2019-05-17: Their Own Way

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  • Log: 2019-05-17: Their Own Way
  • Cast: Ethius Hesiod, Kaguya Alathfar
  • Where: Crusader Forward Base
  • Date: May 17, 2019
  • Summary: Ethius continues to scavenge about the ruins in the wake of the disastrous Operation Mi'ihen, undeterred by the emotions of anger, distrust, and sorrow in their wake. As it so happens, what he seeks is already long gone - for another knew he would be going looking. They knew where he would be. She's decided it's time to set the record straight on what's going to go down, and what little he can stand to do but watch her grand plan unfold for Spira.

==============================================<* Crusader Forward Base *>===============================================

To the west of the Mi'ihen Highroad is found a long, jagged mountain chain that serves as a weather break and help keep both Luca and the Highroad itself safe from vicious storms. A large plateau in this chain, overlooking a wide, sloping beach, has been selected as the forward operating base for the Crusaders' Operation Mi'ihen.

The site is swarming with frenetic activity, as Crusaders move on critical errands, or train in mass combat in preparation for the assault. A few Yevonite robes can be seen among the masses, belonging to priests and priestesses who have refused to abandon those who are seeking to put an end to Sin.

On either side of the plateau can be seen a pair of large, glistening metal... things. These are ancient machina weapons, being tended to by the Al Bhed. Even in spite of the cooperation existing between the two groups, each tends to associate with their own.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RA2mQV8iXxs
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

    They got as many bodies as they could for Sending, but they always find more. It could be an entire generation - or longer - before they ever properly unearth and Send those who passed. Yuna has tirelessly guided many of them to their rest in the Farplane.
     More pyreflies flit about, as if a reminder that the cycle of death on Spira is ceaseless, here in the early evening as a small party of grimly determined scouts are scouring near some more blood-stained rubble. Not even the lick of crashing ocean waves can ever wash out the loss that happened here.
     ...There is one man in particular who seems to have other ideas in mind, who is a short ways from the party as they crouch down and have their eyes on something else entirely. A white-haired, dark-skinned man dressed like an Al Bhed. His pigmentation is not a match for them, even if the manner of dress is otherwise a perfect fit.
     He picks up another piece of machina after sifting through some pebbles and sediment. It is already eroded from exposure to the seawater. (It might have been there before the Operation.)
     "Is that all you Al Bhed care about?!" Snaps a Crusader, already pushed to the brink from stress and despair, does not consider the surface proof to the contrary. "Your stupid machina... it did nothing... it did nothing!"
     The 'Al Bhed' says nothing. Ignoring him, perhaps.
     The Crusader throws a small rock at him. Their shoulder shifts as such as it blocks it from bouncing off of their head. An attack with all but deadly intent, as though they were ready to shoulder the blame of what transpired all on them.
     The 'Al Bhed' doesn't raise a finger back at them.
     "Sin's going to punish us even more because of what you and the Otherworlders did!" They yell, as another tries to pull them back. They don't succeed in it. They walk on up and shove the 'Al Bhed' over with both hands.
     The 'Al Bhed' tumbles across the rocks, into a seated position. They look up and stare, wordlessly, from behind their mask. It betrays no emotions.
     "Don't follow us," another warns as they pull the more violent Crusader back. Dirty stares continued to be levelled from over their shoulders.
     The 'Al Bhed' patiently waits until they are far out of view, and further out of sight or sound. A hand goes down to the satchels at their belt. They can't be out on their own for too long, for this road is far too dangerous to traverse solo. But it is a moment of peace, and the way up to here has been reasonably secured.
     Without complaint, this 'Al Bhed' - none other than Ethius - endures this latest set of ridicule and abuse in favor of continuing to turn over sand and stones for more pieces of machina. Each one is given the greatest of scrutiny and concern, though all are now useless.
     As though there were some greater, more important reason to do so.

<Pose Tracker> Kaguya Alathfar has posed.

