2019-09-14: Paradigm Shift

From Dream Chasers
Jump to: navigation, search

===============================<* Macalania *>================================

The Macalania region is home to two ancient, crystalline formations of unsurpassed mystery and beauty. The first is the Macalania Woods - a shining maze-like forest overseen by strange, ancient, birdlike Beastmen who speak in bizarre riddles and weave light like silk. The second is Lake Macalania - an eternally frozen lake surrounded by snowy crevasses, which one can just see the frozen Temple beneath. Macalania is a distant, remote region -- and full of its own dangers.

DC: Josephine Lovelace switches forms to The Dedicated Archaeologist!
DC: Seraph Ragnell switches forms to The Free!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Yuna's pilgrimage has led onward and onward, northward and northward.

It has led through the crystalline woods of Macalania -- led, indeed, to the lake. Lake Macalania is a different beast, for it is frozen. It is unseasonably frozen; in Lake Macalania, it is always cold, and the crystal forest ends in a snowfield that leads towards a frozen over lake. There, Yuna's Guardians trudge.

She is not alone. This may be literal -- because members of the Agile Remote Mission Squad (ARMS) have also been escorting the Guardians. Their goal is distant, a faint smudge on the horizon, through an icy mist: the towering form of Macalania Temple, in the center of that frozen lake.

But this may be figurative.

Because Drifters are in the area -- because Drifters have been looking for opportunities, many for money but some to help. And, today, there are trails to be noticed.

The first that might draw attention is a growing cloud of snowdust from the north: a huge, half-rusted machina tank that tears across the snowfield. Brother, an Al Bhed, sits atop it, and calls out: "Fa'na ymsucd uh dras! Rumt uh dekrd!"

"I still can't quite understand that!" Leon Albus snaps back. The Captain of the Black Wolves grips tightly, clad in a heavy fur jacket that is over his increasing mis-matched Filgaian and Spiran garb. But, the Al Bhed shotgun in his hand speaks volumes.

"Wolves!" he calls out, to the others with him. "This is what the Al Bhed are paying us for. We'll grab the summoner, and we'll get out of here!"

"Ir... fa ryja y bnupmas, lreav," Brother says.

"Oh, bloody hell--"

And, indeed, there is a problem: because, from the east, there are flashes of light -- and then spells summoned down from some Neo-Vane mages crash down. Brother's tank veers, as a lightning blast crashes into the snow. Althena's Guard and Veruni become a second cloud of swirling snowdust.

And then a third cloud appears from the west. A roar of snow, as a trio of stolen land-speeders shoot over the horizon. Long, narrow, and with benches that could be described as harrowing, they shoot ahead. An Odessa soldier on one looks back, over his shoulder.

"Ma'am," he says to Erzebet Lefanu. "We're in range. For Lord Vinsfeld!"

There are, indeed, trails to follow -- and each and every one of them leads to the center of the snowfield. To a pilgrimage, coming to a trio of roadblocks.

<Pose Tracker> Yue Rohay has posed.

        THAT NEVERENDING CONVERSATION

        "You want me," Yue pauses then clarifies, "You're ordering me to go into an active war zone. One will be beset on at least four fronts, given our allegiance, the errant Drifters running about, Yevon's entourage and their forces, and the Aquvian forces led by Rhadamantus."

        "Do I need to repeat myself?" crackles the crystal.

        "And what about our precious minder?"

        A pause. "You seem to have slightly misunderstood me on one topic. Do I believe she is precious? Oh yes. I would shower and lavish her with all the gifts of this desolate and broken world. And yet, at the same time..."

        The cracking electronic voice darkens.

        "You know what she is to me. What she is to you. And if you die, be sure to make y our last thoughts about how the minder will fend all on her own in Spira..."

        There's a sharp and narrowed look on Yue's tired eyes, cucco feather lilting upwards on her lips.

        "You are incredibly treacherous, mother."

        A pause. "I only learnt treachery from you, my dear daughter."

        NOW

        "They brought out the royal carpet."

        Yue mutters to herself around several Neo Vane mages that're firing bolts of light. She sees the Machina tank rolling out across the snowfield, over the cloud of powdery snow. And landspeeders too, as Odessa makes their appearance.

        "Am I ever eternally grateful for Dorca and Ranna..." Yue sighs deeper still. "I wonder if Mari and Acacia and the others are here...?"

        A pause.

        She flings herself forward and leaps with a prodigious arc approximately that of the spells their Althenan Guard allies are carrying.

        She probably lands near ARMS, all told. Because she'd rather gab with people she knows than not.

        "Hello," she speaks. "I am Yue and I am here to be a disappointing adult today."

<Pose Tracker> Erzebet Lefanu has posed.

 
Erzebet Mara Lefanu says, "I like that ma'am part," as she rides in the commander seat (so dubbed because it sticks up a little and has a secondary windscreen which Erzebet tested, and which at least stopped a shot from Haborym), her hair streaming in the breeze. She says it with casual ease, as if thinking, as she reaches back to seize her hair and grip the piece of Seed City rubber-and-cloth that's getting, frankly, a little threadbare.

I wonder when it'll break, Erzebet thinks. Then I'll have to get a ribbon or wear it loose or something.

"So this is pretty exciting, isn't it? I suppose this is going to need a lot of improvisation," Erzebet says, "and I know that those of you who aren't part of the other corps have probably mostly seen ARMS in action. Well, I won't lie to you that they're strong. But I will say that we are strong, too; and we are growing stronger, while they grow weaker in this realm, or transform into creatures of it."

She looks towards one particular soldier - the one who she calls friend and did before all of this - to wink.

"So-o-o-o I'd like to point out why we're all crowded onto TWO of these, and why Number Three back there is hanging back in echelon --"

Erzebet sweeps her hands forwards.

FLASH VIEW to Odessa Hijacked Vehicle #3: Which contains a number of crude cloth dummies in uniforms.

"Because we only need one," Erzebet says, before she draws out one of Haborym's pistol and fires twice into the air!

Which is a signal for Speeder Two's inhabitants to get ready to jump, except for the driver, who leans forwards. This nameless soldier of Odessa has one clear job here and he begins to execute it as he pulls ahead of the other stolen craft. He pivots round his snow-friendly speeder and he grinds the brakes --

QUICK REVIEW OF ODESSA ACTION!

SPEEDER 1: Contains troops. Being competently driven and is in fact parking to let people out without too much personal risk. This is where Odessa PCs will emerge from!
SPEEDER 3: Hanging back for enigmatic purposes. Looks like it's full of soldiers. Probably a lie.
SPEEDER 2...

Is shedding Odessa troops into nearby snowdrifts as it rolls over, bounces once, and topples STRAIGHT DEAD ON for the summoner's party!

                            QUICK THINKING EVENT!

<Pose Tracker> Yuna has posed.

JUST A MINUTE AGO

Yuna's ever-expanded escort had come to an end -- or at least, to a pause. That's because someone else has come to collect her, and establish new custody: Tromell, a Guado functionary in the direct service of Maester Seymour. He is old and wizened in the manner of a twisted tree. Gnarled, knotted, and proud. He strokes his magnificent beard as he greets the summoner, then bows deeply.

"Lady Yuna, we've been expecting you," he wheezes enthusiastically. "We were surprised you decided to come so soon. Pleasantly surprised, of course. Lord Seymour sends his apologies for having left without notice."

Yuna returns the bow, at similar depth despite their very dissimilar stations; perhaps his status as an elder makes up the difference. Then again, she's been seen to bow to five-year-olds that way. Maybe she just doesn't value her own enough. At any rate, she doesn't seem to share his energy, in this moment. He is overjoyed; she is... resolved.

"It's quite all right," she reassures him, softly dignified. "I have one question, if I may, sir?"

Tromell leans in, solicitously. "My lady?"

Yuna is very solemn indeed. "I want to continue my pilgrimage, even if I marry. Do you think that Maester Seymour would let me?"

"But of course, my lady!" Tromell burbles, relieved that it's such an easy question (why should this be an easy question, non-Spirans might wonder). "Lord Seymour wishes nothing else, I'm sure!"

Yuna smiles, then, and bows her head.

Tromell looks past the apparent bride-to-be at her Guardians and other companions. "Well... we must follow Guado tradition. I'll have to ask you to wait here a little while longer," he explains, a little stuffy without being unlikeably imperious. The high dudgeon of an old man in the full throes of ritual. "I'll send someone to escort the rest of you."

He takes Yuna's arm, but she hangs back, looking over her shoulder at the group. "I..."

Auron speaks up in an unseasonably warm rumble. "We're all with you," he tells her, firmly. "Do as you will."

Some of the hesitation in Yuna's shoulders, and eyes, drains out of her, though there's still apprehension there. "Thank you," she says. "Thank you all, for your help so far. And... goodbye."

Guado and summoner begin their separate journey to Macalania Temple.

"Sorry," Auron asides to Tidus. "I stole your line."

Tidus, who has been conspicuously quiet throughout this exchange, calls after them: "YUNA!" Then he puts fingers to his lips, and blows a mighty wolf-whistle. A private signal between the two of them, perhaps, because she spins on her heel and waves at him, her smile warming from something social to something real. "Yessir!"

And then everything goes wrong; attackers on all sides. Tromell tries to drag Yuna out of it completely, but as people step up to defend her, and themselves, she rips herself out of his grasp in order to rejoin the group, summoning rod at the ready to help guard her Guardians.

"Lady Yuna!" he squawks, scandalized, but does not pursue her back onto the battlefield proper, let alone into the path of that descending, out-of-control speeder.

Yuna watches it come, fearlessly. Her trust in her friends, to keep her and all of them safe, is absolute.

"Who are all these people?" she asks no one in particular, and everyone in general. It feels like it may take more than one person's explanation to really cover it all.

DC: Yuna switches forms to Lady Summoner!
DC: Lulu switches forms to The Black Mage!
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

In befriending Guts-Dozer, Clarissa Arwin found that she had more than guts. She had access to some of his secrets. Or perhaps it wasn't her doing, but her brother's: Felius seemed to have a knack for handling the complex machinery behind the ancient Gear.

For her part, Clarissa's strolling along with the rest of the ARMS group, doing her best to keep Strahl Gewehr out of sight in the pouch at her side. In its place she's carrying a long rod crowned with an icy-blue jewel set in silver, a cane she'd picked up during an encounter in these very woods. Behind them --

Behind them, the conspicuous bulk of the Guts Dozer trundles. Not even snow is enough to take that silly smile off its face. But what comes through its chest speaker is enough to take the smile off Clarissa's.

"We have incoming," Felius's voice comes. Guts-Dozer's mouth moves in time with his. His voice seems much too youthful and flat to be coming from somthing with a silly face like that.

Straightening up, Clarissa stares ahead, pulling her heavy coat closed slightly - she changed back into her usual, warmer-weather clothing for this. "Where, Felius?" she asks, just before spotting and hearing what's coming. A huge vehicle. Flashes of light. Three more vehicles.

'For Lord Vinsfeld!'

"Oh, come on!" Clarissa shouts with a brief surge of frustration. She starts forward - but pauses as she remembers while they're here. They have to protect Lady Yuna.

As the Summoner reacts, Clarissa darts forward, moving to stand near her with her staff at the ready. "I think some of them are from Odessa!" she exclaims, her shoulders tightening. "I heard one of them shouting about Vinsfeld - but I didn't think there'd be so many of them--"

With a rumble, Guts-Dozer begins to push forward, weapons systems churning to life and huge fists rising into readiness. "I see a ground attack vehicle too," Felius's voice comes. "And some signatures that look like teleportation. I'll see what I can do about the first one of those."

"Okay," Clarissa calls back, worry dancing in her eyes. With a look back towards Yuna, then, the blonde girl darts forward, ready to intercept the enemy as best she can.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Ragnell rides with Erzebet in precarious fashion, seated not properly on the backseat but on the back of the backseat, her boots on the seat itself. The wind whips through her short hair and the feather in her hat, and she smiles as she sees the assembled forces grow closer as Odessa closes in. "Yeah?" she says to Erzebet as she explains matters, every so often. She nods thoughtfully as the plan becomes apparent, and chuckles when Speeder 2 is abandoned and sent flying towards a hapless group of mortals. She'll watch for whatever happens with that--but in the meantime, once Speeder 1 stops, she'll hop out and stride through the snow, twin pistols in hand.
        
        For Lord Vinsfeld, someone shouts, but Ragnell doesn't really care about that. But she *is* here to help out, more or less, so it wouldn't do to seem unenthusiastic. Besides, there's plenty of energy to be had for a good fight.
        
        "So," she calls, voice loud enough to carry even through all the ruckus, "who wants to tango?"
        
        She's just maybe not as into the ideals part as some other members of Odessa would be.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel is pretty quiet as she hears Tromell out. Despite her earlier reservations, they don't seem to be showing up on her face at all right now and she just has a sort of mild pleasant smile plastered on her face and the occassional concerned look towards Tidus of all people. The young man seems to have charmed Marivel as well during her time with Yuna and her Guardians. There's just something about being earnest, you know. She doesn't really understand the whistle thing they've got going but a faint widening of that smile indicates she understands enough.

"You've got a good head on your shoulders, Tidus." Marivel tells him which might not be a phrase Tidus often hears but Marivel seems to mean it.

Regardless, Marivel would never dream of cakewalking Yuna through her pilgrimage with the aid of ARMS but considering the situation she expects to be walking into, Yuna's people might need all the help they can get what with everybody and their Brother (capitalization intentional) trying to stop Yuna from completing her pilgrimage. Expecting Odessa to waltz in and start murdering. She even kind of sort of hired a local Ivan to protect a pilgrimage just as extra insurance. She even paid in moneys. She seems to have no idea of the Ivan's mysterious past.

Naturallym when all hell breaks loose, it's pretty much within her expectations.

She sees Leon Albus of the Black Wolves and Brother largely because they are in a flippin' tank. Marivel lets out a faint sigh and asides to Rikku, "A comedy of errors is it?"

Her eyes narrow upon spotting Erzebet. She always has a clear eye for her rival but it seems what Marivel had been waiting for has yet to happen so she does not rush on ahead. Not that she needs to. Odessa is doing plenty of rushing themselves. Yuna asks for an explanation.

"It seems the Al Bhed are here to 'rescue' you, Odessa is here to--well they might be here for us rather than you, I'm not sure. Perhaps they are here to end the pilgrimage too? And of course the Veruni are here to stop your pilgrimage and.... " She considers for a moment. "Did I get everyone? Well, I tried my best."

Marivel steps aside to avoid the crashing speeder and she points towards her eyes--

--then back towards Leon with both fingers. Then she does that a couple more times.

"It's a shame that the end of our time together shall involve such cacophonous violence, but I will make sure even this time is well spent."

Judging by the thoughtful frown to Ragnell's question, there are so many people here she wants to tango with here. It's like a world full of lovely dance partners but she only has so many limbs.

For the moment anyway.

"ARMS, you know what to do." She adds mildly, so mildly that it might even be missed with everything going on.

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        Josephine Lovelace, archaeologist and notorious menace-at-large, had given up any semblance of sartorial agreement months ago. Some of her clothing she had outright had to ditch when she had started playing the part of Crusader, and when she had dropped that game like a hot potato following the group's disbanding, she'd ended up settling on a mismatch that to both Spiran eyes and Filgaia eyes doesn't look quite right according to any fashion standards.

        To say nothing of the rifle strapped across her chest or the pair of ARMs hanging from her belt at her hips. At least the Al Bhed don't judge these any, which for Josie's purposes makes them a hell of a lot more her kind of people than just about any group she's met or hung around in Spira to date.

        Today, the archaeologist is here to kidnap a summoner.

        She's being paid for it.
        And besides, it was the Al Bhed who asked them all to, and they don't seem like they're going to do the little lady harm.
        Josie has some (arguable) morals. Somewhere.

        "He's sayin' we're almost there, Lion," Josie says, then glances over at Brother. Her forehead wrinkles. "Probably."
        She's only picked up a word or two from hanging around the Al Bhed, and mostly gets by on context.

        "Anyway, I'm ready and all when you are--"

        Dark eyes narrow at the points of light in the distance. And the archaeologist frowns. "Looks like we've got a problem. Fengalon's balls, this'll can't ever be easy, can it..."

        She takes the moment to draw one of the ARMs at her hip, giving it the last moment run-down, then glances over at Leon and smiles lopsidedly.

        "C'mon. We'll dance with all of 'em if we gotta."

<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

The chill weather is a bit of a relief to some - Ashton being one of them. He's back in his more comfortable outfit of dark robes and fur. It's a familiar outfit that he missed dearly in the hotter climes of Spira.
 
The sellsword has had little to say for a lot of the trip: he doesn't have a ton of input for the Yuna-drama. She's a very nice lady and most of her Guardians are too, but the Guado are a little creepy. (Says the man who's thirty-seven percent dragon by weight.) But it isn't his business or his place - he has a job.
 
Said job is currently barreling towards them on speeders with a shout about Vinsfeld. Like Clarissa, he turns to facethe oncoming attackers at the cry with blades in hand. And Marivel gives the command. She says it quietly, but it's an important statement.
 
Ashton nods. "We do know what to do. Creepy, if you would?"
 
On command, the red dragon snakes upwards and takes aim. A gout of flame shoots out towards those snowdrifts - and the ice that Speeder 2 is currently bouncing across.

<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        On the one hand, getting to escort the summoner should theoretically be the best thing possible for Acacia to have happen to her. You don't get any more 'embedded reporter' than that, and part of her brain has been spinning over as it thinks up interview question after interview question that she can pose to Yuna and her entourage.

        On the other hand, whenever she actually tries to broach the subject, the thought of saying anything aloud dies in the back of her throat. After everything that Spira has been through in the last few weeks, it feels almost trite to try to put down her feelings in words, or press Yuna to do the same - it feels like too much and too little all at once, breaking the peace of the pilgrimage with so many bad memories. (Besides, that one guardian with the enormous sword keeps staring at her and it's impossible not to back down from that.)

        She settles for capturing a string of photographs instead, not least because this is Macalania and she still adores the place deep down for its light and colour. It's a relief when they make it through to the lake and the snowfield beyond - Kamui's unhappy lament still rings in her ears, and she's glad to know that they might get through this without the light bridges and the tall trees being too disrupted.

        Of course, the moment she thinks that, she spots the clouds of smow and mist in the distance; different directions, and probably different factions, the reporter wryly bets to herself, deflecting her mind from the way her body tightens up in tension and feels for the hard shape in her jacket pocket.

        By now, Acacia is more than used to the way in which Yue can just drop in unannounced. This isn't her bedroom, but the same principle still holds, and perhaps she's a little less shocked than everyone around her when the Veruni suddenly arcs down into the midst of their group.

        "--only today?--" she blurts automatically as she raises her arms in defence, unable to resist the bite back; she grimaces immediately afterwards in apology, but something tells her to keep her arms up in front of her face, well aware that Yue might not be here on peaceful terms today.

        But the Veruni has never lied to her, either. "Sorry," she adds immediately afterwards, then her brow furrows. "What's going on? What do the Guard want-- shit!" she hisses under her breath as pure instinct makes her dive for the ground as the approaching Speeder ramps towards them.

<Pose Tracker> Rikku has posed.

 
Rikku's been uncharacteristically quiet for a while in Macalania. However it's probably because she's been shivering a lot. She's used to warmer climes after all. However she doesn't object to Trommell's escort and Guado wedding traditions, as strange as they are to her. "Okay - but you take good care of her!" She announces to Trommell, crossing her arms to try to preserve body warmth. "And send that someone quick - please. It's cold out here!"
 
Rikku finds herself smiling at Tidus as he whistles her way, perhaps reading more into it than is there. Using the intervening moments she cracks open a bomb fragment out of her stores and rubs it between her fingers, using it to warm up.
 
However... she then picks up on the sound of the speeder in the distance, even before the tank bursts through a drift like a plow. "Oh no. No - No!" Rikku breaks into a jog, "We are not doing this now!"
 
And then she starts running down with the other Guardians, to stand in a fierce pose in front of Yuna, "Let me try diplomacy Yunie. Maybe... maybe we can work this out!"
 
Rikku initially begins that diplomatic effort by waving her arms back and forth like someone on a runway, hopping up and down. Before she finally stops hopping, and cups her hands over her mouth, "Brother - back off before I really get upset! I am still mad about what you did to my Extractor Prototype. It is not meant to be a Shoopuf!"
 
Yes. Apparently this is definitely diplomacy between siblings.
 
"If your stupid Machina tank tries to get in our way - I will reduce it to scrap! Go Home and tell Father that if he wants her to stop - he can come talk with..."
 
And then there is a flash of lightning which causes Rikku to squeak out the next word, "...her!"
 
A third cloud appears, and Rikku's eyes grow into dots. "Yunie I think you should forget any words you're about to hear from over by the tank."
 
Theres a nervous laugh, "I... I have a feeling that they're not going to be... all... that nice..."
 
Cupping her hands again she calls out to Leon, "Come on! There's no way he's paying you and Lily enough for this! It's becoming a literal war zone out here! Can't you just - back off for now?"

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

"I'm real glad for you, miss Yuna," chirps a peculiar gunner in perhaps blasphemously close proximity to the Lady Summoner. 'Guns' are, after all, pretty machina-like, but hey whatever, Rikku's at least as blasphemous. Ashley has elected to take point-guard position alongside the woman he has so recently witnessed summoning a giant doom bird out of the aether.

 There are a number of reasons for this, chief among which is the fact that he... kind of honestly missed the snow? It's autumn back on Filgaia, but it'll be winter soon enough, and the soft crunch of slush under his boots and the crisp cool air on his rosy cheeks are a welcome precursor to his second most favorite season.

(His first most favorite season is autumn, because apples mean apple pie, but hot cocoa and fresh gingerbread cookies are also amazing).

"Marriage is a wonderful thing, you know? Two people, swearing to share their lives, their troubles, their fortunes... I hope I end up like that someday. Maybe someday... But..." Who will he, Ashley Winchester, member of ARMS and present host for one of Filgaia's several gigasatans and renowned baker find to marry...?

(Surely he's not that dense.)

But his reverie is shattered abruptly by the roar of several different engines across the horizon. Ashley turns, his gaze cutting sharply at the three speeders weaving between the snowdrifts. "Ah snuckers, why here of all places?"

 You know what is really really good at stopping runaway speeders?

Well, obviously not way-too-innocent bluenettes, not under most ordinary circumstances anyway. But! This particular way-too-innocent bluenette is armed with an extremely relevant and helpful tool for just this kind of problem!

That tool is a really big gun.

Specifically, it's the round he's loading into the gun. A silvery canister that sails right into the path of the toppling speeder.

It bursts, spreading a crackling, adhesive web interwoven with strands of conductive material. Electricity surges through the lattice of cables, even as the adhesive binds to the surface of the frozen lake...!

"Everyone," Ashley calls to his loyal compadres, "We've got company! Our priority is keeping Yuna safe, but don't get yourselves killed to do it!"

<Pose Tracker> Ratatoskr has posed.

        ON SPEEDER 1...
 
        Ratatoskr is tightly packed. To anyone who has ever tried to get an overly excited bipedal horned squirrel-like alien monstrosity to somehow last the entirety of the Speeder #1's trip without them doing any of the following:
 
        a - Jumping out in order to...
        b - Run alongside it on all fours at alarming speed, followed by...
        c - excited but borderline incoherent shouting about any and all minutae about observed foot soldiers along the way...
        d - stopped to start trying to pick a fight with the snow itself in a fit of pique and a bizarre understanding of what weather phenomena actually are...
 
        ...you are to be saluted, whoever you are.
        "...There's a whole lot of them..." Ratatoskr says, that grinning face speaking those words with awe and even a bit of excitement. The soldiers of Odessa - himself included - have priority targets to deal with for as long as they're all here, but what he sees is a veritable smorgasboard of names, styles, histories, and everything, and boy would he fight all of them if he could--
        --including the Guts-Dozer, over there, raising their fists in threat. Ratatoskr comes atop a snow bank with an even bigger grin. It wasn't long ago that Odessa tried to fight ARMS for the right to have this thing that supposedly fought 'rocks, mostly.'
        That one. I want to fight that one, Ratatoskr thinks with his young dumb eighteen-to-twenty-four-year-old mind yet all but clearly screams this as he takes off on all fours and starts to close the distance in that direction, coming up behind the path of destruction wrought by Speeder #2. The solid yellow of his eyes go ever brighter in anticipation...!

<Pose Tracker> Lulu has posed.

No matter the events on Spira, no matter the works of Otherworlders and Spirans alike... Sin remains, it would seem. And so the pilgrimage must continue. But Lulu, despite the pall over the mood to her mind...

Continues to go on as if everything is normal. She is thoughtful, yes, and quiet is not unusual--but she's also sharp, willing to explain and answer questions about the beauty of Macalania and the area surrounding the Temple approach for certain Tiduses and ARMS members alike. All until they reach Tromell...

She nods. ...She doesn't reiterate the fact that Tidus would ahve been better off saying that himself, that maybe that support would be particularly key.

For the record, Lulu is in a cold weather outfit, because it would be absurd not to be.

She smiles faintly, though with mixed feelings, at the moment with the whistle--before...

"What?" Lulu asks, as she turns, looking first to Leon Albus--again--and then to the growing clouds of snow, to the rushing onward, to--that's sure a Speeder.

On the heels of Ashley's fine words and perhaps finer gunfire, Lulu raises her hand--and more lightning crackles down from the sky (sorry Rikku) towards the speeder, with the full intent of just outright exploding the damn thing no matter who's on it.

Then she turns to Rikku for a moment, "...I don't think that sounded very diplomatic," she says, diplomatically.

Then, "It seems--Odessa? But what interest would they have..."

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ivan is among the defenders of the pilgramage, courtesy of Marivel, who offered him the job when he mentioned he was looking for new work. This is admittedly a pretty awkward place for him to be after having recently tried to kill the summoner Yuna's fiancee(?), but if anyone asks, he is Definitely Not the Guy Who Did That, although it might've been his brother, real low life, that guy.

But it's work! And not morally reprehensible work! He thinks? Yuna does not seem particularly terrible or dangerous in his inexpert estimation, at any rate. And he probably trusts Marivel's judgement, because if you can't trust your unpredictable zany vampire friends who seem to have unknown spooky depths, who can you tr-... you know what, never mind.

But -- as various forces suddenly begin to gather all around, complete with large machina -- it looks like this is going to be a pretty serious job.

He tries to quickly parse Marivel's explanation of the various groups that have gathered and why, but decides to settle on responding to hostility in kind and sorting out the whos and whys later.

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        "That depends!" Josie calls out, not far from Leon. "How much you got?"

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Whenever ARMS has a job to do, Clarine was usually there. Today is no different - not only did they have Yuna and her Guardians to look after, but they also coincidentally had something to investigate in the Macalania region, thanks to Felius's discovery in the Guts-Dozer's systems.

