2019-07-04: Within the Giant

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It is hard to repair a broken heart, whether living or mechanical.

Can promises be really kept, if she who is promised to no longer walks in this world?


=============================<* Thunder Plains *>=============================

The Thunder Plains, occasionally known as the Gandof Thunder Plains, are an open, barren landscape connecting Guadosalam to the Macalania region. It is an area that is constantly - yes, /constantly/ - bombarded by lightning and thunder. Crossing the plains was all but impossible due to the never-ending storm, until an Al Bhed named Bilghen set up several towering lightning rods to draw the storms' fury and provide travelers with a (comparatively) safe road. He was in the process of setting up the final tower when he was struck by lightning and killed, something which lesser minds would regard as irony, but which the faithful know is poetic justice for a blasphemer against Yevon.

I mean, they'll still /use/ the road. Because Yevon wants them to. 

Clearly.
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        Within the last couple of days, an anomalous surge of mechanical activity has been detected in a crater within the Gandof Thunder Plains. Scouts originating from Rin's Travel Agency within the Plains have detected an increased number of Machina gathering around what appears to be a long-broken Lightning Tower, which has over the many years gathered into something of a scrapyard of long broken machines from the war that so many have talked about in apocrypha.

        <<Why? Why... were we born this way?>>

        Of when Sin became Spira's punishment, for using machines.

        <<I don't understand. Where are our masters...?>>

        And now, numerous quantities of small machine-soldiers gather around a circle, lying broken around a ring of scrap -- and one large, red giant sits atop it all like it were a throne, or perhaps a beacon...

        <<No masters... no partners...>>

        The red giant looks up towards the night Spiran sky. It is an ironclad figure, less so a suit of full-plate armour than it is something made in the figure of a muscular, stocky man composed of metal. It has a large black indentation where a face would be, two beady glowing eyes shimmering underneath.

        <<No one left... to call on us...>>

        And atop the giant's shoulder sits a little girl. A familiar little girl, because it is Kamui, dressed in her usual white gown poorly hiding the blue bodysuit underneath and the breached mechanical parts that expose her Machina countenance to the world. The gleam of her red camera eye is unmistakable even through the darkness and rain of the Plains.

        "... that's because ..." she whispers. She lowers her head and pulls her knees up as she curls into fetal position.

        "... they left us ..."

        Trapped without a way back, in a world that doesn't want her. In a world whose religious doctrine despises her very existence.

        Then she hears it -- the very first footsteps of what she must assume to be adventurers. Guardsmen. Warrior Monks. Or Drifters.

        "... you can't stay here," she murmurs to the machines. "... I told you ... you can't ..."

        A faint chime of Pyreflies exude from some of the Machina, a surge of emotion flying from within.

        <<But... where are we to go? There is nowhere to go...>>

GS: Kamui switches forms to They Might Be Giants!
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        A few days ago, Acacia's world started to unravel. She watched Marivel, someone who was more or less invulnerable as far as she was concerned, boil away into so much ash. She watched Kamui, usually quiet and peaceful, go on a grief-powered assault and then wink away from her in the blink of an eye. She watched the Althenan Guard give up all pretence of being a benevolent organization, and the only reason she doesn't describe it as descending into parody is because she never wants to consider parodying that level of destruction.

        Since then, since retreating from Luca, she's been somewhat out of communication with the rest of ARMS. If the Meria Bouletin is any indication, there's been work to throw herself into - her reporting on the state of Luca and its surrounding area suggests she's snuck back towards the city a couple of times, but the more important part seems to be the classified section, which has been getting bigger and bigger as more refugees realize the value of a centralized way to get in contact with friends and family.

        Acacia's own adverts have gone unanswered, but there's at least some comfort in helping out.

        What finally brings her northwards again are rumours from the Thunder Plains, reports of machina congregating within a disused scrapyard. Acacia isn't stupid, especially when it comes to her own motivations; she can tell that she's being biased here, chancing and chasing the tiny possibility that Kamui's decided to hide away amongst the other machina. It seems like a hopelessly long shot, but... it's not like she has much else to do, displaced on Spira as she is.

        From under the canopy of the waystation, she looks out at the rain, feeling her fingers itch slightly with a pent-up and strung-out energy. She looks and feels tired, and she's aware she hasn't exactly been eating great - but stopping to rest feels distasteful when she's this close. She's only waiting for a gap in the rain, which doesn't seem like it's going to come. "... this is definitely the sort of place I'd come to curl into an unhappy ball, that's for sure," she mutters to herself.

        The thought of her home, with all its personal comforts, drifts to the fore of her mind - but with a deep breath, she hunches slightly as she steps out into the open air, and then shields her face as she picks up into a job, wincing at every thunderbolt. "Kamui--!" she adds as she cups her hands to her mouth, but her voice is all but swallowed in the din of the region. She's not even sure if there's anyone to hear her yet.

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

Xiumei has spent a few days pouring over notes that she has taken -- documenting anything that sounds like it might be a clue to Kamui's location. That led her, finally, to the rumors in the Thunder Plains: news of a ruined Lightning Tower, where broken machina gathered, and something odd about it.

She is now with the ARMS contingent moving towards that pillar. Zhang Xiumei has assumed the form of Model V; she has the dark green armor over a purple bodysuit, and the two-finned helmet except for her long ponytail of purple hair. Her green eyes scan over the horizon.

Then, she turns and looks back at the others. "That red one, up there," she says. "It's by a pillar... some pilgrims that came to Guadosalam mentioned something was strange about this area."

She looks back ahead. Xiumei starts walking. "...I hope we can find her soon. I'm worried about her."

She hears a voice echo in her mind: a soft-spoken man's, telling her: <...Let's hurry.>

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Finding one machine girl in Spira is like searching for a needle in a haystack; there are both machines and girls all over, and with the sheer power brought to bear in the invasion of Luca, attempting to track differences is nearly pointless. So, in lieu of ability to use her main talents to find Kamui, Eleanor kept her ears open, kept Xiumei supplied with tea for her work, and made herself ready to go wherever it is that they find clues. ...And if they don't?

Then they keep looking, obviously.

Now, she's dressed in rain-resistant attire, meant to keep the chill of the storm from getting past that surface, with hood up. ...It makes her suit some of the classic images of a sorceress, anyway.

Walking along with Xiumei, Eleanor looks ahead, a shock of orange hair visible from beneath her hood. "...Me, too," Eleanor admits. Hopefully they'll succeed--Eleanor already secured a room at the travel agency in hopes that they can bring her somewhere moer comfortable, but...

"I..." She bites her lip.

"I have a bad feeling."

<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

The loss of Marivel was bad enough for Clarissa. Her friendship with the little Crimson Noble was what brought her to ARMS in the first place. But Kamui-- Kamui had helped to save her life during the battle on the Mi'ihen Highroad.

Clarissa owes it to her to help. Kamui'd do the same for her.

"Who is that," Clarissa murmurs as she looks out from cover, Strahl Gewehr clutched tightly in her right hand.

From just behind her, Felius frowns, the butt of his glaive resting against the ground. "I'm not sure. I don't recognize any of them."

"Maybe not from that far away... but Kamui must be here. I'm sure of it." Clarissa's keeping her voice down, but there's a little spark of hope behind it all as she peers out from behind the chunk of debris she's sheltered herself in the shadow of. The sound of a voice calling out causes her to jump a little - Acacia's. She can hear the edge of it, but it's lost in the noise. Tends to happen when there's thunder around, she supposes.

Slipping out of cover, Clarissa darts over to rejoin Xiumei. She falls in to the other woman's right, her pistol held in a resting stance but her eyes darting. "...I'm worried about her too," she admits, her voice quiet. "But if we can help her, we have to try."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine was not in Luca when everything happened. She had been overwhelmed by her doubts and her fears and had fled. So, she only knew everything that had happened by hearsay.

It was all very overwhelming.

But... but she wasn't alone. She should have remembered that - she needed someone to remind her. And now....there's someone else who might need reminding, too.

She had to find Kamui - she had a promise to keep, and besides that...she was an important friend, and she couldn't let her go.

Finding her is not the hard part. She had entrusted an object of great importance to her - her vessel, a golden amulet with a prismatic stone set within the center of a design remniscent of a star. It was essentially a part of her, and she could follow its call to whoever held it.

Getting their on her own, though...it isn't easy, but eventually she arrives at that crater. She looks upon the broken machina, and if she had breath the sheer sight of it would steal it away from her. For now, though, she inhales sharply to help sharpen her determination - a learned gesture more than anything of necessity - and starts forward, drifting along softly.

The ring of mechanical soldiers is visible to her now - and so too is the red giant that sits upon it all, along with the figure on its shoulder.

"Kamui...?" Clarine calls out, her voice hesitant.

She hears what could be an echo, were the voice not completely different.

"...Acacia?" Clarine ventures, drifting in the reporter's direction.

There are other voices, too. It looks like she wasn't the only one who came here...

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        A few days has passed. Ethius nearly checked out from sheer exhaustion. His recovery goes smoothly enough, in the company of the Caravan Kinship. The man has always kept to himself, but in the last few days following Luca, there is a sense of something there that has managed to break through the surface of seeming emotionlessness the man appears to put forth.
        A sort of melancholy that is not often attributed to him. Some of it can be attributed to the recovery process, sure, but usually he finds any reason or opening he can to keep close tabs on who Jay is dealing with, who is coming and going... he just isn't looming like he usually does. It's unlike him. (It is likely a welcome change!)
        But then... he hears that rumor, and the metaphorical gears turn in his head as to what that could mean and why.
        He has no choice but to be better. (By now, he largely is, but...)
 
        NOW
 
        Ethius tries to cover himself from the elements best he's able as he braves the Thunder Plains, stopping by the waystation only to re-confirm the rumors about the heightened activity. He's currently wearing a ratty, burnt cloak and using his quarterstaff as a makeshift walking stick. He ends up shadowing the worried people of ARMS entirely by coincidence, picking up a commonly spoken word being asked inquisitively ('Kamui'). These people have an expectation that a Kamui is there. What is a Kamui? He comes to the edge of the crater and gets a better look at what's going on - that ring of mechanical constructs. That red giant... someone on its shoulder.
        Is this their doing, he has to wonder, as he holds out his free hand with an open palm. The sorcerous equivalent of having a drawn ARM. He doesn't vocally announce his presence beyond this gesture.