At a place where so much death happened all at once... Even on Filgaia, few would expect things to be the same for a long while. One thing, however, remains easily the same: there are a lot of places to hide among the cliffs of the Mushroom Rock Road. And there are a great many things here to hide.

The 'Al Bhed' remains seated, for a while. The sounds of the departing others fade away. ...Briefly.

"Hu--"

A shout is the first of it, then more shouting. "What the--"

"Who--"

...The shouting is over quickly, replaced by the distant sounds of a few distinct splashes, as if into the water. ...No, not 'as if'--obviously into the water, away from the shore. There is silence again--and then the unmistakable sound of footfalls in the dust and against the rock, slow and even. If one pays close attention--the strides are not terribly long. Shorter than a typical adult's, easily, though obviously in some sort of heavy footwear. And if someone happens to look up...

Easily, casually, unhurriedly, a young woman walks. he's dressed in armor similar to that of many Crusaders; a halterneck top in black exposing some of her clavicle and shoulders, beneath simple pale-green chest armor and pauldrons, baggy white sleeves, reinforced gloves. The fabric lining beneath shows again past the waist, where the armored top connects to much baggier shorts past the knee, tall boots. But she wears neither helmet nor mask. Her short blonde hair ruffles in the cliff's seaside breeze...

And her strange green eyes are not spiraled. Her sharpened canines, obvious from something like a smile, are prominent. And at her side is a sheath containing, if one looks closely, two paired butterfly swords.

"You're as good at making friends as ever, the Veruni comments as she approaches--or when Ethius looks up. Whichever comes first. "Don't bother leaving. We're going to have a talk. And if you try one of your smoke bombs, I'll show you one of mine."

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

    Ethius' scavenging would normally go uninterrupted, but the signs of danger are not one to ignore. A shout of surprise. Sinscales? No, he can glean from the word choice that there's something they don't expect. The quiet. The sudden sound of things splashing into the water.
     Bodies are being disposed. Their presence is an inconvenience. He is compelled to draw nearer, in case what he's seeking is--
     --scratch that, it would appear that he has been sought, and whoever is doing so has to walk less of a distance for it. He is caught with nowhere to go for cover, no matter how quiet his own footfalls can be when he puts his mind to it.
     The green of those eyes, the small profile of that dawning shadow, that glint of pale green--
     A hand is already on one of the satchels right as she speaks. She's taken the high ground to overcome the height differential between them. This is a major tactical mistake on his part. As she speaks, he takes in the ambient environmental sounds as if to be sure there aren't others coming.
     .'And if you try one of your smoke bombs, I'll show you one of mine.'
     He stares blankly at the threat. Hers are not to be taken lightly. Even with her smaller foot strides, she could be on him in less than a second. She has superior leverage if they meet on even ground, to say nothing of her superior physical conditioning. (Even accounting for illness.)
     He has a mask over his face as another layer against this prospective threat, and yet...
     He flicks a finger against the satchels on his belt and lets both of them drop. One tilts over and spills particulate matter. The other stays upright, against a heel. He takes a step back, orienting his right side forward - his 'weaker' side, as he's known to be left-handed - as he appears to quietly allow her the floor.
     There are no smoke bombs in his hands. By appearances, he is fully disarmed of his preferred escape mechanisms.

<Pose Tracker> Kaguya Alathfar has posed.

Not only is her physical conditioning an issue--but, while her eyes are still sunken, her features thin... She looks much, much healthier than she did that day on Filgaia, in the drowned city where Lucadia's statue was hidden. And here, now, as her shadow falls across the rocks--

"Your buddies'll be fine," Kaguya says. "I've got nothing against the Crusaders. But I didn't much like their tone, so they get to take a swim. You realize that puttering around out here being shady, you're only going to throw more suspicion on the people they assume you are, right? Are you fine with that?"

She shrugs. "Not the question I'm here to ask."

There's no one else coming, from the sound of it--for better or for worse.

"You can stand. That's fine. I see you're scavenging around. Find anything interesting? Heh. Probably not. Not since you keep going here, anyway. It made it pretty easy to find you--I was expecting to have to hunt a little harder. And yet..." Shrug.

