2019-09-20: Dragonsong

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This scene takes place directly after 2019-09-19: Ahead On Our Way.


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

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jz644GeAdE
DC: Kamui switches forms to The Girl on the Tailwind of a Scoop!!
<Pose Tracker> Ptolomea has posed.

Macalania Temple rumbles.

Maester Seymour's true nature -- revealed and then crushed in the hand of Trommel Guado -- is something that must be delayed. For Macalania Temple has a massive hole in it, and smoke wafts away. The double doors have been thrown open, and a long bridge of stone leads out -- over a chasm of ice.

A handful of figures walk along the bridge. The one in the lead is not the commander. Ptolomea is a field commander -- but he does not command other members of Cocytus. He is an immense man; tall, muscled, and with an open vest and tan trousers. His right arm ends in an ARM at the elbow: a huge, tri-bladed serrated claw, which is held up. Silver lines his sideburns and peppers his hair.

He stalks forward, and barks out a command -- not to the other three with him, but others: "Secure the Temple's area! We'll handle these ones!"

And, indeed, something can be seen all across the glacier and the other end of the bridge. Blue light flashes; it bursts outward, and then clusters of soldiers carrying ARMs appear, in strategic positions -- making a cordon around the entirety of the Temple.

Ptolomea looks forward, lowers his head, and then a slight smile splits his lips.

"All right. Time to show them why Lord Vinsfeld pays us," he says.

<Pose Tracker> Antenora has posed.

Near Ptolomea, slightly behind but not exactly following, stands a woman in flowing clothes with brown hair that cascades down her back, with bangs that frame her face and two long locks down her front. She is dressed in fine attire that resembles, to a degree, an officer's uniform, with cords of office at the center, in gold; the long, sleeveless jacket, the cape, and the intricate inscriptions on the buckles of her belts, the slim silhouette of her bared armors--they do not suggest the average soldier any more than her light boots or simple gloves.

Antenora's hands are gloved, her expression calm. Her height is hardly intimidating--but her demeanor is sharp, her mien one of complete assurance. She seems to carry no ARMs or obvious weapons. This seems not to dissuade her in the least.

"Remember the objective, Ptolomea," comes Antenora's caution. "We're here on a mission, not to indulge simple bloodlust."

<Pose Tracker> Caina has posed.

        The third is also very much not the commander. He's younger than the others -- barely in his twenties at most -- and fair of face. An almost bored expression lingers on his face as he surveys the room.

        "Hmph. We should have left them to the others," he remarks, as if unimpressed.

        He doesn't have the look of a soldier, unlike Ptolomea. He dresses in something akin to a robe, favoring whites and dusty blues and reds. His silver hair is short, and and swept so it covers the right side of his face. Perhaps, he might be a sorceror?

        Neither does he look like an officer, like Antenora. In one hand, the young man bears a single overlarge key, seemingly wrought from silver.

        Caina inclines his head in a single curt nod as both his comrades speak. "That's right. We're here to show them what it means to cross Lord Vinsfeld. Come, Randolph!" With that, the young man -- the sorceror? -- releases his grip on the silver key.

        The key floats before him in the air, as if of its own volition.

<Pose Tracker> Ptolomea has posed.

"I won't lose focus, Antenora," Ptolomea says. It is with an even look that he turns -- facing the Drifters fully -- and holds his arm into the air. The trio of blades snaps open, and then begins to spend like some sort of propellor. He does not lift into the air.

It looks quite painful.

"Drifters. Leave this place, and we won't be kill you," he says. "Our goal is simple: to destroy ARMS, to seize the Temple, and to seize the Summoner. Leave, and we'll have no business with you. Stay..."

His one, good eye narrows. "...And this comes to bloodshed."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        There's a fourth here with Odessa. Well--there's probably plenty of Odessa members present. But this one is a Named Person and therefore important. Ragnell is no soldier in this army, being an ally at best, but she *is* strong, and she *is* here to help out with taking the Temple and securing the Summoner and other alliterative objectives. For the time being, she simply watches from behind the main three--watching them as much as she is the perimeter and any potential defenses.
        
        If nothing else, Yevon has shown that they're not willing to just roll over and die. Maybe that's how they managed for this past thousand years. And of course, there's nothing more stubborn than a Filgaian Drifter. It's all well and good of Ptolomea to give that ultimatum and offer the Drifters a chance to leave, but let's be real: it's gonna come to bloodshed.
        
        Ragnell hums an inappropriately jaunty tune, hands on her paired pistols.

<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

If there is one thing that Clarissa Arwin doesn't like, it's lies and the lying liars who tell them. And Seymour Guado seems to have told a hell of a lot of lies.

But she doesn't have time to dwell on it. The temple is shaking. Darting forward, the blonde girl widens her eyes, hand darting to her side instinctively - and as the doors are thrown open, she reaches down and undoes the buckles on her hip pouch. Drawing Strahl Gewehr comes with perils here, in a Yevonite Church.

"Sorry," she manages, but it's lost in the shuffle as she draws the weapon, holding it cocked near her right shoulder and planting her heels apart as she turns towards the arriving group.

Clarissa's never seen the members of Cocytus before. But one of them's talking about Lord Vinsfeld. Immediately, she steps forward, a surge of indignation rising from somewhere in the pit of her stomach to lend her steel she might've lacked a second ago.

"Whatever your mission is, we're not just going to let you stroll in here and ruin things!" she challenges firmly. "The people here have already been through too much...."

Ptolomea snaps his spinning blades open. Clarissa clicks her teeth together. That doesn't look particularly painful - especially since she's not only definitely in ARMS, but quite vocal and fairly well out in front. Even if she wanted to leave, Odessa probably wouldn't let her.

Not for the first time, her thoughts flick back to the moors outside the Mi'ihen Highroad, where Erzebet Lefanu left her in a pool of her own blood and only Kamui and Marivel's intervention spared her life. This could probably turn out even worse.

But I've come a long way since then, she reminds herself. And whatever Seymour may have done, there are innocent people here who have committed no crime. They need our help.

Clarissa gestures with a sweep of Strahl Gewehr before leveling it forward in Ptolomea's general direction. "You're not going to scare us with threats!" she declares.

DC: Ida Everstead-Rey switches forms to Martial Artist Ida!
DC: Dash Caskett switches forms to Volnutt Armor!
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        Kamui wasn't at the party.

        She's been busy. Lurking. Wandering. Patrolling. She wasn't convinced that Odessa was ready to call it a day. Something in the air, tempered into her Suffering Circuit over thousands and thousands of years of conflict, told her that this wasn't it. There was something still here... this was the apex of something Odessa had been seeking.

        The revelation would have to wait... and Yevon wasn't exactly something she was eager to be on good terms with, with her Machina nature and all.

        But this.

        This...

        "Target acquired."

        There's a blinding flash. Energy lances across an ARM-carrying soldier accompanying Ptolomea, Antenora and Caina. It's inches off being lethal.

        The smoking barrel is an arm -- literally. Kamui's X-Buster. She appears on the opposite side on one of the other bridges adjoining the Temple as the afterimage phenomenon to her dash ripples and fades around her.

        Her white dress is gone.

        Gone is the flimsy facade that there was once someone pretending to be a girl, who loved to take her head off and let children play soccer and Blitzball with it.

        Gone is the flimsy facade that let her pretend a little like there was some measure of humanity in her introduced by such kind friends like Acacia, and Clarine. Shown to her by such mother figures by Marivel, no matter how strained they are.

        In its place is form fitting armour. It's not unlike Dash's, all told; ancient timeworn plates of washed-out blue plating with light blue highlights. Mechanical gaskets and hydraulic piping can be seen where the armour's facade has failed.

        "You all and I both have no place in this world..."

        She lowers her head and sets her one good blue eye on the three gathered. Odessa's elite... so, this is their elite strike force. That Seraph she fought is there too... so, is she one of them? It wouldn't surprise her.

        A pause. She closes her eyes...

        "... so I will become the person who'll dispose of you. So that they can live. So that the Time of Promise can occur..."

        ... and when they next open--

        Gone is the blue, as an irisoid flash emits from the iris of her eye.

GS: Kamui switches forms to The Withered Girl of the Crimson Castle!
DC: Antenora switches forms to Special Cocytus Squad Member Antenora!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Ruby had currently been voraciously devouring a seafood hot pot when Jyscal's sphere began it's pronouncement. "... Wow - Maester Seymour? Really? He's guilty of Patricide? That guy?"
 
Slurp slurp slurp.
 
"Well only thing to do is make sure the food doesn't go to waste - and then call it off. The whole engagement."
 
Ruby is currently halfway into the pot bodily when the explosions happen. In the excitement of the moment, her weight shifts inside and it turns over in a flurry of wings and limbs up and over her, rolling until it comes to a stop.
 
The little Dragoncat slowly slips a pawsie underneath, raising it up just enough for her eyes to peek out. "... Um - it's good that you're here - to - arrest the Maester!" A beat, "I'm okay with sharing..."
 
Hiro on the other hand had been watching the sphere, his expression grave. He liked Maester Seymour. He's not certain what to think really. That statement brooks no room for doubt, but he never considered...
 
A sigh spills out of his mouth. Why couldn't life be more simple? It's not really his place to try to enforce whatever laws are here in Spira, but he certainly wanted answers.
 
The explosion causes him to whirl around as the Odessa Commanders make their entrance. "And just what is this mission of yours?"
 
That's answered though quickly.
 
"That's a lot of things to demand. But even if I didn't object to you doing as you please here in Spira - I have friends in ARMs." He says somberly, his eyes sliding to Marivel momentarily. "Friends I don't want-"
 
His line of sight moves off of Marivel back to the ARMs line. And he makes a choking sound.
 
The final word comes out like a wheeze.
 
"-dead."
 
There's a moment where his startlement melts away into elation.
 
"Hey - you're alive! You're really-" It stands to reason that maybe they just don't see her right?
 
"-Ragnell - help us out here-! And once this is over - we've got a lot to catch up on!"
 
Did some part of him forget? Or maybe he just dares to hope... believe in the best after everything?
 
Ruby takes one look at Ragnell - and slowly removes her pawsie, allowing the pot to clatter back down. Maybe she just doesn't want to see the moment Hiro is disappointed once again.
 

DC: Hiro switches forms to Evil Lieutenant Hiro!
DC: Seraph Ragnell switches forms to The Loyal!
GS: Ptolomea has adjusted their boss level for 4 opponents!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

        Lanval, Water Seraph and Oracle of Schturdark - two such labels that may convey a sort of dignity and standing - was unceremoniously thrown out of the Temple after he came just shy of making all the wine disappear. (It's a great magic trick! Just put it in his mouth, and it disappears, like maaaaaaagiiiiic.) It's disappointing, as he really enjoyed the atmosphere.
        Almost as much as he enjoyed that eel he noticed some grumpy-looking older Guado guy probably had designs on.
        He didn't enjoy the Temple Guards manhandling him like so, but, just as well. He knows Talise will sneak him some extra goods. So he busies himself (...lazies himself) around the safer parts of Macalania Woods.
        One of Lanval's eyes open all the way as he catches sight of something troublesome. To his credit, he springs to action and bolts right back towards the Temple to try and give warning... mostly to be shouted down and shooed by the Guards for being an annoying drunkard. (They're not wrong on some counts!)
        The Temple gets shelled. Lanval instinctively retreats back into his Vessel - a bottle - as chaos erupts all around him. It is less a reaction of fear and a more calculated decision, as he figures it gives him a better vantage point to watch how stuff unfolds. (He knows Talise and everyone with her are made of the toughest stuff and will do fine.)
        The name of Vinsfeld is spoken. The mortal who spoke into his everything while he was in communion with the Guardian of Water, who in broad terms captured an anger before so many things and a promise to destroy so much as his means of fixing them. The bottle lies there as the gathered come closer to conflict. Odessa means to, by appearances, disrupt the one means known to keep Obsession at bay (if only for so long).
        Then, humming. Lanval knows who's humming even before Hiro calls their name out, and the situation grows ever more complex and dire even as the bottle spins ever so slightly at the sight of that young man with that silvery key - not out of any recognition, that's just an interesting sight.
        But that's enough gawking.
        An aquamarine-hued ball of light soon travels reasonably incognito against the icy backdrop, before reforming into the familiar portly phantom phases into being behind the soldiers spearheading this latest operation.
        "Knowin' her," Lanval begins in an uncharacteristically less jolly (but still slurry) voice, standing such so that he has one half-lidded eye towards Ragnell and the other still closed but somehow conveying half-facing back towards Hiro and Ruby, "she ain't here ta help..."

GS: Ptolomea has adjusted their boss level for 3 opponents!
GS: Ptolomea has adjusted their boss level for 4 opponents!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        _Something happened._

        But heck if Gwen really knows what.

        Because she's.... coming in from the hallway.

        ".... Ruby, I swear, y'better have not been stealin' those seafood hot pot things. I didn't think it'd be this hard t'find a washroom but I guess that's what I get for expectin' my luck to keep goin' up." She's grumbling this below her breath, thankfully. Or was it over her breath? She doesn't care, she's been wandering around and being directed every which way by understandably irritated guards.

        Yes, Gwen missed this whole deal because she was *lost*, and she's *pissed*.

        Making an immediate beeline for the bufftet with all the determination of a man in the desert drying of thirst seeing a verdant oasis, the courier grabs a plate, looks up, and scans the room. "..."

        She squints.

        ".... I missed something."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

The moment chaos began to break out due to the reveal of Seymour's true nature, Clarine left to rejoin the rest of ARMS, sensing trouble. This suspicion proves itself to be accurate, the moment chaos begins to sound from outside.

The fragile peace is shattered thoroughly, as Odessa appears - lead by some of their strongest members.

Clarine had a feeling their machinations hadn't been completely thwarted.

They deliver an ultimatum - and ARMS rushes out to meet them.

Three members of Odessa's Cocytus unit...and Ragnell - all members to be afraid of. Clarine's eyes fall on Ragnell for a brief moment, but she is distracted soon by the arrival of a familiar friend.

Kamui. But...she looks, different.

"Kamui...?" Clarine whispers in concern. "Kamui...!"

But, this is no place for idle chatter. Her attention turns toward the member of the member of Cocytus who appears more sorcerously inclined.

With a gesture, Clarine rises and a series of mirrors flow out of her sleeves, floating around her protectively.

"...We will not allow you to have your way." Clarine says warningly. Her attention drifts briefly toward the man with the claw ARM - Ptolomea. "You have already brought bloodshed here. It is too late to claim you have not."

After all, they had already murdered one of the Guado.

Her attention turns back to the sorceror, Caina. She wasn't sure what kind of magic he wielded, but she would have to do her best to limit what he could do to the others.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        For once, anticipating trouble proves helpful when trouble actually happens. As partygoers begin to panic, Ida Everstead-Rey reaches a hand beneath her heavy Arctican mantle, unclasps something, and thrusts it into the hands of a nearby nun. Potion vials rattle in a little leather bandolier. "Tend to the wounded!" Ida shouts. The Yevonite nun startles, snaps into focus, and nods. "We're going to keep those bastards from killing anyone else!" Ida turns with a sweep of her cloak, and makes for the entrance.

        Ida takes stock of the enemy, and does not recognize any save Ragnell. Hiro speaks up, and Ida turns to him, smiling. "Well said," Ida says. She glances back at Clarissa, the smile lingering for a moment before her gaze turns back to Ptolomea. "You have your mission, don't you?" Ida shifts into a more martial stance, spreading her feet and twisting slightly. "I won't waste my breath on trying to convince you otherwise." Ida opens both hands, raising one to waist-height, and the other to shoulder-height. "That would be an insult to your conviction, wouldn't it?"

        Ida looks out at the enemy line behind the Cocytus commanders and their Seraph ally. Her heart hammers against her ribs. Pangs of emotion dig into her as she hears Hiro and Kamui, but she can spare nothing more. She reaches out, and curls her fingers, beckoning Odessa to come at her.

        She is trying to project an air of complete confidence. Behind the mask, she is maybe thirty percent confident at the absolute best.

DC: Ptolomea switches forms to Special Cocytus Squad Member Ptolomea!
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        Acacia is forced to tuck the events of the day in the back of her mind, and quickly. Suddenly, the whole war got a lot more complicated and a lot more unpleasant; as much as every instinct screams at her to report on what has happened here, the very obvious question is what it will do to people's hopes against the Guard incursion.

        And more importantly, against Odessa. She'd tried to put on a brave face for Kamui, did her best to seem stronger and confident for the sake of the Reploid girl - but there'd been a nagging at the back of her mind, and a sick feeling in her stomach that refused to go away. She's a reporter and not a tactician, but it doesn't take much to imagine how obvious a target a wedding would be - how easy it would be to take a symbol of hope and target it.

        Which is why, given everything else, it's a surprise to the reporter that her legs have apparently chosen to stand their ground. Her fingers are digging hard enough into her palm that it makes them ache.

        "So if we leave, you have an excuse to kill us for going against Odessa's creed of 'only the strong get to live'. If we stay, you'll kill us anyway. And me, I'm dead either way because I had the temerity to join a group that's barely even been able to touch you, let alone muster a meaningful counterattack!" she adds, hissing the last part from between her teeth. "This is Odessa's glorious vision for the hopeful future of humanity? Just beat everyone into submission?"

        She pauses, and her brow furrows with a mixture of stress and anger against a fierce ringing in her ears; she reaches for her pistol, and for the first time doesn't delve her other hand into her pocket. The Mana Egg sits there, inert. As it always has been, it seems. "Whatever. Experience tells me you won't even bother to give me a justification. You'll just say we don't get it. Deflect. Run rampant. Do whatever the hell you like. I'd love to have actally managed to cross Vinsfeld."

        Kamui's declaration is enough to make the pit in her gut yawn wider, and her arm shakes a little as her battered pistol creaks a little from being gripped so tightly. Right this instant, she couldn't give much of a damn about the war between Odessa and ARMS - but the loss of the Reploid's innocent exterior, that she can focus on, tightly enough to feel the ripple of Ether around her and grasp for it. "... Kamui... I've got your back," she murmurs, even if she's not really sure how much that will even count for.

<Pose Tracker> Dash Caskett has posed.

Dash was likewise not located within the temple. Having heard friends were heading this direction, he wanted to stop by and say hello once they were done inside. Going inside any Yevon-related buildings has proven an effort in futility, and if he somehow managed to do so, generally caused hysteria in the priests located within.

So rather than cause that... Dash has merely been practicing his aim on stalactites in the nearby caves. Meanwhile, Data does his little jig on a rock, with his ever pleasant expression!

 :3

There is a deep thrum in the caves. A sudden sound like a detonation. "Eee eep!" goes the little robot monkey. "Mega Man, there is trouble nearby! Powerful weapons..." Dash has to catch himself on the ice. "Guh... Guess someone is attacking while they are all in one place. Let's go help!"

---

It isn't long before a second bluearmored fellow joins the fight, Mega Buster primed for battle as the glow of yellow-golden light hums within the barrel. "I'm out of missiles..." he says quietly to himself, glancing to the large weapon on his back. "Better make my shots count then..."

As others gather, a familiar blast of plasma catches his attention. For a moment he thought he saw his reflection in the ice, but no... That wasn't him. It was...

"K... Kamui?" He hadn't seen her since the Thunder Plains. There is something impressive with the armor she wears, but there is an emotionless lilt to her voice he does not like. There is also too many enemies around to try and talk to her easily.

Instead, he begins to edge toward Caina, the closest of these enemies, and draws aim on him. The azure mask on his helmet comes down within the helmet and closes in most of his face, leaving only determined eyes visible.

<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

        Attending strange weddings was becoming a habit. Two in a year. Such fun. A short curly red-haired elf could be spotted among the crowd within the wedding. And then the sudden explosion didn't help matters. Chime has to fight her way through the crowd to see the second thing that's going on having missed the first.

        And her first comment "Oooo, that looks fun. I wonder how it works~" as her eyes cheerfully look over Ptolomea's ARM attached to his arm. "We have tea and sweets, parley instead?" she calls out playfully even as she draws both crossbows from their boot holsters.

        "Not that bloodshed's ever stopped those that fly freely~ But words are just so much easier on the skin." Chime says with a bright smile as she calmly surveys the scene outside the temple on the stone bridge over the icy chasm.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel had just learned that Seymour killed his dad and is 'twisted' from his own dead pops and that Yuna knew this already and that is likely why she deigned to 'marry' Seymour to begin with. She was about to follow her Guardians into the facility when Odessa attacked. A quick mental calculus tells Marivel that she really ought to deal with this and just trust the Guardians andd company to handle that particular situation.

She doubts it will end well. Trommel electing to destroy the evidence certainly didn't help matters but honestly, she had felt like there was going to be some manner of shoe dropping that would create major problems for Yuna.

Needless to say, this makes her feel a touch ambivalent when it comes to protecting the Guado. Marivel is not so kind that she is willing to put her neck on the line for every batch of innocents that need a hero. Or rather, perhaps it isn't that she is unkind but she exercises her authority on where to direct it.

"Still," She murmurs with faint irritation. "I suppose I cannot turn my gaze when it's right in front of me."

Kamui is acting like...well, to most people it would seem like she is acting particularly unKamui-like. For Marivel, though, it's just a different Kamui from a different age. They're all still Kamui in the end. The blue armor. Of course, what is that a reminder of? Like everything else in this world, it's reminder of the wars that Marivel had once fought with the same absolute certainty she has now, but those have become battles she regrets.

Will she feel the same today?

"Seize the Summoner?" Marivel asks. "Why are you after Yuna of all people? Or is it Seymour? Seymour is being handled, and if you are after Yuna, well, I suppose it does not matter much to you but I will feast on your corpses blah blah blah."

She pushes off another wine glass so it crashes to the ground.

She looks to Hiro, briefly looking perplexed, but then when he calls her a friend she kind of quickly looks away. She is a full believer in friendship but she doesn't want her enemies to know that! She has a fearsome reputation to maintain!

Nevertheless, she is smiling faintly to herself anyway.

"Ahh, Ragnell is working with Odessa, Hiro." Marivel tells him with a raised index finger.

She gives Caina a long look, narrowing her eyes at that key of his, before approaching Kamui from behind.

She rests a hand on her shoulder. "Perhaps... t'will be kinder to fight as one again?"

She looks to Antenora, "Are you the brains of the operation? Odessa isn't really supposed to be my business but it seems that's changed. What is your mission objective? I don't suppose you could say?"

DC: Marivel Armitage switches forms to Crimson Noble Marivel!
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Something indeed happened.

Pleasant nuptuals were suddenly interrupted by dire revelations. Seymour Guado-- a father-killer? An auto-orphaner!? A papacy-usurper!?!

He seemed... so nice, though.

