2019-08-10: A Taste of Power

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=============================<* 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.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Gea_xz-cJ8
<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

The tunnels of the Lapisera Mines all lead, in the end, to this central chamber at its very depths. A natural cavern, an immense dome-shaped room, though not a featureless cavern floor. Huge pillars of rock rise from floor to ceiling here and there; stalagmites and other rock formations sometimes make spots that are hard to see.

The center of the chamber has been cleared out in a ring. Toppled stalagmites, chunks of rock, and debris lay in circle of flattened ground, where a few drifting motes of cyan light waft and move. In the center of the ring is a Gear.

It is a strange one: the chest and torso have a barrel chest, with a huge helmeted head and massive oculars. The arms are large, round, and fat. The lower body, however, consists of tank treads. Its body is yellows, blues, and reds.

This is the legendary Zeboim-era Gear, Guts-Dozer.

One one side of the room, Odessa bursts in. On the other, ARMS does. There is a brief, electric moment in the air as they spot each other.

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        Kamui wasn't one of the Drifters in ARMS who came with the main group. Was she in chase of mysterious Power Generators, which needed to be disabled? Perhaps she was in collaboration of Brad to fix something off-screen. The mysterious ancient Reploid tends to work in mysterious ways, the least of which is--

        A WHILE AGO

        "T-this isn't it..." Kamui decides with a solemn frown, looking down the path the group is taking.

        How do you know it's not the right way, Kamui.

        Kamui almost looks straight to the screen. "Because... before every major confrontation, there needs to be two sets of doors, with a small hallway spaced out between each other."

        ... ... ...

        And that's how Kamui got lost trying to find a way here which satisfies that criteria.

        AS SUCH, NOW

        The snikt-snikt-snikt of a mysterious door rolling down is heard as Kamui hangs in the air and glides on through. The Fourth Armour's Foot Parts are equipped as she pauses and gazes to the rest of the team. "Everyone..."

        A pause, as she looks towards the massive Gear, Guts-Dozer.

        ...

        Her eye shrinks for a moment.

        "Why are you...?"

        A pause.

        A longer pause.

        A tear rolls down Kamui's eye as she moves a bit closer to the Gear, placing a hand on its treads where she approaches on the ARMS side.

        "... ... you've got Guts, mui ... even now ..."

        A louder sniffle.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Obviously, Ragnell has been here the whole time. It's just that, Odessa had plenty of people to get through the hazards of the dungeon, so she felt content to hang back and let them do the heavy lifting. Until now, that they all walk into the final chamber the same moment ARMS does.
        
        The Lightning Seraph blinks and peers over at the group, one hand over her eyes. Looks like there's... and there's also... mmm, yup, this is going to be thing, all right. But then again, it already was, wasn't it? Instead, she turns her gaze over towards the mech.
        
        It's big. It's stupid-looking. But it also looks strong, well-defended, and mobile. Nimue would love to take this as her new vessel, she muses. Too bad it looks like she's not here, unless she's hiding at the back of ARMS or in a temporary vessel for the time being. Sure would be a shame if it got wrecked or stolen before she got to it, whether she's here or not.
        
        "Yup," she says aloud. "Suuuure would be a shame."
        
        Ragnell cracks her knuckles.

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Finally, a halfway decent lead on the whereabouts of Odessa's latest Nefarious Plot (tm). It's taken a while and a whole lot of searching, but at last, after spending several weeks on the world map sending out search pings that somehow keep missing just the spot they need, the brave ARMSmen found their way here...!

A certain bluenette with a bayonet emerges from a nearby tunnel. His eyes widen at the equally sudden appearance of Odessa's dread footsoldiers from the opposite end of the room. Reflex takes care of the rest, and he raises his rifle to firing position--

And then he hears a sniffle.

Ashley Winchester, noted big-hearted softie (with abudnant room for at least one living apocalypse) and ARMS field captain... blinks and turns slowly toward Kamui and her touching moment with the treads of the Guts Dozer.

Ashley audibly frowns (it sounds vaguely like a mommish grunt) and reaaaches over to pat at the reploid's shoulder, "H-hey. It'll be alright...!"

Ashley is the middle of an impending battle the right time to be comforting a cybernetic super soldier...?

(Yes. Always.)

<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        Acacia's queries amongst the Al Bhed didn't exactly bear fruit, exactly - but they did offer enough of a breadcrumb lead for her to narrow down Odessa's operations to a slightly narrower circle than 'all of Spira'. It's not as much as she'd like, but it is at least a start, and from there she can let more active adventurers track down the source in hopes of harrying the group that so far has done all the harrying themselves.

        She's not so scared and hands off that she can just leave them to assault the place without her, though. She may not explicitly be a member of ARMS, so much as its errant chronicler - but she's invested enough at this point that she doesn't want to leave things to chance, and letting Kamui and Clarine enter the maw without her support would leave her feeling terribly guilty.

        (But not Marivel. She knows, with the most respect possible for such a dismissive statement, that the vampire can look after herself.)

        Kamui had peeled off from them along the way, and she's not ashamed to let out a genuine sigh of relief when she spots the Reploid first and foremost. It's tempered by the sight of the massive Gear in the centre; before she can really stop herself, she lifts her camera and takes a couple of quick shots, her eyes flashing with uncertainty.

        Her grip falters when the opposite door opens - then her expression hardens, and she lifts the camera once more. "Say cheese," she growls to herself under her breath as she hammers the shutter several times - then an idea hits her in the gloom of the cave, and she pulls the device close enough to click a dial on it three spaces to the right.

<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

"What is that?" Clarissa gasps in disbelief.

For all that Clarissa has spent most of her life scraping and digging for ancient relics with her mother, she's unprepared for the Guts Dozer, and she stares up at it with her mouth open and her eyes wide. Her hand slackens around the grip of Strahl Gewehr as she is, for the moment, left speechless.

It takes her a moment to find the words she was looking for: "...It's awfully silly-looking...."

"Don't underestimate it," Felius murmurs from just behind her, both hands firm around his glaive.

"Felius?" Stepping back, Clarissa gives her adoptive brother a quizzical look. "Do you know something about it?"

Silent, Felius scowls not up at the Guts Dozer, but towards the source of the scuffle at the far end of the room. Clarissa's attention is drawn from the question to the sound, and she gasps as she realizes who has just arrived with them.

Instantly she snaps Strahl Gewehr up, not leveling it, but holding it at the ready. "I-it's you!" she exclaims, a touch flustered, before collecting herself and planting one heel. But anything else she has to say dies on the tip of her tongue at the sound of a sniffle.

"...Kamui...." Clarissa bites her lower lip gently, her sympathetic look doing nothing at all to make her seem menacing or dangerous. Whoops.

<Pose Tracker> Ratatoskr has posed.

        "Rocks, mostly? Rocks, mostly!" Ratatoskr exclaims in bewilderment to the Odessa Gear Wrangler as she makes her spirited attempt to put a stop to the Hyadean's fantasizing about the sorts of things this huge piece of construction equipment fought. "...Then what was the remainder--"
        Yeah, it's a great tool, the Odessa Gear Wrangler started, but--
        A loud noise. The extra pairs of hands among Odessa reposition themselves dutifully as another complication arises. It's always been a strange thing for the Hyadeans to comprehend - the idea of an army that doesn't have people who take up arms. But they make for a great compass for things that do!!
        The horned squirrel Hyadean hops ahead, leaning forward and grinning with arms raised in that combat stance of his, one leg slightly raised and bent at the knee. He hasn't quite gotten a look at who or what it is that came down. Maybe it's another one of those types who make water or ice appear out of nowhere!
        ...
        ...
        "Oh... it's ARMS..."
        ...
        ...
        "Cool... that's even better...!"
        Then he proceeds to do several dramatic DODGE ROLLS away from Acacia's camera shutters as they go off only somewhere peripherally in his direction. (It's the clicking from the shutter.)

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

It had been a long journey through the Lapisera Mines, but finally, they've made it to what must be the center! Clarine stares at the massive, metallic thing before her. There's an expression of awe on her face as she marvels at it!

...And also, just a hint of dumbfoundedness to it? She blinks, her head tilted to the side in confusion.

This is her first time seeing a Gear of any kind. It's...quite the introduction.

"...That is... Um. What is that...?" She whispers and then pauses. She realises then, that they're not alone. Clarine lets out a gasp. Odessa is here, too. She takes a step back and with a gesture, a series of mirrors fly out of her sleeves, swirling around her protectively.

"...Marivel, what would you have us do...?" Clarine asks, looking toward her friend and field commander for her orders. But then, there's another sound, heralding the arrivel of...!

"Kamui...!" Clarine greets, sounding relieved. She lightens up a little, literally. But also...

"Ragnell...!" She says with a sharp intake of breath, looking across the way at Ragnell. She's glad to see her, in a way, but at the same time, she doesn't sound relived like she did when she greeted Kamui. After all - Ragnell was with Odessa, and if they were here...

Well, it'd be a fairly electrified brawl. Would they have to fight each other again...? And the others on her side - they looked dangerous, too...

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

Zhang Xiumei steps into the room, with the rest of ARMS. Her hand still has the Pulse Saber in hand; the hilt gripped tightly, and a blade of green energy erupted from it. The long, slender, and flat length of energy leaves a burnt scar in the ground where it drops down -- and Xiumei looks up at the Guts-Dozer.

She blinks with uncomprehension.

Her green eyes widen, not behind glasses when her armor is activated. She sees Kamui and gasps; once again, her words fail her when she gets a look at the Reploid.

But, the voice in her mind speaks: <Guts-Dozer... it's been so long. Xiumei.> His voice stirs, with more awareness. <It may not be able to think. But I won't let it fall into their hands. Can you carry me to it?>

Xiumei swallows, then she nods her head. "...I'll do it," she says, quietly, to no one's statement. Then, she calls out, as she steps ahead of Eleanor. Her eyes lock onto Ragnell and Ratatoskr. "Kamui! Varius... Varius says he wants us to keep it safe!"

DC: Zhang Xiumei switches forms to Biometal Model V!
<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Of all the things Eleanor expected--

Actually it's better not to talk about what Eleanor expected. Here is what is true: she looks up, and up, and up at the Gear ahead, at the mechanical marvel that Kamui seems somehow to recognize. She looks down from there, ahead, to Odessa's assembled operatives on the other side.

And from her spot behind and to the side of Xiumei, the sorceress takes one steadying breath and straightens her shoulders. Her thicker Filgaian clothes--any implication she wasn't in them was clearly someone remembering wrong--help against the chill of the cavern, the dark browns blending in a bit better. "Kamui," she says, but it's less symapthetic--though she has that--and more concerned, warning. "Please come back here with the rest of us."

But--But Xiumei says something as if she knows, and she blinks, her strange yellow eyes focusing. For an instant she's silent--

But then she steps up, behind Xiumei but closer to the others. "Then that's what we'll do," she asserts simply. "I'm with you."

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel actually ends up dallying behind the group though her face falls a bit upon seeing that what they've been after was the Gutsdozer. Somehow...she always knew.

She rubs at her face briefly before adding, "Hey hold on... we can't destroy the Dozer. We need it!" This is largely directed to Felius. "We need to steal it. That's all. And if we steal it... well... then 'we've got Guts!"

She steps forward, opening her mouth to answer Clarine's question when Zhang reveals that she is actually friggin' talking to Varius. That is NOT how Zhang expressed her connection to Varius beforehand.

"Varius is communicating with you? Properly?" She asks with wide eyes towards Zhang, before she shakes her head. "Yes... I imagine...that makes sense."

She nods slowly to Zhang and adds, "Mm... Very well Zhang Xiumei! Kamui! Secure the Guts-dozer! We'll cover for you. If it needs any repairs give me a shout!"

She looks to Clarine. "Tis simple. We must fight. If Odessa gets the Guts-Dozer, they will reach their target before we do. Since we don't know where they are headed--tis best we deprive them of their tools."

The strange Devil Arm Marivel had picked up is drawn out of its sheathe and hovers by Marivel's side.

"Mm... Ashley... You aren't hearing any extra voices right now are you? We should be getting backup shortly. I purchased some insurance..." Marivel supposes she should know, but sometimes even with time travel in the mix, she still gets surprised by these things.

Clarine spots Ragnell too and Marivel looks towards her. "Hey." She says, waving a hand. "Still pissed at us?"

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida knows that Odessa had either imported or constructed heavy mining equipment. She suspected that the objective was something along those lines, but she didn't expect it to look anything like this. "The objective," Ida says. She stares a moment at the Guts-Dozer, with its bright primary colors, and unorthodox design. She cracks a thin smile. "Hah. It looks like something Zed would design." Her tone is wry, but fond.

        Then, movement elsewhere in the cave. Ida's humor dissipates, and her hands curl into fists. Light gleams off the gold-and-blue armor plates covering her right arm. She steps forwards, only for Kamui and Xiumei to move right past her, to the machine. Ida stares for a moment, confusion in her eyes. Her lips curl as she sees Ratatoskr, and then Ragnell. "All right," Ida says, glancing back at the two armored figures behind her. She steps towards them, interposing herself between Kamui, Eleanor, and Xiumei and the Odessans. "We'll keep them off you."

<Pose Tracker> Erzebet Lefanu has posed.

 
There is a brief dotted-line shape where an Odessa Gear Wrangler had been previously.

Erzebet Mara Lefanu looks like warmed over garbage. If she wasn't standing up and breathing a little heavily while leaning against a piece of wall, she would be easily mistaken for a corpse. Her face is grayer than usual. Her lips are kind of colorless. She has her hands on the grips of her guns.

As the ARMS team comes in - led by the muisterious heroine of time and space - Erzebet stares at them. Her hands still feel numb. Not moments ago, she thinks, they... were frozen, right? They looked awful, Erzebet thinks, but maybe I just got lucky and it was the light being bad. Yeah, she thinks. That must be it.

                        'you've got guts, mui'

Erzebet's breath hitches.

She bites her lower lip. She raises her right hand, fingers curling as she presses the knuckle of her thumb against her lower lip. Her shoulders hunch forwards. She lets out a little noise, then another. Then a third and a fourth.

It's a noise something like 'ee hee hee hee hee hee hee'.

She hiccups a little, her head tilting forwards. "All of this... heh heh... I bet... you were following us, weren't you! Or maybe this is really just a chance meeting... something, something... united by fate... hee hee! It's really very convenient when things like that just keep on keeping on..."

(There is an interlude where Erzebet manages to wink and kissyface in the background of Acacia's photographui.)

Erzebet swallows then. She straightens upwards, and breathes out hugely.

Something glows around her eyes for a moment but it may not be the glasses.

"And so the brave heroine strode forth into the depths of the other world, and she found a huge swarm of foes arrayed against her, but!" Erzebet's back straightens, her chest puffs out a little. "Against forty thieves and ten thousand scoundrels, she stood faaaaaaast!" Erzebet sways again for a moment, then her shoulders hunch and she pulls out the long guns of Haborym with leisurely, luxuriating motions.

"Come on, then! All in a pack or single file! It makes no difference to the guns of the future!" Erzebet sing-songs.

<Pose Tracker> Ganondorf Dragmire has posed.

Among the Odessa that enters is a man few have seen. Tall - tremendously tall, and broad of shoulder too - his skin is an odd tone that looks like tarnished bronze, faint greens emerging from the dark browns of his skin in the right light. His hair is a fiery red, and his eyes, though deep-set behind an aquiline nose that may as well be a boot, shine with an ominous gold tone of their own. His robes are elaborate, and look vaguely of the kind you might expect from the locals - but no, not quite. The style is similar enough to pass, but the cut is unusual, with long sleeves draped in icons like coiling demons and flowing far beyond his wrists. His belly is cinched in with a sash bearing unfamiliar, swirling marks. Beneath the robes, his feet just barely peek forth...sandals, perhaps?

And he speaks in a bold rumble, "It is ours," as he steps forward. "You will claim nothing, servants of Valeria."

He steps forward with a ramrod posture that speaks of total confidence and complete command.

 His head pivots, glaring over his shoulder. "You, servants of the man Rhadamanthus...prepare your blades. As for myself..."

And then Eleanor feels an awareness on her like the weight of the entire sky, as the man slips from his sleeves a pair of blades as long as his arms. They are keen and silvery, with a broad bladecatcher of a crossguard that hooks up.

"Fine work, Ratatoskr," he says, as if the sentences were related. "Yes, I believe this one is worth my time."

DC: Ganondorf Dragmire switches forms to The Man With the Evil Eyes!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"Don't get kidnapped Eleanor!" Marivel shouts immediately.

<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

A FEW DAYS AGO
 
Ashton Anchors sat on a small rock by the side of the Mi'Hen. It's been a long few weeks, and not merely because of the strain of the back and forth between the Yevonites and the Guard.
 
It's been weighty for the sellsword for other reasons too - it's a fight against one of the tenents he's carried himself with. 'I fight monsters, not wars'. But all of this? It has cast everything starkly. A reminder of the old adage that for evil to succeed, it only needs for the good to do nothing. It's a lot to think about.
 
A shade is cast over Ashton as he sits and ponders the path ahead. He looks up - and the shadow is cast not by his mood but by a blonde sheltered by an umbrella.
 
NOW
 
Fresh coin lines Ashton's pockets, and he hustles to follow the directions given to him. This place is a bit of a maze - hopefully he won't be late. His attempt at haste goes poorly, as Ashton ends up not watching where he's going.
 
There's a quiet click.
 
The rest of those gathered don't see Ashton enter via one of the two doors. He enters via falling through a trap door from a level above. This is largely announced by a surprised yelp, a puff of dust and the sound of a heavily armored body impacting the ground.
 
Two dragon heads pop up out of the fallen debris first. Then a third (and more human) one. It takes a few moments for the Symbological Swordsman to get his bearings.
 
Then? Three sets of eyes narrow. (Well, presumably - neither dragon has eyelids.)
 
And Ashton pulls himself up out of the mess. "Did someone say backup?"

DC: Seraph Ragnell switches forms to The Loyal!
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

After her *last* encounter, Matilda's still more than a little on edge; it's difficult for her to come down from an adrenaline rush on a *good* day, let alone one that... well, in fairness, today is probably merely 'not yet defined.' She doesn't seem too drawn in by the presence of the Guts-Dozer; she notices it, obviously, but she's more concerned with... well, more immediate concerns.

First order of business: assist Erzebet. Matilda drops a few blueberries into the reservoir of the Freeshooter and takes care of that; there's not a lot of tenderness in it, just cool, dispassionate problem-solving. The next is to actually assess the incoming ARMS squadron.

Unlike Erzebet, who seems increasingly excited about the battle once its nature becomes apparent, Matilda offers no excessive posturing, no philosophy, no proclamations. For now, she just puts Freischütz away, draws her blade, and readies herself.

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        It looks kind of silly looking, Clarissa says.
        Ragnell silently thinks it looks kind of stupid.
        Ida says it's something Zed would design. Kamui doesn't know who Zed is.

        "He's not dumb... he's Gutsy, mui!!" Kamui speaks with tears in her eyes, as if her favourite friend just got bullied.

        Eleanor beckons for her to come back where it's safer, though Kamui doesn't quite move as if paralysed by emotion. But it's Xiumei's comment that gets her stirring quietly--

        "Varius...?" her eyes widen. "Varius... ..." She holds onto her head with a painful wince as something goes 'CLICK' in her mind.

        "Okay... let's--" Kamui lets out a sick-sounding 'hurk' for a moment as she stumbles onto one side, though her stompyboots are fortunately still big enough to keep her upright.

        Erzebet is there as well, and her giggle and beckoning as she exclaims with the most proper line she can think of: "So you're here too, Erzebet Lefanu! I won't let you--"

        A pause.

        "I don't... I don't know how many ten thousand scoundrels are, Erzebet Lefanu!! Don't use such big numbers! Kamui can't count that high!" she protests.

        But that'll have to wait, since Ganondorf enters too, as well as the Squirrel-shaped... Reploid. Yes, Kamui thinks Ratatoskr is still a Reploid. "There's so many here... we can't lose, Varius, Xiumei!"

        Her gazes is drawn towards Ragnell, though, as Clarine points her out. "Ragnell... are you Clarine's friend...?" She looks towards the Light Seraph though, and then pumps her hands together. "Let's work together...!"

        Well, it's particularly interesting that this obviously robot girl has no problem seeing her, at least...

        She looks towards Acacia. "Let's do it, Master!"

        She gets psyched, hands pumped. "Battle Routine, Set!" A confused pause. "... was that my line, or your line, Master?"

GS: Kamui has attacked Acacia Saitani with Together with Master!!
GS: Kamui has gained 3 Combo!
GS: Kamui has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

There is a brief, uncertain -- and pained -- look when Xiumei sees the way Kamui stumbles at the name. She hears something like a sigh or a grunt, in her mind.

Xiumei glances sideways at Marivel. There is a momentary pause, and then a nod. She doesn't explain more; this isn't due to a sense of unimportance about the event, but really her sudden change in priorities. There is a longer glance paid to Eleanor. Then, she smiles once at her.

"All right," she says. She looks back at Kamui, and nods. "Right... let's go!"

<We can do this.>

Then, she looks at Ida, and lowers her head. The light in the room glints off the green and violet helmet. "No need," she says. She steps up and past Ida. "We're keeping it safe.... by getting rid of them."

They're bold words. They falter, a little, at the end as she gets a good look at the strange person -- a Beastman -- that leads them. Xiumei's eyes widen with uncertainty, this time, as she gets her first good look at Ganondorf Dragmire. But, his eyes aren't looking at her. They're looking at the girl behind her.

At her best friend.

"Eleanor," she says, her voice quiet but firm. She tries to not feel a spike of concern, at how Eleanor responds to Ganondorf. Her voice quivers, anyways. "...Stay behind me. I'll keep his attention."

Xiumei rushes forward. Her armored boots kick into the cave floor, pushing her through the ring -- and leave a burst of dust in her wake. The Pulse Saber swings up, and there's a sweep of green light that arcs before it tries to connect with Ganondorf's chest.

"You've no business with her!" she shouts at him.

GS: Zhang Xiumei has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Pulse Slash!
GS: Zhang Xiumei has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Hyper and Riposte expired!
GS: Zhang Xiumei has completed her action.
GS: Zhang Xiumei has canceled their attack on Ganondorf Dragmire.
GS: Kamui heals Acacia Saitani! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Zhang Xiumei has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Pulse Slash!
GS: Zhang Xiumei has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine is still looking at the machine confusingly...but Kamui defends it, sounding sad. Clarine looks toward her.

"...We'll...we'll keep him away from them! Don't worry!" She says, then looks over everyone arrayed against them. She sounded confident saying that, but...this would not be easy. That tall, tall man...there was something intimidating about him, too... There was something ominous about all of them. Her eyes stray, however, to the pale woman who seems to be laughing to herself. Clarine's expression grows grim.

"That is...the one who hurt Clarissa before, is it not...?" She asks.

She looks toward Marivel then, and nods.

"'We must fight'... Very well. I shall do my best to support you!" She replies with a nod. And support she does. A Seraphic glyph bursts to life beneath her feet.

"Hasten the pulse's flow! Enhance Cast!" She incants. Magical light, bright yellow tinged with lavender, begins to surround Marivel. It excites the flow of sorcerous power, quickening the invocation of spells and strengthening them.

She looks toward Kamui again, then, with a nod.

"Yes...we shall!" She replies.

They might not be fighting the exact same opponent, but they're fighting together in spirit...!

GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Marivel Armitage with Enhance Cast!
GS: Seraph Clarine has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Clarine has completed her action.
GS: Marivel Armitage takes a solid hit from Seraph Clarine's Enhance Cast for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Surge! applied to Marivel Armitage!
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        "It looks like a piece of crap," Acacia sums up for anyone nearby, but there's a lopsided grin on her face as she says it. Everything about the Gear reminds her of a school project, someone's first attempt at making a war machine - but somehow that makes it more endearing, and she's got a nagging feeling at the back of her mind that it's born from the same kind of practical rough-and-readiness that is a hallmark of much of Kamui's design.

        So she's not really that surprised when Xiumei calls out that they need to protect it, or when Kamui talks about it like it's an old friend. Even if she were, it only seems natural that they're going to come to blows. They're here, Odessa is here - in the end, there's really only so many ways this sort of encounter can go down, and most of them filter down to an inevitable fight.

        "Funny thing. When you try to kill someone at the roadside, they're gonna be pissed at you," she mutters in Erzebet's direction - but saying it out loud feels much too pointless, especially as the other woman begins almost to rave at herself.

        Her brow furrowing, Acacia just sucks in a breath, reminding herself to concentrate instead. She doesn't see the creepy one that attacked her last time - instead, there's a terrifically imposing man. A higher-up perhaps, she wonders to herself, letting the rest of her move on automatic as her feet pick her up and carry her around the arena to link up with Kamui.

        The reporter doesn't seem to have any problems seeing Ragnell either, but perhaps that's understandable; besides the Clarine namedrop, the sensation of Linaweyul hangs around her, the feel of it as fresh as that ancient ruin can be.

        "You're asking me that? How am I supposed to know?" Acacia blurts, then puts a hand to her forehead for a moment as she looks across at Ragnell, then her posture tenses up in readiness. "... guess it doesn't work if I say I'm a civilian, does it? You know, I really don't want to do this." Is she talking about the fight, or the call-and-return from Kamui? Even so, with a little begrudging in her voice: "Kamui. Be careful. But-- let's go!"

        ... that's not the right verb, Acacia...

