2020-04-24: Escape

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===========================<* The Cape of Breath *>===========================

Stretching from the edge of the slowly-spreading northern desert, the Cape of Breath is the lush southern region of Meria Boule. Farmland and livestock take up much of the hilly region, dotted with the estates and castles of Merian nobles, often at the height of elevation, but across temperate land to the west great forests begin, still part of the great resources of the Merian nation. In places the badlands of the north find mirrors here, hotter regions with accordingly sparser populations... where people could move. 

To the farthest south and east are the wide coastlines, each marked with large cities. Only the fortress nature of many estates at the hearts of settlements recalls much of Meria's more warlike history, after the great efforts of the late Queen to ensure peace for all Meria Boule, and the spread of knowledge. Nevertheless, the increasing spread of monsters can make travel without caravan or guards a perilous undertaking indeed.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_gmgvAz8Ks
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

CAPEL COFFA

The Caravan Kinship has been visiting Capel Coffa a fair amount. They are Elw ruins and Elw ruins are a particular breed of ruin. Frequently dangerous, frequently full of horrifying secrets, often rend space and time in some way? It might not be that big of a surprise that Solaris wishes to contain the sight and plunder its secrets for themselves--as well as prevent some drifters from unleashing who knows what--really depends on the Solarian agent you ask.

The Kinship intends to pay another visit to the ruins that seem to have so much to say but as they arrive they find they are not alone on the island. Standing on the cliffside are three Solarians who have been waiting for you.

Professor Alexander Castle is one such Solarian. He is a large eight foot tall muscle man wearing a tiny pair of glasses. One of his limbs seems to have been replaced with a cybernetic limb. He hasn't been seen since the Seven Sages Ruin.

Another is OS, who is hovering in place off the edge of the cliffside, looking as impassive and unfeeling as ever. She is presently holding position but her eyes track the Kinship as they arrive.

And finally there is a young woman of about 18 years whom some of you may know as Rachiel Medry, Lydia's and OS's operator and handler. She looks... nervous. Her hands are shaking and she keeps curling her hands into fists and then unclenching them to expel some of that energy. She has a sword sheathed in a scabbard at her side.

Esau...did you hear? He died in a training accident.

It was Voss... I guess he couldn't take it. Poor Rachiel... Esau had such promise...

But he was too soft on the lambs... He tried to hide it but... I wonder...

Rachiel avoids looking anybody in the eyes. She doesn't say anything. Instead, it is Castle that speaks.

"Isn't it beautiful?" Castle asks. "Gardens like these...careless lambs will always destroy them." He slowly crosses his arms. "I tried to warn all of you. I tried to ease her into her role, tried to show her harsh truths, but you just wouldn't have it."

He shakes his head. "You've been deemed too dangerous by the Ministry so I will make this ultimatum one last time since I am authorized to give you this opportunity. Fall in line like good little lambs, or find yourself on the butcher's chopping block. The weapon will be the butcher's blade."

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Where the Caravan Kinship expected a normal, routine adventure... when they arrive, they are instead met with familiar faces - and one unfamiliar one, though Jacqueline has an idea of who she might be. Jacqueline takes a deep breath and shuts her eyes to steel herself.

Just turning around and running... that probably wasn't an option right now, right? She glances around at the others before taking a step forward.

"...OS. And... you must be Rachiel, right?" Jacqueline greets. She's making a lot of guesses, but that's what her intuition is telling her, on both accounts.

She looks toward Castle, then, folding her arms in front of her with a frown.

"Professor Castle. I see you found yourself a new arm. Solarian technology is quite impressive - I'm sure there are a lot of people who could benefit, if you'd only be willing to share." She comments, then shakes her head with a frown. "'Easing her into her role'? 'Harsh truths'? Get off your high horse - you decided that role for her yourself. You were trying to control her, against her will."

Her frown deepens as he continues.

"Should I be flattered that they're giving us special attention? Though... I'm not entirely sure what we did to deserve it." Jacqueline replies. "I'm insulted that you'd even ask, though. I'm not sure what you mean by 'falling in line', but I really don't have any intentions of doing what you or your masters want me to. But I don't have any intentions of dying, either. I'm sure we're all in agreement on that?"

She looks back at her friends, then looks toward OS, then.

"...There's still time, you know. You don't have to do this." She says.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Visiting Capel Coffa again was on Catenna's radar, but until now she's been preoccupied being in the background of the goose dig and opening up for her dance-senpai. It's been nice to get a break from that. A little exploration could be just what the doctor ordered.

Not this kind of doctor, though. As she approaches the ruins and catches sight of the figures waiting for them, her expression rapidly darkens, and she reaches back to slide her bow off her shoulder and into her hand.

As Castle starts talking trash about them, Catenna lowers her eyelids slightly before looking towards the hovering OS, then back towards the professor.

"Did you practice that monologue in the mirror, or does being racist trash just come naturally to you?" she asks as she draws an arrow.

"I will tolerate no more of this. Return my precious star sister, or I will kill you and take her back."

Catenna doesn't know Rachiel from Adam. She gets a glance from the Moon Shaman, but the reticence in her body language is clear enough that Catenna doesn't say anything to her, just beginning to reach for an arrow.

She glances at Jay with a shake of her head. "Don't dignify his nonsense by arguing. People like this don't deserve to be treated as if their insanity is in any way valid."

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia hasn't, yet, gone to Capel Coffa. She is with the Caravan Kinship, though, today. She is a little excited to get to see the ruins for herself; she is also on guard, because she is Jay's bodyguard. She is paid to do such things. She looks up at the cliff.

She tenses, when she spots three figures there. It is an instinctive, almost automatic movement, to put her hand on Mirage's hilt and look up at the cliff, a little tense.

When Castle speaks, her eyes widen. "The Ministry?" she asks. She looks sideways at Jacqueline, and does her best to piece some of this together. Something, Talia thinks, regarding Solaris. She keeps her hand on her heilt, and tilts her head up.

Then she glances at OS. There's a moment's hesitation.

"You don't think we'd really just fall in line, no?" she asks, looking back at Castle.

<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

Mariel has wanted to come back to Capel Coffa, so perhaps it is her fault (or, at least, at her request) that people are on the island with her. She is prepared for a walk and an expedition; sturdy boots, travel satchel, the whole nine yards.

She is aware that, occasionally, there are other people at Capel Coffa. There are other Diggers after all, and honestly it doesn't bother Mariel very much that non-Elw are visiting the place as long as they don't destroy it. It is a memorial to times long gone; she doesn't feel that she has any particular claim on it even if she does feel an attachment to the place and its contents.

But she pulls up a little short when she sees who it is. She has not met Rachiel in person before, or Castle for that matter, and she looks between them in a slightly baffled manner before focusing on the one person here she does know: OS.

"...? OS?" Mariel addresses her, though then she looks at Castle, because... well, only one person is being threatening here and it's not OS. "I don't know what you are talking about," she says, trailing off in volume a little near the end. "I'm sorry. I don't know what you want me to do."

A brief pause, then: "But I do not think threats are the way to make us do it. Especially given - " She tilts her head toward OS. "... everything. I don't think you and your people can be trusted. So..."

She swallows. "OS, please... step away."

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Among the CaraKin contingent intending to once more explore Capel Coffa... one Ethius Hesiod, that strange Symbologist of worrisome character and conduct, who still keeps some sort of emotional distance even today. There has always been this strange manner to him where he positions himself in such a way that he is separate from the action going on around him even though he is physically right there. Staring, internalizing, and being all sorts of obtuse until he suddenly moves into decisive action with only rare flashes of strong emotion.
        He's among the first to look up, but is not the first to speak as he observes the three figures on or around the cliffside. He stands there, watching, almost unblinking aside from the baseline biological necessity of a human being to do so. He does recognize the much larger silhouette. Recognizing the voice that speaks to them, poetically and then threateningly. Deemed too dangerous by the Ministry - a threat, a red line in the sand drawn.
        He notably does not run ahead of whoever has taken the lead - something he has historically done just about any time lost or strange technology stands to do any of them harm. The situation itself is far more dire than 'where does the weird man choose to stand,' but that in itself is no less concerning even with that looming shadow of the ire of Gebler.
        ...
        His hand goes over the (covered) lower half of his face, which is an odd gesture because what's there needs no further obfuscation.
        ...The confidence in which he speaks is curious. Ethius internalizes, as others speak their defiance clearly. Ethius does not join the chorus of rejections. He seems ready to do that thing where he pretends he's not really there, not part of what's going on in favor of whatever it is he is seeking... but somewhere, in all of this, he does speak.
        "What is it that you intend to do should the blade refuse to be held?" Ethius asks with that unnatural calm. "...I ask hypothetically, as you appear to have ascertained in advance that matters will proceed as you envision."

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

It's times like these that Cyre really wishes he'd spend more time figuring out how to hide a sniper's nest on top of the Carakin. "Of course they'd choose a time like this," the shaman complains, rubbing exasperatedly at his forehead. "I appreciate that you'd at least take the time to inform us of our impending doom before executing upon it. I'm sure it must make you feel properly holier-than-thou."

Cyre's distaste for the Sky People is well documented, but this particular one has given him abundant reason to despise his continued existence. "Something about a twisted sense of honor, I think? Or are you just trying to look like the merciful overlord to those poor girls you've got wrapped around your finger? Disgusting, either way."

'Good little lambs' he says. A wicked grin splits across Cyre's face, wind already beginning to whip and whirl around him. "Let's get this over with, Castle. You already know what our answer is going to be. I'll warn you now, though--"

"Lydia may be my little sister," his eyes narrow, voice dropping into a low snarl, "But the puppet you've got wearing her face will get no mercy from me. Spare us the trouble and come fight us yourself, coward."

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ivan has never met Castle before. He knows some of the legends, but not the face that goes with the stories. His hackles were already up, seeing ... not Lydia, but OS, along with Rachiel, and some unfamiliar man.

When Jacqueline calls the man by name, it snaps into place that this is one of Lydia's tormentors, not just some random Solarian who might be Doing His Best or whatever. Ivan catches fire far more easily these days when his emotions run hot, and that holds true now as well; as anger flares, a flame flashes up along his arms and shoulders, now.

Good -- that's not a problem -- he's already encouraging it, calling more, trying to shape it into something he can throw.

"It's about time one of you came into roasting distance," he tells him, shaping a funnel of fire around his hands and trying to push to the front of the group so he can take a shot.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

No matter how elaborate the preparation, one never can plan for every variable. The possibility always exists of factors that weren't a part of any of the models. Someone who isn't part of the Kinship, didn't arrive here with the Kinship, but just happened to have business with them, learn of their expedition today, and decided to follow them here.

Telling people you'd be coming in advance? Don't be silly. Xantia's never been particularly easy to plan for. She's not about to start now.

Xantia must have seen, or perhaps sensed the trouble from afar, because she arrives shortly after the Carakin halts, approaching from a different direction off the beaten path. A few stray leaves and twigs remain stuck in her long hair, the green among the red giving away the fact that she cut through some vegetation in a hurry to get here. But she seems in no hurry now. Her approach is slow and purposeful, her expression deathly serious.

"Castle. I wasn't expecting to see you again. Let's make this the last time."

With a hum and a crackle, her ARM activates, a red blade springing to life from her bracer. She halts, and points the weapon at the Solarian scientist.

"You have been deemed too dangerous, by me. And I'm not making any ultimatums."