And so, she perches atop the vehicle, watching everything carefully and keeping an eye out for trouble. She doesn't make any comments - there's a lot of New People, and as a rule it's difficult for her to really...talk, when she doesn't really know them. Even if they fought together back on Besaid.

It's peaceful until it isn't.

Battle erupts on many fronts.

Marivel's friend Yue appears nearby, and not only that, arriving with Odessa is...

Well, of course it's Ragnell. Wherever a fight was brewing, she probably wasn't too far away.

"...Understood." Clarine replies to Marivel's mild, mild order, and then... Clarine leaps from atop the vehicle. She drifts slowly down even as a vehicle comes speeding for the rest of her allies, not even breaking the snow as she lands.

She trusts them to be okay, but for the time being, she turns toward her old friend.

"...Is that offer open to just anyone?" Clarine asks in response, her mirrors appearing and beginning to swirl around her.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda has been occupying herself, for the most part, with last-minute gear checks and maintenance -- and not just her own. The wink gets her to look up and smile faintly back, but for the most part, Matilda's ever-focused on practicals. It's not the world's most interesting thing, but she seems to take to this sort of thing with much more enthusiasm than the average Odessa soldier.

She can't actually get everything handled to her satisfaction by the time they pull up; she settles for what she's got, in the end, and gets ready to pile out of the transport and do her job.

"... more than I was expecting," Matilda notes, to Ratatoskr. "It's possible someone else has had a similar idea..."

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        "Wow... This pilgrimage stuff is so neat..." Gwen looks on at the exchange from a distance away with ARMS, by request of Eleanor. Which, really, is less a 'request' and more just 'hey we'd love the help' and Gwen just seized on it, because damn it, the Yevon religion, for all its hang-ups and weird practices, is still downright fascinating.

        A beacon of hope in a world of despair. Or maybe, a false beacon, allowed to exist for purposes she doesn't know about. At least, that's what Ragnell hinted at, but Ragnell hints at a lot of things that may or may not be true.

        MORE IMPORTANTLY one of the Guardians just might be sweet for Yuna too! It's so romantic and yet so wonderfully scandalous at the same time! Wait. Is Tidus from the Blue Star or from Spira?

        But then- "Wha... what're Odessa here for? N' the Guard too?" Gwen is wrenched back into reality, lifting a gloved hand to her forehead. "-Oh, just some charismatic asshole's merc band from the Blue Star." Gwen offers this vague answer to Yuna while waving a dismissive hand. "Just a load of nonsense dealin' with stuff that'd complicate your prilgrimage even more if they manage t'sink their teeth in."

        But why are they here? Is it because ARMS is here? Marivel seems to think that. "Dunno 'bout the prilgrimage angle, Marivel. They... er..."

        All the quips the courier was about to say die on her lips the moment a certain Seraph steps out, pistols at the ready.

        ".... Ragnell? What're you..." The bewildered expression on Gwen's face shifts to a flare of anger, causing the courier to quickly start walking towards Ragnell in quick steps.

        "You're doin' this again?! N' with Odessa?! What in the Guardian's goddamn name are you tryin' to pull now, Ragnell?!"

        At least Gwen's learning.

<Pose Tracker> Brad Evans has posed.

Brad Evans, ARMS' designated Big Guy, is indeed a big guy. He's got his Mechanical Glove strapped onto his right arm, in fairly brazen defiance of Machina regulations, because without it he can't shoot rockets at Fiends. He has accompanied Yuna's party along with the rest of ARMS without much in the way of comment, other than the occasional piercing stare priests receive when they get more within 6 feet of him.

Any conflicted feelings Brad may have about Yevon, after that haunted few weeks he spent out of touch following Macalania, he keeps to himself. As the group draws near to Tromell Guado, he shifts his posture outward. This isn't his to intervene in. ...

Though he finds himself palming his face at Ashley's extremely kindhearted and completely wrong speech. He keeps forgetting Ashley is relatively gr--

Shouting, the early popcorn pop-pop-pop of fire. Brad hits the ground in a knee, throwing up his Mechanical Glove at skull level for cover. "Incoming!" he shouts, nearly the same time as Clarissa's groaning. "I see Odessa uniforms, and..." squint. "Tank. Shit." He cracks his neck to one side. "Ashley! We've got vehicles!" He briefly glances back at the ARMS and Guardians available, and jerks his head. "I'm going!"

And then he charges off, Mechanical Glove held high to ward off initial shots from the Al Bhed he knows are that way, and the Drifters he doesn't.

GS: Leon Albus has adjusted their boss level for 5 opponents!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        In response to Ragnell's call--because all sorts of things are so much easier if you just *ask*--Clarine steps forward, her mirrors materializing around her. She tips her hat to her old friend, smile unabated. "Not to just anyone," she drawls. "But for you, Clary? I'm open anytime." She gives Marivel an ironic little salute, maybe even mocking (Ragnell and Marivel are too much alike for her to truly like her), before she faces the Light Seraph--
        
        oh hey a gwen
        
        Ragnell raises an eyebrow at Gwen when the redheaded courier starts marching on over to her. "Yeah? Did you think I was gonna stop?" she replies, eyebrow rising. "Did you think I tried t' stuff Raftina full o' Malevolence for the fun of it? Well, I guess knowin' me, you might reasonably think that..."
        
        What's she trying to pull now, though? Ragnell grins wide, showing off her white, white teeth. "Oh, c'mon, Gwen. You know better than t' think I'll jus' *tell* you!"
        
        At least she's learning indeed. For the time being, though, Ragnell raises one gun and, after charging a shot briefly, fires; a moment later, a torrential downpour falls down over Gwen and Clarine, the rain interspersed with needle-like bolts of lightning.

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Seraph Clarine with Squall Shot!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Squall Shot!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Clarine critically Guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Squall Shot for 20 hit points!
GS: Cover! applied to Seraph Ragnell!
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

As Ashton darts up to stand near her, Clarissa breathes a little easier, looking towards the dragon-shouldered young man with a quiet smile. "Yes... let's try and stop them."

There's a certain urgency to it. Guts-Dozer had pointed them to the location of an ancient ruin. The thought of fighting her way into it through a crowd of Odessa soldiers - saying nothing of all those here to impede their friend Yuna - is less than appealing, but if it's what they need to do, then it's what they need to do.

"We'll try to stop them," she assures Yuna with a gentle smile. "Please tak care of yourself, alright? You're a good person, and I know you'll finish your mission, no matter who stands in your way!"

Someone else drops in in the middle of her sentence. Or perhaps lopes in. A flash of yellow draws Clarissa's attention out into the snow - just in time to spot a Hyadean shape loping towards the group, eyes on the Guts Dozer.

"Mr. Ashton," Clarissa says, reaching out to touch the young man's elbow. "I think that's Ratatoskr - one of the Odessa soldiers." It's not the first time Clarissa's had a run-in with the Metal Demon, and she's learned enough about him to have a sense of how she thinks. "We have to divert his attention... draw him away from Lady Yuna. I think together, we can definitely do it."

The words are underlaid by the radiant foundation that is her smile. It's small, but the warmth behind her eyes is practically a tangible thing.

Briskly, Clarissa strides forward. Her smile fades, determination etching itself into her face as she strikes her staff firmly against the turf. A few shimmering sparks of ice dance around the head of it.

"EXCUSE ME," she shouts. Her voice rings like a bell. "MISTER RATATOSKR! I'M SORRY TO BOTHER YOU, BUT FIGHTING LADY YUNA AND HER FRIENDS WHEN THEY'RE ON AN IMPORTANT TRIP ISN'T VERY NICE!"

GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Clarissa Arwin with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Ashton Anchors with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Yuna with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has gained 1 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 Yuna! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Yuna!
GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Ashton Anchors! He gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Ashton Anchors!
<Pose Tracker> Erzebet Lefanu has posed.

 
OFFICIAL THEME OF THIS POSE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ui0a-QXPUf0

SPEEDER #2 BEGINS ITS FINAL FLIGHT. It is already toppling. A silver-electric web smashes into a craft that did not have a real thick and heavy metal body to begin with, being meant for speed. Lightning crashes and it ends up, between the web and its own neutralized momentum, precariously perched nearly vertical and also pretty distinctly on fire.

Yuna's question gets an answer. "I am SO glad you asked!" Erzebet says as Speeder #1 parks and she climbs off, together with the squad that forms a perimeter and ready their gunsmoke ARMs.

"I am Erzebet Mara Lefanu," Erzebet says to Yuna and, probably, the audience she imagines. "I like to think of myself as a writer but we're really here for a military operation, which is SO ROUGH, don't you think?"

Towards Clarissa, she says, "Don't be upset, just be amazed!" Erzebet also gestures with her gun - she has two long guns, with pistol grips, decorated ornately - towards the Guts Dozer. "Are you enjoying the GEAR YOU STOLE, by the way? Is it a lot of fun? Do you think stealing is a very fun thing to do? Did they tell you about that, by the -wait," Erzebet says, looking back at Yuna.

For a fleeting moment Erzebet looks haunted, haggard, almost afraid. It passes with a couple of blinks. "There we go," she declares, "trainlights for eyes, just like they said. Come along, Lady Sum-"

Rikku bursts onto the scene! Mostly. No, she's addressing someone else. Erzebet's brow knits and she looks over towards the other large armored vehicle. Erzebet frowns in thought, and then says, "That's not our tank," towards Clarissa, who did not ask. Then she looks towards where Ratatoskr is vibrating -- she sees Ragnell too but Ragnell seems like she needs less in the way of Leadership, so Erzebet estimates.

"Well then," she tells Ratatoskr, "you'll just have to cut that down, won't you? This is the place, this is the time. If they're not with us, and their eyes aren't different colors, go crazy! Show them what you can do, you absolute unit, you!"

"That's a REALLY good question," Erzebet then addresses Lulu, "and I would ADORE discussing it if you would like to take off and throw away any of your gear, crests, mediums or similar, are willing to accept a brief interval of stifling and -- I'm getting off topic. Lady Summoner," this back to Yuna, "we have a way out of this mess for you if you'd care to take it, but I want to tell you that I am not someone who would stoop to threatening the others present."

Erzebet then raises her hand that doesn't have any weapons in it and makes a swirling gesture in the air. That is absolutely a signal.

The Odessa gunners begin to fire! There is a minor blessing in that they seem to be going for suppressive fire with their first volley rather than headshots. Why? Maybe they want to increase the confusion. This is probably more likely than any sort of squeamishness about killing. Erzebet, for her part, points her gun sidewise towards the ground near her, tracks upwards, and fires a good four rounds into the cold soil near Lulu, near Rikku too. The shots rebound, hissing up and leaving red streaks in the air; two of them, in fact, smash against each other, pivoting improbably to fly towards Clarissa.

She twirls round with her other gun newly drawn making her fur coat - she put the fur coat back on, it's chillier here than it is down near Luca - swirl around. After this she takes a full eight shots towards the lumbering machina tank, beaming as she does it.

This has also put her fairly close to Yuna. She turns her head to look at Yuna. "Allez-oup," she says.

At this point Erzebet throws herself to try and scoop up Yuna and throw her over one shoulder, like a sack of hope-laden potatoes. Erzebet may overestimate her own strength, but then again, this WOULD discourage snipers a little, wouldn't it?

The speeder, previously unheralded, topples -- towards the machina tank!!

GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Beautiful Bullet Array!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Lulu with Beautiful Bullet Array!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Rikku with Beautiful Bullet Array!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has spent 1 Combo on Poison, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Leon Albus with I'm Burning 4 U!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus guards a hit from Erzebet Lefanu's I'm Burning 4 U for 66 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus has been weakened by Disease! Leon Albus can't gain THP until the Disease is cured!
GS: Leon Albus suffers an additional 19 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Disease and Poison! applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Clarissa Arwin completely evades a hit from Erzebet Lefanu's Beautiful Bullet Array!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Yuna with Added Effect - Steal!
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

"Lady Arwin." Ashton smiles as she gets his attention. A good comrade and a just cause. Exactly what the white mage ordered.
 
His eyes shift to where she points - and the familiar Metal Demon. It makes the sellsword frown. "Fortunately, Lady, I have a bit of a history with this particular creature. I think we can--"
 
Oh okay she's just gonna yell at him. And ask him nicely to stop.
 
Yeah, that won't work.
 
"No no. Like this."
 
And he lets out a loud whistle. "HEY, YOU LITTLE MONSTER."
 
Then two dragon heads and one human one all stick out their tongues and razz Ratatoskr at the same time.

GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Ratatoskr with Triple Raspberry Assault!
GS: Ashton Anchors has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has completed her action.
GS: Yuna takes a glancing hit from Erzebet Lefanu's Added Effect - Steal for 45 hit points!
GS: Rikku takes a glancing hit from Erzebet Lefanu's Beautiful Bullet Array for 53 hit points!
GS: Lulu takes a solid hit from Erzebet Lefanu's Beautiful Bullet Array for 116 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Squall Shot for 105 hit points!
GS: Cover! applied to Seraph Ragnell!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"E's hud kuehk yhofrana, Rikku!" Brother shouts back, from the tank. He stays near the controls -- and doesn't even wince as Leon and Josie leap off. He stays put, and glowers down at Rikku. The angry young man keeps yelling. "Fa'na pnehkehk ran fedr ic! Vydran'c untanc -- yht ra byet draca baubma kuut kem du tu dryd!"

But then Brother stops, as a speeder goes flying up at them. He makes a worried, half-screech before it gets blown out of the air.

He looks back at Rikku, and shouts a final line: "Oui cruimth'd pa uh ran ceta, Rikku! Oui yna Al Bhed!"

Then, Brother ducks down into the tank. The hatch closes with a click -- and the turret turns, and there is a roaring crack BOOM, as the cannon fires into the Guts-Dozer. Leon keeps walking forward, his bangs -- grown too long -- whipping to the side from the shockwave. He glances sideways at Josie. "Checks out," he says to his fellow mercenary. Then, his expression screws up at Rikku's offer. "Josie. No. We have standards--"

His expression screws up further. "Well. We have some standards, which we periodically misplace and have to find again."

He looks back at Rikku -- then to Lulu and Yuna. "I'd tell you it's nothing personal... but, I suspect that's not true for you."

He levels Diplomacy at Rikku. The modified Al Bhed-salvaged gun gleams, before a round shoots right for her side. Then, Leon spins, firing a second shot at Lulu; after that, he turns -- gives the starkest frown in the direction of a charging Brad Evans -- and then taps a button on his belt. From under his coat, a trio of little, flat triangles drop off. They swirl out, and then swing up in front of Yuna -- and form a barrier separating the mage from him.

Which then pushes that barrier at her, trying to knock her flat over.

The same hand draws out his sword. It flicks up into his hand -- and he, simply, chooses to frown at Marivel. A bullet from Erzebet slashes along his left side, a moment later, drawing blood.

The Crusader's discarded long sword comes up, out of its sheath with a hiss. Erzebet runs past -- rushing by the barrier of light that he made. Leon's sword swings out, and he slashes for her midsection -- just as the Raid Funnels lift. The barrier slams into the speeder, then pitches it into the snow.

"Ah, one of Rhadamanthus's goons," Leon says, coolly, to Erzebet. "I'd ask you to deliver a message, but unfortunately, I intend to kill you before you can."

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Rikku with Shotgun Blast!
GS: Leon Albus has attacked Lulu with Shotgun Blast!
GS: Leon Albus has attacked Yuna with PMU-Z2 Raid Fang!
GS: Leon Albus has attacked Marivel Armitage with Disapproving Frown!
GS: Leon Albus has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with Legion Smash!
GS: Leon Albus takes 22 damage from Poison!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Yue Rohay has posed.

        ELSEWHERE NEAR

        "... it is ... war," Kamui quietly laments. She takes a photograph from the Picto Obscura. Her red camera eye is scanning over the eclectic mix of speedsters in the snow, the mage and charging troops of the Guard, the Drifters, the Machina...

        "... it's war again ..."

        She lowers her head.

        "Gami ... am I going to be able to go back to you? It seems like ... I didn't wake up to anything new. I just woke up to another war ..."

        The sound of a fusillade is coming her way.

        An emerald flash--

        And Gami's Saber, triangular and gleaming with energy, is out as she rends several arrows in twain.

        "... my heart... is quickly filling with sorrow again. But something big is happening. Even if it hurts ... even if it keeps hurting ... I can't let Mari or Master or everyone else come to harm."

        She's a blur of energy as she joins the battle, in the distance.

        NOW

        "Only today, because I usually drop into your bedroom windowsill--" Yue answers with an attempt at light charm, but the literal gravity well inside of her is dragging her down and she knows it.

        The speedsters pass by and she crouches as well.

        "Come now, Acacia. Djose and Besaid now, then Macalania. What do all three places have in common?" she quizzes.

        She sees Mari in the distance, but the vampire hasn't noticed her. Well, she's busy with destiny. Clarine has gone to engage what she senses is another being on the same level as her...

        Might as well make the most of it.

        "Think fast," Yue answers as she shoots her arms forward (given the shackles) and attempts to pilfer the Mana Egg she knows Acacia carries on her person. Assuming she's successful, she bounds back as she states very faintly, goading:

        "Your best chance to defeat me was with magic. What will you do now... head reporter?"

GS: Yue Rohay has attacked Acacia Saitani with I Just Put Points in Pickpocketing!
GS: Yue Rohay has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Yue Rohay has completed her action.
GS: Marivel Armitage takes a glancing hit from Leon Albus's Disapproving Frown for 0 hit points!
GS: Lulu takes a solid hit from Leon Albus's Shotgun Blast for 93 hit points!
GS: Acacia Saitani takes a solid hit from Yue Rohay's I Just Put Points in Pickpocketing for 0 hit points!
GS: Rikku takes a glancing hit from Leon Albus's Shotgun Blast for 48 hit points!
GS: Yuna takes a glancing hit from Leon Albus's PMU-Z2 Raid Fang for 53 hit points!
GS: Cover! applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Leon Albus assumes the Stoic stance!
GS: Ratatoskr takes a glancing hit from Ashton Anchors's Triple Raspberry Assault for 0 hit points!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu guards a hit from Leon Albus's Legion Smash for 69 hit points!
GS: Mighty! applied to Leon Albus!
<Pose Tracker> Yuna has posed.
<SoundTracker>  

For those who were hired, coerced, or otherwise persuaded by Marivel to help protect this leg of Yuna's pilgrimage, the girl they had a chance to spend some time with in the past day has been quiet, gentle, polite, and, more than anything, reserved; lost in thought, the sort of thought that one gets lost in when they've got a serious problem, and are trying to come up with a solution. That isn't to say she's been dour; quite the contrary, every effort to interact with her was met with a soft smile.

But a smile of the surface, mostly. She's not disinterested? She's just... obviously preoccupied.

That's not the case now, of course. There's nothing like the immediacy of mortal threat to ground a girl, to make her live in the moment. Her eyes flash, jungle green and ocean blue, as the explanations (and explosions) start pouring in. Her cold-weather gear, a white cloak trimmed by dark pink triangles around the hem and hood, and tied in front with a wide pink ribbon that she has fastened into a neat bow, swirls around her feet as she turns to regard the group, in that final moment before they disperse completely.

"Thank you," she murmurs, heartfelt and earnest, to the entire collective of supporters, then raises her voice just to be very sure she's heard, since things are getting noisy. "I'm truly sorry for all the trouble!"

Though it does seem possible that not everybody here is here for HER, and that's both comforting and disturbing. "I wonder if Odessa's presence has to do with that... sphere-mining operation we found underneath Mushroom Rock Road," she reflects aloud, 'sphere-mining' said with soft distress. Seeing the memories of the world forcefully and violently extracted was awful for her. "Remember... that map?"

It pointed straight to Lake Macalania.

BGM Start: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNoem1VEtyc

Yuna, on the other hand, is pointed straight at the oncoming Al Bhed/Black Wolves collaboration tank, whose explanation she doesn't seem to require, and whose motives she does not find mysterious. Nor Erzebet's, not really, once she's polite enough to explain, something that Yuna rewards with a rather gratified look. When they get close enough to her, she wards off any grabby hands, machina claws, or other immediate attempts to summonernap her with a fierce hit from her rod.

Well -- a 'fierce' 'hit'. It is Yuna, after all.

BONK!

Sparkles fly.

(Clarissa's support may have helped a little, at least...)

"Um, it's very nice to meet you, Miss Lefanu," she replies, in the aftermath of narrowly squirming out of her grip and applying the BONK. The woman's haunted look seems to have stayed with her, because she seems much more serious than jolly. "I would be glad to discuss any and all means to defeat Sin," uh, not exactly the Yevon party line, good thing Tromell retreated towards the Temple, "But, please stop trying to take me by force!"

Right then, Leon nearly bowls her over with a force field. She gets out of the way of being flattened beneath it, but it catches the corner of her white cloak, tethering her in place, at least to that length. She frowns at him. QUIET DISAPPROVAL.

As she lets the pink ribbon clasping her cloak slither free, and her skinny little shoulders are bared to the elements of Macalania, the mercenary can be comforted by the thought that he is now PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE for Lady Summoner Yuna catching a cold.

GS: Yuna has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with BONK!!
GS: Yuna has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Yuna has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Erzebet Lefanu guards a hit from Yuna's BONK! for 15 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya Alathfar has posed.

"Natural beauty, they said. Appreciate the crystal forest, they said. Nobody mentioned SNOW, which is basically 'sand but, somehow, actually, worse?'"

The Duchess Alathfar has been... testy, lately. This is what the ranks say, particularly since she came across a group of Hyland and Rolance soldiers threatening to break out into internal conflict again. As she walks at the head of a small company of soldiers now, that definitely seems still to be true. She sees the Speeders--and scowls, for a moment--but does not see, at first, anyone within them, not anyone in particular. Her eyes cast over the assembled...

"...This," she comments to her lieutenant, "Might be an opportunity. Move into position--have our flanks cut off the escape routes. I'll press the front."

"Yes, milady!"

Kaguya, dressed in many layers, with the colors of Hyland, steps forward, looking over mercenaries... summoner.... "But uh," a soldier looks to her, "How are you going to get past all that... stuff, with those vehicles...?"

"...Captain," Kaguya says gently, softly, and reaches out to pat the man's cheek. "That's a very good question. And the answer is..."

She smacks the side of his helmet, not hard, but enough to ring out. Rolling her eyes, she turns around. "Blah blah, I can't be inquisitive while Kaguya's offering engineering lessons but I can question my orders!" She starts stomping off towards the battlefield, pulling a strange device from her coat as the soldiers look at one another nervously and the lieutenant frowns at them. "Are you trying to get your pay docked? Let's move out!"

-=-=-

Forward, Kaguya finishes making the adjustments to the strange device in her hand. She flicks the switch--

And in a flash of green light, the air crackles and onto the scene appears a small blonde woman in strange armor underneath her Hyland tunic--the engineer of the Guard's Golems, Kaguya.

"I heard there was a party," she says. Then she tilts her head, looking at the assembled Al Bhed and Wolves. To Leon, "Didn't I throw you off a train once?"

Then to Erzebet, "So I've heard a lot about your organization by now, but not seen much of anything. What's your angle here? We might not have to be enemies."

She narrows her eyes to the others, looking at Yuna--and pointedly saying nothing to her because apparently talking with Yuna always leads to, "Stupid primitive human emotion," she mutters under her breath after all.

"HEY ARMS! A little birdie told me you're all LOSERS and you can't take me on!"

<Pose Tracker> Rikku has posed.

 
"I mean - it is for him." Rikku indicates to Lulu before answering, "Maybe they're after Maester Seymour? It was just Kinoc last time, but that guy might have changed his mind..." However, Yuna mentions the Sphere Mining Operation and Rikku is taken back, "Hey you're right-! Good thinking Yunie!"
 
However Josephine calls out how much they've got, and Rikku holds up a finger as if to ask for just a moment. "Have I got a deal for y-"
 
Erzebet. 'Do you think stealing is a very fun thing to do?' Rikku presses her lips together, sweating a little despite the cold.
 
Eyeing Clarissa. Then she might mouth something to herself along the lines of 'Oh not me.' before... "You're not that type huh?"
 
Rikku then suddenly hits the dirt even if the dirt is 'ice' in this case, rolling as a bullet on ricochet hits the target attached to her wrist. "THEN WHY ARE YOU SHOOTING AT US!? That's at least twice as bad as threatening us!"
 
Hupping herself back up, she finds herself face to face with Leon's DIPLOMATIC - Machina Shotgun.
 
Twisting to the side as the spreadshot grazes her flank, she says, "Oh come on! So you have professional standards - I get it - but your employer won't be happy if we all die in the crossfire!"
 
As she then lets drop a bag of gil until it hits the toe of her foot with a jingle, then she kicks it with a separate jingle, sending it sailing in the air in an arc towards Leon. "So why not you know - all of you stop shooting at us until Odessa and the Guard does? That meets your professional approval right?"
 

GS: Rikku has attacked Leon Albus with Bribe!
GS: Rikku has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Rikku has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

At Ragnell's smile, Clarine smiles back. It's a bit strained, though - it's not Ragnell's fault, this situation is just a little hectic and she's quite nervous.

"Then I accept." Clarine replies, bowing her head. But before the battle is joined fully, someone else from her party joins in.

Clarine had seen Gwen first at the meeting discussing Ganondorf, but she doesn't know the courier very well, even if Eleanor had requested her help for this particular mission. So, it comes as bit of a surprise that...

"...You know her...?" Clarine asks. Apparently so, according to Ragnell.

In the end, Ragnell's the one to fire the first shot - rain begins to fall, along with lightning. Clarine's reflexes are quicker than they have been in the past. Clarine's mirrors quickly reorient themselves, rising to intercept the volley of lightning falling toward her.

"...I fought Liath the other day. She was...impressively strong. I have...so very much to learn, but you both...you have given me a goal to reach for." Clarine says.

But right now, she needs to focus on the fight.

"...You have my support. I believe I may need the help..." She says with a nod toward Gwen. With that, a runic circle indicative of a Seraphic arte appears beneath Clarine's feet.

""Hasten the pulse's flow! Enchance Cast!""

At this incantation, yellow light tinged with violet flashes around Gwen's. While the spell's main intention is to improve one's spellcasting prowess, it also has the side-effect of making it easier to resist magic while also generally boosting one's strength, so that it is useful even for those who might not use much magic themselves.

She hears someone taunting ARMS in the distance...but Clarine isn't really the type to rise to insults.

GS: CRITICAL! Leon Albus critically Guards a hit from Rikku's Bribe for 0 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus has lost 1 Combo from Interrupt!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Enhance Cast!
GS: Seraph Clarine has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Seraph Clarine has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Ashley is almost comically oblivious to the utter disbelief his woefully idealistic worldview inflicts on his compatriots. Why, even now, his eyes are still sparkling like gemstone disks! His earnest belief in the ~power of love~ would be inspiring if it wasn't also so... Corny...