Ashley's usually on-point character judgment may be somewhat biased due to a notion of bluenetted camaraderie that is so rarely stoked by the relative commonality of other, less protagonist-like hair colors... Though it's just more likely that he gave the man the benefit of the doubt and was- as he so often is- proven incorrect in his assumption of the sanctity and ubiquity of basic human decency.

But before he could even properly process his feelings on the matter, the already derailed wedding is thrown even more thoroughly off its tracks. Ashley, who had by that point abandoned his quiet evaluation of the wedding ceremony's culinary offerings, is staggered into full wakefulness by the thunder of guns and the all too familiar scent of gunsmoke burning through the gentle aroma of scattered petals.

Odessa.

Where Ashley was keeping his rifle is an academic matter.* What isn't, though, is the slug of heavy metals tearing across the cathedral hall, right for that strange young man and his equally strange key. "That's a lot of objectives. Didn't you ever hear the one about the two rabbits? Or how a balloon in hand is worth two in the sky?"

 (*He had stored it under a pastry trolley. One that he had wheeled in himself. You know, just in case he had to fight off hungry wedding guests.)

GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked Caina with Shot Weapon!
GS: Ashley Winchester has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashley Winchester has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Brad Evans has posed.

Brad Evans, Man In An Expensive Jacket That Isn't Going To Survive For Long, had marched out ahead once the party started turning to chaos, but was in the process of calling an alert over to the rest of ARMS when that became completely redundant.

Odessa makes its declaration, and Brad straightens up. He begins to march through the crowd, looming above most of those present. Ptolomea's whirling blades may frighten, but Brad only sees one thing, which he says into his Empathite Radio, still clutched in hand:

"I've got the cyborg," he says, and rolls his neck until it cracks. He reaches down, slamming the last lock on his Mechanical Glove shut.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Ragnell, in hanging behind Ptolomea and the others and not offering a comment, apparently looks like she could just be chilling out and watching the brewing storm for funsies. This is, granted, a thing she would do. All the same, she blinks over at Hiro when he bursts out with joy at the sight of her. She smiles back at him.
        
        "You hadn't heard the news either, huh?" she replies. "Y'all *really* need to start talkin' to each other more. Hey Ruby! How's the buffet? Lookin' pretty good, from all that stew you got all over your li'l pink pawsies." (Ruby may or may not have been eating stew.) "Don't think you're gonna have much time to enjoy the rest, though."
        
        Lanval remarks to Hiro about how Ragnell's probably not here to help. Her eyes lid briefly, before she gives the Water Seraph a broad grin. "Got it in one! You should listen t' that guy, Hiro," she drawls, jabbing a thumb Lanval's way. "I mean, really. You *do* remember who I work for, right?" Marivel spells it out. Ragnell shakes her head. "You humans sure have a short memory."
        
        Clarine catches her eye. Ragnell's smile fades as they regard each other--but then the arrival of one Kamui distracts them both for a moment. Huh. ...She sure looks different. And Acacia's doing that same rant again. Oh boy. Ragnell thinks she's gonna let Clarine, or really literally anybody else, handle... all of that.
        
        As she turns back around, she notes Ida looking over her along with the others, and gives her an ironic, two-fingered salute of greeting. But enough chitter-chatter; it's time to... not so much get serious as get violent. She draws her guns. "So are we fightin' or what?"

<Pose Tracker> Ptolomea has posed.

"Think what you like," Ptolomea says back to Clarissa, his voice stern. He turns the claw-arm at her. The middle of it has a cannon barrel; a short, ugly thing normally concealed when the blades are shut. "If you're not scared... tch. I can respect that. But respect doesn't change the world."

He seems to expect that his offer will be rejected. Truth be told, he did not make that offer in good faith. Ptolomea looks down -- and his eye meet's Ida's. Then, he nods his head once. "Looks like one of you gets it."

He rushes in.

The ARM fires -- a shot hurtles between Ida and Clarissa alike, the round hurtling for Gwen with explosive force. Then, Ptolomea's ARM-blades collapse together, and he slashes across Ida to one side. His flesh-and-blood arm swats a meaty backhand out for Clarissa. Then, he turns -- and the blade ARM opens, for the cannon inside to fire at full-auto. Rounds spray across Chime, before whipping around towards Brad Evans.

Brad Evans.

Ptolomea's one eye narrows at him. "It seems... you're still around, Evans. Lord Vinsfeld spoke true."

GS: Ptolomea has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Iron Saber!
GS: Ptolomea has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Odessa Crush!
GS: Ptolomea has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Iron Shot!
GS: Ptolomea has attacked Chime Isa with Bladeburst Round!
GS: Ptolomea has attacked Brad Evans with Bladeburst Round!
GS: Ptolomea has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ptolomea has attacked Ptolomea with The One-Eyed Commander!
GS: Ptolomea has completed his action.
GS: Ptolomea takes a solid hit from Ptolomea's The One-Eyed Commander for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Shield! applied to Ptolomea!
GS: Cover and Mighty! applied to Ptolomea!
GS: Clarissa Arwin completely evades a hit from Ptolomea's Odessa Crush!
GS: Chime Isa takes a solid hit from Ptolomea's Bladeburst Round for 129 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Ptolomea's Iron Saber for 157 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Antenora has posed.

Antenora nods once, in acknowledgement of Ptolomea's focus, and of the statement of their intent. Then, she takes a step to the side, preparing to break off and handle a segment of those gathered. There are many impassioned words from the group...

But Antenora's eyes settle upon three. First is Kamui, plated in armor of blue; the plating is clearly ancient, her eyes red. The weaponry she carries is plainly advanced; her words are firm. Antenora's eyes trace onto Acacia, clearly together with Kamui from her standing, the way she looks at her. Gray eyes regard her thoughtfully, noting her words without immediate reaction. Pistol... But not only pistol. And of course--then, she looks upon Marivel, shattering a glass, regarding the world through ancient eyes. Her explanation to Hiro is noted... but more to the point--her approach to Kamui... and of course, her questions to Antenora herself.

"Two who seek answers, and one who seeks to 'become'," Antenora remarks. "The feelings you hold, Kamui, of wishing to protect your friends; those I hold, that lead me to accomplish my mission. We will see whose promise is kept. ...I do not intend to remain in Spira long."

"I can see your frustration," she says next to Acacia. "I won't attempt to ease it. It's better for us if you're angry, confused. Would it be to our advantage to allow our enemy the chance to interfere with our plans on solid ground?" Her questions remain calm--not robotic, not toneless, but thoughtful and analytical. "...'Fairness' to our opponents is not necessary to accomplish Lord Vinsfeld's goals."

To Marivel, "I can tell you some, at least. It doesn't have to be Yuna, really; if there's a Summoner you like less and are willing to volunteer, we'll take them instead." A light shrug. "I have many functions in my position, including a certain amount of intelligence, Monster of House Valeria. Our mission objective is the acquisition of a Summoner, the elimination of all present ARMS members, and to take control of the Temple. Yours is to defend one another, at least one of the Summoners, and the Temple. Correct? ...So long as we understand one another."

Antenora steps further out, and then widens her stance, pulling a strange cord, weighted on either end with golden pendulums; she measures out a part of it in each hand, focused; the magically sensitive can feel the power of the Ley tugged even here. "Now... Show me those feelings that lead you to stand here against us. You will see what is possible for you--and what is not."

The weight in her right hand swings, adopts a metronome rhythm--and from the air comes a shimmering pulse, emanating at equidistant points suddenly to rush towards each member of ARMS as a flash of light.

GS: Antenora has attacked Kamui with Thesis!
GS: Antenora has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Antenora has attacked Acacia Saitani with Thesis!
GS: Antenora has attacked Marivel Armitage with Thesis!
GS: Antenora has completed her action.
GS: Marivel Armitage guards a hit from Antenora's Thesis for 68 hit points!
GS: Caina takes a glancing hit from Ashley Winchester's Shot Weapon for 58 hit points!
GS: Kamui guards a hit from Antenora's Thesis for 75 hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Antenora!
GS: CRITICAL! Acacia Saitani takes a solid hit from Antenora's Thesis for 186 hit points!
GS: Brad Evans guards a hit from Ptolomea's Bladeburst Round for 78 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Outmatched though she may be, there's no spark of doubt in Clarissa's heart. The course she's on is the right course. People need her help. She has to give it to them, no matter what.

But she's spotted someone else. Widening her eyes, Clarissa looks back over her shoulder at the sight of a familiar courier.

"Miss Gwen, be careful, there's Odessa!" she exclaims.

She doesn't have much time to spout more of a warning than that. Ptolomea's speaking, and he's raising that huge claw. With a ripple of floofy blonde hair, the girl whirls her attention back to the brawny soldier, and she sets her jaw slightly before exhaling softly. "...You're wrong about that," she says, her voice more subdued.

Then the ARM fires.

Clarissa gasps. With a long leap, she flips backwards to get clear of the shell blast. Before she can escape it completely, Ptolomea's barging into close range, swinging a huge hamhock fist at her.

Running on instinct, Clarissa does the only thing her body tells her is right: She ducks. The girl rolls beneath Ptolomea's arm. Hitting the ground shoulder-first, she does a brisk forward-roll that sends her tumbling clear of close range. The big man's fist misses her by inches, and she manages to right herself a distance away with a steadying breath.

Then she smiles faintly, dropping back a little and readying her ARM - but she holds her fire. "If I didn't believe respect could change the world, I would've gone home a long time ago, Mr. Odessa. The people gathered here... Gwen, Ida, Mr. Brad... everyone... they're worthy of respect. And I know that we can change things for the better."

She clutches her hand tightly. "...We can do it together!" she declares decisively.

There's something incredibly earnest about the way she says it. It doesn't belong to a gritty warrior or a combat veteran. The sheer conviction in Clarissa's eyes slices through the grimness of battle like a verbal sunbeam.

GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Brad Evans with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Clarissa Arwin with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Gwen Whitlock with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Chime Isa 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 Brad Evans! He gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Brad Evans!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
"Gwen - I'm going to be completely honest with you."
 
Comes a muffled noise from the inside of a pot.
 
"Those guys just wolfed it all down while you were gone! I told them to stop - that you would be right back and she'd been waiting for this - but nooo they wouldn't listen!"
 
As Ragnell calls out her pink pawsies. A pink pawsie slips out and upturns into a rude gesture in Ragnell's direction. It's hard to say what that rude gesture is given that they are pawsies that are tough to manipulate like human hands, but it sure seems rude.
 
Hiro's face spasms at first when Lanval calls attention attention to her motive not likely being a benevolent one. And that smile slowly starts to fade as Marivel spells it out for him. It's still there. He's still happy she's on this mortal coil.
 
He's just not happy about this.
 
"I hadn't." He says quietly. Not really blaming whoever didn't tell him. "Yeah I remember - it just doesn't make sense. You - working with Odessa for K.K. Just doesn't seem to fit."
 
Hiro slowly starts to draw his sword out of it's scabbard, the silver blade adorned with butterfly motifs making a low metallic hiss. "Guess we are. I'd say it's long overdue but..."
 
The smile is still there, but the look in his eyes is pretty sad.
 
"... I never really wanted to fight you like this. Not like this. I guess it just means I don't have real strength yet."
 
Holding it up high, he slides his fingers along the edge, all the way to the tip. He suddenly charges in a dashing run, blade held high, his blade flashing in a series of blows more elegant than Ragnell has seen him perform before.
 
Slipping in and out - trying to test the Seraph's guard and to spoil her aim as he cuts a flanking circle around her, aiming one slicing blow after another at her joints - despite her decidedly spiritual constitution.
 
"The kind you taught me about!"
 

GS: Hiro has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Sword Dance!
GS: Hiro has completed his action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Ptolomea's Iron Shot for 104 hit points!
GS: Mighty! applied to Ptolomea!
GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Chime Isa! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Chime Isa!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

        Marivel adds a caveat which has Lanval's other eye open some more, just shy of widening. With Odessa, who seem coiled around the words of probably the most passionate and angry mortal he'd ever heard of. It's enough of a pause given that Ragnell has time to ask that all-important question with the all-too-obvious answer.
        At some point you basically have to stop asking questions. They're Seraphim. Their designs usually extend before, during, and after the fleeting lives of mortals around them.
        He knows where he stands on all of that. Even knowing full well the difference in power between them, the oft-lazy, carefree, obnoxious, drunken lout of a water spirit does not hesitate to slide a few inches to the right on his feet so that he stands between clear line of sight of Ragnell, Hiro, and Ruby. She's lightning. She's much faster than he is, and this figuratively physical gesture would not amount to much if she were already ready to squeeze a trigger in their direction.
        Lanval's eyes open up a fair bit more, the shine of aquamarine from them as he sweeps an arm outwards to a simple spray of glistening water in a race to be the first one to draw. (He's already losing - for Hiro has found his resolution and is already on her, earnest and capable warrior he is.)
        There is no snappy words to come from him in this moment, because that gesture is his answer.

GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Gwen Whitlock! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Seraph Lanval has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Spray!
GS: Seraph Lanval has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Lanval has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Caina has posed.

        The key floats there, bobbing every so gently as if caught in an otherworldly wind. To the eye, it looks like a key, if one nearly as long as a sword.
        It's strange. To the sensitive, the key doesn't feel like much of anything. Almost as if it's not actually a part of this world.

        Caina, for his part, regards a number of those assembled before them with a judgemental eye as they declare they will not permit Odessa to have their way. At length, he shakes his head, and glances at his compatriots in turn.

        "Feh. I could have told you they weren't going to stand down," the young sorceror (?) remarks to Ptolomea and Antenora. He does not smile. He dips his shoulders in a slow shrug and runs gloved fingers through his long bangs. "But it's their funeral pyre."

        Acacia's words, though, draw out more from the sorceror (?). That sole exposed eye of his narrows, his expression mutely colored with wrath. "How dare you insult Lord Vinsfeld's glorious vision?!" he snaps, before drawing in a breath and closing his eyes.

        He's far stonier when he opens his eyes again. "Tch. It doesn't matter--"

        This is when Ashley takes a shot at him. Caina's sole visible eye goes wide. But he doesn't move.
        The key does. Intercepting the slug, the key shudders as if it were hurt, an action which provokes a wince from the young man. "...You! --Enough of this! You will show us respect!" That key, then--
        It had been across the room from Ashley. Yet, in a heartbeat it is here and in his personal space, slamming into him with improbable speed and force.
        An eyeblink and it's gone, back at Caina's side and trailing in a slow dance at the man's side.

        "Come, Randolph! Show them terror!"

        An unearthly light swirls about the sorceror (?), threading itself about the key. It blazes bright around Caina. It blazes bright.

        Is this color--

        --even possible?

        This color burns outwards in a terrible un-fire, streaking for those Caina has apparently deemed his most-likely enemies. Which is to say the young man pointing a gun at him, Dash, and the young lady close at hand, Clarine.

GS: Caina has attacked Ashley Winchester with Vacuum Rend!
GS: Caina has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Caina has attacked Caina with Initiate's Fervor!
GS: Caina has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Caina takes a solid hit from Caina's Initiate's Fervor for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Caina!
GS: Riposte! applied to Caina!
GS: Caina has attacked Dash Caskett with Sarnath Wake!
GS: Caina has attacked Seraph Clarine with Sarnath Wake!
GS: Caina has completed his action.
GS: Ashley Winchester guards a hit from Caina's Vacuum Rend for 88 hit points!
GS: Seraph Clarine critically Guards a hit from Caina's Sarnath Wake for 21 hit points!
GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Ida Everstead-Rey! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Dash Caskett takes a glancing hit from Caina's Sarnath Wake for 62 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        "Clarine..."

        Kamui lowers her head as she quietly whispers, "I might... have to return that necklace of yours. It turns out that... I do not have the right to hold it for you." There isn't time for that right now though. Right now, she'll have to keep the pendant that can house Clarine safe... even if she doesn't believe her heart has the right to hold it.

        Dash arrives in short order next to her. Standing next to each other, one could mistake them for each other at a glance -- the same style of blue armour... there is a traced history between them, made even more evident now that the facade is off.

        "Dash..." she whispers. "... you too... both of you. I have to make sure that you live through this."

        But the one that she feels the most regret for come up -- Acacia, and Marivel too. Her head lowers just a little. That red glint in the eye is unmistakable.

        "Master... Mari." Acacia has her back. And Marivel literally, too, puts her hand on her back.

        Perhaps... t'will be kinder to fight as one again?

        "... you're too kind, Mari, Acacia ... but ... that kindness is why you've been able to inspire so many people. Why you came back after Luca. Why you're still here..."

        A pause.

        "I intend to repay that kindness, even just a little. Both of yours. As the girl from the Crimson Castle..."

        That's it. Just a little more...

        But she regards Antenora more fully. With those red eyes, of someone who's attempting to bury her emotions as hard as she can.

        "I haven't known Odessa for a very long time."

        She tries dashing -- but something gives her pause as she realises that if she got completely out of the way, she would be leaving Acacia open. She stands her ground instead; her good arm, the one without the Buster, rises up as she feels that odd cord-like whip weapon strike against her with a shimmering pulse. She's pushed back; a hiss of metal sparks against her gaskets.

        "But I remember people just like you. Those who lend their body and mind to the cause of another..."

        A longer pause.

        "It's all... incredibly sad. Because nothing has changed in hundreds of years. You and I... we are all here, gathered to fight for someone far removed from all this..."

        Her eyes close, and she braces firm with the Buster out as she returns fire -- a different shimmering pulse that radiates with the heat of the sun. A triplet of golden orbs.

        "We will bleed. We will fall. But in the end, only the elite few will benefit. Your Vinsfeld Rhadamantus. Our Irving Vold Valeria."

GS: Kamui has attacked Antenora with X-Buster - o o o!
GS: Kamui has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Brad Evans has posed.

Brad's Mechanical Glove sweeps up, a block motion that catches the incoming autofire. "Seems he does do that, sometimes," Brad mutters about Vinsfeld's honesty. He keeps marching forward, covering distance as his fingers shift in his Glove, sending silent commands.

"As for me...I'm just a phantom Valeria managed to dig up." His eyes scan around; Ida, Clarissa, and some others he doesn't know as well. He can work with that team," he decides. "You follow him all the way from Slayheim?"

Clarissa's cries reach him, and he finds himself straightening, just a touch. He levels his Glove at Ptolomea, making no attempt to find cover, and with a clench of his fist the whole gauntlet buzzes as it starts rapid-firing downrange at Ptolomea.

"Must be nice."

GS: Brad Evans has attacked Ptolomea with Machine Gun Support!
GS: Brad Evans has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Brad Evans has completed his action.
GS: Ptolomea guards a hit from Brad Evans's Machine Gun Support for 84 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida's eyes meet Ragnell's for a moment, and a frown spreads across her lips. She's trying to get to you, she reminds herself. That's how she operates. That's how she's always operated.

        Ptolomea charges. Ida sees him raise his ARM and twists on a heel, whipping herself out of the line of fire in a forty-five-degree pivot. The shot speeds past her with less than a foot to spare, disturbed air blowing at her hair. It wasn't aimed at her, Ida realizes, a moment later. Then--

        The real attack catches Ida completely off-guard. Ptolomea's blade slips through her guard in a single, elegant strike, slashing down the right side of her chest. Metal parts heavy Spiran cloth and the flesh beneath it, but then something strange happens--something catches the weapon's edge, something too sturdy to be human bone. Metal grinds against metal as Ida slips back and away, reeling from the strike.

        The answer, of course, is all over Ptolomea's blade: Ida's blood is equal parts human crimson and Hyadean quicksilver.

        The bleeding slows as Hyadean tissue threads itself across the gap. Ida flashes the 'OK' signal to Clarissa, and steps forwards, driving the palm of her right hand at Ptolomea's midsection. "There was a time," Ida says, "when I hated that kind of sentiment." She twists on a foot, sidesteps, and circles around Ptolomea. As she moves, Ida strikes at him again with her other hand, following up with a light, testing jab. None of the blows are powerful on their own, and they seem intended to test Ptolomea's defenses.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Ptolomea with Open Palm!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Ptolomea takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Open Palm for 132 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey assumes the Stoic stance!
GS: CRITICAL! Seraph Ragnell completely evades a hit from Hiro's Sword Dance!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Seraph Lanval's Spray for 99 hit points!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Ptolomea with Weak Shot!
GS: Chime Isa has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

        Chime shrugs as the fight gets underway, casting a last glance over the bridge before dodging to the side as bullets fire in her direction. "Tsk`" she clicks her tongue as several rounds hit heavily into her vest not piercing it with a heavy impact sound and while others graze her legs and an arm.

        "It's a blade, a cannon, and a full auto." She says cheerfully after a quick glance over her limbs. "So cool~ I really want to see how it works now." her voice bright. "Gotta make sure not to break it completely~" as she lifts one crossbow, the bolt glowing a light blue color and fires it off between brad and IDa at Ptolomea's ARM directly.

        "Hey hey, who does maintence on that ARM anyways?" she calls out at Ptolomea, before following up with a bright smile at Clarissa as she steps up beside her. "Of course we can~ Never lose sight of what you want, or the paths to get to it."

GS: Ptolomea critically Guards a hit from Chime Isa's Weak Shot for 4 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Liath has posed.

Madness has seized Macalania.

Like rot exposed beneath unassuming layers of bark, the sinister nature of Seymour Guado has been unearthed in the worst possible way; that Odessa comes bringing demands and force nipping at this revelation's heels feels nothing short of prescient; the perfect opportunity to strike, perfectly timed. Perfectly executed. With nothing but scrabbling entourages and wayward Drifters and a few handfuls of ARMs to stop them.

But they are not alone.

Panic and violence swiftly overtakes shallow festivities. In the chaos, a certain Lightning Seraph chooses takes a more leisurely approach. She addresses her targets with all the casual sass in the world, even in the midst of such dire circumstances. Draws a pair of weapons from another world. And makes an impatient demand:

So are we fightin' or what?

"Yes."

The voice comes from many directions at once; simple, assertive, severe. More to the point -- it heralds a bright, blazing flash of cerulean from the peripherals of Ragnell's vision.

"I am afraid we are."

And a blue blade of light comes screaming through the air towards Ragnell not seconds later, full of force and fury. All around it, streams of multi-colored light fly past, -slamming- into the ground about ten feet rom where the Odessan Seraph was standing. And all of them quickly coalesce into green clothes, blonde and white hair, and the stern, bright gold gaze of--

"This farce is as unpleasant as it is feckless," says the Seraph Liath as she comes to a stand, sword and shield in hand. Lips drawn into a tight line.

Her ceremonial weapon lifts, pointed in Ragnell's direction. Drawn, with no intention of being sheathed.

"Lay down your arms of fire at once, Ragnell. I will not ask again."

Spoken, with certainty that Ragnell will not holster hers, either.