GS: Acacia Saitani has spent 1 Combo on Reload!
GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked Kamui with Ugh! Fine!!
GS: Acacia Saitani has completed her action.
GS: Acacia Saitani heals Kamui! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Reload! Kamui gains 15 extra FP from Acacia Saitani!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Ragnell crooks a grim smile across the way at Clarine, who isn't thrilled to see her. In all fairness, Ragnell isn't thrilled to see her, either. She's not so bloodthirsty that she enjoys fighting her friends. But then Marivel asks her a question, and Ragnell blinks her way.
        
        "Me, mad at y'all? I thought *y'all* were mad at *me*," she replies. Well. That would seem to answer that.
        
        Eleanor is present, too. Ragnell gives her a weighty look, then turns towards the Evil King--but he singles out Eleanor on his own. She chuckles. "Yeah, I think you'll have a hell of a time with her!" she calls to Ganondorf.
        
        Her seeming good humor fades, though, as she assesses the other side vs. her own. Erzebet is closer to where Clarine is, so it won't be natural for Ragnell to come in and claim her for her own. Then again, she's not keen on having to hurt Clarine herself... plus, it's kind of condescending. She looks away. ...Clarine's a grown Seraph. She can handle this fight, regardless of who comes at her.
        
        Well. Maybe not if Ganondorf comes at her. But that looks to be Eleanor's problem, right now. For the time being, Ragnell draws her twin pistols and keeps a weather eye on those enemies who seem likeliest to--
        
        'Ragnell... are you Clarine's friend...?'
        
        The Seraph blinks, then looks over at Kamui. She's... maybe seen the robot around a couple of times...? She frowns at her, glancing briefly at that Acacia that Kamui calls Master. Clarine confirms it, anyway, so there's no point in denying it. "What about it?"
        
        Then Acacia says something about being a civilian. Ragnell raises her eyebrows at her, chin going up so she can look down her nose at her. "If you're a civilian, then don't join in on the battlefield," she calls back to her. "If you don't wanna fight--" She twirls both guns, then sets them with a decisive *click* and opens fire on her and Kamui in a series of successive bullets. "--then turn tail and run away already! I ain't got time for cowards!!"

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Kamui with Cessive Bullet!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Acacia Saitani with Cessive Bullet!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Kamui critically Guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Cessive Bullet for 26 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ratatoskr has posed.

        There is some caught talk about backup...
        "...Backup?" Ratatoskr's tail flexes inquisitively as he looks to all that are gathering. "...Backup! Hyahaha--!! ARMs brought backup... but who... what... where...?"
        The backup does not make them wait. They fall through a trap door, where so much collapses not too far off from Ratatoskr, who turns to face the falling... rubble? Is the rubble the backup?
        ...It is not.
        "...Ashton Anchors... Twin Symbological Swordman...!" Ratatoskr straightens up and crosses his arms, the solid yellow of his eyes glowing brighter as he grins that much wider. "Among all their other feats...! He is also the backup...!" Is that really something to be worthy as to be seen as a feat?
        "ARMs and a backup! This is great...!" Words that should sound like one throwing up their hands and resigning themselves to the situation. These are words spoken in excitement by a born and bred warrior instead, who runs forward into a leaping knee attack.
        "We're fighting again...! You're one of my favorites of the modern day...!" It is to Odessa's benefit that Ratatoskr's obsessions align neatly enough that he can do his stated job of seeing Vinsfeld's will by crushing all in their way.
        It is to their chagrin that they have to hear him gush about it.
        ...Maybe not as much as the one who, as luck would have it, would have an alien horned squirrel-man trying to flying knee strike them, though. They have it better than that one. That one, and their two carry-on luggage items.

GS: Ratatoskr has attacked Ashton Anchors with Fly Into Fray!
GS: Ratatoskr has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ratatoskr has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"I mean..." Marivel's eyes slant towards Ganon who seems to be an authority figure of some kind within the group. "..Of course we are?"

She seems a little disturbed though because Erzebet seems shall we say 'crazier' than normal which is certainly a thing. She glances to Matilda too whom she can appreciate on some level but then exhales out a long sigh, stretching out her arms. "Very well, let's get this over with. At least we are far from the sun's rays."

('I did. I said backup') Marivel adds. ('That was your cue. Thank you.')

Marivel can feel Clarine's magic empowering her with...magical light? Marivel smokes faintly but it seems that it was gentle enough that the brief exposure to Clarine's light didn't damage her. Marivel lets out a breath she didn't know she was holding. "Thanks, Clarine."

A pause. "Well this worked on Amaterasu so it should work on you..." Marivel gestures with a hand, the Devil Arm blade swaying backward in tune with her hand before she gestures and the blade throws itself forward towards Erzebet.

"Aport." Marivel whispers, eyes flashing red--

--and the blade vanishes...! Just for a moment before reappearing from a different angle from Erzebet's side, stabbing upwards for her body!

"There may be fourty thieves in ARMS." Marivel continues. "But I'm afraid that the ten thousand scoundrels have elected to join Odessa."

Erzebet DID hurt Clarissa before but Marivel isn't too enraged by that. Clarissa made a full recovery in short order and Marivel can't hold a grudge over ever insult or she'd become an evil ghost.

"Oh! Should I be mad at you, Ragnell?" Marivel asks though this is probably just to continue ... whatever bullshit Marivel and Ragnell constantly do at each other. Probably try to out each-other each other. Nobody should encourage this.

GS: Acacia Saitani guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Cessive Bullet for 86 hit points!
GS: Cripple! applied to Acacia Saitani!
GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with Enhanced Aport Riposte!
GS: Marivel Armitage has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
GS: Erzebet Lefanu takes a solid hit from Marivel Armitage's Enhanced Aport Riposte for 143 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

'United by fate!' Eleanor says nothing, but a close look might spot a little twitch of one of the muscles in her jaw. She doesn't really focus on Erzebet, because that's... uncomfortable, to say the least. Marivel's instructions tell her she's on the right track--but she doesn't move forward. That's... not the way she fights.

Before she can comment on scoundrels, or on the woman stepping ahead of her and others before their enemies, however--her head turns, and for her, there is something strange in the air. If she were anyone else, she might claim a feeling of deja vu, but what happens is that for the long moments after her eyes settle on the golden eyes of a giant man in great robes. Strange, pale yellow irises freeze with the rest of her. She doesn't, really, hear what he says in that moment...

...Because she hears something else. Eleanor is already stairing at the red-haired man when his awareness setles upon her. She feels it, then; it's as if a dark cloud has settled at the edges of her awareness, a shadow that stretches out in all directions.

And suddenly she shakes her head, as if breaking out of some reverie. "You--"

"...King of... the Gerudo...?' she murmurs to herself, and takes an involuntary step back, obviously uneasy. She starts to look to Xiumei and say something--but the other woman is already charging ahead. She can't just hide behind her.

So instead, she pulls something from her jacket pocket, a large flat object inscribed with magical symbols. It burns with golden light as the sorceress begins to speak--

"All things find their mirror in the heavens above--"

"Arcane Reflection!"

She throws out her hand, and multicolored light sparkles around her before a sphere of light briefly exudes from and then surrounds Xiumei, fading to invisibility after an instant save for crackling light.

"I'm fine!" she calls to Xiumei after that. "I just--I'm fine!"

GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Zhang Xiumei with Arcane Reflection!
GS: Eleanor Klein has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Eleanor Klein has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Somewhere, on some not-so-distant beach, a be-swimtrunked Zed is sitting crosslegged atop a rock. What's he doing on the rock? He's drawing, of course! With his sword. The rock is his paper. Really it's more like carving. "Hmmm. DaiZedGear can already fly... But... What if I give it a TANK MODE!? Oh man, then we could have it transform too...! ZedLander! WingGear! Nyahahahahaha!"

Somewhere much farther away, a certain giant robot suddenly feels a terrible, chilling sensation crawl down its back. It doesn't even have nerves there...! Surtr feels... something terribly, awfully amiss...!

  1. -1 FUNCTION (CENTER) EXPECTS BETWEEN 2 AND 4 ARGUMENTS BUT GOT 9
GS: Ashton Anchors guards a hit from Ratatoskr's Fly Into Fray for 77 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Somewhere, on some not-so-distant beach, a be-swimtrunked Zed is sitting crosslegged atop a rock. What's he doing on the rock? He's drawing, of course! With his sword. The rock is his paper. Really it's more like carving. "Hmmm. DaiZedGear can already fly... But... What if I give it a TANK MODE!? Oh man, then we could have it transform too...! ZedLander! WingGear! Nyahahahahaha!"

Somewhere much farther away, a certain giant robot suddenly feels a terrible, chilling sensation crawl down its back. It doesn't even have nerves there...! Surtr feels... something terribly, awfully amiss...!

                          RIGHT HERE - RIGHT NOW]

"Eh?" Ashley is distracted from patting Kamui on the back by a question that would sound extremely odd to anyone except him. Is he hearing any extra voices right now...? ARMS' field captain looks thoughtful for a moment, then shakes his head. "No, we're all good right now. Don't worry, Marivel. I'll say something if the situation changes, but for right now--"

Right now, they have trouble.

Trouble called Ganondorf Dragmire.

...

But he's not specifically Ashley's trouble right now. "Protecting the gear is our priority, but staying alive is even more important. Shout if you need support! Clarissa, you're with me; I've got a target!"

Matilda soon finds herself under fire! A slug of heavy lead explodes out of Ashley's rifle in a cloud of incendiary gunpowder. It races for the alchemist, leaving twisting contrails of sulfurous smoke in its wake...!

GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Shot Weapon!
GS: Ashley Winchester has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        Kamui blinks a few times as Ragnell opens fire upon them, and the bullets scathe across as the Reploid begins to shift-- she obviously is damaged goods, and doesn't particularly have the capability to move all the way across... but at the same time, the fluid that flows from what passes for synthetic skin is not blood either.

        "Wait, we should be working together, right?! You're Clarine's friend! Why're you shooting us??"

        Something definitely does click in her when she sees Acacia being shot upon, though. And looks towards Marivel in turn too.

        "Forty is also still too high for Kamui, Mari!" That's ten times as many as four thieves. And only a rogue would do that.

        Maybe someone really should take her up on Mathematics classes again...

        "Umm... Clarine! What should we do? Should I try holding her back??" Kamui asks the errant Light Seraph, who's busy with another danger in the form of Erzebet. She might not get a response right away, but...

        Maybe that'll be what Clarine wants.

        "Here I go!!"

        Kamui rushes forward as the Foot Parts glide her forward in an air-dash through the Guts-Dozer's 'lap', closer towards their ARM-firing opponent. She reaches out with her hands and announces...

        "Climb... Hazzard!!"

        ...

        ...

        It doesn't seem to be some kind of Saber technique, or rising slash, or anything.

        No, Kamui just seems to be trying to limpet onto Ragnell's side like... some kind of koala...

        well...

        she can be described as a climbing hazard right now. I guess. She's really heavy for her size, so that's going to be tedious if she manages to latch on.

GS: Kamui has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Climb Hazzard!
GS: Kamui has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kamui has completed her action.
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a glancing hit from Ashley Winchester's Shot Weapon for 67 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Felius tilts his head towards Marivel, but his expression doesn't shift out of neutral. He does lower his glaive, at least.

In Clarissa's hands, Strahl Gewehr vibrates subtly for a moment, but Clarissa herself is on edge enough that she doesn't notice beyond a curious glance before her attention is drawn again. For a moment, an absurd thought occurs to her:

        Maybe if we ask them nicely, they'll let us leave with the Guts-Dozer.

True to form, she opens her mouth. "We don't have to fight here," she starts hopefully. "If we just try to talk things over--"

Fights immediately break out around her. Even Felius gets roped off to wrangle with some member of Odessa who's not on-screen right now. Clarissa's mouth hangs open as she's stopped in mid-sentence by something she should've realized immediately.

The blonde girl stamps her foot. "Bother!" she grumbles before someone calls her name out.

Clarissa recognizes Matilda only in a vague sort of way - she saw her during the first encounter with Odessa, all those months ago. Breaking into a run towards Ashley, the blonde girl calls back, "Okay!" The sound is nearly lost in the sulphurous thunder of Ashley's shellfire, but when it passes, the next bit comes through clearer: "I've got your back, Ashley! You're going to do just fine!" The encouragement is more than just straw back-patting - there's an honest belief in her voice that shines like an inner warmth.

The next words aren't for him, though - they're for Matilda, and they're a little quieter.

"...You're Jay Barber's friend, aren't you...?"

GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Ashley Winchester 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 Clarissa Arwin! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Clarissa Arwin!
GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Ashley Winchester! He gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Ashley Winchester!
GS: Seraph Ragnell completely evades a hit from Kamui's Climb Hazzard!
<Pose Tracker> Erzebet Lefanu has posed.

 
Erzebet turns her head to look at Matilda and sees her putting away her gun. She is, momentarily, thoughtful - perhaps even bemused. Am I supposed to have a sword too? her face says. She wonders, perhaps, where she would keep it.

She pokes out her tongue at Kamui. "Don't tell me what I can and can't do," she breathes out.

Then her attention returns to Marivel. "It's funny," she says, "isn't it? We're all thieves, in a way... sometimes I think that we've gotten our entire order of being wrong. You see," Erzebet says, before Marivel disappears - reappears -

SHRRRIP!

A gout of blood fountains out from Erzebet. "hrgk" she says. It falls down, pitty pat, on Marivel and near her, and Erzebet reels round. She staggers a little, back against the cavern wall, and then seems to recoup, even as her glasses begin to pulse with orange light.

"You see," Erzebet continues, facing Marivel, "we think of ourselves as... predators, right? Or perhaps as... land animals... part of the landscape, like deer or yaks or something. We may be out of hand but we *could* be in tune with the land, we could take what we need and give back what we take, sort of an eternal cycle, right? Maybe even a beneficial one." Marivel may be able to tell that Erzebet's blood seems... watery. It's red but less red than it ought to be.

"I think, though, we're really mushrooms."

"Think about it," Erzebet says as she wiggles her hips, pops her neck. "We've been decomposing the remains of the ancients... breaking them down into new things for us to use, but we aren't replacing them, are we? I suppose some few people are making things, but we had a great big glorious war, killed 'Mother'... and now, over there," and here Erzebet POINTS HER GUN AT IDA -- but doesn't fire:

"You know what's up with her, don't you? Heh heh... I wonder how long that stage will last."

MUSIC INSERT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlVWprYozR8

"Enhance the flow... slow the flow... it doesn't change the ultimate destination," Erzebet says. She looks at Marivel at the exact same time that she pops off five sequential screaming red rounds at Clarine - apparently without looking! Some kind of a Zen thing, perhaps.

"I thought maybe Lunar was different," Erzebet says, "from what I'd heard. That Lunar was lively... that maybe, even, there was some grand ancient cycle. Lunar rises, Filgaia falls. But this place is rotting too, don't you think? It's just got better weather... and the process isn't as far advanced."

Erzebet tilts her head back, points her other gun towards Marivel -- and then raises up the one she'd been firing at Clarine, wincing a little as a larger, brighter shot is fired, ricocheting off the cavern roof and smashing down towards Marivel! It's hot enough to make cloth burn.

GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Seraph Clarine with A Friendly Time with the Recently Deceased!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has spent 1 Combo on Poison, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Marivel Armitage with I'm Burning 4 U!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

He has fallen, but now Ashton can get back up. (That's as far as this joke is going to go, thankfully.)
 
The sellsword takes to his feet, draws his blades - and is almost immediately hit in the face by a flying knee. He stumbles backwards, thumping against the wall of the large chamber.
 
"You?!" Ashton gawks in surprise. He'd expected there to be a fight - he was hired for that, after all. And he'd gotten a look to see that there was one brewing. But Ratatoskr? Here? Now? The swordsman grits his teeth.
 
"I'm glad someone likes me, but I'm afraid the feeling isn't mutual!" On his back foot from the abrupt entrance and attack, Ashton tries to buy a little time to gather his wits. The blades swing and slash - but not with aggression. Ashton's strikes are meant more to force a safe space away from Crazy Squirrel Beatings than cause harm. He needs breathing room more than blood.
 
The quicksilver blood will come in a minute.

GS: Seraph Clarine critically Guards a hit from Erzebet Lefanu's A Friendly Time with the Recently Deceased for 29 hit
points!
GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Ratatoskr with Guard Sword!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire critically Guards a hit from Zhang Xiumei's Pulse Slash for 19 hit points!
GS: Ratatoskr takes a glancing hit from Ashton Anchors's Guard Sword for 46 hit points!
GS: Cover! applied to Ashton Anchors!
GS: Ashton Anchors assumes the Stoic stance!
GS: Zhang Xiumei takes a solid hit from Eleanor Klein's Arcane Reflection for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield and Surge! applied to Zhang Xiumei!
GS: Marivel Armitage guards a hit from Erzebet Lefanu's I'm Burning 4 U for 66 hit points!
GS: Marivel Armitage has been weakened by Disease! Marivel Armitage can't gain THP until the Disease is cured!
GS: Marivel Armitage suffers an additional 21 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Disease and Poison! applied to Marivel Armitage!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida blinks. "If you can get it moving, then--" she says, but she trails off in mid-sentence. She sets her jaw, and reminds herself that it's not her call. Ida nods, once, and steps forwards to flank Xiumei. "Together, then."

        'Yes, I believe this one is worth my time.'

        A defiant response makes it halfway to Ida's lips before she realizes the strange man isn't talking to her. He's looking past her and Xiumei both, at the young woman behind them. Her throat tightens. "I suggest you listen to Miss Zhang," Ida says. It's a bold, determined front, but it can't stop the fear from clutching at her heart. Something about this man puts her on edge in the same way that K.K. did--the same way the Quarter Knights did.

        Ida is a blur. In the space of a few heartbeats, she crosses the distance between her and Ganondorf, twists, and leaps. Her right leg whips up and around in an arcing roundhouse kick aimed at the man's temple. If nothing else, it might help Xiumei get a clean hit in.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Boot to the Head!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Boot to the Head for 90 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ganondorf Dragmire has posed.

The Gerudo King stands in a square and ready stance, blades drawn and arms set wide - as Xiumei charges. "And who would presume to tell me my business!" he roars, blade lashing up to catch Xiumei's incoming initial slash. The silvery metal holds even against blazing energy blades, the icons on the blades pulsing with faint magic but otherwise unyielding. "Know me and cower, like the gods once did before you! I am Ganondorf Dragmire, whom you call Demon King! I am born and anointed King of the Gerudo Tribes, lord of the desert sands! And you..."

He jerks hard, forcing Xiumeis' blade past him and then sweeping into her with the other blade, lashing down hard into that armor with a crushing stroke. "...have challenged...!" The first stroke has mere force behind it, but his feet whirl him into a new position shortly after and the other blade catches alight, brimming with Dark power before he drives it down into Xiumei's spine. "YOUR KING!"

Even the smallest cut opens Xiumei to a blast of dark magic, rippling through her and tearing at her body.

Then he marches, eyes locking onto Eleanor with frightful intensity. Which is when Ida snakes between his blades and crashes her foot into his skull. "HAUGH!" he roars, staggering from the blow; but he doesn't wither as one might expect, either, and instead rounds on Ida sharply, roaring before bringing both blades up to smash her directly downward, hoping to slice her into strips in a single move.

Then he sucks in a breath and snaps up one hand toward Eleanor. Despite holding the blade, the fingers are curled just so to channel energy. Whatever he uses for the spell, it isn't Crest Sorcery or Symbology as it's known; the lightning simply leaps from him, raw power crashing across the distance to scathe Eleanor's bones and seize her muscles with power. "Kindly remain in place while I deal with your protectors," he instructs her.

GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has spent 1 Combo on Link, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Zhang Xiumei with Biting Desert Wind!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has launched an attack Link!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Zhang Xiumei with Reject the Sacred!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Blade of the Covetous!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        The question that passes between Ragnell and Kamui fills in some of the gaps for Acacia. Another Seraph, then, and one who knows Clarine... but she's the pessimist to Kamui's optimism sometimes, and the question of whether they can reach some kind of peaceful arrangement is discarded almost immediately. It's just the reality of the situation they're in that something here has to give.

        Plus there's the fact she's getting shot, that too.

        Swearing, she trusts her instincts to send her diving to one side-- but her instincts aren't so refined as to be able to cope with bullets, and she yelps as a sudden pain blossoms in her right leg as she jerks backwards in an uncontrolled roll. She can at least spin off the back of it to bring herself up to one knee, but there's a weakness and a quiver in her leg that tells her she's not going to be walking straight for some time.

        "And then Odessa kills me for being a 'cowardly civilian' anyway. Nice choice. But what you don't get--" she hisses through her teeth, wincing at the pain - but pushing past it up to standing, as she glares at the Seraph. She can spare a glance for Kamui as the Reploid lunges for the Seraph, briefly weighing up her options - and in the wake of it, she's brought her pistol up to cover her partner, supplementing Kamui's rush as she aims down her sights.

        "--as far as I'm concerned, bravery's not got a damn thing to do with fighting or not."

        In the gloom of the cave, the pale blue crackle at the tip of her decidedly normal-looking weapon is a warning; when she pulls the trigger, two lance-like bolts of Ether are left hanging in the air, contrasted against the dark.

GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Eleanor Klein with Dark Lightning!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Snapshot!
GS: Acacia Saitani has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

"I am a little cross with you..." Clarine admits to Ragnell's question. That was to be expected, though.

Nearby, however, she sends Marivel a nod and a small smile at the thanks, even as the Crimson Noble launches an attack against Erzebet.

In the midst of battle, though, she hears a question directed at her from Kamui. Clarine hesitates a moment, her gaze straying toward Ragnell before looking back at Kamui.

"...Yes, but be careful! Ragnell is very skilled..." She warns. But, for now, that's as much attention as she can pay to that - Erzebet is talking again.

Even as wounded as she looks, she's still talking - and firing. The mirrors floating around Clarine quickly reposition themselves, forming a wall in front of herself that intercepts the rounds before they can impact Clarine herself - she winces a little, though, suggesting that it wasn't without effort on her part.

She frowns at the mention of Ida, and at the mention of Lunar...

"...I do not think this is the case. It is not too late, not for Lunar, not for Ida...and, maybe not even for Filgaia, either." Clarine replies.

There's another Seraphic glyph beneath Clarine and suddenly, a ball of light appears above Erzebet's head, which shortly emits a single ray of burning light straight down toward her.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Blade of the Covetous for 87 hit points!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with Limited Ray!
GS: Seraph Clarine has completed her action.
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has completed his action.
GS: Eleanor Klein takes a glancing hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Dark Lightning for 89 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! applied to Eleanor Klein!
GS: Zhang Xiumei takes a glancing hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Biting Desert Wind for 68 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ratatoskr has posed.

        "Not mutual?" Ratatoskr seems taken aback by this, by being told the truth - the whole truth - that Ashton Anchors does not like him... or is he?! Ashton's ferocity with his blades has few matches among his fighting school, a defensive flurry to push Ratatoskr back as he weaves and pivots about them. In a way, Ashton succeeds in getting what he wants.
        In that Ratatoskr does end up dodging away, and even catches a glancing blow that draws a bit of quicksilver blood. If Ashton needed that blood in a minute, it's already here, freshly delivered by a shallow cutting wound on the Hyadean's person! It's just on the ground, about six or seven steps away.
        A blow caught because Ratatoskr just has to take a moment to sneak a glance at things like Ida blurring by towards that large man who speaks so authoratively as though he were a king, to a big glint of light making lights of yellow and a bit of grayish-purple surround another, to Acacia's camera.
        The wound knits itself closed a few seconds later as he straightens out his stance. "The way we trade blows," he starts circling in a direction - towards Ashton's left, "...that's mutual!!" Ashton takes a defensive, cautionary approach to positioning. Ratatoskr, aside from this momentary circling, just hurls himself back in there, leaping off a small pile of rubble as he comes in on high and swings a leg down.
        If it were just a kick, Ratatoskr is coming in too high and is poised to sail harmlessly over Ashton. Those limbs... they have compressed air shotguns, and the one within Ratatoskr's foot discharges that burst of wind just as he might seem to make contact.

GS: Zhang Xiumei takes a solid hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Reject the Sacred for 94 hit points!
GS: Cripple! applied to Zhang Xiumei!
GS: Ratatoskr has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ratatoskr has attacked Ashton Anchors with Overhead Shoot!
GS: Ratatoskr has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ratatoskr has completed his action.
GS: Ashton Anchors guards a hit from Ratatoskr's Overhead Shoot for 78 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Erzebet Lefanu critically Guards a hit from Seraph Clarine's Limited Ray for 31 hit points!
GS: Quick! applied to Seraph Clarine!
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

And so, the battle is joined. Matilda whips her body to one side, leaving herself only grazed by Ashley's shot; while it draws blood, the wound is superficial at best -- hardly something Matilda feels the need to concern herself with, in the moment. She springs forward, stance low and hungry.

There's a moment in her advance, however, where she stops to glance at Clarissa. "... What of it?" she asks, and there's a bit of heat in her tone over it. She then almost immediately afterward returns to her approach.

Clarissa does not yet receive the brunt of Matilda's aggression; instead, the young woman comes in for a quick sequence with her blade. If Ashley is a gunner, she'll approach him where he's hopefully weakest -- up close and personal. She does, after a moment, draw her holdout pistol with the hand *not* holding the sword, and gives Clarissa something to contend with -- just a quick, half-aimed-at-best shot, while she drives the pommel of her silver shortsword for Ashley's solar plexus.

GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Ashley Winchester with Weeding!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Simple Pistol!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: Clarissa Arwin takes a glancing hit from Matilda Whitehead's Simple Pistol for 54 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Acacia Saitani's Snapshot for 120 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel is sprayed by Erzebet's blood. She doesn't seem bothered in the slightest even if it's a bit messy. Instead she takese a small fingerfull and puts it in her mouth. Marivel frowns and says, "Second Stage. Erzebet, I won't bother repeating warnings you will pay no attention to but know that you are approaching the point of no return. Anything you enjoy as a living being, I would get it out of the way now while you still can."

She rarely admits to not knowing about what's going on. Today is no exception. "Mm. Maybe." Erzebet is an enemy agent so she's inclined to being more evasive than normal. "But little can be done about it now either way. Whatever difficult times come for her, she will not have to go through those times alone. Tis the best we can hope for."

She glances to Ida and then adds, "There is but one destiny I believe in... the one I will forge with my own hands! Even if I have to rob the future blind!"

But Erzebet has more to say. About ... mushrooms, apparently. Marivel says this at least, "To be one with the land is more difficult than it sounds, Erzebet. Even planets die but until that time comes or until I deem humanity ready--I will care for Filgaia as if tis my family. Even if I do not have a green thumb or a connection to its lifepulse. But I know this, tis a world creeping ever closer to its destruction and Odessa is but one my parasite taking advantage of its weakness."

But then she smirks a little. "But no. Lunar's fate is clearly tied to Filgaia's. Unless we change their fates...!"

She steps forward but Erzebet gets clever and sends the shot bouncing around until it finally catches Marivel from above--setting her on fire!

This does not stop Marivel's forward momentum. Marivel forms a blade with Erzebet's blood and sends it slicing towards her body even as the Devil Arm pulls backwards to float back towards Marivel's side again. She does not taste any more of Erzebet's blood.

"Clarine be careful. She may already be susceptible to your light." Marivel asides to her mysteriously.

GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with Guillotine!
GS: Marivel Armitage has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes 29 damage from Poison!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
GS: Erzebet Lefanu guards a hit from Marivel Armitage's Guillotine for 81 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

Despite knowing Eleanor for years, she has only been fighting at her side for weeks. Xiumei rushes in so fast that she realizes the shield is there belatedly. "Ah--Nora!" she calls out, just as her blade meets the silvered steel and it gets shoved past him. She lets out a surprised gasp--

The crushing blow slams into Xiumei's violet and green armor, with a brutal crunch. She gasps, and then Ganondorf's other blade slams into her. This time, it cuts into the armor deep enough to bite -- and there is a a growing red wetness on her side.

She hits the ground, rolling a few times, as tendrils of dark energy waft away from both Xiumei and the flickering shield of light that Eleanor put around her. "I'm..." She doesn't finish an introduction.

She isn't anybody, a little voice whispers.

"...I'm her friend," she manages, her voice ragged. "And the only king of mine... is the in Meria Boule!"

She looks back at Eleanor -- and then grits her teeth. She goes running -- and drops down, into a dive, and kicks across the floor. She tries to take Ganondorf's legs out from under him, and then slide past him.

"Nora! Hold on! Everstead-Rey, keep his attention!"

GS: Zhang Xiumei has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Slide Kick!
GS: Zhang Xiumei has completed her action.
GS: Pierce!! Matilda Whitehead's attack breaks through 26 temporary hit points! 74 remain!
GS: Ashley Winchester critically Guards a hit from Matilda Whitehead's Weeding for 26 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        "If you wanna be mad at me, Marivel, go ahead an' be mad! I ain't your boss!" Ragnell calls back to the Crimson Noble. "If I *were* your boss, I woulda tossed you into the desert for a tan ages ago for all your smartassery!"
        
        Nobody should encourage this, but they're doing it anyway. Maybe they'll get distracted by their respective fights.
        
        Clarine weighs in too. Ragnell laughs faintly and gives her a rueful smile. "Well... you *do* have that right," she replies.
        
        Kamui then makes it clear why she's asking. Ah. Yeah, okay, that makes sense. "Just 'cuz we're friends doesn't mean we're on the same side," she replies. She smirks, eyes narrowed dangerously. "Or was she not friendly enough with *you* to fill you in?" That smirk fades when Kamui protests that even 40 is too high a number for her. "...Or maybe she *did* mention it, and you're too dumb to understand words," she concludes.
        
        Kamui charges her, arms extended as if coming in for a great big bear hug. Ragnell, who is not a huggy person, waits until the last second and then *leaps* over her in one huge, graceful arc, landing behind her with ease. It's a good thing, too; from Kamui's size, and the vibrations of her footfalls, she would've been an incredible pain to deal with had she limpeted on after all. Ragnell will have to try to keep her distance. She does so now by lashing out a mighty kick at the small of Kamui's back to try to take advantage of her momentum and send her flying.
        
        Of course, that's right when Acacia shoots a pair of energy bolts at Ragnell. With her caught up with kicking Kamui away, they hit dead on with a sizzly little *zorch*. Ragnell staggers back with a sharp "ugh!" before piercing Acacia with a sharp-toothed smirk.
        
        "Hey, hey, it sure didn't look to *me* like you were gettin' ready to run away when you said 'let's go!' a minute ago," she replied. "You don't get to whine about how much you don't wanna fight while you hype yourself up to fight, li'l missy, *especially* if you don't actually have any plans on runnin' away." A glyph lights up golden beneath her as she channels her Seraphic arte, chanting rapidly under her breath. Then, aloud, she says, "People who do that are really annoying!"
        
        A blade of lightning hurls down towards Acacia then, embedding itself in the ground nearby her with immense force. If she's not quick enough, it might well catch her with that initial electrifying blast, before the sword itself *explodes* with another, second, lightning explosion. "THUNDER BLADE!"

<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

This isn't the first time Ashton has fought Ratatoskr. It's the fourth or fifth. Possibly sixth? ...The two fight a lot. The compressed air leg-gun is not a surprise to the swordsman - he can only do so much to stop it, but he at least isn't quite so flat-footed by the downwards shot.
 
Pellets still richochet off of his armor and off of scales, needling flesh as the two clash against one another. It hurts, but the whole exchange has given Ashton what he needed.
 
Now regrouped, the sellsword manages a smirk. "We trade blows, but little else!" Ashton takes a half-step to the side - both sides. Sorcery surges as he splits into a trio of Ashtons that spread themselves out. Ratatoskr's quick, but the Hyadean can't be in more than one place at a time. (Neither can Ashton really, but it's maaaaagic.)
 
Three voices speak as one as the Symbological Swordsman tries to maneuver himself around the speedy squirrel. "I would ask if you would prefer recipes for banana bread, but I strongly suspect that's not to your taste! Even if mine includes walnuts!"
 
The moment hits right, and the maneuvering pays off - the three Ashtons manage to spread themselves roughly equally around. Three pairs of swords rise, pointing at each other to form a triangle - and energy flies from each point to connect them. "Deadly Triangle!"
 
The space between the three forms explodes with an uncontrolled burst of mystic power.

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Kamui with Pummel Kick!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Acacia Saitani with Thunder Blade!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Ratatoskr with Deadly Triangle!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Pistol fire snaps past Clarissa as Matilda opens up on her - and not without heat. With a gasp, the girl throws herself to one side and hits the ground to launch herself into a roll just at the pistol's muzzle flashes - but as quick as Clarissa is, she's not going to outrun a bullet without more of a headstart than that. The shot comes close enough to graze her calf as she tumbles away, leaving a red scratch across her pale skin.

Wincing, she finishes her roll and ends up on one knee. "I'm just asking," she returns, puffing her cheeks out a little - but she doesn't fire just yet. "You must've believed in Commander Vinsfeld really strongly to hurt Jay that way. She's a pretty great person. I'm not sure I could...."

The sentence hangs there, but it finishes itself. I'm not sure I could betray Jay that way.

"This doesn't have to be a fight, you know!" she calls out - but it's as she levels her ARM. "We could just solve this with kindness instead of trying to hurt each other over politics...." Again Clarissa lets the sentence hang, mostly because she's fairly sure at this point that appealing for cooler heads won't do much - not with someone over there declaring himself their king. Her grip tightens around Strahl Gewehr as she glances at Ashley, then back over to Matilda. Pushing out of her kneeling stance, she begins to strafe around to one side, perhaps trying to flank Matilda while Ashley gets in close.

"Ugh, fine!" she finally decides, frustration flickering in her voice - not so much at Matilda, but at the whole situation. Light shines at the barrel of Strahl Gewehr as she springs up into the air.

"Noble's Fang!" she shouts as she opens fire with a squeal of magical light. The ray of her ARM cleaves into the turf, trenching up dirt and debris as she carves the shot towards Matilda.

GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Noble's Fang!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has completed her action.
GS: Acacia Saitani critically Guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Thunder Blade for 32 hit points!
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a glancing hit from Clarissa Arwin's Noble's Fang for 54 hit points!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has been weakened by Disease! Matilda Whitehead can't gain THP until the Disease is cured!
GS: Disease! applied to Matilda Whitehead!
<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

"Xiumei!" Eleanor calls in sudden alarm as Ganondorf crashes back at her as they begin their melee--and as Ida charges in at the other side. She looks between both, preparing to intervene from afar--

Eleanor does not recognize the means by which Ganondorf works his dark magic, but she recognizes the flow of energy in the air that suggests it, the rise of the hairs at the back of her neck. Her eyes widen, and she jumps to the side, barely moving out of the way of the bulk of the lightning. Only the bulk, though--even the small amount is enough to surge through her, prompting an involuntary cry as she hits the ground, bits of lightning still crackling around her even now that most of it has died down--it takes her a moment before she can get control of her arms again--and when she does--

She narrows her eyes. That fear hasn't gone away, but there is something... else, too. "Don't TOUCH HER!" the young elf shouts back. She's already holding a Crest, even before there's time for her to have picked it up. Lightning crackles about her hands, but this is not dark; instead it is bright, brilliant gold. "The storm lingers long after the rain has gone--"

"Acrimonious Echo!"

Lightning jumps from Eleanor's hand, the mixture of Fray and Wing combining into a rare offensive spell from the usually backline sorceress.

GS: Kamui critically Guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Pummel Kick for 19 hit points!
GS: Kamui enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Acrimonious Echo!
GS: Eleanor Klein has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Eleanor Klein has completed her action.
GS: Ratatoskr takes a glancing hit from Ashton Anchors's Deadly Triangle for 51 hit points!
GS: Break! applied to Ratatoskr!
<Pose Tracker> Erzebet Lefanu has posed.

 
"Maybe not for Filgaia, hm, hm," Erzebet answers Clarine. "But let's be real here: Yes. It might come in my life time, it might come in a thousand years, but the clock is winding down. And it's not like it's going to be better anywhere else!"

At this, Clarine calls up a cloud - a ray of light arcs towards Erzebet. She twists partially out of the way and swings up the other pistol of Haborym; she shoots the cloud. Marivel, if she looks, can see her hand - it seems mottled, grayish. Bloodless almost. Except for some patches around the fingers. Tiny spots. Fresh and pink.

But she doesn't have long to look.

"What are you even talking about," she snaps at Marivel, although it's a quavering and petulant sort of snap. "Anything I enjoy as a living being. As opposed to what, a corpse? Do you think I like being afraid, being COLD, feeling disgusting?? Do you think I like what I'm doing here?! I wish I was a story, so I could just... just WRITE myself out of... out of any kind of a - a -"

Erzebet's back presses against the cavern wall again. She sweats, and she bleeds. "Ugh! It's happening already... why did you bring so many PEOPle here, Marivel, why do you have to bring all of this, why do YOU have so many - many FRIENDS - hnfhg - "

She reaches into the pocket of her coat with one hand, rustling around, the barrel of the pistol jutting out in one of those peculiar, flustered ways. "Nghg - where -"

She finds something. Her hand's shaking as she stuffs it into her mouth. It looks like a Heal Berry, maybe, wrapped in something. A green leaf of some sort. She chews on it, glaring at Marivel, but she seems like she's not terribly far from crying.

Lest Clarine feel neglected, the shot Erzebet fired at her cloud of light comes due. As if it had been waiting for a cue, it streaks towards her, having lost most of its heat in the transit.

"Just get away from the Gear! Let us have it!" Erzebet cries out.

GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Seraph Clarine with Haborym N.Os Guide Shot!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with I feel sick...!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has completed her action.
GS: Erzebet Lefanu heals Erzebet Lefanu! She gains 150 temporary hit points!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu assumes the Stoic stance!
GS: Seraph Clarine takes a solid hit from Erzebet Lefanu's Haborym N.Os Guide Shot for 95 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        The Demon King? Wh--oh. Oh. Oh God. Fear lights up Ida's eyes; she backs away from her foe, fists raised. She remembers the pendants, and the ravings of the sorcerer-thing that helped Janus find them. Wizzro wouldn't stop talking about his King, the one true ruler of Filgaia. This is either one hell of a coincidence, or--

        "Eleanor!" Ida shouts, risking a glance back at the elven sorceress. "RUN! NOW!" It's all she can get out before the Demon King hits back. Ida sees a gleam above her, and drives her gauntleted arm up to meet it. Metal flows outwards, forming a cutting edge. The limb flattens, bone and muscle condensing and twisting into a single, unbreakable blade. Ida catches Ganondorf's blades, and for a moment, she thinks she might just be able to pull it off.

        Not quite.

        The King is just too strong. Rather than cleave through Ida's arm, he drives it downwards with terrible, wrenching force--it's all Ida can do to pull the limb away from her before one of those blades finds her head or shoulder. A sharp pop splits the air, and sudden pain spikes through Ida's whole right arm. Dislocated it, she realizes, through the sudden haze of agony. She bites her lip, grips her shoulder with her free hand, and shoves. A horrible slithering sensation spreads through her shoulder, followed by another pop.

        "Your lackey was kind enough to introduce you," Ida says, her face tight with pain. Veins of silvery flesh pulse beneath her skin. "But I don't remember him mentioning you by name." She steps in close again, twisting right to try and flank her foe. Her right arm twists back into its normal, gauntleted state, and in a blur of motion, Ida drives an open palm at Ganondorf's ribs.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Open Palm!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        Kamui completely whiffs! And Ragnell, endlessly more graceful than she is even with the assistance of ancient technology, gives her a boot to the small of her back! She stumbles and flomphs onto a small pile of rocks with a whine.

        "... ... it's really sad ... ..."

        Whatever vigour she seems to have had before seems to die down as she looks up where Ragnell's summoning a massive thunder sword towards Acacia.

        "I was hoping... you and Clarine being friends mean you wouldn't fight. ... because ... it seems like there's no end of people fighting right now."

        She withdraws a small white object that kind of looks like a hilt from the Buster on her arm. This girl ain't got no right hand.

        "Us and Odessa... Yevon and the Guard..."

        She slumps her head down for a moment.

        *pwishhh*

        A bright emerald blade erupts from the hilt of the Saber. It's triangular and perfectly 2-dimensional in thickness.

        "I can't wake up to an era where friends can just be friends... so I'll help Clarine! Even if I'm stupid and can't count to ten! At least Kamui can get up to nine! And that makes me..."

        WEEKS AGO, PRIOR TO THE LUCA INVASION
        THE SPIRA MIRABILIS THEATER

        Kamui huddles up on a blanket as she watches a Sphere recording of a dramatic rendition of several Crimson Blades of Yevon fighting. It's a stage play recorded upon one of Luca's finest stages.

        "You fool! You are far too trusting. I was the blackguard working behind the scenes the whole time!"

        The evil-looking knight cackles. "Now, succumb to my technique!"

        His blade glows...

        "... weapon get," Kamui murmurs.

        NOW

        "... the Muightiest!! Demolish weapons with fury!"

        Kamui swings into thin air. The very space around Ragnell glows blue and chilly as snow begins to cascade gently... and a ghastly, ephemeral sword erupts in a sudden blast from out of the ground.

        "H--"

        WEEKS AGO

        "Hellcry Punch!!" shouts the knight.

        NOW

        "H..." Can she do it? Can she do it??

GS: Kamui enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Kamui has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Muighty Sword - Heckcry Punch!
GS: Kamui has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kamui has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        "Heckcry Punch!!" No, she can't. :(

GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Kamui's Muighty Sword - Heckcry Punch for 146 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

It's a sound plan. When your opponent is armed with a heavy, ranged weapon, it makes sense to charge into close range while they're reloading. Matilda rushes into a cloud of dense, acrid smoke. The pommel of her smallsword lances up, poised to pummel the gunman's breath right out of his chest...!

Only to find herself intercepted by a quite frankly unreasonably large bayonet.

It's really more like a lance. Or a greatsword. Ashley yells as he drives the blow aside, meeting the flurry of strikes that follow with deft, practiced parries. Each connection rings out like a bell, but steel is almost all that Matilda's blade meets. A droplet of blood trickles from a thin red line carved across Ashley's cheek, but the musketeer isn't nearly as bloodied as Matilda probably would have hoped.

"Thanks, Clarissa!" Ashley answers through the din. "I knew I could count on you. Let's keep up the pace!" He pivots, swinging the stock of his rifle like a club up and into Matilda's center of gravity. "And as for you--"

"We can't let Odessa take that machine. Surrender now and nobody has to get hurt!" That's a lot to ask for, especially when Ganondorf 'King of Evil (no seriously)' Dragmire is standing right over there. Ashley seems earnest about it though, even as he suddenly dives into a sliding tackle aimed right for Matilda's ankles. His gun discharges at the moment of impact, the shockwave propelling a simultaneous shin-level slash...!

GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Shockslide!
GS: Ashley Winchester has completed his action.
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a glancing hit from Ashley Winchester's Shockslide for 61 hit points!
GS: Cripple! applied to Matilda Whitehead!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire takes a solid hit from Zhang Xiumei's Slide Kick for 114 hit points!
GS: Riposte! applied to Zhang Xiumei!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire guards a hit from Eleanor Klein's Acrimonious Echo for 56 hit points!
GS: Jam! applied to Ganondorf Dragmire!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Open Palm for 79 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey assumes the Stoic stance!
<Pose Tracker> Ratatoskr has posed.

        Ratatoskr twists in mid-air and lands in a three-point stance to re-face Ashton, as they split into three.
        "...I love this one...!" Ratatoskr audibly fawns over being surrounded by three Ashton Anchors and six dragons. The initial difficulty that comes when one uses a technique like this on someone who loves to fight any number of people matching someone they really enjoy fighting -
        - they want to fight all of them, and Ratatoskr makes that spirited attempt. Ratatoskr can only be in one place at a time, but in some way, or some form, he's going to be exposing his back or flank to one or two of them and... by appearances, not care that much, as he swings fists, knees, and legs at the gathering and enveloping explosive Symbological power.
        All the while as he whirls, he sees some electrical thing or another surge with mocking words, the quite, understated resolution of a young gunner whose actions are once again questioned, the philosophical musings of someone whose physical health is seeing drastic changes, the unflinching kindness of a young woman who bears a weapon only of necessity to try and stop cruelty...
        Ratatoskr bears scorch marks all around his crimson armor as the sorcerous energies whirl about him with his own motion - so feisty in his attempts to try and fight three manifestations at the same time that he partially parries the full concussive blast in the process.
        A moment of calm comes, for Ratatoskr is in momentary shock. Sorcery remains a force foreign to Hyadeans and their bodies, after all. "...Keep 'em coming...!" He grins through the pain, as quicksilver dribbles down the side of his mouth. "...I want to keep every move, every feat... of the Twin Symbological Swordsman, Ashton Anchors...! I get to live in the same time as someone like you... it's great...!"
        He starts to pace to Ashton's left again - the side where the blue dragon peeks from. Hm. Is there something to that, after all the time they've fought? Energy begins to build from Ratatoskr's horn as his balance grows a bit shaky because of the crumbling architecture around them, catching himself down with one hand on the ground. It helps anchor him, at least, in firing off a laser-like blast that seems poised to blow through Ashton's defenses.
        As though it were looking to become a mutual no-holds-barred battle, with no defense available to them other than pure offense.

GS: Ratatoskr has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ratatoskr has attacked Ashton Anchors with Yggdrasil Arrow!
GS: Ratatoskr has completed his action.
GS: Ashton Anchors critically Guards a hit from Ratatoskr's Yggdrasil Arrow for 18 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ganondorf Dragmire has posed.

"Heh," Ganondorf chuckles, mercilessly. "No name to offer, child?"

...his face falls to a sudden, cold anger. "I do not need your name to destroy you. That is a mistake I've made before," he rumbles. The attacks come. Xiumei's strike lunges below his guard, striking true enough that he's not able to properly stance up against the remaining attacks. A blast of blazing lightning cracks for Ganondorf and he lashes one blade up, lightning coiling around the weapon and grounding out through.... ...well it should go through him, but he doesn't scream the way he should if that's what happened. And then Ida--

"Ah," he says, and for a moment Eleanor feels that tremendous AWARENESS fall away, as Ida gains the full attention of the Demon King. It's like God looking at you, a tremendous pressure from merely the acknowledgement of your presence. "This one," he says. "This one knows what befell my Wizzro. I believe I shall have two guests this evening." His lips slip into a grin as Ida's palm slams into the flat of his blade, supported by the other in a cross-guard formation.

Then he strikes. Once overhead; again, whirling feet and blades crashing in from the side, and then he resets stance and crashes in from the other side. The robe follows him, accentuates every move. It is a martial art, unmistakably, as he moves and weaves, blades crashing against Ida again and again.

Yet it is one no child of Filgaia or Lunar could name. A skill lost to history, culminating in a darkness rushing up the entire length of one blade as he lowers it, overhand, onto Ida, smashing it into the ground.

A shockwave roars out from the impact, potentially toppling Xiumei and Eleanor with raw force.

GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Warlock Blade!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Zhang Xiumei with Blade of the King!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Eleanor Klein with Blade of the King!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

That rueful smile from Ragnell hurts. Clarine can't really come up with a response to it...but her words to Kamui get a frown out of her.

"...Do not...do not talk to Kamui that way." Clarine says, protectively. She pauses, though, as Kamui speaks - lamenting that friends have to fight, and declaring that she'll help her.

For a moment, Clarine brightens up. But before she can say anything else, Marivel has an aside for her.

'She may already be susceptible to your light'...? Clarine doesn't understand, but...the way she seems to phrase it is a bad thing gives her an idea of it, at least.

"...Sh-should I, um...hold back...?" Clarine whispers back. She could close into melee range, she supposes - this woman appeared to focus on long-range weaponry.

Erzebet gets a frown as well, though.

"...Then we shall give it more time. As much time as it needs. We-" Clarine replies. She pauses, though, as she listens to Erzebet snap at Marivel. She frowns.

Clarine isn't really all that familiar with how humans work sometimes, but that doesn't seem right to her.

"...What's happening to her?" Clarine asks Marivel quietly, with a hint of concern. She seems to know why, so-

"- Ah!" Her train of thought is interrupted as a bullet streaks toward her, impacting her solidly in the shoulder. She winces and flinches back, a spark of light emitting from where she was hit. Her expression darknes a little and the mirrors shudder, but don't quite fall away.

"...We cannot!" Clarine says. She then glides toward her, mirrors trailing behind her. With a swing of her hand, three of them trail out like an extension of her arm to strike Erzebet...but, half-way through she rethinks it and the mirrors stall, returning to float around her as she stops in her tracks, floating in front of Erzebet.

...It's hard to attack someone who looks like they're about to cry.

"...Stand down." Clarine says. ...She looks a bit more intense than she usually does. She holds out her hands, and a Seraphic glyph appears beneath her. Rather than an offensive spell, blue forms a protective barrier around herself and Marivel.

GS: Zhang Xiumei takes a solid hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Blade of the King for 130 hit points!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Seraph Clarine with Field Barrier!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Marivel Armitage with Field Barrier!
GS: Seraph Clarine has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Clarine has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Clarine takes a solid hit from Seraph Clarine's Field Barrier for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! applied to Seraph Clarine!
GS: Eleanor Klein takes a solid hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Blade of the King for 139 hit points!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes a solid hit from Seraph Clarine's Field Barrier for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! applied to Marivel Armitage!
GS: CRITICAL! Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Warlock Blade for 103 hit points!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Stagger expired!
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        "... it's always absolutes when it comes to Odessa," Acacia mutters, her face scrunched up in distaste. "You don't get to pull the moral card when your organization stranded us here, 'li'l missy'. The fact you can't even consider that someone might not like fighting, but have to do it anyway because you've given them nowhere to run to - are you shortsighted, or just looking for an excuse?"

        It's a topic that bites her hard. She'd rather be at home, reporting on something completely innocuous, but coincidence after coincidence after event after event have led her here. She could leave it to the others - but what would that make her? Even she has her pride, especially after witnessing the Guard's conduct. But she's not about to revel in the fight, not when she's seen how many people it's already displaced.

        ... and more to the point, she thinks privately to herself as Kamui states her resolve, she'd much rather the Reploid be at home, happily reporting on the stray cat Tim just found in an alley, or Marina's latest batch of cookies, or the latest high place she's found to excitedly perch upon.

        The thought makes her set her jaw in muted determination. She doesn't have the werewithal to dodge right now, not with the way her leg is shaking against her will - so she stands her ground instead, reaching inside of her jacket as the blade stabs down in front of her. For a moment she tastes tin, and feels the air fill with prickling pain accompanied with the smell of burning ozone--

--then she clutches at something in her pocket and pushes back against the sensation, the explosion visibly distorting against the edge of an invisible sphere that has sprung up around the redhead.