Xantia is rarely this grimly serious, but where it comes to Solaris, these days, there has been only one powerful sentiment in her mind.

"I'm not letting you take any more of my friends! You hear me?!"

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

SEVERAL YEARS AGO

Rachiel struck at the target dummy again and again with her blade. In her mind's eye she saw who she was striking down again and again. Sweat dripped down her face. Periodically classmates would look over and give her concerned looks. Like, why was she going to all this trouble anyway? Who was she expecting to have to fight that would be worth all this effort?

"Miss Medry," Professor Castle approached her in the middle off her set. "You know that striking down Loren won't bring back your brother."

Rachiel didn't answer him. She just kept striking at the dummy.

"Whatever rumors you have heard. I assure you they are incorrect. It was just an accident. His brother deserves the same chance as you do...but if you keep losing control like this... You are simply going to become another accident. You know that don't you? Being a shepherd means being in control."

Rachiel's blade stopped swinging.

NOW

"O-oh, hello there." Rachiel stammers at Jay, looking EVEN MORE nervous at being called out.

"I consider it an embarrassing reminder," Castle says. "Of taking your so-called crew of merchants lightly. But then...it was the Ice Queen wasn't it? And I don't see her here."

He shakes his head. "I decided nothing. Master Krelian decided her role." He glances to Talia and shakes his head. "I find it regrettable. Under our guidance you could have been so much more."

Castle looks to Ethius. "Mm. Do you expect to understand?" He shakes his head. "Rachiel--"

"Sir," Rachiel says. "I would like to remind you that orders notwithstanding, I do not consider this the appropriate way to wield the guardian blade."

Castle shakes his head. "When they're gone, she will have no more reason to resist. Focus up, Rachiel. I can see you shaking. Eliminate them."

Rachiel grimaces and draws her sword, drops it, kicks it along the floor a couple of times NEARLY OFF THE CLIFF, but manages to save it at the last moment and says, "Whew!" before smiling awkwardly. "Well, you heard him. Don't hold back... I'm...actually pretty good!"

And then OS speaks now, "We understand. We apologize, Mariel, but a blade must obey its wielder."

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbXCkOk7PrI

OS darts forward first, slicing her blade for Cyre's stomach in a smooth motion. "An interesting opinion." They say before sending a sploosh of silver glob expelling out of their arm towards Mariel and Talia which will burn upon impact--and then detonate.

Castle darts forward towards Jacqueline, Ethius, and Catenna. He aims to literally grab Ethius and swing him like a club towards the other two, clearly intent on getting rid of THAT GUY first.

Rachiel approaches Ivan with her blade at the ready, shaking. "E...err...you can take it a little easy on me, actually. Are you okay? You're kind of on fire..." She takes a few quick experimental slices with her blade--water swirling around the blade with each strike and threatening to put out some of those flames!

OS then leaps for Xantia, shifting into silver mist as they approach, rapidly shifting into an ELECTRICAL CLOUD as they pass through her before resolidifying out the other side.

DC: Lydia Seren switches forms to Project Baphomet OS Caution Level Yellow!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Efficient Bladeworks!
GS: Lydia Seren enters a Counter stance!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Xantia with Electric Slide!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz completely evades a hit from Lydia Seren's Efficient Bladeworks!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Swinging Ethius Around!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Swinging Ethius Around!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Catenna with Swinging Ethius Around!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Mariel with Basileus Philosophorum Metaloricum!
GS: Ethius Hesiod guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Swinging Ethius Around for 68 hit points!
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Swinging Ethius Around for 49 hit points!
GS: Catenna takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Swinging Ethius Around for 54 hit points!
GS: Xantia critically Guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Electric Slide for 23 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Talia with Basileus Philosophorum Metaloricum!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Ivan with Efficient Bladeworks!
GS: Lydia Seren enters a Counter stance!
GS: Lydia Seren's  stance ends. She enters the  stance!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
GS: Talia takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Basileus Philosophorum Metaloricum for 79 hit points!
GS: Mariel guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Basileus Philosophorum Metaloricum for 91 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia's eyes widen a little, when she sees her brother step forward and summon a cyclone of flame. It shapes around his hands, reflecting in her eyes as he walks forward. She swallows, hard, and then hurries after him. "Brother!" she calls out. "Hold on!"

She hurries after -- ducks past Cyre, just avoids nudging Xantia, and then catches up to Ivan. "I'm with you, n--" Before she can finish making that a question, a glob of burning silver comes flying at her. She ducks to the side, and it just clips her shoulder. It burns, a jagged red mark on her shoulder where it leaves a chemical burn on impact.

And then it flies off, and Talia looks at OS. She hesitates, before recalls what Lydia told her, once: she hated everything about this. Talia sets her jaw -- reminds herself that this is not her friend -- and then holds a hand out. A magical circle swirls under her feet, spinning triangles and runes inside of the rings of blue light.

The air in front of her held-out hand, still gloved, grows cold. Ice mists in the air, then forms a long javelin of ice. It flies off straight for OS.

GS: Talia has attacked Lydia Seren with Freeze Lancer!
GS: Talia has completed her action.
GS: Ivan critically Guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Efficient Bladeworks for 23 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Talia's Freeze Lancer for 80 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren's Force Guard activates!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

The response from her friends is the only response Catenna could've expected. Knuckling under in the face of this situation is nothing like the Kinship.

She presses her lips together, hand at her hip as she turns her gaze to Lydia. Only her uncertainty keeps her from appealing to her directly. The situation with the Star Shaman has mainly served to baffle her: Lydia's been present in her life and yet not present, and she can't be sure that Lydia would even hear her. The idea of personalities as operating systems within a piece of hardware is alien to how she thinks.

"This won't stand, Lydia," is all she can say, her voice a low but firm murmur.

Then Castle's jumping at them, swinging Ethius like a weapon. With no desire to get her lumps, Catenna dives away from the attack and abandons her plans to shoot. The symbologist jostles her nevertheless, a glancing hit that thumps against her bicep hard enough to leave a bruise.

The ache doesn't stop her. With the grace of a dancer, she lands on her toes and pivots away, her hair whirling around her like a shadow sunburst. Pale grey eyes flash with intent as she drops her bow hand to her waist, brushing a pair of fingers over the silver tablet woven securely into her belt.

"Nobody needs your guidance," she bites out. "Every time someone like you has come around promising to guide us, all that has followed is sorrow. You have exploited Lydia for too long."

Her hand tenses against her Medium. "It is not just as Celesdue's chosen that I reject you. It is as someone who loves Lydia. And it is as a person who has been cast out by supposed 'superior races' too many times. It is time you feel the pain you so casually inflict on those you consider beneath you."

As she speaks, Catenna's holding her free hand out, gathering power. It manifests as a ripple in the air, an invisible talon beginning to clench around Castle. The force of gravity intensifies as Catenna attempts to seize him in place and compress him under the force of his own magnified gravity, like a vast fist trying to squeeze the blood out of him.

GS: Catenna has attacked Lydia Seren with Grav!
GS: Catenna has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius' gaze is unwavering to whether he expects to understand. He doesn't answer. It is a rare instance where he inflicts one of his more irritating traits towards someone who deserves to have such inflicted. It's what Castle says to Rachiel that has him turning his head in her direction. 'When they're gone, she will have no more reason to resist.'
        She is treated as a tool. She chided me for utilizing her in such a manner. Ethius thinks, having the space to do so as Rachiel reasserts her skill. ...If that is the value he places in her, that is...
        Castle doesn't give him time to put the dots together. He's huge, but he's fast - faster than Ethius as he gets the Symbologist by his upper body and swings him around, feet outward. Being in Castle's grip, alone, should be the end of that. Castle's grip doesn't lie - this is a flesh-and-blood human being in lamb-tier armor.
        He has the presence of mind to retract his legs best he's able to minimize the odds of striking whoever he's being swung at. The velocity he is being swung at threaten to black him out on the spot, but a part of him recognizes that this level of g-force is something he's... trained for?
        Where?
        ...Thinking can wait when he's out of his grasp, and there's a four-in-five chance that this event is 'never.'
        Being caught by Castle limits the amount of oxygen he has to work with, and surges of pain run through the one free arm he has. His options are close to nil. Operative word being... 'close.'
        He flexes the fingers of the free hand in a wavy fashion, fighting past the residual dizziness of being swung around as he squeezes out the syllables from his throat. There aren't many - it's a fast cast by necessity, by design.
        "...Optic Flaaaare," Ethius hisses out as spellcasting lights go off, followed by a blinding burst of fast-moving light that tries to travel past Castle's face. Even if this gets him out of his grasp, he'll need a few moments to catch his breath - too winded for proper banter or colorful internal thought.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Lydia Seren with Optic Flare!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Ethius Hesiod's Optic Flare for 27 hit points!
GS: Jam! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Riposte! applied to Ethius Hesiod!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Catenna's Grav for 62 hit points!
GS: Disease! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Lydia Seren's Force Guard activates!
<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

Something said by Rachiel makes Mariel just freeze for a moment, ears flattening.

'The Guardian Blade'. That's what they're calling her? To remind her of that - but Lydia is nothing of the sort. Nothing like that. Nothing...

"You don't have to be a blade," Mariel says, quietly. "Or... at least you can pick a new wielder. A blade can be used for good or evil, but they say even a blade may choose to glance away..."

Mariel reflexively holds up her satchel to protect herself from things being shot at her, by any method - silver glob, bullet, or anything else. The blob impacts the reinforced side of her traveling satchel, sizzling for instants before exploding.

The good news is that the explosion doesn't start right at Mariel's skin. The bad news is that the force of it was still enough to slam the bag back into her face and make her stagger back, then fall on her rear with exactly none of the awe-inspiring grace you'd expect from an ancient immortal.

The worst news is that Mariel has to feel around very quickly to see if anything in the bag is broken. It doesn't seem so, but... she's a little worried about it.

Not as worried as she is for OS. Mariel reaches into her bag, pulling out something as she rises - and then she freezes, the small bottle full of something red and viscous held in one hand. She can't bring herself to throw it at OS, even when she's under attack - even though it's nonlethal, anyway. She just can't.

Mariel shoves the bottle back into her bag and pulls out an apple instead, which she flings at Catenna in a high arc, easy to catch. "Here!" she calls, to get her attention.

GS: Mariel has attacked Catenna with Sorcery Apple!
GS: Mariel has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Mariel has completed her action.
GS: Catenna takes a solid hit from Mariel's Sorcery Apple for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Catenna gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Hyper and Surge! applied to Catenna!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"...I just don't like rejecting communication." Jacqueline admits to Catenna. "I'd like to think it's possible they can see our point of view - to make them understand."

She looks back at Rachiel, then, offering her a polite smile at her stammered response, but then looks back at Castle with a shrug.

"The Ice Queen... Avril?" Jacqueline questions with a frown. Now that is something she doesn't know anything about. "I'm not sure what you mean by that, but we can't lean on her forever. We have to take care of our own problems sometimes."

Castle corrects her, then, and Jacqueline nods.

"Okay - my apologies, then. But you're at least not denying that someone decided it for her." She says.

But, as much as she would rather it didn't, it looks like there's going to be a fight after all.