GS: Seraph Liath has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Azure Edge!
GS: Seraph Liath has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Liath has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

"I...I do not believe that, Kamui. I do not want to believe that!" Clarine replies to Kamui, shaking her head. "You are still my friend...you have every right to hold it!"

But soon, her attention turns toward Caina - and, specifically, that strange, otherworldly key. Clarine watches it carefully for a moment. It was...bizarre, even to her Seraphic senses. Her eyes narrow somewhat.

This one was one to be wary of.

An unearthly light swirls around the sorceror, and Clarine takes notice. It streaks toward her in a bright, bizarre color - and Clarine's mirrors react quickly. One of them flies in front of her, intercepting it. It reflects that unearthly, impossible color back out for a brief moment before returning to its normal form.

"...I see. You wield a strange light. Interesting." She observes. Her tone is a little tense - to those not familiar with her this may be a little surprising. But when she was taking a fight seriously...

At a gesture, a single beam of bright, searing light crashes from the sky toward Caina. Meanwhile, Clarine looks aside toward Ashley and Dash.

"...Please be careful. I am here to support, if you require it." She explains.

And then, she hears a voice. Nearby, opposing Ragnell, she spots Liath, appearing from the light. Clarine has not forgotten the way they fought each other, not long back - but she is glad to see that, at least for the time being, they are ostensibly on the same side.

She offers her a brief smile before returning her attention back to Caina, her expression returning to its previous serious state.

GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Caina with Limited Ray!
GS: Seraph Clarine has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"'Monster of House Valeria'...?" Marivel's smile shows her fangs. "Well... tis far more accurate than 'dog', I suppose. I accept it." She does not speak to Antenora with heat in her voice. Regardless of her feelings regarding Antenora, it could be Scythe or Judecca instead so Marivel feels inclined to be more subdued in tone. "Mm, perhaps there is one willing to volunteer. Perhaps Belize? They seem so very uptight so I think they'd be a perfect fit for the organization, really." She taps her cheek with an index finger, "But I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree on the matter of killing most of my friends."

Kamui says only Irving Vold Valeria and Vinsfeld will benefit as a result of this battle. She doesn't comment immediately. Marivel does not work 'for' Valeria in the same way that the other members of ARMS do but she has a pact with the man and he does have her loyalty. She has seen a quality beyond noble blood within him...

...or perhaps she is merely partial to her love's family.

"Irving may not be fighting with us on the field..." Her gaze slants towards Kamui. "But I will not doubt the great personal sacrifice he is willing to go through for his beliefs."

Her eyes slant back towards Antenora. "Perhaps he and Vinsfeld have that in common at least, but tis not our convictions that define us but the desperation we carry when we find our convictions are tested and our hopes dashed, the bloody lengths we are willing to take to make our fictions fact."

Antenora attacks! Marivel summons a magical shield around her body that takes the brunt of the damage though enough force pushes through that it sends Marivel sliding back.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, Antenora." Marivel straightens. "But the ruins you're after... tis within the temple itself, no?"

She draws out a rapier and snaps it to the side before tossing it to the side--

--only for it to teleport from above and slice down at Antenora from above!

"The ultimate skill... Aport...!" Marivel says.

It really is a versatile skill.

"Liath!" She calls over. "Did you hear? Seymour committed patricide! But they totally destroyed the evidence so take my word for it ok?? I'm sorry that Odessa is being a bad influence on your friend! You should revoke her internet access!"

Whatever that is.

GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Antenora with Enhanced Aport Riposte!
GS: Marivel Armitage has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Ragnell critically Guards a hit from Seraph Liath's Azure Edge for 24 hit points!
GS: Riposte! applied to Seraph Liath!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        Two things happen in quick succession:
        1. Clarissa helpfully alerts Gwen to the fact that Odessa is here.
        2. Ruby informs Gwen about the status of the pot, while *inside* the pot.
                a. Ruby gives Ragnell a very rude gesture. Also Ragnell is here, but that's not enough for a number 3.
        3. There is actually a number three, and it's a round from Ptolomea's ARM.

        These are all distressing things to learn.

        When the smoke clears, a wincing Gwen is holding up an empty tray with a nice dent of a hole in the middle, which thankfully is *not* joined by any part of her body apart from some very painful bruises.

        ".... Sorry t'disappoint you, but I'm 'fraid you picked the wrong courier t'be your example of 'collateral damage'." Gwen hesitates, then coughs into her upraised arm. "Wait, that's the term, right? Feels like I ain't usin' that term right."

        Out of the corner of her eye, Gwen spots Hiro. "Just give 'er what'ca got, Hiro! That's all anybody can ask for!" the redhead shout above the noisy clamour of battle, sounding... cheerful? "We can save the score-settlin' and such for later, let's just make these guys shove off so we can get this nice wedding or whatever over with and stuff our faces."

        ..... gwen didn't get that memo just yet, she is the worst courier today

        Also, Liath is here. ".... I am real glad that you're not firin' at us this once! .... Wait, Seymour did what?!" Gwen *flings* the tray unceremoniously at Ptolomea. "Damn it, now I don't know who th'hell to be mad at. I just wanted some grub, and now I can't even enjoy that without any guilt!"

<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        Were she in a slightly more receptive frame of mind, the reporter might take more notice of Marivel at her side, the way the vampire obviously still cares for and dotes over the Reploid even in a situation like this. It's something that's been absent the last few days - which is not to blame the Crimson Noble, so much as the general situation they're in - and it's a tiny, tiny relief right now to see it.

        Antenora's calm logic doesn't exactly appease Acacia's anger, and yet it's some kind of cold comfort to hear things laid out so simply, rather than as part of a passionate rebuttal about ideals. Get them off guard and frustrated, keep them off guard and frustrated. Press an advantage, because all is fair in war. The simplicity of it does at least cut through some of the haze; she drags in a slow breath, then lets it out in a shaky rush, aware she's not much use to anyone flying off the handle.

        Still, she can't help but be goaded, at least a little - especially when the Odessa elite talks about testing their resolve, and a sudden resurgence of irritation follows it. "I'm tired of people 'testing' us!" she yells against the sudden pulsing of the air, and the flash of light that follows it. Perhaps that's why she stands her ground when she should be dodging; why she tries her best to gather herself, and the air suddenly shifts around her in response, attempting to align the Ether around her in a barrier against the rush of the Ley.

        Unfortunately, she's still new to this side of her, too used to relying on the habit of treating her power as if it were a Granasian sorcery. Going from that to this kind of experimentation in the blink of an eye... it's no wonder that Antenora's attack slips past her guard, tearing at her essence as she grunts in pain and is sent stumbling back several steps. There's a hiss, and her vision blurs - but instinctively she grabs for the last wisps of that power, holding onto it even if she's not sure how.

        "I don't-- want to believe you're unworthy of Clarine. I don't think that for an instant," she mutters solemnly to Kamui, not sure if the Reploid can really hear her in the sudden noise of combat but feeling the need to say it anyway. "And if I left you to fight and get hurt in my place - if I used you - that'd be the one kind of Master I wouldn't want to be. Like you said, we're stuck in this fight," she adds. "But it's together. Not apart."

        So saying, she grips her hand around the last golden flecks of Antenora's attack, and thrusts her hand forwards. It feels like moving though treacle at first, but its momentum builds - and by the time she throws it back at their opponent, it's a chaotic whorl of energy.

GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked Antenora with No Comment!
GS: Acacia Saitani has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Acacia Saitani has completed her action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Ptolomea with Unidentified Flying Tray!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Ptolomea guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Unidentified Flying Tray for 31 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ptolomea has posed.

Ptolomea grunts in surprise as his hand sweeps through the air, rather than connecting with Clarissa. It isn't shock -- it's the sudden reevaluation of an opponent, years of battlefield experience making him quickly reassess. "Respect is just a start. If you want to believe that feelings will get you somewhere... then be ready for them to become bitterness."

'Always trying to look after the younger ones, aren't you?' he chides himself, silently.

Brad's gunfire rains out -- bullets from the Mechanical Glove blasting into Ptolomea. One slashes open his arm, then he lifts it -- and the blade catches, the bullet bouncing off in a spray of sparks as he keeps it at bay. "Necessary," Ptolomea says. "The world... you've seen it. This is something long overdue, soldier."

There isn't much of a reaction at the way the triple bloods have Hyadean and human blood on them. A blink, then he looks up at Ida. He doesn't answer her with words; he simply stands through the worst of the blows, her punches and strikes hitting his chest.

It is not unlike punching a brick wall. To that end, he turns and looks at the girl who has talked about harvesting his ARM. "Tch... so, a vulture. Who'd cut my ARM off, so she can study it..." The blue light slashes across his chest.

It sizzles, lightly.

The tray also bounces off his chest muscles. He looks back at Gwen. "Tch..."

Ptolomea looks back at Chime Isa.

"When a dog gets hydrophobia..." And then Ptolomea moves. The big man is a blur that defies size, logic, and nearly physics. He slams his blade for the base of Chime's neck, then whips around, slamming his blade at Ida's back, before he whips it to smash into Clarissa's head. Then, he jumps.

Ptolomea skyrockets into the air, and slams down between Brad and Gwen -- and the shockwave threatens to bowl both over.

"...you put it down, before it can bite the hand that fed it."

GS: Ptolomea has activated a Boss Action!
GS: Ptolomea has activated a Force Action!
GS: Antenora takes a solid hit from Kamui's X-Buster - o o o for 99 hit points!
GS: Antenora takes a glancing hit from Marivel Armitage's Enhanced Aport Riposte for 68 hit points!
GS: Antenora takes a solid hit from Acacia Saitani's No Comment for 115 hit points!
GS: Mute! applied to Antenora!
GS: Ptolomea has attacked Chime Isa with Saber Shatter!
GS: Ptolomea has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Saber Shatter!
GS: Ptolomea has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Saber Shatter!
GS: Ptolomea has attacked Brad Evans with Saber Shatter!
GS: Ptolomea has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Saber Shatter!
GS: Caina completely evades a hit from Seraph Clarine's Limited Ray!
GS: Quick! applied to Seraph Clarine!
GS: Ptolomea has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Chime Isa completely evades a hit from Ptolomea's Saber Shatter!
GS: Clarissa Arwin takes a glancing hit from Ptolomea's Saber Shatter for 90 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Dash Caskett has posed.

Seems Odessa doesn't want to back down. "That Vinsfield guy is who got me and a lot of people stuck here in the first place! He is no good, and you are all helping him to do wrong! You just blew open a temple thing! Who even does that?!" Dash rebukes with. What a bunch of jerks. He still worries everyday about Barrell and Roll. He hopes they weren't affected by that globe thingy. At least Data is okay.

Wait, where did he go? "..." no words accompany the though, though a sharp inhale does. "Kamui, we all deserve to survive! You are no different!" he shouts, as armaments begin to be fired, starting with Ashley. "Guess we are doing this, huh?" he asks the fellow. A nod is also passed to Clarine nearby.

Retaliation comes swift, as flames wreath and spin outward. For a moment Dash, thinks his optics are on the fritz, as the colors come in negatives and contrasts rather than normal flame.

It burns all the same. Dash backflips to evade, much more dextrous than anyone in armor has a right to be, but it does not fully evade the flame. There is little damage shown on the outside of his armor other than surface warping, but within, sensors and regulators scream mental alarms as systems must divert power and effort to disperse the catalytic temperatures that inflict his systems. It causes him to hold his helmet for a second, akin to a terrible headache. "Gah..."

A sharp headshake, and Dash is back in action, pointing the Mega Buster toward his target, "Okay, time to send you packing!" A light hum, and golden plasma tears out of the arm cannon toward Caina, much in the style of the other similarly appearing individual in the room.

In the wak of his shots, his other hand actually spins on the wrist's axis, the nquickly disassembles intself into the forearm, before a small module is set upon it, and clicks to life. "Gotcha!" he replies to Clarine. "Ill do what I can to help you both as well!"

GS: Dash Caskett has attacked Caina with Buster Salvo!
GS: Dash Caskett has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Dash Caskett has completed his action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Ptolomea's Saber Shatter for 116 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Caina completely evades a hit from Dash Caskett's Buster Salvo!
GS: Shield! applied to Dash Caskett!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        Ruby gives Ragnell the middle pawsie. Ragnell just laughs and laughs. This probably doesn't re-endear her to Ruby any.
        
        When Hiro says that Ragnell's motives don't seem to fit, Ragnell simply shrugs. As Lanval internally comments, questions will only really get you so far--and she's not the sharing type most of the time, anyway. Then it's go time, for both of them, as Hiro charges in with his sword and Lanval backs him up with a Seraphic arte.
        
        Hiro's improved since the last time they fought; his moves are tighter, more controlled. He's also clearly not taking her seriously enough, or else is trying for a feint, because she weaves in between his blows. "You think so?" she drawls. "You're fighting anyway, even though you don't wanna, though, aren't ya? That is, if you can call that fightin'!"
        
        Big words, considering while she's concentrating on avoiding Hiro's attacks, she leaves herself open to Lanval's. The flood of water smashes into her blind spot, turning the icy bridge below her slick. As she slides and twists to regain her footing, she shoots Lanval a quick glance. It's a little saddening that he won't even talk to her now. Not saddening enough to stop her, but still.
        
        At that moment, though, another voice cuts in: 'Yes. I am afraid we are.'
        
        Eyes widening in recognition, Ragnell brings one arm up in a guard just in time for a blade of light to SLAM into her. Had she not gotten her footing back, it might have knocked her to the ground. She recovers several steps away, turning as that light coalesces into the Prime Lord Liath. Her lips twitch but ultimately pull into a frown as she speaks.
        
        "Technically you didn't ask me a first time," Ragnell points out, making sure to put an extra-obnoxious twang in her voice. "'Lay down your arms' ain't a request, it's a command." She winks, overblown and ostentatious. "Maybe if you ask *reeeeeal* sweet-like, I'll think about it~?"
        
        At least Ida can rest assured Ragnell won't be messing with her anymore today.
        
        The Lightning Seraph aims her twin pistols at Liath, lightning charging in the muzzles for a moment before they unleash a beam of power to rip through the air towards the Prime Lord. Once those shots have been fired, she ducks down and dashes forward, then *slides* across the wet ice at speed. At just the right moment--or, arguably, just the wrong one--she *jumps* and attempts to land on Lanval feet-first in a mighty kick. Whether she hits him or not, she'll backflip, either off of him or away from him, and open fire with both barrels at Hiro with a barrage of electric bullets.

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Seraph Liath with Tempest Laser!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Seraph Lanval with Pummel Kick!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Hiro with Cessive Bullet!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Brad Evans guards a hit from Ptolomea's Saber Shatter for 111 hit points!
GS: Hiro guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Cessive Bullet for 78 hit points!
GS: Cripple! applied to Hiro!
GS: Seraph Liath takes a glancing hit from Seraph Ragnell's Tempest Laser for 60 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Seraph Lanval guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Pummel Kick for 55 hit points!
GS: Weaken! applied to Seraph Lanval!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey critically Guards a hit from Ptolomea's Saber Shatter for 36 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

"Of course it can take a bullet," the musketeer grouses, a spent casing arcing out of his ARM's chamber. "You don't get to talk about respect! You're barging in on someone else's wedding ceremony! That's the height of disrespect! Didn't your parents teach you any manners?!"

Yes, because clearly bringing up the space-twisting sorcerer's apparent age is a good idea.

A sudden rush of air. Ashley makes the mistake of blinking. When his eyelids flit open again, the key is right there. "Wha--!?" Well-honed reflexes save him. His body acts, muscles torquing at the speed of thought to interpose the broad flank of his bayonet between the key and his vulnerable torso. He skids back as Randolf slams into him, knocking the air out of his lungs and bruising a couple of ribs...!

But before he can do anything more about it, the key is simply *gone* again. Teleporting away like Marivel is so wont to do. Teleporting keys are about as news to Ashley as the existence of a Lunar Sea. That is, still about as surprising as it'll ever be, but something he has grown increasingly used to simply accepting as a fact of life. Still, it's a worrying revelation.

He might have had a few skirmishes with Odessa in the past, but... It seems this particular officer is yet an unfamiliar face. "And what about me!?" Ashley answers, forcing himself to remain vigilant even in the face of those impossible colors flooding into the world. His brain struggles to reason out their hue, and eventually gives up and decides simply to color them some kind of awful orange-mauve. "We just met! And I'm not sure I like what I'm meeting!"

Ashley racks back his rifle's slide loads a heavy-looking canister into its chamber. He aims and fires, sending the silvery cylinder arcing through the air... where it bursts, filling keymaster's world with a thick layer of burning, sticky napalm...!

Hopefully the local clergy don't mind a few more scorch marks.

GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked Caina with Incendiary Omen!
GS: Ashley Winchester has completed his action.
GS: Ashley Winchester has canceled their attack on Caina.
GS: Ashley Winchester has spent 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked Caina with Canister - Incendiary Round!
GS: Ashley Winchester has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashley Winchester has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Clarissa blushes a little as she sees Brad straightening. He's always been one of her more intimidating comrades - and the thought that she may have touched his heart even slightly lifts her spirits and brings a smile to her face.

With a crisp nod and a smile back to Ida, Clarissa boosts herself to her feet and begins to move. Plotting a lateral course, she moves to try and flank Ptolomea, figuring that her allies' assault will give her an opening.

Mostly it gives her an opening to get a blade to the head, as Ptolomea turns out to be much better at fighting a large number of foes than Clarissa might have hoped. When that dreadful arm comes hurtling at her with a speed that it shouldn't by all rights have, Clarissa throws her left arm up as fast as she can. The inside of her forearm thumps against Ptolomea's much larger limb.

The huge blade slices through open air, and then more. The fabric of Clarissa's coat tears as the weapon nicks across her bicep and shoulder, cutting a painful line into her skin but narrowly missing her face. The impact jolts her back - it probably saves her from getting her head taken off, truth be told. Staggering, she throws her arm out to her side with a pained wince, managing to grab ahold of the edge of a table and steady herself.

By the time she does, Ptolomea's coming up, then down. The blonde girl catches her breath, then presses her lips together.

"You think I don't know what it's like to have my feelings hurt?" she asks quietly.

        little missy

"But you're wrong if you think that bitter feelings will break me," Clarissa says with greater conviction, though her voice is still soft. Pushing off the table, she begins to run, building up speed. She's not rushing directly at Ptolomea. She's coming around to one side of him.

"Like Commander Vinsfeld is," she adds, the sadness showing even through her quickening breathing. "I could see the anger in him... is it why you fight for him? The bitterness?"

She boosts herself up onto a fallen chair and springs off, vaulting into a high leap. Gripping her ARM in both hands, she raises her voice.

"Noble's Fang!" she cries as she unleashes a barrage of quick shots, rays descending to streak towards Ptolomea in a searing pattern.

GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Ptolomea with Noble's Fang!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has completed her action.
GS: Ptolomea guards a hit from Clarissa Arwin's Noble's Fang for 55 hit points!
GS:  Dispel reduces positive status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Ptolomea has been weakened by Disease! Ptolomea can't gain THP until the Disease is cured!
GS: Disease! applied to Ptolomea!
<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

        Chime's smile doesn't falter, even as Ptolomea suddenly lunges in a hard to follow blur. She just lets her fall backwards and to the side barely dodging the fierce lunge at her neck. Then catching herself on a heel with a spin to get back her balance before falling to the ground as several strands of hair fall to her feet.

        "Now now, I never said take it away or cut it off. An ARM that's owned is ARM that's bound~ I wouldn't want to break it's bond. But I do like to see how they're made and work, and the owner is always a good source of informtation!" she says cheerfully.

        "Like these~" the short ARMs Meister says, lifting both crossbows. The bolts visible in the opening of them glow a bright white, "They're like auto-fire crossbows~ With a few fun tricks like this!" and then she fires off a series of bolts in to the sky, which arc up and come back down ontop of Ptolomea as brillant white lances that crackle and shatter on impact.

        "Sorry about your dog through." she adds, in a consoling voice and a smile, while continuing to fade back slightly from the melee.

GS: Chime Isa has spent 1 Combo on Gatling, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Ptolomea with Arrows of Light!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
GS: Caina takes a solid hit from Ashley Winchester's Canister - Incendiary Round for 134 hit points!
GS: Caina suffers an additional 27 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Poison! applied to Caina!
GS: Ptolomea guards a hit from Chime Isa's Arrows of Light for 97 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Brad Evans has posed.

"No," Brad says simply, to Ptolomea.

He dashes to the side, trying to find, if not cover, at least enough open ground to try and maneuver with. "I haven't seen it in fifteen years!"

He manages to get into position nearish to Gwen, glancing at the smaller woman and shifting his stance to shield, because some people have habits. "Because Vinsfeld locked me up for something he thought I maybe did."

Ptolomea roars into the sky and Brad raises his ARM at him, trying to track him with the machine gun; but he's making the rookie mistake ofs hooting at where Ptolomea is, not where he's going to be, and so the shockwave takes him flush. It roars out enough that he loses his footing, stumbling back one, two, three --

He drives his leg down to force himself into balance, staring Ptolomea dead on. "I don't know how much I disagree with you. But your great leader has some things to answer for, first."

Brad thrusts his Mechanical Glove forward, the fist arranged like it were griping something. Light filters out of it, shining, swirling around, into the form of a--

ACTUAL LITERAL MISSILE LAUNCHER. Like a little model-rocket stand, except the rocket isn't a model so much as it's just infantry-scale.

"So I won't be taking any of your offers today," Brad grunts, and the missile launches directly toward Ptolomea.

GS: Brad Evans has attacked Ptolomea with Mini Scud!
GS: Brad Evans has completed his action.
GS: Ptolomea critically Guards a hit from Brad Evans's Mini Scud for 24 hit points!
GS: Mighty! applied to Brad Evans!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Does Ragnell laughing endear her to Ruby? A twitch of the middle pawsie to emphasize doing it again is all she gets in answer.
 
"Always figured you were holding back." Hiro says, in a statement which might seem counter to his naivete and ignorance - but at the same time doesn't it validate's Ragnell's sarcasm on knowing they're fighting. The pace of his rhythm picks up as he tries to score a blow, but Ragnell manages to slip away unscathed from him at least.
 
"Someone doesn't fight for as long as you have to just lose to a kid with a few sword tricks under his belt."
 
It's not really self-deprecation, simply an acknowledgement that he's got a ways to go.
 
"You made me work for it though - what I wanted to know."
 
Ragnell works through their ranks with her guns and Seraphic artes, and as she whirls on him, Hiro drives his sword into the ice, suddenly wrenching a chunk free into the air. It rockets into the first few bullets which smash the ice chunk into shards arcing with electricity.
 