        Before it dies away completely, she grabs for the last arc of it, the lightning crackling around her fingertips as she manages to physically grab it, her camera held in her other hand. "You can say what you like. But I'll oppose you in my own way. Kamui! Eyes!" she adds as she pushes off the ground--

        oh god that hurt, that was stupid, she's already stumbling into a deep limp, fuuuck5r
        --and slams the last spark of electricity into her camera's flash as she hits the shutter. In the dark cave, the explosion of light is sharp and instant, leaving spots in its wake.

<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

Ratatoskr's frenzied attacks swing wildly at the Ashtons - while the sellsword tries to keep his positioning, a few land. And that reveals part of the trick: only one of the Ashtons has any actual substance. It's more illusion than truth... but that's enough to focus the magical detonation.
 
In the momentary aftermath, he has to pause. It isn't an easy technique to keep up. The two false Ashtons dissipate like mist, leaving the true one panting to catch his breath.
 
It's then that Ratatoskr starts to circle and... glow? The building energy makes Ashton frown deeply. Has he seen this before? He isn't sure.
 
Then? A laser. Just a straight up laser blast right at him. That's a bit more straight forward than expected. Out of sheer reflex, Ashton brings a sword up to parry. This shockingly is the right move - the polished metal of the blade is struck! And the laser bounces off of it, streaking instead up into the crumbling ceiling above.
 
"I suppose," Ashton quips, "I should congratulate you! For once, you're using your head! Or at least the point atop it!" He tries to turn to face the Metal Demon, but Ashton is far slower and can't get the smaller combatant out of his right side.
 
This is not as limiting as it would seem. It just means that instead of sword, Ashton must resort to his other weapons.
 
Weepy lets out a roar, whipping around to square the angle. And the blue dragon unleashes a wave of hoarfrost into the air - purposely firing a little too far to the side. He means to either force Ratatoskr to stop moving and allow Ashton to bring him to the front... or for Ratatoskr to move right into the chilling attack.

GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Paparazzi!
GS: Acacia Saitani has completed her action.
GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Ratatoskr with Ururun's Ice!
GS: Ashton Anchors has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cover expired!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

"I'll be fine!" Xiumei answers Eleanor, though her voice pitches a little too high to make it believable. She spins after she concludes her sliding kick, coming back up to her feet. She sees the way that Ganondorf turns, and directs his full wrath upon Ida with his blades. She sucks in a gasp--

But no. She has to focus on herself and on Eleanor. The shockwave flies at her -- and it slams into Xiumei, pitching her clear across the field. She smashes into a pillar running from cavern floor to cavern ceiling, and cracks it. Her armor is scuffed, scratched, and dirtied as she comes again to her feet.

She raises a hand before her. The Pulse Saber vanishes in a flash of blue-white light -- and then in its place is a short, squared gun. She points it at Ganondorf, and then she starts to fire it. Trios of violet energy bolts hurl, one burst after the other, as she comes charging in towards the King of Evil.

"You're not... you're not taking Eleanor--either of them with you! I'm not letting that HAPPEN!" she shouts, then screams the last word.

GS: Zhang Xiumei has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Pulse Cannon Bombard!
GS: Zhang Xiumei has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zhang Xiumei has completed her action.
GS: Ratatoskr takes a solid hit from Ashton Anchors's Ururun's Ice for 123 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Acacia Saitani's Paparazzi for 0 hit points!
GS: Disrupt, Entangle, and Shieldbreak! applied to Seraph Ragnell!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"You would sentence the lovable Marivel to burn? How terrible...! Youre as bad as Althena!" Marivel's eyes widen as Ragnell DODGES Kamui's hug.

Truly, Ragnell is a Chapter 4 level boss to have such a technique under her belt.

Erzebet snaps at her and asks what she means. "Yes," She tells Erzebet. "Exactly. Your life will end and not by my hand. And though you will be cold, you will not mind it. You may appreciate it. I cannot speak too far for your internal experience, or theirs beyond what I have heard or seen. But twill be different and you cannot go back."

The DEMON KING could be a problem but Marivel decides to only involve herself there if Ganon starts breaking bones or cutting off limbs. It would be good to see what a Demon King can do to mortals before electing to see what they can do to Crimson Nobles--and judging from what she had been told about him, he may actually have experience with her ancestors.

"Good job!" She shouts to Kamui. "I dont have to wash your mouth with soap and can instead use a milder lubricant!"

The flames around Marivel dim faintly. Theyll be out soon barring Marivel being set on fire again. Marivel is slow to continue the assault, not moving forward to attack until Erzebet assaults Clarine again. She walks forward and extends a hand, shadowy tendrils rippling out from Marivels mouth and oozing towards Erzebet slowly at first... and then unnaturally quickly as they seek to wrap around Erzebet, latch onto her, and hold her still.

The shadows burn...

...but maybe not as much as they ought to in Erzebets current condition. Clarissa gets ANOTHER glance because of NOBLE FANG but thats about it. Shes focused.

"I imagine you would enjoy it. Perhaps I am so concerned with you breaking I neglect to think of what it could heal..." Her eyes are vibrant red orbs as she leans in.

"Or perhaps...you desire something even greater? Being enemies is difficult, but being alone is far worse... Would you take care of it, that which I share...?" The fangs grow large and--

Why did you bring so many PEOPLE here, Marivel, why do YOU have so many - many - FRIENDS.

Marivel stalls in this moment, perhaps granting Erzebet an opportunity even as a memory enters Marivel's conciousness.

???

"Dr. Lumen! Are you handling homeroom today?" Anastasia approaches the older woman. "I was going to be here earlier but someone was too shy about coming to school."

"Feh." Marivel looks to the side like Squall. "Whatever."

Dr. Lumen turned towards the Crimson Noble and crouched down a bit. "Well, you aren't one of our usual students here..."

Marivel mutters, "I don't go to school. I'm only here because Ana asked me too. Do you know what I am, human? I am one of the great Crimson Nobles, you are--"

"Aww!" Lumen, interrupts, standing back up. "You made another friend, Anastasia! How sweet!"

Marivel sputters, flustered for a moment. "We're not friends!"

Ana looks hurt and doesn't say anything, instead leaving the two alone.

"Ah--" Marivel stammers. "I didn't mean--"

"I KNOW BUT I'M STILL UPSET!" Anastasia shouts loudly while leaving Marivel alone with the homeroom teacher.

"...Hmph..." Marivel harumphs and doesn't follow, crossing her arms and muttering under her breath about how illogical and foolish humans are.

"H...how about you sit down and tell us a bit about yourself?" Dr. Lumen asks.

NOW

Marivel pulls back a little, just a little. "...I was taught how to make them by people who knew better."

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda seems to almost balk at Clarissa's answer for a moment. "... I don't believe in anyone," she answers, eventually. "The Commander has my loyalty -- but I think you've missed the point if you think that's why I'm doing this!" She draws into a defensive stance as Clarissa opens fire, but can't *quite* twist out of the way. The magical light hits her leg, and leaves her open for a follow-up swing from Ashley -- one that sends her staggering back.

She weighs her options for a moment -- and in the meanwhile, she answers Clarissa a bit more pointedly. "Really, though? You can't think of a conviction you have that you'd place higher than your relationship with a single person?" she asks, as she starts to take a step backward. "... I can't imagine how you can risk your life that way."

Taking a step back, she fires her pistol at Ashley's leg, at the same time leaping for Clarissa. *Clarissa* gets a quick one-two slash with that bright blade; it's nothing *fancy*, but Matilda's style has never been fancy, just utilitarian. She also adds, for Ashley, "... Making demands while saying nobody has to get hurt is just hostage-taking," coolly.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Ragnell, peeling herself up from where Acacia shot her down, frowns over at Kamui. "...Well, I'll grant ya that much," she replies. "But there are some situations you can't resolve without a fight. But you knew that already, didn't ya? Or you wouldn't be fightin' right now." Then Kamui draws an energy blade and keeps talking. Ragnell would love to focus on the former, which is of some import, but she's too busy squinting at the latter. "Ten comes right AFTER nine, so if you can count to nine you can count to ten you dumb tin can, and anyway what's that have to do with being the strongest--"
        
        Kamui swings. The air blues with a sudden snowy chill. A energy blade erupts from the ground, cutting up through Ragnell as Kamui gives a muighty shout of HECKCRY PUNCH. The Seraph collapses. "Ugghn... It hurts... It... hurts..."
        
        She struggles with the wound--but staggers up to her feet. It was a hell of a hit, and however much this strange robot may get on her nerves, it did a significant chunk of damage. Even so, she still sneers at Kamui. "...it hurts how *lame* you are, that is."
        
        Clarine tells her not to talk to Kamui like that. "If you don't want me talkin' to her like that, you oughtta tell your friend to be less irritating," she calls back. "Otherwise, you're gonna have to shut my mouth yourself--or let your friend deal with it *her*self."
        
        Acacia says some bitter things about Odessa. It gives Ragnell pause, and she blinks over at her. Then she snorts, smirks, and bursts out laughing. "You raise a good point! I didn't consider that," she replies. Largely because she joined Odessa *after* coming to Lunar, and in a way that didn't involve getting caught up in Odessa's beams--but Acacia doesn't need to know that. "Fair 'nough! I s'pose a cornered mouse has no *choice* but to fight. It's better'n layin' down an' dyin', in any case. All right, then let's just get to it!"
        
        As she aims for Kamui again, though, Acacia sets off her photography, shearing a bright light that Ragnell isn't prepared for. She snarls a surprised cry, but still fires that blast at Kamui with a shout of, "Tempest Laser!" Whether it hits or not is anyone's guess after she's been blinded like that.
        
        Even so, Ragnell's not about to turn tail, either. She chants another Seraphic arte, glyph sending up motes of golden light, and lashes a hand out towards where Acacia is--or at least, where she was a few seconds ago. She was having trouble moving too, so if Ragnell's lucky, the lance of lightning that coalesceces will zap her good all the same. "Shock Lancer!"

GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Pruning!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Kamui with Tempest Laser!
GS: Seraph Ragnell enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Acacia Saitani with Shock Lancer!
GS: Entangle and Shieldbreak expired!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Ashley Winchester with Repositioning Shot!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: Clarissa Arwin completely evades a hit from Matilda Whitehead's Pruning!
GS: Matilda Whitehead assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Marivel Armitage has spent 1 Combo on Poison, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with Boogiepop Phantoms!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes 26 damage from Poison!
GS: Hyper and Surge expired!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
GS: Kamui takes a glancing hit from Seraph Ragnell's Tempest Laser for 59 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: CRITICAL! Erzebet Lefanu takes a solid hit from Marivel Armitage's Boogiepop Phantoms for 76 hit points!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has been weakened by Disease! Erzebet Lefanu can't gain THP until the Disease is cured!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu suffers an additional 25 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Disease and Poison! applied to Erzebet Lefanu!
GS: Acacia Saitani guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Shock Lancer for 74 hit points!
GS:  Dispel reduces positive status durations by 3 rounds each!
<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Ida gives Eleanor a directive with her risked glance, and the depth of her sudden alarm is clear--nevertheless, Eleanor frowns sharply. "I'm a full member of ARMS, as much as anyone! I'm not leaving everyone behind!"

For an instant she looks forward at Xiumei again--but the relief of the weight being gone doesn't help her spell's minimal effect. It certainly doesn't block the dark shockwave that erupts from the ground, rocketing straight for Eleanor and knocking off her feet and backward into a stone wall hard enough that she doesn't even slide down until after a half-second. "Gh--"

On the ground, she rises to one knee, and looks up ahead, disheveled, but conscious. Wincing, she lets out a heavy breath. "...Right. Anger, not... good enough," she murmurs to herself. "Think, think..."

Breathing in again, she starts to stand. "...That's it. I've seen..."

Eleanor's hands busy themselves again, thumb brushing over the gilt edges of the Crest Graph on which is inscribed her next spell. The powers of Geo and Muse, even here, combine well.

"O starry sky, look down upon us and grant us light! Auspicious Span!"

Like a rushing river, light surges around Eleanor, Ida, and Xiumei, reinforcing defenses, bolstering flagging spirits.

"...You can't fix anything by running away! We have to seize our own fates!"

GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Eleanor Klein with Auspicious Span!
GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Zhang Xiumei with Auspicious Span!
GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Auspicious Span!
GS: Eleanor Klein has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Eleanor Klein has completed her action.
GS: Eleanor Klein heals Eleanor Klein! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Eleanor Klein assumes the Stoic stance!
GS: Eleanor Klein heals Zhang Xiumei! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ratatoskr has posed.

        If one is Ratatoskr, there is only one correct answer to what happens when one of the dragons that has helped further cement Ashton's unique qualities (...and issues) as an equally memorable, deadly, and strange combatant.
        Ratatoskr ceases using his head as he just hurls himself through the ice breath. This, while he unfurls out the liquid metal patagium that helps him glide forward in what would have once been the lead to a pouncing attack. The ice frosts around him, hardens, and takes him out of the air with a quiet shattering as quicksilver leaks through where the frosted liquid metal cracks.
        "...Hyathathat--!!" That is teeth chattering. The grin's still there. It affords Ashton further time to reposition within those next few seconds, as Ratatoskr rises. "That was cool..."
        He flexes out his arms, ice crackling around and off of him as a shockwave of incredible power from nearby washes about him, flicking his tail to the side with a loud icy crackling as the frost subsides and breaks off. He takes a few cursory steps forward. For Ratatoskr, 'cursory steps' are an excuse for 'I want to make my body run faster but it won't let me.'
        Now it is, as ice continues to break away as he tries to bear down upon Ashton with a series of strikes. Fists, palms, elbows, knees, kicks - but not once, the claws on his hands. Even his tail gets a sweep somewhere in this ceaseless combination of violence, but not the claws.
        "You have three to use...!" Ratatoskr shouts somewhere in all of this. Is he going to call foul? "That's never anything less than awesome...!" Okay he's cool with that.

GS: Ratatoskr has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ratatoskr has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Ratatoskr has attacked Ashton Anchors with Ceaseless Conflict!
GS: Ratatoskr has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        Well.

        Of all the opponents Ragnell's fought before, Kamui probably has the dubious honour of being... the youngest? She certainly doesn't look like she's really developed herself more than a child would. Or at least, some parts of her seem to... and others seem more muisterious yet.

        Which is why, when she calls her out and sneers--

        "K-Kamui isn't lame! Kamui isn't lame...!!" Kamui's eye has a tear on it.

        The other eye kind of hidden underneath the hair is a horrible camera-eye with a solid red glint to it, which ruins the child-like effect a little. It squints a little further.

        "Take that back!"

        Her cheeks puff as she looks to Clarine as she advises her not to talk to her like that, which soothes her... but Ragnell talks back to Clarine!

        This seems to be more upsetting to her than anything Ragnell said to Kamui herself.

        "Don't be mean to Clarine either!!"

        She puffs a breath out (despite the fact that she probably doesn't need to breathe; advanced robots like this are weird...). She looks to Acacia again and--

        Tempest Laser!!

        She gets snared in the intersect of a laser that scathes at her and causes something like a mechanical gasket to *POP* and *HISS...* as she stumbles to one side.

        "Or to Master..."

        That Saber is out once more, and the emerald hue turns to something of a bright red as she leaps up into the air. "... there was a friend, once. There was a friend... I can't remember... his name, but..."

        She looks to Xiumei, for a reason she can't understand.

        "But even if we were friends, he still wanted to fight a lot. I didn't get it. We fought and fought and fought a lot... and in the end... and in the end...!! Something... very sad happened, so friends shouldn't fight each other!"

        She hitches for a moment, frowning as she spins in the air and creates a sweeping veil of flame-like energy from her Saber--

        --and--

        --and?!--

        Detaches her Head and throws it forward to the Seraph, where she'll take a Big Bite out of Crime if she hits!

                            >> WARNING! WARNING! <<
                 A flaming Kamui Head is approaching Ragnell.
                                Its name is...
                            >> WARNING! WARNING! <<

GS: Kamui has attacked Seraph Ragnell with M.U.I.teorain!
GS: Kamui has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kamui has completed her action.
GS: Eleanor Klein heals Ida Everstead-Rey! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire guards a hit from Zhang Xiumei's Pulse Cannon Bombard for 70 hit points!
GS:  Dispel reduces positive status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Ashley Winchester critically Guards a hit from Matilda Whitehead's Repositioning Shot for 30 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Ashton Anchors takes a solid hit from Ratatoskr's Ceaseless Conflict for 166 hit points!
GS: Ashton Anchors enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Clarissa presses her lips together, looking up towards Matilda with a quiet sadness behind her big blue-green eyes. "Then maybe there's a reason I'm missing that you'd hurt someone who loves you for the sake of someone you don't believe in," she murmurs.

Before she can say much more, Matilda's on her, and Clarissa lets out a gasp as the young woman swings that bright blade so efficiently. One heel scrapes across the ground as Clarissa spins to the side, then arches back hard to duck beneath the second stroke. It whistles over her head by a hair, cutting close enough to actually sever a few errant blonde strands. It's a dangerously close call, and Matilda can hear the girl's breathing quickening before she drops away, hitting the ground on her shoulders and rolling in reverse a couple of times in an acrobatic but desperate attempts to squeeze out of making this a close-quarters fight.

Clarissa darts back a little further, tossing her head as she catches her breath. "I guess I just wonder if you really think that Commander Vinsfeld shares your convictions, or if he's a megalomaniac who's going to just make everything worse for the people who care about you most of all," she returns, not with particular heat. Her eyes follow Matilda, but they're watching her face more than the way she moves her body or her weapon.

A second later, she suddenly springs into motion - but it's not to fire her ARM. Clarissa launches herself at Matilda and immediately throws away all the work she did trying to get out of melee range.

All of a sudden she's in close again. She ducks low and sweeps one hand out, trying to hit the side of Matilda's weapon with the back of one reinforced glove, as if trying to swat it to the side and simply startle her. Whatever she's doing, she doesn't follow up with an attack, just hitting the ground again and trying to roll away with a shout.

"Ashley, go!" Oh, that's what she's doing.

GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Rob Turn!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has completed her action.
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a glancing hit from Clarissa Arwin's Rob Turn for 0 hit points!
GS: Disrupt and Entangle! applied to Matilda Whitehead!
GS: Matilda Whitehead enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Kamui's M.U.I.teorain for 76 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ganondorf meets Ida's gaze, and a frisson of mortal terror races down her spine. Her hand meets Gerudo steel, and twists away. Ida twists with it, turning on the ball of her foot and circling behind Ganondorf. "He died for your sake," Ida says, glancing aside at Xiumei. She lets her fear creep into her eyes, as if she could somehow communicate the nature of their enemy through that alone. Even that is a risk.

        And then, Ganondorf is on her. Ida reacts without thinking, without realizing what's happening. Hyadean biometal flows across her back and down her left arm, forming thin plates that trace the bones and tendons in hee limb. Her right arm warps and flows back into a blade. She meets the King's blades with blade and palm, flowing through the forms Kalve drilled into her. It's smooth, fluid, and graceful--it would be a beautiful dance, if Ida weren't fighting for her life. After the fourth stroke, Ganondorf's blade cuts across Ida's shoulder in an arc of gleaming steel. Crimson drops fly into the air, followed by gobbets of something that looks like quicksilver.

        Ida can't hold him off any longer. She throws herself out of the way, landing on her belly and skidding across the cavern floor. Behind her, the ground erupts in a spray of stone shards and dark sorcery--Ganondorf just made a brand-new crater. Ida plants a hand on the floor, shoves herself to her feet. She sees Eleanor hit the wall behind her. Anger bubbles up through the fear. "What style is that?" Ida says, as she steps forwards, weaving around to Ganondorf's right. She drives her right fist at his shoulder, and follows with a left jab--

        It's a feint. Ida pulls her right hand back at the last second, and opens her left hand into a knife-fist. Golden chi glimmers on metal-laced fingernails as she drives that hand at Ganondorf's side. Should it connect, chi erupts off of it, and pours into the Demon King's systems--an irritant to one so powerful, likely, but not one he can afford to ignore.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Burning Infusion!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 3 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Erzebet Lefanu has posed.

 
"Why do you want it so badly," Erzebet says, eyes squinching up behind her glasses. "Do you just want it because we brought it here? Do you think we don't work hard?! Even if you're our enemies, why do you have to be so mean!!"

It's shrill, it's high. It's fatuous. Erzebet looks borderline delirious. A little Heal Berry juice oozes out from the corner of her mouth. Probably she ought to have pulled back. She swallows several times, muttering to herself, "I'm just kind of anemic... the berry's had fish oil in the middle... and rich green vegetables... the iron of the land that's turned into something I can digest, that I can decompose inside of me..."

She glares at Clarine then. She swallows again. And then she is about to say something to Marivel a moment before THE SHADOW REALM rises, strikes her, pushes her against the wall, and pins her, cross-eagled! "ngh" she says, biting her lip.

Erzebet stares at Marivel then. She stares for long lingering moments, and she thinks. She takes in what Marivel said. She digests that too. She breathes in deep through her nose -- and says, "Well, aren't you lucky."

Her glasses gleam. "I didn't get to take that class. I wasn't anything more than a bookworm until I met the movement -- and now it's brought me this far. I'm becoming a gorgeous butterfly of liberation... even if Filgaia's going to die, when the Double Metal Demons come by in a hundred million years and find our burned out ruins, they'll know we went down like civilized people!!"

How, by reading the records on a Gear they launch into space to float as an eternal memorial? Yui might be surprised.

"And one of my best friends - ah - hm -" Erzebet seems to pause when she hears what Matilda is saying. She sucks on her teeth for a moment, turns her attention towards Marivel anew...and she slides one hand forwards.

The restraints were fine, weren't they? Why'd she slip her hand out of them? She couldn't tell you herself. She points the right gun of Haborym down, almost but not quite at her foot.

"Al-righ-ty~ I think I'm starting to get my second wind... You know, you're really sweet to hold back like this, but people are going to talk if we keep having chats like this. And as for YOU," this as she looks at Clarine, "I can barely see you but I know you're there, I know you're hesitating... You don't want to hurt me too bad, but you do want to stop us from seizing the Guts Dozer. I mean, I know I'm kind of a delirious wreck right now, a total plate of hot mess sizzling on a Gear hood, but if I was in your shoes, do you want to know what I'd do?!"

"Well I'll tell you," Erzebet says. She half-closes her eyes, takes a breath as if to expound--

And fires her gun at the ground, where the shot hits and erupts, bursting out into a storm of glittering sparks, like a slow motion firework expanding out from her location and threatening to overwhelm Marivel and Clarine both! Much beyond this, the flinders cool to mere irritating annoyance, but at this close, it's a real problem.

"Ah," Erzebet says. "I feel a lot better. You know," this to Marivel, "I still don't get why you're opposing us like this. Or, wait, wait -"

Her eyes widen. Is color coming back to her cheeks? (Vaguely.) "Are you going to be using the Guts Dozer for your own agenda here on Spira...??"

GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Seraph Clarine with Beautiful Bullet Array!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Marivel Armitage with Beautiful Bullet Array!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with I feel normal.!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu takes 24 damage from Poison!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

Ashton wasn't expecting that. Weepy was VERY not expecting that. Ratatoskr just hurling himself into the path of dragon breath and (briefly) gliding on it blows two out of three minds and results in awkward, confused stares.
 
This leaves him (them?) completely open and unguarded for the follow-up barrage.
 
Oh, Ashton tries to rally himself and bring his guard back up. He isn't terribly successful. There's just too much coming in at once. It would be overwhelming in the best of situations, and he simply can't react fast enough to stop even a quarter of it.
 
Once more, Ashton's back slams against the chamber's wall. He's bleeding, bruised and out of breath.
 
But he's not beaten.
 
"You're right, monster. I AM awesome." That vote of confidence is probably entirely on purpose. Ratatoskr is sort of weird that way. This violent, mostly senseless fight is almost certainly exactly what he wants, after all. No matter the result of it.
 
Ashton pushes off of the wall with his elbows, shoving himself right into the maelstrom of blunt trauma that's still being unleashed onto him. Rather than defending? He hurls forward into it, trying to weather the worst to get some offense going again.
 
Two hooked Spiran blades slash - a scissoring horizontal slash, then a paired strike downwards. And following the overhead smash? A barrage of his own - Ashton responding in kind. A spiraling dance of steel - strike after strike, answering Ratatoskr's own. Two can play this game.
 
Ashton just hopes he'll end up playing it better. It's going to hurt otherwise.

GS: Erzebet Lefanu takes a solid hit from Erzebet Lefanu's I feel normal. for 0 hit points!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu's Stoic stance ends.
GS: Ashton Anchors has spent 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Ratatoskr with Cross Slash!
GS: Ashton Anchors has launched an attack Link!
GS: Ashton Anchors has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ashton Anchors has spent 2 Combo on Gatling, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Ratatoskr with Sword Dance!
GS: Seraph Clarine guards a hit from Erzebet Lefanu's Beautiful Bullet Array for 65 hit points!
GS: Ratatoskr takes a solid hit from Ashton Anchors's Cross Slash for 153 hit points!
GS: Ashton Anchors's Stoic stance ends. He enters the Avenger stance!
GS: Ratatoskr takes a glancing hit from Ashton Anchors's Sword Dance for 86 hit points!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire critically Guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Burning Infusion for 0 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey's Stoic stance ends.
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        ... the last thing that Acacia expected was to be agreed with, and it kind of shows as the reporter pulls up short, her eyebrows going up. (To be fair, the last member of Odessa she faced was Scythe. It kind of sets up some rather wild expectations.)

