2020-06-20: Original Sin (Pt. 2)

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<Pose Tracker> Sheriff Star has posed.

The path towards Rek'gora's roost is clear. Ragnell made it clear when she fought a number of Drifters. Be it deliberate or otherwise, she confirmed that Drifters searching for the Clysmian were not far off the mark.

It is a rocky path, filled with twists and turns. It comes, ultimately, to a mountain peak. The peak has been blasted, an impact crater making a basin that one can stand in -- or, if one happens to be a colossal Clysmian, roost in. The center of the crater has the Clysmian in it, and there is something beautiful about it. The few legends and rumors about Clysmians call them the reverse of a Guardian.

And, despite how terrible one is, there is something beautiful about the embodiment of a concept. Rek'gora's plumage is bright, greens and yellows and reds.He has three eyes, though they are closed; the beak and talons look almost natural. And yet, the chains wrapping the creature having a perpetual tarnish, and there are wooden pieces inscribed with Baskar rituals that cling to those chains. Rek'gora lays down, head lowered.

His eyes are closed. But all three open, at once -- and shine with a fierce, bright red light that reveals its unnatural state. He looks, his trio of eyes peering at the Drifters who have ascended a mountain, and made ready to kill him. And, then, his nature is a truth.

Rek'gora is desperate. His beak opens, a violet tongue shaking, as he shrieks so loud to make the land around him shake violently. He rises up, great wings beating, and comes to stand on both talons -- and looks down in defiance at the Drifters. Defiance, but also desperation. There is no smaller amount of desperation today.

There is--

OOC: You have 30 minutes to enter! In 30 minutes, another couple of poses will drop. This will not be a strictly straightforward boss fight and has a chance of a different outcome than expected, so please hold coded attacks til the 30 minute mark!

<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

The compulsion to climb the dark mountain was hard for her to explain. Something tugged at Clarissa Arwin's consciousness in a way she's rarely felt before and can't fully describe. She couldn't tell you why she looked this way, why she felt she had to walk here, why she needed to make the ascent. She wasn't there for what happened with Seymour and she had no idea where to look for the entity he'd summoned up.

Strahl Gewehr feels unnaturally warm in her hand, as if the ARM somehow had nerves and they were all standing on end with anticipation. She can practically feel it tingling anxiously. It rubs off on her as she makes her way up, lower lip bitten.

As she creeps towards the edge of the immense crater, Clarissa suppresses the urge to recoil as she catches sight of the bright plumage of the Desperation Clysmian lying there ahead. The whole concept of a Clysmian is wholly alien to her.

The creature shrieks, and Clarissa feels more than the tremor of the earth. Her soul recoils from it as raw desperation reverberates through her heart and mind in ways it shouldn't. Reeling, the girl staggers back with a hiss of breath.

Strong hands catch her beneath the shoulders. "Clarissa," Felius says quietly from behind her, stoic as ever. "Are you alright?"

The girl clutches Strahl Gewehr all the more tightly. "I can feel it, Felius... I can feel it in here." She presses a hand to her heart. "Its desperation is overwhelming...."

She swallows the lump in her throat - and then Clarissa braces, focusing on why she came.

Something in her heart tells her the truth - gives her desire its focus. This creature must be stopped, not with desperation, but with determination and hope.

<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

    Lunata Croze hasn't been feeling great.

    Her body's been acting strangely, to put it mildly; her arm's twitching and not quite aligned, and her balance isn't quite there. But then again, most people don't survive a point-blank Flare to the face, even with protective magic shielding her from the worst of it.

    But she promised.

    She promised that she would see the end to this...

    Seymour...

    Because of what she's done -- or rather, not done...

    My sin... and my punishment...

    ... and because she can't run from the one she betrayed, after making her decision.

    She wasn't there when the Drifters faced Ragnell, because Ragnell would likely mop the floor with her; really, there's no saying that the outcome is going to be any different here, but... there is a resolve that overrides common sense right now.

    Lunata Croze reflects upon all this--

    --as she stands in front of the reverse of a Guardian; by all measures, they are up against the antithesis of the powers that sustain the world.

    "Rek'gora..."

    Lunata lifts her head up.

    "I can feel it. The desperation and hopelessness you were born from... the very feeling and sentiment that clouds that--"

    A pause. "That clouds my very village. Even living away from it, I wasn't able to escape that. Not entirely."

    Lunata looks around at the Drifters gathered. Towards her closest companion here with her, Jacqueline, and... even if she's not here right now -- Shalune's working on something, she's sure of it.

    "This spiral of death is going to stop... this much, I'm going to make sure--"

    The ex-waitress looks exhausted, yet she still twists her wrist and readies the cutting edge of her weapon.

    "... as part of my atonement ..."

<Pose Tracker> Lulu has posed.

Up the mountain, Lulu walks; along rocky paths she steps, heavy skirt dragging along the stone as she moves up, up... and towards the peak. In theory, this could be a fascinating exercise--a chance to see legend made flesh, to understand depths of creation unknown even to the people of the world from which it comes. It could be a potent experience, a chance to learn.

But this Rek'gora has been compared to Sin, and any joy that might come of seeing it is as ash for Lulu. She examines the creature's eyes, its plumage, the chains around it and the inscriptions on the wood. When its eyes shine, when his nature shows, she watches impassively.

The ground shakes beneath her, and Lulu half-stumbles as a result, catching herself and remaining upright carefully. She narrows her eyes at her opponent. "...This is the thing that could be as another Sin," she remarks.

"Everyone--be careful. A cornered fiend is the most dangerous."

She prepares herself.

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

    Dean wasn't there during the big battle with Seraph What's-Her-Face, some big jerk friend of the Trial Knight's that he's never met and hopes he never will, because she's a jerk. However, he *is* here now with Boudicca, thanks to Ida sending word to both of them that she'd found Rek'gora's nest and would need their help to take it out, and also did they have any bactine?, because ouch. (That last part may or may not have happened. But Ida almost definitely has needed some patching up before they all moved on.)
    
    Dean shades his eyes with one hand as he peers into the basic at the peak of the mountain down at the Clysmian. "It's... weirdly pretty," he remarks to his companions, weirded out. He'd heard that it was a horrible monstrosity. This is... almost cute?
    
    But then the great bird opens its three eyes, sees him and all the other Drifters, and SHRIEKS before struggling with infinite desperation against its chains. Dean flails and grabs hold of the ground as it shakes. "Woah!! Wh-what's it trying to do?!" Still, he gets his footing secured, and Twin Fenrir flash into his hands. "Trying to scare us off, huh? You won't get rid of us *that* easy!"

<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

Mariel has had a busy... week? Let's go with week.

Though she hadn't fought Seymour and K.K., she had been in the area - and she had thus been the one called to treat the Baskar youths. It wasn't a problem she could solve on her own, but it was something she could help with. It had kept her quite busy.

It also kept her from panicking. A Clysmian, born on Filgaia, here in the flesh (or whatever it had instead of flesh). 'Clysmian' is one of the words that stirred her from her Secret Garden. Fear of the Clysmians being a real thing, and not a story of something that philosophically might exist but didn't actually, and what they meant for the world.

Compared to endless worry about that, having something real and beneficial to do with herself was almost a blessing.

But as best she could tell, the Clysmian was still linked to the youths. She couldn't help them any more while the Clysmian still drew power from them. And so, though she didn't want to, Mariel said she could come with the Drifters to see to it. Though she hasn't said much since, honestly.

Mariel is already uncomfortable just walking up the mountain. Part of her (most of her, really) quite sensibly wants to be somewhere, anywhere else. She is unable to hide her anxiety about whatever is up there even well before she has seen it.

When they get close to it, and it screams...

Mariel lets out a little sound that she doesn't even realize she's made and jerks backwards as her breath speeds. She wants to run away but she won't let herself, even when her legs feel a little weak. It's really the presence of so many other Drifters here that keeps her from running; she would never come to a place like this alone.

"N - no," Mariel says, more to herself than anyone else. She steels herself, clinging onto her satchel like a lifeline. They have to kill this... but she hates killing. And it doesn't feel like Malevolence or Malice, something she could cut out and be done with it. It feels like something else, something alive. She's not sure she can do it.

But she has to be here.

<Pose Tracker> Violet Salazar has posed.

Violet pants with exertion as she makes her way up the steep, rocky mountain path. The years haven't exactly been kind to her. She does her best to ignore the effort, for she is a woman on a mission: kill the bird. Creature. Monster. Thing. Clysmian.

It shrieks defiance, and the land shakes. Violet is nearly thrown off balance by it.

At last she recovers and gains sight of the Clysmian. It has bright plumage, almost parrot-like, talons and a beak -- definitely a bird. Those triple eyes, though, are just creepy -- and not just because they gleam scarlet.

Violet was more used to saving life than taking it, but this thing had to die. She hoped it's newly-hatched status would make it weaker than Sin.

She glances around at her allies on this mountain, mostly fellow Drifters. Would they be able to take out the bird, or would it fly away? Or worse, mature into Filagia's own Sin?

Only one way to find out...

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Another Clysmian had come into being. Rek'gora, the Clysmian of Desperation... Jacqueline had seen what Sin was capable of. She did not want another released on her world. And so, once it had been located, she set out along with the others after informing the Caravan Kinship of what happened.

And now, she finds herself staring up at the Clysmian. It's regal, and almost beautiful, with its bright plumage and Baskar ritual garb. But, she can see it in its eyes, as well - the defiance, and desperation...

Jacqueline draws a deep breath. ...This isn't going to be easy, and not just because of the sheer power this Clysmian possesses.

She looks toward Lunata as she speaks. The exhausted ex-waitress makes her declaration... and in support Jacqueline nods.

"We're with you. You won't be doing this alone, Lunata." She says reassuringly. She looks over toward Mariel, then.

"...Hang in there..." She says, trying to offer her some encouragement, too.

<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

In the way of the Shaman's party, one day Cecilia just sort of woke up, grabbed Claude Kenny, and told him she knew where to go.

As often as not this lands them at a burger joint rather than the ruins of deepest mystery, but today it has simply landed them among the troupe of Drifters moving to confront Rek'gora, newborn Clysmian of Desperation. Cecilia checks her Mediums for the fourth time as they climb, self-conscious about the physical signs of her connection to the Guardians and the formless nervousness she feels from them. She tries to find some measure of peace in knowing that this is not truly some reborn Sin. Whatever Seymour may have wanted or gloated, nobody knows what manner of thing they're dealing with.

Which might mean they can still cut it out before its cancer grows thicker. As the beast shrieks its warning, she spreads her hand in the familiar claw to summon her staff to her hand. "We have to stop it," she says, breathless, as much to herself as anyone.

"Before we can't anymore."

<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

Venetia Vuong is not travelling alone. She saw a princess moving and decided to join the parade.

Sadly she is not bringing her Gear. It can't fly. (Yet.) That would certainly settle the hash of some giant devils, or perhaps not. The passage up the mountain stirs her hair, which is still loose thanks to the loss of her hairclip, but she has managed to regain her footing, and she strides with confidence, her rod of command in one hand, held tightly, in case she has to hit someone with it.

This is big game hunting indeed, Venetia thinks. Her Graphs are all assembled, she is as healed as she can be. Will this Clysmian slay her out of hand? The way that that big-handed moon-man could have, even if he refrained, if in part from -- from what? Venetia doesn't know. He seemed a sly man.

"Have some faith," she remarks on her way upwards. "There are many strange and wonderful beasts in Filgaia. And there used to be more."

She doesn't finish the sentence, perhaps to serve as a momentary distraction.

"Ugh," she exclaims to her travelling companions as the great and thrashsome Thing comes into sight. "It's beautiful. What a pain in the backside."

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

There are things weighing heavily on Ivan's mind. Talia was seriously injured protecting him in the fight with Ragnell. He thinks--he hopes--she's going to be all right. But he wasn't able to stay with her. He's got to see this through for both of them.

And the fight itself -- it's uncertain ending -- those thoughts ar also for later. Right now, they need to deal with the Clysmian.

It really is here where Ragnell said it would be -- why did she lead them to it? It's an awe-inspiring sight, even at its current size. Its shriek quakes the ground. He wonders a little if it's afraid. This creature didn't ask for this. But if its death means preventing another Sin... what choice do they have?

Ivan calls his sword to his hand from his ring, widening his stance so he won't be shaken off his feet. It was a long trek, and the battle before this one wasn't easy. His illness even started to catch up with him earlier... He hopes his strength will hold out. But no-- failure's not an option here. He'll just have to dig deep and find more.

<Pose Tracker> Citan Uzuki has posed.

    Before

    "I see. I have given the situation due thought, using what you had informed me of Spira. ...This, then, is my determination on the matter: an entity such as this cannot be permitted to exist on Filgaia. This presents a more pressing threat than they realize. It must be destroyed while it is still weak. Go and glean what you can."

    The figure on the throne pauses for a long moment.

    "Then see that it is destroyed."

    "...As you command, your majesty."

        Now

    Citan himself was not present at the showdown at the village, having emerged from the depths of the sacrifical grounds too late to participate in any meaningful way. He had learned the rest from the Black Wolves afterwards -- in particular, from Lunata.

    When she had made that decision, to head on out here to right her 'mistakes'...

    ...Suffice to say, he had requested to join her. Consider it a matter of responsibility, he'd said. He hadn't specified what sort of responsibility -- perhaps that of a student and teacher, of a sort?

    "So that is 'Rek'gora'," the country doctor remarks, gazing upon it, standing near to Lunata and her friends. For a moment he closes his eyes.

    "...Yes. Without question... this is 'desperation'. Desperation, hopelessness, an inevitability that one cannot escape from..."

    He opens his eyes and shakes his head.

    "I do not think that this planet can endure it. ...Are you ready, Miss Croze?" He says this to Lunata, but not only to Lunata; he glances at Jacqueline as well.

<Pose Tracker> Rikku has posed.


It was not originally clear for Rikku, who'd been trekking up a separate slope from the one where Ragnell ultimately blocked the path. When that didn't work out as planned, she turned around and doubled back to join up with the others as planned. As she presents a handful of glittering roughcut gemstones. "So I didn't locate the Clysmian but I did find* all of these pretty gems! Yunie look - want some?"

*find may not mean in the traditional sense. Whether that means she bombed a mountain for them or committed grand theft shinies on some monster tribe is up to the imagination.

Rikku then squinted as she examines Lulu and Yuna, "What happened to you two?"

-=-=-

Rikku is nervous, though she's channeling all of that energy into giddily replying, "Could be - but we're gonna stop it before it goes that far!" She remarks to the others, smiling.

Though the moment she catches sight of the bird thing that her expression tenses. Could this thing just make them all vanish, scattering them into dust like Sin did to so many Crusaders and Al Bhed? Logic says it's too young... but...

That image is burned into her mind.

The ground shakes, and she puts a hand on Lulu's shoulder. "... but... you're saying we've cornered it." Rikku prompts at Lulu. As if she was looking on the bright side.

It is a positive in the sense that...

... that's something none of them would ever say about Sin, that such a thing could be cornered.

"We've got this. Yunie summons." She says as she beams a smile her way, "We back her up. Keep on the lookout for any nasty surprises. It'll be fine!"

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Ragnell's assault left Ida battered, burned, and exhausted, but she's in better shape than some of her comrades. After seeing them to safety--and then, seeing to her own treatment--Ida finished the last leg of her climb, alone. Sterling has gone back to the village, bearing one of the wounded.

    The Seer of Fire comes to a stop next to Dean, and shades her eyes as well. Her strange new nature is on full display; her wounds are bound, but her brow, jawline, and neck are encased in a sort of suggestion of a helmet. The Hyadean armor trails down her body, intermingling with and covering her clothes in places. She's dirty and tired and wants to do nothing more than crawl into bed and sleep for the next half a day. But then...

    Rek'gora lies in the crater before her, resplendent and terrible. Even given the horrible circumstances of its birth, the Clysmian is beatiful. Ida thinks back to the comatose youths in the village--people who definitely will not recover if this thing is left to carry out Seymour's plan.

    The course seems clear: kill one to save the many. Isn't that what a hero would do?

    Rek'gora rises. Ida's eyes shoot open; she stands bolt upright, fear spiking through her. "It's so young," Ida whispers, to Dean and Boudicca. "And it's so, so frightened." Empathy is a Seer's greatest weapon against Malevolence, but Liath was also right; it is also a great burden. "Just like those children," Ida whispers.

    It's a freak of nature. It's a monster. It should not be. But then, the same is true about her, isn't it?

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Marivel's body was destroyed by the power of Ragnell's indignation. The swirling darkness that was her form left with Hiro with nary a word in order to recover. Her desperation will not be felt today, but rather she has elected to put her faith in the team of Drifters--and Yuna herself--that they will finish the job. One way or another.

And yet...a more unexpected ally(?) may be arriving today as a silver form flies around the mountain, shimmering blazing wings crackling behind them as they search. With this entity, a young blond freckled woman with glasses is sort of hanging off their back and they point towards the roost.

The silver figure slowly hovers down into position near the drifters. To those that have met them before, it's clearly not Lydia--but rather, OS.

"Mariel." They say. "We have been deployed to eliminate this threat after a report from Lydia Seren noted the malevolence and dread in the town. Please leave so that we can maximize our output. Our goals are not misaligned today."

"Now now, OS." The blond haired woman hops off, dropping down to the floor and adjusting her glasses. "I think we can work together today, can't we? It'll work out better that way."

"It will make Caution Level Red inappropriate. Is this acceptable?" OS asks.

"Yeah, yeah, of course." She raises some kind of scanner into the air. "Be sure to take all the data you can. It sounds like we're gonna have to deal with these Clysmians a bunch lately."

OS looks arounda bit and then says, "Understood. Remaining in Caution Level Yellow."

They fan out their arms behind her, shining blades twisting out of their arms and lashing out behind her before spinning into a forward facing position along their arms.

Rachiel, with her free hand, draws out her blade before noticing Ivan.

She looks at him for a moment.

Then she waves at him with the sword. "Hi!" She pauses, glancing towards the country doctor for a moment but she doesn't comment.

"I'm ready," Rachiel adds, a line of light crackling between her and OS. "How about you?"

"This is the sort of work we've been forged for." OS says. "Do not worry about us."

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny has had a busy couple of days. He explored a lost island. He joined an expedition to find and murder an evil god-bird-thing that he's pretty sure is named after a boy band.* Then he fought an invisible lightning girl, guarded a Summoner, delivered a quick lesson on advanced tactics, got hit by not one but two mystic artes, and threw possibly the biggest attack he's thrown in his life.

He would really like (in no particular order) a long nap, a hot stone massage, and an entire roast pig. He got maybe 0.75 of these things before Cecilia told him to get moving.

The big blonde shuffles up the rest of the damn mountain, and is breathing a little heavily by the time he reaches the top. A strong sense of duty and a metric buttload** of healing magic are keeping him upright and pointed in the proper direction, although he's left his heavy greatsword behind because a) he doesn't want to carry it any more and b) Ragnell's probably not going to show, so having a Ragnell-countering sword is unnecessary.

Instead, he draws a short, single-edged sabre, which lights on fire (thanks, Symbols!) as it leaves the sheath. He looks at the giant thing and decides to let a bunch of other people approach it first.


* - Rek'gora and the Kux'ods was a mildly popular musical group that made their debut at the Decamillennial celebration. The group's claim to fame was that they featured a young representative from every race in the Pangalactic Federation so as to be sure to be marketable to the entire Federation's standards of beauty. The band's launch song - Fellow Individual I Desire Your Affection - was also its only song, as the lifespans of several dozen member species was such that they were no longer considered "boys" by mid-10,000 SD. Constant replacements and crosscultural tours meant that the band was a sufficient marketing success for them to continue selling merchandise, even though Rek'gora himself died in 10,320 SD.
** - Equivalent to 1.01605 imperial buttloads.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Boudicca has posed.

    When is enough enough? I tell you it is not when blood is bled; it is not when tears are shed; it does not break the back of love!

    Perhaps it is repose, now; a retreat.

    Boudicca did not see Ragnell, because Boudicca, a long ribbon curled on the ground, was within herself. And then she was with a friend, and now with Dean she steps into herself again, plate armour and silk trim, that ribbon woven through the black braids of her hair.

    Standing on one of those mountain rocks, this elevation is familiar, and this Clysmian...

    "Courage, Mariel," Boudicca urges her, and her voice is quiet but it carries on the wind anyway. Courage - as they look up the child who cannot be, and this is not the first thing Boudicca has told herself she has to kill, and the comparison is acrid and bitter.

    But the Guardians are not Althena. She must believe in that.

    At times there are actions which must be taken.

    And the word for that fatality is...

    "It wishes for existence," she answers Dean, a moment later. "This is a wish we cannot grant. We must end this, now."

<Pose Tracker> Yuna has posed.
<SoundTracker> Have You Got It In You? - Imogen Heap https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbDVA5nJW2Y

Yuna is a study in contradictions. A high summoner's blood runs through her veins, and so does an Al Bhed's. A gentle spirit who committed murder. A tiny person who is the conduit of massive, catastrophic might. Would-be protector of everyone, everything -- except, of course, herself...

As she walks up the mountainside, she comes to embody one more. She should be tired; surely she IS tired. The marks of the battle with Ragnell remain with her still; scorched raiment, arms pockmarked with tiny burns. In the aftermath, she tended her allies' wounds with the same tireless dedication to ending their pain that she always has; much as when she healed many Drifters and Baskar alike after Seymour's ritual, she held nothing back. By now she must be tapping profound reserves. Events have been non-stop; she just goes on and on and on and on.

Why, then, does she seem to be gaining strength and speed, rather than losing it, as she ascends the last few feet to the summit? It doesn't make any sense. Her little black-booted feet are placed with such surety, soles crunching into the ground one after the next. Instead of accumulating as it ought, exhaustion sheds off of her, step by step, like -- like the outer parts of a piece of wood being stripped away by a carving knife. Leaving nothing but her essence, bared to allies and elements alike:

Empathy for the living; empathy for the dead.
Compassion, the engine of her resolve.
The resolve to end another cycle of suffering before it can begin.

Perhaps it isn't a contradiction after all...

When a boulder falls down a mountain, it rolls faster and faster and harder and harder, tumbling towards the sea. It isn't about whether or not the rock is tired; it isn't about choice. It's just about gravity.

A summoner climbs up one instead, in order to face a Clysmian.

This isn't PRACTICE.

This isn't some trial run.

She was just as willing to face Sin on the shores of Mi'ihen.

---

Sin has unleashed a modest tithe of his strength, and the host assembled there, Al Bhed and Crusaders and their Otherworldly allies alike, they die and they die and they die.

Yuna rushes to the edge of the cliff, as if to meet the ghosts being created down below. "Everyone, stand back! I'll summon!"

It's Seymour who stops her; not only as maester, but as fellow summoner. "You won't hurt it. Your powers are still... too weak."

Yuna shakes her head, fiercely defiant of reality, desperate to somehow undo the carnage around them. She begins to twirl her rod. "But I must do something!"

"You can't!"

---

She no more possesses the Final Summoning now than she did then.

And she doesn't know what will happen to her, or to the nascent Filgaian Sin, when they face one another today.

But she knows what she's willing to give.

---

Seymour chided her, afterwards, for showing sorrow at the fate of thousands. Or maybe he was supportive of her, in a strict way.

"Now more than ever, you must be the people's strength, their confidence. Anyone else would be expected to show their sorrow. But you... are a summoner. You are Spira's hope. Until Sin is defeated, you must not relent. Do you understand?"

---

Yuna is inexorable, and she is powerful, and she is vulnerable, as she rushes towards her destiny.

And when she sees him -- beautiful, terrible, incipient, and infant -- she is sad. This being's first meeting with humanity (if you can call it that) was being fireballed out of the place of its birth. Now, they're here to execute him. Whatever Seymour's opinion, she thinks that this story is worth a little sorrow.

Whether she likes it nor not, desperation pours down on her like a storm. What a painful existence, Rek'gora's. It bubbles up from within, also, strongly from three sources and so weakly from one that she might have only imagined the contribution of Besaid's fayth.

Rek'gora is desperate to live, and the fayth are desperate to kill him. One offers an opinion more coherent than an ordinary feeling, so strong and so fierce that Yuna hears it in words.

IMMORTALITY IS A CURSE
BREAK IT WHILE YOU CAN

And Ragnell told her not to apologize.

"This is mercy," Yuna concludes, from compassion -- with resolve. With Guardians at her side, sharing the burden so willingly. "For you, and for the countless victims in your future... I will give you everything I am."

She probably meant to say 'everything I have', but a deeper truth slipped out instead.

<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

    * * * ELSEWHERE * * *

    The glint of light in the gloom of the hangar bay resolves itself into a wrench. Because this is Shalune. What else would it be?

    Shalune can't shake the fear in the pit of her stomach. If Lunata were headed for a peaceful death free of the Wheel, that would be one thing - but instead her body just seems to be breaking down, and the mechanic has a terrible, cold paranoia in her stomach that something like that isn't actually going to kill Lunata, but leave her alive and in pain. Dealing with the Rephaim has taught her a lot about fates worse than death.

    So she stares up at the silent machine, swallows thickly to herself, and does her best to try to marshal that fear into determination instead. Another lifetime ago, she might have had the idea to try to enter a contract with Ge Ramda - to try to save Lunata by throwing herself onto the Wheel instead. The Shalune of today thinks the her of another lifetime ago is pretty damn stupid sometimes.

    Instead, she clambers her way up towards the open and inert cockpit, reaching into a pocket of her coat to take out the slim sheet of stone and clasp it in one hand as she eases herself into the pilot seat. Maybe a Medium will help her words reach someone better... or maybe it's just a placebo to reassure herself.

    "... I dunno if you're angry with her or if you're upset with her. Maybe it's because she's feeling happier, maybe it's because she's managed to move forwards enough that she doesn't really need your power anymore," she starts, and then furrows her brow. "Maybe it's because of what she's trying to do? I mean, she's trying to stop a source of death and a source of worship, sure, but... I dunno. Does it count as them dying before their time?"

    She hesitates. Talking to the open air doesn't bother or embarrass her - she doesn't need an excuse to do it any other day. It's just that this time, the words are a hell of a lot more important. "... I thought about how I could try threatening you into helping her. I mean, I don't think I could destroy the Rephaim - but I could sure as hell bury it, split into so many parts no-one'd ever figure out how to put it together again. I reckon it'd be the best way I have to 'destroy' your Wheel, just tear it apart so no-one ever finds it."

    She pauses, and swallows thickly as she stares into the distnce, marshalling her thoughts. And hoping she has the time to.

<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

Things were getting dire when all things were said and done. Something had come over Tesnei her normal nature and seem more grim as of late. The last week had seen Tes making ready for something else to come she was armed and ready she knew things were dire. She looked to Mariel for a moment concerned she this must be borderline torture to her. She marches onward muttering something to herself about shadows and a valley of death as she goes.