The next few strike home into his shield. His shield that's metal. Suddenly the whole youth's body spasms as if he's having a seizure, nearly falling over into the icy bridge. Driving his foot down, he lashes forward with a twitching hand.
 
"Fuh-" His teeth chatter and it's not from the cold, "-rocious Winds!"
 
Suddenly the frigid arctic wind currents shift - funneling down over Ragnell's position. They twist and turn in an effort to box her in and lock her in place.
 
"But even if you were faking - it wasn't all a lie. I know it." And as he thinks of Marivel's words to him. "Mostly lies of omission - right?"
 
He says once he can manage to talk again without his muscles locking up on him. Swallowing.
 
"Which is why we're going to knock some sense into you and figure out what's going through that head of yours!"
 

GS: Hiro has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Vortex!
GS: Hiro has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Hiro has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Antenora has posed.

To Marivel, "Isn't it a way you've referred to yourself in the past? If you have a preferred title, you're welcome to share it." She accepted it, sure--but Antenora, too, continues to speak without heat. She is prepared, she is careful, she shows no hasty passions. "It would save us time," she allows on the matter of this potential volunteer. "But I didn't expect you to lay down and die, regardless."

Acacia says she's tired of being tested. She stands her ground. Antenora answers, "That's fair."

"Your memory would be long," Antenora answers Kamui. "But if you remember... Then you remember that you and I both have our reasons for being here, nevertheless. I step to the front lines for what I must accomplish; you do no less."

Pew pew! The sunbursts of Kamui's Buster rush towards the sorceress, and Antenora brings together her arms, making herself a slimmer target and focusing into the protective spells that guard her; they each pulse against her, golden orbs splashing as they impact her skin, forcing her still a few moments in order to recover.

"...But I am not some far-flung soldier, empty and waiting to be filled with purpose. I operate at Lord Vinsfeld's right hand for the sake of my own feelings as well as his ideals. I have little time or patience for the sadness of those I must oppose; that sadness is not what I want to witness."

Putting out her hand, Antenora draws once again on the power of her sorcery, golden light radiating from the pendulum held in her other palm. A burst of air announces the attack--before an invisible hammer of wind crashes down towards the Girl from the Crimson Castle.

And then, "There's only so much I'm willing to answer," the sorceress responds to Marivel's assertion. The rapier that moves to the side, that appears above her--Antenora steps to the side, where it slashes down her arm instead of piercing through a shoulder to disable. It is quite versatile, really--and powerful, being such a casual teleportation. But here her attention shifts again to Acacia. The woman in white and yellow retains the same cold calm, the same focus, though she tilts her head in some focus as she notices Acacia's holding of power--an unusual power, indeed. "Your bond," she reflects, but does not finish her statement before Acacia's counterattack comes into being. The magic that she sent forth returns to her, and this is of interest--but perhaps an unpleasant interest, as the chaotic whorl it becomes is uncontrollable in the brief span the sorceress can react, and she fails to get out of the way, hit hard enough that she stumbles to the side before rising again. "...That bond is itself a form of strength. You hold it close--between yourselves, and the other members of your squad."

"...But you are not the only ones with that 'desperation' to see your future made manifest. There is a kindness you seek to repay," she says, her attention moving from Acacia, to Marivel, to Kamui.

"But we all carry our own debts of feeling."

The pendulum sways, even, side to side; as Antenora lifts her hand, a glow appears surrounding her fist; like a conductor directing her musicians, this rise is accompanied by a forward-drifting other hand, directing force. Sparkling light coalesces before Marivel, and crashes forward, as if a sphere pushing through an invisible barrier that nevertheless warps and clings--

As a muted flame rises in crescendo from Acacia's feet.

"This isn't a 'test', if it makes you feel better. I have no intention of simply evaluating you; it is life, or death."

GS: Antenora has attacked Kamui with Overpressure!
GS: Antenora has attacked Marivel Armitage with Ephemeron!
GS: Antenora has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Antenora has attacked Acacia Saitani with Flameout!
GS: Antenora has completed her action.
GS: Marivel Armitage guards a hit from Antenora's Ephemeron for 123 hit points!
GS: Break! applied to Marivel Armitage!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Hiro's Vortex for 46 hit points!
GS: Slow! applied to Seraph Ragnell!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida shoots a glare at Chime, but says nothing. She can't really afford to say anything, and even that glare might've been too much of a distraction. "Which war was it?" she says, as she keeps working the big man's torso with lightning-quick strikes. "Slayheim? Celesti? The Ignasian border conflicts?" Hitting Ptolomea is like hitting a wall, and while Ida knows walls can be broken down, this wall hits back. Ptolomea quickly demonstrates just why he's one of Odessa's most fearsome warriors.

        Ptolomea is in motion before Ida can say another word. Muscle memory that isn't entirely hers takes over--she sets her feet on the stone of the bridge, centers her weight, and braces. She whips her arms up, and strands of silvery flesh curl out from her wrists, spiderwebbing across both her arms. Within a heartbeat, both limbs are encased in blue-and-gold biometal. The exoskeleton twists and unfolds like a blooming flower; instead of meeting fragile human flesh, Ptolomea's blade meets with reinforced Hyadean bio-armor. A ringing clang echoes across the cavern. The impact almost knocks Ida off her feet--she skids backwards, and jerks forwards to catch her balance. Her cape billows out behind her. She glances over her shoulder at the lake far below. That could have been very bad. If she'd reacted just a split-second sooner...

        "I understand the principle," Ida says, continuing her conversation as if Ptolomea didn't almost kill her just then. "I do, believe me." Ida strikes in the space of a heartbeat. She presses her fingers together and jabs them at Ptolomea's sternum--it looks like yet another probing attack, at least at first. Should it connect, though, a surge of firey light races from Ida's clenched fingers, infecting the Cocytus officer's meridians with burning, foreign chi. Nothing that will cause lasting damage, but that might be cold comfort given how much it hurts.

GS: Kamui guards a hit from Antenora's Overpressure for 87 hit points!
GS: Cripple! applied to Kamui!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Ptolomea with Burning Infusion!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 3 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Ptolomea critically Guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Burning Infusion for 0 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey's Stoic stance ends.
<Pose Tracker> Caina has posed.

        "If they had given her up earlier there wouldn't be any need for this," the sorceror (?) retorts. "Everything has consequences. It's not my fault if other people don't know what's best for them." His eye does narrow when Ashley (obliquely) brings up his age. ...Someone's got a sensitive spot.

        His key, her mirrors -- if it weren't for the fact that their natures are (to appearances) so very different, if it weren't for the negative space to the spiritual eye that is that key, perhaps it might be tempting to draw analogies.

        But whatever the resemblances, Clarine and Caina couldn't be more different. The quality of her light is proof of that.

        Caina turns his head as that beam comes streaking down from overhead.
        He again doesn't move. The key is there again to intercept it, to absorb the power from it. It glitters now, perhaps as if it had drunk deeply of the Seraph's power.

        "More than just light," Caina says, drawing in Randolph close to him as if it were dance partner. "Far more than that. You'll see, if you're lucky." He pauses. "Or unlucky."

        Randolph lingers there, just 'nearly' in his grasp.
        And then it's not there at all.
        Then it's for Clarine, streaking for her from an improbable angle, at a speed it should have if it had come at her from yards and yards away and not just the mere feet it crosses now.

        In this moment, Dash takes aim at Caina. Caina's gaze snaps his way.
        The key menaces Clarine no longer. Instead it appears, impossibly, right before Dash.
        And before Dash's shot. As it had for Clarine's, it completely absorbs that light.

        Its glow becomes even more luminous.

        "Send 'me' packing? I don't think so," Caina huffs, in those fleeting moments before the key jumps -- it had been only feet away already, now it is much much closer and gaining on Dash -- through space.

        "You can't even lay a finger on me!"

        He says, moments before Ashley takes a shot at him with a flaming canister.

        The key intercepts--

        The key shudders under the blast and Caina staggers, looking for a moment as if he were about to drop to a knee. One hand grabs at his side and he winces.

        'What about me', Ashley had said.

        "'We just met'," Caina echoes, straightening. The key resumes its float at his side. Caina huffs out a sound that just might be a dry laugh. "That's where you're wrong, Ashley Winchester," the sorceror (?) declares, shaking his head. The key floats before him now, nearly stilled in its movements. "It's your fault. If you had just succumbed like the rest of them back at the cathedral-- if you hadn't gotten that demon inside you--" He draws a breath, as if to steady himself.

        "That's fine. I'll fix that problem now. Randolph! Show him the way!"

        The key... glows.

        For Ashley, reality tilts at an ghastly angle. There is fleeting the impression of a a half-dozen sigils burned into the ground around Ashley, which begin to glow an otherworldly violet.
        This is not the gate. But it is the way to the gate, lined with relics of the dead.
        It is not a path one can take without losing a piece of oneself in the process. Not easily.

GS: Caina has attacked Seraph Clarine with Hyperphase Destruction!
GS: Caina has attacked Dash Caskett with Symmetry Breaker!
GS: Caina has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Caina has attacked Ashley Winchester with Elayne's Ossuary!
GS: Caina has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Caina takes 18 damage from Poison!
GS: Riposte expired!
GS: Caina has completed his action.
GS: Seraph Clarine takes a solid hit from Caina's Hyperphase Destruction for 144 hit points!
GS: Acacia Saitani takes a solid hit from Antenora's Flameout for 148 hit points!
GS: Jam! applied to Acacia Saitani!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

        The dry spell of dialogue should be worrying. Lanval was known for, before his fall from grace and eventual harder fall from grace when he dared to raise a hand against the Red Priestess, being a chatty, outgoing, dopey, but earnest sort who enjoyed what little Seraphic company he could get where he was.
        Only those who have known him across a span of centuries could really pick up and see where some of that has begun to evaporate. A new thrust, a new duty - one of an unexpected and surprising origin, to be a servant of an elemental embodiment on a dying world. Where on the surface he may continue to wobble and laugh, and may yet still project that joy in the little things of life, going past that veneer... there's something else there now.
        As Ragnell moves to footstool off of Lanval, he tries to deflect her with another spray of water - gushing, as if trying to manage the physical equivalent of pushing back hard. The kick pierces through all of that, and might even unwittingly give her a boost for more of her showy gunplay towards Hiro, as smoke rises from the Oracle of Schturdark while they slide across the icy bridge... and fall less-than-elegantly on their seat.
        "Liath," comes Lanval's words as she forms and takes her stand against the Lightning Seraph. The relationship that exists between them as it is, is nothing less than complex unto itself. Both given the power of cleansing Malevolence - arguably a shared goal unto itself - and yet still on opposing sides. By Althena's decree, Lanval is a fallen agent of evil. Liath has been charged with empowering and guiding a new Shepherd.
        At least there is an unspoken agreement about what needs to be done with Ragnell's presence here, as Hiro tries to appeal to some greater nature he sees underneath Ragnell. "Ya could look in their head," Lanval speaks as he rises, mostly stable, "but ya could alsho take a look at what the resht of 'em hash been doin'... 'n that'sh ash good ash a look in there." Even on slippery ice, Lanval's usually bizarre ragdoll-like gait straightens out to more purposeful steps as he repositions himself in anticipation for Ragnell's landing or wherever the wind vortex might take her.
        "You ain't gonna think 'bout it even if she did," Lanval remarks. There is a quiet cadence that tends to follow these battles of wills. Probing, positioning, pontification. Watery energies - some of them spiritually foreign - begin to build around Lanval as he holds his drinking gourd close in both hands. The usual chanting is lost to some of the sounds of battle.
        The Arte itself, and its nature... is not.
        "Blessed Drops!" Lanval calls, as shining globs of water descend. It seems overkill and even spiteful, to leap immediately to one of the greater projections available to the water elementals born of Althena's power - evidence that Lanval has further distanced himself from the Seraph he once was, no matter how similar he may seem outside of times of great strife.

GS: Seraph Lanval has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Blessed Drops!
GS: Seraph Lanval has completed his action.
GS: Ashley Winchester takes a glancing hit from Caina's Elayne's Ossuary for 0 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, and Mute! applied to Ashley Winchester!
GS: Dash Caskett takes a solid hit from Caina's Symmetry Breaker for 161 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        "... Mari... I can only hope you're right," Kamui answers to Marivel, perhaps feeling entirely cooled by the frank admission that this is one difference between her Crimson Noble-mother and herself. That she doesn't hold that same level of trust for that man.

        That perhaps her heart is not in ARMS.

        "I can only hope that you find what you need in that agreement between you two."

        Clarine speaks how she doesn't believe it, that she doesn't want to believe it. That she's her friend... and Acacia backs up that claim too. Acacia states that she doesn't want to be that kind of Master. Her lips purse a little.

        "You're overestimating me..."

        So why does that make her heart -- her Suffering Circuit -- radiate more pain? Why does that magnify the emptiness that she feels in there right now?

        Dash calls that she isn't any different. That she deserves survival too.

        Her eyes narrow as she answers with no less calmness than Antenora's own: "You're right..."

        Her eyes close, paradoxically, as her response against Antenora's spell -- on her long memory, she has the least in terms of defence against sorcery. It's only the subtle shift in the air that prompts her to defend against the burst of wind that actually knocks her off the ledge--

        "Hover."

        --but Dr. Lumen's legacy gives her reprieve as she starts floating in the air, the Fourth Armour's Foot Parts keeping her aloft despite the circuitry damage racing through her.

        "Do you hear their anger, Antenora? The anger of these Drifters... I've only been privy to their friendship for a little while."

        Her eyes open -- and it is with a glow that surrounds her entire body. The characteristic trademark of a Buster being charged, as motes of light-blue energy start to surround her, wisping into the barrel of her X-Buster.

        "Time and time again... it's the anger of these people that truly change the times. Not through the hands of people granted power like me, or even through the rhetoric power of people like Vinsfeld..."

        A pause.

        "But through the hearts of people crying out for freedom."

        The hover shifts to an airdash as Kamui jockeys for space -- to zip towards an uncomfortable angle for the Cocytus elite to defend against; she's upside down when she hefts her Buster towards her.

        "So I hope that you spoke true earlier, that you are true to your feelings."

        The Buster flashes--

        "--because the debt of feeling is... the heaviest debt of all."

GS: Kamui has attacked Antenora with X-Buster - Charge Shot!
GS: Kamui has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Liath has posed.

"Master Lanval," remarks Liath, her voice crisp. Confident. Regardless of what they should be, Liath, at least, knows what they must be right now. Everything else -- "Ready yourself."

An arbitrary distinction.

Others address her; Liath's gaze remains fixated upon Ragnell as the other Seraph recovers from those threefold assaults with a dexterous grace. Her frown is one most severe. One can practically feel the Disapproval radiating from her.

It is marred, only briefly, by the faint quirk of a smile, unable to help it as Gwen speaks up. One that warms all the more when she spots Clarine, as if she wore every emotion she felt on her sleeve like a rainbow might every color. "Were that it under more agreeable circumstances," she notes, after a time. Really, she shouldn't even be here, this deep in the heart of enemy territory, in one of the Shrines that the Guard had been so adamant about disabling. And yet...

"The Maester? For what reason could he have for so heinous an act?" Gold eyes flutter in a blink, before brows crease inward in troubled thought. "... This land is more aggrieved than even I had thought, both from within and without... mm. You have my thanks, Lady Marivel." Her gaze turns back towards Ragnell.

"Though I do not see how a net could spur on such untoward behavior, shared or not."

...

"... unless it was the means by which they ensnared her? Some manner of enchantment, perhaps. Ah! A reciprocal binding of sorts!"

liath no--

But her musings are cut short by Ragnell's damnable pedantry. The eureka! moment that has graced her features melts away once more with the tick of her left brow and the tight tug of her lips towards their left corner. A small but obvious sign of irritation.

Less so, the way her cheeks begin to puff in raw indignance.

"It was a turn of phrase, as you well know were you not so insistent upon playing the fool to the consternation of all who deal with you!" declares an enlivened Liath, completely and utterly disregarding the very subtle irony of her berating anyone for not knowing what a turn of phrase might be.

Maybe if you ask *reeeeeal* sweet-like, I'll think about it~?

The Light Seraph's expression goes like this:

        >:| -> >8| -> >8( -> >8C

And then, thoroughly outraged, she -lunges- forward, into the blistering winds Hiro uses in an attempt to ensnare the stormy Seraph. Liath brings her own aspect of the storm into the mix, -ripping- upward artfully with her blade to catch Ragnell upon the tip of its ascending stroke, bringing with it a charged CRACKLE of lightning-like light, branching out like a plasmic tree of power between them.

"I will do no such thing! Now is far from the time or tone for such base jackanapery!! --And I am more than sweet enough!!! Yield!!!!"

Liath is Livid.

GS: Seraph Liath has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Lightning Tiger Blade!
GS: Seraph Liath has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        "...!" As Brad settles into a defensive position next to Gwen, the redhead manages to glance towards him in that same moment, momentairely surprised, but then giving him an appreciative nod.

        So what do a mini and a maxi Tank do when an equally powerful tank smash into the ground in front of them?

        In Gwen's case, she flies backwards, landing on a table of various goodies and cracking it straight down the middle.

        "... D... Damn it..." Gingerly, Gwen wipes a sugary line of sauce that is beginning to drip from over one flattened eyebrow.

        At least from this angle, she's getting a good view of Ptolomea's ARM, especially the similarities it has to the sorts she and Ida both sport. But unlikely she and Ida, he has the physical brawn to properly support the thing, rather than the methods she and Ida employ.
        
        ".... Huh." Even Ida's practiced strikes bounced off of him without a wince, but it looks like she's got the right idea.

        It's a lot easier to punch a brick wall if there's a few cracks in it already.

        Standing up from the destroyed remains of the dessert table (R I P), Gwen waits, taking advantage of the precious seconds the others give her in their efforts to repel Ptolomea off. Then, latching her teeth on the tip of of one leather finger of her right glove, she tugs on it, freeing the rapidly charging metallic hand underneath. Tucking her glove into the band tied around her waist, she grabs one part of the destroyed dessert table.

        "Ida! Clarissa! Chime Isa! Bra-d...?" Is that a missile...? "G-get ready! Gonna cast some more cracks into this boulder for the lot of ya right quick-like!" Slinging the flimsy wood of the table at Ptolomea, Gwen charges, attempting to cast a bright flash in the hardened soldier's face the moment the table breaks, whether by his attack or by it crashing against his frame.

        Then, as the light begins to settle, the second part of Gwen's assault begins, with a rude laser straight to the man's chest. "Gogogogogo!"

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Seraph Lanval's Blessed Drops for 83 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Seraph Liath's Lightning Tiger Blade for 151 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Ptolomea 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 Ptolomea with Corona Discharge!
GS: Ptolomea guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Quasar Palm for 0 hit points!
GS: Jam! applied to Ptolomea!
GS: CRITICAL! Ptolomea guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Corona Discharge for 97 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine's light drops down toward Caina in a searing beam...and the key moves in to intercept. No, not just to intercept - it absorbs her light, drinking it in and leaving Caina completely unharmed after the fact.

For Clarine this is Very Alarming, and her expression twitches with concern for just a brief moment, though she regains her composure quickly.

"...I see..." She remarks. She watches the key...and then, watches as it vanishes. No build-up, no sense of power - once it was there, and then it simply wasn't.

And then she senses it again, rocketing toward her. One of her mirrors moves to try to intercept it...but the key moves fast - impossibly fast. It strikes Clarine solidly in the center of the back, eliciting a gasp of surprise and knocking her forward out of the air, hitting the ground with a thud.

With a wince she braces herself, trying to rise - but pauses, as she hears Kamui speak.

'You're overestimating me...'

"...Kamui... I...I believe in you. In you. Everything you are...is another part of my friend. I will not forsake you." Clarine says, rising. She turns to look toward Kamui to offer a brief smile...but then, returns her attention to the battle at hand.

Her friends...

Right now, they needed her help. This sorceror, Caina, and his magic key of unknown origin, Randolph...their combined power was dangerous and unpredictable.

A circle of light indicative of a Seraphic arte spreads out beneath her feet, as yet more light rises from her form.

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

At this incantation, a pulse of light emanates from the circle on the ground, settling over Ashley and Dash to offer them both healing and protection.

"Be wary...their powers are unlike anything I have seen before. I know not from where they stem..." She warns - and pauses briefly, as Caina speaks of the cathedral. She looks at Ashley - that's a part of his history she isn't aware of.

Fortunately she already knows about Ashley's little secret, so it's not anything that'll put a wedge between them.

GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Ashley Winchester with Revitalize!
GS: Seraph Clarine has attacked Dash Caskett with Revitalize!
GS: Seraph Clarine has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Seraph Clarine has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Clarine heals Dash Caskett! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS:  Restore reduces negative status durations by 3 rounds each!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        It's true that Ragnell did make Hiro work for it, that she did go easy on him. But... "Hiro, if you think I need t' get sense knocked into me, you don't know a damn thing about me. Which is good! I don't *want* you to," she replies. But Ragnell isn't going to admit to *shit* in mixed company. "Besides--Lanval makes a good point. Even if you understood what's goin' on in my head, would it really do you any good? Am I gonna stop bein' an asshole because you know WHY I'm an asshole? Sometimes, Hiro, all you can do is stab a fucker in the face!"
        
        Lanval continues to refuse to address her directly. Thankfully (?), Ragnell no longer has time to lament that, because Liath takes her advice to heart while also yelling at her a whole lot about being a goddamn pedant, which nobody likes, RAGNELL. She laughs in delight, even as Hiro's Vortex arte buffets her into losing her footing, even as Lanval's bubbles snap and pop at her sides, even as Liath *slashes* her with that blade, a torrent of lightning exploding between them. She staggers back, nursing the wounds that crackle along her body; looks like she's not immune to her own element.
        
        "Oooh, what happens if I *do* yield? Will you lock me up in chains, Lady Liath? Whip me? Grind me under your heels?" Ragnell purrs, winking again with an even *more* egregiously outrageous wink. "Oh *nooo*, my Lady, *pleeease* have mercy~! I'll do *anything* you want... even *this*, or even *that*... Aahhn, I'm yours to do with as you please!"
        
        She aims for the air, power charging in her pistols once again, but for longer, and with a great BLAST of power as it shoots upwards. When it comes down again on Hiro, Lanval, and Liath, it's in the form of a great torrential thunderstorm, massive blasts of lightning rocking down amidst the rivers of rain, before all of a sudden it's gone as suddenly as it came.
        
        And in that time, Ragnell gets oh-so-close to the Prime Lord, smiling impishly, an eye once again winked shut. "Is that the kinda yieldin' you wanted me to do? <3" she breathes throatily.

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

He struck a nerve.