Castle actually grabs Ethius and swings him. Jacqueline eye's open wide in surprise and she quickly tries to backpedal out of the way. She gets clipped, but getting clipped with an Actual Grown Person is still not going to be pleasant. It sends her reeling, but she recovers quickly. In one swift moment she draws out a bottle of lavender liquid, hurling it at Castle. It breaks upon contact, releasing fumes that sap away at one's strength.

"So, what's in it for you, Professor? Are you doing this just because you're a good little Solarian, or do you have some other motive?" Jacqueline asks. She backpedals even further, trying to put herself in a better position, though she does glance Ethius's way to make sure he's alright after being manhandled.

She also glances Rachiel's way, noting her hesitation.

"You don't seem entirely into it like he is. Are you sure you're okay with this?" She asks. "There's always time to change."

As for OS... Mariel seems to have them well-handled. She keeps an eye on them, though, to make sure they're alright.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Lydia Seren with Sapping Solution!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ivan is not moved by Rachiel's reluctance or nerves. If anything, he only gives her a darker look as she fumbles her weapon, especially as she moves to block his path once she recovers it.

"GET OUT OF THE WAY!" Ivan snaps at her, the flames roaring higher with the volume of his voice. "What's the point of you acting nice when it doesn't matter if you're going to be a part of things like this?!"

He makes a sound like a snarl, and barely seems to hear Talia as she approaches him.

"It doesn't matter. You and I are overdue to fight. I'll just go through you."

The water that flies from Rachiel's weapon splashes into him with a hiss.

He winces at the lash of cold, but there's enough fire flaring around him now that it doesn't have the dampening effect on him that it otherwise might.

He gives a yell, and the flame around him coalesces into a sphere as wide as a person is tall, a globe of searing heat which rolls toward Rachiel, threatening to overtake her.

GS: Ivan spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Ivan has attacked Lydia Seren with Searing Sphere!
GS: Ivan has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

        "You find it regrettable?" Cyre laughs, wind dancing around his limbs, wrapping them in invisible sheaths of elemental energy. "How full of yourself can you possibly be? I never thought I'd ever see a man capable of crawling up his own ass, but I guess here we a-- damnit Ivan--" Cyre spit-takes as someone goes flying right into battle like some kind of reckless hothead...!

"I was going to do that!" Oh.

He just... He just wanted to be the first one in the fight. Okay. That's fine too.

        Battle is joined. OS comes straight for him with a lethal blow. A few weeks ago, OS might have been able to disembowel Cyre right then and there. Instead, her blade meets Cyre's palms... And goes no further. A killing edge grinds into strange, black metal, shedding a shower of brilliant sparks. "Your professor is a coward. That's no opinion." The shaman growls, gripping his gauntleted hands tight around OS' sword-- and pivots, hurling her away.

"A coward who claims no responsibility for his actions, and then has the gall to declare his own superiority when it's clear he's just towing this 'Krelian' guy's bullshit line! Puppets are superior to nothing and no-one, no matter whose face they wear or who pulls their strings!" Cyre holds his palms close to one-another. Power gathers there, a whirling disk of high-pressure air. With a roar, he slams his hands together, sending curtains of razor-sharp, gale-force wind screaming up at the so-called Guardian Blade...!

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Lydia Seren with Grand Pressure!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Ivan's Searing Sphere for 88 hit points!
GS: Poison! applied to Lydia Seren!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia tsks as OS wastes no time in springing into action. But then, she expected no different. A blade must obey its wielder, indeed. There was never any way she was going to get at Alexander Castle himself while OS is right there. That's fine. She was prepared for this.

She wasn't prepared for the nature of the attack directed at her. She takes a swipe with her energy blade, which passes harmlessly through the suddenly formless cloud of electicity, which then proceeds to pass directly through her body. Xantia winces, but... that actually barely hurt at all, it was just kind of tingly. It may have something to do with her subconsciously reacting to it by electrifying her own body, fighting electricity with electricity.

Aware of her aura making her hazardous to touch, she darts aside to actively avoid Talia when she comes barrelling through. While seeking out OS's new position, only one word of that particular exchange sticks in her mind. 'Brother'. This only serves to further reinforce her personal vow to stop Solaris from separating people from their loved ones.

Deactivating her blade for the time being, she rushes OS, bridging the last bit of distance by leaping forward to deliver an electrically-charged kick. Whether bouncing off or sailing past, she lands in a crouch, then quickly resumes a martial arts stance as she faces OS. While she doesn't have much hope of this working, she does feel that she should should at least try to speak to the friend she knows has to be in there somewhere.

"Lydia! There's no way you agree with any of this, fight back against this thing!"

Aaaand then she completely undercuts the drama when she catches something sailing through the air out of the corner of her eye. "Is that a blue apple?!"

What, it's food, that's important.

GS: Xantia has attacked Lydia Seren with Elemental Fury!
GS: Xantia assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Lydia Seren critically Guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Sapping Solution for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! applied to Jacqueline Barber!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: COUNTER! Lydia Seren counterattacks Cyre H. Lorentzwith Counter Attack!
GS: Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Grand Pressure for 139 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lydia Seren gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Poison! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Xantia's Elemental Fury for 61 hit points!
GS: Mighty! applied to Xantia!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz completely evades a hit from Lydia Seren's Counter Attack!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

OS is impaled by a javelin of ice. They look to Talia for a moment before pushing the javelin the rest of the way through, leaving a hole in her body that rapidly reforms around the wounded area. Their arm twists into the form of an axe which they swipe for Talia's body in a smooth motion. "It has been requested of us that we not hold back, even for loved ones."

They look to Mariel. They just watch her...slowly drawing power from the mediums implanted into their body, a turquoise colored energy crackling around her, a faint glowing line extending from her towards Rachiel. There is a hint of recognition behind those green eyes as they study Mariel.

"Our partner is--"

OS's blade is caught by Cyre. They tilt their head in curiosity but seem about as afraid as a rock. Cyre tries to THROW OS but unfortunately the blade melts into goop in his hands. Before he can throw the goop--it detonates around him into a small but rather CLOSE explosion. Cyre gets off a burst of wind as this is happening that pulses around OS. It rips off several globs of silver fluid from their body but they still, as impassively as ever, endure this before firing off a sudden burst of brilliant hot white light for Cyre's body. "Puppets are superior to no one, no matter whose face they wear, or whose brother they are." OS says.

Xantia manages to get a hit on OS during a solid state, knocking them off of the cliff with a single electrically charged kick! They plummet for a while before righting themselves with their wings and hovering back up into the air--and staying there.

"Lydia cannot hear you now. We will share your messages with her when it is her turn once more. We expect she will appreciate them." OS says before raising their hand and..summoning Rigdobrite...who promptly aims to crash towards Xantia--and possibly Mariel if she isn't careful--it isn't exactly aimed FOR her but Rigdobrite is not exactly precision fire.

Castle kind of has it out for Ethius here. He is EVENTUALLY able to break free by sending a flash of light into Castle's eyes--which gives CATENNA an opportunity to pin him hard with her mastery of the gravitic forces. He...he is a big guy of considerable mass, but it still pins him still for a while.

"Have you even looked at your societies?" Castle asks. "Your effect on the surface? You have deserts next to deserts because of what you lambs have done to yourselves. Yet you expect us to simply leave you to your own devices."

He punches the floor and crackling electrical light bursts out of the floor threatening to envelop the two of them.

To Jay he says, "It is the responsibility of a professor to be an example to his students. There have been too many unfortunate instances as it is."

Rachiel says, "W..woah!" as she sees her water HISSING off Ivan into steam. "That...are you...are you even human?" She asks, clearly uncertain in this moment before exhaling out a breath and slamming her blade into the floor, a wall of ice bursting into view and blocking the wall of flame. The heat STILL sears into Rachiel even with the wall of ice in the way but she still slams the remains off the ice wall forward at Ivan, crackling electricity traveling from OS empowering the wall as it crashes towards him. She hops back up to her feet, her hands still shaking around her blade.

"I'm sorry," She says. "Leah says I have to do it, but it's not easy for me. I haven't, before, you know? Not like she has... If I was braver we wouldn't have to do this at all." She looks to Jay and murmurs, "You think escape for her is so easy don't you?" The shaking around her blade comes to a stop and she backflips towards Castle, slicing towards Jay's bottle and freezing it in an instant. She blinks once as if surprised at herself.

"Hey...!" She brightens. "My hands stopped shaking!"

She darts forward in a smooth motion, sending a well placed thrust for Jay's shoulderblade. "I've got these two, Professor." She says.

GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Talia with Hands Not Fit For Holding!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Lydia Seren with Hello world!!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Hello world! for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lydia Seren gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Hyper and Surge! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Optimized Material - Solais Emsu - RESONANCE.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Xantia with Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Mariel with Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Electric Slide!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Catenna with Electric Slide!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Ivan with Electric Slide!
GS: Catenna takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Electric Slide for 52 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Efficient Bladeworks!
GS: Lydia Seren enters a Counter stance!
GS: Lydia Seren takes 24 damage from Poison!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber critically Guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Efficient Bladeworks for 22 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Jacqueline Barber gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Solais Emsu - RESONANCE.EXE for 72 hit
points!
GS: Talia guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Hands Not Fit For Holding for 91 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Talia gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Electric Slide for 50 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Ethius Hesiod gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Xantia takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE for 102 hit
points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Xantia gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Mariel completely evades a hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Mariel gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Mariel's Force Evade activates!
GS: Ivan takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Electric Slide for 117 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Ivan gains 1 additional Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

The sight of Mariel going down is enough to make Catenna's heart leap with worry - but the tiny Elw is calling out to her, and the Moon Shaman cannot refuse it. "Mariel!" she calls back, snapping her hand out to clutch the thrown fruit. She takes a big bite out of it, somehow managing to chew and not choke on it even as she dashes over open ground to try and cover her fallen friend as best she can.

The surge of energy is welcome, the sweetness of the blue fruit beyond refreshing. Her senses sharpen as she moves to reposition herself, eyes darting between Lydia and Castle.

It's the latter who accosts her, again. Lightning crackles through the floor, and Catenna vaults away into a high backflipping jump - but the lighting is a little faster, arcs of it searing past her close enough to singe. The hem of her dress is scorched by an arc of lightning, more of it catching across her thigh and flashing near her with a blinding heat. She winces in mid-leap, descending but coming down harder and less gracefully than she'd like. Her ankle spikes with pain as she brings her weight down on it awkwardly, and she staggers to try and keep from crumpling.

She succeeds, but barely. Rising with a toss of her head, she sweeps her hand forward. "The Zortroa and the Baskar have done nothing but protect this world," she bites out. "Do you know how many arrogant men I have met who come with their so called 'superior societies' and present themselves as oppressing us for our own good? Do you want a count of how many of them turn out to be murderers and tyrants? Would you be surprised to find the number is one hundred percent?"

Rising with a toss of her head, Catenna levels both hands above her head, feet apart. Energy gathers around her in shivering waves, visible only as distortions. Her breathing quickens as she focuses a spell - but her expression of quiet anger fades to a tight, fierce smile.

"So much has been taken from us already. Now you try to take my life at the hands of my star sister. But... I will not let you keep her."

She spreads her hands and calls out a word of power in Zortroan, ringing like a struck bell in the air - and a wave of power blossoms out from her. It roils across the landscape, brightening into a pale light. The power surges towards OS, Castle and Rachiel alike - but when it strikes them, the damage will not be physical.