 She hears the scream she looks up to Mariel for a moment she readies the Dead Man's hand.

 "So this is it."

 The Clysmian of Desperation Rek'Gora is before he to say she's not got despair in her heart she'll never get to go home so far as she can see, if not for the Caravan it would have consumed her entirely a long time ago.

 "Jay? Mariel? I have your backs."

 The thing is a sight behold it's a terror fit to match with the Roc or so many other creatures of the myths of her far away home.

 "To think I thought once such things were fairy tales."

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Rek'Gora is not the only one clinging desperately to life. A figure staggers onto the summit, pulling themselves up over the final rocky outcropping. Ragnell told them where to find the creature, and so he sought it out-- but the path was not easily conquered, and the Seraph did not abandon her post without a fight. It took everything to make it here, to behold with his own eyes the growing form of the monster that strikes so much fear in the hearts of the Guardians.

But Cyre Lorentz is spent. His face is haggard and his robes are mere shreds. Healing magic is one thing, healing potions are another, but propping a body up on chemistry and sorcery does not necessarily resolve the underlying exhaustion. Indeed, many forms of 'healing' magic only accelerates regenerative processes, such are the limits of such man-made miracles.

And yet, here he is.

"Fengalon," Cyre grunts, bracing himself against a jagged fang of half-shattered stone. "I know you're not going to want to do this, I remember the sort of terror you felt before Obsession... But we have to do this. I'm here with you, I stand for you."

The priest clutches the silvery talisman dangling around his neck, squeezing with all the strength his tired arms can muster, "I will not abandon this fight. The wind I believe in... Blows strong and brave, desperate for nothing, fears only the end of its journey, and yet presses on regardless. Once again, trust in our strength, just as I trust in yours!"

The beast screams. Cyre's eyes tighten, and his hand opens--

Only to grab gently at Mariel's shoulder, "You're not alone," he says, forcing his exhausted legs to carry him forward. A silvery comet crashes into the summit. Cyre looks up as OS arrives, and his expression turns pensive. He says nothing, but his tired eyes speak volumes. At least their goals are aligned for the time being.

"Clysmian," Cyre says to the great bird, "Your life was short, but we cannot let you leave here alive. Return to the ley. Filgaia is bleeding enough already."

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Ragnell is gone. So is Lanval.

    And, given the strange relationships Seraphs have regarding things like bodies, it is likely that both Ragnell and Lanval still alive, in some way.

    And still the sharp sorrow Gwen feels is startling, like a bare foot finding a rusted nail on a floor worn smooth with age.

    Gwen cries out once, like a wounded animal, her fists shaking, To cry out for Ragnell, and not everyone else--

    .... But this, too, can be a tool.

    As is sending your friend down the mountain with the wounded, assuring him that everything, in its own way, will be alright.

    With each step, she throws the necessary parts of her into a tight, protective ball.

    She leans on that nail, she falls through that wooden floor, and she folds herself in the cold deep below, and the razor wire harp's song, ferrying away the parts of her that would make this tactic needlessly distracting.

    Her right hand shakes, preparing to store up the necessary energy she'll need.

    "Hold tight, all of you." A sliver of gold bleeds through the edges on her right iris.

    "I'll bring the fight up the mountain in your stead."

    ... By the time she reaches the peak, not too far behind the others,

    "If we don't kill it now, it'll suffer, along with all the others it'll hurt." Her voice is calm, and soft, its source not too far behind Ida's group. "One shot. If we don't take it, it'll be for nothing. Yuna's right. This is mercy."

DC: Gwen Whitlock switches forms to Chrysopoeia!
<Pose Tracker> Volsung has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgwVNm9Scm8&list=PL112DB550DF200604&index=38 -- Falling Into the Shadow of the Locus Solus

There is--

"How unsightly."

-- there is ample cause for desperation.

"I thought something felt out of place."

Even past the tremulous shriek of the newborn Clysmian, his voice cuts through, like ice water drenching a flame. Chilling, dispassionate -- cutting down to the core.

At first, there is only that commanding voice, and the weighty feeling of a powerful presence. And then--

With a crackle of ionizing air and dissolving space, he emerges.

Cloaking technology far beyond the means of the average Filgaian peels away at the edge of the blasted crater to reveal a lone man. His hair an ashen blond, skin dark, eyes a deep, chilling blue behind a pair of simple glasses. To any familiar, his clothing is of distinctly Veruni make. Heels crack on stone with a single, apathetic step forward as the man cocks his head slightly toward the right. His lips turn toward a frown that looks both intrigued and annoyed all at once. Gloved fingers find his glasses, pushing them up the bridge of his nose, before his thumb and middle finger pinch together. And with a snap of his fingers...

"Mm. What an annoying little anomaly you are. But..."

... four great, metal columns come crashing down from the sky, IMPALING into the stony ground to encircle the perimeter of that grand crater. Each of them glow with fluctuating energy, sucked straight from the Ley in the vicinity. All of them begin to power up, crackling with power in preparation.

"... perhaps there's opportunity here, too. Let's get some answers from you, little one."

Preparation for containment. The man takes a single step forward. And those cold eyes turn on the Drifters, as if only now noticing them properly for the first time.

"... Tt."

It lasts only a second, before he turns upon Rek'gora once more, approaching that antithesis of the Guardians without a single ounce of fear.

"This creature is hereby property of the Veruni. You may leave, now. Or face the consequences."

And despite the fact that he is utterly alone besides the device he has brought with him...

... the tone of his voice suggests Volsung, leader of the Veruni, does not particularly care overmuch if he has to face both Drifters and a Clysmian. He simply, calmly, advances upon Rek'gora.

As the containment field begins to thrum with powerful life.

<Pose Tracker> Rek'gora has posed.

One can debate how much understanding a Clysmian has. The only one that others have encountered is Sin -- and the creature seems, to most who encounter him and live, to be more of a mindless force of destruction. If Rek'gora has any true intelligence, it does not show, but he understands the intent of this interloper clearly. His head turns, looking at the massive metal columns that slammed into the earth.

His wings beat, and he flies up -- but not as far as he might like. The crackling field of light above him, while it promises an uncertain ending, also prevents any hasty escape. The creature is backed into a corner.

And he lashes out.

Rek'gora SCREECHES again, a shriek that pierces to the bone with its dismay. The Clysmian rises into the air. The chains rattle below it, never quite touching the earth, and yet binding its avian flesh so tightly that it must hurt. It raises, and the air is clear, but thick with that feeling of desperation.

The Clysmian screeches, and a sickly golden aura begins to burn around it.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXEz-i-oORk

OOC: Welcome to the battle against Rek'gora! In this fight, your goal is to ansi+red,knockout Rek'gora within 5 turns)]. If you do not, Volsung will successful trap Rek'gora in a stasis field. While this will prevent Rek'gora from terrorizing the landscape, it means that in the future, Rek'gora will return in a future plot.

Additionally, because of the structure of the scene, we may skip you if you haven't posed within an hour of the bosses. This is to keep the scene moving.

You are welcome to attack Volsung, but note that he is a timed boss and cannot be KOed. However, attacking Volsung may influence his behavior, and Volsung will certainly be attacking you.

Good luck, everyone! And most importantly, have fun!

DC: Rek'gora switches forms to Rek'gora - The Clysmian of Desperation!
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

At least they're not in this alone. Clarissa looks back with a bite to her lip, but her attention is drawn to Mariel above all. The way the tiny woman reels is somehow relatable.

They're both facing something overwhelming. All Clarissa can do is steel herself, set her jaw and deal with this. She can't make Filgaia a better world with this sort of creature rampant within it.

Nor can she do it when the Veruni show up. Clarissa just about jumps out of her petticoat when Volsung makes his appearance.

She recovers shockingly quickly, stepping forward with a sweep of Strahl Gewehr to one side. "You don't have the right to just take it as your own!" she shouts, defiance flaring in her voice. "Filgaia is in danger, and the creature is what's causing it! I'm not going to let anyone just walk away with it for the sake of some kind of experiment!"

Felius moves up to Clarissa's right, brandishing his halberd in a ready position. "Are we going to try and fight the Veruni?" he asks, his voice low. "There's technology there that seems pretty dangerous."

A part of Clarissa quails at the implications of what she's already decided to do. She forces it to the side. "No, we have to defeat Rek'gora before they can make off with it," she determines. "We can't let up on it even a little."

She doesn't hesitate any further. A bit of rubble bounces out from behind her heel as Clarissa suddenly bursts into motion. Strahl Gewehr thrums faintly in her hand as she fights through the air of desperation and focuses both on the Clysmian and the dream that it and Volsung stand between. A happier, more peaceful world.

I never thought it would mean something like THIS.

She fires nevertheless. A brilliant beam rips from the oddly-shaped pistol's mouth, tearing towards the Desperation Clysmian.

There's more to the blast than light. There's a peculiar magic there - one that seems particularly annoyed with the anti-Guardian.

GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Rek'gora with Running Shot!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Rek'gora takes a glancing hit from Clarissa Arwin's Running Shot for 90 hit points!
GS: Riposte! applied to Clarissa Arwin!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

    Jacqueline is right. Lunata looks towards the many companions that have come -- at first she thinks it's Lydia, but no, it's OS... and Rachiel. She didn't quite follow the developments there on account of shot and drowning in Macalania. Ivan is there too, readying his sword... Cecilia and Claude, old and steadfast friends. Venetia, who rallied the plan. Rikku, Lulu and Yuna, ever encased in Seymour's machinations... Ida and Boudicca, representing Oracle and Seer, and Dean, always there to brighten the day.

    And she looks to those standing closer too. Citan asks her if she is ready. "... this is a part... of atonement."

    That is... when--

    HE appears.

    Chilling and dispassionate, slicing down to her very core...

    "You're...!"

    Lunata grimaces. She wasn't present in person during the Photosphere, but it was impossible to miss the sensation that the very leader of the Veruni exuded then -- and of the news she's heard from Avril and others since then.

    "Nothing good can come of this..." Lunata warns Volsung, black-bloodied hand spread to one side. It's not the opportunity you think it is... it can only end in more tragedy! That's why I have to..."

    The ex-waitress nods again to Jacqueline. "I'll try... to do this as quickly as I can... let's go!"

    She darts upwards, streaming forward with as much power as she can possibly muster in this state -- and she whirls as she aims to strike Rek'gora at the joint of one of its wings, an echoing trail of butterflies cascading in her wake.

GS: Lunata Croze has attacked Rek'gora with Papillon Reel!
GS: Lunata Croze assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Lunata Croze has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Lunata Croze's Papillon Reel for 87 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

There are people here Mariel did not expect to see. Like Ida, who Mariel is pretending she doesn't see at all because now is quite possibly the *least* appropriate time to have the discussion she is fairly certain will be coming, and OS. She might have expected Lydia, but that's not who she got.

"...I can't leave." Mariel can't keep the fear out of her voice, either. "I have to be here, because... this is important." Cyre with his hand on her shoulder is somewhat reassuring, but only a little. The prospect of a Clysmian isn't really condusive to reassurance!

Mariel was focused so much on Rek'gora that she did not detect Volsung - though the cloaking field might have had something to do with that. Her eyes widen. "You can't! Do you know what a Clysmian even is? You can't claim it as your property! Even if you were allowed, it would cause you nothing but pain and suffering! Please, reconsider!"

The Clysmian roars. Mariel recoils again, holding up her bag like a shield even though there's nothing to block but noise. She lowers it a moment later, looking from Volsung to the machines to Rek'gora. She feels the Ley start to flow through them.

Mariel reaches into her bag and pulls out a bottle of oil. She pops something in it, closes it again, shakes it vigorously and then throws it, a surprisingly accurate overhand toss at Rek'gora; it arcs up high, and as it goes, the cork pops out under pressure, the now extremely fizzy liquid inside splattering down at the Clysmian in a foam. Where it touches, it numbs and stiffens, hampering its fine movements further.

<Pose Tracker> Lulu has posed.

Lulu hears what Yuna says. She hears what Yuna meant. This is why she has no room in her heart for Rek'gora's tragedy, for the sadness of such a young creature doomed by its very nature. She cannot; her heart is already on the battlefield. She will Guard her with her life.

"...We seem to," Lulu allows Rikku, not inclined to ruin her attempt at optimism but not inclined to join her, either. Instead, she watches, considering which spells are most useful in this situation, which allies are likely to take which actions. Many talk of suffering, and what is necessary here.

Only one talks of opportunity, it would seem, and Lulu blinks in surprise at his presence. "This power," she starts, wary, immediately sensing the sheer strength he exudes. "Yuna!" Lulu calls immediately, stepping forward and in front of the Summoner. It might seem strange to an outside observer; Lulu if anything does not look any sturdier than Yuna in form. Everything in her eyes makes it make sense, though. As the columsn rise, and Rek'gora screeches...

"Rikku!" Lulu says sharply, looking over her immediate allies--and then she plants herself in place, breathing in once, preparing for whatever comes next. Her expression is a challenge; she fires off a bolt of electricity at Rek'gora's feet, threateningly. "Focus on the monster. The man is secondary."

GS: Lulu has attacked Yuna with Guard!
GS: Lulu has completed her action.
GS: Mariel has attacked Rek'gora with Paralysis Oil!
GS: Mariel has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Violet Salazar has posed.

Violet is startled when the pillars fall from the sky, and when the leader of the Veruni shows up shortly afterwards. They're distractions she can ill afford. Shaking her head, fighting for concentration, she at least regains it -- and her focus on Rek'Gora. She hates to kill it on one level, but it's necessary.

She doesn't want her grandchildren to grow up on a Filgaia with a renegade Clysmian.

Carefully, she draws a bead with her ARM on the fluttering, frightened, desperate bird. Best get this over with quickly. She chooses a buckshot-burst attack, hoping the big avian won't swerve away. Or counterattack. No telling what its capabilities were.

GS: Violet Salazar has attacked Rek'gora with Buckshot!
GS: Violet Salazar has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny lets out a breath. Of course it wouldn't be this easy. His tricorder is scanning the Veruni tech almost as soon as it lands, beaming results to the contact-lens HUD in his left eye. What he sees is... not too great, though he can't spend a lot of time just watching it. He gets enough to figure it's a stasis field, and that he probably shouldn't try to punch those pillars, given the energy readings he's seeing.

Which means the best tactic is...

"Okay, that thing still needs to die," Claude asides to his two companions. "Cecilia, if you need me, shout." He figures that she will be on Rek'gora - as will pretty much everyone of a super-summony, blasty persuasion. "I'm going to beat up a nerd."

The big man breaks off into a dead sprint, moving toward Volsung. Claude is experienced enough a fighter to know that if a guy shows up alone in a place where he's surrounded by a bunch of extremely tough murder hobos, he's probably tough enough to hold off said murder hobos. In other words, this is a fight in which Claude is clearly outclassed. Which is to say, a lot like almost every fight he gets into these days. Fortunately, he doesn't need to win - he just needs to keep the Veruni thinking like a fighter instead of a general.

"Excuse me good sir!" Claude shouts as he advances forward. "I don't suppose you'd be interested in a great new business opportunity? I'm selling AIR SLASH---" (he fires a blast) "---at wholesale prices! We've got all the AIR SLASH!---" (he shoots another one) "---that you will need!"

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Volsung with Air Slash!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: Yuna takes a solid hit from Lulu's Guard for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Yuna gains 15 extra FP from Lulu!
GS: Rek'gora takes a glancing hit from Mariel's Paralysis Oil for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Cripple! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Violet Salazar's Buckshot for 60 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Volsung takes a solid hit from Claude C. Kenny's Air Slash for 57 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

If things could not get worse? They have Volsung has arrived to capture this horror? She thinks no good will come of that, this thing has to be destroyed as quickly as possible. She shifts something on her arm, rounds start to be produced within but it will take a moment to get the one she needs here. She will start muttering a bit as she brings up one hand flames start o form there as she holds it there into a larger and larger sphere as she finishes the spell and then throws a large fireball at the newly born Clysmian, when in doubt? Fireball.

 Tes will keep near Mariel and Jay as best she can. With Rek'gora she has only one thing in mind about its power. She's not sure if anything short of orbital bombardment will stop it. It is an option they do not have so they will have to give everything she can with what she's got.

 "You want it? You are insane, it will end you!"

<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

Venetia hears and feels the resolution around her. It feels slightly alien to her. She questions herself on the topic of why - as a scholar, such are matters of interest. What alienates her from this group? She doesn't feel somehow not akin to drifters, she thinks, other than by having a goal other than obtaining money and spending it to smoke drugs.

Nonetheless this troubles her. This thing, perhaps it should not be, but it has the character of something new. It screams in desperation. Could it do otherwise? Could it do less, even in this form of a great, predatory bird? Venetia sets her jaw and then there is a crackle of ozone.

And Venetia's prayers are, in a sense, answered, because what emerges is in no sense a child; in no sense an innocent. Instead, in a fleeting moment, Venetia sees a person with whom she can intuit a kinship. In his glasses, in his demeanor. In his eagerness to study. In his smashing, sorcerous magic.

Venetia sucks in a deep breath, and before she can throw out a challenge or a battle of wits, Claude C. Kenny bounds forwards with the power and vigor of thirty tons of Labrador retrievers, and Venetia's mouth hangs open for a fleeting second.

She was going to shout and by Dinoginos she isn't going to NOT shout. "CLAUDE!" Venetia bellows. "Don't take this maniac lightly! The Veruni didn't forge an empire of shackles on a base of sand!" Her eyes flick round for a moment, and then she shouts further. "Good trick! Some kind of binder? But not lethal! Charitable! I suppose to your expertise!" Venetia strides forwards, raises out a Crest Graph, gazes at Volsung -- and then pivots sixty degrees to face one of those great metal sealing spikes!

"Ground, drink thy water and change form until the water should depart. By ancient way, Opus Caementium!" Venetia intones, sweeping her bronze rod at one of those seal points. The ground sparkles violet around her and in that general direction, and a patch of the ground takes on the consistency of freshly poured, wet cement. A long oval, some of which may interface with Volsung, but the main target: the pillar.

GS: Venetia Vuong has attacked Volsung with Opus Caemticium!
GS: Venetia Vuong has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Venetia Vuong has completed her action.
GS: Volsung takes a solid hit from Venetia Vuong's Opus Caemticium for 15 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Disrupt! applied to Volsung!
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

    At Ida's whisper, Dean hesitates. If it were a matter of taking on a loud and vicious monster, he wouldn't--but to hear her describe the Clysmian as if it's just small and afraid, the kind young man can't help but feel sorry for it. He wasn't there for when it was summoned; he didn't see those Baskar youths collapse. For a moment, it's easy to wonder if maybe this isn't the right thing to do after all.
    
    But then Boudicca lays down the law, and Gwen speaks of the suffering it will bring if they leave it be, and Yuna calls it a mercy, and Dean's resolve steels. He looks around at everyone. There are lots of faces here he knows and cares about--no time to greet them, but he acknowledges them, sends nods to OS and Cecilia and Clarissa and Lunata and so on. Then he turns to the Clysmian and prepares to do what must be done.
    
    Until, of course, *he* appears.
    
    "Wha--" Dean shields his eyes again, this time from the crackling of ionized air. When he lowers his hand, those eyes widen. "It's you!! Volsung! The leader of the Veruni! And a big jerk!!" he adds for the benefit of those around him who might not be familiar with the bespectacled man.
    
    Volsung calls down what is essentially a cage to trap the Clysmian and declares it Veruni property. "HEY!! You can't do that!!" he shouts, shaking a ARM-holding fist at Volsung. "Stop barging into places and doing whatever you want, Volsung!!"
    
    But even Dean knows that Volsung can, in fact, do whatever he wants, because he's got the power to back up his jerkhoodness. He also knows that Volsung is incredibly strong--way stronger than he is, maybe even stronger than this baby Clysmian--and that this time, Avril isn't here to have his back as the Ice Queen. Taking Volsung on is more than folly; it's practically suicide. Yet...
    
    "Ida. Boudicca. I'm gonna do everything I can to distract Volsung. You guys focus on taking out the Clysmian. He's already crazy strong; who knows how much stronger he'll get if he manages to capture that Clysmian?" he tells his friends with steely calm. "See you again soon!!"
    
    Then he breaks off from his friends to race towards Volsung, not unlike Claude and Venetia. While he feels a certain amount of horror at Claude's attitude towards the Veruni, well, maybe it'll do exactly what they want and distract him!
    
    Dean, for his part, just yells, "VOLSUUUUUUUUUUNG!!!" really loud while shooting at him a whole bunch. The bullets are fiery! They may sting the Veruni leader a little on impact.
    
    There, but for the grace of Avril, goes Dean.

GS: Dean Stark has attacked Volsung with Burning Magazine!
GS: Dean Stark has completed his action.
GS: Tesni Inoue has attacked Rek'gora with Fire Ball!
GS: Tesni Inoue has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

The arrival of the Veruni lord does little to change Cyre's mind. In fact, the man's intent to capture the Clysmian only steels the shaman's resolve. There's no way he can permit it, to let such a thing come to pass could be even worse than letting this thing run rampant. At least then they'd only have a force of nature to wrestle with, rather than one directly under the control of one considered to be an enemy of the planet itself.

Compared to this one, Kaguya seems downright pleasant to be around.

"Fengalon," Cyre repeats, clutching tight again to the silver medium, "It's now or never. We can beat this thing, together. I offer myself as your vessel, I join my strength to yours! Manifest, Western Wind! Let our voices--"

                                Roar as one!

A torrent of jade light erupts beneath the wind-priest. A storm-gale gathers and becomes a towering vortex. Cyre vanishes into the nascent tornado, and for a moment it seems he's been consumed by the very power he's called upon--

And then the funnel cloud breaks, shattering into a hundred razors of stone-hewing gusts. What emerges is a humanoid tiger, resplendant and divine. Its limbs are wrapped in sutras singing the praises of the Guardians. A golden mandala whirls upon its shoulders like the lovechild of a prayer wheel and calendar disk. "Rek'Gora," the Nahual of Fengalon declares, willing the winds of its advent into an onslaught of flesh-flaying blades, "You are denied by the Wind! I shall strip you of your wings!"

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"Wait...OS!" Rachiel says, readying her blade as she looks to Volsung. "Tch... What's the leader of the radicals doing here?"

OS turns over to look. They don't seem to have a negative reaction to Volsung, nor a positive one. They just regard them passively. "If they prove capable of containing it..." OS says. "Then that would be useful data. Master Krelian might prefer that we allow the sealing process to continue."

Rachiel looks suitably horrified by the idea. "Is... he telling us to allow the Veruni to seal it?"

"...No. It is simply supposition based on observation. What is your order, Rachiel? We follow you."

Rachiel cups her chin thoughtfully and then adds, "Gather the data on the containment field... but we can't allow the Veruni a weapon like this."

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO8fTk6oKQg

OS nods once. "Understood." They look to Volsung. "We refuse your demands but thank you for your contributions to science."

Mairel claims that she can't leave. OS quirks their head a bit in a Data-like manner. "...Understood. Mariel, we will work together."

They charge in on the Clysmian Bird. OS says, "Lunata will build a future where there is no need for sacrifices. You are unneccessary for that future." They raise up both limbs, channeling the power of the Guardians through their blades and slice them down for Rek'Gora, as impassively as ever.

SIDE RACHIEL

Rachiel approaches Volsung. "Are you certain you want to interfere with our operation?" She pushes up her glasses, they gleam for a second. "Well...okay."

She snaps forward, a shimmering ray of light erupting from the blade as she swings it f or Volsung!

<"Do not move too far, my augmentation has a practical distance limit."> OS says in Solarian.
<You worry about the God, I'll worry about the Veruni!>

GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Rek'gora with Hands Not Fit For Holding!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Rek'gora with Gale Slash!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has canceled their attack on Rek'gora.
DC: Cyre H. Lorentz switches forms to Nahual - Fengalon!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Rek'gora with Gale Slash!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Tesni Inoue's Fire Ball for 50 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline nods back at Tesni wordlessly. 'This is it'... in that situation, it can mean a lot of things. She looks toward Cyre, then, as he arrives, issuing his demands. OS is here, too, along with Rachiel, and there are so many of her other friends and acquaintances here too...

And then her attention turns back to Rek'gora. She winces, flinching at the SCREECH, but she does not back down - nor at the golden aura, or the air thick with desperation.

...Aaand that's about when things Get Worse, as a young man with a terrifying presence appears, calling down four columns with a snap of his fingers.

"...You're... Volsung, correct? Leader of the Veruni..." Jacqueline says hesitantly. "...Listen, sir, this creature... it's dangerous. It poses a threat to the entire world. It's kin has brought destruction and calamity, and cannot be controlled. It won't show the Veruni mercy any more than it will to the rest of us. If we work together, we can put a stop to it now, before anyone has to get hurt."

...It's a long shot, but diplomacy is usually Jacqueline's first approach in situations like this.

But, whatever Volsung chooses, they have a Clysmian to deal with. Jacqueline looks toward Lunata, and nods.

"Right - I'll provide support!" She says. She gestures with her left hand, invoking the Mage Weapon Crest Graph in her left gauntlet. Violet light begins to settle around Tesni, Cyre, and Lunata, infusing the three of them with extra power.

She just hopes it'll be enough.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Lunata Croze with Mage Armory!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Mage Armory!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Tesni Inoue with Mage Armory!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Mage Armory for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Cyre H. Lorentz!
GS: Lunata Croze takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Mage Armory for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Lunata Croze!
<Pose Tracker> Citan Uzuki has posed.

    Metal glints from across the field. Citan glances away, watching in silence as OS makes her descent. His eyes narrow. "..."

    Lunata speaks at that moment; his attention shifts back in her direction. He makes no further remark, simply nods--

    Which is when, of course, the situation becomes far more complicated than it had been already.

    "Who is..." utters the doctor, gazing across the crater as the sole man reveals himself, stepping down slowly into the place where Desperation rests. Citan draws himself up that much more, his gaze never leaving the man. "...Volsung, of the Veruni... here?"

    He has always been particularly well-versed in the geopolitics of Filgaia.

    The pillars descent, crunching into the earth. Slowly he shakes his head, as if in disbelief. "No-- he intends to take it with him. Miss Croze, Miss Barber, this cannot be permitted!"

    Even if the leader of the Veruni (in the absence of their queen) is what stands in their way. Even if he regards them all with as much concern as one might regard an ant.
    Even if he's willing to grant as much mercy as one might grant an ant.

    Even so, they cannot--

    "We must do this quickly! Forgive me, but you cannot stand against one such as him for long!"

    Like the cloud might slip across the sky, he moves for the Clysmian, slamming a single open-handed strike for it.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ivan sees someone approaching from the air. "...Lydia?" -- but when she draws closer, Ivan realizes it's OS. OS... and Rachiel.