"Well, that's probably enough talking to ensure you didn't bring anyone else, or they'd have come out by now. So, let me get to the point--"

"You were creeping around my soldiers' funeral rites," she says, a statement of fact as much as an accusation, and there's a flash of something in her eyes. "I don't like that much. I might dislike it a little less if you give me a good explanation. I assume you weren't just being a pious follower of the Goddess."

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

    It is true that the man stands to perpetuate existing stereotypes acting the way he does, doing what he does. With many of the Otherworlders having befriended the Al Bhed (maybe more as an alliance of convenience as they can at least sort of talk shop - emphasis on 'sort of' and 'talk' as separate emphases each - about certain equipment-related needs), the idea that anyone would act to perpetuate things as they are seems... cruel, doesn't it? Everyone here has it hard enough.
     Ethius doesn't have an answer for that, but by Kaguya's admission that it's not what she wanted to ask, he doesn't seem interested in answering. A part of him thinks she should already know why, but he can't quite put a finger on why he would assume that. He can put a finger on his forehead though. Which is to say, he can put more than a few fingers on his forehead as one of his infamous oft-repeated gestures - which might be a fatal mistake but he doesn't have a weapon he can pull out of his forehead. (Who even would?!)
     The moment of seeming confusion passes. A moment's hesitation on that level is fatal, he reminds himself, as his senses go to laser-focus on her words, her movements. Her shrugging, her amusement, her observations, her stated goals... her own cautions made to ensure that she has him cornered, in so much as 'to this side is the sea, ahead is her, everywhere else is rough terrain.'
     "You held them in high regard." He speaks in that tone of his. Almost monotone, at an even pacing. If Kaguya didn't know it was Ethius then, she could tell it's him now, because he has that weird manner to his speech that few others do. Like he's reading off a script.
     "If I am not mistaken," he starts after a momentary pause after lowering his hand away from his forehead. He doesn't put it behind his back, leaving that hand - his right - out in front and low, a few extra movements as if to accommodate for him having to catch a subconscious habit, "this was our first exposure to the funeral rites of Spira. Death appears to play a key component within its very environs."
     A poker face is easy enough to maintain when you're wearing a mask. He has almost always spoken in cold, impersonal, logical terms outside of a few heightened moments of tension.
     "If I am not mistaken, your own soldiers are not native to this land. Yours were simply the earliest in the order in which the Summoner was seeing to their last rites. It was merely to confirm whether pyreflies come from deceased natives alone."
     This is a convenient lie, born from his own spoken observation a moment before saying it. The truth is ghastlier. He commits to the lie in total.
     "I bore witness to the entire procession."
     But he didn't approach any other sets of bodies nearly as close.

<Pose Tracker> Kaguya Alathfar has posed.

It could've been a spell he was casting. ...But, nah; Kaguya remembers Ethius's gestures well enough. She doesn't press the question--maybe she does have a guess, or maybe she was just using the opportunity to, as she rarely has the chance, shame a bit of immoral behavior. She's not often on the kinder side of a conflict with those of the Carakin, after all. It's hard to say. But she quirks a smirk at his apparent confusion--she thinks it's confusion.

...Either way, it seems clear that her subtle menace has made the situation clear.

"Correct," Kaguya answers first, at the matter of her regard. Then, she waits. She notices his hand; she waits through his first statement. 'If he is not mistaken.' Oh, Ethius's poker face is sublime, frankly--Kaguya is sharp, perceptive, but sometimes there really is little to glean, no matter one's sharpness. His voice is cold, impersonal, and logical, and that is not unusual. He is masked, and that is not unusual. He is tense...

But, well, who wouldn't be tense, under the circumstances? Kaguya herself, sure, but it's not unreasonable.

She watches, and is openly thoughtful about it, watching Ethius, head tilting as she considers him. "Hmmm."

"So," Kaguya says, "That's pretty plausible, and you know, I can buy the idea of honest scientific inquiry, considering that you're obviously not willing to start stabbing people and waiting to see if they bleed magic."