<Pose Tracker> Isolde has posed.

 
At the Travel Agency there are people who wait and who rest, as there always are. One of them, the woman who calls herself Isolde, has been having a good time, but all good times must come to an end. As others come and gather, as rumors spread of gathering machina - Isolde hears the stories. She hears that there is a missing friend somewhere out there. She says 'ah,' and she says it's no concern of hers. She stops gambling - with difficulty - when she's up a few hundred gil, and spends most of it on buying an oilcloth poncho from the Al Bhed.

Then she leaves, heading back across the plains. She takes a piece of wood - barely a staff, more like a stick - with her, with which she prods and pokes her way and feels before her along the road. Until she disappears in the rain.

It's not her problem, after all.

Isolde goes a little ways further, but is slower. She greets a passing cart, inquires that she's going the right way, thanks them with a gay laugh, and then she waits.

As she waits for the sound of the cart to completely disappear, she murmurs to herself, "Stupid of me, really."

The rain patters on the hood of the poncho. "There's dozens of these towers, they say. 'A crater' is hardly helpful. And I don't even know what their thrice-buggered map looks like."

The cart becomes only an occasional spike in sound to Isolde, when a piece of metal decoration strikes the bumper in a way that hardly registers to most. But in time it too fades.

"Ah well... Esclados, darling, I said the same to you, didn't I?" Isolde concludes, as she sticks the stick into a crack in the ground. "Yet here we are."

Isolde walks confidently off the road. Soon the rain conceals her too. She is alone, for a while.

AND AFTER AN ASTONISHING OFF-ROAD ADVENTURE, punctuated by LIGHTNING STRIKES but REMARKABLY FEW FIENDS because they are EASY TO AVOID, for SOME REASON, in THIS CONTEXT:

Isolde approaches the rim of the crater on her belly, like a snake.

Hardly dignified, but perhaps she doesn't want to get spotted. It's a tricky business for her. As she reaches the rim of the crater she can hear other voices. Some mechanical, but also - yes, she thinks, women, some of them are familiar... they're calling out that name. Kamui. That must be her, then, Isolde reasons. In the middle.

Isolde exhales with some force. What a pain in the arse, she thinks to herself. She waits for a moment when the rain rises to a momentary crescendo to roll over the edge of the crater, which also leaves her momentarily on her back. She reaches underneath the poncho and unties the leather strap that had been keeping her sword from falling out during all these evolutions, though she does not draw steel. Not just yet.

<Pose Tracker> Dash Caskett has posed.


Earlier -

A small, cute but oddly shaped monkey wanders a dangerous landscape. He seems to not provoke the lightning that spells disaster across this barren landscape. He moves as if on a mission, though the sight of pyreflies as a contrast to the landscape around gets his attention.

Peeking around a rock, he spies a peculiar sight. Machina upon machina lay scattered, with one large on at the helm. A familiar sight is seen sitting on its shoulder. Far more familiar than she should be the likes of him.

With a small tremor of worry, they quickly turn, and scuttle back as quickly as their little nub-shaped legs can take them.

Now -

It has been... a long trip.

In the end the invading forces from across the seas have now occupied Luca, and Dash had no option but to retreat with everyone else. At least they bought time for civilians to flee. But there was only one road to take from there, out and down the Highroad. This eventually led him to the Thunder Plains, with no small amount of hassle from the natives of Guadosalam which took offense to his presence, namely his equipment. Possibly more if the knew more...

And thus Dash finds himself at Rin's Travel Agency. He sits in the main area, listening to the lightning outside. Avoiding wasn't too hard, he is very numble despite being in what looks like fullplate in various shades of azure.

The folks that run this establishment do not seem to mind his precense either. Thankfully.

He sits at a table, overlooking a handful of round devices and some sort of rectangular cartidge with cylndrical objects in them. Those familiar with Arms would see them as grenades and missiles, respectively. He stares at them intently.

He is running dangerously low on ammunition. Word has it from asking around the Al Bhed may be able to furnish him with some if he can contact them directly somehow, though may be a little difficult. At least his mainstay runs off solar power.

A look back out into the rain. A blinding flash strikes nearby. When the brightness fades, a wet Data stands in the doorwary.

He practically screeches. "Mega Man! I found Kamui! Shes out in the plains! It is dangerous out there for her! You have to get her inside!"

Dash sighs. "Okay, You like the name and I haven't-- wait what???"

It isn't long before a dented helmet is throw on, and Dash takes off out into the storm, armed with both weapons and Data on his back. "Point the way!"

It doesn't take long to locate the monolith of a figure. Tall. Imposing. Yet Kamui was on it's shoulder as if they were friends. Seemed impossible, but... "K-Kamui!" he shouts through the storm. "Being that high up isn't good for you! You should come down here!" He knows the dangers lightning poses to them. They aren't great.

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        Some time ago, Kamui spots a little monkey peering in from a distance. She doesn't lift a finger to impede him, but... there is an apologetic little look that, perhaps, two machines who can communicate by a means other than language can do.

        'Sorry,' she says to Data.

        Somewhere, somehow, through the light of the Suffering Circuit gemmed in her chest, she senses V -- and more importantly, through her own choice, Xiumei. Her lips purse as she sees the form of the biometal manifest into armour. It was all just reminders...

        Eleanor is with her. She's always with her. The two make a good pair, a couple... and right now, being taken away from what she feels like one half of a pod hurts a lot.

        "Zhang Xiumei... Eleanor Klein..."

        Isolde appears. She doesn't know her personally, she doesn't think. She tries to remember of she can recall her from Luca or from the Highroad. Her memory is getting so foggy.

        She looks ready for a fight. As does a man she also doesn't know, Ethius Hesiod. She can feel something inside of her warning her. She doesn't heed it.

        If she's to be reduced to nothing here... then...

        "... maybe I can at least see her again."

        But then Dash arrives, and that's something she's expecting with Data around. Her lips purse quietly. Mega Man... that's nostalgic, moreso now that Mari is gone and has awakened new memories in her. But why?

        "... it's dangerous here, Dash..."

        But her eye widens a little when she sees Clarine. She looks to the precious pendant hanging at her neck, just above the Suffering Circuit. "Clarine..." she bites her lip. "... I can't fulfill that promise after all. Do you want... your pendant back?"

        Then there is Acacia, as she sees Clarissa and Felius join her.

        "Clarissa Arwin... Master..." she quietly responds. She lowers her head further. "... everyone ... you ... don't need to come after me any longer ..."

        (BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ko3FwIgIVoc )

        But the ring of Machina stand to attention. There is a crackling hiss and a whimper from them, as they turn towards the Drifters and begin to march.

        "... you shouldn't. Don't do this ... not for anyone else ..." Kamui tries to lift her voice up, but her voicebox starts failing again with minor chirps.

        <<There is nowhere else for us...>>

        Kamui's lips purse.

        <<We were made... and then we were discarded.>>

        The Machina begin to... er, well, 'charge' is something of a word too strong for it. Half of them don't even have two legs to stand on and are hopping forward. One topples over and another trips.

        <<Even if only one more time... to fulfill our purpose... even for you...>>

        Those that do come close enough are probably more dangerous from how they're emitting electric sparks than what sort of offensive manuever they're going to do.

        <<Maybe that is the closest thing a machine can get to happiness.>>

GS: Kamui has attacked Dash Caskett with March of the Machines!
GS: Kamui has attacked Isolde with March of the Machines!
GS: Kamui has attacked Ethius Hesiod with March of the Machines!
GS: Kamui has attacked Zhang Xiumei with March of the Machines!
GS: Kamui has attacked Eleanor Klein with March of the Machines!
GS: Kamui has attacked Clarissa Arwin with March of the Machines!
GS: Kamui has attacked Seraph Clarine with March of the Machines!
GS: Kamui has attacked Acacia Saitani with March of the Machines!
GS: Kamui has completed her action.
GS: Clarissa Arwin takes a solid hit from Kamui's March of the Machines for 46 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Seraph Clarine takes a glancing hit from Kamui's March of the Machines for 34 hit points!
GS: Isolde takes a glancing hit from Kamui's March of the Machines for 24 hit points!
GS: Zhang Xiumei takes a solid hit from Kamui's March of the Machines for 48 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a glancing hit from Kamui's March of the Machines for 21 hit points!
GS: Acacia Saitani takes a solid hit from Kamui's March of the Machines for 50 hit points!
GS: Eleanor Klein takes a solid hit from Kamui's March of the Machines for 58 hit points!
GS: Dash Caskett takes a glancing hit from Kamui's March of the Machines for 26 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

It doesn't take long for the group of them to find what they're looking for, and then some.

"Kamui!" Clarissa exclaims at the sight of the little robot - and her big red companion. Or perhaps, her several companions. As Machina lurch to life as one, hissing like that, the blonde girl brings herself up short. Her eyes grow wide.

"...Kamui," she repeats, her voice a little quieter and more sad. "But you're our friend... why wouldn't we do whatever it took to be there for you...?"

The machina lurch. The sight of it is downright sad, and what they're actually saying is even sadder. Sparks dance from them; Clarissa throws her arms up to try and shield herself from the worst of the damage, but the electronic sparks dance across her exposed arms and thighs anyway, leaving a few little burns behind. She winces but keeps pushing forward.

One of the toppling, neglected machina is in her path. Swallowing a lump in her throat, Clarissa keeps moving.

And doesn't attack. She steps to one side, looking quickly back towards Xiumei and Eleanor.

"I know we all haven't known each other that long," she calls over the sound of electronics, "but you're our friend, Kamui. I'm sad too about everything that's happened. But we haven't forgotten about you... and everyone here came because we care about you."

Her eyes widen, and she holds a hand out, having no chance of reaching across the distance - but the gesture's more symbolic.

"I haven't forgotten how you saved my life, Kamui...! That's why I have to come here! Because you're my friend, and I know Eleanor and Xiumei love you too!"

GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Zhang Xiumei with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Eleanor Klein with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Clarissa Arwin with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has completed her action.
GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Zhang Xiumei! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Zhang Xiumei!
GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Clarissa Arwin! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Clarissa Arwin!
<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

"...I do too, Nora," Xiumei says -- though she can't have a bad feeling the way that Eleanor does. She doesn't quite understand that, though. Her eyes glance back at Clarissa and Felius; then she looks ahead. When she spots Acacia, her eyes widen a little.