"Your day was up a while ago," Ivan says to Rachiel, quietly. "But we can have a truce today anyway, considering the doom beast." He gives OS a brief, uncertain flicker of a look. "Hi again, I guess," he says, in a tone that is meant to be indifferent and distancing but comes off sounding kind of shy.

The Clysmian awaits. The Clysmian... IS BEING KIDNAPPED BY SOME MYSTERIOUS VERUNI MAN?!?!

Thought bubbles of Kaguya and copious question marks dance above Ivan's head but his tenuous understanding of the Veruni does nothing to help him understand why so many people seem to have a positive interest in the existence of this DOOM BIRD in the world.

"... ... can't steal it for some unfathomable purpose if we finish it off first!" he decides aloud, and flings himself skyward on jets of flame, pouring fire from his hands into his sword as he swings downward toward the creature in a red-hot arc.

GS: CRITICAL! Rek'gora guards a hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Gale Slash for 113 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Hands Not Fit For Holding for 154 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Rikku has posed.


The commanding presence jolts her, and Rikku looks at the man. Something about him gives her the shivers, like seeing a Maester in public. Yet there's something more unsettling about the technology he's using, the ease with which he's approaching it. One look is all it takes to realize letting him have his way is a bad idea.

"Veruni... this guy comes from Kaguya's group...? He looks like he's a big deal."

She understates, in her nervousness. He's trying to capture something that's like Sin after all. And if he succeeds if something like Sin could just be used as some pawn or weapon.

Rikku pales, before standing beside Lulu, taking an uneasy but firm stance beside her.

Though she then immediately averts her eyes and plugs her ears as Lulu challenges the creature. Once the electrical charge disperses, she gives her a gracious look. "That thing he's using is so advanced. I can't even tell if it'll interfere with us bringing this thing down."

The thought sticks out with her. Yuna may have only one chance to Summon. Just enough pyreflies for that.

And then she squats down, quickly taking things out of pockets and pouches. A potion. A distiller. And... hesitantly she takes one of the spheres from a pouch of 'Yunie's Spheres.'

Crushing it in the mixture, she shakes it on up, until it becomes a concoction of swirling blues and greens, pyreflies that once evoked fortune now carry a feeling of Spiran brand heroism. Taking the phial, she hands it over to Yuna.

"So here's one Rikku brand trump card for you Yunie!"

She'd heard what she said earlier, so she tries her best not to make her eyes look sad, as she looks into Yuna's eyes of blue and green. She can't ask her to give less, she can only help her give more.

"You've got this." She says instead of that. Before turning to face the Clysmian as her Guardian.

GS: Rikku has attacked Yuna with Mix: Hero Drink!
GS: Rikku has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rikku has completed her action.
GS: Ivan has attacked Rek'gora with Rocket Boosters!
GS: Ivan has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
GS: Volsung takes a solid hit from Dean Stark's Burning Magazine for 51 hit points!
GS: Poison! applied to Volsung!
GS: Yuna takes a solid hit from Rikku's Mix: Hero Drink for 0 hit points!
GS: Amplify, Burst, Hyper, and Surge! applied to Yuna!
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

Cecilia forces strength into her legs as she regards the terrible...thing. Its power marshaling together before her. Which of course, at the worst possible moment, is when it starts to get bad.

"Who!?" she squawks, as the unknown man appears, and her senses quail at his strength. But her words rally her. "This THING belongs to nobody!" she snaps back. Which is of course, why she has to smash it to bits.

Others seem hesitant to fight it, but Cecilia whips her staff up into her hands. "Right!" she barks to Claude and Venetia. "Be careful! But I may need help with the Clysmian!"

And then she slips a hand into her crest case, coming up with her old standby Spark crest. "Got to get the Leypoints primed..." she mutters, and then whirls her staff before her. It churns the air before her, a magic circle resolving from the light, before she slaps the crest against it and a snaking, forking bolt of lightning bridges the gap between her and Rek'gora.

GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Rek'gora with Spark!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has completed her action.
GS: Tesni Inoue takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Mage Armory for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Tesni Inoue!
<Pose Tracker> Yuna has posed.

Yuna is actually sort of aware of the existence of Veruni because of Kaguya (and others who assisted Althena's Guard in their war on Yevon; mostly Kaguya though, those two have a Thing). So she isn't COMPLETELY bewildered by the appearance of Volsung, even though she doesn't recognize him in particular, and leaves the reactions of others to establish his identity.

In other words, as total strangers go, he's about one-third as mysterious to her as Ragnell was. In fairness to both parties, he makes his intentions clear at a similar rate as the Seraph. And it outweighs hers on the Doom Rating by orders of magnitude.

Capturing Sin to study it is like -- the most heretical thing possible to a Yevonite. It isn't JUST that it's obviously a horrifying plan in itself. The religious CONTEXT -- Sin was originally created to punish Spirans for excessive misuse of destructive high technology -- makes it ultra-specific and a million times worse.

It kind of blows Yuna's mind. She pales, and the summoner's rod in her hand shakes a little, at the very idea.

"NOPE," declare Kimahri and Auron, succinctly and in unison, as they rush into the fray.

Yuna agrees with a sharp -- desperate! -- nod, and turns her trembling into a more graceful motion of her art. Normally, the first thing she does in battle is cast some sort of protection on other people; her family, her friends, her allies.

For once in her life, she does what she's supposed to, and lets Lulu put herself fully in harm's way. Claude will be proud.

And, in a way, she makes her own intentions known by her target, normally (and oft unwisely) her very last healing priority:

Herself.

Radiance pours out of her in a fountain of delicate motes.

The last of her wounds mend -- Ragnell's burns shrink, then pave over with fresh skin; the remnants of Mortibody's gut-slash, beneath her blouse, also finally vanishes completely.

Because she is the weak spot of the strategy they're about to employ. It isn't her own vulnerability she's shoring up.

It's someone else's.

Someone who isn't here quite yet.

...is it getting a little colder up here?

"The only thing crueler to your miserable existence would be captivity," she promises Li'l Sin. "We won't allow it."

And she downs Rikku's phial like a shot.

"We've got this," Yuna amends... with a smile.

GS: Rek'gora critically Guards a hit from Ivan's Rocket Boosters for 28 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Taking off her right glove, Gwen minds the tickle of molten lightning creeping up the nerves of her right arm.

    She briefly considers, just possibly, if this would be the best idea.

    The thought dies at the appearance of the blonde-haired man, leaving the march of the Mockingbird's stolen lightning to progress onwards at a faster pace.

    "Volsung."

    A bright flash completes Gwen's transformation, a pyrite glow pulsing visibly through every visible nerve just underneath her surface of her skin, the spot over her heart, her back, her eyes, the very pupils shining gold.

    Static flares out the curls of her pale red hair, and her head lulls to one side, her mouth murmuring quietly to Ida and those nearby. "Can only sustain this for a limited time. The longer I go, the more likely it will be that my aiming will be sloppy. I'll support everyone as long as I can."

    Gwen rises her right hand, its draconic stylings much more evident as she grasps it into a fist.

    "Shock Diamond."

    A star shatters in the air above her, sending transparent shards towards the Clysmian and Volsung.

    ----- SOMEWHERE ELSE ON FILGAIA -----

    And somewhere, Auntie Frea looks up from her nap, and squints at the air in front of her. "..... she did something stupid, didn't she."

GS: Yuna has attacked Yuna with Cura!
GS: Yuna has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Yuna has completed her action.
GS: Deleting freeattack Kumogakure.
GS: Yuna heals Yuna! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Rek'gora with Shock Diamond!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Volsung with Shock Diamond!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Citan Uzuki has attacked Rek'gora with Kumogakure!
GS: Citan Uzuki has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Volsung takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Shock Diamond for 0 hit points!
GS: Jam! applied to Volsung!
GS: Riposte! applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Rek'gora completely evades a hit from Citan Uzuki's Kumogakure!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Ida's gaze flicks upwards as she catches sight of the silvery comet. "...Lydia...?" she breathes. Then the figure descends, and speaks. It's not Lydia, Ida realizes. It's OS. It's the thing Solaris put in Lydia to keep her on a leash. Her jaw tenses as she looks at OS and Rachiel. Her hands clench into fists; the fingers sharpen into blades.

    The heiress swallows around the lump in her throat. "You're right," Ida says, to Gwen--and, by extension, Yuna. "This does not make it any easier." She touches armored fingers to the exoskeleton over her chest. "The pain means that you still have a heart."

    And then the air crackles, and everything goes to hell.

    Ida spends a good second staring in shock as Dean introduces Volsung via the medium of angry shouting. Her mouth falls open as her dear little almost-brother charges off to fight a warlord, alone.

    "Not alone, you won't!" Ida shouts, as Dean races off. "Boudicca! I'll help you how I can, but--!" But she knows.

    Idiot girl. You're only doing this because you're too afraid to do what must be done. What your duty demands you do.

    Ida's only response to the treasonous little voice is a snarl. She sprints off after Dean, all burnt trail clothing and gleaming Hyadean exoskeleton. When she's halfway there, Ida whips Devil's Due from its holster, and shoots from the hip. A single slug flies at Volsung, already bleeding off momentum as its propellant turns to thick, black smoke. The cloud trails back around to envelop Ida, clinging to the field of her lifeforce. Despite looking like a visual obstacle, Ida can see through her own cloud just fine--and she sees Gwen transforming, a smile of awe on her lips. She nods, once.

GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Spark for 55 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Volsung with Ebon Devil Cloud!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Boudicca has posed.

    "Hath we no time to waste," Boudicca says, on the advent of Volsung and his cruel manipulations of the Ley.

    It's shaped like a question, but it isn't, not really. It's frustration. It's...

    She looks to Ida and Dean, worry winnowing lines along her forehead. Here stand two titans, Volsung and Rek'gora, and the three of them between. She trusts Dean, of course - Volsung is the biggest jerk, even if Boudicca would not, necessarily, say it in those words.

    Dean makes a decision, tasks them with the remainder, and anxiety tugs at the weave of her heart --

    But they are all together, and Ida is with him. "Leave Rek'gora to me!" She calls, in affirmation. "Volsung will have no prize to take!"

    An Oracle, of course, is strength funneled through the filter of their Seers: but a Seraph holds the echoes of divinity in their own hands, and it is a mistake to think Moor Gault's embers do not spark even now. This child which cannot exist, the antithesis of the Guardians --

    A sigil below her feet, and a gust blows down on the Clymsian. Boudicca, tonfa in hand, declares: "The sky abjures you, Rek'gora!"

GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Rek'gora with Lancet Blast!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Shock Diamond for 0 hit points!
GS: Jam! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Riposte! applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Seraph Boudicca's Lancet Blast for 43 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Mighty! applied to Seraph Boudicca!
<Pose Tracker> Volsung has posed.

"I'm not the one here who doesn't understand the situation."

It's a calm, cutting observation that cuts through the struggling shriek of the Clysmian. And yet for how dispassionate it is, there's a certain sense of contempt behind it far more difficult to properly quantify. It isn't seething. It isn't rancorous. Not bubbling or hot.

Some hate is not fire.

Some hate is as cold as the dead of winter.

"And I am not the one making a mistake. But I suppose chattle wouldn't really understand -that-.

    "Would they?"

He does not stop. The man is completely unarmed, and yet he walks - not charges, not even runs - towards the struggling Rek'gora without an ounce of hesitation inside him. As if the thing was no threat to him. As if nothing here was.

It's a fact that holds true with how completely, arrogantly, blithely he disregards the Drifters after his initial remarks.

The only thing that draws him towards a pause...

If we work together, we can put a stop to it now, before anyone has to get hurt.

... is Jaqueline Barber's plea for unity.

Volsung stops, midway towards the Clysmian.

He turns to stare at Jay, pivoting upon a single, high-heeled boot. That stare is so cold it could turn blood frigid with a single look.

But there's no questioning what lies behind that chill.

Complete and utter disdain for the very idea that Jay would suggest such a thing.

As if the entire thing was a heinous crime simply to suggest.

A smirk crawls across his lips. It does not change the look in his eyes.

"... Hah. How funny." His hand lifts towards his glasses.

"That one of you would plead with me for help. Perhaps you don't understand."

Claude charges for him. Venetia begins to chant. Rachiel begins to swing.

He does not seem to even recognize any of those threats, in that moment.

"There will never be any help for any of you--"

I don't suppose you'd be interested in a great new business opportunity? I'm selling AIR SLASH---

SWOOSH

    ---at wholesale prices! We've got all the AIR SLASH!---

        SWOOSH

            ---that you will need!

Twin AIR SLASH!es collide with the unmoving form of Volsung. The blasts of force blow into him so violently they upkick dirt and dust and rock in a thick veil, a perfect complement to the way that cement-like patch seems to try to seize up his movement -- if, of course, he was trying to. The pillar lurches within it, but holds fast; Veruni tech is made of truly stern stuff.

Within the veil, Rachiel's beam of light pierces straight through. Though he can only be seen as a silhouette, that blow strikes cleanly, visible in the blinding burst of light at the impact point. There is the sound of a heel scraping gravel, looking relatively unscathed within the opening salvo.

And from the smoke and debris, Volsung emerges, vapours clinging at his shoulders.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vetZOVs2oUg

"Let it not be said I didn't give you opportunity to see reason."

His hand snaps towards his right, fingers splayed. There is no immediate reaction. Except--

VOLSUUUUUUUUUUNG!!!

"--You."

Bullet fire rains, fiery shells hitting -- and ricocheting off of Volsung over and over as he lifts his left hand to intercept the barrage. His lips tug into a frown, and for a moment, he looks the most alert he has been since arriving, blue eyes suddenly and swiftly sweeping the crater. That cold gaze narrows.

"... Lolithia isn't with you today, is she? Convenient."

There is a glint in the distance.

"I suppose I can deal with you now."

And from some impossible distance away, something in the skies gets closer and closer, flying at speeds that would put most conventional vehicles to shame. A sword.

A single, massive, flying sword.

That moves completely of its own accord to RIP through all those gathered too close to Volsung at impossible velocities; the edge of Gram-Zambor crackles with scarlet energy as it cleaves autonomously through Claude, Venetia, Rachiel --

-- and Gwen, just as those transparent shards rain upon Volsung, bombarding him in a disorienting ray of light even as he takes note of her -- and her unusual appearance.

"... How interesting." There's recognition in those eyes, even as sorcerous energies envelope him. He remembers Gwen. "You've been developing. One opportunity presents itself after another today. But first thing's first."

His hand snaps forward. The air warbles around him. Air condenses rapidly.

And Volsung literally turns the air around them into a tidal wave, crashing through the crater to clear a path towards Rek'gora, and those fighting it. That it is sent on a collision course directly in Jay's way, well --

--apparently, she struck a chord with the Veruni tyrant. Perhaps just not the one she wanted.

GS: CRITICAL! Volsung takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Ebon Devil Cloud for 64 hit points!
GS: Riposte! applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
<Pose Tracker> Volsung has posed.

"I'm not the one here who doesn't understand the situation."

It's a calm, cutting observation that cuts through the struggling shriek of the Clysmian. And yet for how dispassionate it is, there's a certain sense of contempt behind it far more difficult to properly quantify. It isn't seething. It isn't rancorous. Not bubbling or hot.

Some hate is not fire.

Some hate is as cold as the dead of winter.

"And I am not the one making a mistake. But I suppose chattle wouldn't really understand -that-.

    "Would they?"

He does not stop. The man is completely unarmed, and yet he walks - not charges, not even runs - towards the struggling Rek'gora without an ounce of hesitation inside him. As if the thing was no threat to him. As if nothing here was.

It's a fact that holds true with how completely, arrogantly, blithely he disregards the Drifters after his initial remarks.

The only thing that draws him towards a pause...

If we work together, we can put a stop to it now, before anyone has to get hurt.

... is Jaqueline Barber's plea for unity.

Volsung stops, midway towards the Clysmian.

He turns to stare at Jay, pivoting upon a single, high-heeled boot. That stare is so cold it could turn blood frigid with a single look.

But there's no questioning what lies behind that chill.

Complete and utter disdain for the very idea that Jay would suggest such a thing.

As if the entire thing was a heinous crime simply to suggest.

A smirk crawls across his lips. It does not change the look in his eyes.

"... Hah. How funny." His hand lifts towards his glasses.

"That one of you would plead with me for help. Perhaps you don't understand."

Claude charges for him. Venetia begins to chant. Rachiel begins to swing.

He does not seem to even recognize any of those threats, in that moment.

"There will never be any help for any of you--"

I don't suppose you'd be interested in a great new business opportunity? I'm selling AIR SLASH---

SWOOSH

    ---at wholesale prices! We've got all the AIR SLASH!---

        SWOOSH

            ---that you will need!

Twin AIR SLASH!es collide with the unmoving form of Volsung. The blasts of force blow into him so violently they upkick dirt and dust and rock in a thick veil, a perfect complement to the way that cement-like patch seems to try to seize up his movement -- if, of course, he was trying to. The pillar lurches within it, but holds fast; Veruni tech is made of truly stern stuff.

Within the veil, Rachiel's beam of light pierces straight through. Though he can only be seen as a silhouette, that blow strikes cleanly, visible in the blinding burst of light at the impact point, followed shortly by the BOOM of Ida's shell striking something obscenely solid. There is the sound of a heel scraping gravel

And from the smoke and debris, Volsung emerges, vapours clinging at his shoulders, looking relatively unscathed within the opening salvo. .

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vetZOVs2oUg

"Let it not be said I didn't give you opportunity to see reason."

His hand snaps towards his right, fingers splayed. There is no immediate reaction. Except--

VOLSUUUUUUUUUUNG!!!

"--You."

Bullet fire rains, fiery shells hitting -- and ricocheting off of Volsung over and over as he lifts his left hand to intercept the barrage. His lips tug into a frown, and for a moment, he looks the most alert he has been since arriving, blue eyes suddenly and swiftly sweeping the crater. That cold gaze narrows.

"... Lolithia isn't with you today, is she? Convenient."

There is a glint in the distance.

"I suppose I can deal with you now."

And from some impossible distance away, something in the skies gets closer and closer, flying at speeds that would put most conventional vehicles to shame. A sword.

A single, massive, flying sword.

That moves completely of its own accord to RIP through all those gathered too close to Volsung at impossible velocities; the edge of Gram-Zambor crackles with scarlet energy as it cleaves autonomously through Claude, Venetia, Rachiel, Ida, with titanic force --

-- and Gwen, just as those transparent shards rain upon Volsung, bombarding him in a disorienting ray of light even as he takes note of her -- and her unusual appearance.

"... How interesting." There's recognition in those eyes, even as sorcerous energies envelope him. He remembers Gwen. "You've been developing. One opportunity presents itself after another today. But first thing's first."

His hand snaps forward. The air warbles around him. Air condenses rapidly.

And Volsung literally turns the air around them into a tidal wave, crashing through the crater to clear a path towards Rek'gora, and those fighting it. That it is sent on a collision course directly in Jay's way, well --

--apparently, she struck a chord with the Veruni tyrant. Perhaps just not the one she wanted.

GS: Volsung spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Volsung has attacked Dean Stark with Scarlet Cleave!
GS: Volsung has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Volsung spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Volsung has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Scarlet Cleave!
GS: Volsung has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Volsung spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Volsung has attacked Venetia Vuong with Scarlet Cleave!
GS: Volsung has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Volsung spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Volsung has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Scarlet Cleave!
GS: Volsung spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Volsung has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Scarlet Cleave!
GS: Volsung has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Hydro Pressure!
GS: Volsung takes 23 damage from Poison!
GS: Volsung has completed his action.
GS: Volsung takes 22 damage from Poison!
GS: Volsung has completed his action.
GS: Claude C. Kenny takes a solid hit from Volsung's Scarlet Cleave for 186 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Ida Everstead-Rey critically Guards a hit from Volsung's Scarlet Cleave for 56 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
DC: 1 turn has elapsed in the battle against Volsung! 4 turns remain!
<Pose Tracker> Rek'gora has posed.

Rek'gora is already airborne. The first shot to slam the Clysmian comes from Strahl Gewehr, as Clarissa's beam hits its body -- and burns it but doesn't yet pierce its defenses. The second, however, comes from Lunata. She leaps -- and her blade strikes not into one of its wings, but along the top of a feather.

It scrapes along, chunks of flesh flying awaying -- and turning into particulate matter of black and white motes, before vanishing. Mariel's bottle of oil flies, though -- and the creature's head swivels, as his flesh begins to stiffen and grow sluggish.

Rek'gora screams at Mariel, and not because of her oil, but who she truly is. Another gunshot from Violet strikes, and then Tesni's fireball impacts and rolls over him.

Rek'gora turns his head, meeting Fengalon's chosen. His beak opens and he hisses and wind blades strike repeatedly into feathered flesh -- and yet he holds.

Lydia's two blades slash into the Clysmian's flesh, as he moves to the side. Motes of light waft away, then wink out -- and her impact is such that Rek'gora slams back into the crater wall, leaving a crack there.

The bird twists around, in time to see Ivan coming -- propelled by jets of flame. The ground blackens in two streaks behind him, as the massive Clysmian wheels its avian head back--

--closes all three eyes--

--and then SLAMS its forehead into Ivan's, and pitches him back to the ground with such force that he flies down towards OS's side. The creature flies up, then, and just escapes Dr. Uzuki's open palm strike, before landing closer to the center of the battlefield again. Cecilia's blast of lightning strikes his side, sparks flying away from its feathers.

He backs away, standing upright on its talons. Rek'gora looks down at Yuna -- encounters sympathy, and rails against that idea without comprehension -- and then screeches back, as hoarfrost gathers above.

Shards slam down, from Gwen's own assault, striking into his back. He steps backward -- and then Seraph Boudicca unleashes a blast of wind that smashes into Rek'gora. This drives him down to the ground, with an avian hiss.

<Pose Tracker> Rek'gora has posed.

Rek'gora flies off the ground, in the center of the room. The creature's wings beat twice, winds flying. Then, the innate energies coursing through it -- some might call them sorceries, but that implies a power that accepts definition so easily -- and then those winds turn laced with gold and green lances of light. Those shoot out, whipping and turning.

Where they strike, they infuse minds, souls, and bodies. There is no care, no sparing. Be they human or Elw, Lunarian or Filgaian, or even the Lord of the Veruni, that terrible aura spreads. Something deep within one's core burns. It is not strictly a fiery pain that hurts and lingers, but a knowledge: things are desperate. Things are hopeless.

There is a subtle terror in this toxin of the mind.

But there is more, too. Rek'gora twists around. Perhaps he was distracted, but there is still something of the Baskar Village in him. There is a knowledge that runs down to his core. He lowers his head, beak before Lunata, and then screeches loud enough to blow back her pale hair, and let her see the little, wickedly sharp teeth lining the inside of his beak.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTCB79fDUOY

Which is when two, then four, then eight, and then sixteen lances of raw white light appear. They crackle black at the edges -- recognizable, to one familiar with Crest Sorcery, as the spell known as 'Valkyrie,' one of the strongest -- and then shoot. Two slam into Lunata, striking her bodily. The impacts send out waves of white light, which rolls off into the air. The blasts slame Lunata backward.

Rek'gora SCREAMS again, and it's a pain that burns and hurts, a pain that comes from somewhere personal.

And the remaining ten lances slam into the wall of rock on the crater. It cracks upon impact, and there are a series of titanic explosions -- and then a huge part of the crater wall comes down atop Lunata Croze.

GS: Rek'gora has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Mariel with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Lulu with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Violet Salazar with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Tesni Inoue with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Venetia Vuong with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Dean Stark with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Lydia Seren with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Citan Uzuki with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Ivan with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Rikku with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Yuna with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Seraph Boudicca with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Volsung with Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Rek'gora has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rek'gora has completed his action.
GS: Clarissa Arwin takes a glancing hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: Disease and Reaper! applied to Clarissa Arwin!
GS: Clarissa Arwin takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Claude C. Kenny takes a solid hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Claude C. Kenny gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Disease and Reaper! applied to Claude C. Kenny!
GS: Claude C. Kenny takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Lunata Croze with Valkyrie!
GS: CRITICAL! Venetia Vuong guards a hit from Volsung's Scarlet Cleave for 172 hit points!
GS: Lunata Croze used Defend! She takes Volsung's attack on Jacqueline Barber on herself!
GS: Venetia Vuong takes a solid hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Venetia Vuong gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Disease and Reaper! applied to Venetia Vuong!
GS: Venetia Vuong takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: CRITICAL! Gwen Whitlock takes a glancing hit from Volsung's Scarlet Cleave for 127 hit points!
GS: Lunata Croze takes a solid hit from Rek'gora's Valkyrie for 223 hit points!
GS: Lunata Croze takes a solid hit from Volsung's Hydro Pressure for 167 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock completely evades a hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: Disease and Reaper! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Lydia Seren takes an additional 48 damage from Reaper!
GS: Rikku takes a glancing hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: Disease and Reaper! applied to Rikku!
GS: Rikku takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Violet Salazar critically Guards a hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: CRITICAL! Mariel takes a glancing hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: Disease and Reaper! applied to Mariel!
GS: Mariel takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde takes a solid hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: Disease and Reaper! applied to Cecilia Adlehyde!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: CRITICAL! Cyre H. Lorentz takes a glancing hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: Disease and Reaper! applied to Cyre H. Lorentz!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Lulu takes a glancing hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: Disease and Reaper! applied to Lulu!
GS: Lulu takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Ida Everstead-Rey gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Disease and Reaper! applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey's Force Evade activates!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes an additional 51 damage from Reaper!
GS: Seraph Boudicca takes a solid hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: Disease and Reaper! applied to Seraph Boudicca!
GS: Seraph Boudicca takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: CRITICAL! Dean Stark takes a solid hit from Volsung's Scarlet Cleave for 274 hit points!
GS: Dean Stark takes a glancing hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Dean Stark gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Disease and Reaper! applied to Dean Stark!
GS: Dean Stark takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Ivan critically Guards a hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Citan Uzuki takes a glancing hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: Disease and Reaper! applied to Citan Uzuki!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Citan Uzuki takes an additional 48 damage from Reaper!
GS: Yuna takes a solid hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: Disease and Reaper! applied to Yuna!
GS: Yuna takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
<Pose Tracker> Violet Salazar has posed.

Violet staggers as Rek'Gora's attack hits -- it seems to be a psychic one, tempting to her desperation, to despair.

Only she isn't one to despair -- at least, not without a good reason.

Rek'Gora has been hit, been wounded -- it's killable.

And it MUST die. On some level she feels sorry for it. Survival instinct is a powerful thing.

Better to destroy it now than to let the Veruni have it. No telling what'd they'd do with it! (Violet is sure it wouldn't be good for Filgaia, or Filgaians). She pauses, hesitating. "Take heart!" she calls to the assembled Drifters, those the knows and those she doesn't. "The desperation is a phantasm, and illusion! Don't listen to it!" Then she fires at Rek'Gora once more.