She holds up a hand. "But," Kaguya says, "You mean to tell me that you didn't think even a little bit about whether they'd have ARMs that could be dangerous? Some signs of tampering by a brilliant Veruni scientist?"

A beat, "I do think highly of them. The Al Bhed who were in this op, yes--and also my soldiers. Believe it or not, I'm very invested in observing human potential. How much more could we accomplish, if we all worked together? If, instead of fighting each other, we pooled our resources and talents?"

"...Not that it's going to happen that easily. different ideologies clash, and people have more important things on their minds, to their perspective, higher priorities..."

Kaguya, as she speaks, pulls something out of a pocket--there's a faint blinking green light on the side, scrap metal carefully sculpted and shaved into a shell with comfortable places for fingers to settle--and then abrubtly, the sound of a few beeps, the light turning red.

"Also, grenades. People have to worry about grenades."

She tosses it, lightly, towards Ethius's position. "Good lie, though. If I didn't know you, I'd have been fooled entirely. You didn't give a thing away. Still don't know what you really wanted, though."

It doesn't explode immediately. Ethius has a good six seconds to decide on his action, and commit to it, from when it reaches him.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

    'But.'
     He holds his composure remarkably well, statue-esque, at her interjection. This should be the sign that the jig is up, and he weathers that expertly. Even for all the small details about him that doesn't add up, this is a man who appears able to flawlessly bypass the measure of a passing glance. As though a passing glance tends to be all the allowance he requires before he... does whatever he does.
     He holds fast as she discusses the possibility that she would have implanted dangerous ARMs on their person. Some signs of tampering.
     The truth, in fact - he wanted to be sure she wasn't setting up Yuna to be assassinated as a means of hamstringing along Spira to her whims. He had to be as close as he was to be sure he didn't hear those miniscule noises and cues that are so insignificant as to be missed.
     Missed by anyone other than him, as though the ability - the /need/ - to be able to find those cues were paramount. Paramount to being a total creeper who seems content to perpetuate and simultaneously be subject to the social ills that plague Spira. (He let a Crusader throw a rock at him and shove him without so much defending himself - a man who is known to haul off and kill/inceinerate people without so much as /blinking/! Maybe another rock already hit him in the head earlier...? He lacks a head wound, though.)
     '...if we all worked together...'
     There is a reaction.
     His posture shifts not at all subtly, straightening out as the forward-facing foot nudges at the already spilled Powder Grenade. 'Different ideologies clash, and people have more important things on their minds, to their perspective, higher priorities--'
     Before he can interject - and the man's body language is all but suggestive he had something to say - Kaguya gets out the grenade in her pocket. That faint blinking green light. His senses hone in on every minute movement of how she holds it, how she positions it, the frequency in which the green light blinks... the way it turns red.
     She tosses it lightly. He doesn't have to move anywhere for his right hand - his off-hand - to catch it. Six seconds.
     Two of them are forfeit on the spot. 'Good lie, though. If I didn't know you...'
     Another passes. It is held between his thumb and his forefinger. 'I'd have been fooled entirely.'
     He should cast a spell, shouldn't he? The fastest he can do is half a second, for his Symbological ARM shield spell. It takes more for anything substantially offensive, like... the Surge Bolt that deactivated the timer on that previous one he disarmed. Something that could only stave off the inevitable.
     He does not cast that. Another passes. 'You didn't give a thing away.'
     'Still don't know what you--' Two seconds left, one left after those words. The thumb curls inward, the gloved finger wedging inside the construct. One second until he is vaporized on the spot. Why wouldn't he try the Surge Bolt again? Maybe his pyreflies can be questioned once he's done being exploded in the next second, which is mathematically and logically inevitable.
     '--really wanted, though.'
     His thumb flicks upwards, splitting the grenade's casing in half - and taking the detonating agent and signaling mechanism with it at the exact fraction of a second before it can go off. The moment in which the final signal is transmitted. The only moment of vulnerability in which it can be stopped before detonation, as half of the grenade hits the rocks by his feet. The other half, in his hand.
     His off-hand.
     He did that with his off-hand, as if he were snapping his fingers and going 'this is not exploding, I decree it so.' To an advanced piece of Veruni engineering he should not have such a keen grasp of, because this man is not a Veruni and he's only been known to be about as of only a few years ago.
     "You would have wanted me to attempt to disarm this with an electrical surge again, I presume," he explains calmly, "as a secondary activation method in which to ensure detonation."
     He hasn't moved to pick up that other half, though. Why? He maneuvers it in his grip, the inner 'guts' of the grenade facing inward as he clenches his hand around it.
     But what does he really want? He didn't answer that then.
     He once again seems to be at an internal loss as to why she asks this, as he stands with half a disarmed grenade in one hand. He knows his answer, if not the why, beyond its importance to him that the answer is what it is.
     "They'll find their own way."
     A bold-faced claim to make, when Spira's problems have already spilled out to the rest of Lunar.
     A bold-faced claim to make, when the Guardians of Filgaia themselves quake in cataonic fear about it even being around.
     A bold-faced claim to make, standing before someone who could kill him within the next two seconds if she is of the mind.
     He says all this with a straight face.

