubble pelt and smack him. A large wooden board throws him onto his back, and the growing cloud of dust robs him of the fullest clarity of who or what is emerging from that crater.
        Rising back up to his feet, he slams the butt of his quarterstaff against the ground. It's sand, so the 'thunk' is muffled. But there is one.
        "Identify yourself," Ethius tries to say to the haze of red. It's all he can say before his words need to go towards chanting a Symbological spell, twisting his fingers in arcane ways with his free hand. He can feel energy flow around him, towards the haze of red. As he completes the spellcasting rituals and unleashes loud blasts of thunder and lightning that dance down the crater towards the red haze, he can start to make out the features at the center of the aura.
        The stretched out hand recoils, fingers clutching into a fist as he terminates the electrical attack's duration early as if taken by surprise, eyes narrowing ever so slightly. (Because he is. Surprised. And narrowing eyes ever so slightly.)

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Xantia with Tesla Tantrum!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

The reaction from Ashton is about the same as Gwen's as more and more people show up that fit the description of 'Drifter badass'. What's going on? He doesn't know Xantia, but with how she's acting, something is very seriously wrong here.
 
Unfortunately, he does not even slightly anticipate her exploding.
 
The force hurls the swordsman backwards into a wooden stall. He manages to keep his feet, but splinters of wood fly everywhere and he's due for some bruises tomorrow.
 
Immediately in the wake of the blast, Ashton rises to battle. Both blades are drawn and both dragons emerge hissing. "And I had thought after the issues with Riesenlied had been resolved I wouldn't have to find a person possessed and attacking against their will for a while." Oh Ashton, you niave fool.
 
He looks in the crowd to those he knows, trying to take a cue from them. One of them has to know this girl better than he - and hopefully knows better just what's going on. For the moment? Ashton draws a quick + in the air with his swords, forming an icy shield in front of himself. A barrage of small shards spring off the surface from the next (inevitable) attack.
 
Of course, then Fei speaks. And Ashton looks over at him with a mix of surprise and concern. Oh no. Is Id contagious?!

GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Xantia with Northern Cross!
GS: Ashton Anchors has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ashton Anchors has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Xantia's distress is all the more obvious to Lily, who grimaces faintly as she feels its echo in her mind. Nevertheless, she keeps calm, despite Xantia saying there's no time. "Look--"

With all of them here, Xantia, in clear pain... Suddenly isn't anymore. Lily hears her voice, but her entire manner is different. Lily looks in surprise--and something clicks in her mind. "Shit," she murmurs, and moves to throw up a barrier to defend herself and Leon both--

The barrier is ripped apart as it's being formed, Ether rushing from Lily almost faster than from the others, the barrier holding her in place for an instant like an electric shock before she rockets backwards again, hurled through the air and hitting the broken ground hard, rolling a few times. "Ugh--"

Lily feels it, then--the tug of that aura--no, it feels like two forces are ripping through her arms, and it's nauseating. But Leon's voice.

'Does anyone have any idea what is happening to her?'

Lily pushes herself off of the ground, looking to the wall of light ahead of her--she breathes in, once. That helps. But then, "Her programming must have been somehow activated!" Lily's voice is clear over the din, the soldier accustomed to shouting across battlefields. "There's no time to explain everything, but--" Lily has caught her feet, narrowing her eyes. "Id mentioned a Destroyer. There might be a link, I don't know--But this is related to her lost memory, I'm sure of it."

Lily breathes in, then. "I feel it, too," Lily says about the Ether--and it still sounds like she's in obvious pain. "..." She doesn't have a nonlethal way to subdue her. She can hold back, but if she does, can she stop her?

Faces atop black uniforms linger in Lily's mind.

"...Don't die on me," Lily murmurs, and then spreads her feet, pointing with one hand. The magic seems to rip from her more quickly this time, flames boiling off of her body before she gathers them before her, shapes them into a ball--

"Do you hear me!?"

Lily throws out the gathered spell, which becomes a torrent of flames headed straight for Xantia's form. Lily looks, while she can--what else is different? What can she find?

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Xantia with Break Order!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Xantia critically Guards a hit from Elhaym van Houten's Lunar Rod for 18 hit points!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia critically Guards a hit from Fei Fong Wong's Hoten for 24 hit points!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia guards a hit from Ethius Hesiod's Tesla Tantrum for 67 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Xantia guards a hit from Ashton Anchors's Northern Cross for 83 hit points!
GS: Xantia critically Guards a hit from Lily Keil's Break Order for 30 hit points!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lily Keil has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

'There's no time'? No time for what? Jacqueline opens her mouth, about to ask that question...when suddenly Xantia speaks again, lacking her usual emotions, and steals the words right from her throat.

"X-Xantia...? Xantia, focus on me! Hold on, I'll-" Before Jacqueline can finish her sentence Xantia throws her arms outward, emitting a wave of force. Jacqueline can't brace herself in time, getting caught up in it and hurled backward violently. She manages to catch herself with a quick invocation of a Crest before colliding with something unpleasant, halting her momentum and dropping herself to the ground.

With a wince, Jacqueline forces herself back to her feet. This...is this what Xantia told her about before...? Regardless, she had to think of something to do about this...

Quickly she breaks into a run back in the direction she came from, rummaging through her bags as she does so.

"Xantia! If you can hear me, I'm going to have to ask you to take this! Please!" Jacqueline begs, producing a bottle of deep blue liquid. A sleeping potion - the sleeping potion that she had been providing for Xantia, one that she and Lily would recognize.

She uncorks it and shoves it toward her. She hopes it'll be enough to make her drift off, or at least weaken her somewhat...

She doesn't realize that Elly is trying something similar at the same time, though.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Xantia with Dreamy Draught!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

It seems Rosaline wasn't the only one concerned. She only gives the others a quick glance as she keeps her attention on Xantia, who is acting oddly. She seems to be in pain, prompting Rosaline to take a step forward with a hand extended, her other clutching her Crests. "What's wrong? Maybe I can..."

But Xantia's arms drop, giving Rosaline pause. Her friend speaks up, in a tone completely unlike her own. Horror dawns on Rosaline's face. She feels the incoming wave of Ether before she sees it, but she remains paralyzed by the sight, and so ends up blasted into a nearby stall, which crumbles in an instant from the impact.

It takes her a precious moment to regain consciousness. Her vision swims as she sees the red-bathed Xantia, siphoning ambient Ether for some reason. This is only one of her concerns, however, as she finds virtually her entire body awash in pain. Attempts to stand up only make it sharper, and so she gives up, for now.

She closes her eyes, attempting to refocus by muttering a quick prayer. Her more grievous wounds close, splatters of blood vanish, and a faint white aura of her own bathes her as she works her magic. She isn't out of the fight just yet, you'll just need to give her a moment.

"Xantia, why?" she asks, loud enough but not really expecting an answer.

GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Rosaline Calice with Shield of Faith!
GS: Rosaline Calice has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Rosaline Calice has completed her action.
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Rosaline Calice!
GS: Rosaline Calice heals Rosaline Calice! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        "Huh," Ragnell says, watching over the heads of the crowd gathering around Xantia as she clutches her head and starts talking about how she said there was no time. She glances around, hearing familiar voices like Elly's, Gwen's, Fei's, and--holy balls does that guy have *dragons* sprouting out of his back?? Ragnell double-takes at Ashton just before Xantia Changes.
        
        '...All of you must disappear.'
        
        That's an ominous line. Ragnell falls into a battle stances as that aura *pulses* out of the person who is no longer Xantia, and so is able to guard against it; it still smashes into her and sends her flying, but she manages to flip in mid-air and land on her feet. When she lands, though...
        
        Leon asks what the hell she's doing. Elly and Fei promptly tell him. Ragnell would've been fine without that, though; Ether is very similar to Althenian magic, and the fact that Xantia's absorbing it is... nnnnnnot great for her? She frowns, a trickle of sweat on the side of her face, as she remembers Seraphita; then she pulls her twin pistols, loads them up with plain-jane lead from her poncho, and opens fire at non-lethal spots of Xantia's body. Aiming for central mass and hitting with real-ass bullets would *probably* be met with a certain amount of disapproval from this crowd.
        
        The others can ask why. Ragnell is practical enough to realize that whatever is going on with Xantia, she needs to be stopped. *Now*.

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Xantia with Twin Bullet!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Ragnell has canceled their attack on Xantia.
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Xantia with Heartbreaker!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Dreamy Draught for 26 hit points!
GS: Weaken! Statuses applied to Xantia!
GS: Xantia critically Guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Heartbreaker for 17 hit points!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida doesn't know who Xantia is, beyond someone that both Fei and Rosaline are friends with. Nevertheless, she has concerns.

        'What...? What are you saying...?'

        "Fei?" Ida says. Oh no, she thinks, not him too. Not here. She takes a breath, steps forward, and stands so she's almost in between Fei and Xantia--close enough that he has to look at her, but not wholly hiding Xantia. "Fei. You're here. What the hell is going--"

        'But, I suppose something had to be done sometime. It might as well be now. It is regrettable, but...'

        Ida whirls around, both of her hands half-clenched into fists. The right one twitches, fingers tensed into a claw-hand. She takes a step back, then another, putting some distance between herself and Xantia. "Xantia...?"

        '...All of you must disappear.'

        Xantia(?) unleashes her power. The ear-splitting boom is paltry compared to the shockwave that follows, an explosion of force that slams into Ida like an out-of-control automobile. Her ribs creak under the pressure. Her breath rushes from her lungs. Sparks fly before her eyes. She tries to take a breath, but everything in her ribcage is a solid, spasming mass of pain. "Ghk," Ida chokes out, her voice almost lost to the chaos around her. The front doesn't give. It presses against her, threatening to blow her off her feet--

        It doesn't. Ida's body seems to move on instinct alone, instincts that aren't wholly human. She digs in her heels, raises her right arm, sucks in a deep, gasping breath. The shockwave blows past her, and Ida is left standing there, in the crater, facing Xantia. Some sort of silvery substance--not quite flesh, and not quite metal--flows from the back of her hand, crawling up her arm and solidifying into light, form-fitting armor colored blue and gold. A white lotus emblem appears at the shoulder. Ida glances around, trying to take stock of the situation. Jay is throwing a bottle, Fei is moving to close combat, Rosaline is--

        Ida doesn't see Rosaline. Her heart lurches at the realization.

        "Subduing," Ida says, even though the very presence of that brilliant, power-devouring aura gives her doubts. She surges forwards, taking a few graceful steps before launching an open-palm strike at the small of Xantia's back, trying to divide her attention between herself and Fei.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Xantia with Open Palm!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        'All of you must disappear.'

        "... Eh?" There's a split second's worth of time for confusion to register on Gwen's face before she is knocked clean off her feet, crashing against the rough wall of a nearby building.

        "Gh..." Debris rolls off the courier's body as she shifts, using the wall as a means to stand up.
        