GS: Violet Salazar has attacked Rek'gora with Wildcat Cartridge!
GS: Violet Salazar has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Violet Salazar has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Violet Salazar's Wildcat Cartridge for 62 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Tesni Inoue takes a glancing hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: Disease and Reaper! applied to Tesni Inoue!
GS: Tesni Inoue takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Catching a familiar face, Clarissa gasps and sweeps an arm up to wave. "Dean!" she cries to the young man. "Please be careful!"

Not that the Veruni are going to give them much time to socialize. Clarissa looks on in horror as Volsung turns on a few of their number. Their task suddenly got a lot harder.

But there's Rek'gora to consider - Volsung appears to be ignoring Clarissa, and so much the better. But her blast wasn't enough to seriously debilitate the Clysmian, and she knows it. Sprinting a little quicker, she does her best to gain distance on the horrific thing, dogged all the while by the awful cacophony of the creature's aura. It penetrates her senses in ways she's not used to. Only the presence of a Guardian has truly compared to this - and she's felt that only in short bursts, during Material summons and the like.

Lances of light come raining down. As Felius takes cover, Clarissa tries to leap to the side, but not quite fast enough. A flash of energy rips through her.

    hey there, little missy
        stop your cryin' now
            the tuition ain't cheap

        i don't want a good luck charm, i want--

There is only one moment in which Clarissa can say she has ever felt truly bereft of hope. The impact does nothing to hurt her physically. But it wrenches that hopeless feeling to the forefront again.

There's no flower in her hands this time. A little flower. A little lie blossom for a stupid fucking girl who believed everything and lost everything.

Clarissa clenches her jaw and dashes her hand across her eyes, then plants her heels, drawing herself up. "I'm not going to feel what you want me to feel," she declares as she levels Strahl Gewehr one-handed. "So long as I'm still alive, I'm going to do everything I can to make Filgaia a green and peaceful world again! And that's not desperation! That's my dream!"

Strahl Gewehr's bore shines brighter as Clarissa's voice rises with utter conviction - with the heat of her honest desire. The ARM seems almost to respond to it, unleashing a blast that rings out like an exaltation. The bright blue-white of the beam shines vividly within the gloom and despair, a slashing blast of positivity aimed to try and punch through the misery and mindless desperation of the newborn Clysmian.

GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Rek'gora with Dandelion Shot!
GS: Clarissa Arwin takes an additional 20 damage from Reaper!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora completely evades a hit from Clarissa Arwin's Dandelion Shot!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

Mariel doesn't stick around after she flings the paralysis oil... or foam, or whatever it is. She doesn't want to be there when the follow-up attack comes. Especially if Volsung takes offense to her asking him to cut it out.

Which, as it turns out, he doesn't, but still. The point remains.

Mariel is edging around the side of the battlefield to, as she often does, get to the most wounded; where she can't (or won't) fight, she can help the injured. But then Rek'gora screams at her. Not in her general direction, but at her, specifically, and ice runs through her veins for an instant. One of her greatest impossible fears, here in front of her, filled with hate -

It's more than just hate. The lancing wind bites into her, and she feels it. What the Clysmian is isn't a corruption like Malice or Malevolence but something else - something that feels natural, but nonetheless *wrong*. She can tell when it starts to affect her, and Mariel goes down to her knees, falling with a thump. Her mouth opens and closes a couple times as she starts to speak, responding to this person or that, but she can't make her words work.

For a moment.

Still kneeling, Mariel cups her hands together and holds them there. She tries to push away the feeling of that gold-green wind, replacing it with white and pink, filling her hands with something. Positive thoughts. Purity. The energy flows around her shift infinitesimally, more of a change in tone or feel in than an increase or decrease in power.

"No..."

Mariel opens her hands, and a blizzard of pink-white sparks raise from her hands; swelling out into a sphere made of a hundred thousand fireflies. It expands, then breaks apart and scatters, the drifting motes blowing against Rek'gora's green-gold winds. Some of them drift toward people; others sparkle in the evening light before fading away.

"...No! It isn't like that! There is more than hopelessness, there must be!"

Mariel's hands support a handful of tiny white flowers that absolutely were not there before. They are twined around her fingers, one resting on the blunt claw of her thumb. She doesn't remember pulling out their seeds at any point.

GS: Mariel has attacked Mariel with Small Flower!
GS: Mariel has attacked Yuna with Small Flower!
GS: Mariel has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Small Flower!
GS: Mariel has attacked Seraph Boudicca with Small Flower!
GS: Mariel has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Small Flower!
GS: Mariel has attacked Lydia Seren with Small Flower!
GS: Mariel has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Mariel takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Mariel has completed her action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes a solid hit from Mariel's Small Flower for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Disease and Reaper removed!
GS: Lock State! applied to Jacqueline Barber!
GS: Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Mariel's Small Flower for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Disease and Reaper removed!
GS: Lock State! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Mariel takes a solid hit from Mariel's Small Flower for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Disease and Reaper removed!
GS: Lock State! applied to Mariel!
GS: Seraph Boudicca takes a solid hit from Mariel's Small Flower for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Disease and Reaper removed!
GS: Lock State! applied to Seraph Boudicca!
GS: Yuna takes a solid hit from Mariel's Small Flower for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Disease and Reaper removed!
GS: Lock State! applied to Yuna!
GS: Yuna enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde takes a solid hit from Mariel's Small Flower for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Disease and Reaper removed!
GS: Lock State! applied to Cecilia Adlehyde!
<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

    O.S. speaks of a future where sacrifice is no longer needed. That's right. This is more than just her. This is about the youths of the Baskar village fighting for their future. A future in which they can live...

    Jacqueline provides support, even as she speaks to Volsung. A wellspring of power from the Mage Weapon graph surrounds her, and makes lifting the sword just a little bit easier...

    Citan urges them to be quick about it, because they can't stand against one such as Volsung for long.

    "Yeah... I could feel it from all the way over here," Lunata murmurs.

    But her attention is summarily distracted as she senses Volsung's very own hatred and disdain poured towards Jacqueline herself.

    It's a sensation that she's felt before, from other people...

    The leader of the Veruni announces that there is no help for them. Perhaps he is correct. He turns the air into a tidal wave, crashing through the crater towards Rek'gora; there's a wince as Lunata summarily disengages from the Clysmian in short order--

    --and flings herself in front of Jacqueline, using the full extent of her power as a necromantic barrier erupts to form in front of her.

    There is a loud, sickening CLASH-- and when the water violently washes past them, her body is in even worse form; literal plumes of black smoke are escaping from her body, and she stares towards her hand for a moment as it twitches.

    "Are you-- are you all right, Jay? I... he seems to have it out for you, so I--"

    Rek'gora takes advantage of that distraction of hers.

    As much as Lunata can be joked to be an incredibly poor magician, she is a child of spirits in many ways -- born to be Resonant enough to sense Seraphim, and in this case, attuned enough to be sensate to the feelings of the Clysmian of Desperation before her.

    The Clysmian SCREECHES--

    "Tskk...!!"

    What comes out is entirely more than the ex-waitress can expect. Not one, not two, but four-- eight-- sixteen--

    I can't... avoid it...!

    The first lance vanishes her arm, and Jay and Citan can see a familiar, ornate katana flying through the air and landing blade-first into the ground.

    Lunata's eyes sit wide and open as--

    Two--
    Three--

    I can't-- I can't-- feel--

    The blasts of light are vicious and unrelenting. They shred, engulfing even the jet-black smoke Lunata's broken body is exuding; the fourth covers her leg and has her faltering, then a fifth to her shoulder--

    Then Lunata gazes towards the final, sixth lance as it comes...

    ... and pierces through.

    Her body does not have time to hit the ground before time cruelly resumes. One by one, the lances SLAM into the crater wall, consuming it in a rapid swarm of explosions. Explosions that send rock and cliffside free-falling down towards her body--

    Down--

    Down--

    Down.





    They say death comes swiftly, a fate not unbeknownst to Drifters.

    A split second is all it takes between a breath and a last gasp.

    And for Lunata...

GS: Lunata Croze has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

    The pink-haired girl sucks in a slow breath, feeling the shudder that runs through her at the same time.

    "But reacting with that sort of anger felt wrong, you know? Wouldn't that just be me doing the same thing I used to, or the same thing as Seymour? ... and besides, I'm not really that sort of person, anyways," she slumps back in the seat, letting out a sigh. "It's nice to think about going wild sometimes, but I just keep sticking my feet right back on the ground. So, instead--"

    She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, finally feeling the knot in her stomach uncoil a little. "Lunie needs your help," she stresses, fervent and quiet. "Her body is falling apart, but she's still doing everything she can for those kids. For the sake of the world, for the sake of the Guardians, she's gonna throw herself at Seymour and a Clymsian and-- and I don't know what's going to happen to her. But without a way to fix herself up, I don't think it's going to be anything good."

    Her hands tighten slightly around the Medium, and she leans forwards in the seat, her stare solemn. "So... I just want to know if you're really, truly okay with this. If you're really okay with the person on the Wheel, someone basically acting like your own Pillar, being torn off of it by a man who refuses to die properly. If you're really okay with Lunata going up against the complete opposite of your kind without you lifting a finger to be there with her. What that means for her, and what that means for you."

    "... she'd made her peace with her fate. I'd made my peace with her fate. Hell, I'd even made my peace with you. But not like this," she whispers fiercely. "So I'm begging you to look at everything she's trying to do now, and I'm begging you to help her. I've got nothin' to offer back but the fact that it feels like the right thing to do, but even so. Please - move, already, damn it!"

<Pose Tracker> Rikku has posed.


Yuna changes 'You' to 'We' and Rikku looks momentarily surprised, then she just gives Yuna the biggest smile. And nods, her Al Bhed eyes sparkling faintly, "Mmm-mmm!" She nods twice, as if overwhelmed, then says, "You're right. What was I thinking?"

Rikku is baffled by the display of power and technology that Volsung exhibits with his ARM zipping out of nowhere to wreak havoc on their foes. Suddenly she tightens ranks around Yuna just in case. With a weapon like that. He could come at her from anywhere.

Rek'gora flies, and Rikku raises her targe. It's a small shield, but it's the defense she has. And when the wind blows her way, she slaps her arm aside - catching several of them and parrying them aside. Yet a few more prick. And the knowledge strikes her anyway. Things are desperate. Things are hopeless.

There's nothing to be done but to die or run.

And as a guardian that means she doesn't run before Yuna does. Yuna said 'We' and that means she's here until the end.

Someone out there is saying the feelings are a Phantasm - an Illusion. And Mariel says there's more than hopelessness. It's hard to believe...

... but she's an optimist, and she'll take it.

Pulling the pin of a grenade with her teeth, she hurls it upstream from the creature in it's own wind currents. And shouts what she needs to get her through this as it flies, "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

It's timed so that as it crosses the creature's path, it detonates into a bright explosion. And in the aftermath leaves a plume of caustic blue smoke like a smear across the sky over Rek'Gora.

"I'm not scared of you! We've got this! And if you think you've got us! You're wrong!" She shouts, "Just you wait and see!"

Rikku catches the sight of Lunata pierced by the explosion... "Oh gosh..." She says, putting a hand over her mouth.

...and she swallows and tears her eyes away.... in her young life, she's dealt with a lot of death. And she doesn't want to see more of it.

Not again. And she knows if she keeps looking... things will become all the more hopeless the longer she does.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"You can come at me at any time." Rachiel smiles back at Ivan. "But right now I think we both have bigger things to worrry about!" She's decided to stop getting grouchy over Ivan's grouchiness.

OS also for a moment looks weirdly shy--not so much in their expression, which isn't changing, so much as the way they aren't looking directly at him. "Hello Ivan. Your aesthetics continue to be of exceptional quality. We suggest taking care of your 30 percent appealing, 20 percent winsome, 30 percent cute, and 30 percent attractive face." OS pauses. "ERROR: Lydia's influence added ten percent amongst the variables which is mathematically impossible. Please disregard." Pause. "Or not. Ha. Ha. Ha."

SIDE OS

It's about this point where Ivan gets headbutted and tumbles down at their side. OS reaches out with a hand, catching Ivan by the arm.

They stare at them for a moment. The rolling despair and desperation from Rek'gora weakens the stability between OS and Lydia and Lydia's voice comes out.

"The people of a Baskar village...they sacrificed their children and that is the fuel that created this creature... This is our fault... We're... We're just as bad as Solaris...!"

OS shakes their head for a moment. Further below, Mariel channels--hope. And a calm mind. OS looks down to Mariel.

OS WILL, LIKE, REMEMBER THIS MAN.

"Spiritual contamination noted. Lydia. We must keep our calm. Filgaia is depending on us right now. ... Contamination purged from systems. Thank you, Mariel." They scan the containment device for a long moment, collecting data--but they keep that running in the background as their center 'gem'--which those will remember is actually a reconfigured silver medium of Rigdobrite--crackles vibrantly. It is a natural pull on the mediums--but somehow augmented--like a handful of power is being offered but an armful is being seized.

"Optimized Material." OS says. "Rigdobrite. Running Meteor Shower.EXE. Notifying Operator of trajectory."

And just like that, a slew of meteors come crashing down towards the bird, but they are ALSO coming down towards Vosung in this moment--a likely intentional choice on OS's part, less to harm him directly and more to keep him busy so he doesn't interfere with the destruction of the Clysmian.

Right now, Xenoblade music is working just fine for OS's BGM, mysteriously.

SIDE RACHIEL

Rachiel is having a harder time f it. She is strong willed and disciplined enough that the despair emanating from the Clysmian slows her movements but doesn't cause a psychotic break or anything like that. Unfortunately, Volsung is able to take good advantage of the moment by swinging his flying sword past her guard. Rachiel manages to avoid a couple swings before getting CLOBBERED by one in the chest. It doesn't hit as hard as it should--no doubt thanks to OS's augmentation...

...but it hits hard enough as she is sent flying several yards. Rachiel, as she is flying, swings her blade once more, sending shards of ice lashing out at Volsung before she hits the ground, wincing upon impact.

She slowly pushes herself up into a hunched over position.

"Aw geeze." She mutters.

GS: Rikku has attacked Rek'gora with Use: Silence Grenade!
GS: Rikku has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rikku takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Rikku has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Rikku's Use: Silence Grenade for 121 hit points!
GS: Mute! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Rek'gora with Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Volsung with Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

    Well, one thing's for sure: Dean certainly got Volsung's attention.
    
    "Ida! Thanks!" Dean calls over to his friend, beaming at her for a moment before focusing unsmiling back on the task at hand. "Her name is Avril," Dean bites back to Volsung with more venom than he actually feels. The purpose here, after all, is to distract Volsung from his purpose. Accordingly: "And yeah, she's not here! Good thing too; this way she doesn't have to deal with your big fat jerk self!"
    
    Something glints.
    Oh hey, it's Gram-zamber!
    OH SHIT IT'S GRAM-ZAMBER
    
    The massive sword *soars* in, tear with scarlet energy through both the air and those in its way. Dean especially gets his shit wrecked, maybe because it's slightly more personal there. That might be overstating it, but the results are there all the same. He screams, the passing sword rending deep through it and knocking him several feet away into a jag of stone, where he splats. For a moment, he's still; then, whole body trembling, he manages to push himself upright. Really, it was lucky that crag had been there; if not, he might have been sent flying halfway down the mountain to his outright death.
    
    "I-it's okay! Don't worry about me!" he calls over to Clarissa. It's a blatant, outright lie, because it's distinctly NOT okay, but Dean doesn't want the people who're working so hard to defeating the Clysmian to get distracted because of him. *He's* the one trying to be a distraction to help *them*, after all. Yet...
    
    Rek'gora screams. Its screams echo outwards along with its power, and tremble down to Dean's very core. He of course knew he couldn't beat Volsung; that wasn't the point. But Volsung had been even stronger than he'd remembered... Or maybe--maybe, because Avril had been there--he'd been holding back--? It's a horrible, horrifying thought, and fertile ground for desperation to feed upon. Dean is emotionally resilient, but everyone has their weak moments--and his comes in the form of wanting to be strong, for his friends. He has to get back up. He has to slow Volsung down at least a little. He *has* to, no matter how injured he is, no matter how much he might well die if he pushes himself too hard, or else what was all this for?
    
    But then Clarissa calls out that she will see Filgaia be green again, that it's not desperation but her dream. Mariel calls out that there must be more than hopelessness. And Dean remembers what Avril and Rebecca have told him over and over, in those words and in others: that they would grieve if he died. And if there's anything Dean hates, it's seeing people cry.
    
    "Nngh... ugh... ungh..." He staggers up to his feet, gasping as his wounds ooze blood. Then he stumbles to one side to use the crag he'd landed on as cover, and opens fire on Volsung anew. Specifically, he aims for Volsung's feet, hoping to make his footing crumble. There's no way he can take him out--Volsung handily reminded him of that--but maybe if he makes him trip and stumble...

GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE for 182 hit
points!
GS: Dean Stark has attacked Volsung with Dual Shooter!
GS: Dean Stark takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Dean Stark has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Desperation is a familiar friend. In many ways, it feels strange for the entities aligned with the most 'positive' impulses of the human heart to be held so highly at the very zenith of the Guardianist pantheon, while those that are 'negative' must be denied to the point of destruction. But the destruction that follows in Obsession's wake is impossible to deny, and if Desperation would bring similar suffering to Filgaia, then there's only one recourse.

Cyre knows too well the clutches of Desperation. The wind that tears at his soul rips open the scars of Wehaca and Adlehyde and the Photosphere. How hard it was to see the light at the end of the tunnel, then. When the sky came crashing down, when the prairies of his childhood ran over with the filth of malevolence, when the Demon Mother seemed poised to finally deliver the killing blow to the only world he had ever known...? And now--

Now that killing light crushes Lunata Croze beneath a pile of rubble. The monster-bird born from the desperate wishes of the Pillars slays one of their own. His shout dies in his throat. Rek'Gora had sought to twist at his spirit with its winds, but all it really had to do was to murder Lunata

He feels Desperation keenly enough without its help. The human heart can't help but know that crushing tightness, the all-consuming need to avert an end that seems utterly inevitable.

But there's a flipside to it, isn't there? And that's something that Cyre knows too well, too.

The vile winds buffet his mind. Old scars bleed anew. A new wound is torn raw. But his heart...

The overwhelming rage Cyre feels towards the Clysmian fills his heart with Determination.

The Nahual of Fengalon spreads its wings. On its back, the mandala splits and unfolds into a tapestry of golden hieroglyphics. The divine tiger surges into the air, into the remnants of Ragnell's storm. He reaches into the raging winds and calls them to his aid. Clouds swirl about his outstretched claw, whirling tighter and tighter and tighter, friction building and lightning arcing from the narrowing spiral. Wordlessly, the Nahual gestures toward the Anti-Guardian even as OS fills the sky with angry, falling stars. The spring uncoils, a storm-purple tornado races for the Clysmian at supersonic speeds, screaming with all the wrath Cyre gives no voice to, carrying winds that portend disaster.

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Rek'gora with Storm Warning!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Storm Warning for 160 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Shieldbreak! applied to Rek'gora!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Boudicca has posed.

    "You are so very, very scared."

    One wind joins another; Boudicca moves through it, gold and green, and it might seem as if she is tossed through them without a care for the structure of her bones.

    The way she turns; a full revolution; a bending at the knees, as if she will fall onto her back, only for a heel to catch her and send her into another movement;

    The wind dances, authorised or not.

    In her, through her, as her, IS HER: this assault is descriptive and it is prescriptive. But her voice does not rise with terror, now; it is weighed by the sum of her experience, even and low. "I know. I feel it, too."

    There's nothing you can do.

    They will continue destroying themselves, century upon century. New wars. New refugees. New shoes left on new cliffs. You will watch them die and they will not hear you scream.

    There's nothing you can do.

    Lucia needs to be killed, for the sake of them all. It is sad and it is wretched and she will consume humanity whole. She has made so many friends and you will make mourners of them all.

    There's nothing you can do.

    Malevolence consumes them and Malevolence spreads. The only cure to corruption is destruction: it must be dug from the root. It is a mercy. There is no saving them.

    There's

    something

    you can do.

    Climb a mountain made of misery as it digs into the edges of your everything: play a game you cannot win and deny the chessboard whole. Deny the wretched future and reach out, fall beyond steel to the spirit underneath, and repair a wound which reaches into the heart of the earth. Grasp Ida by both hands and pull. They do not have to die.

    There's something you can do.

    Protect one mortal at the cost of your own soul, and find the debt paid by a new ally. Forge a connection between worlds and Malevolence is no longer foregone; swear an oath to another world because blood flows the same on all planets. You do not have to die to save them.

    There's something you can do.

    Question your maker when she acts in error, and the truth is more layered than they told you. The Destroyer is a misnomer: Lucia was not at fault. Her tragedy is nuanced. She does not need to die.

    There's something you can do.

    The grand Obsession of Sin curls around Spira, but their people have never stopped fighting. The guns, the assault...

    Mariel speaks. The wind stops. Boudicca stops. In a shower of light, sparks of pink and white: "The world is so much more than what must be done, Mariel. This creature is the culmination of those feelings! Do not feel as if you have no choice!"

    One heel planting down to earth, she looks back to the Rek'gora. "We have a choice, and this choice I make of my own free will. A girl gave birth to this creature by her own pain, and I think now of that girl. Were I to let the Clymsian live, she is surely doomed. Nothing may take the life of another to live. And all it has taken --" Lunata, under that rubble --

    Boudicca springs upwards, to sweep past Rek'gora no matter its height advantage, tonfa flashing out. "-- Soaring Vortex!!"

GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Rek'gora with Soaring Vortex!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ivan reddens and sputters at OS (and the bonus ten percent from Lydia) in momentary panic. "I need to be able to concentrate on the fight, you two!!" he whispers.

When he does charge into the fray, the Clysmian meets him with a mighty headbutt that sends him flying through the air, though OS catches him by the arm, softening his landing.

"Th-thanks, but!!" he isn't sure what part of the assist he's feeling like he needs to argue with, but there isn't time to sort that out, as Rek'gora unleashes its desperation upon them.

Ivan feels it like a physical force--it feels cruel, again, to answer feelings like that not with some kind of healing or reconciliation, but with death. But is there any other way...?

Lydia speaks out, saying she feels responsible for this tragic outcome.

"Lydia..." he starts, but can't find any adequate words for it in the moment.

OS steps in to re-focus on what can still be done to set things right.

Ivan takes that advice as well, using the blade of his sword to tear open a portal, through which roiling magma glows.

"Beasts of fire, show your fury -- molten roar!"

The magma bursts forth from the portal in a molten cannon blast.

GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Seraph Boudicca's Soaring Vortex for 87 hit points!
GS: Entangle! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Ivan has attacked Rek'gora with Molten Roar!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"I understand. We have to stop this, one way or another." Jacqueline says with a nod of agreement toward Citan, then turns her attention back to Volsung and Rek'gora. And Volsung, in response to her attempt at diplomacy, looks at her. Staring at her with that cold, disdainful glance.

She remembers, once upon a time, Kaguya telling her and the rest of the Caravan Kinship about the members of the Veruni they should be most concerned about.

Volsung was at the top of that list. And now, well...

Jacqueline feels like her breath was stolen straight from her throat. She takes a step back... but not a step further. And then he smirks at her. He says it's 'funny'.

"This... this isn't a joke. I'm serious." She replies, shaking her head. "Right now is when we need to be working together. We can go back to conflict after, if that's what you really want."

Her reward is a powerful tidal wave, sent crashing straight toward her. She's seen sorcery of it's like before, but not on this scale. She gestures with her left hand, trying to put invoke a protective spell. But it's not fast enough, it couldn't possibly be enough...

And then, Lunata throws herself in front of her, intercepting the spell. Jacqueline's eye's open wide.

"L-Lunata, n-no! I'm... I-I'm okay, but..." She starts, stammering. It is at this time that the Clysmian screeches.

Jacqueline recognizes the spell that surrounds Lunata. Valkyrie. She knows it, knows what it can do - which makes it all the more worse that she is unable to stop it.

Lunata is impaled, wounded horribly...

...And consumed in explosion of light and stone.

Jacqueline stares, in shock and horror. Lunata is durable. Lunata can regenerate. She knows that. ...But, she can't imagine that even she could survive that.

"L...Lunata..." Jacqueline whispers. She shakes her head, tears forming at the corners of her eyes. And that is when the Clysmian whips up its fell winds.

Ordinarily, she might be able to shake off the effects... but right now, she's at her most vulnerable. Jacqueline collapses to her knees, shaking her head as tears stream from her eyes.

...What was the point anymore? Lunata... Lunata was gone. This was... hopeless. There were... so many things she had yet to tell her...

And then, something else surrounds her. Motes of pink-white sparks. Like a tiny flower in the back of her mind, encouraging her to keep going.

Slowly, her body trembling, tears still streaming from her eyes and with a stuttering breath, Jacqueline rises to her feet once more.

With a wordless gesture of her right hand, Jacqueline invokes a Crest Graph. Flames, burning bright, burst into being around Rek'gora, looking to consume the Clysmian and everything in its immediate vicinity - but then, there is another gesture, and those flames are met with a swirling, crashing tidal wave. Where water meets flame, boiling steam erupts against the Clysmian's flesh.

Those who were to look upon Jacqueline now would see an expression of barely-contained rage, looking wholly unfamiliar to those who know Jacqueline.

GS: Jacqueline Barber spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Rek'gora with Spellweaver Stance!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has launched an attack Link!
GS: Jacqueline Barber's  stance ends. She enters the Avenger stance!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Rek'gora with Dualcast - Tidal Flame!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    For a moment, Gwen's gaze directs itself towards Volsung, his words ring distantly, evoking a thread of concern.

    She's been developing.

    ....
    
    There's a bad wind coming this way.
    
    The world in Gwen's perception stills, allowing Gwen's limited senses to make sense of the oncoming winds of despair as it courses from Rek'gora, the ability to somehow slip through the streams of air something completely unavailable to her as a normal human being. She burns brightly, free from the constraits of her heavy heart.

    Lunata is--

    But human Gwen still is, in the end. While she can react to one set of attacks, Volsung's is equally as deadly, catching the courier's side and throwing her savagely aside like a doll.

    Debris rolls off Gwen's body as she languidly gets up and straightens, her left hand wiping a smear of blood from where a rock reopened a wound from earlier.

    Lunata.

    The redhead's attention is driven back to Rek'gora. A clawed hand is extended in front of her, summoning a ring of deep fuchsia lights.

    "Brisingamen."

    The gems spin around, then shoot forward, puncturing the air towards the infant beast.

<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

Tesni Inoue is thankful for Jay's support every bit helps and then Jay gets the attention of Volsung and there's no time to act as Rek'Gora makes its move.