<Pose Tracker> Kaguya Alathfar has posed.

It's a clever idea, certainly--get rid of the notable heroes of Spira, demoralize the people, then sweep in and repeat her successes in Hyland by acting as the great heroine in their time of need. And certainly, few would have been prepared to detect the kind of technology that Kaguya uses. It all makes sense.

...And Kaguya notices the unsubtle reaction there. The fact that for once, Ethius was going to say something, maybe something more substatial than terse replies. She waits for it--she waits, as he holds the grenade, amiably. He doesn't actually do anything with it, at first, to her eyes--and she waits with some curiousity as this continues to be the case, as she speaks, as she watches...

"...Ha. Fascinating," Kaguya observes. "Guess you haven't lost your touch." She glances to the pieces of grenade; it's... well, not the average gunsmoke grenade, strange in its way, with some sort of green-laced ore threaded through with what appear to be magnets.

"...Has anybody ever told you," Kaguya asks Ethius, with a rasied eyebrow, "That you're really paranoid? I mean, solid idea, totally. ...Nah, though. It was just style points, basically. Lets me see if you've picked up new tricks, has a plausible story I can work with if you haven't... Or just leaves your hand busy for a second right now."

She whirls in an instant, slamming her fist straight down into the rock, heedless of how small her hand is compared to the hard stone, barely protected by a faint green radiance. Said stone splits immediately, the ground shaking and the rocks about Ethius rattling hard as they start to tumble back down the slope at the sheer force of the ki-enhanced blow.

"Yeah I'm gonna just stop you right there. On whose authority? You think you can put this cat back in the bag? You think you can change things?"

"I'll tell you why you didn't find any weird shit. It's 'cause I took it with me. I already collected all the sensors I laid out for the Operation, and I have their data. And what--you think I committed all my forces, all my resources, to an opening strike? Tell me you know how the scientific method words, Ethius. What do you do, when you form a hypothesis?"