The power strikes at magic and energy. The light of Dispel sinks in, breaking down their positive magicks, their technologies - and trying to weaken the technological bonds that bind OS to Castle's control.

GS: Catenna has attacked Lydia Seren with Dispel!
GS: Catenna has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: Lydia Seren takes a glancing hit from Catenna's Dispel for 0 hit points!
GS: Dispel! Hyper and Surge removed!
GS: Hex! applied to Lydia Seren!
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"Ivan!" Talia calls out again, her voice a little more desperate. She looks at him -- and then catches the blur of motion as Xantia rushes for OS. That prompts her to turn, spotting the way that OS is moving for her with an axe-arm. Talia, as it happens, is ready. She swings up Mirage, held in a reverse grip. The blades impact.

The axe blade drives it backward, the shock of the impact rolling through her weapon and arm. A sharp pain, from a hand jolted backward, and bones twisted in ways they shouldn't be.

And Cyre and Mariel are there, with her.

"I've no intention of holding back, no? You--you work with the ones who took Lydia from us," she says. "And--"

Her eyes snap, to Rachiel. To Ivan and Jay, fighting her. She calls out: "Jay! Make sure Ivan doesn't hurt himself!"

Maybe the way she calls out, in concern, for Ivan suggests her first and foremost goal, in this situation. She lunges forward, then, and swings Mirage up. Still with the reverse grip, she slashes up across the front of OS as she jumps. She tosses the weapon, then catches it in mid-air, and--

"Tiger Rage!" she calls out, as she slams the sword down, aimed not only at slashing into OS, but knocking her to her feet.

GS: Talia has attacked Lydia Seren with Tiger Rage!
GS: Talia has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Talia has completed her action.
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Talia's Tiger Rage for 63 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lydia Seren gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Slow! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Lydia Seren's Force Guard activates!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius' escape from Castle's grasp is in itself a violent affair - tumbling across a short length and being left wheezing, looking and acting uncharacteristically vulnerable. Sputtering, gagging, gasping for breath, quarterstaff drawn only so he has something to lean on for support out in the open. Catenna's act of applying copious amounts of gravitational force to his grappler undoubtedly saves his life then and there, even if it is only a momentary delay.
        The momentary delay is all Ethius needs to get oxygen back in his lungs, as he is silent through the declaration about Lydia being unable to hear them, from over yonder by OS' voice. Castle's observation about the present societies upon the surface are allowed to go verbally unchallenged. The sand-blasted dunes, the polluted waters, the wilting vegetation. There is no denying that many mistakes were made, across the years.
        Ethius' position isn't great, because he's only just shy of being out of the impact radius of the manifested Rigdobrite crash, and has an electrical burst shaking the ground where he stands (...kneels). His stumble off to the side is not a completely convincing evasive maneuver, but the backwash of Rigdobrite's impact pushes him into a barely-controlled tumble as a lick of electrical power courses through him in brief. Disorienting, painful, and numbing - but far from fatal.
        His focus sharpens back from adrenaline, attempting to center back to that level of acceptance and familiarity of this sort of situation, standing back up. Subconsciously, he is angling himself away from Jay and Catenna with awareness that Castle has it out for him. He takes several steps back slowly, which is a pointless gesture because Castle's closing speed could make up that miniscule difference like it doesn't even exist. Catenna's retorts are heard loud and clear, and something about them has the man's attention in all of this.
        The right to live as one does... free of the influence of others. Ethius isn't going out of his way to think about it. It just gets there. ...
        He seems slow to the draw. The outstretched hand is a tell, before the fingers start fluttering. He continues to lack a proper verbal comeback to Castle's assertions, reduced to the syllables of his Symbological spellcasting and the terminating phrase that denotes its name as light leaves what's visible of his Symbological tattoos. "Overheat."
        The air warps and shimmers with overbearing heat upon Castle's position, returning to silence.
        ...That also applies to...

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Lydia Seren with Overheat!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

Mariel cannot handle OS - not on her own, if only because she is still avoiding actually attacking her.

Fortunately, she is not alone. "Yes, it's an apple, yes, it is blue, no, I don't have another," Mariel says, all in a rush, as if she was expecting Xantia to ask and is getting the response over as quickly as possible.

But she does have something else, doesn't she? And if Xantia is going to keep defending her, well...

Mariel throws herself in a dive away from the meteors. She looks like she would have licked to tuck and roll, but she actually just kind of ends up crawling a few feet, tucking herself behind a rock. She peeks up over the rock a few moments later as Rigdobrite-summoned meteors crash down - none close enough to hit her, but some close enough to be worrying while she's back there.

She saw the moment of recognition. Maybe, maybe...

While searching, Mariel responds to Castle, "Some of us - we try to fix that. We of the Carakin... no. I can't speak for anything else. But my dream - my goal - is to make Filgaia green again. No matter what...!"

Mariel finds what she's looking for. "Xantia, here!" she calls, as she flings a small vial of greenish liquid, the vial wrapped with a blue ribbon that flutters behind it to make it a more obvious object in the air. It tastes a bit grassy, very strongly of green and growing things, but it grants a surge of strength, too.

She pushes herself up from behind the rock, rising up. "OS, I know speaking to you means it will get to Lydia. Your 'partner'... what does she have to say about this? I don't want to hurt her, or you, and I know she would not want to either!"

GS: Mariel has attacked Xantia with Sylkis Tincture!
GS: Mariel has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Mariel has completed her action.
GS: Please react using the attack number in +queue.
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Mariel's Sylkis Tincture for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Xantia gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Burst and Shield! applied to Xantia!
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre's eye twitches furiously, and not for the reason you might think. It's not because OS' body is infuriatingly goopy and fluid and just does not stay still long enough for him to get a good hit. It's not that the goop is explosive-- though it certainly is, and Cyre only manages to escape with a bit of singed hair by virtue of releasing a point-blank, full-body pulse of pressurized air. No, it's what OS says that has Cyre twitching.

"You don't get to say that to me!" The shaman growls, his voice steeped in so much incredulity that you could probably classify it as tea. A wall of white light sweeps toward him, and Cyre reciprocates with a barrier of his own brand of Solais Emsu's arcana. A prismatic orb strobes and flashes around the shaman, protecting him from the worst of the optical onslaught. Still, lances of searing radiance pierce through his veil, flash-burning through his loose robes and incinerating the skin below.

"Only Lydia gets to do the 'I'm copying you, neener-neener-neener' bit with me!" He snaps back, as Talia puts much of what he's feeling into words. "Little sister privileges do not extend to body snatching computer programs!"

Talia darts in, unleashing a punishing combination of sword blows. Cyre... Cyre is too busy being assaulted by the region's deadliest flashlight to do much to help.

...Or is he?

A mystic sigil blazes suddenly in the air above OS. It flashes, disgorging a torrent of intense sky-blue light right down on top of her!

It seems Cyre wants to fight fire with fire.

...

Or, as it happens, sky-guardian with sky-guardian.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"And even if they did," Cyre adds over the din of two different lasers going *FREEEEEEEEM* simultaneously, "She'd still be getting a noogieing for it!"

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Lydia Seren with Celestial Lore!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has gained 4 Combo!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

That...are you...are you even human?

"What else would I be?!" Ivan calls back. But despite the amount of fire he discharged toward Rachiel, fresh waves of it are still billowing from him.

Rachiel takes shelter behind a wall of electric-infused ice, then pushes it toward him. Ivan charges toward her, putting one shoulder forward and letting it crash into him, cracking into shards and sizzling through his nerves. It surely hurts. But he's not particularly in touch with his senses right now.

He lifts from the ground on jets of fire, calling a sword into his hands with a flash of his ring, and sweeping it down in an overhead strike at Rachiel--Ivan and the blade both enwreathed in flames.

"Stop playing nice! Being afraid doesn't matter! If you're afraid to be good, then don't pretend to be good! Now MOVE!"

GS: Ivan spends 2 Combo on Gatling, loading 2 into Gatling!
GS: Ivan has attacked Lydia Seren with Inferno Heart!
GS: Ivan enters a Counter stance!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
GS: COUNTER! Lydia Seren counterattacks Ethius Hesiodwith Counter Attack!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Ethius Hesiod's Overheat for 63 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lydia Seren gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Weaken! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Ethius Hesiod critically Guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Counter Attack for 20 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Ethius Hesiod gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Lydia Seren critically Guards a hit from Ivan's Inferno Heart for 39 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

The particular phrasing OS uses to reply to Xantia sets her off like nothing else. "Her turn? Her turn?! You have no right deciding that for her! You're just a--"

Whatever she was going to say next is cut off when she notices the tell-tale motions of a summoning about to happen. She's learned to recognize the signs - that's important to keep from being flattened by things way too big to defend against.

Of course, there's only so much you can do to prepare for Giant Space Rocks. It's one thing to be ready for them, it's quite another to entirely avoid harm from the impact. Thankfully she manages to avoid the flattening, but she can't get far enough away from the point of impact to avoid getting blown clear by it, landing on her side some distance away. "Ow ow ow..."

Xantia doesn't stay down for long, though. She grimaces at the cuts and bruises on her right leg as she rises, but she can stand without issue. Well, any landing you can walk away from...

Mariel proves that she's a good judge of character, pre-empting Xantia's rapid-fire questions with rapid-fire answers. "Aw," is her only vocal reaction. But she can very much empathize with the notion of wanting to make Filgaia a better place.

Rather than an apple, she is tossed a potion of some sort. Xantia catches it with ease, sniffs the contents briefly, then shrugs and chugs it all down in one gulp. While she ponders the taste, the vial suddenly shatters in her hand, and she stares in surprise. She wasn't squeezing it that hard. Did that make her stronger...?

Only one way to find out. Well, one preferred way, at least. And that's rushing back towards OS, and seeing what pouring all her strength into a single electrically-charged punch will do now.

The answer is that a massive explosion happens when she throws that punch, sending electric sparks every which way, and causing Xantia herself to skid backwards. She shakes her hand afterwards, sending more tiny sparks flying. "That's a good drink," she concludes. Then she smirks in OS's direction. "And a good question. But I have no trouble hurting one of Solaris's tools. I'll get Lydia out one way or another. She'll have her turn all the time if there's no one else left to take turns with, won't she?"

GS: Xantia spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Xantia has attacked Lydia Seren with Exploding Fist!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"Have you? Claiming yourselves superior and everyone on the surface as 'lambs' - you're already coming at this with a biased view." Jacqueline retorts, shaking her head. "Enforcing your will with violence isn't going to fix anything, either."

She frowns, then.

"You're setting a bad example, then, by being party to this." She replies. "This isn't the right way."

Her bottle flies toward Castle... but Rachiel intercepts, slicing through it. Jacqueline frowns, and when Rachiel moves toward her Jacqueline gestures with her left hand. A pillar of earth rises up out of the ground, intercepting Rachiel's blade and diverting it away from her shoulder. It strikes against her cloak - the impact still hurts, but at least it prevents a cutting wound.

"Of course I don't." Jacqueline replies to Rachiel, shaking her head. "Of course it's hard, and might even seem impossible - but that doesn't mean it isn't important to try. And for those close to her to keep reaching out, offering help however they can."

She hears Talia calling out to her, then, asking her to make sure Ivan doesn't hurt himself.

"I'll try!" Jacqueline says. To that end, she draws out a bottle of earthy-looking liquid. Even so, there's still something that seems pleasant about it.