        Elly mentions something about... wait, what? "E-ether?" Like the medicine? Or wait, didn't Gwen overhear this term a few times before?

        Taking a look at Lily fills in a few more puzzle pieces.

        .... should she really try to fight back? Maybe a shock could snap Xantia out of it, but it could easily make things worse. But.

        It'll be fine. Xantia's tough, and everyone else is attacking too. The stakes are high. Xantia's tough. So it'll be okay if Xantia breaks a little in the process.

        After establishing herself with a steadier stand, Gwen dashes forward, ARM held back, electric charge crackling and coiling around the weapon. "Be glad you got some tough friends, Xantia!" The attack, when it lands, isn't cast directly at Xantia's face, but more towards her general body, generating a quick pulse of electricity. Something to restart her system. It'll be fine, right?

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Xantia with St. Elmo's Fire!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Xantia guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Open Palm for 72 hit points!
GS: Xantia critically Guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's St. Elmo's Fire for 17 hit points!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia keeps her eyes squarely on Leon at first - walking in his direction as the invisible energy dome dissipates. Perhaps she bears a grudge for him not going along with her demand. Either way, her intentions can't be good at this point. However... one person managed to remain standing virtually right next to her through the aura, causing her to pause, regarding Elly. She doesn't appear particularly impressed by the declaration - or by the weapon itself, for that matter. With an insulting simple hand gesture, she swings her bracer into the Lunar Rod's path - its power fizzling out on contact.

"Power, is it?"

Electricity bursts from Xantia's body, and she swings a left-handed punch in Elly's direction. It was almost casual, but containing enough electricity to be quite the shocking experience. Then her aura changes - a sudden blast of air propelling her back towards where she was going originally - Leon's direction. Leon chooses to guard Lily for the moment, but that doesn't stop Xantia. A blur of motion, she's in front of the Black Wolves' leader in an instant. Her right hand flies forward, ARM activating simultaneously, launching an attack directly for the arm he holds Argent Divider in. Or, rather, the weapon itself, intending to disable it before it can be used.

If it wasn't already obvious to Lily, this likely makes it clear enough that this is no time to hesitate. Flames are sent Xantia's way... but she turns immediately, aura shifting elements yet again, becoming one of fire. Holding out the palm of her hand, she merely stands there, and allows the spell to impact. Or does it...? It's as if the flames strike an invisible wall, splitting down the middle and passing by Xantia on either side. Some of it appears to be flat out absorbed into Xantia's aura.

"...It's futile. I already know your weakness."

A torrent of flame heads for Lily in return - the torrent of flame that Xantia is at this moment. Once close, she launches into a flurry of punches, in a sequence that may look eerily familiar to the one that she turns her attention to next.

"...Fei. A pity you had to get involved."

That's all the words she seems to have for him, her aura flickering out of existence for a moment, just before she herself appears to do the same, moving with speed impossible for most to follow. The single strike she delivers towards Fei's sternum is powerful enough to send one flying a considerable distance... but more notably, if successful, an afterimage of Fei remains standing where he once stood for a moment longer, before shattering and dissipating. For Fei, this will feel as if parts of his body have tied themselves into knots, blocking the natural flow of chi. It's similar to a move Xantia more commonly uses, but this seems to be its full potential - the perfected execution.

And it wasn't aimed for just him. She knows full well who else is in there. She aims specifically to temporarily disrupt a possible unwelcome guest. "...I won't kill you. There'd be no point. But I can't risk your other making an appearance."

Ethius demands to know who he's dealing with, sending lightning Xantia's way. For the first time, Xantia seems somewhat alarmed by something, raising her bracer and shifting back to her lightning aura to at least partially deflect the magic. That caused her to knocked back, and turn her attention to the source. "I need not identify myself to those who are about to die." Now lightning is brought to bear against Ethius - Xantia leaps upward, then comes crashing down with a kick, possessing the force of a lightning bolt. Again, seeing this, Fei may feel a sense of familiarity.

Ashton comes in at just the right time to capitalize as Xantia lands, attacking with what to others may be a known weakness: ice. She throws up her arms, only partially able to intercept the shards sent her way. She definitely didn't like that. Perhaps the way to combat her has been found.

...Except then Xantia's aura shifts to ice. She's never used that element before. But it seems to cause her no effort to dash forward with a palm strike, which explodes in a rain of sharp icicles, paying Ashton back in kind. By now, Fei should realize it - these moves are based on his own fighting style. Similar, but different... and ruthlessly efficient, meant to strike quickly and deadly.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Jacqueline adddresses her then, prompting Xantia to turn her head, swatting at what is sent towards her. The bottle of sleep potion shatters, and... Xantia stumbles back, shaking her head to try and resist its effects. Is it working?

At the very least, it's caused Jay to escape an attack for the moment. Xantia dimly hears Rosaline ask 'why' as she fights back against the sudden drowsiness. Perhaps it's due to her current state, but she actually answers. "...You've become too powerful. Power like yours... is an obstacle." Rosaline, too, is not attacked. Perhaps this battle is over.

Certainly it would have been if somebody were to shoot her in this moment of weakness. Ragnell doesn't choose for lethal aim, but either way, Xantia realizes the threat, her icy aura suddenly hardening into a shell, intercepting the bullets meant for her body before breaking apart. Uh-oh. She looks perfectly awake again now. And while she may have had trouble with this in the past, she certainly appears to see Ragnell just fine.

"...perhaps now we'll see what it takes to kill one of your kind."

She dashes forward with blinding speed, seemingly attempting to just bowl Ragnell over. But if she succeeds at coming into contact, something else happens instead. She passes directly through the Seraph. Which, considering her magic-absorbing nature at the moment, may prove to be quite the unpleasant experience.

Ida and Gwen proceed to attack virtually at the same time, forcing Xantia to make a choice. Between the palm strike and the pulse of electricity, she opts for the latter, thrusting both electrically-charged palms in its direction to intercept it. She turns in time to still muster a slight defense against Ida's attack, but this one is enough to knock her back, and... fall over almost comically, after her cloak got in the way of seeing clearly what was coming.

With clear annoyance, she leaps back to her feet. Her right hand moves to grasp the cloak, and in one fluent moment, casts casually aside what should be a treasured garment.

In the process, she uncovers the thick metal choker around her neck. Anyone who's ever seen it will immediately notice that something is off about it. Its surface, normally an opaque black, is lit up by something that may seem strange to some, and extremely familiar to others. Even now, one would only have to look upon Lily Keil's skin to see something very similar.

An intricate pattern, like circuitry, glowing gold...

Ida and Gwen can't really worry about it much, as Xantia's aura shifts yet again - this time, to one of pure glowing light. A single punch that explodes into motes of light is sent Ida's way, before she turns to Gwen, her ARM activating to strike against Gwen's. A move of which she knows full well the danger, as she notes, "It's foolishness to engage in combat with such an obvious weak point."

Meanwhile, Xantia's red aura has been growing, empowering her further. She doesn't even look winded by any of this. Is there any hope of winning this fight, or getting through to her...?

GS: Xantia has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Elemental Attunement!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has attacked Leon Albus with Crimson Flare!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has spent 2 Combo on Poison and Disease, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Xantia has attacked Lily Keil with Kashi!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Essence-Shattering Palm Strike!
GS: Xantia has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Fushi!
GS: Xantia has attacked Ashton Anchors with Suishi!
GS: Xantia has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Cardinal Impulse!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has spent 5 Combo on Gatling, including 4 on Gatling!
GS: Xantia has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Koshi!
GS: Xantia has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Crimson Flare!
GS: Xantia enters a Counter stance!
GS: Xantia has attacked Xantia with Prismatic Enhancement!
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Xantia's Prismatic Enhancement for 0 hit points!
GS: Lock, State, and Shield! Statuses applied to Xantia!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Fei Fong Wong guards a hit from Xantia's Essence-Shattering Palm Strike for 88 hit points!
GS: Break and Cripple! Statuses applied to Fei Fong Wong!
GS: Elhaym van Houten takes a solid hit from Xantia's Elemental Attunement for 128 hit points!
GS: Cover, Mighty, and Riposte! Statuses applied to Xantia!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a glancing hit from Xantia's Fushi for 64 hit points!
GS: Xantia has lost 0 Combo!
GS: Ashton Anchors guards a hit from Xantia's Suishi for 94 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil guards a hit from Xantia's Kashi for 76 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil has been weakened by Disease! They take 0 damage, and burn off all temporary hit points!
GS: Disease and Toxin! Statuses applied to Lily Keil!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Xantia's Koshi for 82 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Xantia's Cardinal Impulse for 150 hit points!
GS: Cripple! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Xantia!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Xantia's Crimson Flare for 58 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Leon Albus guards a hit from Xantia's Crimson Flare for 58 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Leon Albus!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"All right, then. We'll knock her out of it, and trust we can heal whatever has to be done to stop her," Leon answers Fei. Then, he glances at Ashton. He blinks, as he often does, at the dragons. "I'm afraid it appears to be not all that uncommon. But... be careful, nonetheless."

Thankfully, everyone seems to be on the same page. Even Ragnell -- he can see her shots, even if he cannot see her. He gives a nod that is sort of in her direction.

Argent Divider is slammed into by Xantia's ARM. She discovers something, in that instant; the slender, silver ARM is far tougher than it looks. It shudders under the impact, but does not shatter. Leon grits his teeth, and then he looks back up at her. Her aura is shifting.

Multiple elements.

He knows that makes her all the more dangerous. "Whatever happened to her," he calls out, "she isn't holding back!"

Leon rushes towards Xantia's side. His blade snaps out, to one side. He doesn't activate any of the ARM's technological properties. Instead, he swings his sword with a two-handed strike -- trying to slash into Xantia's side with all his strength. "Xantia! You need to wake up!"

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Xantia with Riot Crash!
GS: Leon Albus has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei can feel it.

He can feel the people looking at him. He can tell what Ashton is thinking. 'Is this your fault, Fei?'. It might be. Fei can't deny that as strongly as he'd like to but ... but he doesn't THINK it's because of him. Id doesn't remember Xantia, Fei doesn't remember Xantia. The many similarities they have is starkly contrasted by the fact that neither of them seem to know each other too well.

But he can see it. in Leon's eyes. The red aura is familiar to him. Of course it would be.

But Fei doesn't just see it. He feels it. Are Xantia's memories in the sky? Fei frowns at the thought but Gwen might be on to something there.

Fei squints at Xantia as she unleashes those familiar moves. He uses a variant of Shevat Open Palm, he knows that THANKS to Xantia, but is this Shevat Open Palm itself? Or just another variant like that which he uses? "'Get involved'?" Fei asks. "You're the one who'se been chasing me. You're the one who told me that being understood is always better than not being understood... And that peace by understanding is always better than peace by force! So how about we talk this out!?"

Xantia is moving faster than Fei can easily track. Fei manages to shift at the last moment so the strike doesn't paralyze him on the floor, but it's still a solid strike nearly right on where Xantia was aiming for. He is thrust backwards, an afterimage of Fei remaining behind.