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

    The earth quakes underneath Kaguya's will. It's not her fist so much as her will. Her fist is tiny. Her will, her ambition... the earth quakes from that, and not even the stoic Ethius can keep upright as rocks slide off and down.
     The strange man, dressed as an Al Bhed and doing absolutely nothing to heal whatever rift exists within the culture between Spira's people, takes a much more curious approach to maintaining balance in that he doesn't, falling to one knee... and clenching that knee against an ankle, as he finds himself kneeling before Kaguya's precursor to her retort.
     'On whose authority?' This is an excellent question. The man has never acted as though he were in line with much of anyone's sense of right or wrong. Looking from the outside in, it seems the man acts in accordance to whatever he feels like, no matter how strange or nonsensical against the backdrop of culturally understood parameters of virtue and vice.
     Does he think he can put that cat back in the bag? That he can change things? He's just one man, out here alone.
     Outmatched.
     Outgunned.
     Outplayed.
     Caught at her mercy, at her patience in which to pontificate and profess, she confesses why he didn't find any weird shit - she beat him to it.
     Worse yet, a revelation - that she didn't commit all her forces, all her resources, to the opening strike. As she asks about the scientific method, to talk about hypothesis... he had one.
     He has to consciously catch himself from blurting out what's on his mind because that is a red blaring klaxon - even at the supposed loss of one of the very highest figures of Althena's religious order!
     "...You had your own theories independent of the Operation you wished to test, then," he says in that roundabout way as his crouch remains weirdly awkward, a knee against an ankle, as that previously overturned Powder Grenade satchel at last rolls down the hill - its contents rejoining its numerous grain, pebble, stone, and boulder bretheren.
     His body language tenses, as if rooted - the absence of sudden moves and fidgeting, unto itself, telling.

<Pose Tracker> Kaguya Alathfar has posed.

Down, down, down--

Kaguya's eyes are on Ethius as he reacts--such as the reaction is. She waits for the answers to her questions, which appear not to be rhetorical at all. ...She's happy to give the note about her finding things. And the rest, well--

As planned, isn't it?

"Correct," Kaguya answers simply, as she looks to Ethius's strange crouch, his tense body language, lifting an eyebrow. The satchel is tumbling away; obviously, the position is important...

"And a great deal of data to collect during the Operation. Do you think any Spiran has measured the output of Sin's gravitational fields? Do you think any Spiran has had the opportunity to construct three-dimensional models of the force it puts off, of the frequencies on which it may communicate with its spawn? The way that bodies affect the diffusion of its force? No. Not any of the modern ones, anyway--those who would try lack the resources and the opportunity."

Kaguya steps forward, if Ethius won't move, one crunching pad forward at a time. The slope doesn't seem to unbalance her in the least. It doesn't seem to register as important. "Whatever you're planning," she says, "You may as well go ahead and try it. You won't have time to do much once I close into melee range."

Step, step. "The Operation was important. If it had worked... Wonderful. But the work is not yet complete. Those sacrifices will buy Sin's destruction. Give it time." She moves--crouches down, and makes to grab Ethius's collar. Should she do so, she'll pull him up, hold him there in one hand.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