"Ivan, catch!" She says, tossing him the bottle. It's a strengthening tonic - infusing the imbiber with the strength of the earth, making it easier for them to shrug off traditional martial attacks and making their own harder to resist, not to mention a general durability boost.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Ivan with Boulder Brew!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Celestial Lore for 98 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren's Force Guard activates!
GS: Ivan takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Boulder Brew for 0 hit points!
GS: Burst and Shield! applied to Ivan!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Xantia's Exploding Fist for 88 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren's Force Guard activates!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

There are no bonds that tie OS to Castle's control, Catenna will find, but she is able to weaken the link between Rachiel and OS--the line shimmering and growing weak. It doesn't quite dissolve it though. If only escape could be that easy.

"Do you even believe yourself, what you say about the Zortroa?" Castle scoffs, still struggling under Catenna's gravity push. He aims to pick her up this time--and swing HER at Ethius. But he's struggling. Catenna's gravitic power takes advantage of his size and these people have fought him before. Ethius's heat hits him even as he's swinging and he is forced to let go of Catenna, sweating profusely from the man's heat. "You... Who are you to stop us?" He hisses. "You who used her more cruelly than I ever had. Did you even tell your so-called friends...Tell them how you tried to force them to abandon her small Veruni friend! At least we don't pretend to be different from what we are!" He then throws one heck of a clobber for Ethius, following up with an explosion of light that detonates around the mysterious dude. He is going all out on Ethius in this moment.

Talia helpfully takes to the air to face OS on their own turf, so to speak. OS brings up both their arms but turning to liquid in the air is a recipe for disaster. They end up being slammed back to the floor. They land on their feet, but in a crouch, arms still pushing back Talia's blade. A burst of light detonates out from their chest, aiming to push Talia back with a burst of energy. "She misses you." OS says. "She suspects you are hiding something, but has decided to not bother you about it." OS straightens up. "We don't understand that. To have questions but to not ask them."

They flare up, recharging that link between them and Rachiel. "You believe...Lydia is our partner?" They quirk their head curiously. "You were talking about our wielder. Lydia is not our wielder. Lydia is part of the blade that composes our totality. When Rachiel informed us of our mission and asked us what we'd like to do, we decided then. She is the woman we were made to be wielded by. Our friend... Rachiel Medry. She had some issues with our initial plan and we adjusted it accordingly. However..."

OS looks to Cyre. "We're copying you. Neener neener neener." They say. Did... Did OS just hold a grudge? "Little sister privileges do not extend to body snatching computer programs. Neener-neener-neener."

They just don't have the right INTONATION for it but OS even mimics Cyre's attack, sending their OWN wave of energy crashing down upon Cyre from above even as a gravitic barrier ripples around their body, protecting them from Cyre's assault.

They look to Xantia. "Remove us, and you kill Lydia. You can't solve every problem by punching it. Or by talking to it. Sometimes you have to think."

Xantia slams her fist into OS's body and they extend a hand and unleash another surge of electrical sparks. OS's body wibbles unstabily for a moment--bursting into a cloud as they flash through Xantia's body once more, moving closer towards Rachiel and Castle.

Ivan unleashes a wave of fire and swings his blade down for Rachiel. But her hands have stopped shaking. In a smooth motion, she smacks his blade away with minimal adjustment to her posture, sending the fire spiraling away from her. "Was it really that easy for you?" Rachiel asks. "It's not like you're wrong, but was it actually that easy?"

She throws another crashing wave of water towards Ivan, trying to, like, put him out? She doesn't want to be on fire but she's kind of worried Ivan is going to explode at this rate. She falls back a bit, looking to Jay.

"Huh. That's not too different from what Elly said."

She cups her chin, lowering her blade as she mulls over it--as if forgetting she's in the fight for her life here! On the plus side, this means that Jay isn't getting stabbed for the moment.

"What--?" Castle looks over. "You found Elhaym?"

"She said that if my old ideals meant anything, I couldn't keep on my current course. It was really annoying to hear that. I'm still pretty frustrated by it. And then Lydie, she said that caring meant it was impossible for her to come back, to live the way she used to live. That was really frustrating. You think all us Solarians are monsters, don't you? But she has family there. They must be worried sick about her. She left them behind for you. I can't leave my parents or my sister behind. What do you think will happen to them, if I act carelessly?" She sighs. "...But Leah's right, you know. You know what she told me?"

Strangely enough, she even waits for an answer.

GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Catenna with Hands Not Fit For Holding!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Trinity Force!
GS: Lydia Seren has launched an attack Link!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Delta Attack!
GS: Catenna completely evades a hit from Lydia Seren's Hands Not Fit For Holding!
GS: Catenna's Force Evade activates!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Talia with Optimized Material - Solais Emsu - RESONANCE.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Optimized Material - Solais Emsu - RESONANCE.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Lydia Seren with Hello world!!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Hello world! for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lydia Seren gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Hyper and Surge! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Xantia with Locusts!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Trinity Force for 206 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Delta Attack for 187 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Ivan with Basileus Philosophorum Metaloricum!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
GS: COUNTER! Ivan counterattacks Lydia Serenwith Counter Attack!
GS: Ivan takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Basileus Philosophorum Metaloricum for 83 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Lydia Seren critically Guards a hit from Ivan's Counter Attack for 23 hit points!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Solais Emsu - RESONANCE.EXE for 141 hit points!
GS: Talia takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Solais Emsu - RESONANCE.EXE for 144 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Talia gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Xantia guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Locusts for 38 hit points!
GS: Cover and Mighty! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Raising her hand against her dear sister - it's not something Catenna can bring herself to do easily. All she can do is try to bring some justice to Castle, in the hopes of forcing him to release Lydia - or in the hopes of breaking the link herself. She's not sure it can be dispelled. But her magic was enough to partly unwind a Sealing Rod from Berserk's flesh. Perhaps it'll help Lydia, even a little.

Or perhaps it'll shift her focus. Her eyes dart towards Rachiel with a flicker of surprise.

Castle grabs at her, denouncing her all the while. As those huge hands descend, Catenna draws herself back, knees bending in readiness.

And then she jumps. She boosts herself up over Castle, spinning deftly in the air, her dress billowing around her legs like a big pinwheel. When she comes down, she's on the far side of him, out of his reach and pivoting away, but looking over her shoulder. "This is growing tiresome. What you have done to Lydia is beyond dispute. I will not give a monster that much dignity."

Again she darts away, flipping heels over head and springing off her hands, then coming down to catch a nearby pillar. She snaps herself around it with a knee hooked about it before spinning loose and pivoting away, unshouldering her bow and slipping it into her shooting hand.

Her other hand hovers at her waist. It dances over the Silver Moon Medium, a shimmer of silverblue light dancing from her fingertips. And she raises her voice.

"I will settle this in the name of the Moon."

From behind her, there is a loud hoot - and a huge white owl soars into view. A cloud of shimmering blue butterflies whirls around Saarda-Shanta as the Great Owl sails higher and higher. Light blooms around them all, swirling and expanding.

A pair of shimmering butterfly wings unfold. Perched above the battlefield on a gleaming golden crescent, the Guardian of the Moon herself sits, the train of her dress spilling out below her for seemingly endless miles. Holding out a hand, she calls a gilded bow into existence.

"Then do as you see fit, Shaman," Celesdue says, her voice echoing like a drop in an endless, serene ocean. Drawing her bow, she gathers a ray of light into the shape of an arrow and opens fire - and the arrow arcs towards Catenna.

It bursts around her, congealing into a nimbus of power. Drawing her own bow, Catenna takes a knee and fires the arrow high into the air. It arcs high, like a rising moon, and descends.

And lands in a spot equidistant between Castle, Lydia and Rachiel.

The wave of gravity that results is subtle and shimmering, but profound. The Solarian Trio will feel a powerful force lifting them from the ground, moving to bind them in the air and pin them in place.

Catenna raises her voice defiantly. "For what you have done... we will not let this stand! We will have our precious star sister by our sides again!"

GS: Formation! Catenna has attacked Lydia Seren with Material - Indomitable Empress!
GS: Catenna has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

"I don't know who you consider your partner," Mariel says. "I have only spoken to you once... I am closer to Lydia, and I wouldn't even say I know most of what she thinks. But I know one thing."

"Anyone who calls you the Guardian Blade... is wrong. The Guardian Blade was a ...mistake. It is something that shouldn't have been made. You are not. But the original Guardian Blade... it hurt everybody, when wielded the way it was meant to be. You don't have to. Maybe Rachiel is your friend, but friends don't make people hurt people either. And - Solaris has hurt people, by what they have done."

Mariel reaches into her pack again. She thinks she has one - yes, a short fat bottle of a sky blue liquid, streaked through with white. "I hate fighting. I wish nobody did it. I'm sorry you have family who can be hurt," she adds, addressing Rachiel for a moment. "They shouldn't do that, either. It's a horrible thing... I remember when my brother was hurt, and hated, for trying to help people. But if there is one thing that's worth it... it *is* making things better."

Mariel uncorks the bottle, reaching into it with power - not sorcery as humans practice it, but some sort of energy flow. It feels a little like a Guardian Arcana, but not the same; diffuse power focused just for a moment to a single point.

The liquid in the bottle sublimates into a cloud of pink firefly sparks as Mariel raises the body, sending the energy trapped in the liquid spreading away from her in a cloud of pink light.

"I don't want this fight! I don't want people to hurt each other! Please - please, just stop! And then we can find a better way!"

GS: Mariel spends 1 Combo on Reload!
GS: Mariel has attacked Xantia with Ambrosia!
GS: Mariel has attacked Talia with Ambrosia!
GS: Mariel has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Ambrosia!
GS: Mariel has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Ambrosia!
GS: Mariel has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Mariel has completed her action.
GS: Mariel heals Jacqueline Barber! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Jacqueline Barber gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Reload! Jacqueline Barber gains 15 extra FP from Mariel!
GS: Mariel heals Cyre H. Lorentz! He gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Cyre H. Lorentz gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Reload! Cyre H. Lorentz gains 15 extra FP from Mariel!
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Rage fills Ivan's face as Rachiel sweeps his blade aside. Flames continue to lash off of him, chaotically, some of them flying toward her, even as she redirects his attack.

"Let me kill him! Just LET ME FINALLY KILL ONE OF THEM!" he shouts, his voice going hoarse with the force of it.

That's when Jacqueline calls out to him. Ivan looks to Jacqueline with -- confusion, almost, and a bit of lingering anger, as if he can't quite get his head around why she could want his attention at this moment. But he catches the bottle reflexively, and drinks it down without asking what it is or offering a word of thanks.

A moment later, his attention is back on Rachiel. But just as soon as he turns back to her, her wave of water washes over him with a great splash, soaking him through. He shudders. For the moment at least, the flame issuing from his body fizzles, and Ivan takes a breath, shocked and a disoriented.

Was it really that easy for you?

"...No. No, it was the hardest thing in the world. But until I could face it, I never pretended to be anything but a tool." He knows he's no example for anyone to follow, he knows that. But all the same, the parallels he sees in Rachiel spark some fury in him that he can't seem to help himself from venting onto her.

He shivers, seeing that his flames have gone out.

"Come on, come on...!"

He pulls a throwing knife free, and after several false starts, he seems to intimidate it into igniting in his hand with a poisonous glare, the phantom shape of a fiery wasp taking shape around it, before he flings it at Rachiel.