Not with just with his words and careless mention of his opponent's age, but-- when the key blocked his canister, its master was the one who suffered most for it. Are they linked? If so, then they do have a way to fight back. "Keep up the pressure!" Ashley yells toward Clarine and that unfamiliar young man in the fashionably-hued armor. "Even if he blocks with that key of his, he's still feeling it! Don't let up--"

Caina.

Speaks.

Ashley's words die in his throat. His gaze fixes, horrified and furious at Caina's confession. "You--" Every human who has ever felt unbridled rage and crushing anxiety knows the feeling surging through every facet of Ashley Winchester's world. Itaching tightness just

GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Hiro with Storm Shot!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Seraph Lanval with Storm Shot!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has attacked Seraph Liath with Storm Shot!
GS: Seraph Ragnell has completed her action.
GS: Hiro guards a hit from Seraph Ragnell's Storm Shot for 126 hit points!
GS: Seraph Liath takes a glancing hit from Seraph Ragnell's Storm Shot for 154 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ptolomea has posed.

"Too many soldiers left behind... too many battlefields without a point," Ptolomea says to Clarissa. "The world has to change. It has to be put to rights. It's up to those who would call themselves heroes to stop being left behind."

Rays of light rain down from Strahl Gewehr. They slash into Ptolomea -- and strong as he might be, he is not unstoppable. He stumbles forward, weakened by those lances of light, and his eyes narrow. And then he rushes forward, thrusting the tips of all three blades right at her midsection. He turns, then -- and narrows his eye at Chime.

"Heh... guess you can't learn new tricks, little puppy," he says to her. Then, he turns -- and he meets Ida's gaze. "Slayheim... but many others. Ones that you're not privy to. Ones that you can't begin to understand, Everstead-Rey."

He knows her. He does not share the courtesy. Her fingers jab for his sternum -- and his human hand slams into her stomach, throwing her back. At the same time, Ptolomea lifts the clawed arm into the air -- and the blades open, before he fires a round up. It shudders, then /explodes -- and a massive shockwave of fire erupts. It slams out, to hurtle Chime and Ida away from him if they do not move.

The wooden table smashes to bits on Ptolomea. He is not some impossible, inhuman force; he is merely at the peak of what training and cybernetics can provide. He has cuts and blood running down, from wounds, but they don't slow him. However, the flash of light into his eyes make him stumble.

He hears the missile come, rather than see it. His eye lacks focus, as it looks in Brad's direction. He turns the gun, aiming at Gwen -- and fires another powerful round for her and the remains of the snack tables.

The claw's blades slam shut with a snap. Then, Ptolomea punches the missile. Its casing folds in, crumpling like an emptied coke can, and the warhead explodes just ahead of it. Ptolomea walks into the flame, then through it, and grunts -- before he leaps into the air. The blades spin -- and slash like a wicked blender at his body.

"So be it," he says. "No offers. You've made your choice. I respect that -- and you know just how far respect between old soldiers can carry us, Evans!"

Not far enough.

GS: Ptolomea has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Iron Saber!
GS: Ptolomea has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Iron Shot!
GS: Ptolomea has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ptolomea has attacked Ptolomea with The One-Eyed Commander!
GS: Ptolomea takes a solid hit from Ptolomea's The One-Eyed Commander for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Shield! applied to Ptolomea!
GS: Cover and Mighty! applied to Ptolomea!
GS: Ptolomea has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Iron Saber!
GS: Ptolomea has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Iron Shot!
GS: Ptolomea has completed his action.
GS: Ptolomea has activated a Boss Action!
GS: Ptolomea has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Ptolomea has attacked Chime Isa with Ptolomea Dynamite!
GS: Ptolomea has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Ptolomea Dynamite!
GS: Ptolomea has attacked Brad Evans with Old Soldier Strike!
GS: Pierce!! Ptolomea's attack breaks through 100 temporary hit points! 0 remain!
GS: Chime Isa takes a solid hit from Ptolomea's Ptolomea Dynamite for 210 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"Valeria's Monster and its associated permutations work," Marivel assures Antenora so there is no further confusion.

She listens to Kamui's words. Truth is, she can hardly blame anyone for mistrusting Irving. And perhaps it is she who is not being objective, but in truth aside from Kamui...

GS: Pierce!! Ptolomea's attack breaks through 64 temporary hit points! 0 remain!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Ptolomea's Ptolomea Dynamite for 101 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Antenora with Guillotine!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Lanval takes a solid hit from Seraph Ragnell's Storm Shot for 178 hit points!
GS: Brad Evans has activated a Force Action!
GS: Brad Evans guards a hit from Ptolomea's Old Soldier Strike for 108 hit points!
GS: Reaper! applied to Brad Evans!
GS: Brad Evans takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        Is Acacia expecting more of an answer to her complaint? She's not really sure, to be honest. What answer would satisfy her? It's already clear enough that their opponent is once again not about to up and leave, so they're at an impasse, as frustrating as it is. Her crystal clarity against Acacia's flaring temper, bluntness against a tingling sort of irritation that won't let go of her head, like a vice across her temples.

        Still, the Odessa elite does offer her a few tidbits, little pieces of information that she registers and stores for later. From what the woman in front of her is saying, she has her own reasons to stick with Odessa - and something tells the reporter that Antenora isn't speaking in terms of idealism or dogma, especially not when she invokes her own bonds.

        ... does it make it better, part of her fuzzily wonders as she tries to recover from the fatigue of using her uncertain new power. It makes it more understandable, perhaps. It means she isn't a fake Crimson Noble getting off on blood. It means she isn't crowing over them or pretending that they've forced some kind of unforgivable slight onto Odessa. But just as there's nothing she can say to those members of Odessa, so can she not say anything to this, either. Just for different reasons.

        Her thoughts cut out as she feels a sudden flare beneath her, and the temperature starts to sharply rise - but she can't move in time to avoid the gout of searing flame. She's left breathless as she skitters back, her mind jangling as she feels her legs and arms burn. It's only her sense of practicality rising through the panic that sends her dropping to the floor in a roll; she doesn't think the flames are real, exactly, but she's sure as hell not taking any more chances.

        When she rises up onto one knee, gritting her teeth, it's with a frown in Kamui's direction. "... even if I am, I'm sticking right next to you," she rasps, her throat feeling too dry from the heat - but she lets out a quiet laugh anyway. "Sorry. I think I might be a really unreasonable Master after all," she adds, before her eyes sharpen. "I'm going to try to pin her down!"

        Old habits die hard - this time, she does grab for the Egg in her jacket pocket, if only because she's sure it will help her own concentration. But it's her pistol in her hand that sharply retorts, a perfectly average gunsmoke arm that nonetheless explodes in a vivid beam of dazzling light. She doesn't aim for Antenora herself, but rather the pendulums she carries; the same distortion of Ether tears at the air, then twists in on itself into a dampening field.

GS: Acacia Saitani has spent 1 Combo on Link, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked Antenora with Stop the Press!!
GS: Acacia Saitani has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Acacia Saitani has launched an attack Link!
GS: Acacia Saitani enters a Counter stance!
GS: Acacia Saitani has attacked Antenora with Hit Piece!
GS: Acacia Saitani has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Antenora completely evades a hit from Kamui's X-Buster - Charge Shot!
<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
As Lanval gives him some advice on - discerning the nature of Ragnell, Hiro grimaces, "It's more complicated than that Lanval. It has to be." Though perhaps - the poor kid simply wants for it to be that.
 
Rather than to believe that Ragnell is truly their enemy - working for the adversary of Mankind.
 
However then Ragnell follows up on that. "I'm not going to stab you IN THE FACE!" He shouts suddenly. "And - I don't know! Maybe! Why can't we TRY it!?"
 
Hiro though finds himself blindsided though by Liath's sudden bladework. His eyes struggling to follow that slash crackling with Seraphic Light. "Ragnell I think she's right - because that move was really sweet."
 
Ragnell however begins to charge up a shot overhead, and the youth has this grim look. "Bullets or Lightning - Bullets or Lightning - " Before he decides, "Both." And suddenly whips his shield up overhead and crouches down to try to turtle through and weather the storm. Putting a finger to the ice, a wind current shifts over the ice then up, filling the air with even chillier wind as the rain beats down on him.
 
When lightning crackles down, it makes contact with a rapidly forming thin sheet of ice that the chill wind has created from the torrential rain.
 
The current vaporizing it instantly, surging through the ice he stands on - only making the strikes the ground under him in a more indirect strike.
 
"Nnn-" His feet smoke, and he finds himself falling over, panting, another wound smoking from his shoulder where the electricity exited his body.
 
"I don't think she's interested in-" He mutters, seeming embarrassed, before he begins an incantation - the winds he'd created before to try to box Ragnell in become more violent - it's a quiet thing at first in the aftermath of Ragnell's vanishing attack. Subtle, but it grows in force until it's trying to batter her this way and that way with its twisting winds. Giving the impression of trying to make her a ping pong ball.
 
"-that kind of yielding."
 

GS: Hiro has spent 1 Combo on Gatling, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Hiro has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Cyclone!
GS: Hiro has completed his action.
GS: Clarissa Arwin completely evades a hit from Ptolomea's Iron Saber!
GS: Antenora takes a solid hit from Marivel Armitage's Guillotine for 122 hit points!
GS: Antenora completely evades a hit from Acacia Saitani's Stop the Press!!
GS: Antenora critically Guards a hit from Acacia Saitani's Hit Piece for 0 hit points!
GS:  Infect extends negative status by 1 round!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Ptolomea's Iron Shot for 155 hit points!
GS: Mighty! applied to Ptolomea!
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

"Miss Gwen!" Clarissa cries out to the super courier. "You can do it!!"

Memories float back for her - lurching off the shore of Operation Mi'ihen, a wounded Gwen on her back. Fighting alongside the courier feels right, somehow. Like two paths converging.

The path Ptolomea walks with her is a more sad and painful one. Clarissa touches down with a click of heels, stepping back and shielding herself with one arm. Her eyes dip a moment, then rise again. "...But is it truly changing the world," she asks quietly, "when the way there is through more battlefields... more people being left behind?"

Ptolomea bears down on her like a steamroller. Clarissa widens her eyes as he closes in on her--

Instinct takes over. She moves.

As if in slow motion, Ptolomea's ARM slashes at her - and the very edge of it slashes through a few billowing strands of golden hair. Thin whisps drift through the air as Clarissa spins. For a split-second that seems like an eternity, her back is to Ptolomea as she pivots on the toe of one boot.

"...Maybe it's because I'm not a Hero," she whispers, her voice hanging in the space between heartbeats as she glances at Ptolomea over her shoulder. "But...

"...I remember Slayheim too...."

She finishes her spin. Twisting out of it, Clarissa practically dances away from Ptolomea, grabbing for an overturned chair and tossing it between herself and him to try and impede him as she gains distance. It'll be no obstacle to him at all but it might buy her a split-second or two, and she's increasingly realizing that every one of those matters. Marivel has shown her that. She may not be a Hero, but the little Crimson Noble has done a lot to help Clarissa become part of an Army.

For a heartbeat, her eyes linger on Brad. She'd never talked to him about his experiences. What he might have shared with Felius. Why her brother was always silent about Slayheim, and what he might have seen. An oversight. A scar she needs to feel, for him.

"All I ever wanted in the world was to replace hurt with happiness," she says quietly. "That's why Commander Vinsfeld has a lot to answer for...."

Strahl Gewehr shines as Clarissa raises it again, firing a shot that roars across the room with a brilliant glow. "...and why I have to stand on this battlefield here!" she shouts, her heart soaring into her voice with utter conviction.

GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Ptolomea with Howling Shot!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has completed her action.
GS: Ptolomea takes a solid hit from Clarissa Arwin's Howling Shot for 170 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

        Chime shrugs slightly, "Old habits die hard~" she counters cheerfully while flashing Ida an apogeltic smile. Then she starts to jump backward as the shockwave blasts outward. A poor choice as she ends up caught up in it anyways, tumbling along the ground roughly with several ows, and maybe a curse.

        "Ugh, now that's a neat trick~ Does it regenerate it's own ammunition for that?" she calls out curiously as she takes stock of her scrapped vest, and the holes growing in her pants and long sleeves along with the damage to her boots. She's also bleeding from a head wound but she doesn't seem concerned for the moment.

        Bouncing back up to her feet, she holsters one crossbow as she says "Right, so many interesting ARMs here~ Glad I came." mostly to herself as she looks at Clarrisa, then Brad, then the other fights. While pulling out a crest card. "But I won't get to study any of them if we fall~" and holds the card above her head focusing on it for a moment. A bright green-blue light swirls around Chime, and then out encompassing Brad, Ida, Gwen, and Clarissa as the crest magic strengthens everyone for the moment to keep going.

GS: Chime Isa has activated a Force Action!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Chime Isa with Hi-Heal!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Brad Evans with Hi-Heal!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Hi-Heal!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Hi-Heal!
GS: Chime Isa has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Hi-Heal!
GS: Chime Isa has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Hyper expired!
GS: Chime Isa has completed her action.
GS: Chime Isa heals Clarissa Arwin! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Chime Isa heals Chime Isa! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Chime Isa heals Brad Evans! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Brad Evans takes an additional 5 damage from Reaper!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

        A rainbow flashes in brief where light and water meet together, an arching prism that disappears soon after. Lanval, usually any number of variations of dopey and stupid smiles and however many different gradients of 'sleepy-looking,' seems to have settled on a more static, unamused glare that does not wear very well on his face at all as Ragnell gleefully accentuates his original point and cozies along up to Liath in a way he hadn't seen in a few years.
        "Mmmph." Lanval exhales, as Hiro still wants to see into some greater complexity. "Don't let 'em induce doubt..."
        Her positioning sees him hold his fire (...water) as if to withhold from potential cross-fire that could put Liath in harm's way, and Ragnell shoots upwards. A rainstorm comes down in brief, and Lanval stands quiet(er) under that moment.
        There's something of a sorrowful air to that picture.
        At Lanval's lowest, Ragnell was one of the few among his own kind who would still give him the time of day. He could scarce stay upright for long without drowning his sorrows. Not... that he generally liked being upright, but that's beyond the point.
        For a few years, the closest he could have considered to a friend among his peers when he had almost no one else. No mortals could see him, his own kind shunned him for the dishonor he suffered.
        Lightning strikes and runs through him, a squelchy 'zorch' as it courses through water that has accumulated so much. Greater plumes of smoke rise from the Water Seraph, and the rainstorm since ceases...
        ...but then it comes back. Ragnell will know intristically that's not hers, as Lanval channels both the ambient moisture in the air from the damaged, melting ice all around and... something else.
        Raindrops start to spear down from above. Not one of them touch against Hiro, or Ruby, or Liath. That seems mathematically probable for how few there are... but then they pick up in number. Not one raindrop still falls upon them. Raindrops that are not just simple, clean, pure water - but raindrops that are also accented with what decay and rot gets in, and befalls, the water itself.
        Some of the very water of Filgaia, as Lanval rises up, holding the drinking gourd on high. The raindrops that seem to angle themselves as such that they bear down upon Ragnell's position, each like a tiny arrow-spear of water.
        "Begone." Finally, words towards Ragnell again - directly to her - and they are bereft of the whimsy that marks Lanval. Words that don't even flow or play off of her flirting towards the Prime Lord. Harsh words, towards one of the very few he could have said within that span of a few years as to be a friend.
        For creatures of such long lives, where sentimentalism can easily carry across centuries or longer... that it all just goes away in an instant may be unnerving on a level that cannot be so easily conveyed outside of their own kind.
        Is all of that good will really gone, just like that? Washed away, with this rain?

GS: Seraph Lanval has activated a Force Action!
GS: Seraph Lanval has spent 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Seraph Lanval has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Rain of Terror!
GS: Seraph Lanval has completed his action.
GS: Chime Isa heals Ida Everstead-Rey! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Chime Isa heals Gwen Whitlock! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

He struck a nerve.

Not with just with his words and careless mention of his opponent's age, but-- when the key blocked his canister, its master was the one who suffered most for it. Are they linked? If so, then they do have a way to fight back. "Keep up the pressure!" Ashley yells toward Clarine and that unfamiliar young man in the fashionably-hued armor. "Even if he blocks with that key of his, he's still feeling it! Don't let up--"

Caina.

Speaks.

Ashley's words die in his throat. His gaze fixes, horrified and furious at Caina's confession. "You--" Every human who has ever felt unbridled rage and crushing anxiety knows the feeling surging through every facet of Ashley Winchester's world. It's the aching tightness that spreads from the stomach into the hollow of the chest and strangles the air from the lungs. It's the dull sense of pressure in the frontal lobe as higher reasoning falters and falls to a rushing onslaught of emotion. It's the chill in the chest that creeps up the neck and into the cheeks and across the brow, the hot tears forming unbidden in glaring eyes, the tension in the shoulders and the arms and how every single fiber of one's being is wound tight and about to explode and yet you struggle to even find the will to scream...!

"You're the one," Ashley breathes. He barely speaks. His the sounds he produces are difficult to describe as spoken words, only as quiet, horrified whispers. "You're the one... The one responsible. The one who killed them...! You--"

The world abruptly burns violet. Ashley feels his gut sail up into his chest and squeeze against his heart as space abruptly inverts. His voice disintegrates into a strangled, pained gurgle as the universe contorts and reality turns against him. His mouth unhinges in a silent scream as his rifle clatters to the ground.

This is the way to the gate.

Lined with relics of the dead.

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

It's not the agony of being trapped in a world of physics gone mad that bids him to scream. To the people outside the circle, it seems as though Ashley has simply vanished. For Ashley, it's not so simple. The ruined cathedral gives way, he sucks in a breath, opens his eyes, and suddenly he's back there.

It's a place he recognizes. Multicolored light shines through a beautiful stained glass window, glittering across a plush, crimson carpet. It's... as if waking from a dream. The fury is barely remembered, replaced by breathless confusion. "I... I'm back?" He asks, blinking a slowly in the warm light of Filgaia's setting sun. "How did he-- I need to get in contact with Valeria. I--"

He lifts his hand to his face.

What he finds there is not his hand.

It's a twisted claw. A green, gnarled limb like a tendril or a vine tipped in a vestigial hand. Ashley's breath catches in an alien, monstrous throat. He staggers back, a clawed foot landing with a squelch in something sticky and wet and warm.

He looks back in horror. The carpet is red and soaked with blood. There, beneath his feet, the viscera of what used to be a man, cut in half and yet still linked by snaking entrails.

The corpse twitches. A hand seizes around his ankle. A dead man's head turns to meet him with its pale, bloodless face. "You did this."

"No--" Ashley cries, tugging his leg free only to fall back against the blood-slicked dais. The room fills with corpses. Dozens of faces that flash across his memory. Faces he knew only briefly, burnt into the recesses of his mind. "No, this wasn't me. I--" They creep forward, a tide of broken bodies and lolling tongues and long-dead faces. "You belong here. With us." The horde reaches with a hundred grasping limbs, seizing arm and leg and everything in between. "You should have died. YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED!"

"I WANTED TO!"

But.

He didn't.

Memories flood back. That terrible day. The choices he made. The agony of survival, of killing and killing and killing just to take one more step.

Of the fire burning within.

Of the blade waiting in its pedestal.

"I wanted to," Ashley sobs as the flames stir. "I wanted to so badly. But I didn't. I didn't. I couldn't. I fought so hard just to stay alive, but all I did-- all I did was--" His eyes squeeze tight-- no, they don't. They can't. The eyes of this monster cannot shut, they cannot cry. He watches with unblinking gaze as the fire catches the first grasping hand. "I... I wanted so badly... To go home..."

Flesh ignites like paper. A rotting face contorts into a grimace, then a scream, then disappears entirely as the fire takes it. "I'm sorry," Ashley whispers. "I'm sorry. I can't be here with you. I can't. This power... I have it. I need... need to use it."

His fists clench tight. So tight that it hurts. The fire spreads, consuming him. His horror vanishes as the fury returns, tempered so dangerously by righteousness and justice. He screams as the flames spread, as his body burns black, as his hand seizes around the hilt of a blade just as it clung so tightly to the hilt of that holy sword...! "I'm sorry! For doing this! All of this! But I found the one! I can't be here-- not until I've done everything I have to, to make things right! I have... to go home..."

The flames...

Consume all the world.

In the cathedral, it seems as if Ashley was only gone for a moment. A second passes, then another. Then, suddenly everything changes.

BGM CHANGE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvVk0L5lpZY

Reality shatters like a pane of broken glass. A sudden heat surges into the room, filling the air with the scent of sterilizing fire. A voice like Ashley's and yet also like a raging forest fire erupts, full of fury and wrath. The Black Knight rushes forward with a sword of azure flame, surging through Clarine's blessing even as it leaves contrails of light swimming through the air in his wake. "YOU--! Ashley Winchester-- KNIGHT BLAZER shouts, spreading the growing inferno with each swing of his burning blade, "YOU'RE THE ONE! You'll pay for what you did! For what you made me do! I'll kill you, if it's the last thing I do!"

DC: Ashley Winchester switches forms to Knight Blazer!
GS: Seraph Clarine heals Ashley Winchester! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS:  Restore reduces negative status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Ashley Winchester has attacked Caina with Fury Striker!
GS: Ashley Winchester has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashley Winchester has completed his action.
GS: Caina takes a solid hit from Ashley Winchester's Fury Striker for 164 hit points!
GS: Ashley Winchester assumes the Avenger stance!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida's breath rushes from her lungs as Ptolomea's hand connects. The big man shoves her away, and she stumbles back, catching herself. "You're right," Ida says. "I--" Ptolomea raises his ARM, and the thunderous report of his cannon tears through the air. Airburst? Ida thinks, and she takes the gamble--the shield unfolds from her forearm again, and she throws the arm up as the shockwave races at her. It hits her dead-on, pouring across the shield and boiling through the air around her. Something pops in her shoulder, painfully, but it's an afterthought to the fact that she's being cooked alive. She bites her tongue to keep herself from screaming.

        Someone else screams instead. Ashley. Ashley, or--?

        Ida's heart leaps against her ribs. One thing at a time, she thinks, even as she desperately hopes Marivel has some way to keep things from escalating further. Once again, muscle memory takes over. The shield folds back into Ida's arm, and she reaches beneath her cloak, whipping Devil's Due from its holster. Ida takes aim at Ptolomea's center of mass and lets out a breath. Chi billows from her lips, sinking to the ground and tracing out a glowing mandala at her feet. The world seems to hold its breath.