    Kaguya keeps talking, because Ethius doesn't interrupt her. He couldn't, knowing the vast gulf of ability that exists between them. In a way, he'd make for a great sounding board if it is her intent to dispose of him once she was done figuring out how her master plan sounds when spoken aloud.
     He remains oriented where his right side is facing her, his left hand behind him. He dropped both of his satchels when she called out his use of smoke bombs. He should be - and in fact, in many ways - is defenseless. He could draw his quarterstaff and put up a nominal hand-to-hand fight, at best. She could close in and keep in his face, never allowing him to go back into an optimal range.
     Whatever his opinions are about whether Spirans are even capable of having thoughts about these qualities of Sin, let alone be in a position to measure them. The answer should be obvious to anyone - 'no, they don't.'
     In many ways, Kaguya might be one of the best chances Spira has in dealing with this unstoppable monstrosity. Some among the Drifter community might consider her an unlikely ally - one of the mythical, hyper-advanced Veruni people working towards a potential effective means in which to destroy Sin. Each and every one of the Silver Medium holders - major religious figures unto themselves for what they have been entrusted - disagreed with his sentiment about Kaguya's lack of belonging here either in part or in whole.
     If the goal alone is to end Sin no matter the cost, Ethius is one bizarre man who dares to stand on that contentious side of what could be Spira's historic salvation in the making.
     'Whatever you're planning,' she invites, 'you may as well go ahead and try it.' He won't have much time to do anything once he's in reach.
     There is a reason for his silence, which Kaguya will only know when it is too late. (It could also be 'too late' for him, for what it entails.)
     From out of view, left arm behind him as it has been this entire engagement, he flutters his fingers. He has profiled the position of the sun overhead and taken into mind Kaguya's visual vantage points, to ensure that the cast shadows will not give the fluttering fingers away.
     He disguises the near-whispers of somantic chanting, suspended between syllables for as long as sorcerously possible to keep the spell, extending a casting time that traditionally takes maybe one and a half seconds into a far greater stretch of time. The discipline involved in pulling this slower cast is rigid. A technical feat that could rival even Arleph's prodigious skills in the field. This, in the face of certain death. Kaguya has probably already considered dozens of ways to act on him no matter what he does.
     He times the syllables with the sound of her footsteps. They are the only thing that can help mask his voice if her hearing proves too acute to obscure them.
     Now or never, just as she invited, as she entreats him on the virtues of her work. Give it time, she says. Time seems to be up as his Symbological tattoos - what are visible - glow underneath his clothing. He rises up, setting a foot down for balance as he draws his right hand back around collar-level.
     ...A foot on the Powder Grenade satchel that ended up between his ankle and knee, and so a wrinkle in their design is exposed.
     He doesn't need to be holding them directly in his hand to make the Symbological spell function.
     The pressurized satchel bursts forth, its neck pointed towards Kaguya. She might have been prepared for a Powder Grenade held in his hand, for the miniscule amount of time it would take for him to take one in hand and throw it.
     Trickery, trying to bring eyes up to where his hand is and guide her attention away from his feet. All he had to do is reassert his balance, and set off the pressurized mass of dust underfoot.
     Even tht's not foolproof. He has to rip his top right off in that emerging cloud of smoke to 'catch' a lunging Kaguya hand if there is one, kick some rocks to disguise the sound of his footfalls and obfuscate which direction he goes, and act.
     Away.
     Another rock is thrown at a pile of unstable rocks that will collapse down a route he's not actually intending to take, to further attempt to obfuscate his movement.
     He can feel something pound in his chest. That he might acknowledge so could be an indicator he's forgotten he's had one of those. He does, and it's ready to jump right out of his chest.
     Each and every one of these steps is a desperate gamble unto themselves. Catenna lived only from grace of Kaguya deciding not to finish the job.
     He does not expect her to give the same grace to him.

<Pose Tracker> Kaguya Alathfar has posed.

If anything, Kaguya is more confident, more demanding, more obviously dangerous than she was back then. Once, she was a flower girl hiding a deep strength; now, she is a General, embracing her power and setting plans in motion that resonate farther than her own hands could reach. So it is, with each step.

Someone could ask, really--what's the cost of Kaguya's help? Is it something that should be accepted? ...Is it something desirable?

After all--if one cares about letting Spira progress as it was...

Regardless, belonging or not, Kaguya approaches. She keeps walking, confident in her imperviousness to whatever it is that he might be planning. His tension suggests it's something. But the truth is--Symbology is not her area of expertise. Its subtle use tips her off of something, but she is not aware of Ethius's capability of stretching this spell, of performing this difficult task of spellcraft. Indeed, she has considered dozens of ways to counter any attack...

His foot moves down. Kaguya reaches--and, bam. The satchel bursts upward, and Kaguya's arm immediately shifts, too quickly, too quickly for her even to have seen what he was doing, catches the satchel easily and makes its contents burst around her--

...But indeed--she looks to his hand, not to his foot. The smoke cloud erupts all around then, and suddenly her expression is unreadable. Kaguya catches Ethius's upper garment--her fingers close around it immediately--and with the kick of rocks, off he goes. The path starts to cllapse, and Kaguya scowls when she notices her hand is closed around something empty.

"Tch."

A fragrant wind bursts around her with the rush of something not-quite Ether, petals billowing in all directions as the green cyclone fades, and the smoke with it. But by this point, Ethius has made it out of sight.

"...Not bad," she announces. "Annoying. But, well done." She turns to the cliffside below, looks to the shirt in her hands... and grins. "Heh heh heh..." Kaguya looks over the top thoughtfully.

"...You know, I can work with this."