GS: Ivan has attacked Lydia Seren with Fire Wasps!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
GS: Mariel heals Xantia! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Xantia gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Xantia enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Reload! Xantia gains 15 extra FP from Mariel!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Catenna's Material - Indomitable Empress for 0 hit points!
GS: Entangle and Shieldbreak! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Ivan's Fire Wasps for 179 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lydia Seren gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Poison! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Mariel heals Talia! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Reload! Talia gains 15 extra FP from Mariel!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

'That's not too different from what Elly said'. Jacqueline can't help but chuckle a little at that.

"Well, if that's the case, I must've said something right." She replies, and then thinks for a moment. "...I'd be a hypocrite if I condemned you all as monsters, right after yelling at Castle for condemning all of us as 'lambs'."

She shakes her head.

"No, I don't think you're monsters. You're people, just like us - the only difference is where you live, and your upbringing. I think we could see eye-to-eye, given time. I don't agree with what Solaris does - and has done, especially to Lydia. But I can't just conveniently ignore the fact that you're people too." She says. She goes quiet, then, when she mentions Elly's family - and her own family, too. Jacqueline goes quiet for a moment, considering.

"...I'm sorry - I can understand how things must be difficult for you. I wouldn't want you to put your family in jeopardy - we all have people we want to protect." She says. She pauses, then. "What did she tell you?"

But even so, there's still a fight going on. She's reminded by the thrum of power as Catenna calls upon Celesdue's power - bringing it down upon OS, Rachiel, and Castle. And there is another power, as well, flowing into her courtesy of Mariel. Jacqueline breathes deep and her stance lowers.

"...Let's put an end to this now, and then we can try to talk properly." In an instant, she sets two Crest Graphs into her gauntlet - one in the left and one in the right. By focusing on offense, she sacrifices on some defensive capabilities, but this lets herself more easily devote herself toward casting.

With that, there's a quick gesture of her left hand. The earth beneath OS, Rachiel, and Castle - though focused primarily on Castle - begins to crack as energy starts to tear through it, throwing loose rubble up into the gravity well formed by Celesdue's power. Even as this is going on her right hand begins to move and lightning begins to strike.

Ordinarily, this would send them all crashing back down to the earth below, but Celesdue's gravity will keep them in place for further follow-up.

GS: Jacqueline Barber spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Lydia Seren with Spellweaver Stance!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has launched an attack Link!
GS: Jacqueline Barber's  stance ends. She enters the Avenger stance!
GS: Formation! Jacqueline Barber has attacked Lydia Seren with Dualcast - Voltaic Quake!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jacqueline Barber's Avenger stance ends.
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"Thank you!" Talia calls back at Jay.

She tilts her head at OS, and her eyebrow lifts. "Keeping a secret... I keep a lot of secrets, no? Tell Lydia that I'm a terribly dishonest person. She should know that, no?" She cracks a smile. "But I am working on it. But, OS--"

She gets blasted back by the burst of energy from OS's chest. It slams into her, hurls her backward, and she doesn't move.

"Don't tell me these things," she says in a heated voice, kept low. "They're Lydia's. They're not yours to share, and coming from your lips--they're not how I want to hear them!"

Mariel's pink light swirls into her. She looks back at the young beastwoman, hearing her plea; she thinks of Amaranth, then, and Talia tenses. But, she nods her head, and then she launches herself forward. She throws Mirage for OS, blade tumbling -- and Talia vanishes into strands of shadowy smoke. The moment that Mirage comes in contact with them or the ground nearby, the shadowy strands reconnect.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Tq9G01292A

And Talia is there, in a rush of darkness tinged red. Her eyes shine in the light, before her foot slams at OS's cheek. "They're hers! And you telling us how she feels--"

And then she stabs the dagger that her brother gave her, plunging it at Lydia in her other hand. Mirage is thrust into the air over her head. Three rings of blue light expand out, up the length of the blade. Each ring fills in with lines that trace triangles and runes, before flashing.

And a column of ice explodes up underneath OS's feet. And, in fact, around her feet -- trying to entomb her inside of it.

"--steals those moments from her!"

GS: Talia spends 4 Combo on Link and Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Talia has attacked Lydia Seren with Mirage Edge!
GS: Talia has launched an attack Link!
GS: Talia spends 1 Combo on Gatling, loading 1 into Gatling!
GS: Talia has attacked Lydia Seren with Blizzaga!
GS: Talia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Talia has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        While Catenna may not be grasped by Castle, Castle doesn't need a human body to bludgeon the much smaller, slimmer (comparatively) Symbologist. Ethius swings a forearm inward to quickly-slurred syllables, activating the Symbological shield that manages to stop the counter-punch... if not cold, at least dulls the impact from 'chest cavity creating crush' to 'a champion boxer landing a clean hit.' There is an explosive, blinding sound of electrical power as Castle's sucker punch lays Ethius down to a weakened kneel as he dresses him down for what he's done.
        He doesn't debate it, but he doesn't look particularly guilty about it. Fighting past the pain and vacated oxygen from his lungs as Castle lays down his crimes, he is able to muster some thought. He acknowledges their friendship. With their 'small Veruni friend.' Ethius thinks. I recall the disdain of who I assume to be this Krelian for Riesenlied and Noeline... and from his coy dismissal of my ability to comprehend what would happen had OS chosen not to be their blade...
        He doesn't yet speak, for he can't. Not enough oxygen, as Castle claims the moral superiority of how they treat her over what he has done. Is the man capable of understanding the depths in which he can, does, and continues to use others as he has? He did memorably claim he would strike down Riesenlied right at the beginning of the siege of the Photosphere, after all.
        ...They would not be content to simply leave her as an intelligence asset, unless... he tries to organize his thoughts while standing up and assuming something of a defensible position, but doesn't quite manage as Castle bears down with the 'two' of the one-two. The fleshier arm does not have to deal with the issue of a pesky Symbological shield deflection, for it is just weaker enough, at just underneath some unspoken velocity threshold the shield catches, allowing him to take the full brunt of it.
        Inertia sees him spiraling across the ground alone as Castle primes the finishing blow. He feels numb all over. A twitch of one foot at least reveals he is not paralyzed. He can't finish the thought of where 'unless' was going, but there's that building urgency. An urgency of something beyond probable mortality. His entire life doesn't flash before his eyes because he doesn't have an entire life to recall, but he does remember the disturbance he felt at the idea of there being a memorial.
        He doesn't even need to color-thought the feeling into words, however tainted or flawed the feeling might be: there is a life in danger from...
        No time to finish that thought, as blinding lights start to gather, setting the sparks for that final explosive force.
        "...OS." Ethius speaks up best he can. It's too quiet. He has to take his face mask off, but he keeps one arm up to shield full view of the lower half of his face. His elbow is propped up by one knee, so he can just manage that. "I believe you have been given an impossible task."
        "You will find yourself incapable of killing your targets." Ethius states about as clear as he can. It's eerie - even as he struggles to breathe, he can maintain that tempo and tone in the way he speaks. Almost robotic, were there not so much to the contrary, or just poor voice direction in the English dub. "I do not believe your failure will be tolerated. What is the next step you would take for your own surviva--"
        There is an explosion of light. Ethius' consciousness doesn't register anything beyond that as he is once more sent spiraling across dirt and rock, lying face-down.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"You're doing that on purpose now!" Cyre growls through the screaming wall of blinding light. "You could at least try to come up with some original material!" Except that wouldn't be nearly as annoying. And anything that doesn't drive Cyre hard enough up a wall just isn't worth doing. But it seems that OS' copycat tendencies don't extend only to schoolhouse jeers. Cyre is able to hold up against one wall of light, but the addition of a second one pouring down from on high is enough to crack his barrier. Spiderweb fractures crawl across the prismatic sphere before it finally buckles and breaks. His scream is lost in the flood--

When it passes, Cyre is... Gone? Evaporated? Turned to so much smoke and ash...?

No. The shadow is all wrong. Up...!?

"If removing you won't work, then we'll just have to find some way to make sure you don't wake up! And if that doesn't work, then we'll figure something else out!" Cyre shouts, hanging dozens of feet in the air. Strapped around his shoulders... Is his trusty parachute, fully unfurled. His robes have been burnt away (again!?), leaving his chest scorched and bare. Motes of winking pink light twist around him, turning bright green one by one as they swirl close. "If it takes storming Solaris and dragging this Krelian mook out by his scalp to do it, then that's what we'll do! No matter what it takes, we're getting her back."

"...Even if it means fighting uncomfortable battles," he says, looking guiltily toward their very own Elw. He feels his blood run cold, his glare hardening, as his glare focuses back onto the two native Solarians, "We can't just... stop when they threaten the ones we love. No matter how many innocent faces they try to hide behind."

Gravity twists, churning upward as Catenna works her magic. Earth twists and bends, shooting upward in great geysers of stone and raw tectonic force. Electricity courses and crackles across a darkening sky. "...Hiding behind your own family... When you've done so much to tear ours apart... How could you...?" Cyre's eyes flash as bolts of lightning surge down into the battlefield.

Wind begins to churn. Cyre takes in a deep breath, power surging through his veins. It builds in his throat, emerald light pouring from between his teeth and from behind his eyes. If he says anything more, it's impossible to tell. The next time he opens his mouth, the only sound that comes forth is a deafening, earth-shattering roar. Cyre shouts a storm into the world, a catastrophe of shredding gale and liquifying, hypersonic energies blasts downward. His winds take Jacqueline's loosened stones and turn them into pneumatically-driven cannonballs. The vortex twists and pulls in directions counter to Catenna's gravity, becoming deadly, shearing cross-forces...!

This confluence of elemental power can only be called...

                              -=DELTA FORCE=-

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has activated a Force Action!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Formation! Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Lydia Seren with Howling Gale!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia is a little impressed by OS managing to take that punch without exploding, though she'd never say that out loud. Okay, OS did explode into a cloud of particles afterwards, but it doesn't count if you do it yourself and put yourself back together afterwards.

Once again Xantia is forced to put up with the icky feeling of these particles passing through her body, and this time it takes down her elemental aura to boot, the electricity surrounding her body winking out entirely. Still... she doesn't look particularly bothered. In fact, she keeps smiling confidently as OS reforms.

"Heh. Well, if you think punching and talking are the only things I know how to do, fine. But you should know better than that."

Though perfectly ready to continue the fight all the same, she goes quiet when Mariel speaks. Someone who hates fighting. That's... not something she can identify with. Hearing that sort of thing really just makes her want to fight more, so that the people who don't want to don't have to.

She witnesses Ethius going down. She hears Elly's name being spoken by Alexander Castle. She knows what she has to do.

Pink light surrounds Xantia, suffusing her with energy. This makes it all the more easy for her to engage another elemental aura. Fire, this time, thus ensuring that at least one person here is on fire at all times. She makes a fist with her right hand.

"...Sorry. But I think there's only one way to stop this fight."

Xantia joins her left fist with her right, then pulls them apart, forming a flaming construct between them as she does, which she ends up holding with both hands: a blazing red spear. She then rushes OS, seeming intent on continuing as she was before... until suddenly switching targets, to the now nearby Castle, throwing the red-hot lance in the Solarian professor's direction. The construct formed of Ether doesn't last long after leaving her hands, but it's long enough to impale whatever it strikes before dissipating.