...But that's Ashley. If he wasn't being so doe-eyedly innocent, something would be terribly wrong.

Also something terribly wrong: A strange woman belonging to a notorious terrorist organization swooping out and scooping up a Lady Summoner without even a little bit of respect toward the normal order of operations when it comes to these things. (You only get to kidnap important player characters either before anyone else is around to prevent it, or AFTER an unwinnable bossfight! Those are The Rules!!)

"Miss Lady Summoner!" Ashley calls, darting forward just a little too late. But... it seems Yuna's got it in hand!? His involvement might make things a little too confused, in fact. But...!

Suddenly, there's a *flash* of green light and even more hostiles pour into the melee.

"Tch. More of them...? We really walked into a crackerbarrel of a brawl this time. Brad--" Brad runs off to do what Brad is best at. Ashley nods, "Stay safe! Give them a rocket right to the face for me! I've got this."

Does he?

Does he got this?

"We don't want more trouble than we've already got!" Ashley calls as he charges at Kaguya and her golem horde. "I really don't think now is a good time to be calling us out, miss!" He swings at one of the constructs-- and pulls his weapon's trigger on impact, revealing it to not only be a blade mounted to a gun, but some kind of gunblade as well! "Maybe you'd be willing to consider rescheduling!?"

GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked Kaguya Alathfar with Shot Weapon!
GS: Ashley Winchester has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashley Winchester has completed his action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Seraph Clarine's Enhance Cast for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Surge! applied to Gwen Whitlock!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel has in fact noticed Yue, but today is a long day and she can't afford to spend all her energy fighting her old rival. She wouldn't be able to hold back in circumstances like this. Marivel is explicitely out to screw destiny so to speak but she's yet to manage it so far, she's say. Perhaps today will be different.

Leon doesn't open fire on her. In fact, nobody does! This makes Marivel frown severely and she crosses her arms.

"What! Losers!!" Marivel gasps. "You are calling us, ARMS, the great organization carefully assembled by the Valeria Household....LOSERS???"

She pauses a moment before adding, "Well, this is why I brought backup. Toodles!"

And with that her eyes flash red as she turns to look to Rikku.

"Rikku... What I am about to do to Leon Albus, I do in your honor."

Rikku tries BRIBE!

Marivel rears back a blitzball that appears in her hands and says, "Have you ever heard of karma my kidnapping friends? Please! Take listen carefully!"

And with that she flings the blitzball hella hard for Leon's face.

Before bwipping forward and appearing in Leon's personal space with a faint smile.

"You have quite the number of fascinating characters working under you...don't you? Unfortunateley one of them is a threat to Filgaia itself. I don't suppose you'll cooperate there?"

It's a clear taunt, trying to keep Leon focused on her rather than the other Guardians who have a lot more trouble to deal with right now.

GS: Kaguya Alathfar takes a solid hit from Ashley Winchester's Shot Weapon for 127 hit points!
GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Leon Albus with Shut up And Jam Ball!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
GS: Leon Albus guards a hit from Marivel Armitage's Shut up And Jam Ball for 81 hit points!
GS: Jam! applied to Leon Albus!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        "Looks like family issues," Josie remarks to Leon, as sister and Brother have a bit of an argument. "C'mon, no time like the present." She holsters her ARM and leaps over the side with Leon, landing with ease despite their current approach speed on the earth below.

        She stands, straightening, and takes the time to sweep a loose strand of pale hair out of her face. "Well, look at that. Guardians be praised and all that. Lady Summoner, come with us if you would? We're here to pick you up."

        Which is when Leon offers a certain correction.

        Josie shoots Leon a look that might just ask, silently, 'Do we really?' but nevertheless she shrugs her shoulders hugely at his correction and lopsidedly smiles at the trio. "You heard the man, right? Looks like it's no deal. Too bad, I was a little interested what sort of number you might come up with..." And she has the gall after to wink at Leon, saucily.

        She gestures at Yuna, stiffly and with her right hand. "Come on. We're not gonna hurt you or nothin'. Just think of us lot as a very highly paid escort service."

                                        MEANWHILE

        Light, fleetingly, spins in a swirl, as if something illuminated were twirled through the air. There is a spray of blood from within the Odessa ranks soon after, followed by a figure moving at speed through the ranks. Only their long blonde hair is visible.

        The cry goes up: "S-she, she cut off all their heads at once!"

        BUT BACK HERE

        "Now that's a right old big bastard," Josie remarks, her gaze shifting towards the form of ARMS' very own Brad Evans. Her gaze narrows. She sees what he's after, and that's a problem -- without that they have no ride out again. "Hey, Leon -- looks like that one's going to try and bust up the tank. I'll try and keep an eye here and all, but I think I've got to make sure we can get out, right?" She flashes him a grin before breaking off from Leon in a short dash across the field--

        With one single smooth motion she slides the Gawain-series rifle from its holster along her back, marveling at the familiar weight. "Been too damn long," she murmurs, running her right hand down the side of the barrel.

        She's missed the sense of shooting with a proper ARM.
        She drops, then, into the proper stance and--

        Her heart beats once, twice. Brad's form comes into her sights.

        --she fires.

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Josephine Lovelace with The Quick And The Dead!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Josephine Lovelace's The Quick And The Dead for 0 hit points!
GS: Amplify! applied to Josephine Lovelace!
GS: Josephine Lovelace assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Brad Evans with Out Of The Blue!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lulu has posed.

Gunfire. Before Lulu can celebrate the destruction of the speeder heading towards them, perhaps with a sharp nod towards Ashley, she finds that bullets are even harder to defend against when they're bouncing off of the ground--She grits her teeth for a moment as she steps back, one arm up as if to shield herself when she can't get out of the way.

"You'll forgive me if I decline," Lulu answers Erzebet. She practically scowls over at Leon for the moment. She can appreciate at least that he isn't going to insult them by saying it's not...

But him, and Josie both, get the Look. She moves into action; some of the shot crashes against her, though much of it moves past, as she moves quickly--

"Shield Yuna!" she says to Rikku, as apparently they aren't after Seymour after all. "We can worry about standards later--"

She has to make a choice, naturally, as to where to focus. And she chooses--

"No one appreciates someone who's too forward," she says to Erzebet. "I think it's time you cooled off."

Swinging her hand, a crystalline bludgeon of ice fades into being in mid-air--and crashes towards the Odessa member.

GS: Lulu has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with Blizzard!
GS: Lulu has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lulu has completed her action.
GS: Erzebet Lefanu completely evades a hit from Lulu's Blizzard!
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Confused as he is by all the chaos, Ivan's a little slow on the draw, and soon it seems like most everybody's engaged with one another and he's got a lot of fire in his hands and isn't sure where to put it without burning somebody he's supposed to be helping.

That's when KAGUYA appears right on the scene in a green flash of trash talk!

"Hey!! Kaguya! ...who I've NEVER met in my LIFE...!"

Smooth recovery.

"You seem like somebody I want to fight! Why don't you send some of your fire over here!"

...Is what he says, but it's actually what he does, swirling the fire in his hands into distinct balls of flame and lobbing them toward her in a small barrage.

He seems glad to see her, at any rate. And... to fight her?? Hopefully she didn't take his leaving personally. Or the fireballs flying at her face.

GS: Ivan has attacked Kaguya Alathfar with Fire Swarm!
GS: Ivan has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
GS: Kaguya Alathfar critically Guards a hit from Ivan's Fire Swarm for 22 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ratatoskr has posed.

        Matilda asides to Ratatoskr, somewhere before his departure, that others must have had the same idea, and he just grins about it. Why wouldn't he? That just means more are fighting...
        Fast forward just a li'l.
        "Show them what I can do...? Show them what I can do!" Ratatoskr cackles as he repeats Erzebet's orders as a question, then an exclamation as tends to be his habit. "Hyahaha--! I want to see what they can do...! And then I want to fight that 'do'...!"
        That's kind of a roundabout way to say 'oh okay' but here we are anyway.
        Clarissa sticks the staff against the turf, and somehow with all the yelling and the shooting and the tossing and the turning and the BONKing, that's heard and it's got Ratatoskr standing a bit straighter.
        Before she even speaks with that voice that carries like a bell.
        "Isn't very nice...? But this Lady Yuna's on a trip to fight Sin, isn't she...? What's one more! Come onnnn--"
        Then, Ashton shouts those loving words of disapproval, and Ratatoskr's eyes - despite being solid yellow and featureless - can be described to track in the direction of Ashton and his dragons on principle. He has seen what comes out of the mouths of Creepy and Weepy. Ratatoskr's obsessive interests has parsed so many different angles and velocities in which gouts of flame and ice can come, and he throws himself low to the ground while approaching--
        --he gets spittle on his upper back. (Three stacks of Raspberry debuff, which greatly increases Shame damage and would lead to a raid wipe unless bursted down imm-- wrong game.)
        "...What's wrong?" Ratatoskr asks, voice quieting, as if genuinely concerned. "You're here to fight, aren't you? Are they sick...?" Worried about the dragons catching illness?! What. "Can they still fight? Can you fight if they can't?"
        This momentary concern fulfills the original idea on Clarissa's end - to not have him suddenly jump on the dogpile to help Erzebet extract Yuna. One less worry of many, but worries are oft a zero sum game when it comes to the battlefield, for one less worry for Yuna becomes one more worry for the two (technically, five if one counts Creepy, Weepy, and Felius) of them.
        Ratatoskr leaps up, trying to leap past Clarissa as he directs one of his feet to try and catch her from behind on his descent with a compressed air shotgun blast, to buffet her with displaced wind at injurious velocities to try and land closer to Ashton to pick him up by both clawed hands.
        The claws don't dig into him. A quiet clicking can be heard as mechanisms within his forearms take in more air.
        "You can still fight, can't you?!" Ratatoskr asks, as if equal parts frenzies and worried as he discharges the self-same compressed air to try and throw Ashton out of his very grip at point blank, out through his palms.

GS: Ratatoskr has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Overhead Shoot!
GS: Ratatoskr has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ratatoskr has attacked Ashton Anchors with Skyward Scatter!
GS: Ratatoskr has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Clarissa Arwin takes a glancing hit from Ratatoskr's Overhead Shoot for 66 hit points!
GS: Ashton Anchors guards a hit from Ratatoskr's Skyward Scatter for 76 hit points!
GS: Mighty! applied to Ratatoskr!
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

The chaos gets to Matilda almost immediately; she had imagined this to be a relatively straightforward, uncomplicated operation, but what's actually happened couldn't be further from that. She isn't even sure what anyone else on the field is trying to *accomplish* -- a fact that gnaws at her as she tries to assess the battlefield.

In the end, the thing she can be *most* certain of is that the Filgaian Drifters remain their enemies. ... Even, it seems, if they had ties prior to... all of this. Matilda takes a deep breath and pulls forth her hold-out pistol.

Her first shot, aimed for Josie, is -- almost probative, rather than any particular, serious attempt at aggression. It's been a while since their paths have crossed, and Matilda, at least, feels like a substantially different person now.

GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Simple Pistol!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

"Well, sure, they're trying to strike at the Temples!" Acacia shoots back, her voice taut with tension. "But then why go for the Summoner herself? What, they're hoping she can punch through the barriers? Get the biggest, best hostage they can? They've just decided to go with the Church's plan for taking out Sin rather than their own?"

        As first guesses go they aren't bad, though the reporter kind of needs a lot less in the way of combat around her before she can properly sit down and reason anything out in full.

        She's obviously trying to juke backwards for the sake of setting up some space, but it's just as clear that she's already out of options. Around her, everything is suddenly happening at once; between Erzebet's sudden approach and Leon's barrier nearly bowling Yuna over, the melee appears to have sprung up around her with no warning at all, and she's not as quick on the uptake as she'd like to be at times like this.

        Most of all, it's the way that the Odessa officer tries to scoop Yuna up that sticks in her mind the most, because out of everything here that's the part she didn't expect. It seemed reasonable, given everything else on Spira, to think that Odessa were only out to cause ARMS as much inconvenience as they could. The idea that they might want the Summoner for themselves throws up a lot of unexpected questions - and Kaguya's almost friendly greeting to Erzebet, some very uncomfortable answers.

        Still reeling a little, part of her wants to bite back at the Veruni's taunt - point out that ARMS are a scattered handful of people against organizations that have seen fit to bring along vehicles and troops and command structures and yet still insist on belittling them - but her mind is derailed when Yue suddenly encroaches upon her.

        It says something about her habits that, even staring at the pilfered Mana Egg, her hand still steals towards the pocket of her jacket; it takes her a few moments for her mind to catch up, then her eyes widen. "H-- Hey! Do you know how much I paid for that!?" she blurts out the self-deprecating joke, but it's the quaver in her voice that really gives away her uncertainty and anxiety, the uncomfortable way she has to swallow for a moment.

        She manages to push through it with an effort, at least. Whatever Yue might be planning, something tells her to meet it in kind. "Yeah? Well, don't think that's all I've got!" she shoots back - literally, as her pistol fits into her hand for a snap shot towards the Veruni's hand and the Gem clutched there. Well aware of her opponent's fighting style, she pushes her feet forwards, trying to close the distance - and firing a stream of shots towards Yue's feet to try to restrict her.

GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked Yue Rohay with Bury the Lede!
GS: Acacia Saitani has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Acacia Saitani has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

The cannonfire slams into the Guts-Dozer. The huge Gear shoulders through it, lurching but continuing to steam forward despite the artillery scar across its belly. Popping out of a hatch somewhere on its considerable girth, a pair of hardhatted automata scramble across the Gear, peeking out to begin to patch the hole. Metools, hard at work.

Behind the controls, Felius Arwin swings the machine around and brings his weapons to bear on Brother and the tank. Another hatch on the tank's base opens, lobbing an artillery shell up on a funny parabolic arc.

Actually, against a tank, it's got a handy feature: It'll bypass anti-personnel armour and land on top of the vehicle.

Of course, it'll take place offscreen, so here's your music for that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Pc0IyKHL-U

        -----

"Gosh, stop trying to own people rhetorically, Erzebet!" Clarissa shouts towards the redhead with a stamp of her foot. "Besides, Guts-Dozer isn't a crime! He's my friend and he's here to help!"

Erzebet tries to own her ballistically instead. "Yeek!" Clarissa squeaks as she throws herself to the ground, landing in the snow and pulling her tricorne-style hat down over her head. The bullets ricochet through the space she was just standing, biting into the snow with little puffs that sound a lot less deadly than the shots actually were.

Pushing herself up, Clarissa spits out a mouthful of snow, then blinks up at Ashton with a lopsided smile before glancing back towards Erzebet, making sure the redhead's not after her directly. Their last fight has stuck with her - it didn't go well for Clarissa, really, and it's not one she's confident about repeating.

When Ratatoskr vaults over her, Clarissa throws herself to the side to try and clear out of range of his feet. Again she hits the snow and rolls, the burst of air catching her and pushing her along, knocking her head over heels but not landing solidly - she eludes the worst of it. She comes up with a splutter, shaking snow off of her shoulders and out of her hat, before slipping Strahl Gewehr out of her hip pouch and whirling back to the fight.

"I know how much you love fighting, but you have to understand that Lady Yuna's trying to protect her home!" Clarissa calls back to the Hyadean, even as she trains her ARM on him. "Please, just understand that sometimes what you're doing isn't glorious at all! You're just making her life harder in ways it doesn't need to be!"

Clarissa squeezes a shot off. The ray of light shimmers a brilliant blue in the air, arcing towards Ratatoskr.

GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Ratatoskr with Dandelion Shot!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Yue Rohay completely evades a hit from Acacia Saitani's Bury the Lede!
GS: Brad Evans guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's Out Of The Blue for 90 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Matilda Whitehead's Simple Pistol for 156 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

That worked!
 
...Oh damn it that worked and now Ashton has to deal with Ratatoskr again.
 
Internally, he sighs. Always with the crazy ones.
 
This pause to mentally curse his fate is an error, as it lets Ratatoskr grab hold of Ashton. He is promptly yeeted via compressed air into a snowbank with a double pfft - one for the air, one for the frosty impact.
 
A moment later, the Draconic Cerberus pops up again. "Yes I can still fight!" Blades cut through the air, whipping up a swarm of snowflakes as they do. "But you shouldn't! Listen to the lady and get lost! Or fight the giant tank back there!"
 
There is a momentary pause as Ashton looks around to take in the whole fight. Well, this is absolute and utter chaos already.
 
"The one with the Black Wolves, not the one with us. Just-- argh!" The flakes have filled the air around Ashton by now, fluttering around his swords like a sharp snowglobe. "Go try to bite someone other than Lady Yuna! Like your own leg!"
 
With a surge of speed, Ashton lunges forward. Steel sings as he slashes - and behind him trails a wave of frost.

GS: Ashton Anchors enters a Counter stance!
GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Ratatoskr with Leaf Slash!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        "Well, y'did stop, didn't you?" Gwen casts a quick tilt of her head towards Ragnell, the wild curls of her hair bobbing with the motion. "All I tried t'stop you from doin' was... whatever the hell that was. I seriously still don't know the hows and whys of all that." Her gaze hardens. "But I didn't think you did any of that for kicks. Y'think I'm that kind of person?"

        Ragnell makes her move, causing a torrent of lightning to needle down towards her (and someone else, she realizes a moment later). Gwen, armed with only her anger, rushes ahead, using momentum to charge through the painful tremors each little bolt creates on impact. "I just don't know *why* you did it, just like I don't know why the Trial Knight did it. N' now you're throwin' in your lot with these asshole- mn?"

        It speaks to just how absorbed Gwen is in confronting Ragnell that the redhead doesn't fully seem to realize Clarine's presence up until then. "_o-oh, yeah, I know her. I guess you could credit her as the reason I can see Seraphs at all as soon as I did. She's helped me a number of times. Been a complete ass a few times too, but nothin' personal-like. I'm guessin' it's kinda the same for you? Gwen flashes a self-effacing grin at the Seraph before turning back towards Ragnell. "N'yeah, I ain't much of a spellcaster, but I'll need all the help I can get."

        Gwen doesn't quite realize Clarine's strategy there, but it makes Clarine probably the one thing that may keep Gwen alive against a Seraph's might.

        That is, if Gwen doesn't just rush in and doom them both. "Ragnell, you *do* know that Gonandorf or whatever he is is with Odessa, right?" Charging in with her fist drawn, Gwen continues, "you were there, helpin' me with all that!" Ducking low in her fast approach to the Lightning Seraph, Gwen aims her right fist towards her chin, hitting upwards.

        "N' I made a tent for you, for cryin' out loud!!"

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Shoryu-gwen!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Yue Rohay has posed.

        Yue doesn't particularly let herself... mind the way the melee has broken out chaotically around her, the way she's almost gone unnoticed. In a way, it's terrible when you're trying to draw attention to yourself and find nothing to sink your teeth into, but... in another way it's a venue for her to rub it in her mother's face and go 'well I tried'.

        Still.

        She actually gets away with swiping away the Egg in the midst of the chaos, before Acacia pulls out a gun on her.

        ! oooooooo hooie she's got a gun thats a right patootie !

        These are the sacred and unintrusible inner thoughts of someone trying to put on an at least passable guise of being a villain for the day.

        Well. What now?

        Yue's foot is out with that mythril-sheathed heel clashing with the hiss of sparks as each of Acacia's metal shots ring against her; her leg is little more than a blur for a moment, then--

        The camera pans down where she slides her heel against the ice and has arranged each bullet in a line.

        "Goodness me, you will put my eye out with that," Yue grumbles. "But ARMs are also useless against me. I am invincible against guns."

        It's a complete lie but she has to try to goad her into the desired reaction... c'mon...

        "I ... will not hold back today. Come at me like you really mean it. Coccoro!"

        She whistles, and... her everlasting partner through life, hibernation and death lands on her shoulder. coo

        There's a brief flare of ki energy, as if transferred through the patron animal to the warrior, and she rises upwards in a manner similar to the Rising Falcon technique of Lunarian warriors. And yet, it's-- different, for it is--

GS: Yue Rohay has spent 1 Combo on Poison, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Yue Rohay has attacked Acacia Saitani with Hitenkokko - Rising Cucco!
GS: Yue Rohay has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Yue Rohay has completed her action.
GS: Ratatoskr completely evades a hit from Clarissa Arwin's Dandelion Shot!
GS: Ratatoskr takes a solid hit from Ashton Anchors's Leaf Slash for 94 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Erzebet Lefanu has posed.

 
To the surprise of nobody much, the somewhat clumsy efforts of Erzebet to hoist Yuna and carry her off do not work out. The strike down against her leads to a staggering and a momentary swimming of her eyes as she comes back upright, lips pulled down in a grimace as she focuses on Yuna. This close, Yuna can see the eerie orange script printing itself in the inside of those glasses, quite clearly.

Why didn't that work? Erzebet thinks. It felt like it was going to work. She can't weigh more than a hundred pound sack of - wait, a hundred pounds is a lot -

Her eyes focus again. "Well, then," she says, "consider--"

At this point, Leon Albus comes in. He moves like a wolf and Erzebet knows his approach, not by her own awareness (which, one might not be surprised to learn, is not the best) but by a large orange flash in the lens of her glasses. She turns - one of Haborym's weapons is brought down, the blade smashing into the ARM's hyperdurablized barrel and skatt-scrat-SMASHing up, throwing sparks and tiny slivers of millenial enamels on its way to carve a gash up Erzebet's arm, putting some blood on the sleeve of the fur coat. Erzebet feels her gut and spine tighten once, then, relax.

"Is that so? I'd like to see you try, you ice-cured Kislevi piglet," Erzebet answers Leon with a cool voice and an emerald-shattered look in her eyes. Then there is a momentary flash -- in comes the woman, Kaguya.

(The Odessa squadron supporting this operation is getting kind of nervous. Fortunately, they have a treatment for nerves. It is called grenades, which they prepare... well, one fire team prepares them. When there is a spray of red at the other nearby ridge, one of them lets out a cry, and the others follow.)

(Erzebet's nose twitches. Guardians dammit, she thinks, which one of the little shits did that?)

She has no time to react. Other people come in, like Marivel, who has a blitzball and is -- attacking Leon? OK, parses Haborym, and Erzebet goes with it. Her attention turns back to Kaguya, and she says, "Our goal are to obtain the Lady Summoner," who Erzebet addresses now by swinging her weapon down to try and clock Yuna on the head or shoulder region quite heedlessly, "AND the total annihilation of ARMS personnel."

Her eyes flick towards Marivel as if in apology when-- past that -- "Hang on," Erzebet says to Kaguya, "I KNOW that sword. You talk about peace and not being enemies and you cut off -- what -- FOUR guys' heads?! Is this the courage of the Veruni, or did you take a special seminar?!"

At this point Kaguya gets a gun stuck in her general direction. When Erzebet fires it, it is not just a red hot bullet, such as she has fired many times in the past. No, this one comes out with a spiralling corkscrewing motion, shedding fletchettes like particles in a bubble chamber as it goes for her. "And for ANOTHER thing," Erzebet begins, before -- A spell completes.

Erzebet looks upwards with dismay on her face. She leans back as the crystal falls towards her. Huge. Cold. Unfeeling. Like the future, perhaps, or history.

Erzebet cringes -- and points her guns upwards, pulling the trigger on both. A short one-two-one-two and then the two barrels have an arc of something that might be mistaken for electricity but which (Rikku might be glad) is more like an alternative stage of matter pass BETWEEN them - ripple upwards with a sudden actinic flash of light -- the ice crystal shatters, falling aside, steaming and bifuricating as the sudden heat surge resolves itself in odd ways.

Erzebet pants for breath. The air is momentarily like early summer somewhere that isn't too sunny. Definitely pleasant, comparatively, though it will pass. "Why is it still so cold," Erzebet complains, before she pushes herself upwards and sets her teeth.

She fires at Lulu abruptly. She barely looks. Her hand moves as if a ghost is guiding it, and the bullet curves towards her head! It's a ruthless sort of motion, but she's already turning her attention back towards Leon, saying as she does, "Close... it's too close... everyone in this stupid territory charges in..."

The weapon she orients towards Leon fires another of those distorted spell-shots. This one seems to broaden out, like a frying pan fresh from the broiler. To touch would be agony - to block it with shield or spell would be crushing!

"this is too much," Erzebet mutters. "Lady Summoner, we have to get out of here!"

There are a couple of assumptions here.

GS: Ratatoskr used Mystic on Ratatoskr! Status effect durations increased by 2! Temporary HP duration increased by 2!
GS: Ratatoskr has activated a Force Action!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Yuna with My Present For You Is Gun!!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Kaguya Alathfar with Haborym N.Os Guide Shot!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Lulu with Code 7-3rdEyeBlinder!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Leon Albus with Blow down the walls!!
GS: CRITICAL! Leon Albus takes a solid hit from Erzebet Lefanu's Blow down the walls! for 100 hit points!
GS: Shieldbreak! applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has completed her action.
GS: Yuna takes a solid hit from Erzebet Lefanu's My Present For You Is Gun! for 86 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus has adjusted their boss level for 4 opponents!
GS: Lulu guards a hit from Erzebet Lefanu's Code 7-3rdEyeBlinder for 78 hit points!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar critically Guards a hit from Erzebet Lefanu's Haborym N.Os Guide Shot for 16 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Gwen Whitlock's Shoryu-gwen for 54 hit points!
GS: Break! applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: Acacia Saitani takes a solid hit from Yue Rohay's Hitenkokko - Rising Cucco for 90 hit points!
GS: Acacia Saitani suffers an additional 22 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Poison! applied to Acacia Saitani!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon sighs, when Josie winks at him.

He turns at the crash -- eyebrow raised as if to ask, 'what now?' He gets his answer from Kaguya:

'Didn't I throw you off a train once?'

"The tiny Veruni!" Leon says. "Yes. I remember you," he says. "Unfortunately, my list of people to shoot is presently rather full, so I'll trust you to find your own way to hit bullets." Then, he looks back at Josie, and nods. "Right, then!"

Then, he looks back at Rikku -- and frowns. "That isn't how this works. For one, I'm inclined to trust the Al Bhed. They seem to have good heads on their shoulders--and, I suppose, I find their salvaged weapons interesting. For another..."

He fires his shotgun, the weapon blasting the coin out of the air. "...No. Because you'll get away. Life is complicated, I'm afraid--and if there's one thing I have confidence in... it's that I don't cock up things like this."

He then fires again -- and tries to shoot shoot Rikku in the hand, aiming to disable. This is when the blitzball comes flying at Leon's face. He swats it away -- and then he scowls, for a moment, at Marivel.

"I don't justify myself to the lap dogs of jumped up nobility," he says with a smile, before he slams his long sword down. Chi flashes off the weapon, and a blast of dark red light explodes from the blade. "Nor am I going to respond to a threat to one of mine with anything but force."