"Miss Saitani is here, too," she says. She spots Dash, too -- and her eyes are wide for a moment, before she looks up at the red giant... and further up, at Kamui. Xiumei swallows; it feels terribly tall, and she feels -- as ever -- terribly out of place.

But... she told Marivel she would befriend Kamui, and that has become a promise to a dead woman. She glances sideways, at Clarissa. Then, back forward.

The Machina start to rush her -- and with Model V, Xiumei moves faster than she has any right to. She blitzes ahead, even if she keeps herself in front of Eleanor. She gets a bolt of electricity for her trouble -- coming close enough to one that a spark leaps to her. Xiumei yelps, but then drops down...

...and slides across the ground, trying to kick her way through them. "Nora, try to stay behind me! We need to get to her, before... whatever happens," she says, sounding uncertain near the end. She looks up at Kamui, but stays quiet. She mutters to herself -- quiet, though Eleanor may guess as much as hear, knowing Xiumei as long as she has. "What do I even say to her...?"

GS: Zhang Xiumei has attacked Kamui with Slide Kick!
GS: Zhang Xiumei has completed her action.
GS: Kamui takes a glancing hit from Zhang Xiumei's Slide Kick for 51 hit points!
GS: Riposte! applied to Zhang Xiumei!
<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Dangerous--it all seems dangerous, really. Nevertheless, Eleanor never considered not going to help Kamui. "Kamui..."

But there's the march--the march of...

"...No, that isn't..."

Eleanor looks at the coming machines in dismay, taking a single step back as she debates. But if they can't...

"A suicide charge doesn't make anyone happy!" Eleanor calls. "That this land doesn't appreciate you..." Made, and discarded. Created, and then given nothing. She recalls--she had a bad feeling. But...

"We came for her," Eleanor tells them, hearing the noise. "Because we were worried. But I don't want to go through all of you. Is the answer to your loneliness to make things even worse?"

Eleanor bites her lip--and pulls a Crest from within her cloak, and it shimmers as she draws upon the sped-up magic within it to perform an entire ritual in the span of instants.

"Time's eye upon us, see us slow in awe!"

Wing and Muse come together in rippling waves, to slow and weaken, a spell relatively light on actual injury but, hopefully, may be enough to turn things to give them some time to talk.

But there. "Xiumei!" She looks up, and sparks explode over her as one gets too close, before she ducks down and charges behind Xiumei and the Model V. "Clarissa!" Eleanor calls. "Together is right!"

"Huff--" She's... not quite as athletic, as Xiumei, but she's trying.

GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Eleanor Klein! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Eleanor Klein!
<Pose Tracker> Isolde has posed.

 
There is nowhere else for us.

Isolde frowns, just a bit, beneath her hood.

We were made... and then we were discarded.

This evokes a pang from Isolde. She pushes herself to her feet - just in time for one of the creatures, stumbling, to nearly crash into her. She pirouettes out of the way, and it is the electrical by-blast that makes her lower body tighten as she hisses in displeasure at the tension of it, the sense of burning. The oilcloth smoulders nastily in a few patches before the rain puts it out.

"Stop that," she says.

Well, that's an opener! Isolde is then silenced momentarily by another thing, tottering on three legs where it was meant to have four, coming right at her, swaying and stumbling drunkenly. She throws up one leg, balancing against it - leaning back - and then pushing forwards, sending the thing stumbling, bumbling, and then keeling onto its side. "Stay down," Isolde tells it, before she raises her voice.

"Oh-h-h, this isn't how I expected this all to go! That's her in the middle, isn't it?" This latter sentence is called by Isolde towards the others. "That girl? Kamui?"

Towards that space Isolde speaks now. "You must forgive me my presumption, my dear girl, but -" And at this point something rusty sits on her foot and says 'nrrrrp' in a low distorted voice. Isolde breathes out hugely, and moves to kick the thing in the air, grip it by its helmet (without looking!) and toss it towards the other entities advancing towards her.

"How many of these buggering machinas ARE there," Isolde complains aloud. Oh no - would she have hurt feelings in saying this? (Does she even know about Kamui. (No.))

GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Kamui with Leaden Invocation!
GS: Eleanor Klein has completed her action.
GS: Isolde has attacked Kamui with Bally-table Queen!
GS: Isolde has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Isolde has completed her action.
GS: Kamui takes a solid hit from Eleanor Klein's Leaden Invocation for 55 hit points!
GS: Slow! applied to Kamui!
GS: Kamui takes a glancing hit from Isolde's Bally-table Queen for 52 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        The fact she can dimly pick out other voices is a comfort, but a cold one. It means that her hunch was more-or-less on the mark - but it also means that Kamui's getting a lot of attention, and right now given the politics in Spira that could be either good or bad, depending on who exactly is doing the calling. A flash of protectiveness wells up, and she feels herself grit her teeth. It's much too easy to imagine one of the Four Heroes trying to twist the Reploid towards something she doesn't want.

        So when Clarine floats into view, her first reaction is to jolt to a halt, arms raised in something like a boxer's stance, letting a tense moment pass before she manages to squint through enough of the rain to recognize the Seraph. "... ... hey," she greets rather bluntly, but does exhale a little in relief as she lowers her hands and looks towards the scrapyard. "You came this way too, huh?"

        She looks to one side, towards the centre of the crater. She doesn't need to be shown the rest of the way; she can almost sense Kamui there on her own, feeling the Reploid's presence in a way she can't easily describe.

        Her nerves feel shot, but she has enough in the way of self-control and patience to keep her voice calm. "What part of this is 'need'?" It's a bit more of a hiss through her teeth than she intended, but she's not exactly adept at slogging through rain and hail and sleet. "Kamui... I'm here because I want to be. And I'm here because--"

        She can't quite get the words out at first, because she doesn't have absolute faith in them - but it doesn't take that long to firm up her expression and bolster herself. Marivel's motivations aren't exactly easy to pick out at the best of times, but there was at least one point she was always pretty steadfast on. "--because Marivel wouldn't have wanted you to hide yourself away again. And when it comes down to it, you didn't want to stay asleep."

        She swallows - and then steps forwards to meet the advance of the shattered Iron Giants. One of them doesn't even manage to reach her, its legs giving away before it can get within arm's reach. The next, she lets impact with her guard, grunting in pain at the weight of the hit - but refusing to be borne backwards as she shoves back against the machina, leaving it pinwheeling towards the ground.

        "... sorry," she quietly says after a moment to the both of them, then looks back up to Kamui as she takes another step forwards.

GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked Acacia Saitani with Freedom of the Press!
GS: Acacia Saitani has completed her action.
GS: Acacia Saitani heals Acacia Saitani! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

"I did... I am sorry, I... I should have told you first..." Clarine murmurs to Acacia.

One by one, others arrive. Many of them are familiar faces, at least somewhat. But right now, Clarine's eyes are on Kamui. And her voice...Clarine can hear her voice. Not only that, there's a faint sound emanating from the machines around them. Words...?

But then, the Machina begin to move - however they can, despite what little remains of them. They impede her progress - emitting an electric shock that courses through her being. Clarine flinches back.

Electricity was always a painful experience for her. It was one of few forms of pain she could experience no matter the source. But...she couldn't let it deter her. Not here, not now. Compared to Ragnell's lightning...this was nothing.

"K-Kamui...do not say that...!" Clarine calls out. "Please...I do not wish to lose you. I...I made a promise to you, too..."

She had to push forward. She had to get closer to Kamui. She tries to push through the machines standing in her way - gently, so as not to inflict too much damage.

"Please...let me through..." She murmurs to them. Could they even hear her? Did they even know she was there?

GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Kamui with Push through...!!
GS: Seraph Clarine has completed her action.
GS: Kamui takes a glancing hit from Seraph Clarine's Push through...! for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! applied to Seraph Clarine!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius' distant positioning hits a snag when the edge of the crater proves too rain-slick. Carelessness, in this weather.
        He is a stranger to Kamui. His presence does not tend to bring reassurance. He could be just another bounty chaser looking to cash in on resolving this worrisome issue following a time of upheaval. The man's expression seems unchanging underneath the hood of the ratty, burnt-up cloak, but that's just an estimate for his free hand is spent keeping that hood over his face best he can as he slides down the crater slope in a crouch - to bring him in striking range of the ring of Machina that approach to these 'spoken' words of resolve.
        "...The one up there is Kamui, then?" Ethius asks aloud of the gathered, as Clarissa makes her impassioned plea to them - the first among the gathered to do so. "So I am to presume she is from Filgaia..."
        Ethius takes a measured step back from one of the Machina that approach and trip. His reflexes are on point against the physical motions, but there is an X factor - this is a rain-and-lightning-filled landscape. One of his boots is in a pooling puddle of water. The falling Machina sparks at the right place, at the right time--
        Ethius draws his foot out a split second too late, but he doesn't make contact with the electricity for long and mostly comes out of it with a momentarily numbed leg and a fall on the other knee. His quarterstaff, currently being used as a walking stick, helps him get back up.
        Ethius has a, shall one say, storied relationship with mechanical things. Stories full of hot takes. Heart-melting twists and turns. At any given moment, these Machina could be turned into molten soup if given the time and opportunity to cast.
        One damaged Machina lunges for him. Ethius converts his hold of his quarterstaff into both hands, pushing outward to take advantage of his superior reach to try and poke a massive hulk over against its leverage disadvantages - to keep them from pushing onward in his current position.
        "Please take heed of your acquaintances." He remarks. He doesn't look the damaged Machina in the eye - do they simply not matter to him? Does he not see them as hurting people unto themselves?
        And yet, he hasn't gotten into the destructive spellcasting.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Kamui with Basic Attack!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Kamui takes a glancing hit from Ethius Hesiod's Basic Attack for 35 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Dash Caskett has posed.

Data certainly sensed that. It made him run to find Dash all the more hurried. A mechanical monkey with quite a few mysteries, he seems far more worried for Kamui than someone should be, having only met recently. Perhaps it is just how machines of their caliber bond...?

"I am very aware how dangerous it is, Kamui! Which should say something for yourself, too! You are really high up, and I am also in a suit of tech and metal! Lightning... isn't exactly our friend." Seems to know a good bit about this element, at least!

"Why are you out here all alone with these other machines?" he asks.

Data chirps a few times. "Mega Man... those machines are still active...!" It is barely enough time for Dash to look and seem them start to shift.