        Ida pulls the trigger. Devil's Due roars. White-hot Dragonflame pours from the barrel, snaking down the bridge as if pursuing Ptolomea of its own volition.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has spent 1 Combo on Link, including 2 on Gatling!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Inhalation!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has launched an attack Link!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Inhalation for 0 hit points!
GS: Amplify! applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey's  stance ends. She enters the Avenger stance!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has spent 2 Combo on Poison and Gatling, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Ptolomea with Breath Of The Fire Dragon!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ptolomea takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Breath Of The Fire Dragon for 172 hit points!
GS: Ptolomea suffers an additional 27 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Poison! applied to Ptolomea!
<Pose Tracker> Dash Caskett has posed.

The Buster steams gently after the shots leave the barrel. In his head, dormant systems activate in response to the continuing temperature problem.

<SYSTEMS REROUTING, LIFE SHIELD ACTIVE_>

This individual is stronger than expected. Suppose it makes sense for Odessa to have such individuals. Tha todd device at Caina's command absorbs his Buster fire as if it were nothing. "That is..." Well, impossible comes to mind, but if it were, that wouldn't have just happened. "We won't be detered so easily! We have fought against the odds before and come out on top!" Dash shouts from behind his mask.

Whatevere that thing is Caina commands, it closes distance at a clip difficult for the blue bomber to dictate. There is a sudden reversal of gravity and an impact. So swift is the hit that Dash is already on the ground before internals beging to calculate damage. And quite a hit it was. The torso took the brunt, and there are breaches in the second layer of the armor.

Tge damage is visible as well. Sparking comes from some small openings in the lower left torso area. A leg takes a moment to start responding to commands to stand. The flash of the X-Buster causes the boy to look up. A devastating attack from a similar weapon. So powerful! He ponders a moment if hers is a superior model of some kind from the same age. The important part is it is being used in the name of good. "Be careful..." he grunts out as he stabilizes himself.

Systems begin to report repairs occuring however. Surely from outside sources. A look nearby answers that query. "Thanks, Clarine...!" he says kindly.

There is a ripple of unbridled force at his flank, more heat, but different in intensity. A look finds a different individual where that Ashley fellow once was. And yet it still calls to defeat Caina. Well, here is hoping they are still an ally! "Hey guy!" he shouts over the battle. "Hold your weapon high!"

The Mega Buster is aimed toward whatever Knight Blazer elects to raise. The light within the weapon, keens from yellow to near-white, and a trailing shot is fired, aimed right for the weapon. But rather than impact or damage, the shot washes over the weapon, granting it a surge of power.

Some of the power fro mthe shot likewise backsplashes on the Mega Buster, supercharging it as well. The weapon glows radiantly.

GS: Dash Caskett has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Antenora has posed.

"All right then," Antenora answers Marivel. With some, there might be an expectation of sarcasm, of mockery over such niceties--but the sorceress shows none of it. It's just another set of facts to consider, another matter to be settled.

"Not all cries for freedom are answered before the night falls. How many die, before those remaining 'change' what was? Most of those hearts go unanswered, trampled and forgotten. They can only hope that a 'hero' will arrive in time to save them... And not too late."

"I hear their anger. It does not change my path."

Antenora can see; she can see the might of that legacy, the way that Kamui can do more than simply fight, despite the damage to her systems. She sees the glow coming, the surrounding of her body, and while it is not familiar to her, it speaks a sign that is plain to read. No, as she speaks, she is watching, moving to understand--and judging where she is. Such that when that hope is spoken, when the Buster flashes--

Antenora whirls to the side, the angle awkward and difficult but made nevertheless, the phantom projectile of the X-Buster exploding into the icy ground behind her, breaking up shards and scattering the snow and dirt over the walkway. Antenora finishes her dodge with her back tilted, her spine twisted at an uncomfortable angle--

And looking sharply to Kamui. "That weight is one I willingly bear. I know its meaning."

As she shifts a foot back to stabilize herself and recover--"No more than any in my position must be," Antenora answers at the matter of talent. "Talent, skill, luck... It's the results that are most important." But she listens to something else--something also important, Marivel's altered perspective, as a monster. What she does... what she does not do.

Antenora turns towards Marivel as she rushes, keeping Kamui in her sights as she backtracks, attempting to regain range for her spells. The two are paired in this, after all.

The strange liquid blade hits her solidly, impacting her protective spells with clear force, enough to make the woman stumble back once again a few steps, briefly off-balance--

And lucky this time, to spot Acacia's shot coming and let herself fall to the side to evade it. There, stable on the ground, it is easier to erect a barrier that blocks much of the magic in it--...though even through her barrier, the weakening of her magic persists, the threads of Ether twining around her visibly as they fade into her aura.

"...I agree," she tells Marivel then, from a defensive crouch. "Without failure, one cannot truly prepre for success. Without suffering, there can be no new birth. Without despair, hope is hollow."

It is luck, in part, that allows Antenora to defend against Acacia's unusual power--but only in part. Even the power Acacia can wield when focusing with the Egg she's used to comes up against the frightful ability of each member of the Cocytus squad. ...However...

She is, for the moment, pinned down--while her pendulums swing still, she is not in a position to move backward any further. She must return on the offense.

"I thought it wouldn't be a complete balm," Antenora allows to Acacia. "...How far would you go, for this servant? How far would she go, for you? Is it farther than you would hope?"

Her eyes snap, sharp, to the shattering of reality, to the appearance of Knight Blazer. ...But only for an instant--she works her magic, undeterred by the increase in force arrayed against them.

She glows with power, golden light sparkling about her as she channels it--her palm opens, forward, completing the motion of the spell. "Desolation," the woman intones, and strange, sunset light projects from her hand, like the beams of roving spotlights, a lighthouse; where they touch, the color drains from the world, slowly turning gray, sluggish, lifeless--and if Marivel and Kamui cannot defend, this may apply to them, as well.

Her other hand closes suddenly, and a shining barrier erupts around her, all firm light and crystalline phantasm that fades as well into her aura--

 before a rushing blast of invisible force crashes towards Acacia, somehow more real in the instant than anything around it--bright, vibrant--

Destructive. She remains, for the moment--pinned down. Unless her assault is enough to finish...

GS: Antenora used Mystic on Antenora! Status effect durations increased by 2! Temporary HP duration increased by 2!
GS: Antenora has activated a Force Action!
GS: Antenora has attacked Marivel Armitage with Desolation!
GS: Antenora has attacked Kamui with Desolation!
GS: Antenora has completed her action.
GS: Antenora has attacked Acacia Saitani with Dasein!
GS: Antenora has attacked Antenora with Defilade!
GS: Kamui guards a hit from Antenora's Desolation for 0 hit points!
GS: Entangle and Mute! applied to Kamui!
GS: Kamui enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Dash Caskett has spent 1 Combo on Inspire, including 1 on Gatling!
GS: Dash Caskett has attacked Ashley Winchester with Photon Infusion!
GS: Dash Caskett has attacked Dash Caskett with Photon Infusion!
GS: Dash Caskett has completed his action.
GS: Kamui used Defend! She takes Antenora's attack on Acacia Saitani on herself!
GS: Kamui takes a solid hit from Antenora's Dasein for 157 hit points!
GS: Antenora heals Antenora! She gains 150 temporary hit points!
GS:  Restore reduces negative status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Shield! applied to Antenora!
GS: Mighty! applied to Antenora!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes a glancing hit from Antenora's Desolation for 0 hit points!
GS: Entangle and Mute! applied to Marivel Armitage!
GS: Marivel Armitage enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Dash Caskett takes a solid hit from Dash Caskett's Photon Infusion for 0 hit points!
GS: Amplify! applied to Dash Caskett!
GS: Dash Caskett gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Ashley Winchester takes a solid hit from Dash Caskett's Photon Infusion for 0 hit points!
GS: Amplify! applied to Ashley Winchester!
GS: Ashley Winchester gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Brad Evans has posed.

Ptolomea just punched a missile to death and Brad grimaces, feet slipping on the cold ground as he half-conciously adjusts his posture. "Well that's a real piece of work you've got there," Brad mutters, as his scaffolding flickers to inert dust. He brings his own augmentation up, hoping to counter the worst of Ptolomea's might. Two heavy warriors, two heavy weapons - only one is designed for melee. The match should be decided easily enough...

Except that Ptolomea's blending blade makes a horrible CHUNK as it stops against Brad's shoulder, revving higher to try and pierce through. Brad yanks his arm out of the way, the shredded cloth falling away to reveal a cloth-weave armor of the kind you mostly have to salvage from Gebler.

Brad looks at it with surprise. "How the hell'd she--" he stops himself, and turns because he hears Knight Blazer screaming. "Ashley..." he mutters. "...hope that kid can contain himself...." What else is he going to do? Intervene?

Instead he turns his attention back to Ptolomea, remembering himself. He feels energy flow through him, and feels there's only one thing he can really do. So he clenches his fist, power surging through the Mechanical Glove, and forces himself to step right into Ptolomea's space.

"Didn't you hear?" he says."I'm a prisoner, now."

Then he socks Ptolomea across the jaw.

GS: Brad Evans has activated a Force Action!
GS: Brad Evans has spent 3 Combo on Gatling, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Brad Evans has attacked Ptolomea with Big Fist!
GS: Brad Evans takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Hyper expired!
GS: Brad Evans has completed his action.
GS: Ptolomea takes a solid hit from Brad Evans's Big Fist for 133 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Hiro's Cyclone for 67 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a glancing hit from Seraph Lanval's Rain of Terror for 60 hit points!
GS: Seraph Ragnell suffers an additional 24 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Poison! applied to Seraph Ragnell!
GS: Seraph Lanval assumes the Avenger stance!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Liath has posed.

Gold eyes are shut as Liath lands from that furious, rising assault; her blade flicking artfully yet efficiently to her side, shield held at the ready, she looks a most deceptive portrait in serenity as Ragnell staggers.

A perfect picture of an eye in a very gravely offended storm.

"You have my thanks," she says to Hiro, once more a font of calm. Tense calm. "... But this blade is not made for anything sweet."

It's okay, Hiro. If she knew the other meanings of sweet, she'd probably be more pleased.

There is a distraction, of course: "... Video?" before Ragnell recovers herself.

And another, as she readies her offensive with winking delight: "Whip? I wield no whip. By what absurd mechanism do you think a blade might become a whip--"

And despite that being the focus of her umbrage, if Liath has any further points of contention they fall by the wayside the moment she feels that fluctuation in energies on the part of Ragnell. It is a massive, swelling thing, like the dawn of a stormfront. Gold eyes snap wide, but she notices just a second too late; lightning crashes down, a smiting snap of light that travels just as fast as one might expect. And Liath --

Immediately falls into a kneel, -thrusting- her shield overhead.

Too late. She cannot enchant the bulwark in time. There is a prismatic sheen that begins to flow through beautifully-forged steel not even a second before electricity, quite appropriately - or not - whips into that pristine surface. She is enveloped in a pillar of lightning as ionizing air fills her nostrils and jolting heat conducts through her shield all the way through her spiritual flesh, sending powerful, painful jolts throughout her frame.

In the aftermath, as Ragnell gets so close, Liath is still kneeling, head bowed, shield still up, smoke rising off from her. Ragnell gets in close. Breathes her question.

What she gets in response is a gloved hand taking hold of hers, grip steadfast despite the spasms jolting through her. All she receives, is the twitch of lips mouthing something. Whispering something? Just under her breath, but growing louder in pitch. Something intimate, perhaps--

                          "O sword of conviction,
                              loose the might
                         of your brilliant colors!"

Oh, no.

No, she's just summoning six massive shards of crystal to surround the both of them, that's all.

Crystals that proceed to refract a brilliant splendor of light between the six of them, bouncing energy between them all to catch Ragnell in their wrath --

                              "Prism Sword!"

--before a seventh crashes down for the heavens.

Right for Ragnell.

"My boots grind only worms beneath their heels, Ragnell. But you are no worm. You do not deserve such."

did she miss the point or is that just a very subtle counter"Regardless..."

And slowly, Liath will stand once again, taking in a shuddering breath she does not need. Sword in hand once more. Eyes cracking open, full of steel.

"You may keep your chains and your internets, for I shall not provide them for you! ... But you have my apologies. I will not question your resolve again. Yet, as long as you stand there, and I here, we will be at odds. I will give no quarter."

Sword raised. Tip pointed.

The right corner of Liath's lips twitch upward, just so.

"Those who consort with fiends ought well share the fate of them. Would you not agree?"

GS: Seraph Liath enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Seraph Liath has attacked Seraph Ragnell with Prism Sword!
GS: Seraph Liath has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Liath has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Ragnell takes a solid hit from Seraph Liath's Prism Sword for 155 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Caina has posed.

        "That's right," the sorceror (?) says to Ashley, narrowing his sole visible eye. "You're the one who messed up everything!"

        ...No, not sorceror.

        Perhaps the more accurate term might be 'demon summoner'.

        "A healer, are you?" he remarks to Clarine. "Do what you want. It won't be enough."

        Dash speaks to him outright, saying that they won't be so deterred. Caina shakes his head dismissively. "Yesterday's results are not tomorrow's future! Now, meet your end!" He again draws that key towards him, with apparently nothing but his will alone.

        "Hey! Randolph!"

        The key shines silver.

"Open the gate!"

        Fleetingly there is the impression underfoot both Dash and Clarine in brilliant white. Magic circles--?
        Before the lines are overtaken, rapidly, by an intense magenta, an impossible color. Light burns up from each magic circle.

        Before the gate opens properly, for those blessed and cursed by those magic circles.
        And they can 'see' beyond it for a moment.
        For them, the world implodes in white.

        But around Ashley such magic fails altogether. Is it because of the enchantment from Clarine? The infusion from Dash? Or--

        Ashley screams. Ashley...

        Caina finally moves, taking a step back, as if in the face of the heat rolling from the awakened Knight Blazer. "This-- no, it's-- Randolph, stop!"

        The key has attempted to intercede, but this time--
        Caina shoves it aside, terror briefly masking his face. The key flies end over end to one side as that great burning blade finishes its arc.
        And connects with Caina.

        The demon summoner lets out a scream himself and collapses, clutching at the rend. "R-Randolph-- help me--"

        And what can the key do but respond to his will? The key flashes; there is a rent in the air.

        This time there is no contact from the strange key itself. What rips across time and space, from the point where it hovers now to the point where it intends to reach -- Knight Blazer -- is a single flash of light. A photon can cross the universe with enough time. Eventually--

        --It may reach its target.
        There may be an explosion.

GS: Caina has attacked Seraph Clarine with Gate of Isolde!
GS: Caina has attacked Dash Caskett with Gate of Isolde!
GS: Caina has spent 2 Combo on Headshot, including 3 on Gatling!
GS: Caina enters a Counter stance!
GS: Caina has attacked Ashley Winchester with Degenerate Field Ripper!
GS: Ashley Winchester guards a hit from Caina's Degenerate Field Ripper for 97 hit points!
GS: Seraph Clarine critically Guards a hit from Caina's Gate of Isolde for 0 hit points!
GS: Dash Caskett takes a glancing hit from Caina's Gate of Isolde for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

Watching her friends be tossed about like toys is disturbing enough. It's another to see that sort of pain again and again right in your face. If Ptolomea's gun doesn't blast her back immediately, the force of Ptolomea punching that missile does the rest, throwing Gwen back with a painful thud on her back and momentum sending her sliding against the smooth surface.
Gwen Whitlock says, "'scuse me." Gwen squeezes past the tall ARMS agent, her fist held back."

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        Watching her friends be tossed about like toys is disturbing enough. It's another to see that sort of pain again and again right in your face. If Ptolomea's gun doesn't blast her back immediately, the force of Ptolomea punching that missile does the rest, throwing Gwen back with a painful thud on her back and momentum sending her sliding against the smooth surface.

        For a moment, it feels like a travesty to even consider getting back up, with the way her gut feels like it's about to write a restraining order against her entire nervous system. Blessed magic blots out the pain then, giving Gwen the gumption to actually sit up. "T-thank you, Chime!" She waves a fruit sauce and blood soaked hand at the seraph, looking equal parts comical and utterly ghastly.


        The blast of heat coming from where Ashley, Caina, and the others briefly distracts Gwen, the heat ruffling and unsticking some of the curls from against her wet scalp. "... Ashley...?"

        AWhether it was an act, Gwen's true reactions, or a muddled mix of both, all that humor melts away as Gwen stars at the distant form of Lord Blazer.

        This is the sweet man who helped her with that muffin delivery, a young man so innocent and good-natured that even Gwen found it hard to believe he was a soldier.

        She remembers another time when this happened, but fully seeing this and *facing* the fact that it is happening makes it very, very tempting to just lie back down and wish the whole very very bad day away to the depths of hell it came from.

        Brad offers another possibility: punching.

        Brad definitely has the right idea, there.

        "'scuse me." Gwen squeezes past the tall ARMS agent, her fist held back.

        Gwen has a message to deliver, and she's going to deliver it to Ptolomea's face.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Ptolomea with Special Delivery!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Ptolomea takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Special Delivery for 143 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ptolomea has posed.

Strahl Gewehr fires, and the shot rips across the battlefield -- and slams into Ptolomea's chest. It slams him backward, blood blooming from the wound on his chest. He stumbles back from Brad, and the Cocytus member's eyes turn -- drilling down into Clarissa for a moment.

"You've got guts... I'll give you that!" he calls to her. "But... we'll see if that spirit survives the truth of war."

He cannot, at the moment, see the transformation that has gripped Ashley. Devil's Due fires, chi-made flame slamming intoi him. He crosses his arms; it blasts around him, burning his flesh, and blowing him backward. But he rises.

He catches Gwen's punch -- and yet it still hurts. There is a sickening crunch, from micro-fractures in his hand. He takes a step back from her.

And, in that space, Brad Evans walks up to him. "Heard something about--" The punch hits him with a sickening crack. Ptolomea's head snaps to one side and he stumbles back, his footing lost. He falls to a knee, breathing hard. Then, he stands up. Rivulets of sweat and blood run down his body. He will have new scars today. He looks at his opponents -- and nods, with respect.

But respect goes only so far.

Flashes of light begin to erupt around him. They begin to erupt across the ground over Macalania Temple. More and more Odessa soldiers appear -- a veritable army, gathered and armed, weapons trained. A couple dozen of those guns are trained directly on his enemy. Ptolomea lowers his head, then, and looks forward.

"Life's not fair," he says. "But Evans... he knows this. Time for the rest of you to learn it."

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        Clarine believes in her. Why? The more she digs, the more she finds that is unpleasant. "I once found you in the dark, and we went together to the light..." she whispers. "But inside..."

        There may be no light.

        Such is the nature she is discovering, that when she shifts to stand by Marivel for a moment, she answers:

        "Maybe," A pause. "Maybe it is the same for you as it is for me, too. How we can't seem to see in reflection what others believe so much in us, much like what Clarine, and Acacia, and Dash are all saying..."

        A pause. A quiet, odd smile. For her mother.

        "Because monsters can't see their reflections. Isn't that right.... mother?"

        That smile disappears, though, because no matter how much she tries to stand by her, Acacia is suffering; when she tumbles and starts to burn, she knows that she's got to step it up further. No matter how much she's tried to bury it, that pang of emotion, of guilt, of concern is still leaking away, leaking from the Suffering Circuit that knows her too well.

        It is with sluggishness that she moves, affected by Antenora's power. Her world becomes gray, lifeless, like a morass that she has to get through. She keeps pushing forward.

        The blast comes for Acacia, and the Reploid disappears. There is a loud CRASH-- and there is an awful, sickening and crunching noise of metal against the sheer forces of power that the Cocytus leader can manifest.

        And when the snowy mist, the powdery dust of ice have dissipated...

        Kamui is there in front of her Master, reeling, her body sparking with errant electricity coursing through her.

        "Master... I told you I cannot die... so..."

        Her eyes close.

        "<System... Access.>"

        "I am ready, Antenora. I am ready to become..."


                                                  /
_ _ _ _____ _____ __ _ _ __ _ ____ /
| | | /_____\ |_____| |\ | | |\ | / / ___
| | | | | | \ | \ | | | \ | | --*----
\_/ \_/ | | | | | \| | | \| \___/ \
 ___________________________________________ / \
                                            /


        (BGM: Falling Down - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a33aCphcY-s )

        "... a Maverick."

DC: Kamui switches forms to Ultimate Armour Equipped - Maverick Hunter Kamui!
<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        That infernal light that once made itself known in Luca fires from space, cutting through Spira's atmosphere. It is a purplish, bluish light that sticks and envelops around Kamui's entire body -- much like Xiumei's transformation, a manifestation of data into physical reality is seen, in the form of ancient armour plating.

        The Armour is purple, rugged with the texture of rough-hewn obsidian, hemmed and highlighted with the trim of gold. And it is as old as her. It has the appearance of a relic of many wars. Indeed. Is that Demon still in there, within Ashley? She hears that horrible voice again. Every instinct, every system inside of her screeches.

        If only Ashley knew the irony that this Armour... and herself...

        How long has it been since the start of battle? The Reploid within the Armour cannot tell. The crunch of a fallen soldier of the Lord's, beneath her feet. The rending hiss that escapes out of the Armour's gauntlet. There are more in the distance. There is always more. It was endless. It is endless. And within that unending wave... within that wave... there was fire. Fire... unending fire.

        ... they once both fought the Great Conflagration.

        The fire that engulfed her armor plating, her systems, she could endure, no matter how hot it got.

        But the fire that consumed her life... those days when they all could feel they could laugh and play endlessly...

        That fire she could not tolerate.

        And that's why... one day... she may have to try to kill Ashley Winchester.

        Will Marivel forgive her? She doesn't know.

        And it is to this end, one day, that she spreads her hands out and intones the words that have caused war crimes:

        "<Dark Hold-->"

        A loud discordant SCREECH--

        The space around the combatants goes NEGATIVE
                                   and time
                                timetime stops
                                                                               
                    is it that time has literally stopped?
                  or is it just the perception that time has
                                                                               
                    it is unknown for a truth is that time
                           it never stops for anyone
                       no matter how hard you hold on...
                                                                               
                    but within that horrible NEGATIVE space
                       just for a scant precious seconds
                                     time
                                     and
                                     space
                           cease to have meaning...

        It is a cheat.

        Two massive Gravity Wells have appeared to either side of Kamui. They are like Hob and Nob, save that they were meant for horrible things. They crackle, manipulating the space that allows her to create this dominance.

        This... is the awful cheat that Kamui has deployed.

        And she raises that Buster, seeking to take advantage of the unnatural space she has created. It may well fail. Antenora is of a class of opponent that she can't rely on the Hold alone. And that is why by her own hand...

GS: Kamui has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kamui has attacked Antenora with Hunter Arte - Dark Hold!
GS: Kamui has launched an attack Link!
GS: Kamui has attacked Antenora with Hunter Arte - Gravity Well!
GS: Cripple and Entangle expired!
GS: Kamui has completed her action.
GS: Ptolomea takes 23 damage from Poison!
GS: Cover expired!
GS: Ptolomea has completed his action.