Leon's swing done, he turns -- and looks back at Yuna.

Leon is faced with the fact that Yuna is knocked to the side -- her cloak knocked free -- and then he looks at her. His conscience twitches, at the back of his mind.

"Oh--bloody hell, I'm going soft," he mutters under his breath. Then, his eyes lift to look at Yuna. "I'm afraid I have to bring you with me. I'm quite serious about this. The Black Wolves don't leave jobs unfinished. And... I'm willing to risk your pilgrimage for this. I'm sorry."

He turns to face Erzebet -- and the weapon takes him by surprise. The huge, round piece of steel slams into his chest and hurls him backward. He hits the snow, with a crunch, and then stands. Blood runs from a split lip; he wipes it on his glove.

"Ah, not a fan of the kaiser, I see," Leon says. "Well, if it helps piss you off more--I saved his bloody life. Also, get away from her!"

He leaps at Erzebet, trying to put himself between her and Yuna. His sword whips out -- and this time a grey blur wraps around it, then explodes with a concussive shockwave meant to send Erzebet flying backward from him.

GS: Leon Albus enters a Counter stance!
GS: Leon Albus has attacked Rikku with RR-2 Diplomacy!
GS: Leon Albus has attacked Marivel Armitage with Riot Crash!
GS: Leon Albus has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with Hazard Break!
GS: Leon Albus takes 24 damage from Poison!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Marivel Armitage completely evades a hit from Leon Albus's Riot Crash!
GS: Rikku takes a glancing hit from Leon Albus's RR-2 Diplomacy for 27 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        It *is* a chaotic situation, huh? Ragnell contrasts Clarine by being quite at ease, perhaps obnoxiously so for certain Gwens who are not happy to see her here. For the time being, she sweeps into a bow to Clarine, then chuckles at the other Seraph's surprise. "Oh yeah, Gwen an' I have hung out a bunch," she tells her. "I almost killed her once with a prank! In my defense, I had no idea--well. Gwen can tell you 'bout that part herself, if she wants. Anyway, she's good folk, for a human. Maybe a little too trustin' than is good for her, though."
        
        A pause. "You fought Liath, huh. Yeah, she always was strong," she muses, gaze softening. A grin follows. "A goal, huh? I'd say I'll do my best t' be a good role model, but--" She shrugs broadly. "--we both know that's not true!"
        
        As Clarine buffs Gwen, Ragnell is momentarily distracted by Kaguya's sassy arrival and Ivan's response to her, which only stands out to Ragnell because he goes on to say that he's totally never seen her before in his life. "Slick, Ivan. Real subtle," Ragnell calls his way. Just to give him a hard time.
        
        Then she focuses back in on Gwen and Clarine. "Correction: I didn't stop, I *was stopped*," Ragnell tells Gwen. "There is a big difference in terms of intent goin' forward. Anyway, it's not about if *you're* that kind o' person, but if *I* am. Right?" She snorts when Gwen brings up Ganondorf. "Of course I know that. That's why I joined." She smirks, meeting Gwen's eyes, gaze lingering for a moment. This lasts even as Gwen charges in. While Ragnell attempts to evade that punch, she underestimates how much Gwen's answer is motivating the young courier; she hits her pretty solidly on the chin, lifting her up. Ragnell goes with the momentum, though, flipping in midair to land a few feet away. She rubs her chin with the back of a gloved hand. "An' it was very nice o' you to make that tent for me, but that doesn't really have anythin' to do with what we're doin' right now, does it?"
        
        A Seraphic glyph forms beneath her feet, sending up golden motes of light. In the way Seraphim can, she casts two artes in quick succession, the weaker leading into the stronger. "Blitzstrahl!" she calls first, bringing down a low-level lightning bold down towards Clarine from a tiny thundercloud over her head. The next Seraphic arte forms a spear of lightning level to the ground, which then shoots forward towards Gwen: "Pierce through! Shock Lancer!!"

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Seraph Clarine with Blitzstrahl!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Shock Lancer!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Clarine critically Guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Blitzstrahl for 19 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Brad Evans has posed.

Brad realizes, too late, that he misassessed the enemy plan. The Al Bhed are harrassing the outermost defenders, he sees. Someone else is going to be--

BLAM.

Josie's bullet slams into the Mechanical Glove's casing, releasing sparks and stranger powers as it rejects much of that energy. It still forces Brad entirely off his feet, sending the big man off his feet and landing hard on his backside. "Damn it, of course--" he grates out, rolling away and behind a low root. Well, if he can keep this sniper busy, at least that'll keep their attention off the main force...he sees blasts of power popping off back in the direction he came from, the battle joined in earnest. He doesn't open fire on the Odessa or Wolves representatives back at the Temple, for now. Instead, motes of light gather together in his palm---

And shortly after, Josie finds a spinning ovoid tumbling toward her, thrown high into the air. Like some kind of...green...pineapple?

Brad waits for the explosion before rolling out and rushing forward, ARM up again to cover him.

GS: Brad Evans has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Pineapple!
GS: Brad Evans has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Brad Evans has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ratatoskr has posed.

        Clarissa's entreaties are backed by the shining sincerity of both a woman who only wants the best for the world and those who live in it... and also a neat ARM. Sincerely, it's neat, and the shimmering blue shot grazes against crimson armor as he attempts to go low to clear underneath it. The heat exposure will leave a numbing pain sensation when he comes down off whatever anatomical equivalent of an adrenaline high subsides - a minor injury cast as a miss more on the metaphorical of missing that he has been grazed.
        "Not glorious? Not glorious!" Ratatoskr shouts. "Spira talks in awe of the prowess of High Summoner Braska... how is that not glorious? The most honored of their warriors," he continues, and oh no is he about to give a respectable but sort of creepy-obsessive biography of one of the countless human warriors that has piqued his imagination? "The Summoners of Spira don't stop fighting... by their very nature, each day is a battle against Fiends and Sin... and then it doesn't end..."
        It should be a thing of sadness and despair. He speaks of it like it's exciting and amazing. Even for one who was there to watch the entire life of his people turned upside down and forever transformed into uncertainty, he clings onto this idea like it were amazing. "I want to experience a part of that... so I can keep i--"
        Ashton pounces on him as Ratatoskr talks over his warning, and the Rapid Attacker notices too late the building snow-detritus whirling around Ashton's Symbological wind, and steel and frost bite into the armor where the Dandelion Shot grazes.
        The snow is stained in a splash of silver.
        "Fight my own leg...?" Ratatoskr asks aloud, as if seriously considering the proposal as he staggers up. "...But I like fighting you more..." And then he hurls himself up against Ashton in a shoulder tackle, heedless of his presenting himself to be struck by a nasty follow-through, lowering his head to try and point his horn just past Ashton's shoulder as energy builds up to fire off a quick laser-like burst in Clarissa's direction.
        "...Everyone else is doing it, too!"
        great, even eighteen-to-twenty-four year old Hyadeans are well versed in four-year-old human rhetoric. of all the likenesses they have had to share

GS: CRITICAL! Josephine Lovelace takes a glancing hit from Brad Evans's Pineapple for 112 hit points!
GS: Ratatoskr has attacked Ashton Anchors with Generic Technique Command!
GS: Ratatoskr has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Generic ARM Command!
GS: Ratatoskr has completed his action.
GS: Clarissa Arwin takes a glancing hit from Ratatoskr's Generic ARM Command for 57 hit points!
GS: COUNTER! Ashton Anchors counterattacks Ratatoskrwith Counter Attack!
GS: Ashton Anchors takes a solid hit from Ratatoskr's Generic Technique Command for 118 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya Alathfar has posed.

"Uhhh /obviously," Kaguya answers Marivel, "Do you see any other ARMS here?" Pause. "Man I hate that name." Because there are indeed tons of ARMs here, though it turns out--Marivel will /not/ be focusing on her. That may be for the best... But maybe not.

No time to dwell; as Brad moves on--he is big--Ashley calls to Kaguya, charging towards her. When the light fades, it's just her--which, for an instant, might seem like too small an investment. But there are many more of the Guard involved, and... Well.

He swings, and his blade impacts armor, the shot crashing in with a loud retort and forcing her to twirl a step back with the impact. It wouldn't have been lethal... but one might expect it to put someone down.

"You're so polite," she answers, staring at him for a moment. "I'm impressed. Unfortunately for you, though, I do want trouble. Right now."

And she gets it! Ivan calls out to her, "Hey, random stranger I've never met!" she greets back. She gives him--an odd look. It's because it mixes both happiness and irritation because she has kind of a lot of feelings about all this right now. It doesn't stop her, though--she brings up an arm, and blocks each of the blasts of flame with her gauntlet, all in quick succession. "I'm inspired to tell you about a friend of mine, who really got on my nerves because he went and did something big and stupid without telling me first so i could fix it!"

She pushes out her hand, and channels power--and despite the snowy landsacpe, the scent of strange flowers fills the air, as a storm of razor sharp petals rushes towards Ivan. "The nerve, right???"

But to Ashley, "Gotta say, I appreciate that you know how to work an ARM. I think we could totally be friends if I weren't about to punch you. Speaking of--" She whirls back against him, and swings her tiny, gauntleted fist straight for Ashley's gut. But then--then her diplomatic overttures are answered...

"WHAT?" Kaguya answers Erzebet, and scowls. "C'mon, it's a battlefield, is it my fault if all humans look alike to my big sister?" Pause. Yes, actually. At this point it kind of is, by her own logic and by her sister's, considering that she's in command. Kaguya frowns more deeply--and the strange, flethetting bullet rockets towards her, prompting Kaguya to swing around and--take it on her armored forearm, which is dented but undestroyed by the bullet.

 "I mean SHUT UP it's fine, if they didn't want to get beheaded maybe they should've worn better neck protection! UGH!"

If that's how they want it, they can have it--Kaguya scowls at Yuna and Guardians before turning to other opponents. ...Though she pauses, to look at Leon, and grins. "Heheheh. Nice. I like you."

Abrubtly she pulls out a strange, segmented-armored thing that is some kind of sphere, and tosses it at Erzebet, where it explodes into a set of great, sharp vines, exploding outward like horrific limbs. "My own design! Choke on it!"

GS: Kaguya Alathfar has spent 1 Combo on Poison, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has attacked Ivan with Petal Rush!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has attacked Ashley Winchester with It's Not The Face Right!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with Razorvine Grenade!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Yuna has posed.

All manner of people -- from Josie to Leon to Erzebet and back again, with Brother somewhere in between, his meaning obvious in context, despite her childish grasp of Al Bhed -- announce their intention to abscond with Yuna.

"I'm terribly sorry," the summoner addresses one and all at an only marginally-squeaky battlefield pitch, and, yes, because it's Yuna, a more-than-marginally-ridiculous battlefield bow of apology, "But I won't be leaving with any of you today."

Maybe she needs a social secretary. A nine o'clock with Odessa, a one p.m. with the Black Wolves. A skirmish with the Guard before dinner.

"And especially not," she adds to Erzebet, on her way back up from being sprawled into the snow by that smack to her shoulder, with eyes narrowed in grave disappointment -- she lets Leon interpose himself, backpedaling a step or two behind him, why not, "With anyone who wants to annihilate my friends. Everyone in ARMS has been very kind to me. I won't just stand by and let you hurt them!"

She spreads her arms wide, rod outstretched; all who've spent much time in combat with her feel the sudden, pregnant silence of the world itself, as she invites a beckoning of something from Beyond; and gets knocked straight out of the summoning dance by someone's arm, someone's leg, someone's sword, someone's passing grenade -- the chaos is just too much, she doesn't have enough time or space.

And then a shadow falls over her, cast by the spinning figure overhead.

Tidus descends, Brotherhood-first, into Leon, apparently discontent with the idea of the Black Wolf usurping his position as Guardian and traveling companion. "Miss me?" he asks Yuna, casting a wink her direction, then swinging the marvelous, shimmering waterblade in wide, over-extended arcs, clearing the immediate space around her to allow her to do her thing.

"...yes," she replies in a whisper.

Her eyes shine.

And then they close into an expression of beatific serenity... as she glides into a spin...

WARNING TO WOULD-BE SUMMONERNAPPERS: Yuna is trying to summon! You might want to try to stop her!

GS: Yuna enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Yuna has attacked Leon Albus with L1!
GS: Yuna has completed her action.
GS: COUNTER! Leon Albus counterattacks Yunawith Counter Attack!
GS: Leon Albus guards a hit from Yuna's L1 for 60 hit points!
GS: Ashley Winchester guards a hit from Kaguya Alathfar's It's Not The Face Right for 82 hit points!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu takes a glancing hit from Leon Albus's Hazard Break for 55 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Rikku has posed.

 
"Marivel you seriously-!" The Blitzball flies and... Rikku recoils a half step with her hands over her mouth as she indicates softly. "I don't know whether to feel proud or embarrassed..."
 
However the battle doesn't stop for her, as Leon proves... "And I know why you do!" She shouts back at Leon, "It's just-" And then he shoots her coins out of the air, "Oh my gosh. Seriously!?" She watches Leon's finger on the trigger and starts backing up closer and closer towards Yuna's position, trying to stay on the very edge of his effective range. As she sees it twitch she suddenly jukes backwards in a ducking motion, the buckshot spread tearing across the leather gauntlet of her arm. "If us getting away is worse than us being dead then SOMEONE has their priorities all wrong!"
 
She hopes it's just Leon just not understanding why a certain someone wants Yuna and being the ruthless Mercenary
 
"I'm trying! It's just! We're being shot at from all sides here Lulu!"
 
Before shouting at Erzebet, "She's not going anywhere with you!" And then Leon as he tells her he has to bring her with him. Even going so far as to get between Erzebet and him. "Or you - or anyone! Everyone just - get away from her!"
 
And that is when both the Odessa member and the Black Wolf might notice the object in her hand. It looks like an ember - that's glowing, pulsating. She suddenly rears back her arm, and throws it.
 
Between them.
 
The Core of a Spiran Bomb Fiend detonates into a titanic spread of fire.
 
... Since Leon is working with the Al Bhed she at least aims it SLIGHTLY closer to the Odessan Commando.
 
She has standards after all.
 

GS: Ivan completely evades a hit from Kaguya Alathfar's Petal Rush!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar assumes the Stoic stance!
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Clarissa knows Ratatoskr is fast. Part of her wasn't expecting him to be that fast. With a click of her tongue, she begins to move to one side, positioning herself to try and support Ashton as best she can.

Setting her jaw, Clarissa brings Strahl Gewehr to bear again. "But they're fighting to bring peace to Spira. And they're fighting to stop Sin! That doesn't mean Sin needs freelance help being a butthead to Spira!" she huffs towards the combative Hyadean.

When Ratatoskr squeezes a shot off at her, Clarissa jerks to one side, trying to wrench herself out o the way of the sudden rayfire. She almost manages, but the burst slashes across her shoulder, drawing a gasp of pain from her. Even the grazing blow leaves a searing line of pain racing along the soft part of hr arm, and she briefly drops her ARM, her other hand coming up to press over the injury.

Reaching down, Clarissa gathers a handful of snow - the softest and whitest and least disturbed she can find. She presses the handful of snow over the burn mark, shivering and cringing as the sudden jolt of cold practically sizzles across the burn wound. For a moment it helps - a little bit.

She can't let this stop her. There's a ruin ahead. Felius is out there fighting. And Lady Yuna is counting on them.

"I can understand wanting to experience a part of history in action," Clarissa says in a more subdued tone, doing her beast to bear the pain. "I love history too, Mr. Ratatoskr. I want to find the pieces of history that will help me fulfill my dream of restoring Filgaia to a beautiful world again. But there's more to history than battle. And there's more to being a Hero than being a strong warrior, too. A real Hero is kind and compassionate...."

Beginning to strafe to one side, Clarissa raises Strahl Gewehr again, tracking after Ratatoskr. "...but you know what? Even though I'm not a person like that, I promised to protect Lady Yuna on her mission. And I will!"

Rushing forward, Clarissa takes aim, unleashing a rapid series of shots towards Ratatoskr. She leaps, making her final shot from midair with a shout.

"Noble's Fang!!"

Someone's honouring Lieviram-senpai....

GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Ratatoskr with Noble's Fang!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has completed her action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Shock Lancer for 135 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lulu has posed.

Barely looking--Lulu is attuned to strange things, and Erzebet's style of fighting has definitely pegged that for her. Talk of annihilation, ARMS wanting to help despite that danger--

It is strange, to realize in this place the number of friends and allies they have, even from another world. Some might stop to offer a prayer f thanks for such a blessing--

Lulu doesn't have the time. Rikku doesn't either--"I know! It's all right--take them one thing at a time!" She doesn't want to freak Rikku out, after all. "Tch..."

But there are so many of them--way too many to deal with at once. So Lulu opts to rely for an instant not only on her magic... but on something else, a learned matter. She focuses--

And her eyes snap open, her own life energy powering violet and white light that bursts around herself, Yuna, Rikku, Tidus, and even Ashley--to speed, to sharpen reflexes. She indeed smiles very briefly, tightly, at Tidus's response--

And to Erzebet says, "If you want Yuna, you'll have to go through us."

GS: Lulu has attacked Lulu with Reflex!
GS: Lulu has attacked Rikku with Reflex!
GS: Lulu has attacked Yuna with Reflex!
GS: Lulu has attacked Ashley Winchester with Reflex!
GS: Lulu has completed her action.
GS: Lulu takes a solid hit from Lulu's Reflex for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! applied to Lulu!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu takes a glancing hit from Kaguya Alathfar's Razorvine Grenade for 22 hit points!
GS: Break! applied to Erzebet Lefanu!
GS: Rikku has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        "We'll see about that," Josie replies to Yuna. "Sorry, kiddo, but you don't really have a choice in this one. Better us than them, right?"

        And then her attention shifts, towards some of the others here present. She sees them all properly now -- not just Erzebet, but the whole lot of them, in their uniforms.

        "Lock, stock, and barrel, huh..." She glances back at the Black Wolves Captain. "Looks like a lot of Odessa's here, captain," she remarks to Leon. "Damn, this is gonna be a right pain in the ass," she adds with a scowl. "Anyway, leave the tank to me. Worst that happens is we all die, right?" And with another damn wink, she is away.

        Her main target's the big one. He looks like he's capable of taking out the tank on his lonesome, even unarmed, if she's any guess in the matter.
        Well, so be it. The whole place might be bedlam, but she's always thrived in chaos--

        It's been a long while since Josie and Matilda last crossed paths -- one that was tinged with a certain amount of awkwardness on both parts, given their mutual past baggage shared in the subject of their schooling under a certain elder Lovelace.

        She has little awareness of what paths Matilda has since trod.

        Not, that is, until that shot cracks through the air. The Gawain rifle dips; Josie turns to see who has taken that shot--
        and is just in time to receive a whallop of a hit to her right shoulder. She hisses out a breath, gritting her teeth. "Damn-- guess it's my own--" she utters, before straightening as best as she can.

        "Matilda!"

        Her shout rings out across the battlefield. "You weren't even aiming to kill, were you?! C'mon! Have some pride and do it right!"

        Into this heated little exchange, there floats a

                pineapple?

        Josie's gaze snaps up to it. "Shit--"

        And she takes a shot for it while it's still overhead.

        There is an explosion. It was still close enough that the edge of it sweeps Josie up and deposits her a few feet away.

        She rises a moment later, dusting off the skirt at her hips, stooping to pick up her rifle... which she holsters. And briefly, there is a grin on her face, a certain light in her eyes.

        BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7EUPl8ROMY

        "Got a whole stock there or something?" she calls out to Brad. "C'mon, don't be like that. Let's dance proper-like. Otherwise, I'll just have to do something like..." She gestures sharply towards him, left palm out. "Painra. Heh. I love a short incantation, for a change," she remarks, as a bruisey light rips towards him through the air. True to its name, the spell inflicts but pain and pain alone.

        "And as for you--" She turns towards Matilda, the Reaper's Hand ARM dancing into her hand so fast that to blink is to miss it. "Let me show you how it's done!"

        She pulls the trigger. There is no finesse to this shot. Just one open, naked bullet, all for Matilda.

GS: Rikku takes a solid hit from Lulu's Reflex for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! applied to Rikku!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has spent 2 Combo on Poison and Interrupt, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Brad Evans with Painra!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rikku has spent 2 Combo on Gatling, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Rikku has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with Use: PeRiOdIc Table of Spiran Fiends!
GS: Rikku has attacked Leon Albus with Use: PeRiOdIc Table of Spiran Fiends!
GS: Rikku has completed her action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Getting Away With Murder!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a glancing hit from Josephine Lovelace's Getting Away With Murder for 92 hit points!
GS: Lulu used Defend! She takes Leon Albus's attack on Yuna on herself!
GS: Lulu takes a glancing hit from Leon Albus's Counter Attack for 48 hit points!
GS: Yuna takes a glancing hit from Lulu's Reflex for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! applied to Yuna!
GS: CRITICAL! Leon Albus takes a solid hit from Rikku's Use: PeRiOdIc Table of Spiran Fiends for 182 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Gwen and Ragnell both confirm that they know each other - and, judging from what she hears, they have quite the past, too. Clarine sends Gwen a sympathetic look.

"That...sounds accurate." She comments with a nod.

She looks toward Ragnell, then, as she comments on Liath's strength.

"Indeed, but..." She offers Ragnell a slight smile. "You need only be yourself. That is enough."

It is interesting, though - Ragnell's assertion that Ganondorf's presence was why she joined Odessa. Clarine finds that curious.

She considers asking why, but before she can think of a way to voice the question Ragnell is casting again. Clarine drifts back quickly, her mirrors moving into position once more as a thundercloud forms above her head.

A bolt of lightning flashes down. It might be low-level, but it's enough to send cracks spider-webbing through the already-damaged mirror. It dissipates into motes of light, returning to Clarine's sleeve so that the battle cannot break it completely.

With that, Clarine elects to close in toward Ragnell. Her mirrors stream along behind her as she flies in closer. She swings her arm in Ragnell's direction and the mirrors on her left side, acting as if an extension of her own arm, lunge forward in quick strike.

The ones on the right remain close by, just in case she needs to intercept any attacks coming her way.

GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Dancing Glass!
GS: Seraph Clarine has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"Hmmm... Have I touched a nerve?" Marivel asks. Leon swings the blade down, chi exploding out of it in her direction but the moment that Leon's own blade blocks Marivel from sight--she is no longer there and is instead standing at Leon's side. A Crimson Noble's magic often relies on misdirection as it does affinity for the sorcerous arts.

"Are you saying I should rely on you to handle a civilization destroyer? That is an awwwful lot of responsibility. "I will be very dissapointed if a civilization gets destroyed. Those don't grow on trees, you know. I trust the Al Bhed as well, or I would, but trying to decide for others what is best for them against their will is not the actions of an oppressed people, but the actions of ... jumped up nobility, no?"

Kaguya informs her that she does mean ARMS and Marivel shrugs at her because she was mostly just trying to give Kaguya shit. "Just so you know I was thinking of naming the group the Valeria Kid Klub but I was overruled."

She is briefly perplexed by Ivan claiming to not have met Kaguya before while obviously having met her before but Ivan is a weird guy. She tries not to let that distract her.

Instead she ends up hopping back because she sees Tidus descennding towards Leon. "Nice!" She tells him before he asks Yuna if she missed her. When Yuna answers it Marivel lets out a low whistle.

"Nice." She repeats, in a smaller tone, giving Tidus a small friendly jam in the side.

Though all this kindness and warm feelings does make it harder to give Leon shit which she feels to be an important tactical decision here.

She winks at Rikku (it's eerily josie-esque) before snapping her fingers and pointing towards Leon.

One of the crashed speeders suddenly falls from the sky towards Leon! It's the most powerful skill of all: APORT!

"Let's say you are correct and Yuna should quit her pilgrimage so she can see the Al Bhed..."

Her eyes narrow.

"Why does it being the 'right' thing to do mean more than her own will. She should be free to make her own decisions. After all..."

She jumps away at the last moment. "This is her journey!"

She nods to Erzebet's apologetic look, flashing her a simple smile for some forsaken reason.

GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Leon Albus with Augmented Aport!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
GS: Leon Albus guards a hit from Marivel Armitage's Augmented Aport for 95 hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Marivel Armitage!
GS: Brad Evans guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's Painra for 0 hit points!
GS: Brad Evans suffers an additional 22 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Poison! applied to Brad Evans!
GS: Brad Evans has lost 2 Combo from Interrupt!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu critically Guards a hit from Rikku's Use: PeRiOdIc Table of Spiran Fiends for 26 hit points!
GS: Ratatoskr takes a solid hit from Clarissa Arwin's Noble's Fang for 132 hit points!
GS:  Dispel reduces positive status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Ratatoskr has been weakened by Disease! Ratatoskr can't gain THP until the Disease is cured!
GS: Disease! applied to Ratatoskr!
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

Behind Ashton as he lunges, the whirling snow abruptly solidifies. In an instant they turn from fluffy white cheerful flakes to jagged micro-shuriken of ice. And in his wake they become a devastating barrage.
 
Then he gets shoulder-checked out of the way. The follow-up laser narrowly (and purposely) misses the swordsman. He lunges to the side to dodge anyway.
 
"Lady Arwin," Ashton comments as he re-squares himself, "I hate to say it, but the idea of a nigh-undefeatable immortal war machine is exactly what this rabid creature thinks of as an ideal. Something to strive for. That you're even trying to talk him down shows you short-change your own compassion."
 
"I, on the other hand, am a hunter of monsters and ill inclined to be so kind to this thing." Bracing himself, Ashton looks ready to leap into melee once more.
 
He doesn't. Instead he grins. "I am inclined to answer his earlier question and show that my companions are now, however, sick and can fight perfectly well."
 
On cue, the two dragons rise - and grow. Not quite to their full statures as they sometimes do, but Creepy and Weepy both gain considerable enough mass to tower over Ashton's merely human form.
 
Right before both unleash a wave of hellish fire and searing hoarfrost at the Hyadean.

GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Ratatoskr with Dragon Breath!
GS: Hyper expired!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

"Oh!" Ashley is briefly taken aback! His surprised expression is maybe just a bit comical when framed as it is by a plume of gunsmoke. "W-well, that's quite a compliment, miss! I'd like to be friends too, if we can be! Though I don't think this is the right place to be doing that, maybe we can meet up later and I can bring pastries and--"

"Wait," Ashley says in that brief, beautiful moment before his world is pain, "What was that about punching m--"

                                   *BIFF*

"Hrf!" The musketeer staggers back, clutching his belly. He's even more glad that the wintery weather had him dress a bit heavier today, but still! "Her fists..." He wheezes, the victim of the natural result of an incredible force being divided across a comparatively minute area, "Are so... tiny. Ugh...!"