As they do, Dash looks to the left and right of himself, and sees several familiar figures, as well as some new faces. Curiously. Data seems to look at Xiumei and stare for a small time.

"We should try to talk some sense into her..." Dash calls out to her friends, Clarine and Acacia. Others could be her friends as well! Marivel would have surely been here as well, if... "I saw what happened to you at Luca, I don't want bad things to happen to you! You are the first person I have seen like you before. I have so many questions I was hoping you might know the answer to."

Funny bit, he is seeing Xiumei now too which is kinda like her. Go figure in this moment. "You don't deserve to be out here suffering in the storm." Some of his wording wavers some. This all felt a little confusing somehow. Pleading to her.

The machines advance, and Dash has to evade being grasped by them. That doesn't stop a hearty zot from one that gets to close, ions leaping to run up his leg. His left arm spawns painfully for a second as something affects it, but ultimately gets away.

The Mega Buster is aimed straight at the advancing machines, and opens fire with solar plasma!

Meanwhile Data hangs on for dear life. It is quite the ride!

GS: Dash Caskett has attacked Kamui with Buster Salvo!
GS: Dash Caskett has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Dash Caskett has completed his action.
GS: Kamui takes a solid hit from Dash Caskett's Buster Salvo for 68 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        Clarissa speaks fervently about how she hasn't forgotten how she saved her life. That one time, when Odessa ambushed them on the way to the Thunder Plains...

        "But Clarissa..."

        Kamui's lips purse.

        Xiumei's dash takes her far head of the ailing Machina, and slides on through in a manuever that Kamui (and maybe Dash) would think of as nostalgic. She advises that Acacia is here as well... she glances at her again. She's trembling further.

        Eleanor challenges back against the machines. That the answer to loneliness isn't to make things worse. Her Crest comes and tumbles several of the stronger Machina back. The one closest to her falls and finds that it can't get back up.

        <<Maybe not... but... we were made this way...>>

        Isolde orders one to stay down and it actually -does-. Another gets kicked and tossed and flung! A soft burst of Pyreflies erupt where the Machina lands. "... I don't know," Kamui admits plainly to Isolde. "But something happened recently here... so I..."

        It doesn't exactly take an astute observer to notice Kamui is a machine, and to Ethius' eyes, trained as a technology hunter as he is, it is clear that she is mechanical... and not the kind of machine scattered throughout Spira either. Filgaian.

        He strikes a machina, which falls apart and crumbles into component pieces -- and again, Pyreflies echo out of it.

        <<Maybe we can... let these Pyreflies in us rest...>>

        He tells her to take heed of her friends' words. But those words right now... she clenches her teeth and bites her lip. Words are at their hardest to listen to right now.

        Dash pleads for her to come down. Lightning and storm aren't her friends. And given what happened to her when ARMS dialed home, he's not wrong either.

        "... something sorrowful called these machines here," Kamui admits to Dash, but she's not sure why. The Mega Buster lights up, an unflinching source of the sun even in the midst of this rain. As one of the Machina soldiers collapse:

        <<So many Pyreflies... from those taken away... hiding in us...>>

        And Dash sees those Pyreflies again too. Something... recent? Something rather near to the Thunder Plains -- in particular, from Mushroom Rock Road? Could it be...

        "I don't know... if I can answer anything. I remember so little..." Kamui responds to Dash about his inquiry, though she withers a bit as he implores that she doesn't deserve to be suffering out here.

        Acacia tells her that Marivel wouldn't want her to hide herself away again. She's trembling harder. "... but when I think about how I still have all of you ... it still burns... it still burns... too much..."

        And Clarine, pushing through, speaks of how she doesn't want to lose her. How she made a promise too... and... at that...

        It's plain that tears are coming out of the little robot's eye, the good one.

        "I can't deal with it... I think about Mari all the time... I still haven't stopped... how Mari would give me stickers that say 'Ace Reporting' and 'Ice Moves' and all kinds of funny puns that'd make me laugh... how Mari would put macaroni in her teeth and play with her food..."

        A pause, as she starts twinging at her head.

        "... how Mari was brave and energetic and funny and made me feel like I could still live in this really strange world ..."

        She's clutching at her head again as she starts to incorporate sobbing into her words.

        "But I can't! ... I made brave and big promises but I'm too weak to do it, Clarine! Everyone! I'm betraying you... I'm showing you how weak my words were... it hurts too much... I can't do it... so just please leave me alone..."

        And the Red Giant finally rises, at that. Its eyes gleam as it starts to march forward, with Kamui still on its shoulder. It's easy to tell with any modicum of magical sense -- there are a lot of Pyreflies in this one.

        <<They shouldn't stay inside of us... ...>>

        Perhaps spurred on by impulse, or the rife repository of Pyreflies in it, it takes a heaving swing with the six-sided iron club at its hand. The arc of its attack is wide enough that even though it may not catch each Drifter directly--

        The upheaval of earth certainly may.

GS: Kamui has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Iron Swing!
GS: Kamui has attacked Zhang Xiumei with Iron Swing!
GS: Kamui has attacked Eleanor Klein with Iron Swing!
GS: Kamui has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Iron Swing!
GS: Kamui has attacked Isolde with Iron Swing!
GS: Kamui has attacked Dash Caskett with Iron Swing!
GS: Kamui has attacked Acacia Saitani with Iron Swing!
GS: Kamui has attacked Seraph Clarine with Iron Swing!
GS: Kamui has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Clarine critically Guards a hit from Kamui's Iron Swing for 14 hit points!
GS: Clarissa Arwin takes a glancing hit from Kamui's Iron Swing for 30 hit points!
GS: Dash Caskett takes a solid hit from Kamui's Iron Swing for 61 hit points!
GS: Isolde completely evades a hit from Kamui's Iron Swing!
GS: Eleanor Klein takes a solid hit from Kamui's Iron Swing for 71 hit points!
GS: Acacia Saitani takes a solid hit from Kamui's Iron Swing for 63 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a glancing hit from Kamui's Iron Swing for 27 hit points!
GS: Zhang Xiumei takes a glancing hit from Kamui's Iron Swing for 34 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

It's pretty clear almost right away that Clarissa does not want to fight these sad, rejected Machina.

She darts out of the way as best she can, unable to keep from sniffling a little at the sight of the Machina, at the words in those staticky declarations she can mostly make out, albeit not clearly. Swallowing hard, she watches the one closest to her, then dips back, circling around and picking up speed into a brisk run.

She can hear what Acacia's calling out - and she can see how amui trembles at the sound of those words. Swallowing hard, she pushes forward again.

As the Red Giant rises, Clarissa draws in her breath, able to hear the pyreflies clearly enough. The massive arc of the club tears into the earth, and Clarissa dives, hitting the ground and rolling - and the club whistles over her. Clods of disturbed earth pelt her, and she coughs a couple of times, shielding her eyes with one arm until she's sure it's past.

"I don't want to fight," she calls out, her voice soft and sad. "I know it hurts... you feel lost, like you're weak and helpless without our cool friend. All of us are feeling like that, Kamui. Me too! I've never even been in an army before! But--"

She takes a step forward - and she stuffs Strahl Gewehr back into the pouch at her side. Unarmed, she holds her hands out and a little to her sides as she begins to walk towards Kamui and the giant, almost as if inviting them for a hug.

"...But that doesn't mean you're weak," she calls up to Kamui, her smile tinged with sympathy. "It means you care about someone that we all loved, too."

For a moment, Clarissa hesitates. Then she swallows deeply.

"...I didn't think I could go on when I lost Mom, too," she admits, an ache creeping into her tone. "That's why I know I can now...."

GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Kamui with Encourage!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has completed her action.
GS: Kamui takes a solid hit from Clarissa Arwin's Encourage for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! applied to Kamui!
<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

There's a swell of pride -- and a flicker of jealousy -- to hear Clarissa call out to Kamui like that. Xiumei never quite could help but marvel at how her friend finds the words she doesn't. She swallows, for a moment, and then her head bobs.

And she fights back a little smile to hear Eleanor huff.

The Pyreflies draw her attention, though. Xiumei stares for a moment -- and then her jaw sets, as she looks at Kamui. She doesn't respond, instantly -- the woman dives to the side of the huge swing, and then jumps over a chunk of rock that's thrown airborne. Her feet slam into the rock, then she kicks off it, and comes up at the Red Giant.

"Kamui!" she calls out. "None of us are... no one feels like they always know what to do! Sometimes we make promises and can't keep them, and that's okay!" She holds her hand out. A few little cubes of blue light appear -- then form into a cylindrical hilt. Then, a blade of violet appears, and Xiumei swings it backward. She comes crashing down, and swings the blade down -- slashing into the Red Giant.

GS: Zhang Xiumei has attacked Kamui with Pulse Saber Jump Slash!
GS: Zhang Xiumei has completed her action.
GS: Kamui takes a solid hit from Zhang Xiumei's Pulse Saber Jump Slash for 101 hit points!
GS: Mighty! applied to Zhang Xiumei!
<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

"A machine can't go against its nature, is it?" Eleanor asks the strange voice sadly. "But you can allow those animating you..." She nods, then. "I understand."

It's easier, in a way, to consider this new phenomenon, these pyreflies animating the otehrs. Ethius is not sure which acquaintances they can keep track of, but she does add to him, "Yes, that's Kamui from Filgaia."

But she bites her lip, as she starts to duck another machine attack. "...Grief hits us the same way," Eleanor says up to Kamui then. "If I'm being honest... it doesn't even feel real, the idea that she's gone. My mind just refuses, except... when I run out of toher thins to think about. There are so many things I wanted to ask her. ...I wish... I could've given her another hug, though she'd deny that it happened."

The ground spills upward, and Eleanor falls back, hitting the ground roughly. "Ah--" Xiumei speaks, and, "She's right!" Eleanor calls. "And on their own... words are weak, Kamui! If you rely on words to keep your promises, then you'll break them, every time!"

...It might seem a strange way to go about it.

"Humans--and... those who live with humans--all of us, we have to learn sooner or later that we can't keep our promises by ourselves, on our own, all the time. I was always told I was talented, smart, could do anything, and yet..."

"...And yet I joined ARMS, because I know... there's more we can do together. So what, if you can't do it? Then let us take some of the load!"