<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel glances towards the battle between Caina and Ashley. She sure has been giving that fight looks now and then. Her gaze turns full on towards the fight shortly after. She is waiting to see Ashley's reaction to the news from Caina.

"Many. Too many. That is why I am on the path I am on." Marivel tells Antenora, not a tear in her eye. "Do you believe Vinsfeld cares for those that fall when none are around?"

The gray sluggish lifeless aura ripples across Marivel and it seems to have an effect, in fact, turning Marivel's body completely and utterly grey, like the animator forgot to color this pose in.

She hears Brad speak on Ashley, hoping that he can contain himself, and Marivel's gaze looks at the visage of the being that took everything from her.

And the being she is risking everything to have once again dragged back into this realm and the lives sacrificed to make that happen. It had already happened before Marivel knew him, but it also happened because she knew him. Traveling the Memory Maze is no simple task, and there is always a price to pay even if that price is simply knowing the limits of your own two hands.

She walks towards Ashley. She loves Kamui, but there is always one predominant task that she has: To guide Ashley, to ensure he does not destroy the fucking planet. These are things that take precidence even over motherly love.

"You come to Filgaia, I will show you." Marivel promises Liath, though she's not looking at her right now.

I have confirmed what you have told me, Irving. We will do it your way...

But the one called Ashley Winchester. He must be one of them.

"Ashley." Marivel says, during his freakout. "He is not you. You are not Lord Blazer. You are Ashley Winchester. You must remember this. You must remember that the reason you became Knight Blazer was because of the Promise, yoou must remember that you made the Promise because you became Knight Blazer. You tap into his power, but it is not yours. You are not the same person. Perhaps one day you will break free." Her eyes narrow briefly at Caina. "But you made a promise."

She grabs for one of Ashley's arms in slow motion, heedless of the danger it puts them both in. "You made a foolish promise, remember? Focus on that promise. You made a promise to her, you made a promise to Ana, and you made a promise to me."

"You will keep all three off your promises, so long as you try. So long as you try. But I haven't forgotten."

She raises her other arms and enwraps her arms in a big Ashley hug.

"The promise we made... Tis the same as the promise my mother gave me. No matter where you go, Ashley, no matter what you do..."

"You will never be alone."

"We will fight together, Ashley so do not fight because you wish to hurt, because you wish to kill, because you wish for vengeance. Fight for your promises, first and foremost. Because you promised, I believe in you, Ashley."

She smiles, a strange gesture of kindness. "I always will, even if you lose faith in me but please... do not turn away from your reason. Do not allow the contradictions to control you. Accept them, breathe them in, and realize that those contradictions are yourself. You control them. Not Caina, not myself, not Valeria."

"You."

She does not let go because she made a promise. She looks to Kamui from this position even as she stares. She does not have to forgive Kamui.

Because she will not kill Ashley Winchester. Marivel knows that. She simply knows it. And if she did, well...

...she would be the one who had to ask for forgiveness, no?

This position prevents Marivel from striking Antenora, but...

Odessa had never really been her enemy. She has always said that.

GS: Marivel Armitage has spent 1 Combo on Reload!
GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Ashley Winchester with You Will Never Be Alone!
GS: Break and Entangle expired!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
GS: Ashley Winchester takes a solid hit from Marivel Armitage's You Will Never Be Alone for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Ashley Winchester gains 15 extra FP from Marivel Armitage!
<Pose Tracker> Sin has posed.

The first sign that something has gone terribly, terribly wrong is easy to miss in the confusion. The ocean is rarely far in Spira; today, it is below the icy cliffs of Macalania, several hundred feet away. The ocean begins to pull back.

And then a couple chunks of stone, blown free from the bridge, whip up -- and swirl into the air. They begin to whip into the sky, as the water that pulled back swells. The first thing to crest is a ruined skyline of a forgotten city -- and then the ridged, pock-marked back of Sin's whale-like flesh.

The monster rises from the deep, pure gravitational power lifting it into the air. Water rains down from its two fins in terrible rivulets; its baleen like mouth opens, and there is a shudder from it. A pulse of force -- and it blows back the hair of all those present. Sin emits that strange, whorbling cry -- like a hellish whalesong.

And a bead of black energy, crackling with power, begins to gather in front of its maw.

Those who stood on the beaches of Operation Mi'ihen know this. They have seen its like before: Giga-Graviton.

Uncaring of the battle -- of the flashes of blue light, as more soldiers come to this world -- of the terrible struggle of a summoner within, Sin has come, and made its mark with its mere presence.

DC: Sin switches forms to Sin - The Clysmian of Obsession!
<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        Acacia knows she's outmatched here. She's not really much of an upfront fighter compared to the rest of ARMS - she's embraced that, and long since accepted the fact that her own fighting style has to be more about hindering the enemy to let her allies do their work. She's fine with that - except for when an opponent is as implacable as this one. If Antenora is so accepting of her situation that she can't be taunted or pushed out of it, it's difficult to know what she can do - going head on isn't exactly an option.

        She feels one leg buckle, but hisses between her teeth and holds on - for Marivel's sake and for Kamui's sake, if not her own. She's caused enough worry for the Reploid, she knows that much. Honestly, she'd like to take Kamui's suggestion and just go somewhere quiet and chill out for, oh, maybe a few years. Take in the sights. Retire at the ripe old age of twenty-five. It's a nice thought to hold onto as she sets her jaw and forces herself to move--

        --much too late; the wave this time is faster, and it's all she can do to bring her arms up.

        And then lower them again, realizing too late that the Reploid has interjected on her behalf. "... Kamui..." she mumbles, her eyes wide, as something she doesn't yet understand changes in front of her.

        She's stock-still well before the attack comes. When the space around her turns a strange negative hue, leaving her thoughts muted and much too distant and her limbs unresponsive stone, it's not like she was trying to respond anyway. Her mouth opens the tiniest part, the prelude to another yell, but no sound comes out, not trapped in place as she is.

        And then abruptly it reasserts, and her momentum from her impending dive is still there, carrying her to one side as she ducks and covers from the Reploid's blast. "Kamui! You don't have to--" she calls again, her voice raw and full of concern - but as she yells it her mind is screaming at her for something else. For a moment she can't place why, aware only that one of the walls around the Temple is shifting and moving.

        Then it resolves itself into Sin, and she can only stare dumbly.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Ashley seems...and when he returns, it's with a burning heat.

When he first transformed, Clarine was unconscious - having returned to her vessel to recover after suffering Ganondorf's terrible Power.

This is her first time witnessing his transformation and she stares in surprise. More than the terrible heat, though, his fury is what gives her pause.

She gives Dash a brief, concerned glance. She's not sure how he'll react to this.

But Caina is still up and casting, and he commands the key to 'open the gate'.

Clarine doesn't know what's about to happen - until it does. Beneath her feet, there's a sense of terrible power as magic circles begin to form, before they're consumed by magenta and a gate appears beneath her feet.

She can see beyond, and the world implodes.

But Clarine...

It's a quick, instinctive reaction, rather than anything she does purposefully. Fear crosses over her face, and then she condenses into a ball of light. It's similar to what happens when she retreats into her vessel, but there's a bit more form to it - and the light rockets upward.

Motes leak off of her, drawn into the gate, but the rest of her manages to escape its pull and she reforms. She looks a little wilted, exhausted perhaps - it seems to have taken a lot out of her.

And as it closes she floats back down to earth, but this gives her a good view of Kamui.

Clarine is struck silent by her words.

"K...Kamui...?" Clarine whispers. She's...taken aback. And then, Kamui erupts with light, and a new armor crosses over her form. She sees that terrible powerful and grows fearful...for Kamui's safety.

She looks back toward Caina and is about to recite another spell... But then, more lights begin to appear, erupting all around and taking the form of Odessa soldiers.

Each of them are armed, and weapons are trained on them.

But not only that.

Something tears through the world...and then, she feels a surge of a great and terrible power. Sin has arrived - and a bead of energy is forming in its mouth.

Briefly, despair crosses over Clarine's face. Her mirrors waver in the air around her. Caught between Sin and Odessa, and with her fear for Kamui and Ashley...what could they possibly do?

Clarine looks toward Marivel, as if searching her for an answer she's afraid will never come.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        "We'll see," Ida says, echoing Ptolemy's words. Another flash of blue catches her eye, and as yet another soldier appears, Ida's stomach starts twisting itself in knots. They committed more than just their initial force, she realizes. How many troops is Rhadamanthus willing to throw at the Temple? At ARMS--her comrades? Her breath hitches in her throat as her burned flesh reminds her of its condition. She glances back at Brad, her face twisting. "Brad," she croaks. "If we--if we pull back to the Temple, can we bottle--" More flashes of light. More soldiers.

        And then the distant rush of water turns into a roar. Ida turns to stare, her astonishment turning to horror. "Oh," she says, her voice almost lost in the unearthly sound of Sin's song. "Oh God. Oh Granas." They have to run. They have to leave. But--but there's nowhere to run. Sin could reduce the Temple to rubble without even exerting itself. Odessa is between them and the way out of Macalania.

        Think of something, idiot girl.

        Could Ashley--that thing Ashley's become--could that even scratch Sin? Could Marivel teleport them--no. There's no way she could teleport them all, and Ida doubts she'd sacrifice her troops to save herself. Cold, sickening helplessness twists in her stomach.

<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Shining magic shimmers around Clarissa. She closes her eyes a moment, then opens them to send a radiant smile of gratitude to Chime.

The smile turns upside down. Ashley's screaming and Clarissa's looking towards him with eyes wide with worry. "...Ashley...."

She can't help him right now. Battle's still afoot - and Ptolomea's rising. Clarissa snaps Strahl Gewehr up again as the huge Cocytus soldier looms over her and fixes her with that look. For just a moment, she can't help but feel like a bug specimen being nailed to a scientist's display board.

The blonde girl swallows hard and exhales through her nose, unable to muster a response she finds convincing. She can't deny that she's carried scars already - ones deeper even than Slayheim, for her.

But what has come for them is worse yet. Hairs on the back of Clarissa's neck begin to rise.

Water churns and swirls. Immense gravitational power rolls over the field as the vast Clysmian of Obsession looms above them all like the hammer of their universal certain doom.

Clarissa can only stare up at the monstrosity. Her eyes are wide, her pupils beginning to shrink down to small points in a way she's never experienced before.

"What," she breathes. Strahl Gewehr feels hot in her hands - hotter than it's ever been. It's almost as if she can feel the pulse of something that should not be there.

And something else. An immense
         P R E S S U R E

A whimper slips from the girl without her realizing that it's emerged, pained and pathetically small. As if stricken, Clarissa drops to her knees, pressing one hand to her chest as her mind -- no, not her mind. Her soul reels beneath something more overwhelming than even the force of ultimate gravity being exerted upon the Temple itself. She breathes slowly. It's the only thing she can think of besides the sheer FEELING.

"This energy," she whispers, her voice distant in her own ears. "It's like some kind of... enormous beast.... As if some uncontrollable torrent of pure power has taken the form of a monster...."

        little missy
        
                        little missy
                                                little missy
the tuition wasn't cheap
                a precious flower
                                                i must
                i must
        i have to

"...But why can I hear it in my heart," Clarissa whispers, her voice aching with an anguish beyond the physical as she bows her head over the ARM that is supposed to be her good luck charm. "And... why do I...."

"...feel like I remember it...."

GS: Antenora takes a solid hit from Kamui's Hunter Arte - Dark Hold for 0 hit points!
GS: Break and Slow! applied to Antenora!
GS: CRITICAL! Antenora critically Guards a hit from Kamui's Hunter Arte - Gravity Well for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        "I mean, if you don't wanna believe me, that's up to you," Ragnell tells Hiro. "I don't hate that kinda conviction." Then he calls Liath's moves sweet, and she snorts with laughter, especially as Liath fails to get it. When Lanval chides Hiro not to let her induce doubt, she drawls, "Right, right! I'm the big evil traitor Seraph. Don't listen to me, listen to him, puny mortal!" She shoots Lanval and Liath a certain narrow-eyed Look, even as she tells Hiro: "Can't you tell your protector from your adversary?"
        
        If Lanval does hate her now, if he does view her now as nothing more than a corrupted enemy, she gets it. She was prepared for that when she chose this path. It's not as though his contempt is unearned, either, and as she said, she doesn't want to be understood. But, well. If he's not fronting, and his attitude about her really has changed this fast from a being this long-lived, that implies he never thought of her as a friend to begin with. Humans are prone to flash judgment; Seraphim are at least... *somewhat* less so. So that it happened anyway... It always stings, to realize that of someone you care about.
        
        But you can't do anything about how others feel about you, so her only real option is to get over it.
        
        It's easy to get *reasons* to get over it, anyway, what with Lanval taking from her own storm to send needles of water to slice through her from all angles. It's made worse by Hiro's wind magic buffeting her on all sides, keeping her from being able to dodge well. But water and wind are ultimately still part of the storm; she can, ahem, *weather* it to a certain extent. She endures the injuries that lash all around her, painfully, as she grits her teeth...
        
        Only for a hand to take hers into its own.
        
        She looks up at Liath. Liath, who is whispering something. Liath, whose hand spasms with pain, possibly from the lightning torrents Ragnell just dropped on her head. Expression melting into concern, she leans in. It might look almost romantic, like she's going for a kiss--
        
        'Prism Sword!'
        
        --except then she gets it in the kisser. At this range, with Liath's hand in hers, the many prismatic blades of light SLAM into her, pouring their power and tearing at her form with their purity. She snarls in pain before collapsing, panting for breath she does not need either. She peers up, one eye visible beyond the brim of her hat, as Liath points her sword at her.
        
        She smirks back, and opens her mouth.
        
        And then Sin happens.
        
        The ice bridge shudders from the mere build of power of the Giga-Graviton. Ragnell jolts around in alarm, and far below spots the whale-like form of the Clysmian. She stares at it for a heartbeat. Then she looks back at her counterpart. "Li, that was a very cool line, an' I'd love to give you a quip back that's worthy of it," she says, completely sincere and heartfelt, "but I'm thinkin' we oughtta put a bookmark on this an' split for now. Yeah?"
        
        Without waiting for an agreement or argument, Ragnell flips up onto her feet, then leaps backwards, creating distance between herself and her opponents and bringing herself in towards the other members of Odessa for an imminent retreat.

<Pose Tracker> Dash Caskett has posed.

"You act like you are the only ones who can chose everyone's future-- what?!" Dash, mid sentence, has found himself in the midst of some sort of magic sigil, seconds after firing his infusing shot.

What follows next is... indescribable. Literally. His system cannot compute the information it attempts to process. When the gate prematurely shuts, Dash practically collapses to his knees, his mind having overloaded. Electricity courses over him, from within him, as all systems are forced to purge and soft-reboot to regain functionality. "What is--" his voice is modulated with horrific static as it too, has to recover. "Happening..."

It takes a few seconds for at least that to correct. Eyes see rapid flashes of color and recalibrating shapes, but through it all, he can see a young lady in empowered armor. He senses tingle and fluctuate, but the sensate pull of gravity is familiar, if in passing. "Kamui, no!" he calls, looking vaguely in her direction.

He has trouble making to his feet, whatever system that sets balance standards is definitely not working. She pushes herself so hard to help others, and achieves so much despite her condition... If only he was stronger, maybe he could help too, but he feels so useless right now...

He has to hang in there though! He can still help! Even if things are dire...

Wait, there is something else nearby. Another source of gravity. He can't quite see through all the distortions, but is that... a whale?

<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

        Chime arches an eyebrow as more and more soldiers begin to appear. "Oh dear. I'll admit I'm very well suited for dealing with a lot of foes, but this might be above my limit." as she surveys the area. Hearing Ptolomea she turns to him and shakes a finger at him. "Of course life isn't fair young man. If it was where would the fun in succeeding be?" in an amused voice.

        As she's looking at Brad's ARM and then Clarrisa's as if thinking she stops moving completely for a few seconds as a whorbling cry echoes through the area. "Oh dear..." is all she saids, letting her crossbows fall to her sides held loosely in her hands. "Well, that changes priorities." as she turns to look in the direction of the sound. At the giant creature that Spira called Sin. "I wonder..." she starts in a cheerful voice looking at the soldiers that had teleported in "If we can just go out the way they all came in~"

<Pose Tracker> Brad Evans has posed.

Brad socks Ptolomea right across the face. Brad does not follow it up - foolish, perhaps. There's somethign a far cry from respect in his eyes when he looks back at Ptolomea, but it fades swiftly. Ever a man to hide his thoughts, is Brad Evans. "You won't--" he starts.

Then the army pours in. Brad's Mechanical Glove is already flashing with light, preparing something, but...

"Would've needed to fire a while ago to make a dent," he mutters, fist clenching and breaking up the construction. "...so what's your plan? Kill us? Take us? I can never tell, with Vinsfeld."

He yields a step back, toward the temple. "...we'd lose people," he mutters to Ida, reading her thoughts. "But--"

He feels that rush of air. He hears that warbling scream.

        The air is filled with flying cannons and swirling water. An Al Bhed man rushes for the bulwark.

The light flashes. The large man closes his eyes. When he can see again...

Craters and ashes.

"...it's back," he says, dull. Matter-of-fact. But perhaps there's a frisson of something else beneath the calm.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

        A great wash of fire erupts a ways away from where Lanval stands vigil over the rain, and Lanval's focus drops. A fire of wrath, a fire so hungry to consume all that even the Water Seraph is given pause - a pause that lets some of the emotion seep back in that seemed to have leave him in the hostilities... but then.
        Lanval's eyes widen as he intristically knows what's going on. To some senses, mortals would beat Lanval to acknowledging it. To other senses, they are battered daily by the spiritual pressure of the myriad pyreflies. It creeps into something primal, then, through all of it that Lanval's eyes widen all the way with none of the color of awakened power that tends to follow. Enough that he turns away from Ragnell - a fatal mistake were she the type to go in the kill right now - that Lanval shouts with all the presence he can muster.
        "Obsession!" That is not the common name those of Lunar would give it. They must escape, as incredible gravitational power builds. Lanval was there - he got to see this attack first-hand, and it was only through the ingenuity of the Black Wizard that... that at least a handful of people survived within a barrier that only just held itself together against it.
        They're landlocked. Lanval could produce bubbles for some to ride in, but the gravitational force would pull everyone right back into oblivion. There was a sense of frustration and powerlessness - a powerlessness that felt inconceivable after everyone triumphed over something like the World Eater. A powerlessness that once again befalls them, at the mercy of the destructive whims of Spira's ceaseless bringer of death and destruction.
        Shouting the name is all Lanval is capable of.

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
Hiro finds himself impressed by Lanval's display of power, making certain not a single rain drop touches him. Making it easier for him to freeze them. "Thanks for the save." He says once his teeth feel like they've stopped chattering. "But- look Ragnell..."
 
He says without responding to whether he believes Lanval - or Ragnell - or something in between. "I can't. Because sometimes you're one and sometimes you're the other. And I'm fine with that. Things don't always have to be so clear cut like that. To me you're just..." His lip twitches as if there's a little joke, "Ragnell."
 
However as Liath tells him her sword isn't for anything sweet. "No I don't mean your sword is for pastry - I mean your technique was great!"
 
Though he suddenly grows pretty quiet as Liath says those who consort with fiends ought well share the fate of them. In that moment he rather feels like there's a certain solidarity between him and Ragnell in that statement.
 
There are many things that draw his eye. Ashley's Trauma - manifesting Knight Blazer. Kamui's sudden shift that causes a screech as Gravity distorts. Marivel's attempt to reach Ashley. The battlefield is chaos incarnate.
 
What draws his attention most of all though is that hair curling pulse of power and that whale song-
 
"Ruby-" Hiro squeaks, "Ruby come out now - we've gotta run. Everyone's gotta run right now."
 
"Oh come on how bad could it-" Ruby shifts a pawsie beneath the pot, and lifts it up. Ruby looks into the sky.
 
There's suddenly a pink blur and Hiro finds his orange scarf being tugged upon by Ruby, right above the stitch that was made from his fight with a certain Princess long ago.
 
"WELL RAGNELL IT WAS- FRANKLY AWFUL SEEING YOU AGAIN BUT ME AND HIRO LIKE LIVING SO WE'RE GONNA JUST CALL IT A DAY! I AM GLAD YOU ARE ALREADY CONSIDERING DOING THE SAME!"
 
As she starts dragging him bodily Marivel's way at the ludicrous speed of a frightened Dragoncat.
 
"MARI-VEL I WOULD CONSIDER IT A PERSONAL FAVOR IF YOU COULD GET US ALL OUT OF HERE LIKE - NOW!"
 
Hiro holds up a finger. "Any chance we have time to evacuate the temple fir-"
 
"HIRO THAT QUESTION IS SO STUPID THAT I AM VETOING YOU BEFORE YOU EVEN FINISH IT!"
 

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

        "LOVE YOU TOO, RU," Ragnell calls back to Ruby.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel doesn't end up hugging Ashley very long because suddenly Sin is in the area and folks are legitly gaping at the giant whale.

A POWERFUL DRAGON (Ruby) is rushing towards her and asking that she use her bullshit teleporting powers to get them all out of here. Ruby hasn't said that but she knows what Ruby means.

Her gaze shifts towards Clarissa and then rubs at her forehead briefly as it appears plenty of people in ARMS are having mental breakdowns today.

"Well someone's gotta be the mom." She mutters to herself. "Might as well be me. Okay everyone!" She raises a hand. "Time to fuck off!"

She frowns considerably because lets see, counting all those people... well this is a lot of people to bounce around but lets see the distance they can go for.

"Alright..." Her eyes flash red sharply and then--

Marivel, ARMS, and Hiro and Ruby vanish from sight in sharp flashes of light!

Though for ARMS itself, well, it doesn't up dragging folks too far. They reappear further back into Macalania--still in the area, but at least out of sight from Odessa's immediate sights.

And Marivel, looking drained and in a kneeling position pants for breath. "A bit too much at once..." She grimaces. "...Take a breath...but we'll have to make our next move soon."

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        "...." The sound of guns gains Gwen's attention.

        Gwen looks to Ida, to Brad, Chime, and the many others, friends and foes, beyond.

        She swallows, then laughs. "..... Really wish I had figured out how that weird mode worked... eheh..."

        Maybe, if she runs, she could make sure at least one person could survive-

        No. It wouldn't be enough.

        'Life's not fair. But Evans... he knows this.'

        "... You don't even know my name." It's a soft rebuke that meets Ptolomea's statement, coming from the young woman staring away, towards the tide, so far from them.

        So far, like in Azado.

        'Time for the rest of you to learn it.'

        Anger flashes in Gwen's eyes, burning hot against the pale cool grey of her eyes.