You can't turn infinity to zero but when that image of him vanishes it still tightens up his insides. The power is there, but it's not flowing correctly. Fei grimaces, curling up in agony.

Ngh...!

Fei wouldn't have expected Id to feel that but he isn't in any position to really comment on it.

Give me...a minute...On your own 'till then...

Id isn't simply a construct of chi. He isn't broken by the strike but his ability to boost Fei's energy is successfully disrupted. For a time. To think that Xantia had something like that, Fei reflects. It's dangerous.

Fei straightens himself up. "I'm not letting you kill anyone." Fei says. "Not today, not just...because! Why are you doing this?"

He can't quite get things rolling just yet so he sticks to basic martial arts. Infinite ether power doesn't mean much, Fei recalls, when you can't flipping reach your opponent. Wiseman, Fei thinks, could really use your advice right now.

Fei throws several quick palm strikes for Xantia. He expects these to be blocked but his last strike stops short at Xantia's forehead--

--before turning into an empowered forehead flick for Xantia's forehead! Fei must be getting a little bizarre to make it more difficult for Xantia to read his techniques.

GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Xantia with Hagan!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
GS: COUNTER! Xantia strikes at Fei Fong Wong with a counter attack!
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Fei Fong Wong's Hagan for 125 hit points!
GS: Xantia guards a hit from Leon Albus's Riot Crash for 75 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong critically Guards a hit from Xantia's Counter Attack for 25 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has lost 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

It's...terrifying, to see Xantia acting like this. Someone who was so bright, friendly, and exuberant, attacking with cold, ruthless calculation. She flinches and braces herself as Xantia turns toward her...but doesn't attack her.

"An obstacle? An obstacle to what?" Jacqueline asks, as Xantia responds to Rosaline's question. "Please, talk to us! No one has to die here today - not us, not you! We can stop this here!"

Even so, Xantia doesn't seem close to stopping this - not yet. Jacqueline backpedals to put some distance between the two of them

She frowns slightly, taking note of the way Xantia so quickly discards her cloak...and the metal choker underneath. What she sees makes her frown intently. That circuitry...Jacqueline steals a glance over toward Lily but quickly focuses back on Xantia.

It's definitely significant, regardless, but she can't do anything about it when she's fighting so intently.

"I'm sorry, but I have to stop this!" Jacqueline says. With a quick gesture of her right hand tendrils of earth shoot from the ground, rushing toward Xantia with the intent of immobilizing her.

With the power level she's displaying, Jacqueline doesn't expect it to hold her long.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Xantia with Profit Through Preparation!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

To Rosaline's surprise, she does get an answer. How eyes go wide in surprise. She tenses up as she pulls herself to her feet. Wait. Too powerful? Does Xantia mean...

"This isn't Xantia speaking, is it?" she asks, having managed to extract herself from the stall, perhaps to Ida's relief. Rosaline has seen better days, but she's still surrounded by a protective aura, at the very least. "Who are you? Are you possessing her?"

She draws Esdras and Judith, moving to keep her distance as best as she can. Being anywhere close to Xantia right now sounds like a terrible prospect.

"Well, I'll have you know I'm a licensed exorcist!" One of her ARM-clutching hands moves to her Crest necklace, while her other points the weapon towards Xantia. The ARMs are a bit of a misdirect, however. Instead of pulling the trigger, she instead manifests a point of sorcerous light in front of the ARM, gathering for a second or two... "I won't let you do this! Sacred Beam!"

And she fires a beam of light towards Xantia. It's even cross-shaped, even though that imagery isn't technically Ethos canon, merely because this game was made shortly post-Evangelion. Hopefully Xantia doesn't absorb it, Rosaline thinks. If that's the case, she might have to start actually pulling the trigger.

GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Xantia with Sacred Beam!
GS: Rosaline Calice has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rosaline Calice has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        There is a sureness in Xantia's declaration to Ethius, backed by the sharpness of her movement as she leaps from her present engagements towards him with kick that strikes like lightning. Only for a fraction of a second does he hold the delusion that it's something he could physically stand up against. Her physical strength is almost as legendary as her appetite, and that strength was noted while she was this strangely cheerful, carefree young woman who forgot everything about herself.
        He dares not take a chance against the strength of someone who is absolutely certain of what they intend to do, one hand on the ground as he performs a partial cartwheel off to his right. He just misses direct contact with being kicked, but the force of the blow carries through the very ground and soon illustrates why it is a partial cartwheel. What sand doesn't dampen the impact of, it's a shotgun-like burst of detritus from the kick's impact with the ground that sends him tumbling. He has to plant his quarterstaff into the very hill of the crater to stop himself from falling into the center of it.
        Her sentiment doesn't give a huge rise above and beyond the sheer danger she represents, as Ethius' hair flutters through the current by the drawn-in Ether. One hand on his weapon, one hand on his forehead. He knows he had no expectations of her manner, no familiarity of who she is. He is certain these two have never met until that one Digging expedition, and yet...
        In the moment of downtime afforded by Ashton's intervention, he watches more closely how her elemental auras shift. How there is some resemblance in the way she throws punches and kicks to how Fei himself does. Getting back his balance is a problem, as the crater ground underneath feels like it wants to buckle and drop him, preventing him from interrupting most the rest of her attacking sequence. Through the colors, the speed, his eye catches sight of it.
        The patterns on her choker...
        Ethius slips and spends more precious seconds having to rebalance himself while she dresses down Gwen's weaknesses, how the gathered (on average) plea to her better nature. Once he gets himself up out of the crater and on more level ground, he maneuvers himself to Xantia's five o' clock position, eschewing verbal appeals or spoken defiance.
        "Storm Strike!" Ethius habitually calls as he swings his quarterstaff up with a speedy upwards 'snap,' displacing dust from the sheer wind shear of the uppercutting strike.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Xantia with Storm Strike!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Xantia guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Profit Through Preparation for 83 hit points!
GS: Xantia critically Guards a hit from Rosaline Calice's Sacred Beam for 24 hit points!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rosaline Calice has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia guards a hit from Ethius Hesiod's Storm Strike for 55 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

Ida says something about subduing. Elly does much the same, mentioning that this girl is absorbing Ether. That, at least, helps Ashton figure out what the situation is and the intended approach.
 
Granted he's mostly armed with pointy bits of metal and dragonbreath - neither of which subdues well - but at least he knows.
 
Ice meets ice - the shield absorbs the worst of it. Unfortunately, Ashton has no idea that the shift to ice is such a major point - though he certainly feels the effects. "I hope someone has a better plan than swinging at her and shouting!"
 
Not knowing that ice isn't what Xantia normally throws around, Ashton acts in what he thinks is a logically sensible way. Both blades are engulfed in fire. The real problem is pursuit - she's fast. Damn fast. And there's a lot of people here.
 
Ashton spots an opportunity when Rosa unleashes her brightly glowing beam. Trying to anticipate what direction Xantia's going to try and dodge in, Ashton lunges forward with both swords extended. "Double-Demon Blade!"

GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Xantia with Doubledemon Sword!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        That aura is shifting from color to color, matching each attack with a surprising level of adaptibility, including Gwen's very own. Gwen whistles as she paces backwards as Xantia stumbles against the interference of her own cloak. "Wow, good timing, Ida!"

        But that's hardly enough to keep Xantia down. The cloak is cast aside, revealing something Gwen's surprised she's never noticed before. Or is it something new, altogether?

        Either way, it's a rather lovely looking piece of jewelry. And what's that, etched across that black surface? That delicate etching, oddly geometric, similar to-

        Gwen's blue grey eyes narrow. She tries to fall back towards Lily's direction, her mouth opening to ask a question.

        Xantia intercepts Gwen before she could get much further, her ARM striking Gwen's own with deadly intent. It draws a wince from the courier as she defensively pulls back, her body forced into a kneel from the force of the blow. "... Can't really count as a weakness anymore if y'can punch a person hard enough n' get the same result." The quip is followed by a flash of metal, this time from a knife that's been pulled from the inside of her boot. She raises up, the abrupt motion of her body placed behind the weapon as she tries to use her position to aim directly at one singular point.

        Xantia's neck.

        Visions of delicate teacups and pendants against ice and snow flicker like warning bells in the back of the courier's mind. But she can't afford hold back. Strike accurately, strike with confidence, don't hesitate.

        If that collar was the last vestiages of Xantia's being, then, it can mean that it simply needs to be repaired. If not-

        "Please don't miss!"

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Xantia with Comet Clip!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Oh, Lily recognizes the sleeping potion. She looks to Jay for an instant, and notes her location; if it works...

Well, she has indeed found--she can't hold back, however much she might prefer it. Xantia shifts to fire, in the same way that Lily saw her learn, but even more smoothly; more to the point, Xantia is able to block the spell.

'It's futile. I already know your weakness.'

Lily scowls back as Xantia rushes close, but has no time for bravado; she throws up a cloud of mist to downplay the flames, and attempts to block the punches as best she's able. She's a fair boxer... But Xantia is too fast, too strong for Lily to catch even half of them. One, then another hit straight to her chest, and as Lily's forced back she feels the disruption to her energy. "Gh--"

it practically courses through her, the life pulsing wrong. She's forced to one knee as Xantia moves away. Until...

Lily's eyes find the collar, and its intricate golden patterns. She can't entirely hide her shock--light. And her aura is only growing. "You..." She shakes her head. "You say you know my weakness. ...Sure. You do."

Lily pushes herself back upward, using the staff as a lever, and suddenly the pressure in the air shifts; Xantia is already drawing in Ether, but for pulses like heartbeats, a competing vortex opens, drawing power directly to Lily's form as the circuitry beneath her sleeves glows so brightly that it pulses through fabric. Red; blue; gold; violet; orange; black. Her eyes darken until they are featureless dim, and the colors of her circuits radiate out in lines, through her hair, over her form.

"<System error. Alternate pathing... initiate.>" An ancient tongue, once again, before abrubtly all that power rushes outward, and Lily, covered in light, sproutes strange wings of energy and jumps off of the ground.

"<Limiters released.>"

A black aura ripples off of the wtich as she stares down Xantia. She's noticed the look from Jay, all right--the similarity.

But it's an expression not entirely like hers that regards their opponent first. "...Fascinating."

"Yeah, it's the same," Lily says to Gwen right after, strangely right after without a breath. But then she draws in further energy, and puts both hands on the staff. From its basket abrubtly sprouts a great blade some eight feet long and easily as wide as Lily herself. "Do you have a plan, then?"

The sorceress rushes, swinging the blade effortlessly through the ruins of a building and using the spray of rock as cover for the blow that comes against Xantia.

DC: Lily Keil switches forms to Awakened - Omega Stage!
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Xantia with The Murder-Fire - Sword!
GS: Lily Keil has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Lily Keil takes 11 damage from Toxin!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
The Lunar Rod sparkles...!

And then fails.