 The horror unleashes some sort of magic unknown to her. Causing a huge amount of explosions and Tes is caught in some of that there' no way to dodge it, she's caught within the area of effect.

 It tears at her one way or another and she's looking somewhat worn by it. There are also her own feelings of despair bubbling up never seeing home again, never going fishing with her dad and cousins. Never seeing the hills of home again. This world is still a good one it's people refuse to lay down and die and maybe? She can do something to help like right now as she pulls a medium from her jacket.

 "Noua Shax!"

 She calls on the guardian's power for a brief moment causing an image? An aspect of the guardian? She's never figured out but the lightning bolts it's brings are all too real as they are fully directed at Rek'gora.

 "Hang in there keep going."

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Tesni Inoue has attacked Rek'gora with Noua Shax!
GS: Tesni Inoue takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Tesni Inoue has completed her action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Rek'gora with Brisingamen!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Ivan's Molten Roar for 94 hit points!
GS: Disrupt and Shieldbreak! applied to Rek'gora!
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

Cecilia pulls her hand back, the circle dispersing, motes of light tracing off her fingertips. She reaches for her Crest case, but before she gets to it, Rek'gora strikes. She shifts her stance from attack to shielding, but this poison is not so easily stymied, and the lance punches straight through her shield. Her eyes bug out and she clutches at her chest, emotions running riot. Is this...the one? Did they finally bite off more than they could chew...

But her quaking limbs stop when Mariel's motes of light and wonder fill the air around her, filling her lungs with a near-indetectable, hopeful scent.

She clenches her fist into her vest, and then forceably releases it so she can reach for her Mediums. "This isn't over yet," she assures herself and the world. "This isn't over yet! You are not the one who ends this! Come! Material!"

Cecilia's form grows translucent as the Leyline responds, an image of surging torrents growing around her as the icon of the Sea faces itself to Rek'gora and bursts apart into a roaring, screaming tsunami. The spectral wave leaps into the air suddenly, and from within it comes the great sea serpent Lucadia, curling and coiling around even the great bulk of Rek'gora. The air around it grows thick and murky, dark as the abyss zone.

"Ceaseless Deep!"

GS: Formation! Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Rek'gora with Material - Ceaseless Deep!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Spellweaver Stance for 42 hit points!
GS: Rek'gora takes a glancing hit from Jacqueline Barber's Dualcast - Tidal Flame for 78 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Poison! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Volsung critically Guards a hit from Rek'gora's Rancor and Sorrow for 0 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Volsung guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE for 94 hit
points!
GS: Volsung guards a hit from Dean Stark's Dual Shooter for 18 hit points!
GS: Cover! applied to Dean Stark!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    It's a deep sense of trust that allows Ida to turn her attentions wholly on Volsung. Cyre and Cecilia and Lunata and Yuna and all the others know precisely what is at stake here, and Ida leaves the battle in their capable hands. The fact that she has that trust is good, because Volsung walks through the deadly opening salvo as if he were taking a Sunday stroll through the Grand Galleria. Ida knows better than to assume she's safe, even half-concealed. Fear and caution war with the hot rage boiling up in her heart.

    "Forgive us," Ida says, her voice dripping acid, "for not throwing ourselves at your feet, o wise master of Filgaia."

    Stop talking. Stop talking right now, idiot girl.

    He looks at Gwen. Ida wonders if she could get there fast enough to intercept him. Volsung gives her something else to worry about.

    Gram-Zambor blurs through the air. Ida's body moves of its own accord, slipping into a low fighting stance with her right arm thrust out to block. The autonomous blade slams into her, and there's an ugly shriek as Veruni-forged metal wars with regenerating Hyadean exoskeleton. Ida digs in her heels, but the force behind the blade sends her skidding back. Pain shoots through both arms. Quicksilver drips down the weapon's blade as it makes its way back to Volsung.

    "You--!" Ida chokes out.

    Rek'gora takes flight. A lance of green light slams into Ida, striking her square between the shoulders. "Ghk," she says, a short, sharp gasp as an all-too-familiar feeling grabs her by the throat. It's the Clysmian, she realizes, even as all the symptoms emerge, rapid-fire. Her hands shake; the palms grow sweaty. Her heart races in her chest. She wants to run and hide.

    In the chaos of battle, Ida sees a tiny human form moments before it's crushed by rubble. Lunata. Someone else goes struggles to get up, despite their bloody wounds. Dean.

    Nothing will change. For every monster you put down, two more will take its place. Your Methods are lies. Your God is false. Your beloved has abandoned you. Everyone you love will die, and you will be helpless to save them.

    It takes a moment for Ida to realize that she's crying. It takes her another moment to realize that she's rushing forwards, throwing herself between Dean and Volsung. Desperation gives rise to fury. Ida drives armored fists at Volsung's face and torso in a vicious one-two, before launching a snap-kick at his heel. This close, the Veruni leader can see the blood on her. This woman cannot be human, can she?

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Volsung with Forceful Instruction!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Brisingamen for 99 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Lulu has posed.

Lulu guards Yuna. She cannot focus on Volsung. Instead, she focuses on the flying creature before her, and the assaults upon it as Yuna heals herself. Lulu just has to buy her that time--but in a moment, there is something worse.

Gold and green lances of light, not sorcerous but something else--something burns, and that knowledge within Lulu is clear. It is desperate; it is hopeless. The subtle terror of it infuses her, fills her being with knowledge. Lulu sees it all too clearly; the cavern is dark. None of their spells are enough; she has to go--

"NO," Lulu roars back in sudden rage, knowing this feeling far too well, knowing this emotion. But she already knows that what she fears most will come about; she knows it is inevitable.

That burn does not abate with this knowledge; despair is not a shield against despair. As Lulu sees Lunata fall, the girl who'd wanted to help, who had been part of this, she knows the pain of another life lost. But she cannot make room in her heart for now. Rikku calls of hope...

There is another flame kindled within her, and it is a furnace. Lulu's anger burns within her as surely as the desperation, and they war while she acts. She feels the water in the air, feels the unnatural things, feels Volsng's power--

And it is time. Lulu looks back once to Yuna, and inclines her head, before looking forward again.

"Know pain," the black mage instructs, ignoring most of the battlefield as she channels her magic. Power gathers visibly around her, the doll that was under her arm mirroring her actions as she begins to cast not one spell but many.

The first erpts from the air, a bubble of water that explodes into a roaring wave. The second comes from the ground; the third, from above. A fourth, a fifth, a sixth, spells explode into oceanic being as Lulu channels absolute fury into a child that should never have been, each one slamming through the air with thunderous report. The rock they pass over sweeps away; where there is rubble underneath them it is pulverized over and over.

Lulu's eyes reflect each burst of thalassic pressure from where she stands among the rocks. That knowledge, that horrific truth doesn't go away. It settles, like a stone within her, where it always has. A fresh pain is not always new.

GS: Formation! Lulu has attacked Rek'gora with Get Down!
GS: Lulu has launched an attack Link!
GS: Lulu takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Formation! Lulu has attacked Rek'gora with F U R Y!
GS: Lulu has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lulu takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Lulu has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Tesni Inoue's Noua Shax for 134 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Volsung guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Forceful Instruction for 47 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! applied to Volsung!
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Material - Ceaseless Deep for 88 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Lulu's Get Down for 57 hit points!
GS: Rek'gora takes a glancing hit from Lulu's F U R Y for 127 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Citan Uzuki has posed.

    At just the wrong moment -- at just the last moment -- the Clysmian moves. It jerks upwards in flight; he draws back in the next heartbeat, watching it and its movements, trading a single glance for his surroundings when it slams itself back down into the heart of the crater.

    He's already moving when the spells flung from other ends of the field hit home, pulling back to a position that won't put him at imminent risk should the creature lash out--

    And it does.

    Just not the way in which he was anticipating.

    The light is a sickly thing. But it moves like a living creature. Citan leaps out of the way as one of the winding tendrils lances towards him and almost, almost, he nearly escapes it.
    But it grazes his side, and that, unfortunately, is enough. He staggers for a moment, his hand grasping his side. It doesn't hurt -- there isn't a wound. Not in flesh and blood, that is.

    "Is this...?" he utters, and of all places, he turns his gaze towards the sky as if to beg an answer from it.

    One breath follows as he stands tall once more.
    And then Lunata's katana lands into the earth not far from him with a resounding 'crunch'.

    He turns sharply. He's just in time to see it all happen.

    There is, in the end, just a moment of silence, interrupted by one final small rock that comes plinking down upon the pile.

    All he does is stand there. Jacqueline falls to her knees, but all he does is stand there, staring at the rocks.

    'I have to go on,' she'd said. She still had something she needed to do.

    And now it will remain undone. Was this whole endeavor hopeless?

    Jacqueline will hear it best: the soft sound of a blade sliding from the stone. Citan Uzuki lifts the sword with practiced ease, testing its weight, regarding its edge. "I see. So this is the 'weight' of your sins." He exhales a breath, then shakes his head. "...Even so..." he says aloud, approaching the pile of rocks, "...even if it is hopeless..."

    There is no recourse but to try.

    It's a walking meditation as he moves towards that place where Lunata lies buried, leaning into desperation and despair, into the fear and terror. Leaning into it is the only way in which to realize this truth:

    When you walk into the dark, you make it yours.

    It burns outwards in a wave from him, fuel for chi -- no, it is nothing else but Ether. It moves with and without intent, seeking those yet afflicted.

    He comes to a stop before the rocks and lifts the blade.

    "You intend to carry on. Is that not correct?"

    And then, he swings but once.

GS: Citan Uzuki has attacked Citan Uzuki with Renki!
GS: Citan Uzuki has attacked Lulu with Renki!
GS: Citan Uzuki has attacked Venetia Vuong with Renki!
GS: Citan Uzuki has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Renki!
GS: Citan Uzuki has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Renki!
GS: Citan Uzuki has attacked Rikku with Renki!
GS: Citan Uzuki has attacked Dean Stark with Renki!
GS: Citan Uzuki has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Renki!
GS: Citan Uzuki has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Citan Uzuki takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Citan Uzuki has completed his action.
GS: Claude C. Kenny takes a solid hit from Citan Uzuki's Renki for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Disease and Reaper removed!
GS: Lulu takes a solid hit from Citan Uzuki's Renki for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Disease, Reaper, and Stagger removed!
GS: Rikku takes a solid hit from Citan Uzuki's Renki for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Disease and Reaper removed!
GS: Clarissa Arwin takes a solid hit from Citan Uzuki's Renki for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Disease and Reaper removed!
GS: Citan Uzuki takes a solid hit from Citan Uzuki's Renki for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Disease and Reaper removed!
<Pose Tracker> Yuna has posed.

The mountain's summit was already chilly, as peaks are wont to be.

But the temperature plunges precipitously as soon as Yuna begins her dance.

It's a dangerous time to start; even as she takes her first step, Rek'gora sends countless gold and green lances of light in her direction. One might imagine a world where the summoner bends and weaves and swirls around these threats, as though she and the Clysmian are dance partners, but it is not so.

The first lance passes through her right leg. It hitches, but her body control is excellent, and she continues into the next motion.

The second punches through her shoulder, and she staggers.

A third gets her straight in the heart.

Things are desperate. Things are hopeless.

Just because these are extremely normal descriptors of a Spiran summoner's everyday existence doesn't mean she was particularly well-prepared to have them weaponized against her. Her limbs ice over, leaden with despair. A strangled gasp is forced from her lips; then another, as her concentration wavers as a fourth item pierces her awareness:

She senses Lunata's fate at a very fundamental level. Less from the girl herself, and more from the reactions of her loved ones and friends, which ripple through her stomach with terrible intensity. So many layers of suffering and misery and rage. So much grief.

And suddenly Yuna is able to internalize Rek'gora's emotional assault; suddenly she knows what she has to do. She was already doing it, but now for more than one reason.

People die, and Yuna dances.

She dances for Lunata, for the conversations they've never had. For the atonement the girl sought, so obviously unnecessary to everyone who loved her, so obviously in line with her own beliefs as a Yevonite. And... for the feeling that prickles the hairs at the back of her neck, emenating from that side of the shattered crater.

And she dances for their friends, in open defiance of a fifth Rek'goran lance that scrapes her neck, and a seventh, her side.

Hope is a revolution: Yuna leads it.

"This isn't over yet!" she cries out above the battlefield fray; her voice faltered a bit as she mastered the pain, so she speaks again. "Don't give up! Believe!"

Beneath every kiss-gentle step, a frostflower blooms in dazzling complexity, drawing lotus petals, engraved with Yevonite symbols, upon the ground in rime. There are a total of twelve steps, and twelve flowers, each exponentially larger and denser with text than the last.

Upon the last, the summoner raises her rod. Fragile, beautiful snowflakes swirl around it; how lovely.

And then, descending in concert with rod -- and girl, who drops to one knee with the force of her own movement -- enormous shards of glacier crash down around her like shooting stars. Like the unfurling flowers, but now in three dimensions. Like a crystalline prism -- or prison.

That isn't what happened on Macalania. There, the ice plunged BEHIND her, and the fayth descended from above.

But now, Yuna is the one in the kaleidoscopic funhouse mirrors that dwell at iceflow's heart, and both summoner and the vision waiting for her is entirely obscured from the outside. Surprised, she extends a palm, then hesitates just before touching the surface she reached out to.

Her reflection is glowing. Not literally, but in a very particular metaphorical way, with a very particular kind of vitality. This Yuna is a nascent mother, as much as Rek'gora is a nascent Sin; she is clearly and radiantly and impossibly with child. The first wild thought to enter her mind in reaction is to wonder whose it is.

To her side is another Yuna; this one's raiment is heavier and more ornate. They're both priestesses, but this one is fully a Yevonite nun, her hair invisible beneath a wimple, her Besaid earring the only dangling proxy for what normally occupies the space around her neck. She, too, is happy, though differently. There's a distance to her serenity.

Glancing over her shoulder, a third Yuna meets her gaze with a warrior's gimlet-eyed stare, and wields Brotherhood with admirably buff arms. A fourth drags fishing nets out of the oceans surrounding Besaid. A fifth tinkers with machina in some kind of lab; a crone Yuna with craggy features, and tiny Yuna as only her closest Guardians might remember her, Shoopuf stuffy in tow, blink out at her as well.

This is a critical moment, though it passes more quickly than she realizes, and Yuna does not have time to inspect every facet of this coccoon. They are as countless as the stars.

And none of them are for her.

<Pose Tracker> Yuna has posed.

 <SoundTracker> Apres Moi - Regina Spektor https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MlSNck2oP8

Instead of meeting the palm of any one of them, she rests it upon her heart, where a white flower has just landed.

"I understand," she tells the unveiled fayth of Macalania in a whisper, as she emerges from between those gently laid fingers. From outside the ice formation, the whole thing shimmers silver, as the fayth enters the ice, and becomes it.

It becomes her.

Shiva arrests the breath, as cold is wont to do, and as beauty can, as well, when it is pure and strong and self-possessed enough to inspire awe instead of jealousy in an onlooker. She flings her heavy, ornately bound azure locks behind her with a casual toss of her head, visible to all through every individual pane of the ice, in every direction. Her eyes open, filled with strength--

--and with a flick of her wrist, she shatters the ice, and steps forward, fully actualized. And now the white flower dwells inside her, visible at HER heart.

Yuna reappears also, unharmed, to catch the aeon's shawl with a little more preparedness than the first time. Like the rest of her, Shiva is composed of gradiants of blue, violet, and white frozen water (and pyreflies, and the will of two hearts, entwined), but the limitations of elemental physicality doesn't stop it from draping beautifully across Yuna's arms.

Power POURS off of the aeon, like the heart of a star compressed into her body.

Question: Why didn't Yuna do this in the first place, when they faced Seymour in Baskar Village?

The answer is another question, and in the context of the location of his demise -- surely the Temple where island and ice maiden first met each other -- it is immediately and brutally obvious.

Question: How did Seymour die?

Answer:

A second cage forms inside the Veruni's, ice shards materializing into being, above and around Rek'gara and Volsung, from every direction at once.

Then they pierce inward like an immense, omnidirectional hoarfrost maw.

And that was just the warm-up (well... cool-down). Even as Blizzaja was manifesting around Sin and his would-be keeper, Shiva was taking a second action.

She is NOT MESSING AROUND today. No rewards for guessing why.

Shiva puts a finger to her lips, then spins, tracing a swirl of rime through the air that expands, tremendously, into an initial foundation of ice, which tries to encrust the Clysmian and Veruni with the promise of more to come.

The power at her fingertip lingers and expands -- intensifies.

It turns out the mountaintop can STILL GET EVEN COLDER! so everyone gets to enjoy that, too. But, actually, after an initial and precipitous thermal drop, it starts to warm back up a little, because Shiva is DRAWING ALL THE COLD INTO HERSELF, like a charging cannon.

And she starts to leak, just a little. Energy can't be moved or transmuted without some being lost, a black magic lesson that Yuna, too, has internalized by osmosis in Lulu's company. She knows what she's seeing, when the spikes at the tips of Shiva's locks shine with white radiance. When the very air around her aeon freezes, not into a plate, but into a perfectly clear orb, the stop of molecules so sudden and complete that they remain perfectly well-arranged, not obfuscating at all.

Most of all, light gathers above Shiva's upstretched hand.

Seymour wanted this power, demanded it. Died for it.

Let it not be said that Shiva and Yuna fail to deliver.

Shiva's palm thrusts forward, reforming this immense, redirected cold into a blast that crystallizes into ice whenever it impacts something else. Something else, of course, being first the immense masses of water that are Lulu's Waterga Fury -- and then Volsung and Rek'gora.

Yuna, still pale from many different shocks, is not surprised by what she's called forth; rather she is intent. She is responsible. She knows what it is she's unleashed, and exactly how dangerous it is.

JUST IN CASE nobody's noticed what's happening around them, she helpfully suggests: "Clear the area!"

Layer after layer of glacier rise higher and higher, up to the tops of Volsung's metal pillars, then even higher still. It forms intricate spikes and colors and shadows, thousands of years of winters expelled in a single, billowing breath.

Shiva looks upon what she has wrought dispassionately...

...and snaps her fingers.

The whole world shatters.

Everything disappears within a cloud of diamond dust.

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes a solid hit from Citan Uzuki's Renki for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Disease and Reaper removed!
DC: Yuna switches forms to Shiva!
GS: Yuna has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny makes four observations in his run up toward where Volsung is. The first - by the level of concern Venetia is showing, and rage in Dean's voice - is that this dude is bad news. The word 'Veruni' explains a big part of that; while Claude isn't clear on exactly what a Veruni is, the Cliff Notes he's pulled together peg them at 'Metal Demons, but worse.' Which obviously is bad news. The second observation - by the detached, aristocratic tone the man adopts - is that this guy both likes to talk and takes himself extremely seriously. Both these things are good. Claude can work with them.

The third observation is Volsung's giant friggin' flying sword, which seems to fly based on telepathy or something even more sinister. Claude starts to dodge out of the way - but then the Clysmian's keen echoes out across the mountainside, a poison of the soul. It slows Claude by a half-beat, no more than that - but it's enough for him to recognize that he won't be able to avoid the hit. So he grits his teeth and does the next best thing - brings both his arms up in a cross-block, such that the blade crashes into it and then his shoulder as it whips toward him. This puts live layers of Federation armourweave - plus a couple of meaty forearms - in between the blade and Claude's juicy inner meats. There is a scream and a crash of titanic proportions, sparks flying (sparks?) as the blade sends Claude spinning off to his right. But he remains unpunctured (though badly bruised) and still stumbling forward.

Press on, he tells himself. This Volsy guy has to be feeling it too.

"Nice trick," snarls Claude as he charges in toward the Veruni leader; he waits for Dean to engage Volsung and then rushes past the blue-haired Drifter, his flaming sabre extending in a rapid lunge... but his aim is a little off, likely because of the terrible hit he just took, thrusting down toward Volsung's right hip rather than the centre of his mass. It's enough to allow the Veruni leader to dodge to his left, if he's quick enough.

Which Claude hopes that he is.

As the big blonde passes by Volsung, he flips his sabre to his left hand, his right hand reaching out for the target of his fourth observation - the long and dapper tail of hair that Volsung is swinging around behind his head. Because why do you wear a thing like that and then engage in close-quarters combat? Claude's right hand grabs for the tail, his right foot snaking out behind the Veruni's heels - if he can catch and connect, then what follows will be a classic (albeit hair-pully) hip throw toward the ground.

Where Volsung's face would be in prime stompy range for Claude's size 13 space shoes.

"DEAN!" Claude shouts, his voice pitched to carry like I don't know some sort of soldier or something. "We've gotta stick to him! Don't let him BREATHE!"

GS: Yuna spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Yuna has attacked Volsung with Blizzaja!
GS: Yuna has attacked Rek'gora with Blizzaja!
GS: Yuna has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Yuna has launched an attack Link!
GS: Formation! Claude C. Kenny has attacked Volsung with This May Be A Bad Idea But I'm Going To Let You Mullet Over A
Bit!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: Dean Stark takes a solid hit from Citan Uzuki's Renki for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Disease and Reaper removed!
GS: Yuna spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Formation! Yuna has attacked Volsung with Diamond Dust!
GS: Formation! Yuna has attacked Rek'gora with Diamond Dust!
GS: Yuna has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Yuna has completed her action.
GS: Venetia Vuong takes a solid hit from Citan Uzuki's Renki for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Disease and Reaper removed!
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Yuna's Blizzaja for 121 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Yuna's Diamond Dust for 157 hit points!
GS: Volsung guards a hit from Yuna's Blizzaja for 88 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Claude C. Kenny's attack becomes clear!
GS: Volsung guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Freestyle Combat Arts for 70 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Volsung critically Guards a hit from Yuna's Diamond Dust for 39 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

Venetia's lip curls at the words of Volsung. And then Volsung calls forth a blade, a great blade - a blade that could be ridden, a blade that is perhaps a sword perfection. It comes flying towards her.

FREEZE FRAME: Venetia turning her head to look at the great blade Gram-Zambor, approximately five meters away. Her hair is already stirred by the bow shock of the great blade. From the look in her eyes she is regretting her calculations and decisions in life. Let this moment last forever.

Venetia throws herself backwards as the great blade crosses over her. This saves her from becoming two smaller Venetias and releasing several hard quanta of the energy known as "blood and the human soul." She does release some of this, as the electron orbitals known as "her skin" experience a physical phenomenon known as "being cut," and she does not land in a graceful way. Her rod clatters, sliding partway through her fingers, and she looks down at the long, shallow, but long gash down along her front.

HM, thinks Venetia Vuong. Perhaps I have made a tactical mistake.

The words of Cecilia Adelhyde - that she might need help - occur to her. Yeah, Venetia thinks, she probably does. Oh, why did I trust the religious people to do this? That nice girl from the moon and her entourage are going to die from this stupid sword.

Gold and green light washes over her- an aftereffect? No, not quite, Venetia thinks as she pushes herself up to one elbow. Her heart pounds, not just from pain. She can feel the pain, yes, and the pain from the week prior, but that isn't the only thing that is there. This place, this peak, this space confined by a Veruni overlord in his arrogance and infested with a horror from space --

-- yes! For what else is Rak'gora to someone who has not walked the shores of Spira or Glenwood? -- If only I had brought Eclipse, Venetia thinks, before pressing her palm to her forehead, because Eclipse is - what is Eclipse? Venetia tries to remember. A spell, wasn't it? Some Crest Graph. The memory is cold. Why?

Maybe we should have, Venetia thinks, or begins to think: Perhaps if instead we'd; what if, but, ah, except; the thoughts flurry together like cards being shuffled by a clumsy puppy, flying everywhere. She closes her eyes for a moment, grimacing.

Something profoundly still touches her.

Venetia's eyes open again in some surprise. She blinks several times. she sits the rest of her way upright, and her head turns towards Rak'gora for a moment, away from Volsung. She raises one hand -- and grimaces, reaching over to find the rod and pluck it up, pushing herself upright afterwards. Just in time to see something blue - to feel the cold - and to look upwards.

Pain is wholly forgotten for a moment. Water turned to ice and - Venetia says, "Brilliant!" and snaps one blood-stained hand into her crest pouch. Out comes another Graph, held cattycorner to the head of the rod as fragments of ice begin to fall. And ice, in a certain view of things -

Is stone.

The violet light shines round Venetia; it shades into something greener as thousands of miniscule sparkles accrete around her, turning into grains of sand. The wind snaps upwards, kicking the handful of ground olivine sand outwards - more of it - more of it yet, mingling with ice shards, clinging to them as it swirls round in curlicues and loop the loops to accumulate speed and pressure as Venetia raises the rod.

The swirls come together and cluster closer, ever closer -- and then the spaces compelled by the magic tighten once more, to intersect the Clysmian!

GS: Venetia Vuong has attacked Rek'gora with Deepest Art: Olivine Wind!
GS: Venetia Vuong has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Venetia Vuong has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Venetia Vuong's Deepest Art: Olivine Wind for 90 hit points!
GS: Hex and Jam! applied to Rek'gora!
<Pose Tracker> Volsung has posed.

Through the sky, Volsung's massive weapon soars into his waiting palm with a smack of metal on flesh. Within the swirling dust, Volsung's head is lowered. His features obscured, a private frown traces at his lips.

"'Work together,'" he mumbles beneath his breath; the great edge of the Gram-Zamber SWINGS downward with an irritable flick, striking ground so profoundly hard the very earth around the impact point trembles under the weight of the impact. "... Even dogs are capable of hypocrisy, when they're desperate enough."

When he looks up again, that calm smirk has returned once more, gaze hidden behind the glint of his glasses.

"How fitting, given the setting."

The tidal wave abates. And within it, Volsung sees -- Jay, unharmed.

Someone protected her. Saved her. And paid for it.

For a moment, Volsung looks upon where all that rock and debris collides with Lunata, his head tilt.

"And there is the ultimate price paid for those who think they can change the immutable," he asides, almost casually, to Jay. He flicks his blade outward, winds gushing around it. And then he begins to walk toward her.

"The blood price the vain and arrogant have others pay for their hubris."

The blade rises.

"Don't worry," Volsung assures.

"You won't have to stew in it nearly as long as--"

Rek'gora sings its shrieking song of despair.

It echoes across the battlefield, such that -everyone- feels it, in some way or another. Even Volsung must, surely; that primordial, metaphysical ripple -tears- past anything that even scarcely resembles conventional space, affecting everything, instantaneously. Despair hardly waits for anyone.

The ultimate results are not immediately noticeable, however, because before he can truly react -- before that sword can deliver its judgment upon Jay -- meteors CRUSH into the leader of the Veruni in a rain of fiery force. All that can be seen is Volsung turning towards the meteors, seconds before impact, only for Dean's sudden burst of firepower to unsettle his footing -just- enough in perfect coordination.