        Her left hand flashes out and attempts to strike against Ptolomea's cheek.

         "So don't you *dare* act like you know me, or *any* of us!"

        Pale red hair chaotically stirs as Sin arrives, but all Gwen can hear is the way her jaw clenches, against the overwhelming tide of anger.

        Maybe, if she builds on this, she could-

        "My name is Gwen Whitlock, and if this is the last thing you hear from me, I want you to remember it every time you dare say shit like that again!"

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Ashley Winchester has no idea that the reploid girl who so loves the donuts and cupcakes he bakes may someday be driven to end his life. To finally end the war that began so long ago.

He barely even recognizes that the other blue one is addressing him, except for a brief sideways glance that sees a glimmer of red light flash across Dash's breastplate. Whether or not this is a good thing is not entirely certain. What is certain is that Ashley is coming for Caina. Coming right for Caina. The sense of impending doom is as palpable in the air as the rising temperatures.

There is no blood where Knight Blazer's sword cuts. It burns too hot. The wound cauterizes long before the ravaged blood vessels have a chance to leak even a single drop. It's as much a third degree burn as it is a cut, and Knight Blazer seems poised to deliver even more--

A winking photon streaks across the space between the Blazer and the key.

The black knight is rocked by a catastrophic explosion. Dimensional madness disgorges raw force and otherworldly fire that consumes the black knight utterly. Is it enough? Was that sufficient to stop the Blazer in its tracks...!?

The clouds of star-stuff burn in the color out of space for a moment longer... before streaks of red and vermilion sweep through the haze, swallowing up all the color that was and dying the cloud in destruction's own colors. A dark form steps out of the burning haze, armor cracked but unbroken save for the chipped gap in its visor that reveals the crimson eye shining underneath. "You think... that's enough to stop me...?" Ashley-- the Blazer growls. It reaches for its chest with clawed hands, tearing the armor there open like a pair of doors swung from their hinges. Strands of alien muscle twitch and spasm underneath, squirming around an orb of purest, blinding light. Light that Dash's photonic boost only seems to bolster. Light that grows brighter by the moment, surging to a zenith as the lingering remnants of Caina's blast are leeched away. "I... told you. You... I'll kill you. For what you did. I'll--"

The light is blinding. The heat is all-consuming.

And even so. Even so... she comes.

Something wraps around the Blazer's arm. Its eyes snap to one side. "You-- you're responsible too. I-- I--!"

He's not the Blazer.

Marivel says.

She tells him. Pleads with him. To remember. Remember the promises he made. The promises he will make. Time is a confusing, muddled thing. It's a tortured, twisting path-- especially for these two. The promises she describes-- did he ever make them? Does he remember making them? His mind is so blurry. The flames burn so high, so hot. Promise... what promise.......?

An image flashes across the Blazer's brain, even lost in the haze of rage. A melancholy, gentle face smiling at him from under a familiar, comforting doorframe.

' Promise me you'll come home, okay...? '

"Nnnngh--" Blazer-- Ashley-- growls. His hands release the gates of destruction, grasping at the sides of his armored skull. "I-- My promise. I..."

The world trembles. An impossible pressure falls across the cathedral as Ashley staggers back into Marivel's arms. She promised she'd be with him until the end. And-- there's someone else.

Even Sin's arrival... can't penetrate the battle Ashley is waging with his own runaway rage.

But the distraction may be just what Caina needs to get the hell out of dodge.

...Though the point is rendered moot when Marivel abruptly teleports the lot of them right out of there. Still, wherever he ends up, Ashley... Is going to need help.

<Pose Tracker> Lombardia has posed.

The bead of gravitational force, compressed upon itself and crackling with black and white lightning, grows and then collapses downward. Layer upon layer, it adds to itself.

It distorts the air around Sin. And yet, through that distortion, far on the horizon, a strange cloud appears: a perfect, three-dimensional parabola. It tapers to a point, and then a streak of vapor moves in a tight arc through Lunar's stratosphere. Light glints off whatever is at the tip of that point, a brief brilliant sparkle.

Before it resolves into something larger, sound catches up -- and a terrific roar seems to come a moment too late. Then, a huge beam of white light explodes outward. It slashes down into the Spiran sea, burning a line of water into steam, before it cuts upward and into Sin from behind. It slashes through its body like a hot knife through butter; a thousand Pyreflies explode off it in streaks and waves, as the beam slashes clean through Sin.

The bead of compressed gravity winks away, as Sin is driven by the beam's impact into the ocean. The water comes back -- and smashes against the cliffs. A titanic spray of white foam rises up, briefly obscuring where Sin fell...

...though as it falls, there is something else in the sky.

The sun glints off her armor and, if a word could ever capture the sight, it would be "beautiful." A dragon, but not a dragon of Lunar; neither a creature of Malevolence or Oath, but of alloy. A hundred thousand metal plates, each perfectly segmented, give the appearance of draconic flesh -- and yet there are mechanical elements. Servos, hints of hydraulics, and a gleam in her eyes that is technology rather than flesh.

Those eyes shine a brilliant cyan -- while the rest of her is silver and blue. And yet, that beauty is marred. There are slashes and tears; old battle scars, criss-crossing the Metal Dragon's body, speak to what she has experienced. Her wings, blue and wonderful, have tears in the thin, almost membrane-like steel. And, covering her, there are splotches of tarnish and rust.

But, tarnished and scarred as she might be, the Queen of the Metal Dragons is a glorious sight -- and none can deny the glory of her first flight in half a millennium.

Lombardia looks down to where the seas stir, and the whale-like head of Sin begins to break the waves. "T'would seem that one strike shall not be enough. So be it. You have preyed upon these people for so long, have you not, beast?"

There is a soft snort, through the patterned and shaped silver of her snout -- it comes out as a mechanical hiss of steam. "Come! It is time that you test yourself against one that shares your size!"

Sin rises up, a primal scream echoing from its mouth -- and a dozen points of light appear, swirl, and slam down into Sin. Explosions erupt -- and the beast is hurled back into the water with a great, titanic splash.

Perhaps, it is unclear to the Lunarians and Filgaians alike what Lombardia is, but she represents something most unlikely today:

Hope.

<Pose Tracker> Ptolomea has posed.

Ptolomea's head snaps to the side. He looks down at Gwen, cheek stinging. Then, he falls quiet:

"You're right," he says. "I don't know... and I don't need to, to know that I have wisdom you don't. That's what it means to be Odessa. To be a hero. I'm the sort of man who can understand you... without even knowing your name, girl."

The roar distracts him. He looks back up -- back at Sin -- and then his one eye blinks.

Ptolomea stares up at Lombardia. Around him, almost forgotten, there are flashes of blue. Bursts of blue light shoot up at his side. Columns of blue light, lost in the seaspray and clash of two titans in the distance. The Odessa soldiers who appear look around, with distracted cries. One of them shoves Gwen away from their commander. The Cocytus member watches for a moment.

Then, he turns -- and his huge hand curls into a fist. "Soldiers of Odessa!" he shouts. "Let the Spirans fight their god, if they wish... we have one task--"

He turns his hand -- and points it, finger extended, towards the place that Marivel teleported them to.

He points in the direction of Clarissa Arwin, standing on her battlefield; in the direction of Seraph Clarine, alight with her power; in the direction of Kamui, fighting the same war after all these millennia; in the direction of Marivel Armitage, their leader; in the direction of Brad Evans, somehow surviving; towards Acacia Saitani, trying to stand by her unlikely charge.

And, he points in the direction of the twisted, monstrous form of Ashley Winchester. Ptolomea's one eye widens for a moment -- and yet, it is easier, as he sees the bodies of his soldier's in his mind's eye. The order comes easier than it should.

"You have one objective!" Rifles raise, one after another. The glacier, nearby, groans as a Gear appears on it in a flash of light. Light from scopes shines, reflecting across eerie black armor and crimson ridges. Ptolomea's voice is a roar, and yet impassive, as he passes the sentence:

"KILL THEM ALL!"

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

 
"OH MY GOSH IS THAT LOMBARDIA?!"
 
Ruby lets out a little girlish shriek as if she just saw her favorite celebrity.
 
"SIGN MY RIBBON! OH- AND THANKS FOR HELPING ODJN! I STILL FIND IT HARD TO BELIEVE NALL KNOWS YOU!"
 
Ptolomea orders them all to die. Ruby slowly lowers her gaze to look straight in the rifle execution squad.
 
"... I know you were literally just saying life isn't fair but can't that wait like... two minutes so I can watch this?"
 

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        The sight of Lombardia may be unknown to many Lunarians and Filgaians alike. But she symbolises hope.

        But there is one.

        A woman whose wheelchair is perched precariously upon one of the cliffs overlooking Macalania Temple, hastily making her way towards the site of a great battle despite her disability and wounds.

        Her mouth hangs open softly, her eyes shrinking a little as she takes her hand up to the neckpiece of her capelet...

        ... and tears begin streaming from her eyes.

        Lombardia.

        For so many, she represents hope right now. But for the Queen herself...

        She... she has despair to share with her.

        "Lombardia..."

        Riesenlied lowers her head. The tears won't stop flowing, even as she struggles to keep herself upright. Her breathing has become even more laborious than before.

        "Father...
         Siegfried is..."

        She has to go.

        She has to help her. Even as a failure of a Metal Dragon, if just a little...

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Liath has posed.

There's something amiss.

She can feel it in the air. Even before it happens -- she senses it. Most palpably in the manifestation that seizes Ashley, something woefully familiar. Gold eyes gaze upon the Knight Blazer with an expression inscrutable; for all she wears her heart on her sleeve, Liath is a stoic mask in these moments.

"..."

And then it comes.

Endless as the rolling tides of obsession itself.

She has never seen Sin; not face to face. She has seen its mark, carved through every single inch of Spira, as if an entire continent was its to mold like putty as it sees fit. It looks a whale, if a pale mockery of such a majestic beast. There is no whale, after all, that can breach both sea and sky. No whale that can command the very force of gravity into a compact singularity.

No whale that sings a chorus of the thousand thousand fallen.

She stares up at it and its commanding presence. It demands to be noticed by dint of its nature. And Liath notices. Her eyes narrow. Her lips pull towards a thin line.

The fingers gripping tight around her sword tremble. Perhaps in the aftereffects of electrical shock.

For now, both talk of her sweet sword, or the promise of the internet, or even Ragnell's banter, fall by the wayside. Ragnell suggests a retreat.

"Yes," she agrees, even as Ragnell leaps away.

"You should. Get to safety, Ragnell."

And Liath moves.

In the opposite direction of Ragnell.

Sword sheathed but at the ready, shield at the fore, Liath immediately wades forward, closing distance between herself and the clash between Sin and Lombardia, and between Ragnell and all those combatants still lingering on the field.

Without waiting for an agreement or argument.

<Pose Tracker> Antenora has posed.

"That doesn't matter to me," Antenora answers simply. "My point is just that not all cries are answered--sometimes, the weak just perish. Whatever good you might hope to accomplish... You can't be everywhere."

Monsters can't see their reflections--what Kamui says is strange. Much of waht she says can be. But when Antenora notes her blast has dissipated... she sees Kamui, having taken the blow meant for the unusual sorceress, the reporter Acacia. The alarm bells seem to sound in Antenora's mind, and she frowns sharply--

A light from far away, possibly from space itself, rockets downward--and there is a change. Antenora begins to weave spells already, preparing a defense against this new element, but--

NEGATIVE SPACE APPLIES

...For long instants, that space remains. Antenora seems to freeze in place, to realize and notice nothing, apparently caught in the cheat, in the magic--the barest beginnings of a glow gather by her hand. One could imagine that she experiences nothing in that instant...

....But it isn't true, not really. She feels it stretch out--on, and on, for indeterminate periods, because time has no meaning. And in that cheat, in that unnatural space, the Wells crash around her....

There is an awful CRACK in the air as the negative space erupts as if from lightning, force expending, vaccuum collapsing with enough force to throw the strange sorceress backward across the ice, skidding along the ground in an uncontrolled fall. Was it a strange spell of her own, detonated on her own person to break free? ...Was it the interference of Sin's gravity well, an unexpected factor?

Antenora hits the ground and rolls along the dirty ground for a few turns before she slams a hand downward to catch herself, and stop--and she does not need to look up to feel the presence of Sin, arriving in that instant that was so long. She does not need to think long to realize that it is Sin's appearance that prevented further assaults in her moment of vulnerability. But she does not have long to react. Bringing herself up to a crouch, she extends her hands, performing the gestures of focus, channeling the power of the Ley and the Elements that flow to begin her next spell--but not one of assault. She pauses, abrubtly--pauses, and looks upon the great beam above, the rush...

"...So," she remarks, "It seems you will live another day, after all." She looks to the forest, where Ptolomea directs, and rises to her feet.

"Lord Vinsfeld will need to be informed of this development," the sorceress says coolly. She regards Caina, the battle brewing nearby.

"...I leave the assault to you."

Antenora, on her feet, disappears in blue light, still watching Sin and Lombardia clash. Her expression is unreadable.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"I never denied it." Marivel whispers to Ashley. "But your hands are clean. Few better than a monster than to steep their claws in blood, and fewer still that are walking into the sun."

She holds close to Ashley for the moment...And then she looks up. She blinks a few times at the metal dragon apparently arriving to save Filgaia. It's honestly pretty sweet, the only bad thing is that they aren't riding Lombardia and shooting her missiles or something. Man, it's time like these that she really misses the Lucifer.
...
...

"The fuck is Lombardia doing here?" Marivel asks before Lombardia makes its declaration. "Oh." She says.

MEANWHILE, NEARBY

Fei looks up towards towards Lombardia. "...The fuck is Lombardia doing here?" He wonders aloud before determining that, yeah, he really better help her since he was not only a dick to her when they first met, but he's also pretty sure he's somehow responsible for her initial wounds in the bloody first place. Maybe he can finally make ammends.

BACK TO MARIVEL

"Neat!" Marivel says as she observes Lombardia.

Then Ptolomea decides this is still a good opportunity to kill them all.

Marivel says, "Well that's alright." that loving persona vanishes within an instant, replaced by her usual cocky and arrogant self. "We were planning on going through you anyway. The temple was always our goal."

Wait were they? Was it?? She didn't ask anybody about this!

But apparently that's the plan now.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine looks to Marivel...and Marivel has an answer. They all vanish in flashes of light and reappear else. Clarine nearly topples to the ground, but manages to catch herself at the last second. She takes a deep breath, trying to stabilise herself.

"I-I...I had not used that power in s-so long..." Clarine breathes out. "B-but...I can still move..."

She's exhausted though...but she can't stop yet. She looks toward Marivel, as she declares that the temple is the goal.

"Ah. So that is why we had to suffer through that party..." She murmurs. That makes a lot more sense now!

This situation has done nothing to improve her opinion of parties.

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        Antenora escapes from the clutches of her time-space cheat, and she doesn't have time to finish the job. She wasn't expecting any less. Odessa's elite are formidable, much more formidable than she would like to admit. Marivel has her work cut out...

        "... next time," she whispers to her.

        Even with the distance-teleport -- something that feels distinctly unpleasant given her own disgusting manipulations of time-space right now, Kamui looks up towards Lombardia as she fends Sin off. She is almost quiet and impassive, though some expression breaks through her countenance...

        ...

        One that is broken at Ptolomea's shout as rifles raise in their direction. A black Gear with crimson ridges.

        She kneels by Acacia's side and checks on her; despite, and perhaps because of the formidable ancient armour, she looks even more damaged than before. Once she's satisfied she'll be all right, she stands and faces Ptolomea and the incoming army.

        Her eyes narrow.

        "... my promise remains unchanged. You must all live... and thus..."

        The Buster clicks once more.

        "I will kill anyone in our path."

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

"Khh--" Knight Blazer staggers as he rematerializes, the glimmering blue light that had swallowed him up fading away in a burst of sparkling motes. He was just teleported, Marivel needed to release her embrace to do it. He was free. Free to do whatever he needed. The energies crackling about his exposed sun-heart coruscate and build once more, charging again toward that blinding, inevitable zenith. "I... My promise...! This power is..."

He turns towards Sin, towards that dragon bombarding it from the skies above. Knight Blazer's eyes burn with purpose...!

The power he wields. The power to set the world ablaze. Is it enough to kill a Guardian gone mad...?

                  'You have one objective! KILL THEM ALL!'

They won't find out today.

"No--!" Ashley suddenly yells, turning just as the light pouring from his chest finally runs over. "I won't let you!" It floods outwards, a great cascade of fire and light and heat the likes of which once threatened to burn the very life from Filgaia. "I won't let you hurt my friends!" The flames scythe out in a torrent, sweeping into the assemblage of Odessa troops still warping in. Ashley's voice surges, breaking into a harsh, strangled roar.

And then it... stops.

The flames die down. The light fades, revealing not a knight clad in black armor standing there, but a familiar baker with bright, blue hair.

...Sagging to his hands and knees from the sheer, unparalleled exhaustion.

<Pose Tracker> Caina has posed.

        Caina stands, rising to his feet at a speed that suggests he's wracked with agony. But he manages, his expression twisted into a rictus of pain, his clothing stained with his own blood.

        The key hovers nearby, as if it were a worried mother bird.

        "You... you're still standing," he hisses at Knight Blazer, his focus on the demon and the demon alone, as if nothing else in the world existed. "How can you still be-- ghh--" He reaches out a hand, his fingertips just brushing against the strange silvery key. "Hey-- Randolph-- give me strength! Just one more time!"

        The key shimmers, as in response to the demon summoner's plea. Silver light washes over Caina; fleetingly he is lifted aloft by its power.

        Marivel reaches out to Knight B--
        To Ashley.

        And Sin arises.

        Caina straightens, his gaze leaving Ashley and Marivel behind -- as they depart -- and lifting to take in the sight of Sin.

        Sin, now under assault by Lombardia.

        "So that's what it's like," he states, the blood on his clothing now the only memory of that wound. "It really is incredible."

        A grimace follows as he glances down at himself and the state of his clothing. He glances at his comrades. "I was careless," he says, with a shake of his head. "For Lord Vinsfeld's sake, I won't let it happen again."

        He makes no remark at Ptolomea's order and instead merely nods, folding his arms over his chest. The key hovers near him as a faithful hound and he glances over at it once as if to inquire after its status. And then he takes a step forward.

        "It's all yours," he says, to Ptolomea. "See if you can eliminate the demon with all the rest of those wanna-be do-gooders. I have other work to do." With that he turns -- glancing once at Antenora, studying her a moment -- and similarly vanishes in a blaze of blue light just moments after her.

<Pose Tracker> Chime Isa has posed.

        Chime shakes her head a little as things continue to escalate on the bridge, and around it. "Some times, to much is too much." her tone amused. Looking to Ptolomea, she hums thinking, and says "Well young man~ I suppose I'll have to find another time to talk to you about your interesting ARM. But I fear this has become a touch lopsided and needs a new shift of the table~" as she fiddles with both her crossbows.

        The bolts that had been sticking out the opening of the sleek wooden bodies seems to vanish and the string glows slightly. "Good luck in whatever you're doing~ I'm sure it won't be easy, but nothing worth it to someone ever is. I'm sure everyone else will be doing what they want also I hope~" she finishes in a cheerful voice as she brings both crossbows back up.

        Chime then pulls the trigger of both crossbows firing off not bolts, but smoke bombs! She fills the area her on the bridge in smoke quickly, and by the time it fades she'll be gone. And it'll last long enough to offer anyone else that needs a quick movement a place with fewer hostiles a way out too.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        As Sin focuses its power, Ida raises Devil's Due in trembling hands. "Marivel," she says, her voice a dry creak. "If you have any plan at all, I--"

        Ida sees that strange shape in the air behind Sin. She stares at it, wondering for a moment if this is something the monster's doing--but then the roar of a tremendous sonic boom splits the air, and rattles Ida's teeth in her jaw. The searing light leaves afterimages in Ida's eyes. She sees Pyreflies boiling off of Sin's frame as it sinks.

        Something hurt it, Ida realizes.

        This is hardly the first time Ida's seen a Metal Dragon. As a child, she sat on her father's shoulders, and was barely able to reach up to the jaw of one of the smaller skeletons. As a teenager, she studied their anatomy, helped her father's fossickers in the Boneyard. Her childhood dreams of having a Dragon friend had long since been replaced by a more pragmatic reality. And then, at Adlehyde, Ida saw them as engines of destruction.

        no

        Ida's jaw falls open. She stares at Lombardia, their unlikely savior, and while she doesn't know this Dragon's name--while she's never seen her before--there is something familiar about her, beyond the awe-inspiring force she brings to bear.

        it can't be

        Ptolomea gives his kill order. Ida hears it, but her thoughts are elsewhere.

        lombardia, you--no, stay away from that thing, you haven't seen--

        Ida opens her mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. Spacetime distorts around her, and when she feels ground beneath her feet again, she's... elsewhere.

        Something nameless and enraged and terrified roils in the back of her mind.

<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        Space suddenly shifts around her, and it takes Acacia a moment to recognize that for the time being both Sin - and Antenora - are out of sight for the time being. Despite everything, despite her fear for Sin's sake and her concern for Kamui's sake and her anger for Antenora's sake, her first thought is:

        I really should have taken a photo of that dragon.

        She shakes it away in a sudden rush of air, adrenaline making her legs shake for a moment as she gathers herself. She's alive; burned and bruised and rather battered, but the very fact that she's aching means that nothing too drastic has happened to her. Not yet, at least.

        At first, she can't find the words as Kamui checks her over - her brow furrows slightly, and she reaches for the Reploid's shoulder before chewing at her lip uncertainly. She can't know the depths of what Kamui's seen, and right now the Reploid is speaking with an experience and wisdom that's long beyond her.

        Still... "... what about you?" she mumbles as she picks herself up. She's not sure what answer she's expecting - or whether there's one to give.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        Ptolomea speaks with a raw conviction, and with every word, rage clouds Gwen's vision. She nearly manages to crack another hand against the soldier's cheek before she is thrown to the ground.

        The pressure of Sin's presence threatens to overwhelm every nerve and muscle in Gwen's body as she lays there, momentairely stunned.

        A dragon, like a piece of metal sculpture, flies through the blue above Gwen, as the order to kill is shouted.

        "... What..." Something sings, in her heart, in the same space of time as Ida struggles with her own thoughts.

        Deep in her soul, in the room suspended in a neverending sky, the girl missing the left arm smiles, and mouths some syllables.

        "Lom... bard... ia..." She overheard it. Maybe.

        She tries to reach up a hand, any hand, up towards the sky, but before she can, the world and sky are sucked away.

        When the world comes back, Gwen holds a hand over her heart, and stares at the ground. "... She's beautiful..."

        Why is she crying?

        Clearly, it's stress.