"I," Elly says, before she is suddenly smashed into with sufficient fist electricity - FISTRICITY if you're nasty - to go flying backwards, into the wall of the crater, tumbling out of the way and letting out a pained yelp. This is enough to down her, although things are perhaps kept from escalating by her visibly rolling onto her side and panting for breath.

Matters escalate while Elly deals with a painful internal cramp. This is not the first time Elly has been power-slammed in the abdomen. For a moment she thinks, and it makes her giggle, inwardly if not aloud: Will Leon issue me a decoration? But the pain fades, just more slowly than she wanted.

She focuses instead.

"Xantia," Elly calls out.

"... If you really intend to just kill us all like this... why are you trying to talk?" She pushes the ground with the Lunar Rod, which feels... heavier now. She has no idea if that's bad. Away to her hip it goes.

"What --"

Her eyes widen as that circuitry is revealed. It reminds her of Lily, she thinks.

Ah yes, Elly thinks with a sort of frigid horror as she tightens up, a hand to her mouth. That's why it reminds me of Lily.

Elly throws out one hand towards Xantia nonetheless. The indwelling draw of Ether potential means that this blast is able to whiz forwards, a packet of super-compressed air that erupts into a sudden bursting flare of light as it gets nearer to her. Elly tries to think of something else to do: meanwhile her mouth runs...

"Just stop this!! Don't become like all the people we've had to overcome!! Even if you feel you have to, even if you feel you have to do something horrible -- talk to us!!"

It feels false to her. Pathetic. But what more can she do right now, Elly thinks? An idea comes to her, but it is coldly, grimly specific.

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Xantia with Please... I'm serious.!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
GS: Xantia guards a hit from Ashton Anchors's Doubledemon Sword for 52 hit points!
GS: Xantia guards a hit from Lily Keil's The Murder-Fire - Sword for 91 hit points!
GS: Xantia critically Guards a hit from Elhaym van Houten's Please... I'm serious. for 25 hit points!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Comet Clip for 48 hit points!
GS: Shieldbreak! Statuses applied to Xantia!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida allows herself a moment of hope as Jay's potion bottle connects, and Xantia staggers from the impact. That hope is quickly crushed. Whatever's happening here, it's likely not going to stop without further struggle. Ida sees Xantia rush towards Fei, but her shout of "Fei!" is too slow--by the time it's left her lips, Xantia is already laying into him in a display of perfect, ruthless martial prowess.

        Ida's strike connects, and down Xantia(?) goes, but as with the potion impact, this is all too temporary. Xantia rises, and throws a punch; her fist catches Ida mid-dodge, motes of chi erupting into a shockwave. Ida has used a similar strike countless times, and now she is on the receiving end. Pain shoots through her ribcage, again, as stressed, damaged ribs are pushed to the breaking point. There's enough power there to crack Ida's sternum, and stave her ribs inwards.

        This doesn't happen. Instead, Xantia's fist slams into something hard, almost metallic--multiple layers of it. If she looks closely, she might see that Ida's leather duster has stiffened under the impact, and that there's something beneath that, too.

        Ida sucks in a breath and backpedals, grimacing in pain. Still, she knows that Fei just ate worse. "Fei!" she shouts. "Fall back if you have to!" She felt the impact that strike had on his chi. Does he feel like he's suffocating?

        'Who are you? Are you possessing her?'

        "This--isn't her, is it?" Ida says, to the Beastwoman. "Whomever you are--" Ida jukes to Xantia's right, but turns the dodge into a sidestep, towards the woman's flank. "You will answer her." Ida does not demand it--she phrases it as fact. She keeps side-stepping, circling Xantia, trying to stay in her blind spot while simultaneously staying out of Ethius's way. Chi boils around her hands as she weaves them through a flickering, open-handed kata. The glow around the right hand is brighter, more flame-like."And whomever you are, you've made quite a mistake."

        The graceful, delicate motion stops. The chi condenses around Ida's gauntleted right hand, which whips around towards the back of Xantia's head in a backfist.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Xantia with Steel-Breaking Fist!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        '...Fascinating.'

        Something in the word sends a frisson of fear down Ida's spine. Her eyes dart about, a moment, as if searching for some threat that isn't Xantia. They settle on Lily for a moment, and Ida blinks. Is--

        No. Focus on the threat in front of you.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Huh. The dragon man uses Double Demon Blade. Is he a Lunarian? Not that that would make Ashton special if he were, but it does mean Ragnell makes... well, technically a second mental bookmark on him. Honestly, the dragons alone are worthy of notice.
        
        Folks in general seem to not be doing too great. That, Ragnell reflects, seems to be how these things tend to go, though Xantia (New Xantia?) is also an unusual case in a lot of ways. She notes Fei's agony, Lily's use of the Ancient Tongue as well as what she says, Gwen's attempted neck shot (or more specifically, that strangely lit-up collar), and Elly's... Well, Ragnell would generously guess that's an attempt to overload Xantia's Ether absorption with a fuckton of Ether. Meanwhile, Leon nods vaguely in her direction, which makes Ragnell half-smile. Heh. You don't often get acknowledgement from people who can't actually see you.
        
        Which is not the case at all with New Xantia, whose acknowledgement comes fully from being able to perceive her. Ragnell sees the way her bullet mostly just bounces off that barrier of hers and narrows her eyes. "Perhaps," she drawls. "An' perhaps not--"
        
        New Xantia moves.
        
        Now, Ragnell is fast too. She moves as well, and maybe that's what saves her--the charge goes through a limb rather than through her core. But that's more than enough with her magic absorption technique in play. The Seraph *screams* as a piece of her is ripped from her, leaving behind a leg that's more mist than solid, even for those who can see her.
        
        But when New Xantia passes, even as she screams, Ragnell takes aim at her back, not with her limbs, but with her pistols, for a good old-fashioned pistol-whipping at the back of her head and neck. (It's Xantia. Brute force won't kill her, probably.)

GS: Seraph Ragnell has activated a Force Action!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Xantia with Pummel Kick!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Xantia critically Guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Steel-Breaking Fist for 34 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has lost 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Pummel Kick for 100 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Passing through Ragnell leaves Xantia with a bit more than she bargained for. She was clearly not expecting any kind of retaliation would still be possible after something like that, taking a solid hit to the back of the head and sending her down to the ground. But that only offers a very short reprieve. In no time, Xantia is back up again, not even pausing to rub at the painful spot. "Interesting," she remarks on that result. "But how much more can you handle?"

To test that theory, Xantia dashes back to Ragnell, aiming to slam a palm against the Seraph's form, and keep it there for as long as she's able. This is no joke - she's really trying to see if she's capable of erasing the Seraph outright. She doesn't even seem malicious about it, just... curious.

Thankfully, she won't be able to keep this up for very long either way, because Leon dashes in with Argent Divider. Xantia tsks, she didn't have time to make sure, but she was convinced she'd done enough to take that weapon out of the equation. Now forced to deal with that, she abandons her previous course and moves to parry the incoming blade with her own ARM, locking blades as she swings the weapon into the other sword's path. "I'm already wide awake. If you think you have any chance of winning, it's you who needs to wake up."

Despite her words, she's being forced back. Their respective weapons are a close match for one another, but for a moment it looks like Argent Divider is winning out. Until Xantia chooses to break the stalemate a different way, by lashing out with her leg, electricity bursting forth from it just before impact, with the sound of rolling thunder.

When the blade lock is broken, one way or another, she quickly turns to face Ethius, refreshingly direct and no-nonsense about his aggressive approach. It's difficult to stop a displacement of air, but Xantia manages it - by employing air herself, now sporting a shearing wind aura. It somewhat works, but doesn't cushion the blow as much as she probably hoped, still forcing her back a bit. And yet, "It's no use," she claims, crossing the distance between her an Ethius in no time at all. Her mere proximity is enough for her aura of wind to be damaging, but she adds an air-displacing punch to add extreme knockback for good measure.

Ashton is next, now employing fire, and promptly finding himself facing a fire aura. The pattern must be starting to become clear now - Xantia seems to adapt herself to any element she faces, fighting back with the same element in turn. It may be less anticipated that Xantia actually catches both of Ashton's swords with her hands. This can't possibly be a painless effort, and she does grimace as her aura provides only resistance and not immunity, but she does manages to push back with superhuman strength to avoid getting actually cut. Hopefully this isn't surprising, because there isn't time to gape - Xantia immediately counters with a fire punch of her own.

To her peril, she was still mostly ignoring Jay, suddenly held fast by the earth itself clamping her down to the ground, which allows Rosaline to take a perfect shot. Alas, Rosa's fears prove true. Xantia spots the beams of light coming in her direction, and responds by shifting her aura to light, extending a palm, seeming to absorb most of it harmlessly. So much for meaningless religious symbolism. This may seem somewhat familiar, also. This magic of Rosaline's didn't have a very favorable result when fighting Id, either. This isn't a coincidence, as Xantia notes simply, "That power is useless." She doesn't even move at all, responding with an invisible wave of force she expels from her palm in return, a more localized and therefore concentrated version of what she did before.

Another wave of force ripples outward, shattering her bonds, and she turns on the one responsible for that next, taking a step towards Jay. No longer appearing to be in a mood to talk, she says only, "You should have left the fighting to those better equipped for this." And if to prove her point, throwing a powerful explosive punch in the Carakin proprietor's direction.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Having no retort to offer Gwen's point, Xantia is about to do the same as she just did again to the courier, already rearing back her fist as she turns... only to be met with a hidden knife. Of all things, such a simple weapon, one which seems barely worth paying attention to. And so she doesn't, planning to just power through it. However, she is struck in an unexpected place. Her eyes go wide, and she abandons the strike she had in mind, clutching at her neck. The 'necklace', if one could call such a solid slab of metal that, is made of sterner stuff, a simple knife doesn't pierce it. But that did seem to alarm her, and spares Gwen of immediate retaliation, save a narrowing of the eyes.

Ida capitalizes - or tries to, but Xantia managed to sense the incoming attack, and whips around, striking back against Ida's fist with her own. It ends in a draw, Xantia shaking her hand from the painful impact. "You speak as if you would know who 'I' was to begin with." Ida of course doesn't know her very well, but this is meant for everyone in equal measure. No one knows anything about her, the real her. For all anyone knows, what's happening now might be who she actually is. Ida probably can't worry about that for too long, since Xantia suddenly launches into a series of rapid finger strikes, intent on blocking several key chi passages, causing small chi explosions with every strike. A move that is just straight up a copy of one of Id's.

Xantia's aim with this is merely to momentarily disable, since something else needs her immediate attention. She noticed what Lily was doing, of course. There's no way she wouldn't sense that power. She intends to face it head-on... when Elly interferes, the flare of light no more than an annoyance, but it does cause her to shield her eyes for a moment, and turn her head. Whatever her retort might have been is cut short, almost literally, by Lily's sudden arrival. The bladed staff is guarded against with her bracer, but not entirely successfully. Xantia is cut on the arm, and blood is drawn for the first time.