The first explodes with such force it gushes dust across the battlefield. The second follows suit, and so on, until the destruction obscures everything in its path. It is a devastating level of force, befitting an (optimized) invocation of the Guardian(.exe)'s natural might.

And it is not alone.

How did Seymour die?

Within Volsung's charging prison, a second cage of cold is born, engulfing heat and kinetic force within a cell of absolute, freezing frost. Ice shards form, the glitter of them scarcely seen in the dust storm of the meteors' impact. A maw of frost surrounds Volsung within the haze and -snaps- downward with power unto itself, power that killed a Maester. Force not all that unlike a Guardians, bearing down on a single man.

A single man. Even for a Veruni -- even for their leader -- it is a force overwhelming, surely, as it builds into grand glaciers around him. As they build, and build, and build -- and

                                      *snap*

        --shatter.

The whole world is cold and diamond dust for a few, blistering seconds where nothing natural could ever survive. The world is white.

    And then there is a single dot of red.

It glows -- seethes -- within the maelstrom of frost. Brighter and brighter, until it is a red star in the center of a world of white. There is no heat to it, nothing to counter that absolute zero that Shiva has conjured. And yet it burns simply to -look- at. A singular, condensed point of something that inspires the reptilian parts of the brain into a frothing frenzy just to glance at it.

And it.
    Grows.
        Brighter.

And as the frost and dust dissipate, there, within the epicenter of that seething red?

Volsung stands.

He heard the song of Rek'gora.

And something about it -resonates- with him.

<Pose Tracker> Volsung has posed.

"Hm."

And it is into that scarlet vortex both Ida and Claude find themselves hurling into.

Blinding red swirls around Volsung in wisps the second that Claude grabs onto that ponytail. He manages to make contact; grappling with Volsung, in this moment, feels like grappling with a steel anvil, the weight of him coming from an almost palpable sense of CONTEMPT that bleeds into the air around him, bearing down like gravity upon the young man from the stars. Yet he manages. He -hurls- Volsung down. The Veruni leader twists, crashes --

--and Claude's reward for bringing the man downward is one powerful hand -grabbing- onto that foot seconds before it can connect with Volsung's face.

"Yes, please," intones Volsung,
    "stick to me."

And with that, the Veruni, alight in a blazing, phantasmal red hue, seeks to use his grip to -hurl- Claude towards the air with unnatural strength. His weapon sweeps upward soon after, but it's not the edge that should concern him --

-- it's the discharge of energy that follows in its wake in a brilliant geyser of force that he should be wary of.

And next, comes Ida, puncturing through the veil, and the thick haze of crimson that encases Volsung like a protective chrysalis. Before she can complete her combination of attacks, a gloved hand -captures- her fist. Light crackles in ionizing pops around Volsung as he leans in towards her. She's crying. There's quicksilver on her cheek.

"I've seen Metal Demons bleed before," he notes, dispassionately.

"But you're not one of them, are you? A mongrel." He leans in closer. Those lights form into floating bits, humming with energy.

"How it must feel for you, to know you'll never belong in either world."

And from those funnels is unleashed a deluge of plasma, to engulf Ida. So strong is it that it punctures through frost and dust and air and debris and possibly her too --

BLINDING a blazing path through the air--

--straight for Rek'gora beyond.

And from the blistering haze emerges Volsung, frost clinging to his clothes, tears here and there, a bright lining his cheek and dirt smeared across his body.

A swirl of red following behind him like a sea of contempt.

"Enough of this."

The spectres of red BLAZE outward. They rush forward in tightening swirls of motion, catching up towards Venetia, Cecilia, Mariel, OS and Rachiel -- Dean and Gwen. And Yuna. They seek to envelope, to fill with a profound sense of wrongness. A tight, confining ring. A prison they all know all too well. Because it's a natural part of all of them, even as it blisters at their souls.

Hatred, after all, is universal.

"'Dean,' isn't it?" he wonders of the blue-haired boy struggling so hard.

"Does it feel comfortable, living in a nice, neat little fiction?"

GS: Volsung has attacked Volsung with The Song of the Nibelungs!
GS: Volsung has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Volsung takes a solid hit from Volsung's The Song of the Nibelungs for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Cripple, Jam, and Poison removed!
GS: Hyper and Lock State! applied to Volsung!
GS: Mighty! applied to Volsung!
GS: Volsung has activated a Boss Action!
GS: Volsung has activated a Force Action!
GS: Volsung spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Volsung has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Grand Pulse!
GS: Volsung has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Volsung spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Volsung has attacked Rek'gora with Grand Pulse!
GS: Volsung has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Gram-Igniter!
GS: Volsung has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny guards a hit from Volsung's Gram-Igniter for 85 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Claude C. Kenny gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Claude C. Kenny enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Volsung has attacked Dean Stark with The Ring!
GS: Volsung has attacked Gwen Whitlock with The Ring!
GS: Volsung has attacked Yuna with The Ring!
GS: Volsung has attacked Venetia Vuong with The Ring!
GS: Volsung has attacked Seraph Boudicca with The Ring!
GS: Volsung has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with The Ring!
GS: Volsung has attacked Mariel with The Ring!
GS: Volsung has attacked Lydia Seren with The Ring!
GS: Disrupt expired!
GS: Volsung has completed his action.
DC: 2 turns have elapsed in the battle against Volsung! 3 turns remain!
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Volsung's Grand Pulse for 170 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Volsung's The Ring for 0 hit points!
GS: Ruin! Riposte removed!
GS: Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken! applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde guards a hit from Volsung's The Ring for 0 hit points!
GS: Ruin! Lock State removed!
GS: Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken! applied to Cecilia Adlehyde!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Cecilia Adlehyde!
GS: CRITICAL! Venetia Vuong takes a solid hit from Volsung's The Ring for 0 hit points!
GS: Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken! applied to Venetia Vuong!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Venetia Vuong!
GS: Seraph Boudicca takes a glancing hit from Volsung's The Ring for 0 hit points!
GS: Ruin! Lock State and Mighty removed!
GS: Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken! applied to Seraph Boudicca!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Seraph Boudicca!
<Pose Tracker> Rek'gora has posed.

Rek'gora floats over where his attack upon Lunata just hit hom. A gunshot slams into him from behind, Violet's round sending a few motes of light up into the air. A moment later, a crescent of golden light forms and then screams down for her, cutting a divot into the ground, and then striking at the midwife directly.

And then Strahl Gewehr fires again. Rek'gora shrieks, as if feeling a desire that runs counter to its own desperation. He spins in midair, and the blast goes just under a wing. It leaves a ring of vapor in the air. A moment later, a fireball swirls into existence -- and then comes crashing down at the gunner.

'...No! It isn't like that! There is more than hopelessness, there must be!'

Rek'gora's next screech splits the sky. His head turns, beak parted, and three eyes red and blazing down at Mariel. Her cry, and her assistance to others, has the Clysmian's attention. The thing rises upward on wings, shuddering with power -- and then a lance of gold energy, bleeding white at the edges, explodes from under her feet.

It seeks to impale her. Rock explodes from under foot, some flying high, and the lance of light shoots straight into the sky before dissipating -- and may well carry the blood of an Elw with it.

Rek'gora turns after that lance of light flies, eyes barreling down on Rikku. He watches as the grenade flies -- and flies towards her, beak open. The Clysmian chomps down onto it, and the explosion sends a ripple through his body...

...and that caustic, burning blue light clings to him. OS unleashes their meteors into him, fiery meteors slamming down repeatedly. Blast after blast strikes, fire exploding into the air, with chips of rock falling as streamers. The Clysmian hits the ground, skidding over it.

And, skidding like that, he cannot muster his full defenses against the Nahual of Fengalon. Cyre sends lightning down into the creature. Rek'gora spasms, violently, lightning shooting off him -- and feathers and motes of light, before beating his wings and rising high.

Those great wings beat -- and then a cavalcade of razor-sharp, spectral feathers fly down. They slash down for Cyre -- cut at Rikku -- and seek to embed into OS's robotic body.

Rek'gora turns, defiantly -- because defiance is part of desperation and part of fear -- to look down at Boudicca. He screams, as winds shred into him. His body is slashed and torn, wind sputtering. A fireball forms, spinning into existence, and then comes slamming down for Boudicca. That same flame is eclipsed, a moment later.

Ivan's magma cannon slams into the creature, smashing the Clysmian backward. Globs of magma fall away, with feathers falling, and the black and white motes of his being. Rek'goria shrieks -- and another arc of golden light forms, then explodes down towards Ivan, cutting stone and him if he does not muster a defense.

Jacqueline's blast slams into Rek'gora, blistering into his side. Fire dances over him, and he turns, beak opening and chains rattling, before he shrieks. A fireball swirls into existence, forming again. Jay's tidal wave crashes down into the Clysmian, snuffing the fireball out, and drives the thing back into the crater wall.

The crater wall cracks again there, before the Clysmian rises up. Another fireball forms, and this one launches, careening down towards Jacqueline.

But before Rek'gora can raise all the way up, Gwen's violet beam of light fires -- strikes into Rek'gora's chest -- and then explodes through the back. The creature stumbles, then rises. Another shriek sounds, before he summons a fireball, and sends it crashing down for her.

The Guardian of Lightning, at Tesni's call, sends powerful bolts of electricity cascarding into Rek'gora. An arc of golden energy is her answer, striking down for her from above. Then, Cecilia's summoned Guardian appears. The Clysmian screams at them both--

--and the Shaman's called upon power slams the creature back, smashing into the wall. Rek'gora shrieks, opening his break, and another fireball swirls. It shoots through the afterimage of Lucadia, as the Guardian fades, and crashes down for Cecilia.

'Know pain.'

Lulu's fury is quite literal. A second tidal wave comes, this of countless water spells hurled into the Clysmian's form. Each breaks against him, with a terrific splash; each drives Rek'gora backward, and he bursts through the final. Chains rattle, as a fireball swirls into being again.

It shoots in, arcing around the last globule of water, and then slams down for the Black Mage. The creature turns his head, then, and catches sight of Citan.

He sees something in those eyes. And then his three eyes flash -- red to violet -- and Citan feels that old, familiar feeling. Feelings felt in Jugend; feelings felt in the underbelly of Etrenank; feelings felt before the throne of a dying god. It is enough to drive a man to his knees.

Rek'gora misses, as a result, the summoning of an Aeon.

A cage of ice rises, encircling the Clysmian. Rek'gora screeches, slamming himself bodily into the glacial prison. It cracks, but does not shatter. Then, ice explodes around him, and he vanishes in the spray of diamond dust. As it falls, though, Rek'gora floats.

Battered.

Beleagured.

Desperate.

But whole.

Flame swirls around the creature. Two fireballs form. One hurtles down in defiance for Shiva, to burn her -- to throw some flame at her, in denial. Another screams down towards Venetia,breaking through the swirls of ice, and for her. But then her spell strikes true, slashing into the Clysmian.

The Clysmian starts to move, but Rek'gora shrieks in surprise -- as a beam of red light from Volsung's funnels strikes it, and smash it backward. The creature shouts, rising up, and motes of black and white trail off.

A fireball forms, and whips across the battlefield, for the Lord of the Veruni.

GS: Rek'gora has attacked Violet Salazar with Arc Impulse!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Cremate!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Mariel with Devastate!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Rikku with Razor Wings!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Lydia Seren with Razor Wings!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Razor Wings!
GS: Rek'gora has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Seraph Boudicca with Cremate!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Ivan with Arc Impulse!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Cremate!
GS: Rek'gora has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Cremate!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Tesni Inoue with Arc Impulse!
GS: Rek'gora has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Cremate!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Lulu with Cremate!
GS: Rek'gora has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Citan Uzuki with Fear!
GS: Rek'gora has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Venetia Vuong with Cremate!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Yuna with Cremate!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Volsung with Cremate!
GS: Rek'gora takes 27 damage from Poison!
GS: Rek'gora has completed his action.
GS: Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Volsung's The Ring for 0 hit points!
GS: Ruin! Lock State removed!
GS: Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Lydia Seren!
GS: Clarissa Arwin completely evades a hit from Rek'gora's Cremate!
GS: Clarissa Arwin's Force Evade activates!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Clarissa Arwin enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Rikku guards a hit from Rek'gora's Razor Wings for 67 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rikku gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: CRITICAL! Jacqueline Barber guards a hit from Rek'gora's Cremate for 95 hit points!
GS: Mariel takes a solid hit from Volsung's The Ring for 0 hit points!
GS: Ruin! Lock State removed!
GS: Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken! applied to Mariel!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Mariel!
GS: Lulu takes a solid hit from Rek'gora's Cremate for 148 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lulu gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a glancing hit from Rek'gora's Cremate for 73 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Violet Salazar takes a glancing hit from Rek'gora's Arc Impulse for 74 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Violet Salazar gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Mighty! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Violet Salazar enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Mariel guards a hit from Rek'gora's Devastate for 111 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Mariel gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Yuna critically Guards a hit from Rek'gora's Cremate for 34 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Yuna gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes a solid hit from Rek'gora's Razor Wings for 103 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Cyre H. Lorentz gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Seraph Boudicca guards a hit from Rek'gora's Cremate for 94 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Boudicca gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Lulu used Defend! She takes Volsung's attack on Tragedienne on herself!
GS: Volsung guards a hit from Rek'gora's Cremate for 55 hit points!

<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

    There was a conversation not long before this.

    In it, a simple country doctor and an ex-waitress talked about the role of rocks in mythology.

    In one, a man is punished to push a boulder up a hill every single day, only for his efforts to have been in vain the next.

    In another, a woman forsook the chance at eternal life in the face of a god, in exchange for compassion and understanding should a rock sink into water.

    Stone is an inexorable and timeless part of mythology. It buries and hides secrets of the world, and yet sustains and supports life in the form of shelter. It is the endless fascination of one school of Crest Graph studies that Venetia Vuong belongs to, and in other turns, the lifeblood of many a community in Filgaia.

    But even with all that...

    Rock is a poor conveyer of sound. The raging echo of battle can barely seep through, can barely reach those that are buried under.

    Those buried under cannot hear Jacqueline's whisper, see the tears that flow from her eyes, or witness the roiling blaze of her anger as it manifests in Crest Sorcery. She cannot feel Cyre's rage as the Nahual counters wind for wind, nor Boudicca's own pain for the girl that was forced to birth all this.

    She cannot hear Rikku's shock, or Lulu's own radiant plume of fury; nor Gwen's intonation as she punctures the air. She cannot gaze upon the queen of ice as Yuna dances, for her, for her friends... and brings forth ephemeral and pure ice to the crater.

    She cannot hear Shalune's dialogue with the diabolic machine that started all of this. She cannot hear her dearest friend's resolve, challenging the quiet and dormant machine if it's really all right with this --

    But...

    There is a doctor, here, with a vow.

    But for him, the vow is not in question right now.

    Because stone also exists, ultimately, to be sundered; to be scoured by water, to be moved by the world itself, and...

    To be cut.

    Citan's skill at a sword cannot be described as merely 'peerless'.

    It only takes a single stroke, to which the cliffside ignores at first. But then, an unsatisfying hiss is heard, and the rock slides, and what comes OUT from the sliced mountainside...

    This thing... it cannot be described as a human being. It is a sticky puddle of black ooze, viscously gooping through the cracks of stone.

    Something... comes out of it.

... I can't see.
                                                                    I can't breathe.
I'm not sure my
eyes are there I can't move. Even if I never
anymore... had lungs
                 I'm not sure I before... this
                 have... limbs I can't feel. suffocating
                 anymore... feeling...
                                                    I'm afraid... I
                                                    can't even feel
                                   I can't die... pain...

                                    ...Will I be
                                      here...

                                   ...forever...?

                 ...forever...
                                   ...and ever...
                                                     ...and ever...

    It's tiny, a foot tall at most, humanoid only in the most generous sense of the word. A black blob with small arms and legs, and two yellow beads for... eyes...?

    A black blob that is rippled about, threatening to be unravelled as the Lord of the Veruni and Clysmian of Desperation both ignite the battlefield into an incendiary blaze.

                       ...someone... please... anyone...

GS: Dean Stark takes a solid hit from Volsung's The Ring for 0 hit points!
GS: Ruin! Cover removed!
GS: Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken! applied to Dean Stark!
GS: Dean Stark enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Dean Stark!
<Pose Tracker> Violet Salazar has posed.

Light steams out from the Clysmian, aimed right at Violet -- who almost managed to duck out of the way. Some of it hits, leaving her head and face burned and bleeding -- fortunately they don't FEEL like serious or mortal wounds. Violet's horse-ears twitch as she prepares a counterattack. She loads a solid slug into her ARM, one of the precious few with Symbological enchantments. She sure hopes it hits; otherwise, what a waste! She takes methodical aim front and center of the creature's chest. She wants to strike the heart.

If it even has one...

GS: Violet Salazar has attacked Rek'gora with Hot Blooded!
GS: Violet Salazar has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Violet Salazar has completed her action.
GS: Tesni Inoue critically Guards a hit from Rek'gora's Arc Impulse for 26 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Tesni Inoue gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Mighty! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Tesni Inoue takes an additional 18 damage from Reaper!
GS: Lulu takes a solid hit from Volsung's The Ring for 0 hit points!
GS: Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken! applied to Lulu!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Lulu!
GS: Citan Uzuki critically Guards a hit from Rek'gora's Fear for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Citan Uzuki gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Venetia Vuong takes a solid hit from Rek'gora's Cremate for 151 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Venetia Vuong gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: CRITICAL! Ivan takes a glancing hit from Rek'gora's Arc Impulse for 84 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Ivan gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Mighty! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: CRITICAL! Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Volsung's Grand Pulse for 244 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Ida Everstead-Rey gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey enters Critical health and gains 25 FP!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes an additional 40 damage from Reaper!
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Violet Salazar's Hot Blooded for 159 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Shieldbreak! applied to Rek'gora!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny's foot is caught, and he finds himself thrown into the sky. This is, as a rule, a bad place for a swordsman or a martial artist to be; not being on the ground means you're not able to dodge or avoid attacks without some sort of outside intervention. When the other guy's got a flying sword, your prognosis is even worse. Indeed, the Boy from Earth is at a comparative disadvantage.

Two facts save his life.

The first is that his mother - the esteemed and slightly psychotic martial artist Ilia Silvestri-Kenny - spent much of Claude's second decade in life training him to deal with unusual combat situations. The kung fu equivalent of skeet shooting was certainly one of these. The second is his military occupation - Combat Officer - which includes in its base requirements an intensive course on the sort of zero-gravity fighting that Federation naval officers may find themselves partaking in. These two facts allow him to first quickly overcome the disorientation that comes with tumbling through the sky; and then to pinwheel his arms outward to slow his rotation until he can face the ground. This reduces the number of problems he faces to one - i.e., a giant flying sword about to rip his guts out.

"Sick of that thing," Claude snarls as he switches his sword back to his right hand; he times the approach carefully and then whirls his body in a tight circle, bringing his right foot around, slamming it into Gram-zamber's side. Claude's shoes are made from the same bullshit advanced technology that the rest of his uniform is, but this still hurts like crazy - with a loud smashing noise (and at least one broken toe) Claude boots the weapon off in the general direction of Rek'gora. He has no illusions about it being gone forever. But it just needs to be gone for a little bit of time.

Claude falls toward the ground, and his right arm goes to work, whipping the cavalry sabre in his hand back and forth in a series of whip-quick, rapid cuts, each of which fires an energy blast outward. The Boy from Earth keeps it up, blasting again and again, resisting the urge to call out the attacks because frankly Volsung doesn't need the advance notice of what's coming - he's a tough enough opponent that Claude will take any advantage he can. So he fires again and again and again, and then he suddenly lands in front of the Veruni leader, a pulse of chi rippling out along the ground, actually shifting the stone as Claude absorbs the force of his impact.

"Hello again," says Claude. "I'm very stubborn."

And then two dozen Air Slashes drop down on Volsung from above.

GS: Claude C. Kenny spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Volsung with Air Raid!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: Lydia Seren critically Guards a hit from Rek'gora's Razor Wings for 20 hit points!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has canceled their attack on Volsung.
GS: Claude C. Kenny has activated a Force Action!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has activated a Force Action!
GS: Claude C. Kenny spends 1 Combo on Gatling, loading 1 into Gatling!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Volsung with Air Raid!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

A stab of horror lances through Clarissa at the sight of a girl she only vaguely knows being simply blown away. Her connection to Lunata is tenuous at best, but she stares on for a couple of shocked seconds.

She sets her jaw, knits her brows and lets out a sharp huff - though her face has gone pale. She can't let that girl fall in vain.

Dean calls out to lie to her. He's not alright, and Clarissa knows it. Biting down to her bottom lip, she soldiers forward - with a little help from the wave of power radiating out from Citan. She looks up with a grateful smile, blushing just a little.

"Thank you, sir!" she calls, kind even amidst the despair.

Her blast's gone just wide, and Rek'gora's coming to bear on her again. A massive fireball churns its way towards her, and she reacts instinctively, leaping to the side, hitting the ground and tumbling with the agility of a gymnast. Only her quick reflexes and determination save her: The fireball erupts through the space she was just standing, detonating against the ground in a spray of unholy fire. It would have consumed her had she acted a split-second later.

Clarissa can feel the heat of Rek'gora's flame, mingling with the pall of despair and the horror of seeing a girl simply obliterated. I can't meet that fate, she decides. I won't. I have to stay alive.

Sweeping Strahl Gewehr out to the right, Clarissa looks towards Dean again, then sends a warm smile his way. "Dean, I know you'll do your best," she calls out to him.

Another ally is suffering - Clarissa can see it clearly. With a wave, Clarissa calls out, "Ida! We've got your back! Don't let him get to you - you're a great person and a great fighter!"

Another familiar face - a flash of anger that Clarissa has never seen in Jay Barber's eyes. "Jay... please, be safe!" she calls to her.

"Don't let its desperation get to you," Clarissa encourages more broadly, her voice clear and bright like a sunbeam slicing through heavy cloud after a long storm. "We're all here because we want to protect Filgaia, right? Just remember what you hope for most! And for what it's worth--"

Her voice practically sparkles with honesty. "--I believe in you!"

It is nothing but the truth. Clarissa Arwin does not lie.

GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Clarissa Arwin with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Dean Stark with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Jacqueline Barber with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Venetia Vuong with We Can Do It Together!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has completed her action.
GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Clarissa Arwin! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Clarissa Arwin!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has canceled their attack on Volsung.
GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Dean Stark! He gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Dean Stark!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Clarissa Arwin's We Can Do It Together for  hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes an additional 5 damage from Reaper!
GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Venetia Vuong! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Venetia Vuong!
GS: Clarissa Arwin heals Jacqueline Barber! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Jacqueline Barber!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has activated a Force Action!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has activated a Force Action!
GS: Claude C. Kenny spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Volsung with Air Raid!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Rikku has posed.


Lulu's anger is palpable, and as she calls out. Rikku does indeed get down, moving to a knee to give her all the room she needs to call forth her spells. Then Yuna... Yuna... summons.

She hadn't seen it since Macalania temple, and even as dark as that day was for them. She can't help but be awed at it's reappearance. "Yunie..." Her Aeon is beautiful. Yuna is beautiful. Before she met her, she only knew respect for Summoners - and not in a spiritual sense.

Seeing it with her eyes, it feels like she's taking some small part of in the sublimity of the moment. Citan's Chi washes over her, with a question. And just like that, the terror in her soul feels like it's eased up. Rikku beams a smile at him. She may not know what he did, but she answers him anyway, "You bet I will!"

And then Volsung reappears out of that Diamond Dust, as if to give lie to her optimism. Even less scared than before she's still terrified about pissing him off. And decides to focus upon the Clysmian unless forced to do otherwise.

Spectral feathers fly at her, and Rikku raises her Targe. Several of them imbed so far that it nearly reaches her face. Others graze across her hip and thigh.

Then they vanish.

"Real glad I'd enhanced that before we came to this world..." Rikku breathes. She hadn't treated her targe as much as she'd liked, fallen short of the materials she's needed on Filgaia. But the fact that it held up now against this Sin-like creature is a point of pride.

Rikku squats down, and it's like she's hastily bringing some of her items together.

Only to rise again with...

... the same kind of grenade? Talk about an anti-climax. Though perhaps any kind of grenade is dramatic enough. Popping off the pin, she takes a step forward...

"Did you like the taste of that one!? Well - here, have seconds!"

... and pitches it upwind again, so that when it blows across, it'll go off near its beak yet again.

"Have as much as you want! You won't go hungry while I'm around!"

The grenade detonates...!

GS: Rikku has attacked Rek'gora with Use: Silence Grenade!
GS: Rikku has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rikku has completed her action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Rikku's attack becomes clear!
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Rikku's Mix: Cluster Bomb for 110 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Cripple and Jam! applied to Rek'gora!
<Pose Tracker> Rikku has posed.


Yet that first explosion is mostly smoke and mirrors. In the middle of it, there's a sound like a tightly coiled spring just triggered. The air fills with dozens of small particles.

Which then begin to detonate. The sky blossoms with clusters of explosions, smearing a symphony of defiant red all over the Clysmian of Desperation.

"Let it never be said that the Al Bhed don't know how to treat unwelcome guests!"

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline glances to the side, as she sees Citan draw a sword. She's never known him to wield a sword, though she doesn't know him as well as some do. So too does she see the summoning of Shiva by Yuna, and the brilliant diamond dust that results.

Were she in a more lucid state, she might comment on the former, or marvel at the beauty of the latter. But right now, her attention turns back to Volsung and Rek'gora - but it's the former that gets her stare.

"Hypocrisy? Well, forgive me for trying. I wasn't aware that's hypocrisy these days." Jacqueline retorts... and then glares, as he 'acknowledges' Lunata's sacrifice. Were she in her right mind she would pick her words more carefully, but enraged as she is, she can only shake her head as he walks toward her, even as tears still fall from her eyes. "...D-don't...don't you dare. Don't you dare say another word about her."

His blade raises. She stands there defiantly as the blade begins to fall... but meteors interrupt him before he can swing and Jacqueline leaps backward, out of range.

...Only for Rek'gora to discharge a great fireball in her direction. Thinking quickly, Jacqueline gestures with her left hand. A pillar of earth rises to intercept the fire. But, the Clysmian's power is so great - her defenses can only take so much. Pillar and fireball both detonate in an explosion that sends Jacqueline flying back, crashing to the ground and rolling for some distance.

But, with a grunt, she forces herself back up to her feet, singed and hurting all over, but alive.

She changes her course of action, then - reaching into her bag to draw out a bottle of lavender-colored liquid. She hurls it straight at Rek'gora, and once it's overhead she shatters it with a quick spell, raining strength-draining fluid down onto the Clysmian.

She prepares to follow it up with another spell... but then, she hears a voice calling out to her. It's Clarissa's voice - telling her to be safe. Telling her to not let the desperation to get to her. That they're all there to protect Filgaia. To remember what she hopes for most.