"If it hurts, then share that pain! ...Even these machines came together, drawn by that pain, here! You, too--You were drawn here for the same reason, I'm sure of it! To share!" She starts to rise--and some come too close, so Eleanor draws forth another crest, which shines, light glittering in trails from her hand. "...In search of one's other half--find it, and begone!"

She throws out her hand, and brilliant light crashes towards another set of machines, a magic to undo other magic.

GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Kamui with Dazzling Negation!
GS: Eleanor Klein has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Eleanor Klein has completed her action.
GS: Kamui takes a glancing hit from Eleanor Klein's Dazzling Negation for 38 hit points!
GS:  Dispel reduces positive status durations by 3 rounds each!
<Pose Tracker> Isolde has posed.

 
Isolde hears words from the general direction of others. Not least to hear is the news that Marivel is dead. Discouraging. And yet, we carry on, she thinks as the entities speak, think, feel at her.

The pyreflies in them? Isolde thinks, as one of the machina falls and then... releases them. Peculiar. Is that why they were forbidden, Isolde thinks with a sort of airy hypothesis which is rather interfered-with when she hears Kamui herself speak further.

Marivel's loss, she thinks. Ahh. What an impactful woman, Isolde thinks, but she cannot develop the idea further. Not because of grief, though she feels it; not because of sympathy to the pain that she can hear in Kamui's voice, and in that of others; but because there is something being swung right at her.

So before she can say anything else...

Isolde leans slightly back and pivots towards the upcoming swinging club as it comes towards her. She can feel the wind piling up in front of the club, yes, for certain. She brings up that bastard sword of hers two handed as she leans further back, almost fifteen degrees of inclination backwards, skating out one foot behind the other and

kshing!

The club does not stop, there is too much club and too little Isolde; but with a flash of sparks, the blade deflects the swing. And in the interstitial space as the club rises over her head, Isolde surges to the side, aiming to stab up into the Red Giant's wrist, twist, and withdraw -

"It's fine to take a rest, darling; to hurt, and to let yourself be hurt. But this is foolish," Isolde says. "A charming girl caught in despair is sure to attract any number of rescuers. It's just how people are. How they really are, at heart; they have to learn, you see, not to come to the rescue."

"Is that the lesson you want to teach? That people should walk on by?" Isolde concludes, flicking off -- rainwater, it seems -- from her blade before raising it in a more guarded stance and standing totally still again.

GS: Isolde has attacked Kamui with A Truly Supple Wrist!
GS: Isolde has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        It takes Ethius a moment to better take in the finer details. The Thunder Plains doesn't afford much clear visibility - but she's not the only interesting sight, up there on the Red Giant. There is the wielder of the Model V, right there, whose form gets a cursory glance but not much else because Xiumei has moved too far ahead for him to keep a visual lock.
        More importantly, small talk reveals above all of this that something has happened to Marivel. The same Marivel who nosily imposed herself in his life, waxed poetic about Filgaia, and... had a specific liquid diet that seems at odds with the account about macaroni.
        ...That changes nothing, he decides. It changes nothing about the great Red Giant swinging a club that misses striking Ethius bodily, but disrupts the ground enough that it pops him into the air in a short hop where his landing is reasonably smooth. There is only a momentary discomfort shooting through his lower legs on landing on slick, wet stone.
        '...no one feels like they always know what to do!' Xiumei's voice calls above the fog of war. That has been the case for far too long on his end, even if he now has a clearer picture on the exact nature of what he knows he must do... if not the context.
        "...I must ask for clarification," Ethius remarks as he takes a few steps back and starts to circle the Red Giant, trying to position himself so that he'd have the most time to react to another swing if it tries for it again. "You are speaking of the same Marivel who could not safely take in exposure to daylight?"
        The tone of his voice takes a turn for the interrogative, as though it were the beginning of some difficult, none-too-comfortable questions as Eleanor re-confirms that Kamui is from Filgaia. They're comfortable with her, they know her, they are pleading with her as though they were comfortable with her presence.
        He doesn't have time to ask another question in that span, for Symbology requires a somantic component as he puts forth the spellcasting ritual for a spray of fine particles of earthen make as lights give away the completion of the spell. A spray of dust flies forth for the Red Giant, looking to gum up as much of it as he can.
        "Fine Dust!"

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Kamui with Fine Dust!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Kamui takes a solid hit from Isolde's A Truly Supple Wrist for 106 hit points!
GS: Riposte! applied to Isolde!
GS: Kamui takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Fine Dust for 91 hit points!
GS: Jam! applied to Kamui!
GS: Kamui enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine nods wordlessly toward Dash. They had to do something...

Kamui speaks of Marivel, and Clarine stops in her tracks for a moment. Marivel... Clarine still hadn't really...come to terms with that herself. She had only heard it second hand...it still didn't feel real. As if Marivel could emerge at anytime, saying that it had been a ploy, or something...

"K-Kamui..." Clarine murmurs. She shuts her eyes for a moment, and continues forcing her way forward.

"I...I do not believe that! You...you are not weak, Kamui! You are hurting, and sad, and...and that is okay! We...we all are. But...we do not need to hurt alone. We are...friends, are we not...? We can share it. Together...together, maybe it will hurt a little less..." Clarine says. "I...I will not leave you alone! I refuse to! I am...I am tired of running away from those I care about."

Clarine shuts her eyes tight...and then, continues forward. She listens to Clarissa, as she admits her own feelings of hurt, and as Eleanor, too, says they can share their pain.

"Please, Kamui...let me, let us, help you..." She murmurs. And with that, she begins to emit a bright light. Not blinding, but warm, and safe. Kamui had always felt relaxed with her light, just as light relaxed her...maybe it could help her now...?

GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Kamui with Revitalize!
GS: Seraph Clarine has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Clarine has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Clarine heals Kamui! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS:  Restore reduces negative status durations by 3 rounds each!
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        Is Kamui actively in danger? That's the question foremost in Acacia's mind, or at least one of them. She spares the others assembled a quick glance, but none of them look like they're visibly on the attack, at least not against Kamui herself. The rest of the robots--... honestly, she doesn't know what to make of them. But she's gotten pretty good at being pushy, she'd like to think.

        Dash and Xiumei are perhaps the people who can most closely know what this is like for Kamui - but the reporter has to wonder if even they can really come close. Neither of them have the same memory problems that Kamui does, as far as she knows - and she wonders if perhaps that's why the Reploid is feeling so much grief. An unreliable memory can at least rely on regular reminders. But with Marivel gone...

        "Those memories of her are precious. Of course they are. And I know you'll hang onto them," she states with conviction. "It's important to remember them - and we'll help you remember them. I won't let you forget them," she promises. firmly, before dragging a hand back through her sodden hair.

        "... and yeah... those memories burn right now," she admits, her voice softer with sympathy. At the back of her head a little voice reminds her that she's lucky. Her parents, unlike so many Drifters, are alive and well. She's the one who walked away from them, not vice versa. Could be much worse. Still... she's seen her fair share of grievers. Kept checking in on some of them, because she's softer than she likes to let on. Beacuse that's the Bouletin way. "But eventually, they'll become memories you look back on fondly. Just like when you remembered you loved her."

        She's far enough away that the crashing strike misses her, but she's thrown off her feet, wincing at the sudden sound of thunder crashing down in a suitably dramatic bit of timing. Instinctively, she starts to scrabble back for purchase - but then grits her tshe picks herself straight up instead. Something spurs her not to give an inch.

        She wipes at her mouth, and then draws a breath out. "Until they do, and after... I've got your back."

<Pose Tracker> Dash Caskett has posed.

It isn't Dash who finds recognition is Xiumei's method of movement. (However Dash makes a mental note to have Roll make something that helps him move faster like that!) It is Data whose eyes widen and watch her go.

The spirit-like energy that comes from the machines gives Dash pause to continue attacking. Those are supposed to hail from living creatures as their soul? He wondered in passing what it was like if he had one before-- if something lies and the end of his journey. Of course it wouldn't be like this, though pulls his focus regardless.

"They just piled up?" he asks Kamui? Hum. "I see, I am... sorry for your memory loss. Maybe we all can help you find the answers somehow?" he asks in earnest. "Though... maybe not out here!"

She seems very torn up about Marivel's passing.

The red giant decides to make its move, and swings a massive club in a wide arc. Dash has to backflip out of the way, being missed by mere inches! Sadly it did not leave him unscathed. The shockwave from the swing strikes Dash and sends both him and Data sprawling. Dash strikes a rock outcropping, and Data bounces a few times on the ground. Both get up slowly.

"Data... find cover! I will handle this..." Dash says, rubbing his right shoulder, which has suffered a mighty denting inward. "Kamui! That feeling you feel... I know it hurts, and the future seems uncertain in this strange place, but look at all the friends that came to your aid! We all worry for you, and we can help!"

A look to the machina strewn about, and the red giant. "The ywill only remind you of the pain."

Data chirps from his spot behind a rock. "Mega Man! Disable to arm so it can't swing its weapon!" His tail pokes out from behind it. "Right!" he calls. One swcondary weapon is swapped out with a flick of the wrist and a slip to the back. A small diode is attached to his offhand wrist. It cuts on, and a magenta light pours out with a high pitched hum, forming a blade.

Where Dash cant, well, dash, he has some great jumping power, and leaps up to swing his lightforged weapon at the giant's arm!

"It we can just talk this through, perhaps we can all understand each other a little better and know how you feel!"

GS: Dash Caskett has attacked Kamui with Refractive Edge!
GS: Dash Caskett has completed his action.
GS: Kamui takes a solid hit from Dash Caskett's Refractive Edge for 55 hit points!
GS: Shieldbreak! applied to Kamui!
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        Kamui is less on a morose, daunted position and now more spasming and sobbing, but she pauses as she listens to Clarissa admit that she lost her mother. She purses her lips.

        "... it's more than that ... it feels like I lost a mother too, Clarissa... I don't have a heart but it feels like my heart was stolen from me..."

        But her words don't gloss over just like that. Their love for Marivel... it's true that Mari loved everyone, and even if there might be a bit of back and forth, the Crimson Noble kept them together like a kind of big hen mother too.

        Kamui looks to Xiumei as the Red Giant finds a rent in its body from the Pulse Saber -- and where crimson metal falls apart, a burst of three Pyreflies escape and Xiumei can see them move... move south. South to where Guadosalam is.

        Where the Farplane is.

        <<They'll find more comfort there... right...?>>

        "... is it really okay, though ...?" Kamui finds herself doubting, about Xiumei's words. She looks to Clarine. "But I ran away..."