"I- I'm still open to that friend thing!" He is! Ashley would REALLY RATHER PREFER to have friends in the world rather than enemies. It makes life so much easier! Less people are out to kill you! More people are there to fatten themselves at your table! "I'm Ashley Winchester, with ARMS! And this is my ARM--"

Ashley pauses just a beat before he fires again, this time lobbing a canister of incendiary gel at this person he's trying to befriend. Nothing says I Wanna Be Your Pal like a nice warming bath of napalm in the middle of the tundra. "Uh. It doesn't really have a name, but I guess I could work on that. Are you from Filgaia too, miss!?"

GS: Ratatoskr takes a solid hit from Ashton Anchors's Counter Attack for 114 hit points!
GS: Ratatoskr enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ashley Winchester takes a solid hit from Lulu's Reflex for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! applied to Ashley Winchester!
GS: Ratatoskr guards a hit from Ashton Anchors's Dragon Breath for 87 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

"Oh!" Ashley is briefly taken aback! His surprised expression is maybe just a bit comical when framed as it is by a plume of gunsmoke. "W-well, that's quite a compliment, miss! I'd like to be friends too, if we can be! Though I don't think this is the right place to be doing that, maybe we can meet up later and I can bring pastries and--"

"Wait," Ashley says in that brief, beautiful moment before his world is pain, "What was that about punching m--"

                                   *BIFF*

"Hrf!" The musketeer staggers back, clutching his belly. He's even more glad that the wintery weather had him dress a bit heavier today, but still! "Her fists..." He wheezes, the victim of the natural result of an incredible force being divided across a comparatively minute area, "Are so... tiny. Ugh...!"

Fortunately for the gunner, a wave of ~accelerative energies~ wash over him at that instant. Normally, that sort of thing wouldn't really help in this situation, but moving faster overall does make it so that he's able to suck down a few gulps of air quicker than usual, which is REALLY HELPFUL when you just got the wind knocked out of you by a small Veruni girl. "T-thanks miss Lulu...!" Ashley coughs again, "I won't let you down!"

"I- I'm still open to that friend thing!" He is! Ashley would REALLY RATHER PREFER to have friends in the world rather than enemies. It makes life so much easier! Less people are out to kill you! More people are there to fatten themselves at your table! "I'm Ashley Winchester, with ARMS! And this is my ARM--"

Ashley pauses just a beat before he fires again, this time lobbing a canister of incendiary gel at this person he's trying to befriend. Nothing says I Wanna Be Your Pal like a nice warming bath of napalm in the middle of the tundra. "Uh. It doesn't really have a name, but I guess I could work on that. Are you from Filgaia too, miss!?"

GS: Ashley Winchester has spent 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked Kaguya Alathfar with Canister - Incendiary Round!
GS: Ashley Winchester has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashley Winchester has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

"It's not Ivan, it's Vlad!" Ivan calls back to Ragnell, as she teases him from afar. "Do I show up at weird times to make fun of you and call you by your sister's name? No I don't!"

That is probably not the whole reason Ragnell is here, but he doesn't have the brain power or attention to spare to try to figure out why Ragnell is actually here just now. He'll have to ask her later, whatever!

Kaguya, on the other hand, plays along pretty agreeably with the whole alter ego thing, under the circumstances.

"Yeah, that's probably my brother Ivan!" he says, when Kaguya tells him of his wrongdoings. "I keep hearing about all the shit he pulled! That sounds pretty inconsiderate of him not telling you, though! But I think maybe it was a big deal for him to face some personal demons on his own or something!"

Ivan is caught in a familiar storm of petals! He doesn't want to be outdone by how handily Kaguya knocked aside his fireballs -- nor does he wants to face death by a thousand petal cuts -- and so he takes in a breath and steps into rhythm with them, sweeping his arms around himself to deflect the nearest petals with metal bracers as he whirls into the empty space he created and turns to face the next wave.

It requires intense attention and the fastest footwork he can muster, but at last he weathers the full storm and gives a sigh.

"H-ha!" He's kind of catching his breath from all that.

"..Bet Ivan couldn't do that!" he brags, trying to show off the fact that he hasn't been cut -- but it's probably not all that obvious what he's trying to get across given that he's currently dressed in a blood red coat. Oh well.

Kaguya's epic blade petal storm demands a strong response, and he decides to show her something she maybe hasn't seen before.

He claps his hands together, putting off sparks as if he was striking flint, and then puts them down at his sides, palms flat. Gouts of fire gather, and explode, propelling him high into the air. At the peak of the arc, he summons his heavy warhammer into his hands, and crashes down with it toward Kaguya, letting gravity do the bulk of the work.

GS: Ivan has attacked Kaguya Alathfar with Rocket Boosters!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
GS: Kaguya Alathfar takes a glancing hit from Ashley Winchester's Canister - Incendiary Round for 74 hit points!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar suffers an additional 28 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Poison! applied to Kaguya Alathfar!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar takes a solid hit from Ivan's Rocket Boosters for 158 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        Acacia is the sort of person who can't help but worry about the melee around them, especially when it feels like a target has been squarely painted on her back for a long time now. Still, she's doing her best to focus in on Yue specifically, despite the way she reflexively ducks and twists a little at every loud noise.

        She's well aware that she really needs to close the distance, that given half the chance Yue will probably be more than happy to pepper her with Cucco Fang after Cucco Fang; the difference between a human's abilities and a Veruni's is painfully clear when her line of shots are buried in the ground at the convict's feet. Functionally speaking, what Yue's saying might as well be true.

        Still, something nags faintly at the back of Acacia's brain. The reporter doesn't entirely know what brings the convict back to the battlefield time and time again - though she can certainly offer an extremely educated guess given Minder's nowhere to be seen - but whenever she does, Acacia knows it's usually with a goal of her own in mind. Or a test.

        Her guard is up, but that hardly matters; she catches the edge of Yue's kick on her forearms, grimacing as she tries to stifle the hiss of pain before it comes out and totally failing. The momentum of the hit carries her backwards through the snow, sliding as if it were ice; she slumps a little as she scrabbles for purchase, finding herself face to face with the ground after a moment as she loses her footing.

        "You could just come out and say you're looking to challenge me, you know," she grumbles under her breath. Despite Yue's hints, Acacia seems to be of the impression that the Veruni wants to face her without magic whatsoever - or perhaps the reporter simply doesn't seem to honestly think she has any at hand, despite the way that ether swirls around her in uncomfortable eddies.

        Her hands close into fists - but not out of anger. Instead, as she lifts up off the ground, both hands fling snow up and forwards. The snowscreen is rather clumsy, but Acacia does her best to use it as cover anyway, rising up behind it to meet Yue's drop back to the ground. The lunging punch to close distance is the total opposite to the Veruni's smooth technique, as is the elbow that follows it.

GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked Yue Rohay with Red Tape!
GS: Acacia Saitani has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Acacia Saitani takes 24 damage from Poison!
GS: Acacia Saitani has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Weaving low, Matilda recognizes immediately that Josie's shot is much less probing than her own; she gets clipped in the side, staining the cold ground red. One of her eyes screws shut as she starts to pry herself back up, with only a momentary glance toward who *else* is here. ... She'll deal with Brad later, she reasons -- one problem at a time.

Advancing forward, Matilda decides to take advantage of Josie having to split her attention and close in; she thinks she has, perhaps, gotten to the stage where she can at least outpace *other* non-specialists in close quarters, even if she isn't *herself* a close-quarters battle specialist. At first, her approach stays cautious, but after the first few steps she breaks into a full-on sprint toward Josephine.

"If you insist," Matilda murmurs quietly, leaping forward with a single rising knee strike, then shifting in midair to follow up with a kick with the opposite leg before landing. It's not a very *complex* maneuver, but it's clear that Matilda's put in the time and effort to get comfortable in close-quarters battle.

GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Pruning!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Matilda Whitehead's Pruning for 151 hit points!
GS: Matilda Whitehead assumes the Avenger stance!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        The more relaxed Ragnell is, the more riled Gwen seems to get. "H-hey. wou act as if that's a bad thing!" A pause, and Gwen quickly adds, as if trying to defend her reputation in Clarine's eyes, "I just like seein' the good in people, okay?!"

        The subject of Liath is brought up by Clarine, and Ragnell agrees with a soft readiness that manages to briefly break Gwen's rage. "... She is. N' also, really kind." Liath also managed to put Gwen out of commission using that strange magic of hers, but that's Just Seraph Things.

        Further dulling that spark of anger is Ragnell throwing Gwen's statement right back at her. "... Yeah. I thought I helped kill you, when all I wanted t'do was stop you." It's said with a raw degree of venerability, barely rising enough to be heard among the noise of the battle around them.

        'Of course I know that. That's why I joined.'

        There's a moment, where the pair meet eyes. Gwen is silent.

        "....."

        Goddamn it, Ragnell.

        Now Gwen is going to have to sell this.. whatever it is, because of course Ragnell is doing it for good reasons because then Gwen doesn't have to think about Ragnell trying to end the world *again*.

        Thankfully it's pretty easy to sell being pierced through by a lance made of _lightning_.

        "Grk!!" Gwen nearly falls back as Clarine makes her move, the courier settling down onto one knee. "Goddamn it... you're nuts, Ragnell." At least here, Gwen can be truthful.

        So. What can a courier do when she really shouldn't use lightning?

        She'll just use Punch instead. "I'm gonna have t'knock some proper sense into ya!"

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Special Delivery!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Seraph Clarine's Dancing Glass for 60 hit points!
GS: Cover! applied to Seraph Clarine!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Special Delivery for 130 hit points!
GS: Yue Rohay guards a hit from Acacia Saitani's Red Tape for 90 hit points!
GS: Slow! applied to Yue Rohay!
<Pose Tracker> Brad Evans has posed.

Brad dives for a new cover spot as the dust clears from his grenade. He digs into his equipment pouch for the short-range Empathite radio, clutching it tight. "Sniper!" he snaps. "Watch your heads if you want to keep them! I'll keep her busy!"

He sticks it away, then plants his back against his cover, sucking in short breaths. Looks like Yuna's summoning, he thinks, seeing flashes of light out that way. Should be back there. Protect the asset. That tank was a red herring anyway. But....well, he's got her attention now, at least.

Which he finds out for sure when she sends a flicker of something surging past his cover and right into him. He doesn't even scream, though his whole body contracting as he grits his teeth gives away the intensity of it. It only hurts, but that undersells so much of how far off a little pain can throw you. He sucks in another breath. "Sorry," Brad rumbles back, flexing his wrist. His Mechanical Glove begins releasing motes of sparking light, which whirl around each other as they bond on the ground before him.

"Not much of a dancer," he says, as it all resolves into a small...it looks like a model rocket kit, honestly, at least up until Brad stomps on the launcher and sends a whistling, extremely not model rocket soaring into the air. "Two left feet."

He hears Matilda, and spares a glance. Odessa's here too, then. Going to have to deal with that later, he thinks.

Which is when that short-range ballistic rocket completes its arc and explodes at, hopefully, approximately Josie's knees.

GS: Brad Evans has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Mini Scud!
GS: Brad Evans takes 21 damage from Poison!
GS: Brad Evans has completed his action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a glancing hit from Brad Evans's Mini Scud for 67 hit points!
GS: Mighty! applied to Brad Evans!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Ragnell chuckles at Clarine, a hint of affection in her face and voice. "I'm always myself." For that reason, when Gwen and Clarine commisserate about having to deal with her, she rolls her eyes goodnaturedly. She also pauses at Ivan's frankly absurd claim. She does get what he's going for, though.
        
        "Sorry. My bad, Talia," she calls, because she's always herself.
        
        Looks like Gwen gets Ragnell's implication better than Clarine does. Whether that's actually Ragnell's true intent is another matter, of course. Who knows what that wacky Seraph is ever up to! Chaos, chaos. She can do anything.
        
        Clarine and Gwen both close in on the distance fighter. Ragnell manages to move quick enough to evade all but the very edge of Clarine's mirror strike, but that herds her into Gwen's range just as she clobbers her with her metal fist. Ragnell staggers, stumbling back several steps; even as she moves, she counter-fires with several shots from each pistol, one by one to avoid throwing off her aim, BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM, lightning arcing and circling around to smash into her opponents.
        
        "I'm not nuts, I'm fruits," she jokes at Gwen. This joke means absolutely nothing, but it might annoy her some. "But you can think what you want. You know I don't really care."
        
        She does care somewhat when that Lady Summoner starts to dance. She hasn't see an actual Summoning before now, and even though this fight does matter to her, she's also extremely curious on what a Summoning is actually like. It's hard for her to let herself miss it when it's happening *right there*.

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Seraph Clarine with Storm Runner!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Storm Runner!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cover expired!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Clarine critically Guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Storm Runner for 29 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ratatoskr has posed.

        Ratatoskr finds himself further battered by the surrounding jagged flakes of ice, at least one lodging itself deep into a joint that the Hyadean has to flinch on reflex and find himself separated from too close a quarter with Ashton - but it gives Clarissa the opening she needs to speak out further against this one rare remaining survivor of a subjugated species once primed to annihilate Filgaia at behest of a cosmic horror.
        His eyes dim. The grin lessens to a smile. 'There's more to history than battle.' Like a part of his brain is dealing with a fatal error. A real Hero...
        ...Nonetheless, Clarissa finds herself an opening to lay down cover fire against Ratatoskr without endangering Ashton's approach, a credit to her thoughtfulness as much as it is a show of her marksmanship skill, peppering the crimson-armored Hyadean with shot after shot. Burns are serious business for humans - there is a real infection risk Clarissa may have to deal with.
        The most direct strike that hits silvery flesh smolders for a few seconds before the regenerative capabilities native to Ratatoskr's people kick in, dampening the harm if not so much the residual pain and shock, the Noble's Fang haven bitten down.
        "You say you are not a Hero...?" Ratatoskr's grin widens some. "...But there's so many Heroes here!!" By the way, Clarissa isn't the only one on him, he should remember -
        And he does, as Ashton bears down upon him with the venom in his words and the growing serpents who bear down upon him like he might be a tasty meal. "...Like Ashton Anchors," Ratatoskr narrates, a grin to match Ashton's far less kind one, "Twin Symbological Swordsman...! I remember the day he came to the Photosphere..." Words not said in anger. "Who doesn't hesitate before an enemy... bringing an almost unsurpassed symbiotic style weaving human sorcery with swordplay in both hands... bearing two additional weapons in--"
        yeah this is around the time the dragons are poised to shut him up because he really ought to be
        Only hoarfrost lands, as the red one will find Ratatoskr's hand trying to wrap around and shove the flame-spewing dragon head away. There is less fiery exposure - but it is a notable point. Ratatoskr does, on average, like to try to approach around the side where the ice-aligned one is, and not the fire. Even now, he prioritizes defense against the one spewing fire.
        Ratatoskr's teeth chatter as he draws back that parrying hand to ball it into a fist and try to sock the fire-spewing one right on the chin, then throw that elbow inward as it clicks and fires off compressed air from within - a one-two punch.
        "I'm glad they're not sick...!" Ratatoskr chatters through all of that. "This is a Hero! ...Yuna there is a Hero too... and... and so are you...!" His solid yellow eyes seem to gleam ever more lively, trying to leap past Ashton and lunge into Clarissa, leading with his knee in a flying bash.
        "There's so many...! I want to meet them all... I want to fight them all... I want to remember them all...!" His words devolve into the usual exciteable mania.

GS: Ratatoskr has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ratatoskr has attacked Ashton Anchors with One Armed Dual Wield!
GS: Ratatoskr has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ratatoskr has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Fly Into Fray!
GS: Ratatoskr has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ratatoskr has completed his action.
GS: Clarissa Arwin takes a glancing hit from Ratatoskr's Fly Into Fray for 58 hit points!
GS: Clarissa Arwin enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Yue Rohay has posed.

        "A pair of armguards would suit you well," Yue finds herself muttering almost by instinct as she feels the weight of her rounding kick connect against her forearms, and she lands three-point on the ice with just a little bit of skid. A grunt.

        She wonders if Acacia truly believes that she's hyperaware enough to be able to defend against bullets. It's not terribly true, and she doesn't have the Veruni strength or agility and...

        Well, she has to compensate with technique, often. Technique never betrays.

        "Challenges sound so accusatory. A date would be more fun," she mumbles. "But this is a terrible place for one--"

        And then Acacia is going hambo at her with the force of a driving punch; she'd normally be quite ready for a reckless attack, but the ice is precarious. "Careful with that on this kind of footing--!!"

        She decides to just take it head-on as she catches the punch on the metallic brunt of her shackles and slouches down into a stooped stance and just goes sliding against the surface of the icy lake. "Ghh--"

        Yue drops to her knee, and then lets out another coarse chuckle. "Well. If you are going to be this stubborn about it, why do I not use that magic against you?"

        She holds that same Mana Egg at the palm of her hand, focuses and... ... ...

        "Can you feel it? The sweltering sensation of magic coursing through my very palm? This is the true form of your little device," Yue taunts.

        ... literally nothing is happening at all. What's she up to?

GS: Yue Rohay enters a Counter stance!
GS: Yue Rohay has attacked Yue Rohay with Heel Hath No Fury...!
GS: Yue Rohay has completed her action.
GS: Yue Rohay heals Yue Rohay! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Yue Rohay's  stance ends. She enters the Stoic stance!
<Pose Tracker> Erzebet Lefanu has posed.

 
"Make me," Erzebet answers Leon petulantly.

A moment later: An explosive shockwave does just that!

Erzebet has good reactions, and that coat of hers is more than just white fluff; the blast does send her skidding back along the freshly re-freezing ground, one arm held up as if to shield herself as her ears pop and ring, her teeth gritting for a moment as there is a call of WHAT? -

"You see, darling," Erzebet says to Clarissa, with effort, "I know people accuse me of this because they don't like that I took public speaking, but - I mean, just listen to this -" Shrieking metallized vines snap towards her and Erzebet has a sick mental image: I'm going to get horribly killed by a metallic plant! Apt, really;

She twists, though, in fact, the grenade rips at her leg and she topples over into a snow bank nearer to her troops with an 'ergh!' Fortunately for her - well, several things happen to her with some fortune. One is that her surviving troopers, whether in SHEER TERROR of the battlefield and the dread combat prowess of the Guardians, OR encouragement at the spiritual and revolutionary potential of Erzebet's stream of consciousness ramblings - pull her up, dust her off.

A bomb core lands near them. All six Odessa troops, plus Erzebet, look at them.

An Odessa troop, who shall thenceforth be known as Peg, rushes forwards and kicks the bomb core. He earns his name and goes down with a howl, immediately set upon by the medic. One of the other troopers says to Erzebet, "The uh, the target, she's doing one of those big Crest things."

Erzebet swallows dryly. The air of the battlefield feels... it feels hard to explain, to her. It is repellent yet there is something alluring in the smell in the air. Her mouth is awash. Now it's dry. Her stomach is tightening.

"Ma'am," the trooper says.

"No, van Ondine," Erzebet says, staring dead ahead. "No. I've got it."

And after a few muttered moments...

                               Squad Movement!

* Peg, van Ondine, and one other guy run towards the transport parked some distance away. Well, van Ondine and the medic run. Peg doesn't. They may be trusting in the good nature of the Guardians and sundry. This may be foolish. Their goal is Speeder #3. Their purpose may be darker than getting a wounded man out of the line of fire.

* The remaining Odessa troopers have the advantage of having spare grenades. These begin getting thrown in high arcs. Their target is, in a moment of cosmic irony, Rikku. The pins have all been pulled. The arc is high enough that a couple of them burst in air, like liberty itself. The remainder, well--

* And as for Erzebet...

She pushes herself to her feet. She gazes at Lulu.

"Yes?" she answers her.

"It's very tragic of you all," Erzebet says, her eyes flicking momentarily to the lightly caramelized snack of a blitzball player that vaults back and away from Yuna. "To do all of this, I mean. It's like a dream, a romantic dream. I can tell you've got bonds forged by something more than just money or political interest."

Erzebet sinks back into a slight crouch. "Unfortunately for you, so do I!" The guns snap out-- and they speak, this time, with a thwuckBOOM worthy of a cannon that could fell a forest, not a gun that could fell an antelope. The round that comes out of them is not a solid piece of lead or iron, however brought forth, but is more like a semi-liquid metal - something that will vaporize into nothing within moments - as it arcs towards Lulu. Except that a second round joins it, this one solid.

It's almost beautiful if you see it in slow motion. This glowing blob of copper is pierced; it subdivides, several virtual pounds of metal splitting into a shredding wave. Much of it towards Lulu, yes, but more towards the Summoner.

Erzebet exhales afterwards - and wheels round towards the other individuals who plague her! Towards Leon, yes. But also towards...

"MARIVEL," Erzebet says. "You said you would see me next when I was dead, didn't you?"

Sweat runs down her neck. "Well, I'm not dead! So I'm sorry for that, except obviously I'm actually not! Coming in here with your entire little squad and your force -- are you hoping to force an engagement, or are you just dedicated to THIS PARTICULAR summoner somehow? Is it the tragic mythology? Feh! How disgustingly ironic, that both of us have the perspective of moon-sick tragedians! I'd vomit but I haven't been able to keep down anything for days!"

A moment later, her attention turns to Leon. She seems to be putting something together. "Wait," she says to him. "Wait -- you're here to abduct her too?"

Her brow knits again, this time enough to half-close her eyes. Her mouth opens and then shuts. "But..."

She has a little shiver up her spine, and says, "Whatever! If you're a dog of the Kaiser, you're my enemy and that's all there is to that. You've got to the count of five to beat your cheeks back to your little Kislevi smorgasbord in exile, big man!"

"Five," Erzebet says immediately, raising up one of Haborym's guns again. This one isn't really a gunshot at all. What shrieks out of the barrel of the weapon is some kind of intense ray - it's heat, now, as if the heat has turned from some kind of philosophical matter into the light itself. It casts a huge shadow - those who stand near it would be singed, as if sunburned, although Marivel might be able to recognize it, with relief, as merely being enough near-infrared light to ignite damp wood!

Or, like, tundra ground. There is now a fire. Perhaps the fire includes Leon and Marivel; such things are mysteries.

GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Rikku with Hey Rikku I Heard You Like Grenades So We Brought You Some Grenades So You
Can Grenade While You Gr!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has activated a Force Action!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Lulu with Let's Break The Laws Restraining Our Hearts!!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Yuna with Let's Break The Laws Restraining Our Hearts!!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Leon Albus with Let's Incinerate The Boundaries Between Us!!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has attacked Marivel Armitage with Let's Incinerate The Boundaries Between Us!!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu has completed her action.
GS: Marivel Armitage takes a solid hit from Erzebet Lefanu's Let's Incinerate The Boundaries Between Us! for 193 hit
points!
GS: Weaken! applied to Marivel Armitage!
GS: Marivel Armitage enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Lulu completely evades a hit from Erzebet Lefanu's Let's Break The Laws Restraining Our Hearts!!
GS: Leon Albus guards a hit from Erzebet Lefanu's Let's Incinerate The Boundaries Between Us! for 114 hit points!
GS: Weaken! applied to Leon Albus!
GS: CRITICAL! Ashton Anchors guards a hit from Ratatoskr's One Armed Dual Wield for 97 hit points!
GS: Ashton Anchors enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Rikku used Defend! She takes Erzebet Lefanu's attack on Yuna on herself!
GS: Rikku takes a glancing hit from Erzebet Lefanu's Hey Rikku I Heard You Like Grenades So We Brought You Some Grenades
So You Can Grenade While You Gr for 59 hit points!
GS: Rikku takes a glancing hit from Erzebet Lefanu's Let's Break The Laws Restraining Our Hearts! for 93 hit points!
GS: Amplify! applied to Rikku!
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya Alathfar has posed.

"With the 'Club' spelled with a K?" Kaguya asks Marivel. "Nice. I like it."

It's something that's demoralized some foes, the way Kaguya throws out conversation while fighting, as if she isn't taking anything seriously. Up close, though--her motions tell a bit of a different story.

"Oh yeah, your brother! What a terrible guy! I mean I guess maybe there were some time issues or something but he was kind of one of my best dudes and I don't really have time for recruting right now!" Pause, glance to Ashley. "Unless you want a new job?" she interjects. "Nah, you seem like the moral type."

Here she finally answers Ashley since he's gotten his breath enough to talk. "HEY don't go saying I'm short!" Kaguya scowls, though then, "Ha, really? Nice. Well, you know, maybe later. I don't really take a little violence all that personally. Sorta goes with the business."

Fire--Kaguya leaps to the side, evading some of what turns out to be naplm, though a nice patch on her leg burns through the nice fabric covering the alien metal of her boots. "Get on that!" she says. "I'm Kaguya. And I'm--" Heh. "Really, really not from Filgaia, Ashley."

Meanwhile Kaguya watches Ivan's great fiery hammer crash down, looking if anything a little impressed--but rather than move to dodge, she just steps towards it, crossing her arms above herself and rolling with the blow, letting the impact against armor ring out over the snowfield from a solid hit.

She grins, as she does, despite the pain of a fiery bludgeon, which makes the grin wobble a little for an instant. "It's true. Ivan wouldn't be near that quick."

Then she shouts over the battlefield, perhaps to Ratatoskr, "STOP BEING NICE!"

As she shouts, though, she suddenly whirls where she'd been close to Ivan, spinning around as she ducks down to move to outright trip him on the spot. "Hah--!"

Then she pulls a strange device, of white and black plastic--that Ashley may recognize instantly as a highly advanced ARM in the shape of something like a shotgun. "This is my ARM! Well, my favorite one, anyway. Let's introduce them!"

She turns, and without warning, fires a scattershot blast of green light straight for him at close-ish range.

"HEY MARIVEL" Kaguya shouts, "THINK FAST!" Still whirling from the recoil of her weapon, she pulls a small object from her coat and hurls it straight at Marivel!! ...Except--she doesn't pull the grenade's pin, she just throws it at the other woman's head. But her eyes are not there--but on Yuna, who is working on a summoning. Her eyes narrow, and she pulls something else--

A blinking, whining something else, as she flicks a switch and it starts to gather energy visibly.

GS: Kaguya Alathfar has attacked Ivan with Low Kick!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has attacked Ashley Winchester with Forbidden ARM: Otherworldly Blitz!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has spent 1 Combo on Reload, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has attacked Marivel Armitage with Pineapple Punch!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has attacked Kaguya Alathfar with Charging!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar takes 28 damage from Poison!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has completed her action.
[OOC] Lulu says, "Oh I forgot something bluray in"
GS: Ashley Winchester takes a solid hit from Kaguya Alathfar's Forbidden ARM: Otherworldly Blitz for 187 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"Quite right, Josie!" Leon calls back to her. "But, if it's all the same, I have plans. It wouldn't do to die here at all."

He looks back at Yuna, head tilted.