        Whatever retort she had ready dies on her lips, and leaves her huffing under her breath for a moment. "Well-- well, there you go," she says without bite, some of the tension bleeding out of her in a way she doesn't intend; she tries to salvage some of her anger. "At least call us a damn mongoose or something."

        he barb doesn't have her heart behind it, but that's as much for her as it is for Ragnell. The Seraph's manner is so distant and carefree despite the way she's fighting seriously that the reporter is fairly sure it's an attempt to keep her off balance; dimly, she's aware she can't rise to it, not if she wants to stand much of a chance.

        Not that that avails her any right at the moment - she'd thought the Seraph would be blinded, and is sloppy enough to be surprised by the sudden lance of light as it cuts through her shoulder. It doesn't leave a visible mark, but she still jolts from the impact, too fast for her to set up the defensive barrier once more. Hissing through her teeth, she manages to catch herself before she tumbles to the ground.

        It's a reminder to focus, and she realises all at once how worked up the Reploid is getting - and the protective streak running through her gives her pause. "Kamui's not lame," she says with conviction, loud enough for Kamui to hear. "She's going to show you how much of a friend she is to Clarine, and how far Clarine's come. Right?" Hopefully, it's a little encouragement; hopefully, it's something to bring Kamui back to herself a little.

        Or she could detach her head, ignite it, and throw it in a way that leaves Acacia openly gaping. "Marivel is gonna give me hell for this," she murmurs to herself. As best she can, she throws herself to one side, hoping to use the bulk of the Gear as cover - from around it she focuses, and this time the lance of light from her pistol is a deep red that complements the Reploid's head. "Kamui! I don't want something sad either! Be careful, and retreat if you have to!"

GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Bury The Lede!
GS: Cripple expired!
GS: Acacia Saitani has completed her action.
GS: Marivel Armitage critically Guards a hit from Erzebet Lefanu's Beautiful Bullet Array for 21 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell completely evades a hit from Acacia Saitani's Bury The Lede!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        It's that childlike aspect of Kamui that's so off-putting to Ragnell, really. It's clear that she has power enough to fight, but she lacks the mentality, and it's really--grating? Hmm, it's that, but it's also--jarring. It just feels *wrong*. Of course, she supposes a robot doesn't have to match a human in any way at all, does it...
        
        Either way, it's really raining on her enthusiasm for battle. Perhaps even... MUIteoraining?!
        
        Yeah, it's doing that, too.
        
        "If you don't wanna get called lame, stop being so lame!" she calls back at Kamui. But then the robot tearfully tells her to stop being mean to Clarine too. Ragnell works through about half a dozen potential quips before she decides she's had enough and responds with an eyeroll and a thoroughly disgrunted, "Ughhh, whatever." Kamui starts in on some other friend who liked fighting, and Ragnell snappily adds, "I don't care about your backstory!!"
        
        That flaming head soars at Ragnell, and while she might sweep to one side quick enough to avoid a direct hit, the robot CHOMPS hard onto her arm. She snarls in pain as it sinks into her pseudo-flesh, flames prickling and peeling it away, and then she attempts to shake it off. The only thing that keeps her from losing her temper entirely, ironically, is Acacia, who is put off by Ragnell agreeing with her. Her attempt at a quip distracts Ragnell from her growing irritation and gets her to laugh.
        
        "A mongoose? The hell is that supposed to mean? You kids these days and your weird-ass slang." She shakes her head in clear amusement. "Well then, Lady Mongoose, if you're so worried about your robot friend, can you tell her to not--" She flashes another razor grin. "--fall to pieces like this?"
        
        However Acacia responds, Ragnell then dives to one side, rolling along with the arc of Acacia's attack. It pings just right to remove Kamui's head, which she hurls back towards its body. This might seem nice, since it's not a hard enough throw to be an attack, except when Ragnell comes up on one knee, she aims one of her pistols to the ceiling, charges it, and fires. The blast goes up--and then comes down, *hard*, around Kamui and Acacia in a torrential downpour of lightning and rain, each empowering the other.
        
        Mysteriously, it does not do any harm to the mech, despite Acacia being right behind it. Hopefully that cover will do her some good.

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Kamui with Storm Shot!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Acacia Saitani with Storm Shot!
GS: Disrupt expired!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Kamui guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Storm Shot for 150 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ganondorf Dragmire has posed.

Ganondorf's power rips away from him after managing not to completely bisect Ida; the martial artist bounces away, instead.

"Your wishes are of no interest," Ganondorf declares, not even looking at Xiumei. He whips toward her then, blade crashing through her shots, clean sweeps annihilating projectiles. A few do land on him but they seem to do little but make the man grunt; yield scant inches. Ida plays to the man's seeming obsession with screaming his truth to all who will hear it, and he answers it tidily: "THIS is but one of the many Gerudo bladestyles taught me long before your day," he declares. "You will taste its power completely before you see another!"

Xiumei casts her supporting banner across herself and her protectors, and Ganondorf half-turns as if intent on doing something about that; but Ida times her strike right and forces him to defend himself from it. She feints--

And that falling knife-hand crashes into a precisely-placed cross-blade block. He saw completely through her. The chi discharges into those blades, but they blaze with light and then swallow all that power. The blades turn to silent silver. The Demon King stares at Ida for a lingering moment.

"If you survive," he amends, and then his blades ROAR with power, and the King of the Desert slams both down into Ida, releasing all that power BACK into her, crackling energy cursing and coursing through her. Then he whirls on his heels, and SHOOTS forward - the air curling in his passage as he bullets past Xiumei completely, lands directly in front of Eleanor, and...

Slams his swords into the ground. His fist balls and a shining outline of a triangle blazes on his fist just before he slams it into Eleanor's gut..

"Do stop that," he decrees.

Then he whips again, blades flipped swiftly into his hands as he rushes Xiumei from behind. The blades glow with a foul light now as he rushes her, and SLAMS both weapons into her, dark magic roaring through them and into her.

"YOU HAVE NOT THE COURAGE TO STOP ME, CHILD!" Ganondorf roars, and whirls his blades high. They blaze, the light shifting from darkness to blazing glory--

And SLAMS them down, the force of the strike loosening dust from the ceiling and shattering the ground.

GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has spent 4 Combo on Poison and Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire enters a Counter stance!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with No Gods Or Masters!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Eleanor Klein with Punish the Defiant!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has spent 1 Combo on Link, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Zhang Xiumei with What Is Eternal!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has launched an attack Link!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Zhang Xiumei with Seek The Old World!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jam expired!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has completed his action.
GS: Eleanor Klein takes a glancing hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Punish the Defiant for 74 hit points!
GS: Mute! applied to Eleanor Klein!
GS: Zhang Xiumei takes a solid hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's What Is Eternal for 0 hit points!
GS: Zhang Xiumei enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Cripple expired!
GS: Zhang Xiumei takes a solid hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Seek The Old World for 194 hit points!
GS:  Infect extends negative status by 1 round!
GS: Zhang Xiumei has been weakened by Disease! Zhang Xiumei can't gain THP until the Disease is cured!
GS: Disease! applied to Zhang Xiumei!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's No Gods Or Masters for 0 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey suffers an additional 27 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Poison and Reaper! applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Acacia Saitani guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Storm Shot for 122 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

"I think that says a lot more about how much you valued that person's feelings than anything to do with Clarissa's convictions," Ashley answers back with the sharpness of someone who takes significant umbrage with what Matilda is selling. A shot rings out, only for the slug to connect with the flat of Ashley's enormous bayonet. The musketeer hisses back an (extremely mild) curse as his arms buckle and strain to absorb the impact. "Anyone who's willing to sacrifice their friends and loved ones for anything has their priorities way out of line!"

Elsewhere, Irvine Vold Valeria scratches at an irritated earlobe. Perhaps someone is speaking poorly of him somewhere...? No, that can't be right. If that's how this worked, he'd never stop scratching...!

"Anyway! I don't think any member Odessa has any right to complain about 'hostage taking,' considering the stunts you've pulled! Vinsfeld is holding the entire planet hostage for his ambitions, and now he's roping the moon in, too!" Ashley leaps back, racking an empty cartrige out from his rifle's chamber. "Seems a bit hypocritical to be criticizing anyone for making demands, all things considered!"

He takes aim, ready to fire again, but someone... gets in the way!? No! Clarissa tackles in! Ashley opens his mouth to shout a warning, but it dies in his throat when he realizes just what she's up to. He smiles, loading a strange cylinder into his weapon's chamber. Wisps of blue light curl away from the device as it begins to glow...! "You got it! On the count of three--"

"One!" Waves of azure energy ripple from the oversized rifle. "Two...!" The air hums as Ashley takes aim, power and light flooding the barrel of his weapon, even as it nearly vibrates out of his grip...! "Three!"

                               "RISING NOVA!"

He pulls the trigger.

A beam of blue-white energy surges out of the weapon, flash-melting nearby stone as it surges past. The beam smashes into ground and target alike, pouring across the cavern floor before exploding upwards in a pillar of azure flame!

GS: Ashley Winchester has spent 1 Combo on Gatling, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Rising Nova!
GS: Ashley Winchester has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashley Winchester has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

Xiumei feels the eyes on her. She is conscious of all of them.

She feels Eleanor's eyes on her back; the mixture of concern and relief, the desperation of their fight. She feels the power of Geo and Muse, surging through her and infusing her. She stands a little taller -- feels her spirit buoyed, for just a moment.

It is almost enough to think she can do this.

She feels Kamui's eyes on her, but perhaps not looking specifically for her. Her spirit wavers, because she knows enough of the history -- about something Kamui can't let herself remember. Why did Marivel ever have to tell her that?

She keeps running forward, the Pulse Cannon firing shots that weave in with Ida's furious melee strikes. Ganondorf's eyes aren't on her. They aren't on her, until she spins--

--In time for both of his blades to slam down into her. One smashes into shoulder armor, caving it in; the other slips under her armor, and bites deep, drawing blood, and the sheer might of it hurls her. She flies, slamming into the side of the Guts-Dozer, and crumples there. Her eyes close, when she does, and her head leans to the side.

Xiumei can't feel the eyes on her any longer.

GS: CRITICAL! Matilda Whitehead takes a solid hit from Ashley Winchester's Rising Nova for 276 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine frowns at Ragnell's response...but right now she has her hands full with Erzebet, so she has to go with the latter.

"Kamui...! I...I do not think you are lame!" She calls out as reassurance.

And then, back toward Erzebet. Clarine looks a little confused as she accuses them of being mean. ...She's a little concerned about her state, too. But not knowing humans very well, that probably makes sense??

She listens quietly, standing there. And then, Erzebet addresses her directly, and calls her out for hesitating - and tells her what to do.

Clarine gets the message as the fireworks engulf her and send her reeling back. She's smoking faintly, though she shows no outward sighs of damage, though the light emitting from her flickers somewhat.

"...Du...duly noted." Clarine coughs out, eyes narrowing.

And then the mirrors begin to spin. She swings her hand again, this time upward - the mirrors follow the gesture in an uppercut motion at the same time as one of them slides itself under Clarine's, lifting her up. And again, Clarine swings her hands, the mirrors striking out another time - and again, she rises, and again the cycle repeats.

She's a good way into the air now, and the mirrors fly up to join her. She holds her arms out, then, and emits a brilliant light.

This light is not meant for Erzebet, however, or even her enemies - but for her allies. It's not harsh or blinding, but warm, friendly, encouraging and, in Marivel's case, not that painful - likely due to Clarine's own assurance.

Though it fills the entire room, the mirrors catch it and reflect it onto several people in particular to ensure it reaches them - friends who Clarine thinks could use the encouragment the most, perhaps.

GS: Seraph Clarine has spent 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with Solar Ascent!
GS: Seraph Clarine has launched an attack Link!
GS: Ratatoskr has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ratatoskr has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Ratatoskr has posed.

        Ratatoskr only stops long enough to see Ashton get back up and strike back. His yellow eyes flash more vividly at being called a monster. The grin of the survivor of his people just gets that much wider, even as quicksilver dribbles down the side of his mouth. The combination of blows continues.
        It is a loud, violent, gut-wrenching dance to watch - but something primal, the way two blades and two limbs fight to just go at each other. The latter belong to one of a people made of Living Metal - steel as much or more than the blades Ashton wields. Each collision could deafen. It is not just a dance of steel - it is, in many ways, two dances of steel.
        Dances of steel that could be well out of step with one another, for all the collisions.
        Ashton gains ground, in time, and there is one stroke of the blade that gives a different feel of feedback for when it finally gets through Ratatoskr's offensive defenses. A carving, a splash of quicksilver. More. A vertical slash finally opens Ratatoskr up, and Ashton's the one who holds the dance floor as Ratatoskr staggers across a fallen piece of rubble. His posture is hunched over. His voice, raspy. Fists clench and unclench. His tail stands on end, shaking. It rattles a sound very few present are equipped to hear, as it's out of the hearing range of humans.
        He looks positively beastial.
        "...That's what I like most..." Ratatoskr rasps, having to press his right palm against the opposite forearm because it's taking a while for that wound to knit. "...I keep hearing it... I keep seeing it... they're asking one another to stop fighting...?" He muses aloud. "But you... you don't have that reservation...! You really want to hurt me... you really want to give it your all..."
        Somehow the grin lessens. It's more of a smile.
        "Your name, your techniques... your history... it's worth keeping... but I want more of it!" He doesn't look like he can or should take more of it but when has that ever stopped a soldier whose people can bounce back from the most grievous of wounds? There's so much going on around him. A man who projects his voice and promises one of many smiles, he can feel that power behind him. Brilliant light flashes around, towards those of ARMS. There is a very strange girl who threw her head. That's just a handful of stand-out examples, as the entire chamber rumbles and shines underneath so many awesome displasy of power.
        It all obfuscates the power building around Ratatoskr's horn, but it's not an intentional design on his part. If he were an outside observer, he might see it as just a sign of humility about how amazing all these tactics and techniques afforded to humans are. It will be much clearer and much more obvious to Ashton as Ratatoskr finds footing to step forward again, because the air's a fair bit hotter as he draws nearer.
        "Hyahaha--! ...As many times as we both live...! Come on!!" He tries to thrust the horn in an upwards striking motion, at which point the gathered power explodes - point blank - in a bright laser beam as Ratatoskr just gets himself carried away with the whole thing.

GS: Ratatoskr has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Ratatoskr has attacked Ashton Anchors with Yggdrasil Burst!
GS: Break expired!
GS: Ratatoskr has completed his action.
GS: Erzebet Lefanu guards a hit from Seraph Clarine's Solar Ascent for 93 hit points!
GS: Ashton Anchors guards a hit from Ratatoskr's Yggdrasil Burst for 95 hit points!
GS: Ashton Anchors enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"Mm. I am lucky." Marivel admits. "On that front." Whatever moment has seized her seems to have faded when Erzebet asked her abotu her friends. Maybe it reminded her of something. Or not. Hard to say.

Clarine had asked her if they should hold back. Marivel hadn't been able to think about that. There is honestly a lot she just has to rely on hope here. The last thing she wants to do is fight Kamui's insult war with Ragnell for her.

"We could be friends too," Marivel says. "If you wanted. Tis not as if I hate you, Erzebet."

She exhales faintly and adds, "And as for why we want it? We were told to fetch it. We have our orders as much as you do, after all. I was a bookworm too, you know." Her eyes narrow faintly. "If you saw me when I was young, you might find that we weren't so different."

Is she just villain speeching at Erzebet now? Her eyes slant towards Erzebet's arm. The ease with which she slips out. "I imagine Clarine would be a better friend to you than Ganondorf Dragonmir, Ancient Demonic King of a Bygone Age And Kidnapper Of Elves."

'Making demands while saying nobody has to get hurt is just hostage taking.'

"Oh that's pretty clever. I'll have to use that someday." Marivel says she is going to blatantly steal Matilda's cool line one day. Ashley's retort is pretty reasonable but it just doesn't have the same punch.

What is happening to her, Clarine had asked her.

Should she hold back?

"She is becoming more like--" Marivel starts to answer when Erzebet unleashes a firework. Marivel is winged but she throws herself back, pulling in those tendrils back into her body, exhaling sharply before adding, "I don't really care about Odessa outside of a philisophical disagrement and their general treatment of my family."

She straightens to full height. "That is of little consequence as to why I am 'doing this'."

She jerks a thumb over to Ashley Winchester. "I made a pact with that boy. And a pact with the Valeria household. I am their 'monster'. That is why I am doing this."

Clarine's light is pretty great but Marivel deftly dodges it for obvious reasons, instead swinging her arms up and sending another wave of slicing blood for Erzebet's body!

"Are you alright, Clarine?"

GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with Bloody Mari!
GS: Marivel Armitage has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes 22 damage from Poison!
GS: Disease and Poison expired!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
GS: Erzebet Lefanu takes a solid hit from Marivel Armitage's Bloody Mari for 164 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        Maybe it's not all that less off-putting for Kamui either, who's lapsing between moods of ache and pain from something Xiumei said to her about -- about -- 'Varius' -- that's clearly hurting her and...

        The Guts-Dozer too.

        Kamui's Head latches on with teeth and holds on hard with a whine and a sob, though when she gets pinged off Kamui's Head flies off with a X_X expression... in time to get caught by Kamui's Body to be reattached.

        She's not terribly singed from her own flames, somehow, but...

        "I can't abandon it, Master... not another..." Kamui whispers. "He's going to just get used for war... ... just like ..."

        A pause as her remaining camera-eye narrows to Ragnell's next attack. So Ragnell herself has a pistol that can charge... just like the Buster. But she's not a Reploid, of course. Is this the power of the Seraph?

        But Xiumei lands on the side of the Guts-Dozer, and her eyes widen further. "Xiumei... Xiumei!"

        It distracts her hard and long enough to get zapped--

        A WHILE AGO

        Dash explains to Kamui, paraphrased, "Here in Spira... Machina like us are weak to Lightning!"

        NOW

        >>PRESS TURN!<<

        Lightning strikes and convulses through the body of the entire Reploid, who's sent back and sailing on the other side of the Guts-Dozer and crashes through an errant bit of rock and disappears into it.

        ...

GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Radiant Horizon!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Ashley Winchester with Radiant Horizon!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Ashton Anchors with Radiant Horizon!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Kamui with Radiant Horizon!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Acacia Saitani with Radiant Horizon!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Radiant Horizon!
GS: Seraph Clarine has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Clarine has completed her action.
GS: Clarissa Arwin takes a solid hit from Seraph Clarine's Radiant Horizon for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! applied to Clarissa Arwin!
GS: Ashley Winchester takes a solid hit from Seraph Clarine's Radiant Horizon for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! applied to Ashley Winchester!
GS: Kamui has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kamui takes a solid hit from Seraph Clarine's Radiant Horizon for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! applied to Kamui!
GS: Acacia Saitani takes a solid hit from Seraph Clarine's Radiant Horizon for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! applied to Acacia Saitani!
GS: Ashton Anchors takes a solid hit from Seraph Clarine's Radiant Horizon for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! applied to Ashton Anchors!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Seraph Clarine's Radiant Horizon for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes an additional 5 damage from Reaper!
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

Quicksilver flies, spraying the air. Ashton's blades are finding Hyadean flesh more with each swing of his arm. He would say it was almost as if Ratatoskr was letting him hit - but Ashton's got more than a sneaking suspicion that's true. The strange Demon likes pain, in a crazy way.
 
Perhaps foolishly, Ashton actually slackens his strikes a little. "I have no reservation in putting down a rabid beast!" Ratatoskr steps forward - Ashton steps back. "I know you won't stop fighting, and I'll not waste breath on a madman."
 
Giving those inches was a terrible idea - now Ashton pays for it. The upwards thrust - the explosion of power. This one isn't deflected and hits home. It's only timing that saves him: Clarine's bright flash of light goes off in the heartbeat before the Yggdrasil Burst goes off. The laser's point-blank strike is met by the wall of radiant Seraph light. The two meet, and the force is cushioned. Ashton's entire body still rocks backwards, tumbling over some of the debris from the force.
 
For a moment, he can only groan in pain. His mind doesn't immediately grasp that he's not unconcious on the floor. Merely... on the floor. But the ringing in his ears... Ashton gets up to his feet.
 
He snarls, temper flaring. "You may seek to keep my history, creature. But once we're done? They'll not remember yours." Colors simmer behind green eyes - red and blue. The two dragons at his back rear up, scales shimmering in the flashes of battle that surround everyone. The two colors blend and shift, surrounding Ashton in a chromatic helix.
 
The energy whirls before being soaked in - and the Draconic Cerberus' mouth widens to an antagonistic grin. He's got his second wind.

GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Ashton Anchors with Draconic Might!
GS: Ashton Anchors has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
GS: Ashton Anchors heals Ashton Anchors! He gains 150 temporary hit points!
GS:  Restore reduces negative status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Mighty! applied to Ashton Anchors!
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

At this point, Matilda's *angry* -- and that anger does just as much to put her off kilter as having her weapon slapped. She's still trying to get her grip fully back around it when Ashley's follow-up comes. She's too committed to offense in terms of her gear choices to do much to *mitigate* it, either; that surge of blue-white light washes over her.

When at last it passes, Matilda's badly burned, though at the least she's managed to protect her face with her arms. "... Why, are you," she half-hisses, half-pants, "so *small-minded*? Everything is about *who* you believe in, is that it? That the only reason to work with someone is because you believe in them with all your heart?"

Matilda charges Ashley at top speed, discarding her blade. She takes to the air, reaching into her pack; it's not until she's already completed her leap toward Ashley that she withdraws it, though there's a brief flicker of movement from both of her arms mid-leap. Kicking off of Ashley, she launches herself then at Clarissa, aiming to strike her with a fierce elbow, then land neatly in a guarded stance.

GS: Matilda Whitehead enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Ashley Winchester with Kick-Off Reposition!
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Matilda Whitehead's attack becomes clear!
GS: Ashley Winchester guards a hit from Matilda Whitehead's Iron in the Garden for 115 hit points!
GS: Matilda Whitehead assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has spent 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Casting the Bullet!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has launched an attack Link!
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a solid hit from Matilda Whitehead's Casting the Bullet for 0 hit points!
GS: Amplify, Burst, and Hyper! applied to Matilda Whitehead!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Tilling!
GS: Clarissa Arwin completely evades a hit from Matilda Whitehead's Tilling!
GS: Matilda Whitehead's Avenger stance ends. She enters the Stoic stance!
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        Acacia hisses through her teeth a little at the way her shoulder throbs with pain; she grimaces as she glances around her cover. "Kamui! Don't listen to her! She's trying to keep you off balance! They're just words!" she tries to add, but that last part dies in her throat a little. She's all too aware, especially recently, just how much words can hurt.

        Instead she meets Kamui's sad gaze, hearing the whisper over the din of the rest of the fight, and that definitely stops her short. "... okay," she says after the tiniest of pauses, nodding her head. "Okay. So long as it's something you've thought about that much. If you're sure, that's a damn good reason."

        "It's an animal. It bites the hell out of snakes when it's cornered. There's phrases and everything," she growls towards Ragnell the next moment, which is a hell of a claim to make when you're using a Gear for cover - and when she's pressed back hard from the force and reach of Ragnell's attack and the way it curves unnaturally from overhead, rain despite the ceiling of rock above them all.

        "Gh--!" she adds as she drops back, doing her best to roll away from the worst of it but still hissing as her leg slows her down. Hunkering against the Gear, she reloads her pistol more to keep herself busy than to actually set up a plan. She's suddenly aware that they're losing, and badly. Xiumei is down, if Kamui's cry is any indication, and Kamui herself is-- "Kamui!" she calls in surprise and fear as her glance out of cover is enough to witness the Reploid ragdolled through so much rubble. "Shit, shit--... Kamui!"

        She squints, hissing with slight relief as she feels Clarine's light wash over her - but right at the moment, it feels like a very cold kind of comfort. Her thoughts stray up to the Gear above them, wondering if they might be able to get the thing moving again - if that might be their only way out of this.

GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked Acacia Saitani with Retraction!
GS: Acacia Saitani has completed her action.
GS: Acacia Saitani heals Acacia Saitani! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS:  Restore reduces negative status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Cover! applied to Acacia Saitani!
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Ashley would be forgiven, in Matilda's burst of motion, for missing the boot knife she tries to stomp into him as she kicks off.

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Clear declarations, talk of kingship; Eleanor, too, could retort that she has a King already, more than most, as next in line to Klein's rulership. And yet...

Words--Eleanor's preferred implement, all her diplomatic training--somehow seems... insufficient, in this; it shows in the little hesitations, in the way she watches and keeps fighting. There is a time for fighting--

It isn't just the threat.

Already, as she unleashes her healing spell, she stows its implement, hands free to help her react, to move--what she lacks in athleticism she can make up for in magic, in theory. "Miss Ever--" She calls in alarm for Ida, catching the stare, but he moves past her. Eleanor starts to think through her defensive options--and he goes past Xiumei, too. She blinks, strange yellow eyes wide as she looks up, up--

No. No, her gaze catches on his fist, not his face. The flashing of gold there; the outline of a triangle--in that instant, Eleanor's gaze is no longer in front of her. Her awareness is no longer entirely in the moment.