        Eleanor offers her own words about her grief of Marivel. That it doesn't feel real. That her mind just refuses... that there's so many things she wanted to ask her...

        Those are common and familiar thoughts.

        "But I already betrayed you through action too... by running away... that's what makes me feel so bad..." Kamui mumbles.

        <<We were just husks of metal until these souls found us...>>

        Share the pain? Even these machines were able to band together. She didn't even think about that in her grief. But the machine-voice's words are starting to make more sense to her now. Was it because it was easier to share the burden with each other?

        The Red Giant reels back at Eleanor's magic; the light slams onto it, and as if undone, more Pyreflies escape from its body. Finding their rest.

        This is not a Sending... but it may be the next best thing.

        Isolde does a well-timed parry despite the club being much more large than her, and in the interstice finds herself stabbing the Giant's wrist and causing it to flinch. Its grip loosens on its club quite a lot.

        <<For a time maybe it gave some solace... but...>>

        "... I did think ... that maybe that would be best ..." Kamui admits to Isolde on the lesson she wanted to teach. She doesn't sound like she's certain, but what is certain--

        Is that Dash is following up on what Isolde started, and together they work at the arm; the Blade Arm cuts at the giant's arm (this is getting confusing!) and with a low, metallic howl it drops its club. Chance!

        "... isn't it enough ...? Aren't you hurting ...?" Kamui finds herself asking the Red Giant.

        The Giant pauses, and Ethius asks his question.

        "... mmm. That Marivel. She's a really... really important person to me..." Kamui admits to the man with the quarterstaff. "She drinks blood or maybe tomato juice out of juice boxes but even then she still took the time to make stuffed peppers and treats for me..."

        <<... while it truly hurts to lose one's other half ...>>

        The Fine Dust spell erupts around it. Were it a fully mechanical machine it may be the end of it; but as Lanval once pointed out at the Waystation, they're Fiends comprised of Pyreflies too. And where its joint starts to spark and short-circuit, more of the spheres of light start to escape...

        "... Clarine... Master... Eleanor is right ..." she whispers, lowering her head as she feels Clarine's sunlight bathing down on her. It feels good. It truly feels good. It's warm and safe and something she always loved about the Light Seraph.

        Acacia talks about how precious the memories are. How she'll hang onto them. To remember them... and how she won't let her forget...

        "I wanted to say more. So much more, Master."

        She lifts her head up, that despair glowering inside of her.

        "And that's why I can't forgive myself most... because I... forgot about Marivel. Because as hard as I tried to remember... there was so much more I still forgot about."

        <<... maybe ... it was comforting for us to shelter another's...>>

        The Red Giant's body starts to hiss from all the rents and blasts it's received. It looks like it's starting to shimmer from where the Pyreflies are starting to leak out of it. It may not be safe to stand near it anymore.

        "... because she was so patient even beyond any one person should be. Because I only remembered even more things after that horrible fire consumed her whole. Things that I'll never ever be able to say..."

        She lowers her head.

        "Not anymore..."

        <<... it's nearly time ... for us to go ... will you go with them ...?>>

        "... ... ..."

        Kamui doesn't look ready yet, arms draped around herself. But there may not be time for her to be ready.

GS: Kamui has attacked Kamui with Uh Oh It's Glowing Red!!
GS: Kamui takes a solid hit from Kamui's Uh Oh It's Glowing Red! for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"Wherefore are there so many frowns before me?"

Behind the group, there is a familiar pointy eared woman with red eyes, and sharp fangs. She is wearing a red mage style tricorne hat and garb, though still carrying an umbrella which is held firmly above her head. A set of blood-filled vials are strapped to her waist in a holder. She is smiling softly to the group, looking over the assembled for a patient moment. "Surely, one who worked as hard as I have could be sent off with a smile. Tears are to be expected for such partings but the last wish of the dead is to know that those they left behind can move forward knowing that though they cannot be seen, they yet remain in their hearts as vibrant memories. To be remembered until even the last sparks of memory fade as more of those who loved thee vanish into the lifestream and rejoin you by your side."

"Acacia," Marivel says. "You are a very wise woman to understand this so innately. I'm so happy to see that Kamui has made so many friends." She smiles over to each in turn, even people like Dash she doesn't really know well. "Unfortunately she takes a bit more after me than I hoped for and gets lonely easily because she has lost so many friends."

She closes her eyes for a moment. "May I tell a small story?"

Of course considering she just showed up chatting like she was always here, the temptation may be to yell 'NO MARIVEL!' but she turns out to look over the thunder plains anyway and speaks as if she had been given permission. T'was only a formality it seems.

"Dr. Lumen was a brilliant professor and machinist, but what really inspired her was stories. Honestly, even back then I found her to be incredibly childish, one so caught up in their own world that they often neglected to see past the edge of their own nose."

She laughs a bit. "These days I admire that sort of audacity. But even so, she was our mentor and so we would work on projects together from time to time."

She extends a hand out into the open to feel the rain against her hand.

"One such project was Kamui. Much like most prospective parents, we did not truly understand what we were getting into. We were foolish children, even I at that time. I certainly did not think at the time of how important Kamui would mean to me at the time. I thought her merely as Dr. Lumen's child. How foolish of me. Kamui was much, much more than that."

She sighs faintly. "We fought together for a time. Though the Conflagration and my efforts managed to wipe our names from the history books, all but poor Ana, we were known as heroes at the time. We were to be the saviors of our land." She looks back to Acacia. "I do not hold back my knowledge from you because the part of the mysterious trickster is fun to play. It takes every fiber of my being to not share everything about our story to the world. The dead wish to be remembered, you see, to be understood. Even monsters such as I desire the empathy not of thoughtful words, but of understanding."

She then turns back to face Kamui. There she smiles again, this time broadly.

"But t'would not be fair to those of us who still have so much life to live, to bind them to battles that were not theirs to fight. T'was because I saw you merely as Lumen's daughter, I did not raise you as I ought to have."

She approaches Kamui, drawing into her own hands a sticker of Guts Man powerlifting a heart that says, of course, 'You've Got Guts!' on it.

"The words were difficult to find, but I know them now that I have lived as a memory ere I returned." She offers the sticker to Kamui. "But I know them now. You are our beautiful, brave daughter. All of ours."

She looks towards the Red Giant, then and smiles at it too. "Such a kind fiend. Thank you for looking after her. You should rest. You've fought hard too, but I will remember your kindness." Of course none of this answers how she actually 'survived' the ordeal.

Though she does add, "Eleanor, you may feel a little unsteady in about six seconds."

<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Clarissa's heart quickens a little as she hears Eleanor and Xiumei cry out to Kamui in appeal.

It sinks a little when Kamui speaks again. Dipping her eyes, she swallows an upwelling of emotion, then pushes it down again. In her mind's eye, she can see things she wishes she didn't have to see.

A little flower. Soft, innocuous.

The colossal giant looms over her; some of them tear into it. Clarissa doesn't. She just holds her arms open and shakes her head. "You didn't betray us, Kamui. You're hurt. You've lost someone who feels like a mother to you. Anyone would want to run away from that. It doesn't mean you're a bad person, or even a weak person... it means you're someone who's dealing with the pain of loss."

Pyreflies spill from the body of the Giant. Clarissa stares on with quiet wonder, beginning to understand what's happening.

"Kamui," she says quietly, even as the giant begins to glow. She holds her arms out, almost like a cradle, urging the little robot to come forward despite the danger.

"I know it seems like nothing can exist beyond right now," she calls up to her, a spark of sadness giving way to something more kind and warm. "But I know it can. There are people who love you...."

Her monologue is cut off when Marivel suddenly strolls up out of nowhere and starts talking as if nothing was amiss. Clarissa's mouth hangs open with complete surprise.

"--like THE ACTUAL MARIVEL," she exclaims, still holding her arms out despite the fact that she's anchored to the spot in shock. If not for that and the fact that the Red Giant's about to explode, Clarissa would probably be hugging someone right about now.

Kamui could still jump down into them, though...!

GS: Clarissa Arwin has spent 2 Combo on Inspire and Reload, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Kamui with I Believe In You!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has completed her action.
GS: Kamui takes a solid hit from Clarissa Arwin's I Believe In You for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Kamui gains 15 extra FP from Clarissa Arwin!
GS: Kamui gains a Combo from Inspire!
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        Acacia opens her mouth to respond - to retort to Kamui, firmly but fondly. Forgetting isn't her fault. Her parts being damaged isn't her fault. Maybe they can fix some of them in time, maybe they can't - but either way, Marivel knew about Kamui's memory and accepted it without reservation. There's always things people want to say to those who've gone. All you can do is hold onto them gently.

        Everything dies in her throat when Marivel actually responds to her; her hand is at her mouth immediately, hiding half of her expression behind her fist, but her eyebrows skyrocket at the almost lackadaisical attitude of the vampire as she tells her story.

        "... no, I get it. Some secrets are a bit too long-lived just to spell them all out immediately, huh? Like I said when you first hired me - I'm the sort of reporter who understands that much," she gets out, her voice suddenly rough with an emotion where she's not quite certain if it's good or bad. "But for worrying your daughter this much-- I think I owe you one hell of a punch sometime." She's a little too poker-faced in the moment to tell how serious or angry she is, but the next instant she's dragged a breath in and out, rubbing a hand back through her hair.

        There's a second breath before she looks back up. "Kamui. It's okay. There's a lot more memories to make." She tries to sound cool, but it's impossible to miss the way she jukes away from the Red Giant as the pyreflies begin to vent from the Giant with a note of formality.

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

"I think everyone runs away, sometimes," Xiumei says, with a shake of her head. She slams down into the ground below, crouching after striking that rending slash on the Red Giant. Her green eyes look up and widen. Kamui forgot, but...

Of course she forgot. She forgot a lot; it wasn't hard to see that. She swallows, and then she shakes her head. <I don't know... what we can do for her.> She hears Varius's voice echo in her mind. <I've left a lot of things unsaid.>

Xiumei swallows, and then she nods -- and then stops in her tracks. Her green eyes widen as she hears Marivel's voice before she sees the Crimson Noble. She turns her head, gawking at her -- even if she listens to the story at the same time. Her eyes widen, as she looks up at the Red Giant. She considers, for a second--looking down at Clarissa's arms.