...But...

What she hopes for most, is...

...is already...

And then, she hears something else. It's another voice - but this one is like a small, weak voice at the back of her mind. She couldn't hear it through the cloud of her rage... but, Clarissa's voice cuts through it cleanly enough for her to hear it.

"...Lunata...?" Jacqueline whispers. Her stance changes abruptly. She turns swiftly, in the direction that Lunata had been sent flying. She sees Citan standing over the boulder having been sliced in two.

Jacqueline breaks into a run in that direction.

"Lunata... i-it's... it's okay! I can hear you...! Please, don't be afraid!" She calls out. Hoping that she can hear her. Hoping that it will help.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Rek'gora with Diminishing Draught!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Volsung critically Guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Air Raid for 25 hit points!
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Diminishing Draught for 88 hit points!
GS: Weaken! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde takes a solid hit from Rek'gora's Cremate for 152 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

The cloud of lights - of energy - from Mariel disperse over time, blown here and there by wind that isn't the physical wind. It's a cry in the dark, not something she can sustain...

...but sometimes an instant is forever.

It took a lot out of her, though. It's not something she can sustain, and she seems drained somehow as she rises, the vines she summoned sublimating into a last few wisps of energy and drifting away. What she did was an act of desperation. She never would have tried it if she'd been thinking about it, but in her panic she reached for all she had and held it.

So she's shaky as she rises, using the summoning of Shiva in all its prismatic rime as a distraction to get back on her feet. She gives Yuna - well, she can't manage a smile, but at least a nod as she reshoulders her bag.

Mariel is distracted - by conflicting emotions, by the crazy warp and twist of energy in the area from *everything*, Lunata included even though she can't clearly see what happened - and she spots the wisps coming in from Volsung too late. She doesn't even start moving until they're already sinking into her, a bind round her heart; the lingering effects of whatever she just pulled are sufficient to protect her from the hatred, but not from the aftereffects running through her body. Her ears flatten against the sides of her head, and the hair on the back of her hands stands on end, making her hands look swollen and puffy when they aren't.

She has to freeze to fight it off - and that's when Rek'gora strikes.

The explosion of rock starts right under her feet and throws Mariel into the air with the debris. She's light; she gets some pretty good height, tumbling end over end; somewhere along the way she loses her grip on the strange salts she had retrieved from her bag, sending them showering downward at Rak'gora before she'd meant to. They flash with holy light as they touch, burning away foul energy, but most of the salt hits the dirt and rock, and do nothing.

Mariel lands with a heavy, painful thud some distance away, and she doesn't get up from that. Not immediately; she's dazed and dizzy, though judging by the fact that she's still moving, conscious and alive.

GS: Mariel has attacked Rek'gora with Purifying Salt!
GS: Mariel has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Mariel has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Mariel's Purifying Salt for 86 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Dispel! Mighty removed!
<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

    There is no preamble to it, no fanfare. One moment there's empty space, and the next the Rephaim is crashing down onto the basin at the edge of the area defined by the containment pillars, landing far too heavily to be consciously piloted by anyone who knows what they're doing. It banks heavily to one side, and then corrects as one of the Gear's fists crashes against the rest of the rubble that buried Lunata.

    Inside the cockpit, Shalune yelps and hangs on for dear life, the Gear lurching around her as the shock absorbers do the best they can - and the moment that motion stops, she's surging up from the seat as the hatch opens.

    "Lunie!" she roars fiercely, leaping down to the ground without a care for the height involved. The Rephaim is slowly kneeling, but she doesn't have the time to wait for it, and lands in a stumbling run that nearly pitches head over heels before she can catch herself and turn it into a slide, skidding towards where Citan stands next to where Lunata's remains must surely lie and slamming her foot against the last of the rocks with a grunt of pained effort, the manic energy to the professor's calm quiet.

    She'd prepared herself to see a body. What she sees instead makes her stomach lurch at the sight, and she sucks in a shocked hiss of air through her teeth - but then pushes through the nausea and vertigo and tries to force the world to stop spinning around her, bringing both hands down to carefully cup and cradle the little creature as carefully as she can. She swallows thickly and shakily - then her expression firms up, and she nods as she turns on her heel towards the Rephaim.

    "I've got you," she whispers fiercely, and then she can recognize the feeling of Jay next to her, the alchemist's presence a reassurance even in the midst of so much confusion. She doesn't know how to really encompass the entirety of her thoughts and plans, her brain fuzzed with adrenaline and fear, so all she says at first is an echo: "I've got her." she says again to Jay, not really sure how to encompass the entirety of her plan in the midst of so much confusion and with her brain not exactly running at a hundred percent. "She'll-- she'll be okay. Probably. I need to get her to--!"

    She risks a glance at the battlefield as she starts to automatically break in a run back towards the Rephaim. A single man standing against an army can only be a Veruni, she reckons to herself, but more important than either right now is the creature sat in the middle of the field, beautiful and terrible enough that her eyes slide right off of it in a combination of awe and disgust. She can't look straight at it. But she doesn't have to.

    A second crash heralds something else happening nearby, at first out of sight - until a gigantic hand reaches over the line of the basin, rising up and grasping onto the side hard enough to tear at the stone. What rises from below is a Gear-like figure in black and a deep burnt red. It is blocky in construction, pitted and burnt with age, and like anything Shalune tends to get her hands on the signs of repair across its body are mismatched and patchwork. But Diablo still stands, its eyes gleaming with an ancient intelligence.

    The mechanic's hair whips around her face, but she can identify the Rephaim at the edge of her vision, and there's enough comfort in that for her to stop and turn for a brief instant to look over the battle once more. Once upon a time, she'd been paralyzed with indecision on whether it would be appropriate to use the Golem's power out of anger. This time, she takes in the sight of the desperate creature, and realizes it's sheer pity she's feeling instead.

    "Go!" she yells in command, ducking her head down as she hunkers and aims for the cover of the Rephaim's legs. It means she shields herself from the sudden pinprick of crimson that winks on the Golem's chest, eerily silent as it expands outwards into a brilliant, solid light. Only as it starts to grow large enough to encompass Rek'gora does it begin to roar with built up energy. Then Diablo roars along with it, and the air all along the intervening space explodes - bathing the Clysmian in a conflagration of fire and heat and chaos as she clasps the little formless creature as close to her chest as she dares.

    "It'll be okay, Lunie. It'll be okay. Jay's here too, we've got you, we've got you," she stumbles over what she hopes is a soothing litany, trying to ignore the way her voice edges along hysteria.

GS: Shalune Amira has activated a Force Action!
GS: Shalune Amira spends 1 Combo on Gatling, loading 1 into Gatling!
GS: Shalune Amira has attacked Rek'gora with The Crimson Wind - DIABLO!
GS: Shalune Amira has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Rek'gora guards a hit from Shalune Amira's The Crimson Wind - DIABLO for 138 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

    The fight is not going great. Dean isn't able to track a lot of it with the injuries he sustained, but his friends are taking a pounding--and if he'd seen Lunata get crushed in Jay's place, he'd be freaking out more, too. But...
    
    Dean is not super-familiar with Citan. He may have met him once during a ruin expedition. Even so, when the simple country doctor sweeps his blade and sends out a wave of ether, asking but one simple country question, it helps clear his heart of the emotional toxin Rek'gora had put out. It clears his thoughts and lets him respond with a firm, "Right!"
    
    He's still critically injured, but the growing chill in the air slows the bleeding, numbs the pain. Clarissa calls out to him, tells him she believes in him and everyone. Healing energy flows through him, into him, knitting some of that vicious wound he'd received closed. Dean's positive nature bubbles up, and he grins back at her with a quick wave. "You're right!! We can win this, together!"
    
    Claude shouts to Dean while pulling Volsung's hair, throwing him down, and stomping on his face--or attempting to, before Volsung grabs his foot. If nothing else, this sheer chutzpah is highly impressive to Dean, inspiring him further to shout again, "Right!!" As Claude wheels and shoots approximately a million Air Slashes down at Volsung, Dean leaps up and twirls his paired ARMs into the air. "Time to settle this--let's go!" Catching them both, he opens fire on Volsung with both barrels for a solid ten seconds, first both arms out, then one arm angled back, then twirling one way, then twirling the other. He caps off the volley with a final, single shot that explodes like fire upon contact with the Veruni leader.
    
    But Volsung is not so easily daunted. He sends out an emotional attack of his own, seething into the soul with red specters, swirling in tighter and tighter in a way that can't be avoided. A feeling of wrongness bubbles up in him like lava. Before, he'd been playing up his anger at Volsung; now, it's like he's feeling it for real. This feeling like--
    
    He absolutely hates his guts.
    
    He hates him for hurting his friends. He hates him for harassing Avril. He hates him for hurting *him*, both before and right now, he hates him like he hates the Veruni for what they did to Chuck and all the humans under their control--
    
    But that's not right, a part of him rebels. Kaguya's his friend, and she's a Veruni. Elvis... is not exactly a friend, but he's not a bad guy, and he's a Veruni. Dean has fought lots of people, and lots of people have done bad things to him and his friends and others, but that doesn't always mean they're bad people. He knows this. He's experienced it. He's not the wide-eyed, ignorant boy he was when he set off on his journey from Capo Bronco. And he won't let himself feel this way just because someone else wants him to.
    
    That said, it's one thing to *know* something and another for it to be one's reality. Gritting his teeth, he fights against this toxic feeling, even as it threatens to consume him. It's not easy. For a moment, he can only stand there, at war with himself in his own heart.
    
    Fortunately--
    
    '"Dean," isn't it? Does it feel comfortable, living in a nice, neat little fiction?'
    
    "Awww--you remembered--my name," Dean seethes through grit teeth. The next question, though, gives him pause. "...What?" But he hears an opportunity to distract Volsung when he hears it, so he continues, truthfully, "What're you talking about? I don't get what you mean!"
    
    Hopefully Volsung loves the sound of his own voice more than he loves beating up his friends and capturing horrible mega-monsters!!

GS: Dean Stark has attacked Volsung with Twin Fenrir - Finest ARMs!
GS: Dean Stark has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"Jay."

A familiar voice carries on the wind. The wind tiger's eyes burn with a rage shared by many, but its gaze still finds someone who feels it far more keenly. A priest's advice would be to let the anger go, to grieve and move on, to keep under control until the present threat is dealt with, but...

"I understand. Scream if you need to scream. Shout if you need to shout. The tears you need to shed are worth more than their weight in gold." The wind speaks for the tiger, it blows at the alchemist's back like a hand on the shoulder. "Suffering is human. Giving voice to that suffering is human. The pain that you feel..."

Lances of razor-sharp wind pummel into the Nahual. The avatar of the wind god grimaces at the cruel irony of the experience. Motes of emerald energy leak from wounds torn into the shintai's flesh and drain back into the ley. Desperation is something perhaps too close to his heart, it seems. Cyre grunts, arm trembling as all too human weakness encroaches again on the divine.

As he wrestles with pain and desperation in equal measure, another divinity is summoned into the world. A wave of wintery cold the likes he hasn't felt since his time in Macalania. Shiva manifests, and the Nahual's eyes go wide at her advent. Like a bucket of icy water dumped onto his head, doubt fades and courage flares.

He clenches his hand into a fist. Fresh wind howls and disperses the lingering miasma. "There is no guilt in being human! This thing tries to prey on those feelings... Desperation and weakness, hatred and rage-- all are real and legitimate, but they are all just parts of a greater whole! Roar your defiance to the heavens! Turn anger into strength! And--!"

In the chaos, Cyre almost doesn't notice the strange black blob slithering out of the cleaved rocks. Almost. He sees Jacqueline making a run for it, and that's enough to guide his wrath.

                 "--Snatch hope from the jaws of despair!"

The Nahual of Fengalon slams its palms together and bids the atmosphere collapse into a chaotic spiral-- a prison of stormclouds and crosswind gales to pin the monster of Desperation to the ground and clip its wings.

And then Shalune unleashes the might of Golem Diablo and Cyre is momentarily stunned silent.

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Rek'gora with Reaping Whirlwind!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
GS: Volsung takes a solid hit from Dean Stark's Twin Fenrir - Finest ARMs for 116 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

    It is, incidentally, testament to how much Dean needs to struggle against Volsung's emotional attack that a Golem can show up and he doesn't even notice.

GS: Rek'gora takes a glancing hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Reaping Whirlwind for 86 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Entangle! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Lulu has posed.

The presence of an Aeon is profound, ven without considering which one it is, the one Llu recalls so well despite having met the once. The purest expression Lulu can think of ice comes, on the heels of her water. She cannot commune with the Fayth the way Yuna can, but she can see the results of Yuna doing so.

Lulu does not have time to appreciate it, but this presence is itself a balm, as the fireball hits her and she is enveloped in flames. Briefly she can't be seen with the sheer brightness of it, and indeed this power burns in a physical sense much like the last in a spiritual. But the flames part, and Lulu lowers her arms again, still mostly whole. But there is little time beyond that to react. Shiva is there, but Lulu's job has not finished. The red spiral around Volsung catches Lulu's eye--she sets her jaw, and moves faster than a woman in such heavy clothing has a right.

The rushing spectre does not meet Yuna; it slams into Lulu, and she stumbles back from the impact, red swirling around her. A tight, confining ring locks her in place, and oh, she knows it. She knows it so very well, and that sense of wrongness hits her. "Ng," Lulu vocalizes, fingers closing as her hand shakes. "I..."

"I will not allow my weakness to harm her!"

Lulu draws on this hate, too, this terrible wrongness, and it burns at herself--her mind is ragged already with conflicting and rapid emotion. Conflicting--because it is love that makes Lulu stand up straight even as she feels the swirling miasma all around her.

She stares outward, and she should not be able to cast any longer, but cast she does. She puts out her hand, and still more ice joins Shiva's efforts, crackling wind turning to frigid entombment against Rek'Gora, even as Lulu smoulders from the burns the monster inflicted upon her.

GS: Lulu has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

The guardian has done what they can as Tesnei fights she knows she's way out of her league but every attack, every shot is one more chance to bring this thing down. Before terrible ruin is unleashed on a world that does not deserve such a fate. Powers beyond even what the Guardian has loaned her are let loose and the thing keeps coming. Magic right out of the very sorts of myths her people have hung on to this day, she is here.

 She's still standing, fighting as some sort of terrible powers comes her way more explosions she's knocked off her feet she loses her hat at this point. She's back up in short order but something is eating at her.

 "A dead world that is what you will bring to there, I will not stand for it you want to go what you want? Then it will be over my dead body."

 It's Bravado sure, but maybe it will pull its ire off more powerful and import people as she raises up her hand and fires a burst of flame, she's almost there she just has to hold out just a little bit longer for her plan.

GS: Lulu spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Lulu has attacked Rek'gora with Blizzaga!
GS: Lulu has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lulu assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Lulu has completed her action.
GS: Tesni Inoue has attacked Rek'gora with Fire Bolt!
GS: Tesni Inoue takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Tesni Inoue has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Lulu's Blizzaga for 94 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Cripple and Poison! applied to Rek'gora!
<Pose Tracker> Citan Uzuki has posed.

    It moves like mist, his Ether, seeking out and touching several across the battlefield. If they call out to him, he doesn't notice. His focus is elsewhere.

    He raises the sword, his gaze solely on the rock before him. It has been a very, very long time since he has held live steel. But a rock is not a body, and it is the nature of earth to part under water.

    And in that moment, in that singular moment, the Clysmian takes notice of him.

    Citan Uzuki has known hopelessness.
    He'd been the youngest. A mother, a father, eight older brothers, a grandfather. Somehow, in spite of his youth, he'd survived it. But everyone else -- every single one of them -- had succumbed to the plague.

    He's known desperation.
    Hoping against hope in Jugend, striving for some better future, some way to reform the society in which he now moved. But, in the end, it was--

    And so he has also known despair.

    His hands tighten on the hilt of Lunata's sword and he leans into all of it.

    That which you claim cannot be anything but your own.
    And it cannot hurt you.

    The sword falls upon stone as a waterfall.

    The stone gives way. He stands still for a moment after, then plants the blade with force into the rocky earth near where the cut has been made.

    Something creeps forth from the rend. Something black.

    He gazes down at...

    What is left of Lunata, can it really be called a person anymore?

    "... I wanna think that too... during my worst days, that's some of the things I hang onto. On the days where I don't think I have a beating body, or blood flowing through me, or the little things that make me think I'm human..."

    So she'd said to him, only days ago.

    "...Does your heart still hurt? If it does... then you must know," he says to Lunata.

    Jacqueline arrives soon after.

    And she is far from the only one. Even as the Diablo slams into the earth not far from the rocks that had crushed Lunata, he does not yet so much as step backwards, even when the rolling wave of impact echoes through the rocky ground. He moves aside as Shalune comes running, one hand brushing against her by seeming sheer accident as she passes him. "Miss Amira, was it? ...Please see to her," he says, looking between the young engineer and Jacqueline. He turns away, facing down the chaos of the battlefield, and begins to walk towards it.

    In truth, the touch was not so accidental as all that. But there is little else he can do.

    He has other matters of which to attend.

GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Tesni Inoue's Fire Bolt for 74 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Citan Uzuki spends 2 Combo on Inspire and Reload!
GS: Citan Uzuki has attacked Shalune Amira with Reishou!
GS: Citan Uzuki has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Citan Uzuki has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

SIDE OS

OS is told by Ivan that he has to focus!! And not be distracted. "Understood. Shifting to Silent Appreciation." There's really no way to win this one. On the plus side, it seems that thanks to Mariel--Lydia is calming down from the despair and isn't going to need a huge pick me up here. They also don't immediately think much of Lunata being 'killed' because, quite frankly, Lunata dies all the time. It isn't until an adorable black blob appears annd calls out--

--that OS gets the message.

Winged feathers clatter off of OS's form as it augments its nano-shielded exterior. They have less luck with the shade clinging to them. They feel the wrongness, but it's as if their face doesn't know how to make the appropriate reaction. Lydia bears the brunt of it--silently to the outside world for now, but it's easy to notice the movements slowing, the defense weakening. But the Clysmian is still, nonetheless, failing to find significant purchase against the Blade of Solaris.

OS floats down towards the blob.

"You..." OS says, staring impassively down at the foot sized blob. "...Your fear..." They cock their head to the right as they study the creature. "...It is familiar..."

They close their eyes for a moment.

"...That's right. We were once formless like you. We could not speak. We could scarcely see. All we could do was experience.

They reach out a hand to the blob. Are they going to hurt her? Are they going to COLLECT her?

Neither. The blob is... quietly pet by OS in this moment, like one might pet a growling dog in an attempt to calm it.

"There there." OS tells the blob. There is no empathy in the eyes, but something in the tone of voice perhaps. They lift their hand up and then--

--inject a single finger into the Lunie-blob. It dissolves into a nanotech-cloud, shimmering inside the blob briefly before it works to try and restore Lunata's body.

Of course, this is a bit of an experiment on OS's part. Who knows if it'll work!

Regardless, they turn back to face the Clysmian.

"It is scary to not be able to talk. It is frightening...to have no form. You should have form, Lunata. You are precious to us. You are part of the plan."

They consider the Clysmian for a moment. There is not a lot of time, they suppose.

"It seems rational to shift to aggressive tactics."

Their arm suddenly enlongates rapidly, their body staying near Lunata and Shalune as it lashes out sharply and rapidly towards the Clysmian. Its decision to protect Lunata means it isn't going as aggressive on the beast as it should--

--but the gems are glowing again, suggesting this is not the end of its assault.

"We will eliminate you, Clysmian." OS says calmly. "The despair given onto you was given willingly. You have no right to protest your fate."

SIDE RACHIEL

Rachiel is stumbling. Volsung hits hard. She does see something, though--she sees Citan, there, unleashing the power of his ether in this moment. Her eyes widen.

"What..." She says, eyes wide. "You..." She stumbles towards him, gripping his arm. "Your style... Are you another defectee like Elly?"

She then grimaces, sinking to her knee, pain wracking her body. "Damn it... He got me good." The red wave of wrongness hits her in this moment and she cries out in agony, the grip on her sword weakening.

"I guess... it won't matter if we don't stop that bird." She pushes herself up to her feet unsteadily.

And she slams her blade into the ground, unleashing glaciers erupting away from her and towards Volsung in an attempt to keep him off his feet. "How is it... so many people manage to just leave... It doesn't make any sense."

She sounds both frustrated and dumbfounded but too pained to really capitalize on either. That link between her and OS shimmering faintly. Barely there due to being so far apart.

GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Rek'gora with Efficient Bladeworks!
GS: Lydia Seren enters a Counter stance!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Efficient Bladeworks for 66 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Yuna has posed.

Yuna is not surprised to have failed to finish off Rek'gora in a single moment of sheer overwhelming power, but Medium-sized Humanoid Volsung's survival causes her to gape -- then frown.

What it DOESN'T cause her to do is take even one step back.

 <SoundTracker> Oblivion - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izrVeU464XY&

          The endless lies, I've cast aside, locked them in ice
      Steeled is my soul, my blood grown cold, I've gained control

Shiva is

1) fire-weak

but

2) VERY motivated rn

and, for now at least, the latter outweighs the former. She takes Rek'gora's fireball head on, summoning yet more ice -- the aeon is kind of a one-trick pony that way -- except, wait; she didn't cast it at the Clysmian.

She cast it at herself, frost emitting from her palm, pressed to her chest, like a (frigid) shower. And by the time she's finished, the slag that one of her shoulders had become -- cracked and melted both -- is iced over. A scar remains, melted and refrozen 'flesh' creating a mingled, many-layered violet darkness against the paler blue of her normal hue. But she is... mostly... intact.

Her breath is visible, and comes quickly; she's panting with effort.

And she looks up at the Clysmian with a determined expression, the twin of Yuna's own.

          Fearless creatures, we all learn to fight the Reaper
            Can't defeat Her, so instead I'll have to be Her

Yuna is thoroughly distracted by the ongoing summoning of Shiva -- all but unaware of Volsung's revenge. So terribly open even at the best of times; she is abysmally vulnerable to an emotional assault.

She recognizes it only in Lulu's own response, after she's already been saved.

"Lulu," whispers Yuna, her hand over her heart yet again. "I-- you--"

At this point something... else, filters into her heart.

Darkness. Suffocation. Paralysis.

...awareness.

           These voices screaming to let it go (never let go)
          This time I'm screaming back no no no (go on say no)

"Lunata," she gasps. "Hang on!" Feeling positive about this development is ULTRA HERETICAL, but in Yuna's defense the Yevonite priestess isn't entirely sure of the other girl's whole deal; she's not from Spira! Maybe different rules apply! Yes, an excellent rationalization. That looks nothing like an Unsent, and therefore is not her duty to destroy. So her response is not to extend Shiva's untender mercies to the blob.

The frost giant parks herself in front of it instead, and takes a defensive position. One obviously determined to cover Jacqueline's arrival, and Shalune and the Rephraim's retreat.

"Lunata!" the summoner shouts again more loudly, for the benefit of people who might better encourage and tend to their loved one. People who have just arrived; they're way ahead of her, so this is more for the benefit of the other grievers, now. "She's still herself! It's really her!"

Shiva, half of whom is composed of the most reverent of the fayth, side-eyes Yuna a little. But Yuna is tough, and can take this gentle accusation of hypocrisy (doubled by her not immediately being asked to confront the gigantic, terrifying machina, and meets her aeon's stare dead on, and the fayth's, through her.

"Please," she implores her, as she did in Macalania. "We can do more than just save the world."

They remember what happened further down the mountain as one.

WE CAN MAKE IT ONE WORTH SAVING

Shiva's palm snaps forward again. When at first you don't succeed...

Blizzaga, Blizzaga again. Besides, the best defense is a good offense.

Timed alongside Lulu's, an immense ice crystal forms around Rek'gora, and because Shiva's hard core, it aims to center on the joint of one of his wings before she shatters it.

    {My mind's made up, yeah my fear is gone (Where have you gone?)}
                {Open my eyes now here I come, oblivion}

GS: Yuna has attacked Rek'gora with Blizzaga!
GS: Yuna has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Yuna assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Yuna has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora takes a glancing hit from Yuna's Blizzaga for 83 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Shifting to Silent Appreciation, says OS, and Ivan makes a small wordless sound of distress.

Ivan missed seeing Lunata's fate firsthand in the chaos of his clash with Rek'gora, but he hears Jacqueline's reaction, and looks over with wide-eyed concern at the grief in her voice. Have they lost Lunata?! It seems almost unreal to witness it as her sorrow transforms into rage.

If that's how this is going... if there's already this kind of a cost, they can't let this be wasted. They have to stop the generations of destruction this thing could cause.

Ivan sweeps his arms through the air, the movements awakening a cloud of flickering, sizzling stars in the air. He sends them on a breeze to Rek'gora, where they swirl for a peaceful, glittering moment before detonating into explosive bursts.

Around the same time, the Clysmian unleashes an arc of cutting light. Ivan springs into a backflip that launches him -- almost -- clear, but the blade of force catches one of his legs, cutting deep into it, and sending a bolt of pain up his body as he lands.

"Damn it..."

In the meantime, Lunata experiences a blob... revival!? But Ivan isn't quite versed enough in the ways of Lunata to fully grasp what's going on.

GS: Ivan spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Ivan has attacked Rek'gora with Stars of Fury!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    As focused as Gwen is on Rek'gora, Volsung manages to catch her off guard, again. Flames lick across Gwen's blouse, her body leaping away into the extinguishing cold embrace of red.

    Her clockwork heart beats in the languish space between seconds, ticking away. She can't move, she won't move, her mind trapped under the weight of whatever burns deep in Volsung's core. The blue-eyed assassin Isiris's influence wasn't exactly one of anger, but Gwen is a different matter, still subject to the whims of it, especially in this state.

    And so, in this moment, it infects her.
    
    Where her friends shout their assurances, their rallying cries for hope, the courier screams her rage.

    Pale blue markings flash up Gwen's ARM, their glowing, moving characters not matching the yellow gold that pulses in place underneath. People may be invested in the battle (and rightfully so), but some, like Ida, might recognize the characters being summoned, should they chance to look back at her.

    The underwater temple, at Spira. The way Gwen's ARM froze up when it touched the tablets.

    That's the very ice magic Gwen cases now, shouting her overflow of scorn to the skies above.

GS: Rek'gora takes a glancing hit from Ivan's Stars of Fury for 102 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

The Olivine Wind howls... and something new clings at Venetia, something horrid and lingering. A daunting sense of fear. The anger she has ridden in many cases does not suffice to push through it; she feels her skin prickle in gooseflesh. Here she feels exposed; the horror of knowing that only a parcel of air rests between her and what theory says must be a totally attenuated void, which may, perhaps, end at this Lunar planet, IF YOU'RE LUCKY--

This squeezing, desperate feeling is a lot worse than the fireball flying right at her.