Her vision is filled with light, shining pure in a realm free of all evil. Before her is a gentle whirling triad of those same triangles, right....

...And then the two fade, and the entire vision darkens, darkness spreading like spilled ink on a page.

"Ah--" She is already crumped down on one knee when she can see again, and she hears his decree barely. "You--" She can't quite get the words out, out of breath. She feels it--the magic within her is... blocked, dampened. Not gone, but--

Her eyes are on Xiumei, then, as Ganondorf rushes her. As he drwas blood--

Her eyes widen. It's hard to say if the tears in her eyes are stress, worry, or pain--but the sharpness of her look in the next moment suggests it isn't sadness. Something... Something is--

"It doesn't belong to you!" Eleanor shouts, without explaining, and her fingertips erupt in flame as the Crest in her other hand gleams. Crests of Fray, doubled in its purest state, gleam as she forces out--

"No man forever holds back the weight of eternity--"

"Face the Desert of Years!"

Golden light crashes forward and towards Ganondorf, a heat that is no longer terrestrial flame but the the idea of consumption translated in the Ley onto another axis, and these flames burn as if far, far longer than the mere moments they exist.

...Though those moments are long, as Eleanor holds out her hand and channels everything into the spell she can muster.

GS: Eleanor Klein has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Desert of Years!
GS: Eleanor Klein has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Disrupt expired!
GS: Eleanor Klein has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

Xiumei's eyes open back up.

It is with a slow blink; rigid, almost. Her green eyes snap to the side, to where Eleanor is. Then, she stands up, her legs shaking underneath her for a moment, before they finally stabilize. Then, she reaches a hand up to her mouth. Her lip is split. She runs a thumb across it, roughly, and doesn't even wince. She looks at the smear of blood on the tip of her thumb.

"...heh," she laughs, roughly. "Never thought I'd see that..."

Her other hand curls about the Pulse Cannon, and then she lifts it with a snap-like, yet fluid motion. She pulls the trigger with near-perfect timing, loosing a trio of energy blasts for Ganondorf as Eleanor's spell summons fire and fury around him. She starts speaking, after that -- and while the voice is Zhang Xiumei's, the cadence is all wrong. Her tone is much too forceful, her words too short. "I guess... I'm not quite done saving these humans' asses."

Xiumei's body moves. She leaps first, bounding up over Ida -- and then over Ganondorf. The Pulse Saber fires again, another trio of purple energy shots raining down at the King of Evil from above. Then, her hand tosses the Pulse Cannon out to the side. It makes it a meter from her body, before it vanishes in a burst of blue-white light.

The armored figure descends through it, the Pulse Saber appear in both hands. The energy sword explodes into existence, and green-white lightning crackles as it slams into Ganondorf's ensorcelled blades.

"If you have to know, for the moment, it's Varius," he says, still with Xiumei's voice. "And I don't need courage, to do the one thing I was made to do--"

The Pulse Saber becomes a blur; a flash of strikes, testing Ganondorf's defenses and meeting retorts, until their blades are a dance of plasma and steel, sparks and lightning. It is done with a deftness and skill that Xiumei has never shown.

In the midst of that furious melee, he lands, feet smashing into the ground and sending up dirt and dust. Then, he jerks his blade backward. Light flares up the sides of it, so brilliant that it becomes a sunburst--

--and Varius charges forward, blade cleaving for Ganondorf's side with one, perfect strike. "Kill things like you."

GS: Varius has activated a Force Action!
GS: Varius has activated a Force Action!
GS: Varius has spent 1 Combo on Link, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Varius has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Pulse Aerial Rush!
GS: Varius has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Varius has launched an attack Link!
GS: Varius has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Varius has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Pulse Saber Charge Slash!
GS: Varius has gained 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        Acacia starts looking through the rubble, but after a moment's silence... Kamui emerges out again, one hand at a time. She's crisp and electrocuting herself at places. Her speech is a bit static-y, much like how she was in Operation Mi'ihen. She's not doing terribly well; her voice-box is starting to hiss once more, perhaps overloaded by the electricity afforded from Ragnell's storm shot.

        "Y-YYou're right... griPPing about sAAd things that happened to you IIIsn't going to fix anything. That's jUUUst rude... and uncalled for..."

        Kamui scans her eyes towards Xiumei again, full of worry. But then she turns her head back towards Ragnell.

        "So if reAAlly I want to help Clarine... I'm gOOnna... have to get to know you beTTTer too. Ragnell! And you're like my friend..."

        She's looking at Xiumei. Who has risen, rigid, with... a voice that is hers, and yet at the same time not hers. She doesn't quite know why she's looking at her, or rather, the person who has taken over as she charges forward with a brilliant pulsing blade...

        Then she's speaking without knowing too:

        "...if you are like my friend... who was often stubborn... and hardheaded... and often can only show friendshIIIp through fightinGG... then..."

        A sphere of ephemeral light has gathered into the hand of the Reploid, as she uses those mysterious Foot Parts of hers to just utterly negotiate through the terrain -- an aerial dash brings her close to the Seraph, before she dives down to the ground with her fist struck out--

        "GEEEt ReadYYY--"

        --not at Ragnell, but to crush to the ground. The first form of the attack is simply rock, with greatly moved earth flinging out in a scatter pattern from the sheer impact of the strike...

        But the second is the energy loosed within, where-- a phoenix tail-shaped fan of energy bursts out, scattering forcefully within the vicinity as its flamboyant feathers to chase after the Lightning Seraph.

GS: Kamui has spent 1 Combo on Link, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Kamui has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Limuits are Meant to be Broken...!
GS: Kamui has launched an attack Link!
GS: Kamui enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Kamui has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Rakuhouha - Fallen Phoenix Crush!
GS: Kamui has gained 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Erzebet Lefanu has posed.

 
"Do you think so?" Erzebet answers Marivel, huffing, a little. "Do you think he's my friend? Do you think that? Well, he's not. If you're wondering who I meant, it's no secret - I meant her!" She points her gun at Matilda for emphasis, hopefully not throwing her off from peripheral threat.

"See? She's great. And yet," she says, "and yet. And yet, and yet, and yet."

Erzebet sniffles for a moment.

Her lips thin for a moment.

"If this were a story," Erzebet tells Marivel, "the big twist ending would be... that we were both getting instructions from the same people. Heh, heh... wouldn't that be something?"

"I wish I could think of... something more to say... this is really a pretty shitty performance by me, but I guess in my defense I had no idea it was coming," Erzebet then says, as she shifts to the side, eyes narrowing in the brightening light. "It's the real joy of an ambush, you know -- you can plan ahead... figure out what to say, what to do... But here, we ambushed each other, and I suppose you had the advantage of -"

Then Varius shows up. Erzebet's head turns partway to watch him attack Ganondorf. This lets Marivel see her profile, and for a few moments a series of emotions are on her face, clear as a crisp spring morning. First, surprise. Then dismay, mingled with fear; perhaps she is not friends with this ancient demon king, but (Erzebet thinks) didn't we just take down someone like this?

"Hah - hah -"

The fear rises, and then her neck tightens, her head shakes a little, almost spasmodically. Her teeth set. The fear melts into anger, and a moment later the guns are speaking, the flash of muzzle and the streak of lingering burning smoke concealing the fine details of just what she was feeling.

Unless that something was 'a deep, sudden desire to send a fusillade of burning lead at Marivel and the Seraph CLarine' but, like, is that really an emotion? It probably isn't the first time someone's dealt with their emotions by opening fire at both of them. (Maybe Clarine.)

<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Clarissa's used this team-up maneuver with Felius on more than one occasion. She wasn't sure Ashley would catch on - but he seems to have. The rising nova shines blue, and Clarissa comes out of her defensive roll in time to watch her companion strike true.

Through it all comes the light. As Clarine shines, Clarissa draws her breath to steady herself as the glow washes over her, bringing an assurance with her that reminds her pleasantly of a past she remembers all too keenly. Her grip tightens, her back stiffening and her shoulders squaring, and she smiles quietly, making a note to hug her Seraph friend later.

But she doesn't have time for that now. The flame has passed, and Matilda's still standing, angrier than ever. Clutching her ARM more tightly, Clarissa takes a couple of steps back, not in a hurry to get back into melee range with the woman. Matilda's wise to her close-range tricks now. It would be suicide.

Matilda gives her little option. The woman kicks off of Ashley and comes hurtling at her. Darting back, Clarissa lunges away as quickly as she possibly can.

It's a close thing. The move plays out as if in slow motion. Clarissa's lunge throws her to one side, moving in the opposite direction Matilda is moving. Her shoulders and head steadily come down as Matilda's arm arcs through the air. The blonde girl's not going to be fast enough - she'll miss the dodge by seconds.

Until she slips her arm up just a little. The back of her hand brushes beneath Matilda's bicep. It is a very light touch.

The elbow sails past her cheek by mere millimetres. It's so close that it knocks Clarissa's cap off. But her momentum keeps her going, sailing under Matilda's arm as she twists through the air, landing on her hands and nearly dashing Strahl Gewehr against the rocks. She flips back and away, twisting in the air and touching down to an acrobatic landing.

Clarissa lets out the breath she was holding, but she keeps moving, darting away to try and gain range on Matilda. All she knows is that the woman could probably break her jaw if she let her get that close again. She can't. It's out of the question. Out of the corner of her eye, she can see Xiumei doing something - calling herself something else. That ARM of hers-- she thinks, but she can't fully process it, knowing only that something has gone terribly wrong. She can hear Kamui's voice breaking up. Another friend in danger.

Xiumei, Kamui... I have to do something.

Not for the first time, it occurs to Clarissa that she's probably the weakest member of ARMS. Most of them are professionals and magicians and wielders of ancient technologies. Clarissa Arwin is simply one girl with an heirloom - her lucky charm of an ARM.

"You're the one who has to live with your decision," she snaps towards Matilda as she brings Strahl Gewehr to bear, firing a blast towards her. The cavern illuminates with the brilliant light of it. "I know what I believe in, and it's not the kind of world you're signing up for!"

Beyond the light of the battle, Felius - engaged with a couple of Odessa soldiers who arrived late - hurls one opponent into a wall before whirling, eyes wide and locked on Xiumei - or is it Varius now? He clicks his teeth sharply together, tensing visibly, before drawing a breath and squaring himself. He exerts visible effort to resume his detached expression as he pivots back to focus on his own battle.

GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Marivel Armitage with Let's Break The Laws Restraining Our Hearts!!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Kamui's Limuits are Meant to be Broken... for 85 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Dandelion Shot!
GS: Hyper expired!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has completed her action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Kamui's attack becomes clear!
GS: CRITICAL! Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Kamui's Limuit Break -Memories of M. and A.- for 121 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell enters Critical health and gains 25 FP!
GS: Marivel Armitage guards a hit from Erzebet Lefanu's Let's Break The Laws Restraining Our Hearts! for 112 hit points!
GS: Amplify! applied to Marivel Armitage!
GS: Marivel Armitage enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Seraph Clarine with Let's Incinerate The Boundaries Between Us!!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu takes 22 damage from Poison!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has completed her action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Clarissa Arwin's attack becomes clear!
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a solid hit from Clarissa Arwin's Extra Critical for 186 hit points!
GS: Matilda Whitehead enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

There's more to Clarissa's attack than simply a ray.

Something pulses within Strahl Gewehr's beam. As if responding to some unseen cue, the beam swells and screeches, burning hotter and brighter. Shadows cast out from around it as the high-powered beam races at Matilda, intent on swallowing her up within a level of power Clarissa hasn't demonstrated so far today.

If it's something she did deliberately, it's hard to tell - or if something else is at work.

GS: Seraph Clarine guards a hit from Erzebet Lefanu's Let's Incinerate The Boundaries Between Us! for 114 hit points!
GS: Weaken! applied to Seraph Clarine!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida's hand glances off of Ganondorf's guard. A low grunt escapes her lips--it's all the frustration she can afford to show. She steps back, weaving seamlessly into another fighting stance: hands clenched and raised to guard, body twisted to the side to narrow her profile. Soothing light washes over her as Eleanor's healing spell finds purchase. Pinkish-silver biometal seeps up around Ida's wounded shoulder, molding itself to her skin and hardening. She feels something pull tight in the flesh beneath--a sensation she recognizes as Living Metal mending human arteries.

        "Then I'll just have to survive, won't I?" Ida says. Her vision twists, skews, slows. The dark aura that is Ganondorf's lifeforce flares. Ida shifts her weight, and twists into a pirouette. One blade blurs past her, and clips the button off her traveler's cloak--the garment falls off her, flutters to the floor. The other blade slams into her armored shoulder. Sickening energy erupts from it, boiling into Ida's veins and nerves. She can't keep from screaming.

        Xiumei goes flying. Ida sees her slam into the side of the Guts-Dozer. "Help her!" Ida shouts, as if Eleanor needs further incentive. Distantly, she finds herself thinking of Berserk, and how it felt to have her ribs broken by a glancing blow from his mace, and how it felt to struggle for breath as that horrible laughter echoed--

        Ida's voice rises in a hoarse, strangled battlecry. She reaches behind her, her fingers closing around the grip of Devil's Due and tearing the ARM from its holster. For a few seconds, Ida's gaze grows distant; she's looking through Ganondorf, rather than at him. Chi swells up around her, a wispy golden aura around an corona of inner flame. The aura of chi collapses on itself, seeping into Ida's skin, and into the ARM. In a single motion, she aims Devil's Due at Ganondorf Dragmire's face. The world seems to hold its breath.

        Ida pulls the trigger. Raw dragonfire, suffused with the Flame that Sustains the World, erupts from the ARM's barrel. It surges at the King of Evil in a relentless tide, bright and all-consuming. Ida only stops when she runs out of metaphorical ammo.

        "Xiumei, get Eleanor and get out of here!" she shouts. She sounds winded. She clearly did not hear Varius explaining himself.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has spent 1 Combo on Link, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Inhalation!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has launched an attack Link!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has spent 2 Combo on Poison and Gatling, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Breath Of The Fire Dragon!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: COUNTER! Ganondorf Dragmire counterattacks Eleanor Kleinwith Counter Attack!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire guards a hit from Eleanor Klein's Desert of Years for 95 hit points!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has been weakened by Disease! Ganondorf Dragmire can't gain THP until the Disease is cured!
GS: Disease! applied to Ganondorf Dragmire!
GS: Eleanor Klein takes a solid hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Counter Attack for 153 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ratatoskr has posed.

        Ashton snarls, and his curse/companions/anatomical irregularities/merchandiseable characters join him in unison. An unambiguous stand of a commitment to putting down a 'rabid monster' before them.
        Ratatoskr grins, even as his vision has some trouble recentering the levels of light after the blinding power of protective light helps cushion and save Ashton from the worst, as smoke rises from the horn.
        Quicksilver continues to drip from wounds that do not heal quick enough to prevent the loss of his alien blood.
        "My history...?" Ratatoskr asks, the tone of his voice hushed. "Who cares about mine?" Isn't that... the point of Ashton's taunt and jest, to leave this eighteen-to-twenty-four-year-old Hyadean soldier to linger in obscurity for eternity? So many interesting, amazing things are happening all around them. His eyes dim - as if the closest they can truly get to 'closing' - as if to try and take in the defiant yells, the calls of belief, the sounds of destruction and power without visual distraction. All this, over an old thing that mostly fought rocks.
        When the yellows of his eyes brighten again to refocus upon the grinning Draconic Cerebrus, air escapes through the manic grin of Ratatoskr's sharp teeth.
        "That draconic might..." Ratatoskr sees the energies of red and blue build around Ashton, who is ready and poised to strike him down, as if savoring the look on that face. A face that should register to him as one to fear, as a fight or flight reflex. Indeed, his heart is pounding from adrenaline, but it's a reflex his kind intristically - by their culture - misread, misunderstand, and often times disregard in favor of continuing to engage.
        A consequence of pain oft not being a good enough teacher.
        Ratatoskr goes forward. He's got another wind. He's lost count. Even deeply injured, he still has his on-board compressed air shotgun ARMs to propel him forward in one violent burst, to bodily ram himself into all of that.
        "I like yours more!!" A strange war cry, indeed, but one shouted with an unabashed earnestness on par with any of the other spoken words of reasoning and convincing the ARMS team has attempted on Odessa's own.

GS: Ratatoskr has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ratatoskr has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ratatoskr has spent 2 Combo on Gatling, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Ratatoskr has attacked Ashton Anchors with Lost Count Wind!
GS: Ratatoskr has completed his action.
GS: Ashton Anchors critically Guards a hit from Ratatoskr's Lost Count Wind for 20 hit points!
GS: Ashton Anchors enters CONDITION GREEN!!
Erzebet Lefanu (erzebet) pages Seraph Clarine and Marivel Armitage: i got some water so i'm cheering up a little...
honestly i'm not sure, i apologize for complicating things, clarine
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire guards a hit from Varius's Pulse Aerial Rush for 96 hit points!
GS: Mighty! applied to Varius!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire guards a hit from Varius's Pulse Saber Charge Slash for 105 hit points!
GS: Varius assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Inhalation for 0 hit points!
GS: Amplify! applied to Ganondorf Dragmire!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Breath Of The Fire Dragon for 99 hit points!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire suffers an additional 27 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Poison! applied to Ganondorf Dragmire!
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

No, Ashley was certainly not expecting a hidden boot dagger when he lifted and braced his arms to block Matilda's acrobatic kick. His eyes widen in shock and pain when the blade sinks straight through one of his heavy, leather gloves and into the flesh and bone beneath. He only barely manages to bite back a yelp of pain when she kicks back off, sending him staggering back into a jagged stone pillar.

And yet, the wounds... aren't as deep as they might have been. Moments before impact, a curtain of light raced through the underground, washing over Ashley and Clarissa both. A veil of lucent armor glimmers across Ashley's body, dented and pierced in spots that even now begin to darken with fresh blood, but...

"This light..." Ashley wonders, watching as the lingering energies coruscate around his fingertips, "Clarine... I owe you one!" The Seraph's presence is a relatively recent one, her power is still something he's getting used to, but it's certainly a welcome addition to the team. Even if-- even if things are kind of looking bad over there. Even when Xiumei's voice takes on an unfamiliar, rough tone and the King of Evil's oppressive presence remains undiminished in the background.

...They need to hurry. This is getting dangerous.

"You're putting words in my mouth," Ashley barks back, loading a fresh canister into his rifle. "Of course there are things we're fighting for, goals we're striving for, but are they worth more than the people I love...?" He aims-- and fires. A cylinder launches from the oversized barrel with a soft *FWOOMPF!* It carves a lazy arc through the air, alighting just overtop of Matilda's position before exploding into a crackling network of electricity...!

...Moments before whatever it is Clarissa just did swallows the electromagnetic net up in a wave of blinding power beyond anything Ashley's seen her unleash before. The subterrannean night seems to turn abruptly to day and then even further beyond-- it's enough to make him turn away and shield his eyes, to spare his poor, abused retinas...! "Clarissa-- what... What is that!?"

GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Canister - Electromagnetic Net!
GS: Ashley Winchester has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Hyper expired!
GS: Ashley Winchester has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Ragnell's lips curl as Clarine reassures Kamui that she's totally not lame. In her opinion, if you have to have other people reassure you that you're not lame, you're super lame. But then, at this point, insulting Kamui is like insulting a small child; there's no satisfaction in it at all. When *Acacia* tells Kamui to shrug it off because They're Just Words, when Ragnell had been throwing out whatever in her irritation, she grimaces. Now that just feels pathetic.
        
        "This isn't any fun anymore at all," she complains as her Storm Shot hails down its destructive power, scratching her head with one gun. Even trading jabs with Acacia has lost its luster. Thus, when Acacia chases after Kamui's remains in the rubble, Ragnell sighs, lowers her weapons, and shakes her head. "Well, that's that, then. If y'all wanna run, go right ahead."
        
        Except--
        
        Except Kamui, glitching from the lightning fall, arises again. Ragnell's frown deepens. She glances momentarily at Clarine as her healing radiance fills up the room, reflecting off those mirrors off members of ARMS. Her companions ought to be fine, one way or another, then, which at this rate might be more than she can say for her *own* companions. Ragnell looks back at Kamui. "I don't want to be your friend," she says bluntly. "I don't want you to get to know me. I have no interest in you. Get lost."
        
        But naturally, as Ragnell well knows, people don't just leave because you *tell* them to leave, and if someone is fired up to fight, then they're going to fight with all their spirit. The Reploid dashes through the air towards Ragnell, prompting her to instinctively move to dodge, but Ragnell misunderstood what Kamui meant to aim at. The ground crumbles, and while Ragnell might avoid that initial strike, she still has to stumble painfully over now-unsteady terrain when she lands--especially when a beautiful phoenix fantail of energy explodes upwards and races after Ragnell. She manages to shoot a few of those feathers down, but others strike, erupting in fire when they land.
        
        Ragnell roars in pain, momentarily lost in the fire. When she emerges a moment later, she looks far worse for the wear: burnt, torn, scratched, and on her last legs. But she *is* still standing. And she looks pissed.
        
        "You're right about one thing. I *do* like fightin'," she says in a low voice." I like the thrill of it--I like testin' my mettle, an' the other's mettle, an' seein' who of us is stronger. How we can get stronger still." She spreads her arms, tone rising with passion. "I *love* that! It's a joy you can't get from anything else!" Her arms drop. So does her voice. The look in her eye is one of cold contempt. "Except you're fuckin' lame. I don't like you. You're annoying. You talk an' act like a little kid, even though you've got plenty of power. It grates on my nerves. I can't enjoy a fight with someone like you. So I'm gonna go ahead an' end this."
        
        Power *bursts* from Ragnell, then surges up around Kamui and Acacia, building up towards the ceiling--and somehow *beyond* it, into a sky that should not exist. Strokes of Seraphic energy climb, angling here, curving there, climbing up and onwards as they reach into rumbling thunderheads.
        
        "I, who stand in the full light of the heavens,
        "command thee, who opens the gates to hell.
        "Come forth, divine lightning!"
        
        The heavens-that-should-not-be flash gold within the greying indigo.
        
        "Y'all ready to die?" she sneers, before holding out a finger as if to pinpoint where her attack should fall.
        
        "INDIGNATION!"
        
        Lightning the size of a world tree rends the air and falls with a deafening CRACK down to the ground. It crackles. It burns. It illuminates. It electrifies. And it seeks out the warmth that remains in Acacia and Kamui, as if it might rend them in two.
        
        If it doesn't--if they manage to stand up afterwards, and still have the will to fight--well. That's impressive all on its own. At that point, Ragnell might well have to call it for real, rather than because she got sick of the battle.

GS: Seraph Ragnell has activated a Force Action!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has activated a Force Action!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has spent 2 Combo on Gatling, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Kamui with Indignation!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Acacia Saitani with Indignation!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Kamui has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kamui critically Guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Indignation for 38 hit points!
GS: Kamui enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a solid hit from Ashley Winchester's Canister - Electromagnetic Net for 146 hit points!
GS: Jam! applied to Matilda Whitehead!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Acacia Saitani takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Indignation for 213 hit points!
GS: Acacia Saitani enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Ganondorf Dragmire has posed.

Ganondorf cleaves Xiumei and leaves her bleeding in the dirt. Then...

        'It doesn't belong to you!'

Ganondorf's eyes widen, and he very slowly turns toward her. "What...?" he breathes, and then a look of hunger enters his eyes. A fascination curling his lips. He turns. The robes conceal so much of his movement that it seems he almost floats; he doesn't, not really, but....

Such a presence.

At which point Eleanor release the Desert of Years upon him, golden light blasting down upon him. The King of Thieves roars as his body is scathed, and he sways in the unimaginable heat.

"Did you think...the King of the Desert...had never tasted FIRE, CHILD!?" he screams, and thrusts his hand forward, and Eleanor, with all that sorcerous knowledge, can feel Ganondorf grasp her spell and tear it apart.

Make it his. Boiling flame sheets from his hand toward her.

And then, the one he killed gets back up. His eyes slit her way, and his blade snaps up. "Varius," he repeats, and then she's on him.

It is a marvel. Two masters at the apex; each strike blocked with microseconds to spare, two titans of the blade clashing in stroke and counterstroke. Ganondorf doesn't speak or gloat. He is pushed, now. Pressured to the point that his whole focus narrows to the next clash of plasma and silvery blade. The only sign of any weakness from the King of the Desert is a slow yielding of ground as Varius strikes, strikes, strikes.

Then Varius is able to carve an attack completely through his guard, the sweeping blow carving a gout of light into those impenetrable robes. Ganondorf screams. And then Ida finishes him, bathing him in the annihilating glory of the power that sustains the world.

And then something ignites within those flames. Waves of shining power crushing out the flame like a cigarette beneath God's boot.

Ganondorf's fist is half-raised, fist clenched and turned outward. Splashed across the back of his hand, an icon of three triangles and an empty space, forming a larger triangle. The outline of the top icon glows, with a light less like it were glowing and more like it were a slit into some other world containing nothing but golden radiance.

"'It doesn't belong to me,'" Ganondorf repeats, quietly, and when his eyes open they glow with Power. "Allow me to show you how wrong you are! You think to yoke me with the flame of a mere Guardian!? A wretched spirit that toils hopelessly to sustain a dying world!? Then let me instruct you on the sting of true power!"

And then the world blazes with light, as Ganondorf's Triforce erupts, blasting outward in an annihilating wave. The ground at his feet crackes at the passing, the ceiling rumbles. The Guts-Dozer, he preserves; the warriors of Odessa, he preserves.