Then up at Kamui.

She sighs, and she leaps again. Her armored feet slam down into the shoulder of the armor, as she lands next to her. She looks down at the Reploid for a second, and she opens her mouth -- then closes it -- and smiles a little ruefully. "I'm not... very good at this stuff."

5000 YEARS AGO

The sun reflected off Varius's armor, as he looked down at Kamui. He laughed in a good natured way, tucking the cannon onto his armor. His red-orange hair snapped after in a breeze, which rushed through the green grass of western Ignas's plains.

"I'm not... very good at this stuff. Are you all right?" he asked, a little gruffly.

"Varius! You shouldn't think she's so fragile." Another, female-shaped reploid stood behind, with white and gold armor. She beams. "She'll pick herself up just fine."

He sighed, extending a hand down."Yeah... all right, A--"

PRESENT

Xiumei extends a hand down, but... there isn't anyone behind her. "Do you want to get out of here?"

<Pose Tracker> Dash Caskett has posed.

Fighting this thing was very difficult, but together with Isolds and Xiumei, they manage to force the Giant to relinquish its weapon to gravity. Dash lands, stumbling forward a step or two and the blade cuts off. As he whirls to aim the Mega Buster at the giant, he spies someone else as they speak! "Eh?!" So Merivel was alive...? Huh. She survived fire! Cool!

Data hobbles his way over toward her, standing near her ankle. He squeaks gently.

He also watches with intensity as she says her story. It is difficult to read his monkey poker face as to why.

Dash listens too. It makes him ponder his own existence. Professor Barrell said he had parents on Nino Island. Could this be a similar situation? He has yet to meet them, sadly. Them being adventurers and whatnot.

"I would certainly love to hear more of your stories about you and Kamui, Miss uh, L-- Marivel," Dash says kindly, though stumbles over the name for a second, as if he was going to say a different one. "Could help me understand some important things about myself, even."

The giant starts to hum with power. Dash has been in this situation numerous times, and takes a good few steps backward. "Everyone wants you to be here, and happy, Kamui. Memory and bodily problems aside, if you work together with everyone, you'll find solutions to your problems! You won't find them alone. No one ever does."

Dash watches as Xiumei jumps up to reach Kamui. "Yeah, now I would really suggest getting down, because that looks like it is gonna explode."

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Eleanor can't quite laugh, but she can smile at Isolde for a moment. "That's true. It's natural, to help. Whether people like it or not."

But Ethius is asking for clarification and Eleanor can't quite bring ehrself to give it for now. Instead, she looks to her maigc working, to the voices that come... Voices that have accepted something. Eleanor has no power over pyreflies, has no knowledge or means to affect a Sending. The best she can do is free them from the shell in which they're hidden...

And watch them decide for themselves. Maybe they're tired, after all. Or maybe...

"...We'll look to find use for you," Eleanor assures the bits of metal. "Something that helps people here.'

She looks up, then, again, to Kamui. "You..." Forgive herself, is it? What can Eleanor say, to that? For a moment, nothing--until--

"What--"

She pauses. She blinks. She stares. "A little mourning period is natural when someone is incinerated!!" Eleanor insists, if anything sounding... offended on sheer decorum though her shock quiets to listening. She will listen. The history, what Marivel would want...

"Lived as... a memory?" Eleanor wonders, and there is her warning. She may feel unsteady. "Ah," she starts. "Um."

Eleanor looks to Xiumei, above, and then... takes a seat. "I think I'm already getting a headache..."

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        That strange hooded man who seems to have intruded upon a moment between dear friends and offered very little in the way of heartfelt advice in a time of need even has the audacity to ask for a clarification - a clarification he receives. They are discussing the person he is thinking of in the past tense.
        "I see." He remarks, as he starts to circle the Red Giant again as it starts to reach an unstable point, and his steps start to grow a touch more hurried. Where the man seems detached from much of the sorrow and anguish that lingers both past and present, he seems far more moved by the present danger presented.
        He recognizes the signs, even if he doesn't have a perfect grasp of their make - that Red Giant is going to...
        Marivel appears with a shock and a heartfelt story about the past. The strange hooded man doesn't gasp in surprise, stand to give her a look for worrying them so, or anything of the sort as shock and relief may fill the eyes and hearts of the gathered.
        "Get down!" Ethius' voice raises, threatening to shout over a dearly reparted friend (that is a word now) among the gathered. A slip of the usual scripted tone of voice as he loops behind the construct and observes the way the Fiend's body shudders. Any second spent studying or standing around could be the second it explodes. He may already be too close to prevent himself from safely disengaging.
        That doesn't appear to be of great concern to him. Taking the quarterstaff in both hands, he eyes any weaknesses in the armor plating, takes a few steps back, and...
        "Far Point!" Ethius calls the technique's name, lunging at an angle to try and create an opening for the energy to burst out, to control it away from as much of the gathered as possible. The sleeve of one arm droops due to the rule of gravity and the weight of all the accumulated moisture it has absorbed in the Thunder Plain, revealing no small number of Symbological tattoos on said arm... and the healing puncture wounds - two - which might map to a very specific source one might recognize.
        Others are better equipped for matters of dealing with complicated feelings of loss - he moves specifically to deal with the existential physical threat with a confidence in his position that he shouldn't have.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Kamui with Far Point!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

"I am...the very last who can judge another for running away..." Clarine admits. "So many times, I have faced my fears and my pain by running away. By hiding myself away from the world. But...that is why I am here. I do not wish to see you make the same mistakes I have. Even if you run away... I want you to know that we will always be there to welcome you back!"

Clarine pushes forward.

"There are still so many sights I want to show you...!" She says. She listens, as Kamui admits that she forgot - forgot things about Marivel.

Marivel...it's almost like she can hear her voice, even now...

...Wait a second.

"...M-Marivel...?" Clarine whispers, turning abruptly. ...She's there. Alive(or at the very least ambulatory). Little beads of light appear at the corners of her eyes, looking very much like tears. "Marivel...!"

It takes an immense amount of effort to keep herself from tackle-hugging the Crimson Noble in the middle of her story.

But, instead, she pushes forward, standing next to Clarissa.

"Clarissa is correct! We all love you! And that...will never change!" Clarine pleads. "And that is something...that will never be forgotten! I am a Seraph, after all...I will carry those thoughts and feelings with me!"

GS: Seraph Clarine has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Isolde has posed.

 
"Is it a terribly common name?" Isolde asks Ethius, as he inquires for clarity. Perhaps even enquires - that's even graver!

Kamui speaks more about that woman, Marivel. What a shame, Isolde thinks as she stays in her poised and ready stance, listening to the wind. Metal escapes and pyreflies rend; she waits, Isolde does, and she listens. She takes a deep breath and -

Someone speaks.

Isolde pops her jaw once, and then lets out a subtle snort of a laugh, and then listens, but she also notably does not leave her poised stance. She does not turn towards Marivel, although there is a fractional relaxation as the voice reaches its second paragraph. Likely not an illusion, perhaps Isolde has judged.

The story makes her smile, a little hesitantly.

And the only real hesitation is because...

There's something about the giant that's bothering Isolde. She can't quite put her finger on what it is. (The flashing, of course, is lost to her.) "I don't know if I'm ready to have a daughter," she muses, "though I suppose I was just passing through. Even so, my dear Kamui, it's wonderful that you're safe. And I hope that you feel better... especially now that -"

'Get down!'

"Ah, shit," Isolde says. "Pardon me," she says, before with a rippling tension she l e a p s forwards -- perhaps matching Xiumei's vaulting, if in a lower trajectory, one that takes her (with a duck of the head) in between the legs of the great giant.

And now that she's behind the thing, she grasps her sword more tightly. Raising it upwards, she sinks down low and at about the point where Ethius releases his magics, Isolde hurls herself upwards, twisting her sword around in two accelerating spirals - one of which is tinged with a sort of heavily-saturated rainbow-aftertrail for a moment, though perhaps that's just all the raindrops she's murdering - before smashing down to try and rip a hole in the back of the great Iron Giant.

        Don't mistake me.
        It's not your fault.
        Thank you... for protecting a lost maid, where we struggled.
        If there is another place for you...
        I hope you find it, and may your travel be easy!

GS: Isolde has spent 1 Combo on Link, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Isolde has attacked Kamui with Plunge Towards Peril!
GS: Isolde has launched an attack Link!
GS: Isolde has spent 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Isolde has attacked Kamui with Blood Spiller!
GS: Kamui takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Far Point for 142 hit points!
GS: Kamui takes a solid hit from Isolde's Plunge Towards Peril for 136 hit points!
GS: Kamui takes a solid hit from Isolde's Blood Spiller for 195 hit points!
GS: Kamui suffers an additional 29 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Poison! applied to Kamui!
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        Kamui lifts her head when she hears That Voice--

        And looks so, so incredibly confused.

        Marivel speaks of how, surely, it would be best if she were remembered fondly and not through tears and grief. About how fond she is that she's made so many friends.

        Kamui is blinking rapidly.

        Marivel asks politely if she can tell a story but then tells it anyway because Marivel will be Marivel and storytime is a sacred passage that needs to be had.

        Kamui is still blinking rapidly.

        She talks. She talks about Dr. Lumen, she talks about the Conflagration, about Ana and how she was, at first, Dr. Lumen's child. But it became more than that...

        And even now, she's still not sure she remembers everything. And that same fear that she just admitted just now... of not remembering everything and how patient Marivel is to endure through all that when she feels, burningly, at her basest, like she should...

        You've Got Guts!

        "... w-wweeehhh..." Kamui lets out a tearsoaked wail.

        You are our beautiful, brave daughter. All of ours.

        Clarissa admits knowing what it's like to feel like nothing can exist beyond the now. Of not being able to see the future. But people who love her are waiting... and as she extends her arms...

        As she looks to Acacia as she beckons for her. She thinks for a moment longer about how just as patient she has been through this as Marivel has been. How much she's pestered her about being her 'Master', about everything she reminds her of Dr. Lumen or someone else she forgot...

        "... ummn... let's give her a heck of a punch!" Kamui agrees with Acacia.

        Kamui looks to Dash and Data as she scoops the monkey up and pets him quietly, affectionately. She doesn't know, perhaps, how much foreshadowing is in her words.

        "... I might forget a lot of things... I might still forget more... and I know it may not be up to me that I do, but..."