"I told you... I'm not letting you take any more of my friends."

GS: Xantia has activated a Force Action!
GS: Xantia has activated a Force Action!
GS: Xantia spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Xantia has attacked Lydia Seren with Inferno Lance!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Spellweaver Stance for 42 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Lydia Seren guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Dualcast - Voltaic Quake for 139 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Howling Gale for 133 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren's Force Guard activates!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Talia's Mirage Edge for 102 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren's Force Guard activates!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Talia's Blizzaga for 108 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren's Force Guard activates!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: CRITICAL! Lydia Seren guards a hit from Xantia's Inferno Lance for 153 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

OS looks at Mariel. They drop down to look at her at eye level. "It's just a name. Our ultimate destiny has yet to be told. She isn't making us do anything. She has never really made us do anything. We're sorry it had to be this way but we believe this is enough."

Magic from Catenna threatens to lift all three of them up in the air. Indeed, Catenna can see all three start to hover, but OS's wings shift to a dark purple color and the line linking them and Rachiel shifts to purple as well, sinking them back to the floor. Castle doesn't get that kind of help.

Jay unleashes an earthquake that shakes the two of them, keeping them unsteady on their feet. Castle himself gets blasted by a slew of rocks that slam into him in rapid succession. He is weakening.

Cyre follows up, pushing into Catenna's gravity even further. OS slides into position, protecting Rachiel from the brunt of the winds and energy. This level of power is difficult even for OS to regenerate from. They don't scream, though, that's the weird thing.. They should be screaming, but they just wordlessly endure it. It must hurt, mustn't it? But they just take it. They are torn to bits, a whole arm is sliced free--but they just silently take it.

Talia's foot slams into OS's cheek and they are sent flying away from the vortex, rapidly entombing OS in ice as a followup--but keeping her from being able to lend a hand to Castle OR Rachiel. They look impassively at Talia as ice slowly covers them, slowly encompasses them in totality. They consider Talia's words and say, "...We're sorry. We ... will not do that again."

For a moment it looks like that Xantia is going to take advantage of the situation to slam a spear of FIRE through the ice and into OS...but she doesn't end up doing that. Instead the Primeval Breaker turns on Castle and slams a blade of flame through him--it dissipitates quickly, but he hacks out some blood and collapses to the floor as the swirls of magics fade.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Rachiel listens. Ivan tells her that it wasn't easy. Rachiel looks up to him. She doesn't answer his accusation of pretending to be anything but a tool. She knows when she's pretending and when she's being serious, but Ivan admitting...admitting that it was the hardest thing in the world to her--that seems to spark something in Rachiel. A fire within her. "Leah told me," She says. "That we have to make sacrifices. I don't like killing either. To be honest, this is my first time being deployed to the field. It's...really different to fight people on the surface... but thanks to you...my hands stopped shaking." She smiles a little. "I think... I think I can do what I have to do now."

"Medry," Castle manages, "You shouldn't be allowing these lambs to influence your thoughts. They're tempting but ultimately foolish. Remember what I taught you."

But Rachiel simply steps aside, allowing Ivan's blde to fly past her... and the blade slams right into Castle's throat. He stumbles back as fire slowly starts to wrap around his face. He makes a faint choking noise, looking up towards Rachiel. "What...hurrk....what are you doing...?"

"Aw shut the fuck up," Rachiel says, looking to Castle. "You shitty excuse for a Professor."

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tnu-mwwTE1c

She walks towards Castle and her hands aren't shaking any more. Castle, still afflicted by Catenna's gravity is unable to escape. He sinks to one knee. "Med...ry?"

"You thought I blamed Loren huh?" Rachiel says. "You thought I blamed Engel? Or maybe Leah?? Everybody back at Jugend thought I was so stupid. I got top marks in my class, but everybody still figured I'd gut Loren one day or have an 'accident' like our brothers." She slices her blade against Castle's chest. Ice sprouts out from where she cut him.

And the ice rapidly moves to expand Castle even as she sheathes her blade.

"Your family... your family will pay for this... Not even a Gazel can get away with this...!" Castle writhes and screams.

"Jugend killed Engel. Jugend killed my brother. Jugend took away Leah's ability to feel." Rachiel shouts. "You are a weakness festering within Solaris. We needed SOME combat data for everyone to look over, but I can modify it! Leah already showed me how to do it and I know the systems inside and out!"

She punctuates each strike with a blow from her blade. With each strike, the ice rapidly engulfs Castle more and more until he is completely subsumed by ice, all except for its face.

OS finally breaks free from their frozen prison, reforming from mist into a solidified state. Castle sees this and cries out to them. "OS! Stop this! Master Krelian wouldn't want this!"

OS looks to Castle as if just noticing his presence.

"You value yourself too highly." OS says impassively. "The truth is...you served a purpose. And now, we are finished with that purpose." They notice Castle's frightened confusion and they continue. "You're like so many in this world. Your life isn't your own. Someone else...someone stronger...defined that life for you." They unleash their own gravity, catching Castle and lifting him up into the air. "Hate us if you wish but your hate would be better directed at a God that made a world like this."

OS looks to Ethius. They heard what he had said. "We are not incapable of killing you." OS says. "However, a blade does not have to kill just anyone. It is as Mariel says. We can choose our wielder. And our wielder does not wish to kill you though we suspect the differences between you and Castle are miniscule at best."

And then, with an almost careless gesture of their hand, they fling the frozen professor off the cliff.

You can hear him shatter.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna keeps her focus up. Castle, to her, remains the most prominent target. Whatever connection Rachiel has to the current container of the Lydia, it's clearly the arrogant professor issuing the orders. Celesdue folds herself out of this universe as Catenna continues to hold that spell, intent.

And then Rachiel goes crazy and turns on her own side. Lowering her hand, Catenna looks on with complete bafflement in her eyes.

Castle goes over the cliff. Catenna does not shed one single tear for him. She looks towards Saarda-Shanta, the Great Owl having swooped around to land on her shoulder. Without words, she blinks a couple of times and flips her hand in a confused shrug.

<The internal politics of the Sky People are beyond my understanding,> the owl evades with a flutter of feathers.

With a low rush of breath, Catenna clicks her teeth together before looking up to Rachiel and OS. "One would hope that whatever your plans are, they would include releasing Lydia from whatever has been done to her," she says, her voice quieter, no longer angry, but rather probing, almost inquisitive. "You have made a choice here. Lydia should also have the right to determine her own destiny."

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

Talia's eyes look at OS, and then she nods to them. The battle moves too quickly for her to do more. She turns her head, with surprise, as Rachiel side-steps -- and she sees exactly where Ivan's blade lands. Not unfamiliar, really, for her to see her twin stab someone in the neck.

The circumstances, though, are quite different.

"Ivan!" she calls out, turning. There is a note of panic in her voice -- and then surprise, as Rachiel lays into Castle. The ice gathers around him.

And she grimaces, when OS flings him down and he shatters.

"What did..." She blinks her eyes, a few times. It's the first she has met any of them. Her understanding of the situation is, suffice to say, incomplete. "What just happened?"

<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

There's still some liquid - and some light - in Mariel's bottle, but she doesn't empty it out; she closes it to save for later, twisting the lid back into place. She keeps it in her hand, though - just in case.

"I don't think Lydia can say the same - that she has never been forced," Mariel says, "but..." She doesn't know what to say. Anything she would say might make this worse. She's been the type to stay quiet for so long that it's hard to break past old habits - and so she doesn't.

She keeps her satchel raised, almost defensive, even as the rest of the Carakin strikes blows against Castle and OS, immobilizing both. She does not lower it when Rachiel turns on him, using words Mariel is unfamiliar with: Jugend, Gazel. She has heard some of them on the lips of various people, but she knows relatively little about Solaris (and, she hopes, vice versa, though she isn't counting on it) and the internal politics are beyond her.

But she realizes what OS is doing an instant or two before it happens. "OS! Don't - "

There is a crash. Mariel, who is a doctor and a surgeon, abruptly turns rather green. Her imagination is too good - she knows what kind of injuries that would cause. There is really no point in her going to do anything for him.

"..." She wishes that hadn't happened. It seems... wrong. Cruel. Vicious even. Too vicious...

Quietly, almost worried, Mariel speaks: "What are you two going to do now?" She walks toward Ethius - someone she can help, though she's still a little green by the time she gets to him, crouching down.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"What happened, Talia," Cyre says as he descends from the sky, his expression clouded and curious and concerned all in equal measure. "Is that the student has surpassed the master."

Or something like that, at least.

"So, what now?" He asks, moving to stand next to Catenna and her no-longer-so-small Owlet. "Are you going to give us Lydia back, or is this whole... Thing going to keep going?"

He doesn't seem particularly put-out by the professor being horribly killed to death. It's funny how empathy doesn't really apply to people like Alexander Castle.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Despite being on fire, Xantia's eyes are cold as her lance strikes Castle just as she'd planned. Strange, how easy that was. She was expecting him to be shielded, or find some other way to avoid being simply... pierced through like that. She should feel something at a time like this, shouldn't she? She takes no pleasure in this, but she also doesn't feel any remorse, or sympathy, not even the sensation of surprise that should come with an unexpected result. There's just... nothing. This doesn't change when she notices a moment later that she didn't actually kill the man. Still nothing. It's like her emotions just... switched off, in regards to this person.

It's not until Rachiel suddenly speaks out against the professor that this changes. This visibly confuses her, and the flames flickering around her body slowly die down. What's happening here? Some kind of argument? What's going on? She has no idea.

Before she's pieced it all together, Castle is unceremoniously tossed off the cliff to certain death. Well... that was the only way she saw the fight ending, it's just that in her mind, it didn't involve his supposed allies.

Others are already asking the only question on her mind: 'what happens now?' Xantia doesn't echo them, she only stands there, dumbfounded and unsure what to do next.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline listens as Rachiel explains what it is Leah told her.

"Sacrifices, hm...?" She says consideringly. "...Well, I hope were a help."

She pauses then, listening to Castle.

"'Tempting but ultimately foolish'? That's exactly-" She starts to retort... but then, Rachiel turns aside to let him get attacked - and then, she and OS both turn on him. Jacqueline is struck completely silent. She doesn't say anything until they're through, wincing at the sound of Castle hitting the ground below.

Jacqueline has to take a deep breath to center herself. It's... a bit shocking. This isn't exactly what she expected. Much like Mariel, she knows exactly what just happened. She never wanted it too... but, a part of her can't help but feel that was where things were going to be headed anyway - that OS saved them from having to do it themselves.

She's not quite sure how to feel about that, and the fact that a part of her feels that she's not really going to lose any sleep over it.

She's quiet for a moment longer as she tries to regain her composure, but Catenna's words snap her out of it.

She looks over OS, and Rachiel, considering them both.

"...I'm curious, too. What are your plans now?" She asks. "Where do we stand?"

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

After all of Ivan's screaming demands, it's not until Ivan admits how hard it was to change that Rachiel... steps aside. Ivan's burning knife flies, hitting the target he'd wanted to strike all along.

But as desperate as Ivan is to make a difference here, Rachiel has her own score to settle. One that runs much deeper. As she tears into Castle, he barely understands exactly what's driving it -- the man who was giving her orders was involved in the death of her brother?

It's certainly not foreign to him, to hold onto feelings that dark... but go on obeying.