The rest, burn in cursed Light.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

The net tangles up Matilda for a moment -- but the net itself is relatively tame compared to what immediately follows. Matilda's prepared for a relatively tame shot, not the all-encompassing blast of light that actually comes; the meat of it catches her in the arm, though it's hard to really say only one thing is being hit in the face of something like that.

... So of course, she decides now would be a great time to turn tail. The underground is dark, and there are many better places to lose someone than here; as Ganondorf summons up a wave of pure power, Matilda decides to use the confusion to book it. By the time the immense eruption finishes, the officer is just gone -- though one might be able to follow a trail of blood, it's a little dark for that. ... and there's no shortage of other such trails, either.

GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Ashley Winchester with Demon King's Gleam!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Demon King's Gleam!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Demon King's Gleam!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Varius with Demon King's Gleam!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Eleanor Klein with Demon King's Gleam!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Ashton Anchors with Demon King's Gleam!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Marivel Armitage with Demon King's Gleam!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has attacked Seraph Clarine with Demon King's Gleam!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire takes 29 damage from Poison!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has completed his action.
GS: Ashley Winchester critically Guards a hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Demon King's Gleam for 42 hit points!
GS: Ashley Winchester enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Seraph Clarine takes a solid hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Demon King's Gleam for 205 hit points!
GS: Seraph Clarine has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Clarissa Arwin takes a glancing hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Demon King's Gleam for 103 hit points!
GS: Clarissa Arwin enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Varius takes a glancing hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Demon King's Gleam for 110 hit points!
GS: Varius enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ashton Anchors guards a hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Demon King's Gleam for 127 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Marivel Armitage takes a solid hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Demon King's Gleam for 301 hit points!
GS: Marivel Armitage has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Eleanor Klein takes a glancing hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Demon King's Gleam for 107 hit points!
GS: Eleanor Klein enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Ganondorf Dragmire's Demon King's Gleam for 108 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes an additional 55 damage from Reaper!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel is distracted by several things

Xiumei is now being piloted by Varius. Kamui's voice box broke AGAIN. Clarissa is proving to be a bit more educated in how she slaughters her enemies, which is nice, but not what Marivel wishes to focus on right now.

"Varius! If you break my daughter's heart again I'm going to rip you out of Zhang and put you on a timeout so long that the star maps will shift!" Marivel shouts. "That's all I really have to say!"

She sees Ganon there. He seems to be giving her pals a real tough fight but that's to be expected. If she interferes then that would only escalate matters--she has a feeling Ganon is hardly going all out here and she'd like it to remain that way.

"Some people offer their friendship freely. Others you have to work for. Some are not worth working for and are people better off being left alone. By no means forever. Sometimes they just need the time to become stronger. As for Matilda, she is a good-hearted woman so I expect her to be very unhappy with Odessa but who knows? Perhaps they are as honest as they claim to be. They're not, but I am a known liar."

She observes Erzebet's emotions for a moment before turning to Ganon--

She doesn't comment on the twist ending in the slightest though it does get Marivel to smile briefly.

She closes her eyes. Fire rips through Marivel but it isn't like the heat of the sun. It isn't like the blaze of the Destroyer.

Marivel is smoldering. She is on fire. She is walking away from Erzebet all the same.

Marivel closes her eyes again and a flash freeze passes over her body. The flames extinguish. The wounds slowly knit themselves shut. Marivel's faux-breathing comes a little easier.

"I feel I've had enough as well. We'll continue this conversation when you're dead."

She seems content to leave Erzebet in the condition she's in as she approaches the Gutsdozer. She has heard a million speeches like Ganon's before and she largely ignores it.

Until Ganon's eyes open and glow with power because Marivel can FEEL that. Ganon sounds like a thousand foes Marivel has defeated or slain but unlike them, Ganon actually has more than mere followers to back up his talk.

It's golden radiance. It's light. And we all know how Marivel feels about light.

Marivel quickly enshrouds herself in her robes and the light of the Triforce slams into her. It's not enough. Marivel is a keeper of Power but so is Ganon, it seems, and his shines so brightly.

She raises a hand into the air and it vaporizes in an instant.

"For a King of Darkness..." Marivel murmurs. "Ahh, you stole that light, didn't you? Just like Prometheus but instead of granting it to humanity, you keep it for yourself."

Her other arm bursts into flames in short order and is obliterated in an instant.

"Eleanor." Marivel looks towards her. "Hero of time."

She raises her her head. "Until I return, you have command. Varius! Look after Kamui! CANCELLER!"

The spell goes out moments before Marivel is utterly consumed by the light. The light of the triforce pulls backwards as time rewinds--

--before suddenly resuming, the full breadth of Marivel's spell being interrupted by her disintegration.

<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

There's a bit of confusion on Ashton's part. He hadn't expected Ratatoskr to react so nonchalantly to 'die in obscurity'. That's usually seen as a bad thing.
 
Then again, Ratatoskr is weird. Like, really weird. Eventually it'll stop surprising him (and then the squirrel will just do something else weird.)
 
When Ratatoskr charges this time, Ashton's ready. He's got his strength back, he's braced and prepared. The two collide with a loud smash - Metal Demon meets metal armor. Something metallic in the mess squeals, rending apart. It isn't clear just what or whos.
 
What does come out the other side is that Ashton is not so much defending against the impact as he is... catching Ratatoskr. And he's dropped his blades, letting them clatter to the ground.
 
A smart person would wonder what he's planning.
 
A smarter person would think he's a damn fool no matter what it is.
 
A dumber person would know what he's got in mind because Ashton loves stupid plans.
 
Ratatoskr is right in Ashton's chest, practically occupying the same space as his ribs. Which is when a dragon head looms up over each shoulder and looks down at the Hyadean. Angry dragon eyes look down at their infuriating opponent, getting ready to unleash....
 
Wait, what's that glow?
 
A wave of raw power SLAMS into Ashton's back, breaking him away from Ratatoskr. It hurls him across the chamber again, skidding across the rough-hewn floor of the chamber. This time, there's absolutely blood and pain. No amount of Seraphic Light will cushion that.
 
On the ground, Ashton groans and tries to push himself back up again. He's slow about it. Too slow. It's only going to be a moment before Ratatoskr's on him again.
 
Ashton's got no chance to react in time.
 
Creepy does.
 
Just as the blue turned and blasted before, this time it's the red's turn. Creepy swings up from Ashton's back, turning and unleashing a wide cone of fire behind him. It's clumsy and fired from the hip - but it just may be enough to keep the swordsman alive until he can stand again.

GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Ratatoskr with Gyoro's Flame!
GS: Ashton Anchors has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Quick and Shield expired!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
GS: Clarissa Arwin has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

As the light of her blast passes, Clarissa blinks a couple of times before giving Ashley a slightly confused look. "I... I'm not sure," she admits. "Sometimes Strahl Gewehr acts funny, or puts out a lot more power all of a sudden...."

Before she can bring her eyes back to Matilda, the woman's rushing off. Clarissa begins to start after her, but soon enough she's ahead of them. She holds her free hand out a moment to reach after her, but lets it fall.

Her words alone won't bring Matilda back. Just shooting her will do nothing to diminish her resolve. It's impossible. Not right now.

And more to the point, something else is happening. In her hands, Strahl Gewehr feels hot. Swallowing hard, she turns slowly towards the looming shadow of the King of the Desert. The power that blazes from his hand carries a promise that seems like it could cast a dying world forever into golden light.

The wave of force explodes outward. Turf cracks and shatters. There's no way Clarissa can possibly avoid a wavefront so all-consuming.

"Clarissa!" Felius shouts, a rare outcry for the normally reticent fellow as the golden light and flame swallow the blonde girl.

She can feel herself burning in cursed light.

        can feel it crumbling
        something around her
        a place other than this
        a second heart beats
        something she should know

"It's not hopeless at all!" a voice suddenly roars out of the golden light.

Through the flames, Clarissa struggles to push her way forward. Burns and slashes race down her arms and legs, her hair billowed out behind her. Thin streams of blood bead off her body, droplets flash-vapourizing in the air. She can barely understand what she's saying. Barely understand the thoughts racing through her mind. An end that never came. A dream that never was. A nightmare that always is. A dreadful thing that can hurl the word 'mere' at the Guardians. Strahl Gewehr is hot in her grip, even through the thickness of her gloves.

She levels it forward nevertheless, heart racing even through the screaming pain, the warnings in her mind that this enemy is beyond her in every conceivable way. Clarissa Arwin, normal girl, can't think about that now.

Only the dream. "Filgaia will be a world of life and beauty again," she shouts over the groan and roar of the Triforce light. "That's my dream! I won't stop until we achieve it--"

Marivel disintegrates into the air. Clarissa's heart leaps into her throat. Her eyes grow wide.

"--And I won't let you take anyone else!!" she roars, her voice like a ringing bell.

Strahl Gewehr flashes with a brilliant light, its barrel sparking with gold and blue. The ray that erupts from it is wider even than the one that struck Matilda mere moments ago. It seems impossible for anything to make headway against the power of a Triforce.

Somehow, Clarissa forces the blast through. Logic says she can't.

The sheer force of her desire has a different opinion.

GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Howling Shot!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Becoming more like- becoming more like what? Marivel doesn't finish, leaving Clarine to wonder what she means.

"...I am okay...!" Clarine replies to Marivel's question. She's acting a little tough - she's starting to get fairly exhausted. This has been a difficult battle in the dark depths of the mines, not to mention their journey getting here, and she just output a great deal of light. The aura typically surrounding her is down to a faint glimmer.

And then, there's Erzebet.

"We thought it was a possibility...but this was a surprise to us, as well..." She admits. Erzebet lets out her emotions in the form a torrent of burning lead. Clarine, floating in the air as she is, is quite visible and quite vulnerable. Though her mirrors move to try and intercept it, they're a touch too slow - the intercept some of the barrage, but the rest of it impacts her solidly. The light around her flickers and Clarine droops in the air a bit, as if she's having difficulty staying afloat.

She holds out her hands to begin to speak - to incant another spell.

"Root of all creation, grant us the breath of life! Revita-"

And that's when it hurts her.

A torrent of cursed, tainted Light, brought down upon her by the King of Evil himself. To a spirit of light such as her, this cursed light is poison to her, burning her even more deeply than the darkness she feared.

It consumes her utterly, and there's no time even for her to scream as she crashes to the ground, still. She condenses into light and floats, her path slow, stuttered, and leaking particles of light, toward Kamui - retreating into the amulet she carries.

The signature emitting from the vessel after is as faint as the day they first found it, deep within the Shadow Vault - but it's there, alive.

If only barely.

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        If there is one thing Kamui has a massive, gaping blind spot to, it's the way in which magic exists in the world and interacts with it. Something has always nagged her about the way in which magic seemed to only be availed to those who are living... and oftentimes more, those in tune in the world.

        In a land where her very existence was looked upon as taboo as a Machina...

        Ragnell's grand incantation erupts through the ceiling and stokes high with Seraphic energy, forming thunderhead clouds that draw and flash gold.

        "... ..."

        The call comes:

        Indignation.

        The Reploid vanishes into the light that shadows the Guts-Dozer; the movement of the light infiltrating her is not so much sudden as it is gradual. As Kamui's arms raise to brace--

        The Buster begins to crumble and melt in the sheer power of primordial lightning; her skin begins to tear away in the face of unrelenting shine; the Fourth Armour, the newest of the lot Dr. Lumen has granted her through capsules whose behaviour is a mystery even to her.

        She's going to vanish into the light...

        MEMORY ACCESSED

        "... I don't get it. He's so... mean and rude to me," cries a sniffling, warbling Kamui, looking somehow even younger as she curls her arms up to her knees.

        "You can't expect to get along with everyone, Kamui," answers a very chill and round-shaped Penguin Reploid that's seated right next to her, holding up a robo-flipper to pat onto her head.

        "Why do people say... such mean things, Pengy?" Kamui asks.

        "Why? Well... I guess some people have a lot of chaos in their hearts. And that makes them lash out at others. But... who knows, when it comes to him? Do you just wanna stay away?"

        Kamui frowns quietly as she says, "I'm... gonna just have to keep nagging him... even if he calls me childish...!!"

        She looks up at the air. "I'm gonna befriend... the heck out of Varius!!"

        Pengy grins for a moment. "... good. Now, let me fill you in on a secret if you wanna get to know him better. There's this friend of his, -A-..."

        MEMORY CORRUPTED

        ... but something flickers, a glimmer within the darkness cast by the object standing against the light. Ragnell can sense some kind of power -- some kind of shield -- erupting steadfast; it is Clarine's light, which is reflected and gleaned onto an object that should be fairly familiar.

        It is the pendant that once housed Clarine -- the one that still does house Clarine, in times when she wants to take it easy, like that one time through Macalania Forest.

        And it is a pendant that has protected Kamui this time. The Seraph of Light's vessel which she has entrusted... not to a human, but a machine. And it's okay that Clarine has to retreat back to that amulet in the nick of time, because... she'll protect her.

        "... ... ... I'm not ready to die."

        Her eye opens, as the remnant of the Grand Spell dissipates.

        "I am sorry. But I can't die here... because I have chosen where I am going to rest in peace with Gami, forever and ever. And until then... I will try my hardest to not die."

        She looks towards Acacia and moves over towards her, in gesture to assist; not altogether far from them, the King of Evil is descending upon ARMS. Marivel disappears once more, yet...

        "... She is going to be furious if you keep visiting her ..." whispers Kamui underneath her breath.

        She helps Acacia up, then looks to Ragnell. Then, perhaps in perfect encapsulation of everything the Seraph of Lightning has heaped upon her, delivers the ultimate, mega-lame rock-loser gesture of all:

        She blows her a raspberry!! Biii!!!

        "I think you're mega-rock-lame too, Ragnell!!" she admonishes petulantly.

GS: Ratatoskr takes a glancing hit from Ashton Anchors's Gyoro's Flame for 61 hit points!
GS: Ratatoskr has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        Despite the pain racing through her body, despite the way she's hunkered behind the Gutsy Gear and swearing under her breath, Acacia can still find it in herself to be, well, indignant. "--sorry we're not goddamn entertaining! Not all of us get to tantrum over life and death!" she roars suddenly, ignoring the ache of her leg as she hauls herself up, eyes alight. "The only little kid here is the one complaining she isn't getting a decent fight out of the people she's trying to kill!"

        She grits her teeth. The air is starting to crackle around her from Ragnell's build-up of power, but in the instant she doesn't have it in her to run and hide out of sheer pique. "When it comes to who's being childish or not, Kamui's a thousand years ahead of you. Maybe even literally," she growls. "Because at least she gives a single solitary shit about something other than herself."

        She grits her teeth, drawing a large crystalline shape - a Mana Egg? - from her jacket pocket to grip tightly in her hand. "Kamui! Come here! I'll--" she hesitates, as honesty wins out. "I'll try to shield us!" Pouring her concentration into the crystal, she sucks in a breath through her teeth; that spherical shape reasserts itself around her, slightly distorting the air around her.

        ... of course, when the ravaging storm hits it, the shield buckles almost instantly, tearing and twisting away. Acacia grits her teeth and bites down a soft and pained whine that ought to be a scream, refusing to give Ragnell the satisfaction of the latter. Still-- in the blink of an eye she's redoubled herself, and if you're of a sufficiently magical sort you can just see the way that she seems to tug at what remains of her barrier, rebuilding it and reorienting it in a way that a Mana Egg absolutely can't do but wild and untrained Ether sense might.

        There's much too much, though, and by the time the assault ends she's on her knees and one hand, gripping against the floor as she desperately tries to keep herself upright. It can't be called standing - but even in this sort of situation there's fight in her eyes. Her pistol is still in her hand, but the effort to move her arm up to aim is much too much for her right in this moment.

        Or so she thinks. But as Kamui reaches for her, she can find it within herself to raise her hand to the Reploid, to grunt and pull herself staggeringly to her feet. "... we'll get him back," she whispers roughly to the girl next to her, referring to the Gear, and not trusting her voice any more than that. Fortunately, Kamui has her back there.

<Pose Tracker> Erzebet Lefanu has posed.

 
Erzebet tosses her head like an upset horse for a moment, which makes her ponytail, appropriately enough, bounce. She is mostly shooting at a Seraph while Marivel speaks to her allies, and then she looks back at her.

"... it was something only I could do," Erzebet says, with a weird little quiver in her voice. "If you find out something like that, what are you supposed to do? Just swallow it and hold onto it forever? Maybe - it's all well and good for you, being some kind of, of ancient, being a Noble and all of that, but - but -"

She seems to struggle for a moment and then shouts at Marivel, in what is an attempt at anger that ends up coming off as pleading, "Don't you walk away from me!!"

What does she mean, Erzebet thinks, that she'll speak with me when I'm dead?

A moment later the horrid screaming flash comes. Erzebet's glasses turn an opaque shade of amber as she lurches back, arm upraised to cover her face. The amber hue fades, slowly, and she moves her gun to cover the Seraph. Vision returns, painfully slow, and the Seraph is...

Not there.

Erzebet's head snaps around again as if to see if she's being flanked. But she's kept her back to a cavern wall all this time, she thinks. No. She's gone. Her mouth opens, as if to crow about this, when a cold realization hits her, even as warriors raise their weapons.

An ice cold sensation down her spine, through every layer of fat and bone and muscle and blood in her body. A sudden certainty that the only reason why she did not suffer as they did, why she did not burn or simply disappear from this realm of existence entirely, is that Ganondorf did not fire upon her.

Erzebet looks at her hands. (Without thinking, she holstered her guns.) She looks at the mottling on the fingers, the pallid skin, the points of fresher, livelier pink, the tiny pinprick scars along her trigger fingers. Her hands shake.

A moment ago, Erzebet thinks, I felt like a hero. Now, now, now, now, oh no, I'm going to panic, no, no, please, solais emsu help me out, don't let me freak out, i can't right here, that hero's going to come and kill me if I do -

Her heart struggles in her chest. An inchoate frustration threatens to grasp the back of her throat. "is this... fear," she says, before her hands squeeze TIGHT into fists and she feels tears prick at her eyes and then she realizes it isn't fear exactly, no, it isn't that, maybe it never, ever, was --

Erzebet looks up again, and without much preamble, shrinks after where the sensible and non-heavily-armed Odessa troops had gone when ARMS started to bust in on the far end of the cavern. For a while she is just one of them, distinguishable only by a somewhat larger amount of blood on her (not all of it hers - hey, not everyone can say that).

Eventually the terror stops; the sense of an onrushing train car, the feeling of toppling headlong on tracks laid into reality itself, fades, and that is when Erzebet realizes what it had always been all along.

Frustration.

<Pose Tracker> Ratatoskr has posed.

        Somewhere in all of this, there is Power. There is nothing that distracts one from seeing it happen - not even someone like Ratatoskr, whose desires and fixations can get the Hyadean horned squirrel-like soldier so tunnel visioned on something as though they were the only things of interest to note. Light fills the space.
        Light seems poised to take Ashton, for a second, and it reflects off of the Hyadean's face that the grin actually parts to an open mouth for longer than it would take to speak something.
        He is preserved, for being so close to it. Such is the King's will.
        He is stunned to silence. None of the 'hyahaha--' or 'question? exclamation!' that tends to follow his way of speaking, looking to the fallen Ashton Anchors. Just like that, he pledges to keep everything and anything he's ever seen and felt of him.
        ...
        Then Ashton stands up, and all of that goes away - goes away, like he were never worried. Like he were elated that Ashton got back up.
        That Ashton would instead turn and... okay, he doesn't, but the red dragon does. Therein, Ashton may glean a nugget of wisdom from Ratatoskr's attempted positioning throughout the fight.
        He doesn't try to go through the fire. Ratatoskr goes low, as a cone of flame fans out just above him. Ratatoskr's evasiveness is on point, in that moment... but Creepy has an environmental advantage his flame exploits.
        They are surrounded, left and right, in ruin. Some of it might be volatile - and indeed, something sparks where the flame touches it, and an explosion engulfs Ratatoskr from where he tries to move.
        Heat travels through gaps where compressed air lies in wait, and there are a number of smaller, more visceral 'pops' across Ratatoskr's body as more quicksilver and a bit of shrapnel further decorate the ground... and Ratatoskr's eyes start to dim. His body comes to rest in a position that is not ideal for turning upward and trying to keep at least one eye up on everything going on.
        It's a struggle to even turn his neck that way, as if he were - for the first time - conflicted on whether he really wanted to have a closer look at what just happened. OR is still happening?
        Seeing the vague shadowy outline of Ashton is, oddly, comforting in its own way.

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Eleanor does not think that Xiumei has died. No, she isn't prepared in the chaos of battle to settle on that perception as certain, to make definite what is indefinite, to settle possibility. Nevertheless it's relief, when she sees movement from her direction, that Eleanor feels. Except--

Except those movements are too quick, the words are all wrong, and Eleanor cannot help but turn for an instant to watch in dismay as something other than her best friend wears that face. For all the power that Varius brings to bear, for all that he's on their side--

"...Xiu?" Eleanor asks quietly, too soft to hear, confused and uncertain and worried and...

Ida's clear distress, the pain and wounds she's suffering, are something Eleanor is trying to assist at least. She didn't even hear the call that she should help Xiumei; it was so clear already. But she recognizes that flame, a pure expression of the flame--

"I'm not leaving you, either!" Eleanor calls to Ida. ...But Xiumei isn't there right then anyway. She can see it. And then... She sees nothing. Because--there is something else happening, at the same time.

The man who could float--the man surprised by what she says as surely as Eleanor herself is surprised. She unleashes her magic, and her hands stay out as she forces all the energy she can into it. By the time it fades she gulps down breath, and hears the scream. ...And feels the change what's coming. She looks up, eyes wide, but she cannot answer in time. Her own flame rockets back towards her, and the young elf screams without recognizing that either, throwing her forearms in front of her face and hitting the ground again, coughign when the flames fade.

The Guardian's power is there, as surely as.... Not-Xiumei's. But her eyes lift, as Ganondorf is raising his fist. The power radiates, and light fills her vision. Eleanor stares upward again, hearing the words she used. How can she retort, when she doesn't herself understand?

The cursed light radiates over her, and she makes herself a smaller target. She whispers something as her hand closes, and there is light surrounding her, as well.

...She is burned, but unbroken, as the light fades--but there is something else. Something worse.

"Marivel--" Hero, she's called. Eleanor's eyes are wide, and wett as she looks to Marivel who is watching her. "Wait--But I--!"

She never wanted command. She was just talking with Marivel before, and death, about pretending, and...

"ARMS!" Eleanor calls, raising her voice, and it's rough from the heat damage of the burning air she's been breathing. "Everyone!" Even standing is effort right now; holding the Crest in another hand means closing protesting muscles. "Pull back! Evacuate immediately! We--we can't fight like this!"

She doesn't move to go, immediately. She brings up her Crest, and light begins to shine from her hand, gold once more. It is a spell of movement, of escape, that speeds travel, for those closest to her.

"This is Lady Eleanor, ordering the retreat!"

Her magic shines, and the dance of the waves themselves crashes around some of them, to smooth movements, to make the path. ...And once she sees the others moving--

"I'll be right behind you!"

GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Eleanor Klein with Pelagic Flow!
GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Pelagic Flow!
GS: Eleanor Klein has attacked Varius with Pelagic Flow!
GS: Eleanor Klein has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Mute expired!
GS: Eleanor Klein has completed her action.
GS: Varius takes a solid hit from Eleanor Klein's Pelagic Flow for  hit points!
GS: Lock State! applied to Varius!
GS: Eleanor Klein heals Eleanor Klein! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Lock State! applied to Eleanor Klein!
GS: Eleanor Klein heals Ida Everstead-Rey! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Lock State! applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes an additional 5 damage from Reaper!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Ganondorf's poisonously cursed light shines its vile radiance, piercing through many of the present members of ARMS. That includes Clarine, cutting her down before she has the chance to heal her compatriots. Ragnell bites back a gasp, but anyone watching her wouldn't be able to miss the way her eyes widen, the way she takes a reflexive step towards the other Seraph before she can master her reaction. She shoots a look over towards Ganondorf, but she doesn't say anything. She knew he was strong, it was obvious just by being in his company, but she hadn't imagined something on *this* level.
        
        No matter. The important thing is that Clarine isn't dead. It helps that Clarine then retreats to her vessel, the pendant that now rests with Kamui--who is in turn protected by its power, though perhaps not for more than that one blast. With Clarine retreated to her vessel, and that vessel in the hands of... well, someone who is likely to protect her, it makes Ragnell even less inclined to press the attack.
        
        Which makes Acacia's rant that much more ironic. As she explodes verbally, Ragnell peers at her. There's a lot she could say. She ultimately goes with: "You're literally having a tantrum right now, but go off, I guess."
        
        Acacia brings forth a shield. It doesn't do as well as it might have. Ragnell watches it as it rebuilds in the wake of her Indignation with a thoughtful frown. Then Kamui comes in and scoops up her friend and gives Ragnell the raspberry before blasting her with the most *devastating insult possible*.
        
        She rolls her eyes, uttering an irritated, Noeline-like huff of a sigh as she holsters her guns. "I don't care what you think. Get out." To underline this, she makes a 'shoo! shoo!' gesture with one hand.
        
        The faster they escape, the sooner Clarine will be safe.
        