        Clarine has spoken fervently about her own way of running away. She doesn't want her to make the same mistakes. She thinks she may have... and yet... what was important was that now she was here.

        "... yes... together ... let's see so many things together, Clarine...!"

        And Xiumei says something that inadvertently triggers a memory. Something that causes her eyes to widen.

        I'm... not very good at this stuff.

        "... ... Avile. Thank you," Kamui responds quietly, as if on instinct alone -- then blinks a few times as she looks to Xiumei in turn. She's not sure where that came from. Maybe it's another memory of the Girl of the Crimson Castle's. A pause, as she nods to Xiumei.

        "... I want to... get out of here, Xiumei. Everyone." She holds onto her, and beckons for Marivel to come too since she came close to give her the You've Got Guts sticker.

        And they leap away, thanks to Xiumei's jump boots! (Kamui isn't equipped with the Fourth right now.)

        Eleanor whispers something reassuring to the Giant. A use for them. Something that helps people. Kamui doesn't quite understand why Eleanor feels nauseous, but...

        <<...that sounds... good... thank you...>>

        Where the members of ARMS are focused on pulling Kamui away, Ethius and Isolde get to work. The Symbologist charges in and finds a vital point in which to strike upon the Giant, and there's a loud 'POP' of a noise as the spillage of Pyreflies flows backwards as the Red Giant's skin begins to superheat redder and redder yet.

        <<...do you think... they'll find their way...?>>

        That is the last thought the now-singular voice as Isolde passes by where Xiumei jumps off, carving the bastard sword in two spirals and further releasing the burst of Pyreflies to cascade upwards into the night sky of the Thunder Plains.

        The Red Giant collapses, looking as contented as a Machina could be. It raises its wrist quietly, where it was briefly perforated by Isolde and Dash before and gives...

        <<... fare ... well ...>>

        A thumbs... up.

        And that... as they say, was that.

        What was the phenomenon of the Machina that bore the souls of so many bereaved, so recently? Was it the struggle at Luca, or of Operation Mi'ihen from Sin's attack? Was it just pure happenstance? Perhaps the specific answer may never be known, but...

        As the hunks of metal lay dormant upon the cratered floor of the Thunder Plains, from so many machines left behind by the actions of so many in the past...

        Perhaps the answer truly lay in the heart...

                             ... Within the Giant.
                                     ~FIN~

<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Clarissa can't help but sniffle a little at the sight and sound of Marivel's return. She didn't want to say so in so many words, but the loss of the little vampire had hurt her too.

But she holds her arms out nevertheless, widening her eyes and smiling beamingly up at Kamui. "Everyone forgets things sometimes!" she calls up to her encouragingly. "You're not alone, Kamui... we're all here to support you, no matter what happens!"

She waits, and she waits - and then Xiumei jumps.

It's about halfway down that it occurs to Clarissa that Kamui probably weighs a ton and that she herself is not as strong as Xiumei in Model V.

She doesn't back off. When Kamui and Xiumei descend, Clarissa coaxes Clarine forward a little and holds her arms out nevertheless, then closes them as Kamui gets into range. A concession to the little Reploid's mass comes in the fact that the catch is really more of a hug and the fact that she ends up toppling slightly and hoping Clarine can catch her. Felius quickly zips up behind her and plants both hands on her shoulder blades to keep her from falling, but it's not enough to avoid an 'oomph!' of effort on Clarissa's part.

She keeps her footing, though. "...Kamui," she says in a quieter tone, "I want to thank you more, later... for what you did for me. For us all."

As the Red Giant collapses, Clarissa's smile takes on a note of sadness - and yet, it's still a smile.

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

"A...vile..?"

<...>

No answer comes for Xiumei. She seems confused -- both at the lack of response in her mind and the name said by Kamui -- but then Kamui makes her wish known. Xiumei nods, collection the Reploid in her arms -- and then she leaps down as the Red Giant collapses. She lands to give Clarissa and Clarine the chance to catch Kamui.

She turns to the side, watching as the Red Giant falls. Then, Xiumei turns her head -- looking back at Eleanor Klein -- and she flashes a smile. "Nora!" she calls out. "It looks like... things were okay?"

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarissa coaxes her forward and Clarine moves in. Clarine is small, but even so she helps support her as Kamui and Xiumei descend...and, as Clarissa catches Kamui in a hug, so too does Clarine wrap her arms around Clarissa, Kamui, and anyone close enough, pulling them into a hug as well.

This warmth...

This truly was the correct answer, she thinks. The answer to the question that had been plaguing her for so long...

<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        Marking the fall of the Giant and Kamui's return with words doesn't seem appropriate. Instead, the reporter quietly chuckles to herself, feeling the lump in her throat. Marivel is still kind of a wild card to her, and that isn't really the vampire's fault so much as her own sense of independence asserting itself - but still, she's not heartless, and certainly felt something at her 'death', even if mostly for Kamui's sake.

        But she's prepared to let that go for the time being. She's cold and she's wet and she wants to stuff her face and go to sleep for ages and if she insisted on any elaboration right now that would only delay fixing all of those problems. Storytime is many things, but something to be done out in pouring rain, not so much, not when there's a kotatsu with her name on it.

        She is, however, kind of a mercenary soul. "She's gonna owe us so many snacks, you're gonna turn round," she not-quite-teases, not-quite-encourages as Xiumei touches down; she doesn't move as Kamui gets swarmed, naturally preferring to wait for later and somewhere more quiet.

        "Jeez, I had to put out a whole issue without you," she grumbles. At least she seems satisfied.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"Mm. Tis not possible to mourn with a smile on one's face? Well, I suppose I shouldn't criticize too harshly. After all, much like Eleanor sees through to another time. And yet...

Now?

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INysZ3erctQ

The time she sees is now. She sees this very moment. But in this moment, she also sees herself, still suffering from that headache. Everyone is present as they ought to be and Kamui is mid-jump.

She then sees another Marivel and a blue haired woman looking at the scene from a distance. And she hears them talking to one another.

"See?" The blue haired woman says. "She still needs you."

The other Marivel shakes her head. "She is in pain now, but she will be alright. The friends she surrounds herself with do not come around just any century." She looks back to the blue haired woman. "I have been scarcely back all that long." She pauses and then adds, "What if this is our last chance to be together. I cannot leave you here alone."

The blue haired woman rests a hand on Marivel's shoulder and says, "Since when does a Crimson Noble back out of her promises and her duties?"

The other Marivel does not answer.

"You made a promise, Mari. And you never told her what she needed to hear from you."

"When...." Marivel whispers. "When do I get to rest? Must I endure adventure until the stars go dark? Then where will I go, Ana?" She hangs her head. "I want to be here with you. I want to walk into the sun. Even Althena wishes me to burn so why can't I burn?"

'Ana' smiles at the Crimson Noble. "I know. I'm unreasonable. But I hate dying so...you have to go out there and live for both of us. It's not your time yet."

Marivel closes her eyes and sighs. "...The fact I am there means I have returned." Her eyes open again. "Okay, Ana. You win. But--" She pauses as she looks towards Eleanor, the one seeing this vision.

"Ah, we've been seen."

NOW

Marivel is looking towards an empty space for the moment where those two would have been if they had been there, but obviously they aren't there because otherwise you would see them. Even if Eleanor saw them and nobody else did.

"True," Marivel says, smiling still. "I will allow punches, but I did say I wasn't mortal several times before--ahh but that can wait." She places the sticker over Kamui's 'heart', her 'Suffering Circuit'.

She sees the giants rest. There is a faint smile on her face, like she's happy for them and that fades slowly.

"It's been so long," she says.

It's been not even a week Marivel.

"But I am glad to be back with loved ones once more."

She looks to Clarissa and Isolde, "I want to hug both of you too!"

Is this going to end in group hugs galore? It seems that way. And then, well, then the bittersweet adventure continues though there are few others she would rather experience it with.

<Pose Tracker> Isolde has posed.

 
Isolde sheaths her blade.

"Oh, but I'm all muddy... if you don't mind, though," Isolde says, and then spreads her arms in wordless invitation.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        "It is not something I would take chances with," Ethius says somewhere in that nebulous point in time about the inquiry of whether Marivel's name is common, but now, let's catch up with the present...
 
        Ethius goes low in a crouch as Isolde passes overhead, the two of them working in improvised tandem to provide an opening for the pyreflies to escape. That big 'pop' noise doesn't have the sound report he expects but it's enough to get him low in a crouch... and watches as it collapses with one last 'thumbs up' as a gesture towards Dash, who also gets a passing look from under that hood.
        The odd man rises slowly and quietly as the ARMS folks are overcome with raw emotion and hugs for the reunion, for re-found courage and reaffirmed life lessons. Ethius does not move forward to partake in any of this, as he instead turns to watch the various pyreflies take their leave to the south, towards... where they're supposed to go, by his understanding. A hand goes to his forehead, as he seems more content to be a shadow cast in the background of another's triumphs and joys.
        "From the rumors, I had begun to suspect this might have been the beginnings of a pincer attack by the invading forces," he remarks to those nearby (Isolde probably). His stare levels somewhere in that hug pile, tracking the Filgaian construct that is Kamui.
        He would have firmer words to say, he recognizes internally as lightning strikes in the background. He stares for a while longer, until Marivel speaks to Isolde near-ish by about wanting to hug both of them too.
        His part here is done, he thinks, turning away into the mists of the endless rain and storm without receiving his share of the hug reward. His quarterstaff goes back to being used as a makeshift walking stick in which to help himself out of the crater and back towards (relative) safety, as though little of the free-floating feelings that were given intelligible spoken word ever reached his ears...
        Maybe it is enough that some things are left well enough alone, for him, for whatever end.

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

"Yes, I..." Eleanor starts to answer Xiumei, but then she pauses, tilting her head, and stares into space for a few moments, simply... not paying attention to the world around her anymore. Or so it seems. Instead, she looks on something else, something...

The sorceress blinks, from her seated position--really more like 'falling backward', simple as it is--and then looks around to the others. She opens her mouth... and closes it.

She smiles back at Xiumei, and then pauses. "...Oh!" Eleanor says suddenly, the the strange man who helped them. She can worry about hugs in a moment.

"You could stay and rest before you left," she offers Ethius, as if he weren't a weirdo. Still...

Her gaze lingers back on the empty space--not on Marivel, yet--and then on the hunks of metal. "...Mm. I'm glad we came..."