Xantia doesn't even pause to flinch. Rather, she leaps, directly for Lily, attempting to grasp the flying sorceress out of the air and slam her down to the ground. The landing wouldn't be so bad, compared to what Xantia's touch does. As Lily well knows, Xantia has the power to do incredible things through mere contact. She can do much good with this power. But she can also use it for ill. Right now, the latter is what's happening. Xantia is using her own Ether to invade and usurp that which Lily controls, turning it against her - while still inside her own body.

This is turning one's own body against itself, in the worst possible way. The sensation is indescribable. It's as if the body is on fire and freezing at the same time. It's as if internal organs are being violently made to switch places with one another. It's as if countless hands are squeezing and twisting one's nerves and veins.

Luckily, Xantia will not succeed to stay in contact for longer than a few seconds - even though these may seem like very long seconds indeed - leaving only a severe amount of lingering pain, instead of irreversable damage. What caused this to happen wasn't an attack. It was Fei's words. Though this lasts but an instant in real time, in response, words spoken in the past suddenly flood her mind.

"...I'm scared, Fei. If I'm not careful, I could do... really bad things to people. What if I was meant to do bad things to people? What if that's what I remember, and it makes me want to do bad things to people again? Would you... stop me?"

"I guess if something like that happened... I'd help you. I'd help you so you could stop yourself. I wouldn't want to hurt you. I... believe that. That part of you, though, if it's there... If it's there, well, so's the rest of you that doesn't want to be like that. If a day comes when you lose control, the more people you help in the meantime... the better, right? Then whatever happens, all the people you helped--they'll fight for you instead of against you. And maybe... that'll be the difference between a happy story and a sad one someday."

Xantia clutches at her head with her left hand - just the opening that Fei needed to follow up. Yet even one-handed, she reacts instinctively to the palm strikes, blocking them with ease. Once she recovers enough to bring her left hand back into place, she lunges, desperately... and is flicked against the forehead with such force that she falls, landing on her back.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia doesn't get up as quickly this time. Her head is swimming. She suddenly finds herself asking the same question. Why? Why is she doing this? She knows what she has to do, and yet... this is something she'd never want to do, isn't it? So why, still...?

Still on her knees, Xantia slowly rises back to her feet, wobbling unsteadily. She seems to be struggling, eyes closed, as if she's trying with all her might to hold back, even though compelled to keep fighting. As if it's costing tremendous effort to speak at all. When she finally manages that much, the first word she speaks is, "Please..."

Slowly, her eyes open, as she looks around at all gathered. A strained noise comes from her throat, barely managing to say, "Light... ning... use... li--"

There's a pulse of energy, like a heartbeat, and the Ether flow surrounding her stops. This seems to be an opening... but how long will it remain?

GS: Xantia has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Essence-Shattering Palm Strike!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has attacked Leon Albus with Fushi!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Elemental Attunement!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has spent 2 Combo on Poison and Disease, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Xantia has attacked Ashton Anchors with Kashi!
GS: Xantia has attacked Rosaline Calice with Aura Burst!
GS: Xantia has spent 5 Combo on Gatling, including 4 on Gatling!
GS: Xantia has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Koshi!
GS: Xantia has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Ultimate Pressure Point!
GS: Xantia has attacked Lily Keil with Etheric Corruption!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber critically Guards a hit from Xantia's Koshi for 33 hit points!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has lost 1 Combo!
GS: CRITICAL! Leon Albus guards a hit from Xantia's Fushi for 139 hit points!
GS: Cripple! Statuses applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Xantia!
GS: Xantia has lost 0 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Xantia's Ultimate Pressure Point for 84 hit points!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Lily Keil takes a solid hit from Xantia's Etheric Corruption for 102 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil has been afflicted by a Curse!
GS: Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken! Statuses applied to Lily Keil!
GS: Lily Keil enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a glancing hit from Xantia's Elemental Attunement for 55 hit points!
GS: Cover, Mighty, and Riposte! Statuses applied to Xantia!
GS: Ashton Anchors guards a hit from Xantia's Kashi for 85 hit points!
GS: Ashton Anchors has been weakened by Disease! They take 0 damage, and burn off all temporary hit points!
GS: Disease and Toxin! Statuses applied to Ashton Anchors!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Seraph Ragnell completely evades Essence-Shattering Palm Strike from Xantia!
GS: Rosaline Calice has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has lost 1 Combo!
DC: MISS! Rosaline Calice completely evades Aura Burst from Xantia!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"Listen to Fei, Xantia!" Leon adds, quickly. Then he glances at Ashton. "I'm all ears, but I don't have one! We scarcely know what we're dealing with. I believe the plan is to knock her unconscious!"

His blade meets Xantia's. There is a shower of sparks when the two weapons meet -- and his eyes narrow at her words. "That's rather unlike you," he says. "Xantia would say something fiery and defiant, I think, rather than chide me."

Electricity leaps from her leg -- and it slams into Leon, throwing him backward with a thunderclap. He rolls across the ground a few times before he comes back to his feet. He breathes hard; he takes a moment to collect himself.

And Xantia falls down, but doesn't fall. She cluthes her head. His eyes narrow for a moment. A trick? He isn't certain.

"Does someone have lightning?" he asks, before he levels Argent Divider at her. The weapon's blade telescopes in. There is a crackle of lightning across it -- then, the barrels snap into place. He fires a bolt of aquamarine light from the rectangle-shaped barrel, sending it hurtling for Xantia's form.

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Xantia with Code.17 ZULFIQAR!
GS: Leon Albus has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Rosaline Calice has posed.

"The Xantia I know would never do this!" Rosaline confirms to Ida. "She's not acting, or talking like herself at all!" Lily does... something, something Rosaline has seen before, but just like last time, the threat at hand is at least slightly more alarming and deserving of her attention.

But Xantia casts doubt on whether they even truly know her. She is an amnesiac, after all. The person she was before they met could have been so different, and yet even Xantia herself wouldn't know. Rosaline glances at Fei, wondering if he's thinking what she's thinking. How could he not? This sounds an awful lot like his own predicament.

The beam hits Xantia, but to no avail. 'That power is useless,' she says. Rosaline gasps, her mind flashing back to that moment with Id, when he turned her power on her. Was that blessing of light she was so proud of actually just a curse?

Another wave comes for her, and once more Rosaline feels it in time to react. This time, she's prepared for it. Despite being shaken, her self-preservation instincts kick in. She leaps away from the invisible wave, diving for the nearest still-intact stall, which absorbs the brunt of Xantia's assault.

Using it as cover, Rosaline peeks out, her ARMs at the ready. Her ears pick up Xantia's weak pleading, imploring them to use lightning. The power of light is out of question, obviously. She looks down at her Crests. Does she even still have a lightning spell prepared? She doesn't even remember. She doesn't think so. With trembling hands, she raises her ARMs, and...

No, wait, wait. She doesn't have to carry this burden alone, does she? She lowers her weapons, instead focusing as she quickly incants. "Please let me help... Holy Kindness!" Light shines down on a few people, whom she picked out quickly, in the hope that they could disrupt that aura while she couldn't. "The bonds we share," she mutters to herself, apparently intent on turning this into a catchphrase.

After a second, she peeks out of cover again and shouts to the others: "YOU SHOULD USE LIGHTNING!" For those of them who didn't catch it. Who knows, right? Not everyone has cat ears.

GS: Rosaline Calice has activated a Force Action!
GS: Rosaline Calice has spent 1 Combo on Reload, including 0 on Gatling!
GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Holy Kindness!
GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Ashton Anchors with Holy Kindness!
GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Holy Kindness!
GS: Rosaline Calice has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Holy Kindness!
GS: Rosaline Calice has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rosaline Calice has completed her action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes a solid hit from Rosaline Calice's Holy Kindness for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Jacqueline Barber!
GS: Reload! Jacqueline Barber gains 15 extra FP from Rosaline Calice!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Rosaline Calice's Holy Kindness for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Reload! Gwen Whitlock gains 15 extra FP from Rosaline Calice!
GS: Ashton Anchors takes a solid hit from Rosaline Calice's Holy Kindness for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Ashton Anchors!
GS: Ashton Anchors enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Reload! Ashton Anchors gains 15 extra FP from Rosaline Calice!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline feels a strong pulse of power as Lily releases her limiters and takes to the air. Her gauntlets crackle briefly, instinctively strengthening the shielding.

Xantia shatters her bonds, and immediately takes a step in her direction. Jacqueline tenses...and then gesture with her left hand. A pillar of earth rises from the ground just as Xantia throws that punch. The pillar is shattered completely, the sheer force of the punch continuing in Jacqueline's direction. With a wince she draws her ironcloth cloak around her, letting it take the brunt of blow.

Such power was intense - if she had taken it directly, Jacqueline's not sure she would've gotten up. But...

"Don't misunderstand me. I may prefer to avoid violence, but that doesn't mean I can't defend myself - or others - if I have to." Jacqueline replies calmly. "Please. Stop this before anyone else gets hurt."

She backpedals, watching as Xantia moves to deal with the others. And...something seems to get through to her, thanks to Fei. Xantia's struggling - Jacqueline can see that. And what's more...it's as if a part of her is trying to get through. It could be a trick...but at the same time, Jacqueline wanted to trust Xantia.

"Lightning... I see! Understood!" Jacqueline takes a deep breath, and then nods toward Leon.

As she takes aim, Jacqueline can feel a light surrounding her - invigorating her.

"Thank you!" She says with an appreciative nod toward Rosaline, but doesn't remove her eyes from Xantia.

"This might hurt a bit...please endure it!" And so, Jacqueline gestures with her right hand - a quick stroke downward. The air begins to crackle with electricity before a bolt of lightning crashes down from the sky, aimed right toward Xantia.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Xantia with Lightning Strike!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Rosaline Calice's Holy Kindness for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: Reload! Seraph Ragnell gains 15 extra FP from Rosaline Calice!
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

There were a lot of things that Ashton was expecting.
 
He was not expecting the woman who had just been surrounded with ice to suddenly surround herself with fire, catch his swords with her bare hands and then punch him in the chest.
 
There may not have been time to gape, but Ashton failed to get that memo.
 
He takes the hit full to the chest and he can actually feel the sorcerous bonds on his body - and perhaps a bit of his soul - shred and tear in response to the punch. The knockback also has him fly straight through another stall, scattering wood and a now rather damaged supply of cloth.
 
For a few moments, he reels. In a fight like this that's an eternity. Struggling to his feet, Ashton is able to see Xantia struggling. And he hears her strained gasp.
 
Well. It's a solution, at least.
 
Well, it would be if he actually had put in the Symbologic tattoos for lightning.
 
Lacking the ability to exploit that, Ashton goes for the next best thing: interfering to help the people who CAN. For just a moment, the swordsman's body hums with energy.
 
Then - there's three of him.
 