        Once they're gone, Ragnell will then survey the rest of the fighting--see how her would-be allies are doing. She glances to one side, when Eleanor orders a retreat; then she slowly rolls her injured, aching shoulders. "Hmmm. Guess this means we won?" she wonders. "Either way..." She calls up another Seraphic glyph, though this time it channels not lightning assault but lightning healing, flowing through those members of Odessa still present and filling them with energy as it heals their wounds.

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

"That's..." Ashley starts, still blinking the spots out of his eyes. He's about to say something about how it's kind of strange for something to suddenly surge with inexplicable power, but then he remembers that time he set a vampire on fire with his blood. So instead he just flashes a thumbs up with a badly bleeding hand and says, "That's pretty cool actually. I--"

Ashley's shadow suddenly grows long. A wave of light flashes in the corner of his eye a thought's breadth before something like thunder hurls him into the floor. "What--" It's all he can manage. #-1 FUNCTION (ANSI) EXPECTS 2 ARGUMENTS BUT GOT 1 beyond human comprehension crushes both word and body into the cavern floor. Flame washes over his body, scalding flesh and spirit alike. Pain becomes his world, consuming all else utterly and completely. His eyes go dull as his mind retreats from the prison of pain-- time slows to a crawl.

Everything.

Goes.

Dark.
What is it? What
Power. So much power.
are you doing?
How... How do they fight back against something like that?
Are you just going to give up?
It's impossible. Impossible.
Are you going to lay here and let your friends die!?
No. No-- he can't...!
Look. There's one now. See how her life fades...!

The light returns to his eyes-- just long enough to watch in horror as that that awful power consumes Marivel utterly. The vampire turns to ash. He feels... He feels something burning inside. Not the light of the Triforce, but something else. Something deeper, more primal.
You're not just going to let him get away with that, are you?
No. No he can't-- he won't--!
Another! Why do you not rise!? Why do you not rage!?! Do you lack the strength to fight on your own!?
Clarine-- Clarine dissolves into that impossible light. His heart sinks, falling deep into that broiling cauldron in the hollow of his chest. He struggles to stand, pushing himself up-- but the Power, it throws him back into the dirt. If only he had that kind of power...!

Do you desire the power?
Yes.
Then take it!
Yes...!

                          And so the world burns.

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Quintessence!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Quintessence!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with Quintessence!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Ratatoskr with Quintessence!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Quintessence for 0 hit points!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Quintessence for 0 hit points!
GS:  Restore reduces negative status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Quintessence for 0 hit points!
GS:  Restore reduces negative status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Ratatoskr takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Quintessence for 0 hit points!
GS: Ratatoskr has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Varius has posed.

Varius turns to Ida. He blinks, then answers her: "No."

He glances n Eleanor's direction -- and that is a brief glance, without any of the years of fondness that she is accustomed to. Xiumei looks at Eleanor, but looks at her like a stranger.There is a longer, more familiar look to Kamui. His expression -- Xiumei's expression -- is nigh unreadable, but there is a flicker of something. Regret, perhaps. Surprise, to be certain. He seems to hear Marivel's words, because there is a flicker of annoyance at her cry. But, his attention is on his former comrade. "Kamui..." He speaks her name, quietly. Then, he turns; his chin lifts as he listens to Ganondorf talk.

There is a slight, yet noticeable tension when he sees the way that the Gerudo's eyes come aglow. "Get back, all of you! I don't know what this is--"

Varius leaps. The wave of power explodes outward -- and he rolls with it. It still throws him back, the Triforce's wrath smashing him into the side of the Guts-Dozer. He falls down, kneeling in a three-point stance, and then he looks up. Smoke rises off him. Varius's eyes turn, slowly, towards where Marivel was. His eyes narrow at her, but then he nods.

"Gh... right," he says to the faint outline of where she had been. He steps forward -- and he stumbles, blood running down his side. He almost falls to a knee. He glances at Eleanor, and then looks ahead -- and the Pulse Cannon reappears. "Go! Fall back!"

He fires the cannon, an endless stream of energy shots hurtling in the direction of Ganondorf. They explode across the ground in front of him -- and blast craters in the wall behind him -- and then center on him.

And then, finally, sputter to a stop. The room darkens -- and Varius snaps his head to Ashley Winchester and stares.

GS: Varius has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Pulse Cannon Max Burst!
GS: Varius has gained 2 Combo!
DC: Ashley Winchester switches forms to Knight Blazer!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Ashley's body rises as if on puppet strings. His voice roars like the arrival of a distant storm. Power profane and wroth pours out of his body in an unstoppable, irrepressible torrent. He screams as the mere illusion of a human form is stripped away, revealing a skeleton of pale steel beneath. The flame consumes it, charring the chitin black. It swirls inward, solidifying into plates of hardened, crimson steel. The skeleton becomes a knight, consumed within its own wrathful blaze. An inferno blasts from floor to ceiling, flash-carbonizing layers of rock and mineral in a wave of all-consuming destruction.

Twin plumes of brilliant, red flame twist from his shoulders as he.

Touches.

Down.

The dark eye-hollows of the figure's skull blaze red, then white. It hunches over, heat curling away in whorls of crimson light. "This..." Ashley's voice speaks, hollow and metallic from within the blazing knight. "...Is this... my body? Is this... Power?"

His hands close. They clench tight. Ashley turns towards the source of that golden torrent-- the man who killed Marivel. Who killed Clarine. "You." A blade of white-blue flame erupts from one hand. "You won't hurt any of them anymore."

The Black Knight disappears in a flurry of movement. A heat-haze follows in his wake, twisting after-images that give the barest idea of what he's about to do. Flame leaps from the lingering bonfires, surging around the King of Evil as if forming a prison of fire-- a burning promise of what's to come.

The thing that was Ashley Winchester strikes. He roars, swinging blow after blazing blow, each strike driven by the lethal skill of an entity whose entire being is *murder.* Each swing carves a scar of ash and flame in its wake, charring the cavern black as the heat builds to an inevitable crescendo...!

Finally, the last strike. Ashley drives the blade into the earth. The flames rise, surging upwards, consuming both he and the King of Evil in a pillar of purest, destructive power!

GS: Ashley Winchester has spent 1 Combo on Link, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Incendiary Omen!
GS: Ashley Winchester has launched an attack Link!
GS: Ashley Winchester has spent 1 Combo on Gatling, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked Ganondorf Dragmire with Cataclysm!
GS: Ashley Winchester has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire guards a hit from Clarissa Arwin's Howling Shot for 100 hit points!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire guards a hit from Varius's Pulse Cannon Max Burst for 105 hit points!
GS: Varius's Avenger stance ends. He enters the Stoic stance!
GS: CRITICAL! Ganondorf Dragmire guards a hit from Ashley Winchester's Incendiary Omen for 0 hit points!
GS: Entangle and Shieldbreak! applied to Ganondorf Dragmire!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire guards a hit from Ashley Winchester's Cataclysm for 111 hit points!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ganondorf Dragmire has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

Struggling, staggering. Ashton's on his feet again and wobbles as he tries to make for the exit.
 
Well, not quite the exit.
 
Though beaten and bloody - and with THE WORST case of sunburn across his back - Ashton instead lines up next to Eleanor. Blades in hand, he looks back for a moment to where Ratatoskr is laid out. He frowns... and lets it go. Momma Anchors would scold him for not finishing off an opponent, but there's no time.
 
Particularly not when Ashley does... THAT.
 
Oh, that's frightening.
 
Still - Ashton stands beside Eleanor even as she calls the others to retreat and run. A tiny grin cracks his face. "Go, Lady. I'll hold the rear - I'm the backup, after all. I still need to earn my coin."
 
A little voice notes it's a good thing he got paid in advance.
 
Another little voice worries for Marivel. But then she's defied death before, so...

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida's eyes go almost perfectly round. She's seen that symbol before, in the depths of the Serpent's Coil, but she doesn't know what it means. But even if she doesn't, she can sense the Power radiating from the Demon King's soul. It's like looking directly at a bleak, merciless sun--it's desolation on a scale that makes the Badlands look like an oasis of life. There is no stopping it. Ida shuts her eyes anyway, crosses her arms across her face, and braces. It does no good.

        The light engulfs her. Ida feels searing, white-hot pain, as if she's being unmade, cell by cell, from the outside in. She screams, again, her voice raw and alive with terror. Her legs give out. She pitches forwards, hits the ground, and curls up on her side. Desperate fear grips her. She has to get up. She has to show him--

        Ida plants a hand on the ground.
                He plants a hand on the ground as that horrible, mocking laughter echoes down the corridor--

        Distantly, Ida hears Eleanor order a retreat. What did I bloody tell you, she thinks, and deep inside her, a hatred that she cannot name surges against her thoughts. It's not Eleanor's fault. It's the world's bloody fault for doing this to--

        Something like a soothing sea breeze washes over Ida, and her thoughts snap back into focus.

        Ida shoves herself upright. To say she looks like shit is a grave understatement--her skin is covered with burns, and the light didn't even do her the mercy of cauterizing them. Crimson human blood and quicksilver Hyadean blood mingle on her flesh, and on the floor beneath her. Patches of Living Metal stem tissue boil up from her wounds, trying to seal them before she loses too much blood. It's only thanks to Eleanor's magic that things aren't worse.

        She opens her eyes, and the first thing she sees is Ashley Winchester, a man she does not know, struggling to stand. She opens her mouth to say something, but whatever she was going to say never makes it out. She stares. She feels the heat of the inferno distantly, but she's too shocked to so much as pull away. All she can do is watch everything unfold. It's terrible. It's grotesque. It's glorious.

        It's power.

<Pose Tracker> Ganondorf Dragmire has posed.

The light of the Triforce - is it corrupted or merely overwhelming? Is it Light or something vastly more wonderful and wondrously more terrible? - fades. Ganondorf draws in a long, slow breath, and then quietly swipes loosed dust from his robes. "Pitiful," he murmurs. "To rely on such vulgar displays..." He turns the Triforce toward himself, considering it. "...but there isn't much for it, with what is left--"

His eyes tick up at the attacks that come at him. Clarissa's Howling Shot roars at him and a blade sweeps up cleanly, bisecting the oncoming blast. The parts slam into and scatter against his magical shields, exploding behind him. He scoffs at new scuffs on his robes. "'Dreams' are not a thing of power, girl," he declares coldly, but then is distracted by Varius' desperate final blasts. Both blades move this time, slashing and smashing shots aside. He parries one with the flat of his blade, the shot emitting a loud PANG as it shatters against the silvery metal. Ganondorf turns to the armored warrior--briefly.

Before something else draws his attention. Ganondorf draws the smoke and fumes of the impossible flame gathering here into his nose, a scent like ozone and death.

"What manner of beast are you...?" he murmurs.

The Black Knight is upon him. Even Knight Blazer does not have an easy time of it; like Varius before, the blazing strikes are neatly parried, silvery metal snapping up quickly and easily.

At first.

As the exchange continues, the flames gather higher and higher, the heat-haze distracts his eyes too many times from the Black Knight's attacks, smashing into his body.

He manages to force a clash. "What are you?" Ganondorf seethes. The goals of Odessa - even Ganondorf's own - have been forgotten amid the crashing blades. How much harm have these two titans inflicted on the cavern, the mountain, and the Guts Dozer in their clash? Ganondorf has stopped caring, teasing out the measure of this powerful opponent instead, clash after clash, heat and ash blasting across him.

Ganondorf sucks in a breath of blazing air, as the flames reach their apex.

"The Triforce...how rarely has it had an opinion?" he wonders, before the flames claim him.

When the light fades; when the heat ends...

The Demon King stands yet, a strange grin on his face, his breathing heavy, his robes and face smudged with soot.

"Yes," he breathes, eyes locked on the ebon helm of the Black Knight. "This one...must die."

He fades - vanishing into a portal of darkness.

Odessa's commanders have quit the field...but at what price has ARMS claimed the day?

<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Running away now seems like both the only logical decision and the most unpalatable. Something has to be done. The darkness has to be pushed back. Hope has to cut a notch into despair. Clarissa knows in her gut that Marivel will be back - but she can't let even a temporary loss be for nothing.

Then something else changes. A dark force surging to life. Clarissa's eyes grow wide at the sight of the thing that her companion has become.

"...Ashley...."

Eleanor's crying out to them. Clarissa's not sure Ashley can understand her. She's not sure she wants to understand her. But ultimately--

"Eleanor is right," Felius's voice comes through into Clarissa's awareness, quiet but close enough to startle her. "We need to escape, now."

A lump swells in Clarissa's throat, and she swallows it hard, looking up at her brother with wide eyes. With a last look towards Ashley, she begins to drift backwards, only thinking after a few seconds to look over her shoulder to see if Ganon is still standing.

He is. Even a full-power shot from Strahl Gewehr couldn't put him down. With a breath, Clarissa lifts her weapon again - but Ashley, or whatever Ashley is now, is on it first. The girl hesitates a moment.

"...We should do as Eleanor says," she finally decides, turning to touch Felius's elbow with one hand. Left unsaid is her own realization: Whoever this Ganondorf guy is, he's stronger than any one of them, possibly stronger than all of them.

Clarissa hustles back towards the direction Eleanor is going. Strahl Gewehr still feels hot in her grip, and she looks down at it, her face a little pale after shock after shock. Adrenaline is beginning to fade to realization of how much this fight had cost them, even if Marivel will be back.

I don't understand how she can do this, Clarissa thinks. Leading an army seems hard. I don't think I'll ever have that talent.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        As the last of the purifying energy Ragnell casts fades, Ashley flips out and starts surging with... What is this? What *is* this? Is this something a human is really capable of? Is he even human anymore? ...Was he ever human in the first place? She stares, taken aback, at his whole... skeleton knight... *Thing*. Yeah. Uh. Wow. This doesn't seem like a good place to stick around anymore. As much as Ragnell enjoys fighting, she *doesn't* enjoy getting murdered, and call her paranoid, but she gets the sense that this is not a thing she wants to tangle with in her current condition.
        
        Ah, the old days when Clarine would be healing *her*. Of course, that wouldn't help her any now...
        
        For the time being, though, she hangs back to watch and see if this... thing... that was Ashley stays or leaves. It looks like a few other ARMS members have the same idea. It neatly turned around their apparent victory, as it seems Ratatoskr is laid out and Erzebet is *freaking* out and Ganondorf just got sworded a bunch. Well, that's an oversimplification--but Ganon *did* decide to focus entirely on this enemy, and come out the other end deciding it's one that must perish before leaving in a portal of darkness.
        
        Ragnell drums her fingers on her thigh, then gives the Guts-Dozer a long, thoughtful look. Keeping a careful eye on those that remain, she ducks down and hurries on over towards the mech.

<Pose Tracker> Varius has posed.

Varius stares at Knight Blazer.

And it's a long, uncertain stare. The flash of darkness -- the fiery power -- is all familiar, and yet this figure is not. Some of the tension fades. However, he feels something else. It is a lightness... but a heaviness, too. His hand goes to his side.

Xiumei's side, rather.

It comes up sticky with blood. He looks down at it, and blinks. "I don't--I think Xiumei requires--"

The problem with a Reploid's conscience being in a human's body is, simply, that he has no basis for biology. Xiumei suddenly topples over, unconscious again, and knocked out.

DC: Zhang Xiumei switches forms to A Dedicated Clerk!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Well Marivel's dead again and the Gutsdozer was lost and also Ashley might be secretly a demon and also Varius might not so secretly be able to not so secretly possess Zhang Xiumei under the right conditions so maybe in a way that's like two posession style problems going on here which is like two more than any organization should face.

The world burns. You can aim the Triforce away a bit from the Gutsdozer, but the power of the Great Conflagration isn't known for its subtleties or aim. The Gutsdozer isn't going to appreciate that.

Oh and Kamui's voicebox broke again and Clarine got poofed and sent back to her gem. Vessel. Gem? Vessel. She's going to have to change up her outfit and everything.

In this moment Eleanor sees something...

???

"Again?" The blue haired woman is complaining to Marivel.
"I wasn't expecting the demon king of darkness to explode the entire room with light, Ana. That wasn't supposed to happen."

"You weren't supposed to be there either. You can't expect things to go the same way all the time." Ana complains. "So now what?"

The vision fades...

...and Ganon vanishes into darkness.

...and the Gutsdozer starts moving towards our heroes all on its own.

It gets closer, and closer. The team can fall back readily but the Gutsdozer keeps moving, eventually coming to stop outside the chamber.

The hatch pops opens and a familiar blonde-haired head pops out.

"Hey guys I'm back. Good job Eleanor, really held the team together while I was gone. You too Varius. Nice hustle."

Her gaze then turns towards AShley. Or whwatever Ashley happens to be right now.

There is a strange expression on Marivel's face. At first it seems like intense, borderline maddening hate.

And then it shifts ever so faintly from that into a more complicated unreadable expression.

And then it turns into genuine joy and--frankly--love.

"This." Marivel tells ARMS as she watches Knight Blazer. "This is the tip of the iceberg, my friends for this? This is our mission. This is why ARMS was formed. And this..."

Marivel's fanged grin widens monstrously.

"This is why I am with you, my friends. This is why I am fighting a war. My pact with Ashley Winchester, my pact with the demon that destroyed Filgaia, my pact with the monster that killed my family..."

"Lord Blazer."

And with that Marivel turns back to her friends. "This is just the beginning. I'm sorry for tricking you into thinking this was about Odessa. Odessa... Tis our enemy, but not our aim, not our journey."

Her gaze then settles on Clarissa and shares her lesson to her. "Some lies are worth telling, fighting for, Clarissa."

Xiumei promptly passes out and Marivel says, "Oh...was too slow."

She bonks herself on the head with a fist cutely.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Looks like someone beat Ragnell to the Guts-Dozer, as well as the idea of snagging it while everyone else was busy. When it starts to move, she stops, then retreats back to the shadows, ducking down behind a convenient rock formation as Marivel maneuvers the mech over towards the rest of her allies.
        
        Ragnell sees Xiumei-Varius collapse. Ragnell sees Marivel declare that the thing that Ashley was--is?--is Lord Blazer, and she has a pact with it, and it's the thing that destroyed Filgaia, and also this is the whole reason ARMS was formed roflmao. Ragnell also sees that look on Marivel's face.
        
        Ragnell starts to wonder if she and Marivel are even more alike than she realized.

<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Clarissa puffs her cheeks out a little and sets her hands at her hips, but doesn't argue.

Sage lessons from Lieviram shouldn't, after all, be bickered with."I hope you're not saying that we're here to destroy Filgaia," she says instead. "I would have a slight problem with that."

Clarissa has absolutely no idea how to parse what Marivel's trying to tell them. For someone whose dream is to restore Filgaia, the thought that Ashley - Lord Blazer? - is its destroyer, and there's some kind of pact between it and the friend she chose to follow along with, is deeply unsettling. The blonde girl wraps her arms around herself and looks away after a few seconds, her shoulders coming up and her eyes darkening with uncertainty as stark as any she's felt since this all started.

Clarissa's staring down the barrel of a conclusion she doesn't like: That Marivel tricked her into working against her own dream.

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

On her own? No, of course Eleanor couldn't leave, couldn't run to save herself. ...But this...? A responsibility she didn't want is on her, and she will see it through. ...It's good, to have that reminder, because--

Because that look from a face that should be Xiumei's...

"Not without you!" Eleanor calls to Varius then, and she means her, but it's too confusing right now. And so is--

Heat. heat, and screaming, and it's altogether different. Eleanor turns, and stares, hearing Ashley's voice. "W-what?" she starts to ask, and, perhaps for once, seems to be taken by surprise. The movement is too fast to see, and yet--

...At yet, the strange black knight.... is with them. So here, when Ashton stops beside her, she looks towards him, his grin frankly welcome in all this. "...I'm somehow not surprised that Marivel manged to plan even for this," she admits. "Stay only as long as you have to, all right?"

She can ask about... a lot of things, later. ...If she gets the chance. For now, she pauses only because she has to ensure the others go--and because... What of Ashley? The man from her nation, the musketeer whose presence alone was reassuring.

So she starts to follow her own advice, before she abrubtly pauses where she is, stares into nothing, frowns--and then her eyes focus on Ganondorf's departure. and on Xiumei's body falling.

In point of fact, Eleanor Klein does know basic first aid. This becomes obvious, after instead of retreating like she was going to before Ashley transformed into a horror, she runs to Xiumei to put pressure on her wound. ....But she can't actually lift her, despite her efforts. She will have to settle for staying close.

....Because...

Eleanor's smile for Marivel's praise is a little weak, a lot anxious, but calm in its way. She knows she can do that kind of thing... and now knows sometimes she might need to. But--But for the rest--

"...The fire," Eleanor murmurs suddenly, blinking and looking up to Marivel. "...it's..."

Understanding glimmers in her eyes. Unfortunately, so do the marks of having seen even a glimpse of what could come.

Maybe there's someone who carries Xiumei that she can lean on....... Because she can't afford to let herself actually fall for a long while yet.

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.
<SoundTracker> Battle - Knight Blazer

Silver steel and blue flame meet in an impossible clash, but the physical impossibility of it plays mere second-fiddle to a much more important meeting. The Black Knight glares at the King of Evil. The white of his glowing eyes flare with what can only be rage and vengeful hate. 'What are you?' The Black Knight finds the words leaving whatever passes for its lips faster than his mind can register them. "I," Ashley Winchester declares, "Am the Blazer."

The clash is broken. The heat ends and the fire finally dies away. A chill runs down the Black Knight's spine at the Demon King's final declaration. This... is only the beginning.

But as Ganondorf disappears into the dark gate, it seems that Odessa's command structure is in full retreat. The Black Knight stares for a moment at the retreating soldiers; its hand twitches and moves as if considering giving chase, but...

But then... Guts Dozer...!?

"No..." Ashley murmurs, clearly too hopped up on adrenaline and DEVIL POWER to realize how utterly terrifying everything that just happened in the last thirty seconds must have been for everyone else. "Did they manage to take it while we were--"

The hatch opens.

Marivel's head pokes out.

The Blazer just kind of... stops. Its head tilts in stunned disbelief. Even the little lights of its eyes just kind of... wink on and off.

Even Knight Blazer is surprised...!

But then, just as Marivel speaks that terrible name, a wash of blue light floods away from the black knight. It's blinding, almost eye-searing. What's happening now!?

Now...

Now there's a tearful Ashley Winchester hugging a vampire, because-- "I thought you were dead! Marivel, what? How-- Don't do that again!"

Beat.

"Lord... Blazer...?"

<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

The retreat seems to have been called off. At least it seems so - none of the members of ARMS are running. Even Eleanor isn't.
 
And then there's everything about Marivel. Just... Marivel. And the giant robot tank. And the demon she's talking to. Which very suddenly becomes Ashley again.
 
The beaten swordsman just sort of stares and blinks at the whole situation.
 
"Uh." A long pause. "Huh."

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida moves on autopilot. She rises to her feet and scrambles back, stumbling unsteadily as she tries to keep an eye on both the fight and her immediate surroundings. A rivulet of silvery blood trickles down Ida's face from a burn wound on her brow. It beads on the tip of her chin, and drips to the floor.

        And then Ganondorf is gone. Slowly, haltingly, Ida raises her fists and stares down the thing Ashley Winchester has become. She almost doesn't notice Marivel popping out of the Guts-Dozer--Ida didn't see her vanish, didn't know she'd disintegrated--but she listens to her all the same.

        "Ashley Winchester," Ida says. Her voice is a dry creak. Her body is a burned, wrecked mess, and she is visibly bleeding Hyadean blood as well as human. And yet, somehow, she is not remotely the strangest and most disturbing thing in the room. "Good to meet you, I suppose...?"

        She might be shell-shocked, just a little.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"Nope." Marivel says. "We're going to save it obviously."

Oh that's good.

"Unless we fail in which case everybody dies. But before Filgaia was definitely going to die, but now Filgaia might actually survive. It's like that."

Ashley starts speaking. This doesn't seem to be a surprise to Marivel though it does get her to shut up and focus on The Black Knight.

And then the Black Knight leaps up into the air and lands on the Gutsdozer to get its revenge...! It approaches Marivel and--

--turns back into Ashley and hugs her.

"I didn't mean to!" Marivel wails, flailing an arm but not really resisting the hug. "I got back a little earlier than expected so I had to hide a bit to avoid--it's not important!"

She actually returns hte hug.

"Well, you're Ashley. And Lord Blazer is inside you. But what you wish to call yourself... You're still you, after all."

She leans into the hug.

"I'm glad to see you again, Ashley. I've missed you and your--well, I'll let you name it."

A window appears with Knight Blazer's face next to it (the default name is Knight Blazer) and a bunch of letters that Ashley can select.

He can call it Butt Blazer instead of he wants.

<Pose Tracker> Ganondorf Dragmire has posed.

Two heavy footfalls arrive at the rear of the group.

"Group had circled around," Brad Evans declares, flatly. He's scuffed up and a little bruised. One eye is rapidly swelling shut. "I took care of it."

His eyes scrape toward the Black Knight, his jaw setting, then take in the rest of the scene. "So this is what all the racket was about."

Marivel pops out. He did not know she had gotten herself atomized again so her appearance earns her little more than his usual unexpressive look.

Until she says the magic words, anyway, at which point his eyes snap to Ashley again. "Lord Blazer...." he mutters. "The Blazing Demon...?"

Finally, he settles for doing what he does best: work. He steps over to Eleanor and Xiumei, taking a knee. "Injured?" he prompts, and starts preparing to lift Xiumei before he's answered.

"Tank's sorta busted, Marivel," he adds, offhandedly.