Not anymore, it seems.

Ivan!

He 'hears' Talia this time, and turns to her, to see how she's doing... how everyone's doing. He's starting to come back to reality. (Had he been somewhere else?)

"Talia, are you all right?"

The others are asking OS if they're going to give Lydia back, but it can't be that simple, can it? That man wasn't at the top of the structure holding them in this situation.

"...what do you want next?" he says, looking between OS and Rachiel. His expression toward Rachiel lacks the harshness it had before; it's more uncertain, now. His picture of who he thought he was -- projections and all -- has been somewhat... disrupted.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

The fact is, for the first time in her life, Rachiel feels sane. She is feeling so exuberant by this feeling, this escape from the fears that binded her, that she feels the need to share her feelings. "I always thought it didn't make much sense. They always said that we were superior to the people on the surface... But I don't think that's true. I think that's just...their pride. We're not actually any better at all. Maybe we're even a little worse." She glances over to Talia and her brother, smiling at them. "I'm glad you still have each other. I got a little heated there... Ahah...sorry...sorry." She shakes her head, trying to clear it. "You see, my brother--he was killed. In an accident. They would always say things like 'that's what he gets for being soft on the lambs' or they'd try to pin it on Engel, the guy who caused the accident. They would blame everybody, really, everybody except the weakness in the system itself. Jugend... it doesn't realize not everybody is suited for the military, or to be studied, or be given combat drugs. In that kind of scenario... accidents are bound to happen. But I guess that's okay to them...because they can always blame the victims."

The million dollar question is asked. Is Lydia free?

Rachiel lowers her head. "...I want to free her. I do." She says. "But Krelian made them. I don't even know how to free either of them." Ivan's right. It isn't that simple. "But... maybe..." She mulls on it for a moment.

OS blinks once at Mariel. "You wanted us to stop? We don't understand. Perhaps we can discuss it later."

Rachiel glances to OS and says, "I think they want to see Lydia now. Can you let her go?"

OS nods once but before doing so they look to Cyre one last time.

And there is a flicker of a smug smile.

And then her eyes shift back to silver and the hair goes green again and Lydia collapses to one knee, panting for breath.

Rachiel looks back. "I can't leave. My family lives on Solaris. And I don't have access to anything that even if I were willing to cast them aside--well, it's just beyond my ability. I'm sorry! But... I'm hesitant to say this, but--if you could find Shevat, they might be able to do something." She frowns. "Or they might just try to bind Lydia to their will instead. They'd be able to tell you more than I can anyway. Other than that, I'm gonna try to continue to encourage my superiors to stop sending her against people she likes because that's really stupid?? And try to find a way up the ladder so I can fix things properly."

She pushes up her glasses a bit and says, "For now I'll say she broke free due to liking you guys so much, okay?"

"I want to throw up." Lydia says. "But fuck that guy."

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna - who has almost no idea who Rachiel is, to be fair - rests her hand at her hip and listens to the woman. Her eyes soften just a little. "People are people, miss," she says in a more conciliatory tone. "No one group is inherently greater in value than another. I am sorry for what happened to you."

The answer Rachiel gives is a little foggy - until OS shifts back to familiar green-haired Lydia.

Catenna doesn't think. She just darts forward, reaching out to try and put an arm around Lydia, her other hand coming out to the young woman's shoulder. She leans in, expression full of a mix of relief and worry.

Lydia wants to throw up. Catenna closes her eyes, then reaches in to give Lydia a little hug.

"Yes," she says quietly. "Fuck that guy."

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline listens as Rachiel explains her feelings. She nods quietly in understanding. She thinks she understands her a little better now. But, Krelian made them... so, OS and Lydia can't be freed. Jacqueline frowns, but nods in understanding.

"I don't blame you. It's like I said - everyone has something or someone they want to protect." Jacqueline says reassuringly. "We're the last people who are going to get on your case for wanting to keep your family safe."

She pauses, then, listening as Rachiel offers an alternative.

"Shevat... I'm not sure what that is, but if there's a chance they can help Lydia, then we'll look for them. And if they try, well... then we'll deal with them. And... thank you." She says, shaking her head. "But, fixing things from inside, huh...? I hope you can succeed. And, listen..."

She hesitates a moment.

"...If you need help with anything, feel free to ask us, alright?" She offers.

And then, Lydia comes too, and much like Catenna, Jacqueline hurries over to her side.

"Do you need anything...?" She asks quietly.

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"I'm all right, brother," Talia says, as she walks a little closer. She looks at him, with some worry. Why had he ignored her calling out before? It wasn't like him to ignore her in a fight. They had, after all, fought together so many times before.

She steps a little closer to him. But she doesn't ask the same, when Rachiel starts to speak. She opens her mouth, hesitating for a second. "I'm... sorry, no? About your brother," she says. She walks up to Ivan, then she takes him by the arm, hands around his forearm.

"Shevat?" she repeats. "We--ah--we can look for this place. And I can slit their throats, if they try to control her, instead." She says it placidly and pleasantly, then: "Or, ah, talk sternly to them."

She sighs a little. And then blinks -- and smiles, brighter, when Lydia is back. "Lydie!"

<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

Mariel does not look up from where she's working with Ethius.

"I know what Shevat is," Mariel says, surprisingly. "I mean - I do not know very *much* about Shevat. It's a city that flies, but not so high as to be out of sight. If you are lucky you can see it with a telescope; I've done so, but I've never been there." She pauses. "Not the telescope in Sielje, though. I think they try not to fly where it can see."

"But I don't know how you would get there, short of being lucky enough to find it, and having a way to fly... It might be easier to do something else, if we can."

Mariel rises up, having applied several things from her bag to Ethius. He'll be all right, she thinks, but she can't carry him and honestly being lying down won't hurt him any; she did move him to a better position, at least.

"Thank you for taking that risk," she says to Rachiel. Then she turns to Lydia, an actual smile on her face. "Lydia ... are you all right?" She can't very well ask OS and it's not like the two of them didn't just get beat up pretty hard.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

I got a little heated there

"...same," Ivan mumbles, which isn't exactly an apology but seems to be as close as he's willing to get at the moment.

Rachiel explains what motivated her to turn on her superior so violently -- that the system she lives in caused the death of her brother. Which is more than enough of a reason, from Ivan's perspective.

Talia comes over to him and holds onto his arm, then, and he glances toward her with a mixture of concern and guilt.

Rachiel also says she isn't planning to rebel. Not completely. Instead she'll try to... change the system from inside, as if that's a thing.

Ivan lets out a frustrated breath.

"I guess I won't give you a hard time about it anymore... ... for today."

Killing your boss only gets you one day's reprieve from Ivan's grudge?!

But in the meantime, Rachiel suggests that OS relinquish their control and give Lydia back her body. So Ivan needs to quickly change gears from being a surly jerk before Lydia returns! (it's not like she hasn't seen this...)

He doesn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary about his sister offering to slit throats, even as he tries to channel Nice Ivan. He actually nods along a bit.

Lydia comes back to herself... and.... announces that she wants to throw up.

"...welcome back, though?" he offers, a bit shyly.

<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

Mariel understands the wanting to throw up part. The only reason she is no longer green is because she had something to focus on (that is, Ethius' injuries).

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

<I can fly,> points out Saarda-Shanta. <But I can't be big enough to carry you for very long. I'm just a little owl, you know.>

Saarda-Shanta hops up to sit on Mariel's shoulder. She's the size of an adult snowy owl now.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

OS gives way for Lydia to return to them, but don't you think that Cyre didn't see that smug smirk. Because he did! His eye-twitches make that clear. Is this what Leon had to put up with, living with him as a 'younger' twin!? This is awful!

Cyre is going to put that little brat in a headlock and give her the noogie of her life.

But the thought only lasts for a moment, because Cyre is right there with Catenna to prop Lydia up in a great big hug.

...Well. Not that great, big of a hug. Because she wants to throw up, and Cyre knows better. "Yeah, seriously," Cyre huffs, "That guy was just awful."

Shevat, though. Shevat...

"...We'll look into it," Cyre says to the ambitious Solarian throat-cutter. "I appreciate you doing this for us, really. For what it's worth, I hope your sky-person family stays safe. We'll look into Shevat, and if there are any issues-----"

TALIA.

"NO," Cyre says, woefully bereft of a water spritzer to use on the family assassin (1 of 2). "Talia! We do not tell people we're going to slit other peoples' throats." It's immoral! "We need plausible deniability!!" Oh, right, Cyre is kind of a ruthless mucker when it comes to protecting family.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia's expression is usually easy to read. It isn't this time, simply because she can't sort out her emotions. This personal story of Rachiel's, the reasonable words being spoken, they are conflicting heavily with her feelings about Solaris in general.

It's not until the words 'find Shevat' are spoken that she finds something to cling to in all this. Yes, that was the plan, wasn't it? Finding them will help in sorting of all this out, somehow. When there are no direct solutions she can think of, it's best to just have a general thing to work towards, and go from there.

Even so, she doesn't speak to Rachiel. She has to think things over before she can. Instead, she moves to Jacqueline's side.

"...hey, Jay. I don't know much about Shevat, but I do know of it. If you want to talk about that... well, I wanted to talk to you about something else, but maybe this is more important."

Xantia isn't about to get into it further now. She simply smiles as Lydia speaks, finally herself again. "Welcome back, Lydia," she says, then encourages, "Go ahead and throw up, you'll have more room for food that way."

Always thinking ahead, she is.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

OS feels as if they fulfilled a karmic debt of some kind as it pertains to Cyre. They don't quite understand it but they enjoy the sensation.

"Well sure if you've got a brighter idea." Rachiel would probably prefer they don't go to Shevat either but that's the idea she had. She doesn't protest Talia's suggestion of slitting their throats. It sounds reasonable to her.

Lydia gives Xantia a horrified look. "Uh..I think... I think I feel better now." She actually feels worse after hearing that suggestion but she isn't going to throw up after that. What if people think she's just doing it so she wants to eat more??? No thanks!

Lydia returns hugs. She looks tired--OS took quite a beating and, well, Lydia is a part of OS. She smiles up at both Cyre and Catenna before glancing to Mariel. She seems relieved that Ethius is going to be okay. Despite everything. "I'll be okay. Thanks--for talking to them. They try to listen to you but they're actually kind of stupid."

...That's Lydia for ya. She smiles at Talia and Ivan too.

"Uh, thanks." She seems vaguely worried--but, well, that can be something to talk about later. Some conversations you shouldn't have while you want to throw up. "Glad you're okay. Both of you."

Rachiel says, "Geeze," to Ivan. "You're hard to please." But there isn't much heat behind it this time. She pauses a bit at -- Talia's words. She has been apologized for her brother before, but it always felt like it was a bit of a nuisance for them to say. From Talia it feels...genuine.

She smiles a little. "Ah...thank you. Is that why Elly..." She trails off. "Sorry, uh, nevermind! Honestly, uh, I should be thankiing all of you. If it wasn't for what you guys said... I don't think I would've been brave to follow through so...thanks." She looks to Ivan. When he said it was the hardest thing he had to do--somehow...somehow that made it feel easier.

"I should get going. Gotta edit that log before someone sees it. Good luck, guys."

Jay asks if Lydia needs anything even as Rachiel departs.

Lydia reaches up, takes hold of Jay's collar, and says, intensely.

"I need a bucket."

TO BE CONTINUED???