"Well, I didn't really think you'd agree, Lady Summoner," Leon admits, with a little sigh. Then, he looks up; his eyes widen and he draws in a gasp. Tidus comes down at him, Brotherhood slashing down -- and catches his side, as he just can't quite get out of the way. He spins, then raises up his Al Bhed-made shotgun, shooting a gunshot for the side of the Blitzball player.

"Oh, stay out of this!" he snaps at him, perhaps a little peevishly. Then, he looks at Rikku. "You're not going to die. What I'm saying, simply, is I'm too damned good at this to let that happen."

He shrugs, a little nonchalantly, before he catches sight of the ember in Rikku's hand. It flies out -- and then explodes into a Spiran Bomb, and the fiery blast sends him flying. He leaps -- dives -- and rolls, before he comes up in a crouch. He swings Diplomacy around, drawing a bead on Marivel -- even as two of the Raid Funnels break away. The shimmering barrier drops with a flash -- and then a pair of energy beams rain down from above, striking for Rikku.

Leon looks down the length of his ARM at Marivel, his eyes narrowing. "Strike a nerve? Hardly," Leon says, with a calm shrug. "You don't entrust me with anything, nor do I justify my reasons for pursuing my goals to you. Why in the blazes would I?"

He doesn't answer Marivel about what makes it right for him to intervene in Yuna's journey. Leon thinks that would be ill-advised. Instead, he leaps -- jumping from the speeder, as it crashes down behind him. He goes flying, but not before the third Raid Fang flies down -- and stabs the sharpened end of its point for Marivel's back.

His eyes snap back to Yuna. He recognizes that spin of her arms -- not from a summoning, exactly, but from the Sending after Operation Mi'ihen. He draws in a sharp breath. "She's going to--" He stops talking. There isn't time to talk. He looks at Erzebet -- his expression screws up, and his rush for Yuna is aborted as fire explodes up around him. He can't get away in time. Flame shoots over him -- then breaks as the Raid Funnels drop down, and a barrier of green light erupts, holding it back.

"Well, never let it be said you're observant," he says to the Odessa operative. "But, I'm afraid I'm no dog of the kaiser any longer. I'm shooting at you because it seems like a great idea."

Which he does. He swings up the shotgun; the back end of it spins, before he fires one shot, then a second from the lower barrel. Both streak at Erzebet, before exploding in a fiery blast. Then, Leon leaps -- and swings back his long sword in his other hand--

--and tries to slam the hilt of it for Yuna's solar plexus, with a flash of chi and a burst of grey and black light in his wake.

This is when the barrier between the three Raid Funnels drops down -- forming a defensive wall between him and Erzebet, for just a moment.

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Rikku with PMU-Z2 Raid Beam!
GS: Leon Albus has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus has attacked Marivel Armitage with PMU-Z2 Raid Fang!
GS: Leon Albus has spent 1 Combo on Link, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Leon Albus has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with RR-2 Insight Check!
GS: Leon Albus has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus has launched an attack Link!
GS: Leon Albus has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Leon Albus has attacked Yuna with Black Wolf's Fang!
GS: Leon Albus has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus takes 17 damage from Poison!
GS: Cover, Disease, Mighty, Poison, and Shieldbreak expired!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
GS: Leon Albus has attacked Leon Albus with PMU-Z2 Raid Wall!
GS: Leon Albus heals Leon Albus! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Shield! applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes a solid hit from Kaguya Alathfar's Pineapple Punch for 74 hit points!
GS: Reload! Marivel Armitage gains 15 extra FP from Kaguya Alathfar!
GS: Marivel Armitage critically Guards a hit from Leon Albus's PMU-Z2 Raid Fang for 16 hit points!
GS: Cover! applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Leon Albus assumes the Stoic stance!
GS: Erzebet Lefanu takes a glancing hit from Leon Albus's RR-2 Insight Check for 86 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus's Stoic stance ends. He enters the Avenger stance!
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

With a blink, Clarissa looks over towards Ashton, momentarily startled that anyone would think to call her 'Lady Arwin.' But what he's saying gets through to her. Exhaling, she sags a little, her expression falling. "...But surely he has a good heart and can understand," she says in a smaller voice. "I don't want to just think of him as a thing, even if he is our enemy...."

Ashton isn't about to listen to her, of course. Ratatoskr goes on at length, and Clarissa stops moving for a moment, a flicker of sadness in her face.

"There are a lot of good people here," she says in a quieter tone. "A lot of people fighting for what they believe is right... I just wish that everyone was like that. If there weren't so many lies and moments of selfishness in the world--"

Clarissa has little time to finish the sentence, largely because Ratatoskr is flinging himself at her, chattering about how he wants to fight a Hero. Insisting that so is she.

What she is is kneed in the hip. She leans out of the way as best she can but can't avoid the impact entirely. It glances off the arch of her hip painfully, and she lets out a yelp as she's knocked off her feet and sent spinning, landing on her opposite hip in the snow. Wincing, she rolls away a few times to try and clear out of melee range, knowing she doesn't stand a chance against such a hyperactive foe in close quarters.

It was a hard blow. It'll leave a bruise. When she comes to her feet, she scowls up towards Ratatoskr, then snaps her eyes towards Erzebet again. "Well, I didn't take any classes in rhetoric," she fires back with a spark of indignation. "And maybe I'm just someone who's trying to help any way she can. But that doesn't matter."

Pulling herself to her feet, Clarissa clasps one hand over her heart and closes her eyes. "Maybe my feelings will never win a debate with someone as passionate as you, Mr. Ratatoskr, or Miss Erzebet. That's not the language our hearts speak. The things we want more than anything else. And I can feel it. Lady Yuna... her love for her home, and her friends... the love her Guardians have for her... how important their mission is.... How much Mr. Ashton cares, and how much Marivel has committed to us all...."

Blue-green eyes open as Clarissa gestures with a sweep of her arm. "Can't you feel it?" she asks. "The strength of their desire? Because I can... and I won't let that desire be wasted!"

Clarissa's voice rises. "That's why even if I can't put it into the most eloquent words, I'm not gonna quit!"

GS: Rikku takes a glancing hit from Leon Albus's PMU-Z2 Raid Beam for 66 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus's Avenger stance ends.
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Clarissa Arwin with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Ashton Anchors with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Yuna with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Rikku with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Lulu with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Marivel Armitage with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has completed her action.
GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Rikku! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Rikku!
GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Marivel Armitage! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Marivel Armitage!
GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Ashton Anchors! He gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Ashton Anchors!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

"And I am glad for that." Clarine replies with a friendly chuckle, as Ragnell says she's always herself.

And as for Gwen, just liking to see the good in people...

"That is...a good trait to have." Clarine comments as an aside, sending Gwen a faint smile. She hadn't given her much thought before, but she was an interesting one - perhaps they should have a chat sometime, when they're all not fighting for their lives - and the lives of others around them.

Especially when Gwen talks about how she thought she helped kill Ragnell, despite only wanting to stop her. She can sympathise with that, having felt much the same way.

Ragnell fires a volley of electrical shots from her pistols, forcing Clarine to retreat back. Her mirrors rise to cover her, but some of the electricity still washes off of them and back onto her.

Clarine winces. She won't be able to keep this up forever. Eventually, one of those is going to slip through...but, she just has to keep going.

She rises upward somewhat and swings her arm downward, as if beckoning something - and at this gesture of beam of searing light flashes down from the sky, heading right for Ragnell.

GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Limited Ray!
GS: Seraph Clarine has completed her action.
GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Clarissa Arwin! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Clarissa Arwin!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Seraph Clarine's Limited Ray for 119 hit points!
GS: Quick! applied to Seraph Clarine!
GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Lulu! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Lulu!
GS: Marivel Armitage used Defend! She takes Leon Albus's attack on Yuna on herself!
GS: Marivel Armitage guards a hit from Leon Albus's Black Wolf's Fang for 100 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus assumes the Stoic stance!
GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Yuna! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Yuna!
GS: CRITICAL! Ivan takes a glancing hit from Kaguya Alathfar's Low Kick for 44 hit points!
GS: Slow! applied to Ivan!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        She shouts back to Leon: "If it comes down to it, you know where to find me!"

        Which is to say, if this goes absolutely pear-shaped, she's going to book it. ...If she can.

        This is... not the best situation. Between the two of them and her without even an oversized cannon to really call the shots here, she's going to have her hands busy.

        But on the other hand, maybe they'll be similarly tied up in the chaos exploding around them.
        And it's always worth the old college try, at the end of the day.

        This is going to be awkward later, with Matilda...

        Which, speaking of:

        As you reap, so you sow: Josie's goad results in her receiving one of the things she does not handle with very well: a close and personal attack on her, uh, person.
        Lily did teach her a few knife tricks, but they're not precisely anything she can do about now. An attempt to get out of the way only leads to the younger woman making a swift correction for it; Josie attempts to answer the kick that nearly drops her to the snowfield itself with a jab from an elbow, a hammer-like strike with the butt of her gun. They may not amount to much, even if they do connect. In extremis, she extracts herself from Matilda's immediate presence and takes off at a short dash away from her.
        ...That might be a slight limp she's gained.

        "Really? Well, that's too bad. I'm not the patient or the teacherly type, so I suppose we'll have to change our plans?" she suggests to Brad, coupling the comment with a bright smile. "So, how are you at-- oh, Guardians--"

        Brad, after all, has just shot a rocket at her. Josie leaps sidelong, evading again the rocket but not the aftermath; the burst sends her rolling a touch further than she intended; she sways a moment as she stands.

        Her gaze falls on the Reaper's Hand, resting at her feet.
        And she kicks it, up into the air; it spins end over end.

        She snatches it, tosses it to her waiting right hand.
        And with well-practiced speed, loads a few of her more special rounds.

        "You've both put me in a right fix," she comments, flipping the ARM back to her left hand, spinning it once like a gunslinger might, if they were the type to show off.

        "So you'll have to forgive me for playing rough. You see," she says, sighting the tank and taking aim at it -- firing, the bullet bounces off a reinforced section of plating and continues on its merry way towards Brad -- "I've got a bit of a paycheck on the line and--"

        She twists suddenly, firing on Matilda from perhaps a similarly unexpected angle.

        "--a girl's gotta eat. You get it, right? Archaeology's not enough to pay the bills!"

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Coming Up Roses!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Josephine Lovelace's Coming Up Roses for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! applied to Josephine Lovelace!
GS: Mighty! applied to Josephine Lovelace!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has activated a Force Action!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has activated a Force Action!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Brad Evans with Bitter Pill!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Bitter Pill!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Amplify expired!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: Brad Evans guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's Bitter Pill for 75 hit points!
GS:  Infect extends negative status by 1 round!
GS: CRITICAL! Matilda Whitehead takes a glancing hit from Josephine Lovelace's Bitter Pill for 76 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Storm Runner for 91 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! applied to Gwen Whitlock!
<Pose Tracker> Lulu has posed.

"I know," Lulu answers Ashley as he speaks of not disappointing them. She indeed seems easily to move into working with others, for some reason--despite her prickly demeanor.

She does what she can, in the meantime. Narrowing her eyes at Leon at his explanations, she notes the sigh. "Forgive me if I don't find it comforting. But you'll have to excuse him; he takes his duties as a Guardian seriously," she says of Tidus, which might be the highest compliment she's given him in recent memory and she doesn't even stop to let it sink in before she whirls--she sees Yuna, after all, and the initial counterattack from before prompts her to step into the way.

But Erzebet, too--

Tragic. She knows tragedy. But she watches the ARM; she has studied them, to a degree, to understand their natures, to defend...

It is beautiful, really, the way it divides. But lulu is capable of seeing it this time; even before the crack of cannonfire, she is acting, sure to start casting before the shot fires as she sees it aimed, and a sheet of lightning erupts in front of her, blocking the metal from her for the moment completely.

"I can introduce you to more tragedy if you like," Lulu says to Erzebet, noting Yuna, busy--hoping someone can get the rest--

"Not so fast--"

She poitns her palm, and a rushing column of fresh water erupts like a wave out of nothing, crashing with great force towards a pair of Erzebet's soldiers rather than just herself this time, and it seems to be only the start of a set. She can act faster, now, as she feels Clarissa's help in return--"Together!" she replies to her loudly as she casts.

GS: Lulu has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lulu has spent 1 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Lulu has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with Watera!
GS: Lulu has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lulu has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

Ratatoskr uppercuts Creepy right in the jaw. The red-scaled dragon roars - more in surprise than pain - and reflexively lashes away.
 
The movement of so much mass unexpectedly throws Ashton's center of gravity off, toppling him (and both rapidly shrinking dragons) to the icy ground with a crash.
 
The man snarls almost as much as the dragons do as he tries to right himself. "I respect your attitudes, Lady, but I fear that Ratatoskr? That creature has no heart, let alone a good one." Getting to his feet, Ashton gives chase to the berserking squirrel. "He's a rabid beast and little more."
 
A pulse goes through him as Clarissa raises her voice and defies any claims of her own that she has insufficient rhetoric. And he's noticed what has gone on.
 
Ratatoskr has been evading the red dragon for the blue - to the point of taking the fight right to Creepy. It's no coincidence.
 
Red tattoos flare under the dark cloak - and both of Ashton's hooked Spiran blades ignite with bright flame. "Perhaps your words will reach him better with an object lesson. Sometimes to learn properly - one must get burned!"
 
And at that, he sweeps the blades through the air, throwing off great arcs of fire that sear through the air towards the rapidly bouncing Hyaedian.

GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Ratatoskr with Doubledemon Sword!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
GS: Erzebet Lefanu takes a solid hit from Lulu's Watera for 153 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        "I know, I know! It's not like I have the time to really think of stuff like that 'til it's too late!" Acacia retorts, taking some refuge in her usual grumpiness. It's a coping mechanism, a way to briefly forget that she's in the middle of a cacophony of noise and violence and bullets, fighting one of the people she'd much rather not fight at all.

        She's obviously intent on going on the attack; her response to Yue's warning a look of thin-lipped determination. When it comes down to it, her fighting style has always been kind of a mish-mash - wild and slightly panicked improvisation, not particularly caring if she has to punch, shoot, or throw magic at something. If the ice means that Yue's unbalanced, then she'll apparently take it, even if that means unbalancing herself at the same time.

        It works, and for a moment she's got the upper hand, allowing herself a slight grin. "Don't know about that. A snowy forest does work pretty well, so long as it's not reduced to slush," she starts to reply--

        --but there's a telltale moment when Yue lifts the Mana Egg, and the reporter's eyes widen in surprise. In the blink of an eye Acacia is genuinely on the defence, and for all that she was sure about pressing her advantage a moment ago she's suddenly dropped back, nearly throwing herself to one side as she manages to slide halfway behind a snowbank. In the silence afterwards, she scrabbles the rest of the way.

        ... ... and then nothing happens. No flame, no bolt of light.

        "... what?" she mumbles to herself, risking a glance out of her cover with her brow furrowed, half expecting Yue to be using the whole play as a means to distract her enough to get close. But the Veruni has been true(?) to her word(?), and yet the Mana Egg sits there dormant in her hands.

        The reporter likes to think she isn't stupid, despite occasional evidence to the contrary, and her expression flickers with an uncertain frown. If she concentrates - really concentrates, past the din of combat and her own frenetic anxiety, she can still feel the touch of the Mana Egg's power. Except... it's nowhere near Yue.

        She stares for a moment, swallows - and time seems to resume, as she remembers herself enough to bring her pistol up. She has no idea if this will work, but gods know she's been in that position before - and when she fires, there's a sudden rush of ether around her, and a familiar bright-white line is scored in the air, aimed for the Egg and Yue both.

GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked Yue Rohay with Deadline!
GS: Acacia Saitani has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Acacia Saitani takes 24 damage from Poison!
GS: Acacia Saitani has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Rikku has posed.

 
"Well I'd like to believe you Leon - but Lily didn't talk up your reputation THAT much!" Marivel requests to know why Leon is correct. And Rikku does not answer for him. She's not even certain he knows the reason why his cause is righteous to the Al Bhed.
 
That would even be fine albeit a little inconvenient to their dealings - as him shooting the bribe money showed. And Rikku winces as Peg earns his name. The act causing her to put her hands over her mouth. "Whoopsie... I think that was not the 'one thing' Lulu meant by that..."
 
Rikku then finds herself going wide eyed as Odessa troopers start throwing grenades. This rarely happens you see. Usually she's the one throwing grenades. Given that there are multiples she doesn't even try to react by kicking one back or throwing it back, instead finding herself hot footing it in a quick step across the impromptu mine-field, as blast after blast sends her yelping away. "It's unfair - having - so many - thrown at me - all - at -"
 
Then she spots Leon's raid funnel above pointing at her, "Oh come on! Now it's like you're teaming up with Odessa on me!" And suddenly Lulu's light takes hold around her, and she finds herself light-footing away faster, diving into a snow drift as an energy beam rains down on her. It appears to strike at the same spot she went into the snow.
 
By all appearances she might be down. And out. However suddenly she bursts out of the snow which scatters all around her rushing to Yuna's side and does this light little shove out of the way with both of her hands. It's meant to be gentle enough not to interrupt her Summoning - though if it does - better that than serious injuries.
 
"Hnnn!" The girl finds herself stumbling as the coppery blast that split off rakes her left hip, scorching just above her shorts in the Mid-riff. She has another wound on the right side of her neck, a burn which probably belongs to Leon's blast from earlier. "Like I'd let you shoot her! I'm her Guardian you know!"
 
Sweating from the sudden pain - she's only able to breathe easy thanks to Clarissa's timely intervention.
 
Rikku suddenly pulls out of her bag with trembling hands - a designer wallet!?
 
It's luxurious leather is a sight to behold - and certainly some might assume the consummate thief stole it. Is she going to use it for another bribe? That would be a safe assumption - until she begins the process of stuffing it down into a wide brimmed flask. Within seconds that luxurious leather is consumed by whatever substance is within, it's leather simply dissolving in a reaction that changes the substance's color to a hue somewhere between blue and green.
 
It did not look healthy before. Yet now it appears... strangely so?
 
She then hurriedly thrusts it over Yuna's way. "This will help!" She says quickly, before looking at Yunie sheepishly. "-I'm... not... just making you drink leather. It'll make your Magic Super Strong - Promise!"
 

GS: Rikku has attacked Yuna with Mix: Hero Drink!
GS: Rikku has completed her action.
GS: COUNTER! Yue Rohay counterattacks Acacia Saitaniwith Counter Attack!
GS: Yue Rohay takes a solid hit from Acacia Saitani's Deadline for 129 hit points!
GS: Yue Rohay has been weakened by Disease! Yue Rohay can't gain THP until the Disease is cured!
GS: Disease! applied to Yue Rohay!
GS: Ratatoskr takes a solid hit from Ashton Anchors's Doubledemon Sword for 133 hit points!
GS: Yuna takes a solid hit from Rikku's Mix: Hero Drink for 0 hit points!
GS: Amplify, Burst, Hyper, and Surge! applied to Yuna!
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

"Uh, close enough, I guess!" Ivan calls back to Ragnell as she calls him by... the other wrong sibling name, as per this web of unconvincing lies he has woven. He hasn't mentioned yet to Talia that they now have a phantom triplet onto whom Ivan has dumped his name and all his old sins, at least when it comes to bumping into people involved with the Guard and Yevon conflict.

Kaguya gives him kind of an insult-compliment combo, but since the insult was more playing along with him, the compliment hits harder. "He was one of your best dudes?? Really?" says Ivan, heartened by the praise. This may or may not be happening while he's crashing down on Kaguya with a hammer.

She also called him her friend a minute ago, which was weird but maybe not shocking. He's not really comfortable using the word friend but there's a lot of people who at this point are certainly no longer just his aquaintances anymore and it's starting to get pretty hard to dance around the only word that seems to exist a step above that. Why didn't anyone invent some kind of intermediate one?!

When Kaguya agrees that Ivan wouldn't be that quick, Ivan simply shrugs as if to say 'guilty as charged.' He's better than Ivan now! He's a new Ivan! Or Vlad! Or something. But definitely improved!

As if to knock him down a peg, Kaguya sweeps him! The kick crashes into his shins with bone-ringing force, but Ivan is DETERMINED not to crashland on his face immediately after they both agreed on how quick he was, and so he vanishes his hammer and throws his full weight into the fall, rallying to turn it into a front handspring, and aiming an answering kick at Kaguya's face as he's upside-down during the hand-balance.

GS: Ivan has spent 1 Combo on Interrupt, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Ivan has attacked Kaguya Alathfar with Circus Trick!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        "See? Clarine gets it!" uh Gwen it's not a virtue if you're humblebragging

        Just how faulty Gwen's logic here is, it isn't really given time to reflect on, as Ragnell is right on her, her twin pistols blazing. "Wh-" The redhead throws up her arms in defense, cushioning herself against the stormy onslaught.

        As for what Gwen thinks? Ragnell is nuts. Or fruits, to use her word. Though, who knows? Ganondorf might be the sort of dude that someone could definitely spy on. He's powerful, but no one said he was _smart_. And Ragnell has definitely shown herself to be gifted in avoiding death at least once.

        "Fruits?" Now Gwen is trying to figure out what kind of fruit Ragnell is. Orange? Grape? Cherrie- wait
        
        "... At least you're consistent. That *is* a virtue. I think." Ragnell is the person who would attack people trying to dig into a mountain because that mountain held something she didn't want freed. Something powerful and dangerous. She'd do it without telling anyone, because that's the sort of person Ragnell is. She'd definitely cast a few meaningful glances to let Gwen know what was up, however. As to what that 'up' actually is is up to interpretation, and right now, Clarine might have a better grasp of Ragnell's motives than Gwen just due to being a Seraph herself.

        Unfortunately, Gwen's not completely aware of much beyond Ragnell, since Yuna is behind her. "Time t'kick things up a notch here!"

        Whatever view Ragnell might have, a bright flash from Gwen's outstretched right palm may briefly obscure that with a burst of blinding light, followed by a noisy burst of crackling plasma from that shame palm, forcing Gwen's boots into the dirt. "Wh-whoah, that was too fast-"

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Quasar Palm!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has launched an attack Link!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has spent 2 Combo on Headshot and Gatling, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Corona Discharge!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Well, you know, Ashley did say that he wouldn't disappoint Lulu and the rest.

That was... maybe a bit premature.

"That's quite an ARM you've got there," Ashley observes... a split second before a cloud of brilliant green light blasts him onto his back end. The blast leaves a smoldering, blackened crater right smack-dab in the middle of his chest. It's the kind of injury that would kill any ordinary person--

But today Ashley... is wearing body armor.

Certainly, it's now falling to tatters, but it did its job! It's a wonder how many people overlook how useful the chest armor slot can be if you actually put something in it. "Ow," Ashley groans and grimaces, pushing himself back into a somewhat more respectable position. "S-so you're one of those... Aliens? Like, not a moon alien. But... I've read these magazines, see-- You're not one of those telepath-tower-bothering, cow-abducting ones, are you? You seem too nice for that."

And also not literally the Crawling Chaos.

But Ashley doesn't know that's important yet.

It's around then that Ashley remembers that he's supposed to be fighting this person and loads another round into his weapon. The musket fires, launching another one of those canisters right at Kaguya's extremely advanced ARM. Is he going to do something to break it...!?

Well, that'd be the smart thing to do.

BUT Kaguya described it as her favorite ARM, and that would just make Ashley feel really bad. So instead, the canister bursts into a haze of frigid mist...!

Admittedly, it's not very distinguishable from the snowstorm whirling around them, but it might be enough to slow Kaguya down long enough for him to land a solid hit...!

GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Quasar Palm for 0 hit points!
GS: Jam! applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: Seraph Ragnell enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Break expired!
GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked Kaguya Alathfar with Canister - Freezing Fog!
GS: Ashley Winchester has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ashley Winchester has completed his action.
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Corona Discharge for 157 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Yue Rohay has posed.

        "Ugh. You like the snow? The torrid temperature is like a prison on my hair, and I speak this as someone in solitary."

        She's keeping that Mana Egg held aloft, knowing that keeping her attention on the object lets her focus on it -- and in turn, hopefully, hopefully, lets her know instinctively where the source of power is actually coming from.

        "What indeed?" she taunts, and-- Acacia raises that pistol again. Here come more bullets--

        --except it's not a bullet, and that burningly bright white line erupts instead and she has no defence against it. She goes sailing again with a slight cackle, then--

        THUD.

        She sinks deep into the snow on the other side as bullets fly from Odessa soldiers.

        Well.

        That's mission accomplished as far as she's concerned. Now what?

        "So,"

        She rises very heavily out of the snow; the shackles are smoking even with the cold temperature from where Acacia's blast has struck it. It's heavily pitted, and there's smouldering embers coming off where metal has gone red-hot.

        "What have we learnt? And think fast, because--"

        She quietly chucks the Mana Egg into the air, in Acacia's direction. She hopes her trick of misdirection is enough for her to cheat and uncomplete the circuit lines forming the anti-Ether bracelets at her arms, because...

        Because at that moment, a tiny sun is born.

        An eruption of red-hot Ether rudely glyphs its way into snow, intricate details sparking from her feet. Once more, the spark of embers fly in the air as they dance bouquet-like around her hair.

        "--this shall be dangerous. Defend against it with your own Ether, Acacia."

        Her leg is up again; it is a beautiful pirouette in slow motion, as her high-heel starts drawing flame out of thin air into a heavy, smouldering ribbon. She weaves her arte heavily, turning to spin once more as she exclaims, sending the Demon Fang of Flame her way:

        "<Arcane Arte!>"

GS: Kaguya Alathfar takes a solid hit from Kaguya Alathfar's Charging for 0 hit points!
GS: Yue Rohay has spent 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Yue Rohay has attacked Acacia Saitani with Maou Engekiha - Infernal Torrent!
GS: Yue Rohay has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda ducks low again; she does her best to stay in close, but Josie manages to buy herself a *little* space by shooting. At first it feels like just a graze across her outer thigh, but after a few moments Matilda notices one of her boots is becoming distinctly warmer than the other. And wetter. SHe frowns. ... That'll have to be something she deals with later, though; even if it's bleeding a fair amount, it's a relatively superficial wound.

Rocking back and forth on her legs for a few seconds, Matilda continues forward; now that she's identified that weakness in Josie's defenses, she feels the need to press it. Her approach is a little more cautious now, though; she has Brad to contend with, too, after all. She fully expects to have to take *him* down after Josephine.

"Have you considered a more permanent contract?" Matilda asks, as Josie mentions that archaeology doesn't pay the bills. "... though I admit I can't imagine simply selling *my* loyalty to whoever can pay, so I'm not sure how to motivate you..."

She hammers an elbow directly for Josie's center of mass. It's a bit of an overcommitment for a simple elbow strike, though -- she's just a little too close, leaning just a little too far in. But maybe that's her style now.

GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Elbow Strike!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: Kaguya Alathfar completely evades a hit from Ivan's Circus Trick!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has lost 2 Combo from Interrupt!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar guards a hit from Ashley Winchester's Canister - Freezing Fog for 52 hit points!
GS: Slow! applied to Kaguya Alathfar!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"Kaguya don't lie. Neck protection wouldn't protect against your sister. It's unfeasible to wear neck armor that thick." Marivel asides even as Ratatoskr comments on heroes repeatedly and make Marivel's eyebrows twitch.

"Is there any other way?" Marivel quips back at Kaguya because this happens moments before shit gets kind of real for Marivel over here. The grenade collides into Marivel's head though it doesn't explode because theh pin wasn't pulled but Marivel's weakness is Wakka in this setting and a grenade with a pin in it is basically a blitzball iff you really think about it.

She catches the grenade in her hand, stumbling away for a bit beffore Erzebet speaks to her. She tilts her head faintly at Erzebet. "Well I sort of imagined we'd be meeting in a month or so. Like in October? October's a good day to die. Halloween and all." Erzebet asks about what she's devoted to here and even guesses right. Marivel smiles more genuinely at Erzebet.

"I am afraid I am just dedicated to this particular summoner somehow. She's very sweet. I'm sure you'd like her if you stopped kidnapping her and had brunch with her instead."

The 'light' from Harborym ignites Marivel and sends her hissing back instinctively, but it's just fire, just infrared--not the almighty enemy of UV. Marivel is forced to throw her cape away lest she combust with it but she is ultimately not destroyed or banished back to the Memory Maze ... ... whatever that is.

"Gosh who painted a target on the lovely and humble Marivel Armitage's back all of a sudden?" She focuses on Leon for a moment, reaching for that grenade of Kaguya's. She holds onto it. A blueish pulse of energy crackles around her hand and around the grenade itself.

"And your goals are?" Marivel murmurs, and louder adds, "Well... simply put, I suppose..."

She pulls the pin of the grenade and tosses it towards Leon--

--but he leaps above it and strikes her in the back with the sharpened end of his ARM into her back. It skewers right through her chest and she says, "Bother!!" in frustration before fading into mist and moving slightly to the left before reforming her body, still wounded but at least without that blade sticking into it.

But it's not blood that drips from the wound, it's black mist.

And strangely...that grenade from before does not explode. Marivel fixes a red glare towards Leon. "I suppose because you wish to get back to Filgaia don't you? We know what's hidden in Macalania. Do you?"

She steps forward but weakness takes her and she sinks to one knee, gritting her teeth. "Accursed sun..." She mutters under her breath.

Clarissa speaks of desire. Marivel is reminded of her old friend Luceid... an old friend that even for Marivel has not been her friend for a rather long time. She misses him. She misses all of them. Clarissa speaks of how much Marivel has commited to ARMS and Marivel laughs softly to herself. She's noticed her desperation, has she?

She pushes herself back up relying on willpower more than red power right now, jerking forward, her body interposing itself between Leon's solar plexus jab and Yuna's body. It hits her straight on and Marivel grunts, sinking back down to one knee.

"I suppose it doesn't matter..." Marivel murmurs. "You are hurting my friend. You can sound polite about it, but the truth does not change."

That grenade still hasn't exploded.

"You are hurting my friend." Her fangs are bared. "I need no other reason to devour you all."

She cricks her neck.

"If you wish to see me as Valeria's lapdog, feel free. I care not. But you are mistaken if you think I am some mere subordinate of his."

It's day, so there are no extra shadows, but the grenade hasn't exploded... It's as if it's capacity to explode has been drained away...

"Soul of The Grenade." Marivel intones, eyes vibrantly glowing bright crimson. "What Use Is a Pulse That Does Not Quicken... CREMATION!"

An explosion detonates right underneath Leon's feet with the full force of a Veruni grenade and then some, empowered further from Marivel's sorcery, making the flames hotter, the explosive force heavier. Marivel does not believe she can afford to hold back and play around anymore.

And then she places her hand on the ice of Lake Macalania. Another blueish pulse ripples around her hand and she exhales slowly a faint icy mist before straightening once more.

"And now for the rest of you. This is her story! Nobody. Not the Al Bhed, not the Guard, not the Al Bhed... have any place in telling her how to tell it!"

She swings both hands to the side.

"SOUL OF THE FROZEN LAKE..." Marivel's voice echoes as she continues to channel everything she's got. "Even The Souls of the Dead Shall Race... ABSOLUTE ZERO!"

And a sudden blizzard erupts throughout the battlefield--or so it seems. The blizzard leaves ARMS and Yuna's Guardians unharmed--but those who are deadset on taking Yuna face the full brunt of the assault.

As does Kaguya.

She clobbered Marivel in the head.

It hurt.

GS: Acacia Saitani takes a solid hit from Yue Rohay's Counter Attack for 181 hit points!
GS: Yue Rohay assumes the Stoic stance!
GS: Acacia Saitani critically Guards a hit from Yue Rohay's Maou Engekiha - Infernal Torrent for 31 hit points!
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Matilda Whitehead's attack becomes clear!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a glancing hit from Matilda Whitehead's Iron in the Garden for 106 hit points!
GS: Marivel Armitage has activated a Force Action!
GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Leon Albus with What Use Is A Pulse That Does Not Quicken - Cremation!
GS: Marivel Armitage has launched an attack Link!
GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Leon Albus with Even The Hearts Of The Dead Shall Race - Absolute Zero!
GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with Even The Hearts Of The Dead Shall Race - Absolute Zero!
GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Kaguya Alathfar with Even The Hearts Of The Dead Shall Race - Absolute Zero!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Brad Evans has posed.

Brad's keeping an eye on Josie from where he's hunkered down, and watches that gun spin into the air.

"Hell," he spits, because he's danced this dance before. He waits a little; lets Josie play her game out.

Then he sees her sight back toward the tank, and scowls. He's not sure what that's going to be, but it's probably not what he's expecting. He draws in a quick, deep breath, and then...rolls out into the open!

He's charging at Josie in a bull rush as soon as his feet find purchase. The ricochet slams into the Mechanical Glove, which sputters but doesn't fail as he charges in. His arms are burning from repelling those shots, and the aches from Josie's little torture spell earlier are still slowing him down. But, well...

He finds his lips curled in a sneer. "That woman's hopes aren't your meal ticket," he spits, and rears his fist back.

Brad was not lying. He is not, actually, that good up close or one-on-one.

On the other hand, he's something like 250 pounds of muscle, and anyone's right hook is pretty good when you have a huge mechanical gauntlet backing it up.

GS: Brad Evans has activated a Force Action!
GS: Brad Evans has spent 2 Combo on Gatling, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Brad Evans has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Big Fist!
GS: Brad Evans takes 25 damage from Poison!
GS: Brad Evans has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Rest assured, Ragnell is definitely not a cherry.
        
        The Lightning Seraph grins at "Vlad" and then leaves him be. He's got his own messes to sort out, and anyway, she's got a Gwen to snort at. "Okay, Gwen."
        
        The ray of Seraphic light sears down for Ragnell and slams directly on top of her. She snarls in pain; distracted as she is/let herself be by the imminent Summoning, there was no dodging that one--and once again, Clarine sets her up for Gwen's incoming strike, first blinding her with that brilliant light, then slamming crackling plasma into her. For a moment, Ragnell is engulfed in a column of power.
        
        Then, as the power trickles and fades, she lashes a boot up and out towards Clarine, hoping to surprise her and get past her defenses to smash away some of those defensive mirrors and force Clarine back at range. The next instant, a Seraphic glyph forms again, this time to the sound of a brief chant: "O darkened stormclouds, run mine enemy through! Thunder Blade!!"
        
        A lightning bolt in the form of a blade slams down at an angle at Gwen, its initial impact potentially slamming her with a bubble of force. Even if she evades that, though, the next instant, the blade EXPLODES with electric energy, potentially catching her up in it.
        
        Despite this quick counter-offensive, Ragnell doesn't look in the best shape. You might say she's been... run ragged. And despite the fact that she REALLY SHOULDN'T, and she KNOWS she shouldn't, she keeps peeking over at Yuna, her insatiable curiosity getting the better of her--which would be easier to do if Marivel hadn't just summoned a giant fiery explosion followed by an intense localized blizzard. If nothing else, it'll be good cover if she needs to retreat...

GS: Seraph Ragnell has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Thunder Blade!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has spent 1 Combo on Interrupt, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Seraph Clarine with Pummel Kick!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Erzebet Lefanu critically Guards a hit from Marivel Armitage's Even The Hearts Of The Dead Shall Race - Absolute
Zero for 37 hit points!
GS: Seraph Clarine takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Pummel Kick for 90 hit points!
GS: Seraph Clarine enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Seraph Clarine has lost 2 Combo from Interrupt!
GS: Leon Albus critically Guards a hit from Marivel Armitage's What Use Is A Pulse That Does Not Quicken - Cremation for
34 hit points!
GS: Riposte! applied to Marivel Armitage!
GS: Leon Albus critically Guards a hit from Marivel Armitage's Even The Hearts Of The Dead Shall Race - Absolute Zero
for 38 hit points!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar takes a glancing hit from Marivel Armitage's Even The Hearts Of The Dead Shall Race - Absolute Zero
for 101 hit points!
GS: Josephine Lovelace completely evades a hit from Brad Evans's Big Fist!
<Pose Tracker> Yuna has posed.

Lulu clears space for Yuna almost through willpower and declaration alone. She isn't looking at her -- she can't see any of them, looking inward, not outward -- but she feeds her Guardian's protectiveness into the fire burning at her core, like hearthwood, like heartwood. And her warmth, too; the soft and reassurring touch of Lulu's magic provides ever more lightness to her graceful steps upon the surface of the snow.

Josie warns her that she has no choice, and Marivel answers for her, about how it's very much her choice -- then puts herself on the line, directly, to make that choice, directly intercepting Leon's full opposition. Clarissa's support pours over her like the sunrise, and her lips part as she breathes it in, lets it fill her.

Erzebet declares her story a romantic tragedy and sends danger her way that she senses but ignores, unable to diverge from the predestined steps of her dance... only to have Rikku move her out of the way, make it part of her dance, then -- well, her cousin might have meant to hand her something, but it crashes into her like champagne christening a maiden voyage, and the sparkling contents are drawn, as water is wont to be, along with the gestures of her arms and legs and shoulders and head and heart.

So too, the veils of Marivel's blizzard, those that have chosen to spare her, join her turnings, but for the very nearest flakes, which speckle into her hair like diamonds...

Everyone is helping her with everything they have. Everyone believes in her, so so so much.

With all of that kindling, flame can't help but overflow.

Yuna gathers it in her palms, then squats -- thrusting it, palm-first, into the ground. A Yevonite rune pulses beneath her... and even after the momentary expression of magic, the sigil remains, having instantly melted itself into the ice.

Spira is listening. Spira is watching. Spira is waiting.

There falls upon the battlefield the warning sound of an imminent avalanche: soft, but ominous, rumbling.

Spira is ready.

BGM START: Hope On Fire - Vienna Teng https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3Ua5DBj6Hw

Then Ifrit, the Rage of the Earth, explodes out of it. Yuna, at ground zero, is thrown high into the air by the shockwave. Her aeon, on the other hand, was launched high in the air by MAGMA.

                          Gotta fight gotta strike
                       'cause there's no turning away
                      From what you don't want to know

And it's still rising with him -- they're rising together -- and pouring, in several directions, following his four splayed fingers. With his guidance bent upon it, he's created a fountain of fiery fury and, ultimately, a series of columns, geysers erupting beneath many of his summoner's opponents. They're like flares in the darkness, like candles in the cold.

                             Gotta see gotta be
                        If they're all going astray
                       Don't let them take you in tow

Just for good measure -- just to be thorough -- Ifrit follows this up with deep inhalation, then long exhalation, breathing his hellfire into these columns of his creation, superheating the newly released molten core, and its accompanying gasses, into a second, even larger, explosion.

                   You're a one-man shift in the weather

There comes a keen sense of satisfaction from the great beast, then, though his fangy mouth is not predisposed to human smiling. He LIKES fire, and he HATES the cold, and it is good -- so GOOD -- to take out some of his pent-up frustration on all of these worthy foes. No civilians here.

He lands hard, claws digging deeply into what's left of the nearby snow, steam pouring off every muscled, furred, and spiked inch of his mighty self. Thoughtfully, he lifts a claw up to his mane and extinguishes a bit of lingering flame there, using his approximation of thumb and forefinger. Ssssss.

                    You're the woman who just won't sell

Yuna flutters downward, wreathed by smoke and the scent of brimstone. Her eyes are open, and they can't help but burn with the resounding feelings of the spirit she's unleashed, momentarily freed from his prison in Kilika.

He grasps her gently out of the air and places her safely upon his shoulders.

She stays up there.

                      Climbing up and ringing the bell

"All aboard," Yuna suggests, leaning down to lend a hand to any of her friends and Guardians who'd like to board a tank of their own. Ifrit, it transpires, is piping hot to the touch, but he will not burn his summoner's friends.

                 Ooh you're gonna make your mark this time
                   Ooh you're gonna set your hope on fire

And just then, she looks up -- looks straight at Kaguya, whom Ifrit (correctly) identified as a threat, leveling that great charging weapon at her, and her expression -- the invitation in her eyes, the welcoming in her heart -- the outstretched hand -- it doesn't fall.

PROPOSED SOUNDTRACK FOR KAGUYA MAYBE...???? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXuM2LW79ao

GS: Yuna has activated a Force Action!
DC: Yuna switches forms to Ifrit!
GS: Yuna has spent 3 Combo on Headshot and Gatling, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Yuna has attacked Leon Albus with Hellfire!
GS: Yuna has attacked Erzebet Lefanu with Hellfire!
GS: Yuna has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Hellfire!
GS: Yuna has attacked Kaguya Alathfar with Hellfire!
GS: Yuna has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        "*Nice*," Ragnell murmurs. This was worth the distraction.

GS: Erzebet Lefanu takes a solid hit from Yuna's Hellfire for 196 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ratatoskr has posed.

        Ratatoskr has eagerly come back to his standard fighting stance as his follow-through in the repositioning seems poised to come. Both arms raised, one leg slightly raised, bent at the knee, as if eagerly awaiting for what Clarissa could do next. Then he notices she's not going for her ARM but is putting her hand over her heart. Does she have an ARM in her heart? That would be weird but also cool, he might think. He'd want to see her shoot from that. That he doesn't aggress upon her as she speaks is either out of intent to see this crazy tangential nonsense about ARMs within a heart or actually listening to what she's saying is somewhat ambiguous, as more silver spatters stain the snow.
        "Their desire...!" Ratatoskr responds. His voice is youthful, brash, and when he gets going, patently annoying. But it doesn't seem to be said in mockery outright, even when his facial expressions seem limited along the gradient of smiles and grins.
        And yet, even then, his voice can't fully capture that. Let alone match, or even think of surpassing, the depth in which she carries her convictions in stating such.
        Ashton interjects that this one lacks a heart to even comprehend this sort of thing, like the mad rabid beast that he may be. Ratatoskr does turn to face him as to not be taken off-guard as he is enraptured by the hows and whys of Clarissa in front of him. Lights flare under Ashton's cloak, and Ratatoskr's eyes light up. He's eager. He extends his left elbow in Ashton's direction as he swings those blades... and then there's fire.
        Fire that heats, greatly expands the compressed air as it dances into that opening...
        And sees a visceral explosion go out Ratatoskr's shoulder. It is not necessarily a new grievous wound for him, but it is telling as to why he appears to express some discernible proof of a sense of self-preservation otherwise seeming lacking as Ratatoskr staggers back, hand around his shoulder where quicksilver leaks.
        Flame and ice dance behind him in a tremendously destructive display of might from a Crimson Noble. He could turn around and see a touch of a world of a long gone people behind him - but the yellows of his eyes remain transfixed on Ashton and Clarissa alike.
        "This... this moment... this sight... this feeling... this fight... this is mine...!" Ratatoskr rasps through the pain as he takes off into the both of them in a series of strikes. Kicks, knees, one arm (the other currently too wounded to add much punch... or elbow... or palm).
        To try and round the both of them up together. "Without hesitation... without restraint... I'm living it, I'm experiencing it... this is my desire...!"
        He still doesn't hit the depths of her sincerity. He can't match the highs of Ashton's antipathy towards him. His is almost a childish fancy, incapable of grasping both the will and the reason - but maintaining a purity of sorts, in the way he enthusiastically partakes.
        At the end of this combination, a brief cut-in of his grinning sharp-toothed maw, with great amounts of energy building around the horn as he tries to throw them upwards.
        "SERPENT'S OUTRAGE!!" He calls as a great huge beam of energy laces from that horn, trying to strike through both of them at once.

GS: Kaguya Alathfar takes a solid hit from Yuna's Hellfire for 161 hit points!
GS: Ratatoskr has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ratatoskr has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Ratatoskr enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ratatoskr has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Serpent's Outrage!
GS: Ratatoskr has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Ratatoskr has attacked Ashton Anchors with Serpent's Outrage!
GS: Ratatoskr has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Disease expired!
GS: Ratatoskr has completed his action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Yuna's Hellfire for 164 hit points!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Ashton Anchors used Defend! He takes Ratatoskr's attack on Clarissa Arwin on himself!
GS: CRITICAL! Ashton Anchors critically Guards a hit from Ratatoskr's Serpent's Outrage for 40 hit points!
GS: Ratatoskr enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ashton Anchors guards a hit from Ratatoskr's Serpent's Outrage for 115 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus takes a solid hit from Yuna's Hellfire for 168 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Jam expired!
GS: Leon Albus has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Thunder Blade for 95 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

If Clarine has a better grasp of Ragnell's motives, she doesn't seem to be about to explain it. That would be rather rude! And besides, it's not like she knows everything about Ragnell.

Case in point, she's wholly unprepared for that kick, a boot lashing out and striking her square in the gut. If she were a mortal it would definitely have knocked the wind right out of her for sure.

As a Seraph, though...well, it still hurts like heck, and it manages to break her concentration and cause some of the mirrors to fall away back into their component motes, returning to her sleeves, weakening her offensively and defensively both. But, Ragnell seems distracted by something. Clarine can feel that surge of intense power from Yuna's summoning, so she has an idea of why. It's impressive, but right now her attention is still on Ragnell, so...

"This is our dance, Ragnell." Clarine scolds with a bit of a grumpy huff.

She aims to take advantage of this momentary lapse of concentration. Clarine rushes forward, the rest of her mirrors forming up along side her.

And then, she begins to move - it's almost like a twirling dance, her mirrors following her movements, flying about in a flurry of attacks. And she does, Clarine rises...

And at the apex of her ascent she casts her arms out, her natural light spreading over the entire battlefield. It isn't a blinding light. It's warm, pleasant, and reassuring - as energizing as a nice, sunny day.

Her mirrors turn to catch it, focusing on specific individuals that she feels could use the encouragement the most.

Marivel is technically one of these people, but she is spared from it for obvious reasons. It'd do more harm than good.

GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Solar Ascent!
GS: Seraph Clarine has launched an attack Link!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Radiant Horizon!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Ashley Winchester with Radiant Horizon!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Ivan with Radiant Horizon!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Radiant Horizon!
GS: Seraph Clarine has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Clarine has completed her action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Seraph Clarine's Radiant Horizon for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Ivan takes a solid hit from Seraph Clarine's Radiant Horizon for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! applied to Ivan!
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!
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

The barrage of attacks comes in hard, fast and thick. Like a good milkshake.
 
No, wait, that metaphor is terrible.
 
No matter how bad the narration is, the strikes still come in furiously. And pushes both Clarissa and Ashton together.
 
It's a perfect position for Ratatoskr's plan, and they're in perfect position. The beam of energy lances out, streaking towards them both with deadly intent. No way they're getting out of this one without--
 
Ashton refuses.
 
He's not one for evasion - his is protection. And while there's no way he can body-block a beam of this size on his own... he doesn't have to be on his own.
 
A whole new set of Symbols on his skin light up, and suddenly he is legion. Sorcerous duplicates of Ashton fill the field, creating a wall of mercenary between Ratatoskr and Clarissa. All of them as one brace against the coming attack.
 
Searing energy crashes against the Ashton Wall. When it passes? There's only one Ashton again - and a row of dissipating mystic energy that curls in the air like steam.
 
"...I find your outrage as lacking as your fury." He manages a smirk.
 
It's empty bravado, of course. That hurt like the dickens and there's no missing the sears on his skin. But Ashton's not down yet. He's just a little low on magic. And health. And down a bit of eyebrow.
 
Which is probably why he goes to his bag and pulls out a small jar of cheerful yellow-green gel. He gives Ratatoskr a look of raw contempt before guzzling it.

GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Ashton Anchors with Sweet Syrup!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
GS: Ashton Anchors heals Ashton Anchors! He gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya Alathfar has posed.

"Thanks," Kaguya answers Ashley. "The frame was a present, but at this point it's mostly custom work. It'd be nice if I were in my workshop instead of IN THE SNOW." She might be blaming Yuna and Guardians personally for their choice of place to go. Either way she can switch into annoyed quickly--

...Probably because her actual emotional state is tense, fractured, as she steadfastly ignores the idea of emotions existing because they're dumb.

"Uhhh, yeah he was?? Do you know how few people are actually good at individual self-directed missions?? I got good soldiers but it's super different."

Maybe she didn't notice saying 'friend'. Maybe she didn't think about it. But for now...

She whirls out of the way of the handspringing kick, "Whoa, whoa, not the face," she answers quickly, weaving around to face him though having to interrupt her movement cost her some combat flow. "There's manners, man--"

But Ashley is back up. And she looks to him next, "Armor--Cool, I'd rather you not die yet."

A beat, "Heh. Long story. But I don't abduct cows, and I'm really not very nice."

But there's the canister--and it bursts into a haze. In point of fact--it does slow her down. For an instant she can't see around her--sure, the canister itself doesn't hurt her much through her powerful, advanced armor, but the chill dulls her senses, blocks out her vision. "Tch--" She ducks into a defensive stance as she starts stepping back, reaching into her pocket to grab a countermeasure--

"It could be really GOOD neck protection!" she snaps back at Marivel. But there is... air...

"Ugh come on it's already cold--" Kaguya feels the sheer power of Marivel's storm, and so she makes sure to be where it isn't. As it rolls up, she looks to the edge, and charges out, frigid winds scything against her, opening a gash in her cheek, as she makes it up to a small hilltop out of the immediate area of effect, hurling a small device back towards where she'd been fighting Ivan and Ashley both--where it will explode into green shockwaves and energy. But--

Here, she sees--she hasn't had time to stop the Summoning. The rumbling manifests itself, and she looks up to see Ifrit, rising, and she narrows her eyes. Rolling her shoulder, she seems to prepare, bending at the knee as she takes aim--

...But here she sees Yuna, looking straight at her--and her eyes widen again after all. That... look...

The charging weapon in her other hand drops into the ice, quickly subsumed by snow and runoff from the flames, as the eruption from the great explosion of Ifrit's attack finally reaches her.

Knocked from her feet bodily, the small, light young woman sails backward--she isn't visible, when the smoke clears.

...But a distance away from the battlefield, a forearm scrapes against icy ground, and she falls well past where the ground ends, towards whatever is below.

GS: Kaguya Alathfar has attacked Ashley Winchester with Harmonic Impulse Bomb!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has attacked Ivan with Harmonic Impulse Bomb!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar takes 30 damage from Poison!
GS: Kaguya Alathfar has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        "... oh," Acacia blurts as the line of white hammers home, and something is made painfully clear and obvious to her. She sounds dazed, and suddenly feels rather tired; for all that she has newfound clarity over one thing in her life, it still raises a few questions that she'd rather not think about right this second.

        Chasing that tired feeling is genuine concern; she jolts up from where she'd been taking cover, watching fearfully as Yue plants into the snow. Her mouth hangs open, an apology moments from her lips - but is there really anything to apologize over when Yue was goading her into it in the first place? She can't say for sure, only knowing that her ability to regulate her power isn't exactly where she'd like it to be.

        And she can't even blame a lump of crystal at this point.

        Fortunately, Yue rises, and for a moment Acacia allows naked relief to show across her face - before it becomes terribly obvious that the lecture isn't over yet. "--what--" she croaks from behind dry lips, and then she's very nearly scrabbling back behind her cover, for all that snow will help against a roaring hot streak like the one bearing down on her.

        Muttering curses under her breath, Acacia fumbles with her pistol as if it could possibly help, then gives herself away to impulse as she tosses it to one side, placing both hands in the direction of the fiery wave. Around her is the sensation of alignment; it's weak and unpracticed, but she does her best to marshal the air around her into some sort of shielding pattern, hoping she might-- she hasn't the faintest. Deflect the power? Dissipate it? It's not like she ever learned any of this stuff!

        When the wave roars by, there's heat and light and sound - and then it fades. Dimly, Acacia can realize that she's still on her feet, or at least something close to it. The melted snow is soaking through her jeans at the knees, telling her she's gone down to them. Her arms feel burnt and not-burnt, chalking that faintly up to magic. But she's still conscious, at least.

        The rest of the melee forgotten, she shakes her head in a short spasm - enough to let her eyes focus, and offer Yue a grim smile. "... how's that?" she mutters, covering for time as she tries something new; imagining the Egg being in her hands rather than where it's thudded uselessly to the floor nearby, concentrating on the feeling of the power rather than the habit of it.

GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked Acacia Saitani with Retraction!
GS: Acacia Saitani takes 22 damage from Poison!
GS: Poison expired!
GS: Acacia Saitani has completed her action.
GS: Acacia Saitani heals Acacia Saitani! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Cover! applied to Acacia Saitani!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"I suppose that's fair," Leon says, with a sigh at Rikku.

Then, he looks at Marivel -- and there is a bit of a wide-eyed look. Not human, he concludes, as he sees her regeneration. "This is neither the place or time to share my goals."

His pommel rams into Marivel, instead. He tilts his head -- and then his eyes widen. Her fireball detonates under his feet -- and Leon drops the Raid Funnels between him and the shield. The fireball explodes, sending him backward -- pitching him to the ground, where he lands in a three-point stance and skids over it.

It rises -- and then catches the brunt of the blizzard that she summons, causing the energy barrier to flicker through it. He looks back at Marivel. "That's fair, I suppose. It's not going to change my intentions, though."

He seems, for the most part, confused by the fact that Marivel referred to something as Yuna's story. Leon Albus, perhaps, is simply on the wrong wavelength to appreciate a statement like that.

Or, maybe, he is more distracted by Ifrit's coming. He mouths a word, his hand dropping. The tip of his sword hits ice, which begins to melt -- and then he turns and starts trying to outrun. The fiery rock slams into the ice behind him. It goes up in a blast of ice chunks, water, and steam -- and then the lake cracks.