Tri-Ashtons blip forward, unleashing a chain of quick teleports to cross the distance again. And all three zip around Xantia - blades flashing, bodies interposing and stepping aside to try blocking her view of the incoming lightning strikes until it's too late. It's an imperfect attempt, of course, but it's all he can do.

GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Xantia with Deadly Triangle!
GS: Ashton Anchors has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei Fong Wong seems hesitant to give a diagnosis on what this 'other Xantia' is. It hasn't identified itself as seperate from Xantia even if it seems like a polar opposite. It's always dangerous to make presumptions on what someone else's psyche is like and Fei doesn't have a handy dandy Laevantinn to jump into Xantia's brainmeats. And to be honest, he wouldn't want to. If Laevantinn wasn't neccessary to stop him last time, he would have not been very happy about that in any other circumstance. Something about people going into his head...puts him on edge.

Little broken puppets.

But luckily it's not even an option that he has to consider right now. Leon says Xantia should listen to him and Fei is briefly shocked.

People listening to him?! What is this world coming to! Usually when he says shit, it seems to make things way worse. But maybe not this time.

"Okay," He says, closing his eyes.

Those memories Xantia has. Those are Fei's memories too. He hasn't forgotten his promise. He has no intention whatsoever to let Xantia run wild--but he can't do it alone.

Eventually the flood of chi and ether running through his body, a power that will not run out, that cannot run out, will push through that blockage and surge through Fei. But by that point it might be too late.

Hey.

I know what we need to do, but I can't take over. So I'll walk you through this. Don't fuck it up or last time I came out will be a fond memory.

"Okay." Fei says, reaching back and undoing his hairtie which may be pretty alarming on its own but he doesn't put on the Death Waitress hat so it's hard to be sure who is running the controls right now. Maybe it's like a part of him is pressing the pedal and the other is holding onto the wheel like a pair of toddlers teaming up to drive a truck full of ether. Leon told Xantia to listen to him and he has to make Leon proud. He owes it to Leon after everything he did to do this one thing right to the best of his ability. All of his ability.

"Elly. Lily. I have an idea." Fei says with the power of being a canonical party leader. "We're going to have to hit her hard. More than she can simply absorb while still being hard enough to knock her out. Overload her system."

He worries for a moment that it may harm her memory once more... but if that's the case, he'll be her friend as many times as he needs to be. He won't forget her. Ever. Even if she forgets him.

He hesitates. But then he sees Xantia in pain. He seers her struggling. She is fighting and he promised to help her. More to the point, this may be the only moment they have.

"Now!" Fei shouts as he darts forward.

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

 
Part of Elly feels guilt because -

Because everything is going bad. Rays of light are being stopped. Power is declared useless. People are told to leave the fighting to others. Elly breathes heavily as Lily is targetted and whether it is vanity or selflessness or some kind of subtle and obscure promotion she cries out, "STOP!! Stop hurting her!! If you're going to hurt someone hurt me!!" when she sees that - that unknowable ACT being visited on Lily.

Then Xantia reels... and she asks them to use lightning.

Elly immediately remembers the spell. Anemo Bolt, it was called pedantically in the Gebler Ether-use curriculum.

She imagines it on Xantia, unprotected.

No, she thinks. That's impossible. She'd die.

Elly felt no deep qualms about slaying 'Mother', or the entity that Neriah summoned. But neither of those were people - or at the very least neither had showed even the slightest inclination to back down, to relent, to listen, to explain. Xantia is a friend of hers, a friend of Fei's.

Elly breathes out.

She sweeps a hand towards Fei. She does not try to explain what she does - there isn't time.

Externally it looks like a sudden auroral nimbus around Fei, one that goes down to his body around knee height. The rippling sinuosity of the material tightens around him, forming peculiar meridians that highlight his interior energy - blocked though it is. And so it looks like someone took a pee in the watercolors tray, but that's a side effect.

Fei is cloaked in a massive cloud of free negative ions now, compressed tightly. Elly's talent is keeping it from seeking the ground in the obvious way, i.e. through his body. The light concentrates, moving up to waist and torso, then down into a loose figure-eight round his hands. It orbits between them. Fei will hopefully figure out he oughta use the one with the brighter corona, BECAUSE:

Xantia is NOT having her natural electrical conductivity suppressed.

This means that when Fei punches her - the gathered force will discharge INTO XANTIA as it seeks the grounded state of Filgaia's slowly-dying planetary carcass!

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Elements in Harmony!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

"It's her," Lily corrects Ida, though she doesn't at all sound happy about it. "I don't think this is a possession." But can she explain how she reached that point? Not here, not now. But she can't do the same things Elly can; she can't reach out in the same way. She knows Xantia, better than many, has worked hard to help her...

She can just hope that Xantia can take this.

In the melee, Lily's prism-black eyes catch on Gwen's movement for the neck. She sees the way Xantia reacts to that--and it may be something she can use. It says something about the way Lily thinks in battle that she can draw this conclusion even as she rushes Xantia, forcing her will on reality itself even as she feels the drain working against her own aura by the second. To say that it hurts would be an understatement.

But Lily is used to feeding on pain.

The changed sorceress hacks down, spots the blood, and immediately starts to shift sideways, moving to lift her weapon again. Committing to this motion means that Xantia can hit her--and if Xantia were any less skilled, she'd merely knock Lily to the side. As it stands, both of them go down with a clatter and a thudding noise, pushing up sand and dust in all directions. "Gh--"

Lily had prepared for the landing. She had prepared for a wound. There was really no way to prepare for what comes next.

Lily's body is drawing in Ether constantly; it is trivial for Xantia thus to press some in, just as Elly used Xantia's own aura moments before. The power rushing through the darker-haired woman thus turns toxic, surging through her veins and worse. It would be awful for anyone; for Lily, Xantia surely knows it is worse. Moments stretch out for her to subjective time of hours, the seconds feeling much, much longer than the are.

Lily doesn't really notice the awful scream wrenched out of her throat, more disturbing for a woman who barely reacts to most wounds. Even when Fei's words halt Xantia, Lily still hits the ground, twitching in place as power that is already too much for her frame wars within her. Blood trickles from both nostrils, from an eye, before she can gain control over herself. The pain... does not go away. "Haah--"

But she doesn't change back. Her weapon falls beside her, and she lifts her head, looking up nearby to where Xantia is on her feet. Struggling--asking--

"I... don't," Lily rasps out to Leon, dragging herself upward with magic more than muscle. She is dangerously pale, now, slouching as if that magic is all that's holding her up. "Nice... nice of you to..." Lily can't quite finish her sentence to Elly at first; even staying conscious is difficult.

Fei speaks, and Lily realizes something she can do. "All... right. I think--" Wince. "I think I can stop her absorbing for a moment at least." The witch's movements seem vaguely like those of a marionette as she begins again to cast; her markings gleam red and she lifts a hand again, this time pointed towards Xantia. She breathes in again, with difficulty, and suddenly rushes forward, bringing out a hand to attempt to latch straight onto Xantia's collar. The Ether about her flares with that same color, and Lily starts to pull as hard as she can magically, taking advantage of Xantia's holding back to try to rip away the power she's already absorbed--and as her other hand lifts, she channels whatever she can get through herself, worsening the pain but directing it for Fei, gigantic arcs all around her.

It's probably for the best that she can't muster the breath to talk.

GS: Lily Keil has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lily Keil has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lily Keil has spent 5 Combo on Gatling, including 4 on Gatling!
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Xantia with The Slayer of Life's Duration - Death!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei's ability to channel his chi can be disrupted. His ether can be halted out, but there's plenty of outside sources of ether. He remembers. They both remember taking Rosaline's ether and slamming it into her gut. This time, however, they can use the power for good instead of stabbing catgirls in the gut. It's honestly a thrilling idea in of itself. It hypes him up. It makes him...excited in a way he hasn't quite felt before. He wonders, in this moment, if that's how Xantia feels when she's fighting. If she's not just excited because she gets to use the tools in her arsenal but because she gets to use them to help people and in helping others makes that power worth holding onto, gives meaning to it.

"You can't keep the people of Filgaia limited forever..." Fei says, but Xantia will know damn well that he's just doing as he did before, passing on Id's words to her. They both want to save her in this moment. Savor this moment for they are rarely, to such an extent, on the same page. Perhaps it was Xantia's own reaching out for understanding with the both of them that enables such a high synch ratio in this moment.

Do you see it?

The flow of ether?

"I see it." He murmurs.

But do you feel it?

"I feel it..." He murmurs.

Our bodies can take infinite amounts of ether, Junior. It doesn't matter whose it is. Take ahold of those streams Elly is pushing into you, take that ambient energy like she is, and strike the gap that Lily has opened up!

Fei screams out in desperation as Elly's light concentrates around him. He sees Lily opening up a gap, a moment in which he can discharge hopefully enough energy to even send Xantia onto the floor...but not so much that it destroys her. It's a calculation that he has to perform instinctively but after having fought Xantia both as Fei and as Id--he has some idea of where that point might be. The margin of error is small.

Fei doesn't know science but he seems to instinctively know how to make the best use of Elly's ether. Fei reaches back with that bright and brighter corona empowered fist and then throws a single palm strike for Xantia's midsection, intending to send that electricity all throughout her body, throughout her circuits, and send her to the floor.

"Don't you dare lose this fight! You promised...That you'd never stop winning!!"

GS: Elhaym van Houten heals Fei Fong Wong! He gains 0 temporary hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Reload! Fei Fong Wong gains 15 extra FP from Elhaym van Houten!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        "-Ragnell!" Seeing the Seraph scream like that, along with seeing exactly *why* Ragnell was screaming, is enough to make the courier cry out in return. That's what happens to Seraphs when this Ether absorption kicks in? As New Xantia comments on the results, a chill creeps up the back of Gwen's spine. It's too easy to forget what a Seraph is, and it's just as easy to overlook what else Gwen doesn't know about.

        The knife, even with the impressive might of Gwen's ARM behind it, is still a knife. As it simply draws over Xantia's collar, Gwen is forced to draw back, fear overpowering whatever will she had mustered to try such a risky maneuver. As Xantia clutches her neck, terror creases the pale redhead's face. Did she nick something she wasn't supposed to?

        There's an odd contrast in emotions as Gwen sees Xantia move with a vicious strike against Ida, and something just as nasty against Lily. She backs away quickly from her position, not wanting whatever sort of nasty surprises this new Xantia may have in store.

        Thankfully, they don't come, because a familiar presence stopped the young woman right in her tracks: Xantia, herself. Xantia, the happy Xantia, the only looking for her memories, the one who loves cake and eating in general, who could probably very well beat Gwen in a game of arm wrestling. That Xantia has a request.

        "Leon, I do!" Ragnell does too, but could she really spare any right now?

        Gwen certainly can. The courier gripes the fingers of her right hand, willing it to begin the charging process.

        Rosaline's energy floods Gwen's body, making the energy her ARM draws from her body shine even brighter as it sinks in. "Thank you, Rosaline!" Gwen shouts out towards the quite un-useless catnun.