And Leon plunges down into it.

It is a moment later, as Ifrit rises, that there is a shout from the north. Rushing past the battle between Guts-Dozer and the Al Bhed tank, a cadre of Guado Guardians come rushing up. An Odessa soldier turns to fire--

And then Wedge Guado descends, ramming a fist into his head, and smiting him to the ground. Biggs, clad in his armor, skids to a stop, before he calls out: "LADY YUNA! We must make for the temple! The Guado Guardians have secured it!"

<Pose Tracker> Yue Rohay has posed.

        >> Praise

        "Good job," Yue announces to Acacia.

        Acacia's Motivation +25...?

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: Ashley Winchester takes a glancing hit from Kaguya Alathfar's Harmonic Impulse Bomb for 80 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Ivan takes a glancing hit from Kaguya Alathfar's Harmonic Impulse Bomb for 159 hit points!
GS: Ivan enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

With eyes full of light, Clarissa looks up towards Ashton's back. "Don't you see, Ashton?" she breathes. "I can feel Mr. Ratatoskr's passion too-"

Ratatoskr seems about to show them what heart he has. Somehow, the Hyadean withstands the intense flame Ashton directs at him. Clarissa swallows gently, then straightens her shoulders - but she squares herself nevertheless. As much as she may wish things could be resolved with hugs and respect, the fight is on, and she brings herself forward to face it bravely.

A fight is what Ratatoskr will bring them. His heart beats with the passion of the fight. He lunges into things, widening her eyes as he screams in like a bolt of light, ready to pound on her with all the force at his disposal - and to unleash the outrage of the Serpent.

An outrage that is not for her. Clarissa gasps as the man with the draconic companion-shoulders steps into the blow. "ASHTON!" she shrieks, holding her hand out as if to try and pull him back.

But he holds. Clarissa's eyes are wide and her mouth hanging open a little - but she snaps it closed and swallows hard before moving forward. "You're brave, Ashton," she murmurs as she touches his shoulder with a delicate hand. "I can't find it in myself to think even our enemies are monsters... but I won't give them an inch if I can help it. I promise."

With a click of her teeth, Clarissa whirls from Ashton - and this time, it's she who moves to stand in front of him, swinging Strahl Gewehr forward and planting her off hand over the curving part of its barrel. "I'm sorry, but I'm going to make you experience something you'll never forget!" Clarissa snaps as she lines her shot up, following the way Ratatoskr moves as he comes off that energy shot - his trajectory, the way he reacts to his airborne assault on them, his expectation of hurling them into the air. The fact that she isn't.

Strahl Gewehr's bore shines, then screams with a sudden burst of energy. An enormous beam explodes from the strange-looking ARM, so bright that long shadows cast out from scenery around it. It slashes across the landscape.

A heap of snow partially interjects between herself and Ratatoskr. The beam hits it, washes around it and keeps going, as if not even the landscape can interrupt its path - and even if it hits Ratatoskr, the blast will keep on carrying for several more yards.

GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Ratatoskr with Howling Shot!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Erzebet Lefanu has posed.

 
"Well," Erzebet begins to rebut Leon, with difficulty.

(inwardly she curses her body again. What is wrong with it. The medic said she's fine, just anemic. Told her to eat more spinach, red meat, to order some blood tonic when she can. Take it easy. They don't understand. It's burning in her. She can't stop, but her stupid miserable wet blancmange of a body isn't DOING IT RIGHT--)

She wheels around, alerted by a flash in Haborym's lenses. The water smashes into - no, not her. The grenadiers. "You spoony witch!" Erzebet shouts in frustration, but then she turns her attention towards Marivel as another warning flare comes up. What the hell do these acronyms mean, Erzebet curses, before there is a sudden shrieking freeze towards her. The air itself seems to wither and die.

The Odessa guys who were smashed down by the water... Well, van Ondine is gonna be glad he left the immediate area.

Erzebet is spared some of this, whether by the subtle psychic fondness of -- no; no, it's none of that. She might have lived, by reason of strength, where the guys who just got hosed down might have not. But no; the half-crouch and the fur coat means she is merely chilled profoundly, not literally flash frozen. Her teeth start to chatter as the shivering begins. She was always miserably cold; this is something worse.

And then there comes warmth... but, naturally, it's a big problem. Erzebet's head turns, from her crouch, to see Ifrit rise. Unfamiliar icons appear in her vision. She recognizes one acronym in the long-dead language she's studied, at least: UNKNOWN. It looks a little like Dinoginos, Erzebet thinks, before the hellfire rises.

Somehow, she thinks as the steam rises, as the flames lick at her - as she staggers away, away from the horrid poppings of the dropped munitions of the Odessa troops - somehow, it hurts. I can be hot, and cold, at once, and -

If nothing else there is no closing remark from her. She raises her arms, the coat draping over her face.

And then something in the distance goes THUMP.

EARLIER

"What do we do," van Ondine asks, "if she... well; Summons?"
"Are you questioning my authority?" Erzebet replies.
There is silence.
The both of them laugh, though not hard.

"In all seriousness, though, Lefanu, what do we do if she Summons. We don't have a reliable countermeasure and you know we cannot rely on the charity of a foe pushed into a corner."

"Well..."

HERE, BUT A DISTANCE AWAY, NEAR SPEEDER 3

The cloth dummy soldiers are ripped asunder. A metal tube and some crude incomplete machinery are brought out. As the wounded man stabilizes the gear, the medic tears open other dummies, shoving them forwards. Van Ondine brings out the hope and the promise of Odessa, and he puts it in the metal tube.

A moment of sighting and--

THUMP

The mortar fires!

It lands well away from anything at all with a thump, throwing soil - and no small amount of surface ice - around. It does not detonate -- instead some devilry within it begins to release thick, drifting gray smoke.

"****!!!!" swears van Ondine. "Where's the anti-Gear rounds!! We're not going to smoke a **** **** **** DOUBLE HELL DEVIL to death!!"

AT THE BATTLEFIELD

The sound of the infantry gun is distinctive. Erzebet knows what it means. She turns towards it, and she staggers, half maddened. What few Odessa operatives in uniform remain on the field do the same; of course, thanks to Wedge Guado, they will be one fewer.

The mortar was meant to even the odds in case there was one other force there -- a squadron of Guardians -- or in case of Fiends en route or on the way back. Or -- if things were to go poorly -- to be the sign to rally to the sound, and...

GET THE HELL OUT!

<Pose Tracker> Yue Rohay has posed.

        It is almost too nostalgic, Yue thinks to herself, as she reels and recovers from the almost inimitable feeling of shame and loss and grief whenever she uses one of these greater, arcane artes. She has gone so far away... far away where she can't ever reach her.

        And the only way she can keep her alive is through her technique.

        The glyph has disappeared, but its imprint where it's burnt all the way down onto soil is seen... before the rest of the snow starts to melt and dissolve around her. Steam is rising into the air.

        "Heh," she cracks a chuckle, as she proudly -- not that she'd ever admit it -- sees that pattern in the air. It's unrefined, it's raw... wild, some people would say.

        But it's there now.

        And what is raw and unrefined can be tempered into shape.

        "Well done," Yue comments once more, then pauses. "But do not beat yourself up too hard over paying a fortune for a glass bauble."

        Ifrit is going on elsewhere. A Guado shouts that the Guadosalam Guardians have guarded the temple. And her own objective is complete.

        "Just keep that sensation in mind, and..." Yue glances over her shoulder. "Know that you have that machine child of yours to catch up to. I am certain I heard her racing ahead. Go."

        She lifts her head.

        "I have more people to go disappoint."

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

        The bullets, naturally, are packed full to the brim with something unpleasant. The archaeologist's 'special rounds' are probably in violation of some country or another's terms of appropriate behavior and weaponry in war.

        But that's Drifters, for you.

        "Mercenary work. You know the deal," she remarks to Matilda. "Then again, I never did have much loyalty to sell in the first place, so I'd say I'm making out like a bandit!" She pauses. "So to speak," she ammends, then couples that remark with a tight smile and a shrug. "Anyway --"

        Whatever she'd been about to say is clipped when Matilda closes on her again, jamming an elbow hard into her gut and forcing a grunt of pain out from her. Josie staggers back a step, cupping her bad right hand against her stomach gingerly. "Guh... g-guess they taught you some tricks... ngh," she utters, her expression twisted into a grimace. "Hah..."

        She manages to mostly straighten up after a moment, her hand still against her stomach. Which is a good thing, because Brad is coming right at her. She twists out of the way, pushing the agony in her gut to the sidelines, because he's coming in like a ten-ton tank and she most certainly can't take a direct hit like that now. Panting, she staggers once clear, and turns her attention back at him. The gun in her hand lifts, pointed right at him.

        "Military, right? Or former?" she asks of Brad. "You lot never do have a good sense of humor." She pauses, then glances Leon's way. "Case in point." She takes a breath, pain etched on her face, and shifts her stance a fraction.

        It's that shout that rings out from Marivel that catches her ear. Her finger eases over the trigger even as

        "If it's her story--"

        If it weren't for the agreement she'd made, she'd be in agreement here, too. But her own business takes priority--
        And she likes the Al Bhed a good sight better than Yevon.

        "Then let her tell it herself, dammit! Let her fight for it herself--"

        And she turns, aware of a growing presence behind her. And she turns, raising her gaze to take in all of him -- all of Ifrit -- and her eyes widen.

        And she turns, staring down the wall of flame as it blows outwards.

        In girum imus nocte --

        She remembers a different fire. She remembers screaming until her throat burned.
        Until she burned.
        The Reaper's Hand slips from her grasp and falls onto the snow with a wet paff. She can feel sweat rise on her cheeks.

        "Ah."

        -- et consumimur igni.

        She drops after the wave of flame passes, crumpling into a heap atop the lake.

        The lake cracks. She falls, limp, into the depths.

GS: Ratatoskr takes a solid hit from Clarissa Arwin's Howling Shot for 205 hit points!
GS: Ratatoskr has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ivan kind of stares a little as Kaguya nearly blasts a hole in one of the other people attacking her, who seems to be okay thanks to sturdy armoring but has a lot of questions on the nature of her alien-ness.

"Have you ever abducted a cow?" Ivan echoes, because it seems like the kind of random chaotic thing Kaguya might actually do.

Kaguya quickly clarifies, however, that cow abductions are not among her hobbies.

Soon, however, Kaguya is chased from their immediate vicinity as she outruns Marivel's storm. Ivan is gathering a cloud of sparks to send over to her as a special delivery, when... something kind of clatters down near their feet?

What the-...BLAM!! An outpouring of green energy knocks Ivan off his feet, sending his head spinning and his ears ringing. He's pretty well stunned for a bit. Somewhere in there, he feels an encouraging, warm light seem to help infuse him with a bit more strength.

When the battlefield stops wobbling around, it... ... ...seems he's missed some things?

He sees the flames dying down from a huge explosion and... no Kaguya. ... ...still no Kaguya?

She's probably fine, though, right...?

GS: CRITICAL! Seraph Ragnell completely evades a hit from Seraph Clarine's Solar Ascent!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        Ragnell's snarl of pain causes Gwen to wince sympathetically; Ragnell may be a Seraph, but damn it, Clarine's mirror-y magic looks like it *hurts*.

        The fact that Gwen punched Ragnell right after that doesn't help either.

        For a moment, the courier wonders if Ragnell may be down for the count, but like last time, Gwen's suspicions are awarded with a very hearty 'hell the eff no' as a boot sails past her and towards Clarine.

        Gwen would normally warn Clarine but 1. Ragnell is fast, and 2. oh guardians more lightning owowowow

        Cast backwards onto her back, Gwen gets a curious upsidedown view of her first summoning (at least, the ritual itself), as well as the equally graceful movements of Clarine's mirror dance, invigorating Gwen just as much as the metal vision of.... whatever that was. Because it was awesome.

        "... Guardians, is that what summoners are capable of...?" Getting to her feet, she turns to Ragnell, who is looking rather... ragged.

        Gwen feels a little likewise, to be fair. Time to get this show on the road.

        There's a glimmer of a smile as she glances at Ragnell and, rushing at her, mouths two words.

        'Be safe.'

        Which is a little unfair to say when you're just about to barrel into a friend into order to throw them back.

GS: Hyper and Surge expired!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Seraph Ragnell with A Proper Send-off??!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Gwen Whitlock's A Proper Send-off?? for 55 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"I suppose not," Marivel admits to Leon.

She rests a hand on her forehead for a moment. As usual she goes about a half step beyond than what she meant to today but she suppose that's the problem when fighting with people. People have a tendency to always rise a half step beyond what you expect.

"Should've just fought Yue again." She murmurs as she starts walking towards Ifrit, whistling sharply to get ARMS' attention. "We could have had a baguette-saber duel."

Josephine demands that they let Yuna fight for herself but it isn't until Ifrit's arrival that Marivel answers her--by gesturing to Ifrit with a hand. When she looks where Josie was moments before, she sees a gap in the ice. She lowers her head briefly, grabbing at her arm.

"Ivan, if you need to take the Ifrit express, feel free." She tells him. "Thanks for your help tonight." She elected to pay earlier and simply... TRUST ... that Ivan would do a good job. Either way right this moment isn't the right time to haggle.

Clarissa gets a small smile but it's brief and she might miss it before Marivel reaches up to let Yuna take her hand and pull her up. Marivel is wounded but she's surprisingly light weight. Or maybe not surprisingly since she's only one inch taller than Kaguya (maybe it's the shoes).

"My hero." Marivel manages as she's pulled up. She touches Ifrit hesitantly with a hand before rubbing the Summon a bit with her hand to show her fondness.

"Apologies if I was too bold, my friend. I am tired, so may I rest a moment aboard your friend here?"

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Clarine grouches at Ragnell for letting herself get distracted, saying that this is *their* dance. Ragnell, who has gotten to witness Ifrit's Summoning and whose curiosity has now been sated, laughs as she tips her hat and faces her again. "Sorry, sorry," she says. "Yeah, that was rude o' me, wasn't it?"
        
        Despite this acknowledgement, she does not promise it won't happen again. Ragnell knows herself pretty well.
        
        Pure, blinding light begins to sear down on the battlefield as Gwen rushes towards Ragnell, mouthing wishes for her to be safe. On other parts of the battlefield, Odessa raises the signal to retreat. Ragnell was figuring that would happen once Ifrit alighted the battlefield; it looks like the Lady Summoner has blasted through her would-be kidnappers, and soldiers or Guardians or whatever of the Macalania Temple are signaling for her and her Guardians to take refuge there. Ragnell has no ponies in this particular race, so she's fine with letting it happen, especially if the one *actually* in charge of the mission is noping out.
        
        So:
        
        "Argh!! You got me!!" she declares, very loudly for the benefit of anyone and everyone in earshot, as Gwen chucks her in the throat. Clarine's mirrors whirl in towards Ragnell, and while her reflection may flash across several of them, Clarine can tell that none of them find purchase as Ragnell makes 'curse you, ARMS!!' sorts of noises, mainly for the benefit of her allies, before dashing back into the cover of the blustering snow whirling every which way.
        
        Further attacks do not come. When the snows still, Ragnell is of course gone.

<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        "Don't call yourself a disappointment," Acacia rasps in return. Her throat feels raw, burning, as if she has a cold - but it feels more like she's sparking and fizzing, aware now of the power around her, even if fledgling. "... and... thanks. I mean it."

        Her expression hardens when Kamui is mentioned; she hadn't honestly been expecting the Reploid to join the fight, and with urgency and a sudden sharpness to her gaze she scans the horizon for any sign of her. "Say hi to Minder for me. And take care of yourself too."

        Habit is a hard thing to break, and perhaps that's why she scoops the Mana Egg up in her hands, inches off of jamming it into her pocket before she freezes with her eyes wide. When she comes back to herself, there's a dangerous fire in her eyes. "Screw beating myself up," she growls. "When I get back to Spira I'm razing every church until that asshole pays me back!"

        Oh no... Filgaia's new threat has descended...

<Pose Tracker> Ratatoskr has posed.

        As the light clears from that burst, there is one Ashton Anchors there - and only Ashton Anchors there - who holds strong. That's half-correct. (One-third correct?) There are multiple Ashton Anchors, and he is still standing, smirking, and smoldering... and snarking.
        Ratatoskr's limbs smoke from the (less exploded) elbow and knees, breathing more labored as he balances down into a three-point stance with his healthier arm. His tail stands on end, but droops from fatigue as he sees Ashton break away to get in a tasty little snack.
        "...That was awesome..." Ratatoskr remarks. That is why Ashton's one of his favorites of the modern day, a sentiment that is absolutely not returned in any way, shape, or form. He's too wounded to bounce back quickly after that explosive combination... and with it, Clarissa takes center stage anew as she lines up Strahl Gewehr. Standing there, looking it down like that is so silly.
        He crouches down a bit more as his tail lowers, then twitches once, and the eyes light up a little more. "I won't forget it..."
        Strahl Gewehr fires. Ratatoskr leaps forward, as if intending to clear it. All the while, a great and powerful flame rages around and behind him, its luminous splendor obscuring sight of Ratatoskr as the beam pierces him.
        It's not clear where his form goes, in all of this. The mortar over in that speeder goes off, and there seems to be a concentrated effort for the Odessa soldiers still capable of moving under their own power to fall back. Does Ratatoskr get out of that?
        It's none too clear, as the chaos reaches what seems to be one last crescendo out on the ice and snow of Macalania.

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

"Kidnapping is not something I'm very okay with!" Ashley replies as his freezing fog billows up and out in a geyser of cryogenic vapor. "But I'm also very happy about not being dead, so uh. Thanks!? I appreciate when the people I fight don't want to kill me!"

That's... honestly the most you can really hope for when you enter what might be a battle for the death.

Not that her actions really match her words.

"That--" Ashley observes at the device Kaguya flings at his feet, "--Looks a lot like a grenade." FORTUNATELY, it's right then that another wave of bolstering magics wash over him, this time courtesy of ARMS' friendly neighbourhood Seraphim. A protective veil of light falls across him just as he dives into a nearby snowdrift. Ashley dodges out just in time to avoid being caught up in the swirling vortex of emerald energies.

What... is this strange alien girl...?

While Kaguya might be complaining about the cold, it might just play a role in keeping them all from being outright flash-incinerated by Ifrit's awe-inspiring onslaught. Ashley emerges shivering and bruised from a rapidly-melting dune of powdery snow and stares up at the summoned creature with saucer-like eyes. "Wow... That's. Uh. That's a thing. Another one of Yuna's summons...?"

Wait, she's offering to take them out of here...?

"I'm not going to complain," Ashley says as he tries to suppress the awful sense of familiarity that Ifrit's roiling inferno conjures. "There's enough room up there for one more, right...?"

If there is, Ashley clambers aboard the toasty hellhound express!

It's... definitely a much warmer ride than they had on the way in.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine nods in response toward Ragnell, her grumpiness ameliorated somewhat by the apology.

Ragnell makes a good show of it, but Clarine can tell that none of her mirrors actually make direct contact with her. It's a clear sign of the gulf between their current abilities...but, it doesn't bring Clarine down.

That's why she's resolved to improve herself, after all.

And so, when Ragnell 'flees', Clarine does not give chase, instead, she looks toward Gwen with a quiet nod.

"...We should get back to the others - things may get more difficult yet before the day is done." She says, and makes to do just that - returning to ARMS and their charges.

She'll have some healing magic at the ready for anyone who might need it.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Uh... is Ragnell ALSO all right? What a mess! Stop dissappearing during the chaos of battle, people he has reluctantly come to think of as friends!

Anyway, Ivan is then invited to ride aboard an amazing summoned creature by Marivel, and he kind of umms and uhhhs and is generally weird about it. He'll ride along if it's necessary not to get left behind but otherwise he'll walk, it seems like kind of a special thing to him, best saved for wounded folks and VIPs.

<Pose Tracker> Brad Evans has posed.

Brad's bull rush, perhaps predictably, completely fails to actually connect. Really needs to rely on his bazooka more, he thinks, stumbling past and managing, just, to retain his feet. He raises his arm, snapping it up at Josie--

Who has him at gunpoint. His teeth grit, and he yields a step, opening ground. "You're just not telling my kind of jokes," Brad replies with his usual dull rumble, shifting his stance for stability. Not sure it's what he needs, but it's what will keep him on best ground for the next few seconds, at least. He sees Josie squeezing that trigger--which is when fire erupts across the sky. He can only watch, at that point - as the flames consume Josie. But he sees that the physical harm isn't what's making her stop moving. At least, not at first.

The lake cracks. Josie falls away, and Brad watches with something mute on his face. "....that's my line," he finally mutters, quietly.

It takes a few seconds before he remembers his surroundings. He snaps his weapon up, pointing toward Matilda now, unsure of her plans. He's too close to her already. Can he--

Marivel whistles. He hears Yuna call as well, and the Guado.

He backs away from Matilda, Mechanical Glove's onboard cannon leveled at her as he retreats one steps, two, and then turns and runs for Ifrit. "On my way! Hold the--" ... "Muscle demon!"

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel gets frustrated at around the third 'uhhhh' and just literally leans over and drags Ivan onto the hellhound against his will.

Such is the power of darkness.

<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

The light of Strahl Gewehr passes, and when it does, Clarissa blinks to clear her eyes. She can't figure out where Ratatoskr ended up.

The truth is, she can't actually figure out if the fight is over, or if the Hyadean's going to ambush her out of the snow somewhere. Sliding a heel back and bending her knee, Clarissa snaps Strahl Gewehr up near her shoulder, cocked and ready to fire. Blue-green eyes scan the landscape, watching what little undisturbed snow remains, then turning towards the lake, and finally towards where the Odessa soldiers seem to be falling back.

"Ashton, are you alright?" she asks as she finally drops back, moving to offer up an arm to the dragon-chimera man. "That was very brave, what you did there...."

Everyone seems to be converging on Ifrit. If Ashton allows it, Clarissa will begin to guide her that way - but she pauses and looks back.

"--Felius?" Her eyes widen. "Felius!! Felius, are you--"

"I'll catch up with you, Clarissa," comes the calm voice, amplified through a speaker.

With a creak, Guts-Dozer brings an arm up to wave to Clarissa. The huge machine has a couple of patches on its considerable torso and some dents on its knuckles, but it seems none the worse for the wear up top - but down below, its left tread smokes heavily, the tread hanging off its guide wheels. A couple of Metools scramble over the tread, popping in and out of their helmets as they try to replace it on the fly. The remains of an exploded tank shell still stick out of one of the wheel hubs, evidence enough that Brother landed a good hit.

"I'll make sure Guts-Dozer is fine," Felius's voice assures through the speaker. "Take care of Lady Yuna and Marivel and I'll see you soon."

Clarissa swallows hard, then nods. "I'll be waiting for you, Felius," she calls out before moving to accept Yuna's invitation and climb aboard Ifrit.

<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

Ratatoskr disappears amidst the fury and destruction.
 
He'll be back. He's survived worse.
 
Ashton doesn't worry too much over it. He knows he's not lucky enough to have seen the last of the Hyaedian.
 
No, instead he turns his attention to Clarissa and takes her offered hand. "Thank you. I'm alright."
 
He pauses for a moment. "For what it's worth," he notes more gently, "I don't like to think of them as monsters either. Nor do I treasure to fight them. If I had my way, I'd save my blades for ogres and ghouls rather than those like the Guard or those we face today. But we lack such a luxury, eh?"
 
He cracks a smile. "Excellent shot, by the way. Don't talk yourself down so much - you hold your own just fine. Certainly as brave as you claim I am."
 
There's another crack - the ice. Oh, that's bad. That's really bad.
 
Fortunately, he has a ride! And like the others, Ashton retreats as fast as his over-burdened legs can carry him to Ifrit.
 
Enroute, he can't hold back from one last quip. "Maybe I should have used less fire on the frozen lake?"

<Pose Tracker> Yuna has posed.

Yuna's eyes linger on the ice where Leon and Josie were last seen -- and on the horizon Kaguya and Erzebet, with and without their own motive force, disappear over -- and they're sad, even worried. Her hands shape the prayer. "Sorry," she whispers, into the rising, icy wind, as Macalania asserts her undying strength against the abnormal invasion of Kilika.

Ifrit holds on, for now -- and holds UP -- Yuna gladly provides a ladder for her Guardians, Marivel, Ashley, Ivan, Brad, Clarissa, Ashton, and anyone else who wants a toasty ride. As long as he stays on all fours, which isn't necessarily his standard stance, his back is broad enough to take quite a few. He responds to rubs and scritches with a low, friendly rumble. "Of course," she tells them, when they ask if they can ride, can stay.

And -- "Yes," she says, in acknowledgement, to Wedge Guado. Ifrit makes quick work of the distance, though by the time they're extremely close to Macalania Temple he seems like he isn't having a good time, he's getting a little PALE. This really isn't his element. Ashton's comment about using less fire elicits a low, only slightly hysterical bubble of a laugh.

Once they're safely behind Guado lines, he lowers himself to the bottom of a gigantic push-up, allowing everyone to get up just as he dissolves into pyreflies, the fayth's portion of his awareness returning to his pride of place within Yuna's heart.

And then the Guado form ranks around her -- immediately and precisely dividing her from the rest of the party -- and they're very tall, and she's very short, so in that moment it's hard to see her expression. It's easy to imagine, though. Yuna's so easy to read, after all.

This is killing her. It's killing her, but she's going to do it anyway.

Because it's the right thing to do.

"Thank you... for everything," drifts back, urgent despite the softness of her delivery. Melancholy does not so much taint the gratitude as it heightens it. And then:

"...goodbye. See you... soon."

The doors of Macalania Temple close behind them.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel is quiet during the ride. She really just needs to rest. Even a minute is like an eternity during times like this. It's funny, Marivel reflects, how short moments like this feel like they last forever even when you've lived such a very long time.

She slides off once they arrive, wincing from the wound Leon stabbed into her. Bodies are such troublesome things, but she sure likes them unstabbed.

This might be the last time she gets to see Yuna, Marivel reflects, and it might be the last time because of choices 'she' made. "Hey Yuna," She manages. "No problem. Do you have time for a goodbye h--"

She looks up and can't see Yuna anymore. The Guado have formed a very effective barrier.

"...Ah." Marivel manages, her smile remaining. "I suppose not. Good luck, my friend. And goodbye."

Though she does not leave immediately, at some point when attention returns to her they'll find that Marivel is no longer present.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda doesn't have time to reach out to Josie, even, as the power of Ifrit washes over the battlefield; she hears the firing of the Odessa guns, and knows immediately what they mean. She starts to retreat, glancing back at the the closing doors of Macalania Temple for just a moment. She doesn't spare Brad much thought, at this point -- right now, the operation's a priority, insofar as the operation is a failure and needs to be scuttled.