        It won't be anything fancy. Just like at the Berry Cave, where she tried to power a strange machine that talked about a Kim and something else???

        She'll just overload Xantia with her own force.

         As an Elly-charged Fei goes towards Xantia, Lily's powers in tow, Gwen likewise walks ahead, the ground threatening to give way beneath her feet as she walks closer. ".... G'damn, kinda was hopin' I would get morea breather, hehe... well..." Her pace quickens, and she thrusts her open palm around, straight towards Xantia. No, she hasn't developed any complex martial arts, Fei has barely shown her the magic of throwing people without using excessive force, after all.

        A bright pulse of electrical power bursts out of Gwen's outstretched palm, something that was meant to originally be a laser beam, but in this case, as Gwen's face begins to pale from the effort, it's clear it's something more experimental. "Xantia!"

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Incredible sights happen all around Ethius. A resurgance of Lily's abilities, a fleck of a reminder how he could only barely keep up with her in what was a losing fight underneath Lacour - she was too strong of power, to quick of casting, too implacable a force to keep at bay. That was before he saw her being capable of this. It's worrisome when it might not seem like that would be enough to overcome her.
        To watch someone like Ragnell seem like she could be in the process of being disintegrated by Xantia's means, some criss-cross of sorcery-energy-science that he can't quite comprehend.
        Other ideas come to mind - the idea of there being some other person in play, some other controlling force. It brings back reminders of-- there's no further time to speculate.
        It is no use - just as Xantia says - to try to get the jump on a masterful martial artist like her, who is already on Ethius before he can return himself to a ready fighting stance. For a moment, both of their gazes meet. The howling winds about her aura whips deafeningly loud, pressing upon the stoic man with great pressing force that he feels a bit faint. It proves harder to breathe.
        Were he in less mortal danger, he could reflect upon the similarities between their gazes - the looks of people who seem so driven towards an end that is destructive, seemingly without care for who will get caught up in it.
        That's before the punch comes into play, and it takes all of his presence of mind to fall to a knee to stop taking a punch to the face. The wind-wrapped fist grazes across a shoulder. His upper body arches back from the displaced air, pressing him onto his back and rolling him across the ground as Ashton's flames move to try and consume the wind. He barely misses clipping Ida's feet as he once more catches himself by planting the quarterstaff into the ground with a dizzying feeling of whiplash. Physically he's moving away. But there's a sense of energy still building, drawing towards Xantia. It is an extraordinarily uncomfortable feeling.
        That's not a direct hit he just suffered. He might not have withstood a direct hit.
        He sees how they guard the neckbrace, defensively, at Gwen's attempts to go inside. He shakes his head and draws in breath as he rises, more unforgettable exchanges of strength. He sees an opening, a moment of weakness, with Xantia on her knees, unaware of her inner turmoil.
        There's discussion about the use of lightning, amplified by Jay and Rosaline. Was that Leon's idea? (Ethius was too distant to hear her plea.) He has to limp over to her, for being in the proximity of the aura of wind had him nearly blacked out from g-forces and oxygen deprivation. For a moment, he reflects on why they had to be eliminated.
        He does not question why he has so many ideas on the hows and whys to the point of comfort or acceptance of the concept.
        He can only reflect upon a similiary to this situation that he has seen. His face betrays no sentimentalism. His gaze is still the same, through all of that. As he draws nearer, he twists his fingers in his free hand into strained, pointed gestures in sequence as he quietly mouths the proper syllables. He comes from a direction different from Fei's three-pronged assault.
        Lights form around him as he finishes the casting process for the Symbological spell - an electrical one designed to pierce numerous forms of protection and countermeasures in one to-the-point electrical discharge.
        The two of them both suffer from lost memories, lost purposes, acting the only way they know how. They were strangers before, he's certain of this, they may well be strangers now. It is difficult to construe anything Ethius does as being kind, or even merciful.
        "Whoever is responsible," Ethius remarks, a voice so quiet as to perhaps not be possible to be heard above everything going on around him as the spell goes off, "I will find them." Whether a misunderstanding of the deeper meanings or truths at play, there is no misunderstanding the spell itself -
        A bolt of electricity leaps forward, trying to surge through any last-minute raised safeguards in case Xantia('s theoretical controller) changes their mind and tries to close up the opening.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Xantia with Surge Bolt!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Xantia with Trinity!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida's fist meets Xantia's with a sound like a cannonball striking impenetrable steel armor. The force of the strike travels down Ida's arm, a spike of pain through nerves, bone, and muscle. Ida feels more than hears the low, metallic grind of her augmented musculoskeletal system absorbing the impact. If the limb weren't thoroughly reinforced with Hyadean tissue, Xantia would've broken every bone between Ida's shoulder and fingertips. As it stands, it merely hurts like hell.

        'You speak as if you know who 'I' was to begin with.'

        "I don't," Ida says, through teeth gritted in pain. "But they do. And they deserve better than to be used." Ida sees Xantia's hands change position to something she also knows quite well--the kind of knife or dart-shape used by attacks targeting pressure points. Ida sweeps her right arm in, blocking the first with the limb's heavy armor, but as she's doing that, Xantia's already breaking through her guard. The martial artist's fingertips jab into the meridian at her right shoulder, and chi erupts into Ida's system. It's like a surge of lightning traveling into ungrounded electronics. Ida feels the meridians in the limb going dead, one by one. Xantia's next strike jabs into her abdomen, and the breath she was taking turns into a ragged gasp. Ida sags--doubles over, really--her body twitching as the foreign chi pulses through her.

        Behind her, she hears Lily scream, and everything becomes so much worse, and so much more urgent.

        Ida turns her gaze inward. It's difficult to focus when in agony and trying desperately to breathe, but pain has taught Ida many things, including how to manage it. She feels Xantia's chi, a fire that does not belong in her body--and she marshals her own inner flame against it. Brilliant gold-white emanates from Ida's skin, surrounding a core of crackling flame over her right arm and torso. Her body bucks, shudders, and--

        --And what's left of Xantia's chi erupts from Ida's open mouth like a dragon's breath, steaming in the air. Paralyzed meridians flare to life as the network repairs itself.

        "That was masterfully done," Ida says--and then, Xantia falls to her knees. Ida blinks. Lightning, Rosaline clarifies. Ida doesn't have anything like that. But she can improvise.

        A pulse of chi travels down Ida's right arm, and in its wake, the limb reconfigures itself. The plates thicken, harden, split apart in places to reveal something resembling dragonscale. The fingers elongate, lengthening into razor-sharp blades at the ends. Dragon Filaments push through the armor on Ida's palm, forming a grid of crisscrossing ignition surfaces. Flame curls along her fingers.

        "Fei! Ashton!" Ida cries. "Watch out!" And then she opens fire. White-hot flame erupts from her palm, a cone of Dragonfire--aimed not at Xantia, but at the grit and dirt and rock beneath her feet. Some of it will undoubtedly splash up at her, but most of the damage will come from the ground itself. That flame is hot enough to turn sand to glass, after all.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Xantia with Coil Cannon EX!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has entered a Reflect stance!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has spent 3 Combo on Poison and Gatling, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Xantia with Dragon's Breath!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        It's not really a surprise that Xantia can take a hit like that and pop back up. That's why Ragnell hit as hard as she did, because she was confident it wouldn't cause any lasting brain damage. It's also why, when Xantia rushes back at her, she's ready this time, leaping backwards out of the range of her grip the split-second after she commits to the hand press but before she can actually land it.
        
        "More'n you can, I wager," she drawls, as everyone else's attacks pour in, keeping New Xantia from potentially following up. But... when Xantia hits the ground and comes up again... this time, she seems like her normal self. Struggling against another her, maybe? And her advice...
        
        Rosaline repeats it at full volume as she sends motes of empowering light across the battlefield, including over Ragnell; Ragnell raises a hand in gratitude towards her. Meanwhile, Fei says, 'You can't keep the people of Filgaia limited forever...' Ragnell glances at him, eyebrows furrowing. The hell does he mean by that? ...Something to ask about later. Along with a lot of things going on right now, really.
        
        Then she snorts at Leon's call. "'Does someone have lightning,' he says," she murmurs in amusement. "I'll show you lightnin'!" Electricity crackles around her as a golden Seraphic glyph forms at her feet and she aims both pistols at Xantia. "This number's for you, babe. Let's dance!"
        
        She opens fire with a rapid series of lightning bullets, which shear up a second glyph around Xantia's feet, potentially locking her in place. The barrels of her pistols glow, drawing in energy of their own, and then unleash twin massive blasts in another set of powerful, directed electrical blows. "PRISM TANGO!"

GS: Seraph Ragnell has activated a Force Action!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has activated a Force Action!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Xantia with Prism Tango!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Leon Albus's Code.17 ZULFIQAR for 128 hit points!
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Lightning Strike for 195 hit points!
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Ashton Anchors's Deadly Triangle for 85 hit points!
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Surge Bolt for 94 hit points!
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Coil Cannon EX for 155 hit points!
GS: Cover! Statuses applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: CRITICAL! Xantia takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Dragon's Breath for 187 hit points!
GS: Toxin! Statuses applied to Xantia!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Prism Tango for 190 hit points!
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Lily Keil's The Slayer of Life's Duration - Death for 221 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil drains Xantia! Lily Keil gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Fei Fong Wong's attack becomes clear!
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Fei Fong Wong's Ultra Idstinct for 224 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Naturally, when such an obvious opening presents itself, one would seek to take advantage. However, there is a snag in that plan. Just when everyone gets ready to act, that opening abruptly vanishes.

With a sharp intake of breath, Xantia lurches back into a straightened position, immediately preparing to attack once again. Thankfully Ashton is there, or rather three Ashtons, boxing her in and forcing her to go on the defensive. She doesn't seem to have an answer to this - even though she seemed to have recovered, she seems to be reacting much slower than before, constantly one step behind. But this also isn't going to bring her down. It may only a matter of time before she starts to draw in Ether again, and things will go downhill all over again.

Before it gets to that point, Ida's warning rings out, and flame superheats the ground directly underneath Xantia. Again, the reaction is too slow - and even when she does manage to get a fire aura going, its effectiveness isn't great when the ground itself is what's damaging you. It merely offers enough resistance for Xantia to not just melt outright. She leaps backward to escape this situation, but stumbles upon landing. She's still not recovered completely. There's still a chance.

Xantia locks eyes with Rosaline when she casts her spell. That's the look of someone who knows they're in trouble for failing to take down someone whose talents lie in healing others and making them more powerful. And looking quite intent on rectifying that mistake. One step forward is all she gets to take, however. Not even because she was stopped by anyone's attack. Her other foot just won't lift, as if some invisible force was holding it down. She looks as surprised about this as anyone else.

She looks with sudden shock at everyone preparing lightning attacks. That shouldn't be as much of a surprise - she asked for it herself. Just then her expression twists, grimacing in pain before anyone's even done anything. And then the barrage begins. Leon firing lightning from Argent Divider. Jay and Ethius, simultaneously using their magic as if in practiced synchronicity. Gwen, using an electrified palm strike against one known for using those herself. And of course Ragnell, using her weapons embued with her specialty, a barrage all on its own.

And Xantia... doesn't defend against any of it. She just stands there and takes it, endures it. A smile actually finds its way to her face. There's an alarming lack of visible effect otherwise. Was Leon right after all? Was this all a trick?

A sudden sharp *pop*, like the sound of a bursting lightbulb, ends the speculation. With that, Xantia grasps for her neck, the circuit pattern on her choker flickering wildly. That certainly did do something that doesn't seem particularly good for Xantia. Or 'New Xantia', at least. By all indication, this is exactly what the Xantia everyone knows was after.

But it's not over yet. Xantia glowers towards those gathered. There's an ominous thrum in the air, that red Ether-absorbing aura starting to reform... until Lily intervenes, grabbing her by the neck. That causes Xantia to find her voice again, yelling out, "What are you doing?!", seeming distressed for the first time since this whole mess started.

She can't resist it. Even if there wasn't much of a visual indication of it, being struck by that much lightning has taken its toll. There's no sign of her usual level of physical strength as she tries in vain to wrench Lily's hand loose. Though the collar itself stays on, there is something being pulled out - or more accurately, out of Xantia. Her aura never manages to fully manifest, the Ether drain too powerful to manage any form of resistance.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

And finally, there is Fei, empowered by Elly's electrical force, the way completely cleared for him to strike her in the midsection. So much electricity is released into her all at once, her skeleton is briefly visible. Any normal person would have been fried to a crisp. Xantia is of course hardly a normal person, but this was a big gamble to take. Fei and Id working in tandem might just be the only way this could ever have ended in anything else than a tragedy. That... and Xantia's own resolve. Never stop winning. She did say that. Fei kept his promise... so, she has to keep hers. She has to live through this, and find who she really is. Whoever that may be... it can't be who she was today. It just can't.

Xantia trembles in the wake of the final blow, against all odds still struggling to remain on her feet, until she finally drops to her knees. Yet despite everything she just endured, she's smiling. She opens her eyes, not managing to do so all the way, and not being able to make anything out besides. The world is blurry, spinning... all she sees is vague shapes and colors, the best she has are guesses on where all her friends are.

Friends. She can think of them as friends again. Even though she can tell that her current condition can't be good, she can smile in the knowledge that her friends stopped her before she could follow through on her stated intentions.

"Thank... you..."

Her upper body collapses, leaving her on her hands and knees. And there, directly in front of her, she can make out the vague shape of something precious to her, that she so callously tossed aside, caught on a small rock as it billows in the wind. The old, tattered Baskar traveling cloak, given to her by the people who originally saved her from the desert.

Though it takes tremendous effort, Xantia raises her right hand off the ground... and promptly collapses forward, her hand landing limply on the garment before. Her last energy is used to speak one more word: "Grand... pa..." Then darkness takes hold.

A quick check will reveal that while Xantia is unconscious, she is still breathing. That's the good news. But what on earth happened here today? That question yet remains unanswered.

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon is quiet, as Xantia falls down -- into the Baskar cloak she always wears. He doesn't move closer to her; he leaves scooping her up to Fei. Instead, he shakes his head. His expression is concerned. "We need to get her back," he says. He looks back up; at the others whop helped. "Thank you. I don't know what came over her. But... she's a Black Wolf. We'll tend to her wounds."

He swallows. "Fei, can you get her? Lily, get your magic ready--I'll get Argus here to help as soon as he can."

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

There it is. Lily is unsure, in the moment, if she can keep her concentration long enough to do what needs to be done. When it comes down to it, though--with her hand around Xantia's neck, gripping that collar--Lily keeps hold. She notices that Xantia cannot grip so strongly this time, and she presses the advantage while she can. She drains until Fei's strike comes and the connection breaks. Then Lily sags in place, hitting the ground at a crouch. She is up... But barely.

Pain swirls her entire consciousness, and she almost doesn't notice when the transformation fades; the pressure in the air of her own Ether abates, too, and Lily is as ordinary as she ever gets again. ...If pale. Very, very pale.

Lily can't quite manage words immediately. Grandpa...

"...You did... good," Lily says. And as Leon directs her, she inclines her head with a wince.

"I--I can do that. But..." She coughs, and it becomes a brief fit of them, blood dusting her knuckles.

"...That's... about all I can do, until I--"

She winces one more time, and catches herself with an outstretched hand instead of falling.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei is told to watch out. Honestly in a more awkward way than he'd like, he hops out of the way before fluidly following through with his maneuver. That could have been awkward. Fei's eyes widen for a moment as he glimpsed a flippin' skeleton within Xantia and while it's true that there's a skeleton inside of all of us waiting to come out, he worries for a moment that he put too much power into it.

Fei starts to turn his head away. Looking at it, it's too much--

sshh sh sh sh sh.... Don't turn your head away from the truth, Junior. We did this.

Fei's head turns back and tearfully he forces himself to watch it all. Never stop winning, never stop winning. He won't pray to God, but he can pray for Xantia. He doesn't know where such prayers go.

Fei is shaking too. The block gradually dissipitates and there's a brief red flare of aura around him before it dissipitates to...wherever such things go.

"Xan... Hang in there, okay? You're one of us!"

Xantia collapses into her cloak. Fei takes a moment to feel for a pulse and looks relieved when he finds one.

Using the cloak as support, Fei hefts Xantia up into his arms. Worry is plain to see on his face but he doesn't stall for long, rushing to Lily. "Please take care of her. Rosaline--can you help too? I know you're not a Wolf but... I know you're a healer too and her friend so..."

...And unlike Lily was not weakness shot in the last 5 minutes with a hefty ether drain. Yeah, probably best to have a catgirl around for immediate care.

"She'll be okay." Fei says, half believing in it and half trying to convince himself. "It'll be okay."

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline is concerned, of course. Regardless of the intent behind it, there was no way to tell how Xantia would take the attack. Lightning always seemed to be able to refresh her, but this much... And then there was the combination attack between Elly, Fei, and Lily.

Xantia collapses with a word of gratitude...and Jacqueline hurries toward her, worry on her face. Fei gets there before her, and the relief on his face tells her everything she needs to know. Jacqueline emits a sigh of relief, shutting her eyes tight.

She...might be tearing up a bit.

"I-I have plenty of potions on hand, too... Please, use anything you need." Jacqueline says, quickly rummaging through her bags. Some people might need bit of a recharge after that fight, after all - it was particularly draining.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida sinks to a knee in the aftermath of her final strike, breathing heavily. Her whole body aches, and it's worse in the parts where Xantia cut off the chi flow--but this isn't the first time it's happened, and if nothing else, it's a familiar sort of pain. She watches as Fei closes with Xantia, delivering a tremendous electrical shock--and her face twists in a grimace as Xantia struggles, trembles, and falls.

        But she's smiling. And she's still alive, still moving.

        "Fei," Ida chokes out, "help her." She forces herself to her feet, leaving a twisted, blackened handprint on the ground from where her superheated right hand touched it. Her lungs hurt, as though she took a breath of superheated air and barely managed to avoid a fatal scalding.

        With unsteady footsteps, Ida walks over to where Fei holds Xantia in his arms. Her right arm is still twisted, metallic--in war form, more or less--so she rests the left hand on his shoulder. It's as much to stabilize herself as it is to comfort Fei. "She'll be all right. She's in good hands."

        Ida looks at Lily, then, worry lighting up her eyes. "Lily, are you--" Her voice doesn't crack, exactly--but an ugly, pained rasp enters it for a moment. "What did she do to you?"

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        In the aftermath, Ethius still has a hand extended out of sheer pragmatism as emotions run high - relief and concern in reassuring volumes. Among the Drifter community of Filgaia and beyond, there have been no shortage of hard-won, fire-forged bonds among them. When Fei informs that 'she'll be okay,' it should be an overall relief, that maybe... maybe, Ethius should lower his hand.
        That gaze of his persists. He heard that utterance. Something about a 'grandpa.' That's something he's going to hold onto, in between everything else that seems to occupy his thoughts - in a way, somehow, he stands detached from all of this even when his physical proximity remains reasonably close. He takes no steps further, speaks no words of concern nor command, and does not openly follow any inquiry.
        Even accounting for Lily's and Ida's transhuman capabilities, Fei's everything... he is simply just there.
        As is normal, in so far as he's concerned.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        There's a twisting of Gwen's foot, a pivotal correction that allows Gwen to continue on with her train of momentum safely past Xantia, slowly to an awkward, gradual stop. She turns, and looks on the gathering with worry.

        Not much she can do here, but that may be a good thing. Lily's condition is just as worrying; she shifts her weight to go to her, but sees Ida coming to her aid. Everyone else is trying to manage their best, as well. But what happened, exactly? And why did she-

        Gwen laughs, then raises a thumbs up to the rest of them. "Man... I don't know who's more lucky- Xantia, for havin so many good friends, or us, because Xantia gave us that in." Rubbing her hands together, she adds, "Okay. Just need t'take a breather, n' then I'll handle th'business part o' things. Rather she don't get slammed with any bills from this.... whatever it is." An evil choker? Or something else?

        She takes an experimental step forward, then wobbles as the ground seems to disagree with her definition of gravity. "Oooh... that's..." Her words slur as she leans against another building, pulling at her neckerchief to loosen it out. ".... think I'll need a lot longer th'that..." She could... really use a few of those apples right about now.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei Fong Wong smiles at Ida, "Thanks, Ida. You've really gotten strong." Ida rests her hand on his shoulder, but Fei doesn't so much as flinch at Ida's killer robot arm. It was never the arm that distressed him about what went down there so much as the pain it caused Ida. As Ida seems comfortable or, at least, at peace with it so is Fei.

"Every time I see you---well, it's not just stronger. Cleverer too. Not that you ever lacked cleverness."

He reaches forward and gives her war form arm a small squeeze with his own hand. That is, one hundred percent, to reassure her that he, at least, is going to be okay today. Xantia didn't kill anybody. Xantia didn't die. This is as good as he ever hoped for. What comes next? Well, he has an idea of that, mysteriously.

Fei nods to Jay--he isn't an alchemist or medic or anything so he is going to probably let the medics figure that part out. Fei can at least place her somewhere comfortable and he's onot about to leave her side. She's one of them after all. Family.

And to prove it he tells Gwen. "We're the lucky ones. After all, Xantia's our pal too."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        And that's Xantia down for the count, collapsing as she reaches for a rag of a cloak. Ragnell holsters her guns and gazes down on her for a moment, expression inscrutable. However, she *does* nothing, beyond taking a few steps back (which is a weird and unpleasant sensation with her leg like that; it'll recover but it's strange in a bad way) and letting the others do as they will.
        
        Those steps take her next to Gwen, who is swooning against a building. Ragnell pats her shoulder, then joins her in taking a rest as she watches and listens to the rest.