Don't get things wrong, of course: the fireball is pretty bad. Venetia swings her rod forwards and there is another, smaller, more desperate invocation; a pillar of marble appears in front of her, managing mostly to turn a direct and no doubt agonizing impact into a burst of heat and blast that leaves the slaked fluxion of the marble falling to the side, fortunately away from anything in particular. That's thermal expansion. She sways for a moment.

Someone cheers for her.

Her jaw tightens and she lets her eyes flick towards Clarissa. Hope. What is hope? Is hope a radical risk? A decision? An attitude? A blessing? A curse?

"I haven't ever hurt more than this in my entire life," Venetia says, as a few stray droplets of her blood land on the ground and flash into reddish smears of frost. "All of this is a titanic pain in my ass. If battles like this have been going on in the corners of Filgaia then it's no surprise things are as awful as they are."

"And yet," Venetia continues, "and yet, even in our agony, even in our death, we become nothing more than - hah, that's it, isn't it. Yes... I wonder if they were watching the entire process somehow, or if someone's sent them a runner. Hah, hah..." Her head tilts back as she looks towards Volsung for a moment, sidewise, but in the chaos of battle it's probably pretty easy to overlook. Venetia, even if she flattered herself, is perhaps the sixth most incredible thing in this room right now (from an outside perspective; for the most incredible things are often the smallest.)

"It's cruel, isn't it," Venetia says aloud. "Given what made you... Rek'gora. But it is that and that reason alone that this is vital. Necessary - urgent, even. Oh, how I hate it! Were that we had been ten minutes faster. All of this could have been avoided. Ah well:"

Out comes the bronze tile - the battered one, that has been dropped so many times. "Better late than never. Once more, with feeling:"

"In the retort of the planet, all things must change. Stone itself is shaped anew, and what once was is lost in the inevitable turmoils..." The violet light rises upwards around her again, sparkling over ragged earrings. The light itself is ragged, as if pulling at the Ley, already strained as it is.

"Let the work of aeon be done in instants. Let tragedy be hurled into the flames, the story ended. Let the song of death end in a comic twist. ROAR, FURNACE!" The air, already twisted, twists again. There's a feeling of something going tik-tiik-tikkk--"Force Crusher!"

tik tik tik tik tik KHOOM! The noise is enormous as the air bursts out, expanding in a static and steady pattern, a noise like a string of massive fireworks going off. The sound waves are palpable as the bursts - containing hellish heat, massive force, yet barely any authentic flame (though indeed, just that tiny bit) - do not roll forwards, but instead struggle to keep themselves against the Clysmian's body. Venetia grasps the hilt of her rod with both hands, the Crest Graph pressed against it.

It's never felt hot before, Venetia thinks, even as she says aloud with that fury that has been dumped into her, "RIP APART! EXPLODE! BURST ASUNDER! Become the scrap of ages! Perish! And take your making with you!!"

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Rek'gora with Crown Flash!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Yuna with Crown Flash!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Seraph Boudicca with Crown Flash!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Volsung with Crown Flash!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Crown Flash for 94 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Cripple! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Venetia Vuong spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Venetia Vuong has attacked Rek'gora with Deepest Art: Force Crusher!
GS: Venetia Vuong has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Venetia Vuong has completed her action.
GS: Seraph Boudicca completely evades a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Crown Flash!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Boudicca gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Seraph Boudicca enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Yuna completely evades a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Crown Flash!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Yuna gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Volsung guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Crown Flash for 69 hit points!
GS: Cripple! applied to Volsung!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

'Know pain,' the Clysmian of Desperation rumbles at her, as it releases a blast of fire in her direction. Cecilia claws her hand to produce another sorcerous barrier, a skill she has taken to more and more from her time with the Earth Golem Asgard.

But before she can form the Leypoint into its proper shape, Volsung's power washes across her, suffocating her in an anger and hatred that chokes her. She claws at her throat like she were physically being stifled, and takes the blast of fire direclty, screaming as it sends her pinwheeling into the air. She lands hard at the end of her arc, slamming into the ground and only stopping by virtue of the angle of the field.

"Don't..." she seethes, the word feeling like fire in her chest. "Don't talk to me about PAIN, you newborn--"

Her fingers claw on her staff. She slams it tip-down into the ground. This one she screams at Volsung: "Stay out...OF MY THOUGHTS!"

"Material," she says, and a tablet rises up of its own accord.

And the whole sky goes dark, speckled starlight flickering into view. A tiny, flickering shooting star, arcing gently across the night sky, before it begins getting bigger....bigger....bigger....

The Star Guardian Rigdobrite stops only close enough to be a menacing presence, but far enough away that what it does next is plain, as it motions out to either side, and the air itself seems to lense and refract, pooling the light from the countless lights in the sky into glimmering pools.

They then FIRE downward, pillars of cool, silent starlight connecting heaven and earth with annihilating photonic power, blasting Rek'dora, Volsung, and his equipment, all at once.

GS: Cecilia Adlehyde enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Rek'gora with Material - Star Prism!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has attacked Volsung with Material - Star Prism!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has completed her action.
GS: Volsung guards a hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Material - Star Prism for 76 hit points!
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Venetia Vuong's Deepest Art: Force Crusher for 108 hit points!
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Cecilia Adlehyde's Material - Star Prism for 188 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Ida's desperate charge ends with Volsung clutching her hand, and looking her in the eyes. Her face is an ugly rictus of rage and desperation. "Shut up," she snarls. "You know NOTHING about me!"

    This, as they say, turns out to be a mistake.

    There's a blinding flash. Ida's world comes apart into heat and light and agony. A tortured scream tears from her throat, but even that feels distant. I'm in shock, she thinks. Just like when Harken cut her open and left her to bleed out on the sands at Lacour--a fate that would've been the end of her if she hadn't been protected by the coliseum's magics.

    Ida topples like a felled tree. She hits the stone, her arms and legs jerking from the impact. Two kinds of blood mingle in the great gory line that runs vertically down her torso, cutting through exoskeleton and flesh alike. Blood weeps from another half-dozen burn wounds. Ida gasps for breath, her eyes wide and staring into nothingness. Clarissa's exhortation, kind and courageous, sinks into the mire that is Ida's consciousness.

    'Don't let him get to you--'

    I must... I can't let him--Dean--I promised--

    not like this

    Ida's body jerks again. It shifts back, kicks itself up on its elbows and rolls forwards, onto its feet. Hyadean tissue stitches across its wounds. When Ida meets Volsung's gaze again, one of her eyes is brilliant green. She glances around as if she'd somehow found herself in the middle of the mayhem with no explanation whatsoever. Her gaze settles on Volsung again, and her lips part in a snarl.

    In the blink of an eye, Ida charges. Her hands shift, subtly, the armor around them thickening and sharpening into blades. Her stance, her strikes, the way she carries herself--everything has changed. Volsung has scant seconds before she drives both bladed hands at him, whirling and stabbing and slicing. It's not a style Ida has ever used before.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Inhalation!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has launched an attack Link!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey's  stance ends. She enters the Avenger stance!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Inhalation for 0 hit points!
GS: Amplify! applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes an additional 5 damage from Reaper!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Volsung with Flash-Fire Onslaught!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Disease and Reaper expired!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Volsung guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Flash-Fire Onslaught for 59 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Boudicca has posed.

    It's cold, but the Seraph Boudicca is fuel for her own fire, so it's fine.

    She's not so occupied with Shiva, in any case. Not when her friends are -- "IDA!"

    And then it's red. Red is not a temperature so much as a presence, consumptive and far-reaching, and Boudicca moves but she cannot move fast enough.

    A ring to bind her, and a fireball descends; Boudicca crosses her tonfa and stands as it washes over her, sups on that oxygen just the same.

    Fire consumes, and hatred does, too.

    In the ashes lies --

    Boudicca, who does not burn away, straightens up.

    "I hear you," she says, to the Clymsian. "I hear your pain. I hear your fear. I hear your suffering. Yes, I confess --"

    She bullies forward a step, out of the ring of anger.

    "-- I hate your pain. I hate your fear. I hate your suffering."

    Another.

    "I hate that you are in pain. I hate that you are afraid. I hate that you must suffer."

    Another!

    "But I do not hate you, Clysmian, no more than I hate the storm, or the avalanche, or the flood."

    Another, and she is free, just in time for Gwen's rage to meet her. Ice courses up from the earth but suddenly Boudicca is not on the earth; she springs up, easily double her height, and the breeze carries her away from the chill magic of her spires.

    She lands. She slips her tonfa back to her belt; it is with empty hands that she slips one finger over another in the click of flint on steel. It is a flame which sparks in Ida, first; it is a thing which must spark in Ida, first. Hatred consumes but so does fire, and the purifying flames of Moor Gault are not so destructive, now: they weave through her, out from her.

    They touch the initiate Dean Stark, they find a home there.

    They touch the angry Gwen Whitlock, and despite her misplaced destruction they do not burn.

    They touch the summoner, Yuna, and they are gentle hearthfire which does not melt her compatriot.

    Out further and further they spread, a challenger to hatred and fear and pain. That warmth even reaches the strange black pool of Lunata, though in a gentler, milder form; Boudicca would hate to expose her to too much, in her formation.

    Moor Gault's flame will burn a path to their salvation, a fire fed by...

    The Seraph Boudicca is air: around her, it is hot.

GS: Seraph Boudicca has activated a Force Action!
GS: Seraph Boudicca spends 2 Combo on Inspire and Reload!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Rekindling Breeze!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Dean Stark with Rekindling Breeze!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Rekindling Breeze!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Yuna with Rekindling Breeze!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Venetia Vuong with Rekindling Breeze!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Rekindling Breeze!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Mariel with Rekindling Breeze!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Lydia Seren with Rekindling Breeze!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has completed her action.
GS: Yuna takes a solid hit from Seraph Boudicca's Rekindling Breeze for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Stagger removed!
GS: Reload! Yuna gains 15 extra FP from Seraph Boudicca!
GS: Yuna gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Venetia Vuong takes a solid hit from Seraph Boudicca's Rekindling Breeze for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken removed!
GS: Reload! Venetia Vuong gains 15 extra FP from Seraph Boudicca!
GS: Venetia Vuong gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Dean Stark takes a solid hit from Seraph Boudicca's Rekindling Breeze for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken removed!
GS: Dean Stark enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Reload! Dean Stark gains 15 extra FP from Seraph Boudicca!
GS: Dean Stark gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Mariel takes a solid hit from Seraph Boudicca's Rekindling Breeze for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken removed!
GS: Reload! Mariel gains 15 extra FP from Seraph Boudicca!
GS: Mariel gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Seraph Boudicca's Rekindling Breeze for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken removed!
GS: Lydia Seren enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Reload! Lydia Seren gains 15 extra FP from Seraph Boudicca!
GS: Lydia Seren gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Seraph Boudicca's Rekindling Breeze for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken removed!
GS: Reload! Gwen Whitlock gains 15 extra FP from Seraph Boudicca!
GS: Gwen Whitlock gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde takes a solid hit from Seraph Boudicca's Rekindling Breeze for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken removed!
GS: Reload! Cecilia Adlehyde gains 15 extra FP from Seraph Boudicca!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Seraph Boudicca's Rekindling Breeze for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Stagger removed!
GS: Reload! Ida Everstead-Rey gains 15 extra FP from Seraph Boudicca!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey gains a Combo from Inspire!
<Pose Tracker> Volsung has posed.

Volsung barely seems to acknowledge the fact that his offensive has bled into Rek'gora directly. Maybe he thinks the Clysmian can take it. And it clearly can.

And return to sender.

Volsung feels a crackle of heat dancing at his cheek amidst the lingering chill. His blue eyes turn in the direction of the blazing flame the Clysmian of Desperation summons against him.

The Lord of the Veruni sighs.

"The young and their tantrums--"

FWOOSH

Swinging up the Gram-Zanber, Volsung intercepts that gout of flame with the broad side of his blade. The force of it is enough to push him backwards, heels dragging furrows across hard earth before he -disperses- the torrent with the -violent- swing of his massive weapon.

"-- ... it's cute, how they flail," he muses to himself in the aftermath, pushing those glasses up the bridge of his nose.

"You should content yourself playing with your toys for now. I'll get to you soon enough."

And, indeed, the hum of the pillars begins to grow ever-louder.

    The thrum of energy netting the skies above, ever-thicker.

Flame and heat is still clinging to Volsung and his weapon by the time Claude bears down upon the Veruni. Claude isn't wrong, of course, about not wanting to give an advanced warning -- a fact that instantly outs in the way Volsung's cold gaze snaps towards the Boy from Earth the second that Claude falls back into his personal space. Claude never lets up. Despite all the abuse he has taken, he keeps going, with force and determination that would put even the boldest to shame.

Volsung answers it, time and again, his great blade whipping around in his hand like it weighed no more than a parrying sword, deflecting cut after cut, dissipating energy blasts across the carving thrust of each stroke such that only diminished, plasmic heat peppers across him.

He answers every attack, blow for blow. But Claude is determined. Claude is bold. And even if Volsung is dismantling his offensive, the young man is also keeping the Veruni leader completely occupied in those moments, not allowing enough of an opening to detach in pursuit of those attacking the Clysmian.

But nothing lasts forever. A final wave of chi geysers from the earth as Claude lands --

--and Volsung, improbably, cleaves it straight in two.

The explosion of impact is a grand one, brief but blinding in its excess. Wind gushes around them.

And there, in the aftermath, stands Volsung, all that red dancing around him like the ghosts of the past, a mass of trailing spectres and strange power as he straightens slowly, -ripping- the Gram-Zanber from the earth.

"Apparently," says Volsung, "not stubborn enough--"

<Pose Tracker> Volsung has posed.

Volsung is proven wrong when Claude occupies his attention exactly long enough for Dean to get a perfect opening.

The Twin Fenrir open fire in a prolonged volley that blitzes Volsung from his left, the ceaseless volley blindsiding Volsung and peeling him away from Claude. That final, single shot, combined with Claude's distraction and the surprise assault?

It's enough to actually knock Volsung off his feet, the explosive burst of flaming energy and raw force ripping him backwards until he crashes into the rocks with an ungodly CRACK.

Gravity takes hold. He slumps forward, but Volsung lands on his feet, head bowed, body swaying slightly.

He straightens slowly --

-- and wipes the tiniest trail of scarlet blood from his lips.

His fury is a more palpable thing in his stare than the rest of his cold expression as it falls upon Dean, lingering upon those ARMs of his with a certain, explicit kind of recognition for what they are.

Dean demands his question. And perhaps even more infuriating than the metaphysical fury he is literally poisoning the fabric of space with --

-- is the fact that Volsung just answers with a smile.

One of those mysterious, knowing smiles.

You know the one.

If there's more to be said, though, it's lost in the arrival of the great golem that is Diablo. Blue eyes actually widen fractionally in understated surprise as the mammothing thing crashes into his protective space, head snapping in its direction. His gaze narrows -- and it is then that the man finds himself in the midst of a blitz once more. Ida launches herself at him with a furious flurry; blades cut and carve through clothes; the Gram-Zanber is too large and unwieldy even for him to defend from this kind of an attack, and so?

And so, he -hurls it into the air-, and proceeds to start blocking with his bare hands, the sharpened blades her arms have become deflecting off of impossibly dense skin, gouging little scrapes with each blow as he pushes further and further into Ida in the midst of her potent, and unexpected strike.

You know NOTHING about me, she had said.

"I know," he begins, as he seizes those sharpened hands in his own, gloved pair,

    "everything about that look. I suppose you think you'll be a bridge, don't you?"

His hands squeeze more tightly, like a vice. He leans in, as if to share a precious secret.

"All you'll end up doing is watch them burn down everything around you. Nature abhors aberrance."

And here, he -shoves- her back.

"But not nearly as much as people do."

But any rebuttal is waylaid by the return of Rigdobrite's manifestation. Refracting lights BOMBARD Volsung in starlight -- it is a shimmering field of crimson that meets it head on as he thrusts his palms forward, rebuffing so much of that devastating power before more pummels through, engulfing him within its fury. Once more consumed in light, it does not last long before he -punctures- through, Gram-Zanber falling into his waiting grasp just in time to point it, tip-first, towards Cecilia.

He never makes it before more blistering cold assaults him from his left, Gwen's overflow -slamming- into him unexpectedly. He reacts swiftly. His weapon swings.

And the cold SHATTERS across Gram-Zanber's blade in a thousand frozen shards even as he -pushes- toward her, every swing shattering and discarding more and more. And more. And more.

He is covered with frost by the time he reaches her, glowing that horrifying, mysterious crimson. The blade lifts.

"Someone did this to you, didn't they?" he muses.

"Someone has been doing things they shouldn't. I'll have to correct this."

And in one singularly simple sweep, he brings that massive blade cleaving downward towards Gwen.

The second it hits something -- her, the earth, anyone else, it matters little -- the air around them all fluctuates. Veruni sorcery, so much like Ether, exerts its will upon this space once more. Cyre commands the winds with aplomb.

And now Volsung does, too, as moisture rapidly thickens and congeals. As winds grow more and more violent.

As Volsung summons a tiny hurricane in the middle of a mountain.

Winds whip violently, and slowly, twisters contrail out of the blistering mass of clouds, whipping about to catch anyone within their path up in the sheer force of nature that Volsung has summoned here with crushing, monumental force.

And in the center of it, Volsung stands.

The red growing brighter.

The hate growing greater.

Feeding off desperation as only hatred truly can.

He is preparing something. . .

GS: Volsung has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Tyrant Edge!
GS: Volsung has activated a Boss Action!
GS: Volsung has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Sky Twister!
GS: Volsung has attacked Lydia Seren with Sky Twister!
GS: Volsung has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Sky Twister!
GS: Volsung has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Sky Twister!
GS: Volsung has attacked Citan Uzuki with Sky Twister!
GS: Volsung has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Sky Twister!
GS: Volsung has attacked Dean Stark with Sky Twister!
GS: Mighty expired!
GS: Volsung has completed his action.
DC: 3 turns have elapsed in the battle against Volsung! 2 turns remain!
GS: CRITICAL! Clarissa Arwin takes a glancing hit from Volsung's Sky Twister for 152 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Clarissa Arwin enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Claude C. Kenny critically Guards a hit from Volsung's Sky Twister for 36 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a glancing hit from Volsung's Tyrant Edge for 89 hit points!
GS: Mighty! applied to Volsung!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Rek'gora has posed.

Another gunshot, this with Symbological enchantments, slams into Rek'gora. The Clysmian shudders -- the body spasms -- but he doesn't fall. His heart, it seems, is not so easily reached.

Rek'gora turns, again, and screeches down at Rikku. He sees the grenade hurled up, and this time, knowing what it might do, bats it aside with his beak. But not a moment before it gets a little distance away, it explodes. Fiery blast after fiery blast tears into Rek'gora.

The Clysmian screeches, sent back down towards the ground. Jacqueline hurls a bottle for Rek'gora, and it shatters, bursting across the creature. The Clysmian shudders, as the fluid begins to seep into him. He starts to move backward, but then Mariel's salt strikes.

There is a flash of white, purifying light. Some of the golden aura surrounding the creature diminishes. The chains rattle, mightily.

And then a titanic explosion echoes through the air. Diablo, the Golem, rises, and its beam of light smashes into Rek'gora, hard enough to slam the Clysmian into one of the pillars creating Volsung's barrier. The thing's wings beat, as he turns and screams defiance at the ancient Golem.

But, blessedly ignores Shalune as she runs to Lunata, or what she has become.

Stormclouds come at Cyre's back and call, smashing the creature back to the earth. The Clysmian rises again, but this is a staggered and beleaguered process. Lulu takes a blow for her Summoner, and repays the Clysmian in kind. Ice slams into Rek'gora, an entombment that ends in ice shredding into flesh.

Feathers and motes of light and dark are blown away in the wake of her spell. Tesni's flame impacts, a moment later. The creature seems off balance, as OS's blades cut in -- but to the flank, as Rek'gora turns to meet them. But that buys time...

<Pose Tracker> Rek'gora has posed.

...and Shiva's ice rises up. It slams into Rek'gora from behind, slashing into the Clysmian from several angles. More motes fly, and the creature's neck arches back and screams. Ice is joined by flame, not a moment later, as Ivan's swarm of fire bolts scream in, and smash into the creature on his side.

Rek'gora, under such an assault, cannot stop to appreciate the light on Gwen's ARM. Rek'gora can, however, appreciate the way that ice rains down. The Clysmian breaks free, flying up -- and then ice smashes him back down. The chains rattle against the ground with the impact. Venetia explains the necessity of his demise...

And there is a massive ka-thwoom as the blast of heat and force rock through his form. The Clysmian is incinerated, but not destroyed. He is struck, not a moment later, by the blasts of starfire, which shoot down from the heavens at Cecilia's command.

The creature screams over them. Over the cacophany of battle. Over the tears being shed, the despair, and the desperation. In the moment, it is only his own desperation that Rek'gora feels.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVAgd9dbYIs&

The chains around Rek'gora fly out every which way, slamming into the ground. Chips of stone and broken rock fly up as they do, and those chains strain as Rek'gora rises higher, and higher, and higher still. The golden nimbus around it gathers and grows and brightens. It changes, from a pale gold to a deep one, almost red.

And in a moment, Rek'gora is glorious. Rek'gora is what he could be: a Guardian, newly risen, to claim his domain in the fabric of this existence. The wave of desperation that rides forth proclaims his coming.

And the chains
    creak, twist, and groan
        and SHATTER into a thousand pieces.

Rek'gora's wings unfurl -- and then another set that were bound, rendering him a four-winged creature. Another six eyes open, these alongside his neck, and when he screeches, two purpole tongues tremble under the twin-echo of, now, two voices.

And then Rek'gora flies high up into the air, golden aura bright as the sun than dries and kills the land. It burns bright -- and then Rek'gora SLAMS down into the center of the crater. The fiery, terrible shockwave that explodes sends rocks flying, flame spewing, and shakes pillars and the crater wall with its fury.

GS: Rek'gora spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Rek'gora with Summoning of Will!
GS: Rek'gora has launched an attack Link!
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Rek'gora's Summoning of Will for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Hex removed!
GS: Hyper and Quick! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Rek'gora with Unending Fear!
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Rek'gora's Unending Fear for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Disrupt, Mute, Stagger, and Weaken removed!
GS: Lock State! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Rek'gora spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Violet Salazar with Calamitous Impact!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Calamitous Impact!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Rikku with Calamitous Impact!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Calamitous Impact!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Mariel with Calamitous Impact!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Shalune Amira with Calamitous Impact!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Calamitous Impact!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Lulu with Calamitous Impact!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Tesni Inoue with Calamitous Impact!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Citan Uzuki with Calamitous Impact!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Lydia Seren with Calamitous Impact!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Yuna with Calamitous Impact!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Ivan with Calamitous Impact!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Calamitous Impact!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Venetia Vuong with Calamitous Impact!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Cecilia Adlehyde with Calamitous Impact!
GS: Rek'gora has attacked Seraph Boudicca with Calamitous Impact!
GS: Rek'gora takes 23 damage from Poison!
GS: Cripple, Entangle, Jam, Poison, and Shieldbreak expired!
GS: Rek'gora has completed his action.
GS: Clarissa Arwin takes a glancing hit from Rek'gora's Calamitous Impact for 101 hit points!
GS: Clarissa Arwin's Force Evade activates!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Mariel takes a glancing hit from Rek'gora's Calamitous Impact for 96 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Mariel gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Mariel's Force Evade activates!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Rikku takes a solid hit from Rek'gora's Calamitous Impact for 210 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rikku gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Seraph Boudicca guards a hit from Rek'gora's Calamitous Impact for 120 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Boudicca gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Seraph Boudicca's Force Guard activates!
GS: COUNTER! Lydia Seren counterattacks Rek'gorawith Counter Attack!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Rek'gora's Calamitous Impact for 135 hit points!
GS: Violet Salazar completely evades a hit from Rek'gora's Calamitous Impact!
GS: Violet Salazar enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Shalune Amira takes a solid hit from Citan Uzuki's Reishou for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Shalune Amira gains 15 extra FP from Citan Uzuki!
GS: Shalune Amira gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Counter Attack for 66 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rek'gora gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Shalune Amira takes a glancing hit from Rek'gora's Calamitous Impact for 102 hit points!
GS: Shalune Amira's Force Evade activates!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a glancing hit from Rek'gora's Calamitous Impact for 104 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Gwen Whitlock enters Critical health and gains 25 FP!
GS: Gwen Whitlock enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Volsung's Sky Twister for 118 hit points!
GS: Yuna guards a hit from Rek'gora's Calamitous Impact for 137 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Yuna gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has activated a Force Action!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde takes a solid hit from Volsung's Sky Twister for 121 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde takes a solid hit from Rek'gora's Calamitous Impact for 211 hit points!
GS: Cecilia Adlehyde has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Tesni Inoue guards a hit from Rek'gora's Calamitous Impact for 113 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Tesni Inoue enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Disease and Reaper expired!
GS: Yuna used Defend! She takes Volsung's attack on Ida Everstead-Rey on herself!
GS: Citan Uzuki completely evades a hit from Volsung's Sky Twister!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Citan Uzuki gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Citan Uzuki guards a hit from Rek'gora's Calamitous Impact for 124 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Citan Uzuki gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Yuna takes a solid hit from Volsung's Sky Twister for 400 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Yuna gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Yuna enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Jacqueline Barber guards a hit from Rek'gora's Calamitous Impact for 111 hit points!
GS: Jacqueline Barber's Force Guard activates!
GS: Dean Stark critically Guards a hit from Volsung's Sky Twister for 33 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Dean Stark gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Yuna used Defend! She takes Rek'gora's attack on Lulu on herself!
<Pose Tracker> Violet Salazar has posed.

Violet stares as Red'gora launches itself skyward, glorious and glowing, its second pair of wings newly-freed, additional eyes sprouting.

It evolves.

She is lost in wonder at its transformation for a moment, then comes to her senses as it plummets earthward. Violet throws herself behind one of Volsung's pillars as the Clysmian crashes to the ground in a splendid destructive display, luminous and lurid. She remembers her purpose and aims once more at Rek'gora and fires, aiming for it's center eye. That was bound to be a vulnerable area, right?

GS: Venetia Vuong critically Guards a hit from Rek'gora's Calamitous Impact for 39 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: CRITICAL! Ivan takes a solid hit from Rek'gora's Calamitous Impact for 219 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Ivan gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Yuna takes a solid hit from Rek'gora's Calamitous Impact for 288 hit points!
GS: Violet Salazar spends 4 Combo on Headshot and Gatling, loading 2 into Gatling!
GS: Violet Salazar enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Violet Salazar has attacked Rek'gora with Finishing Touch!
GS: Violet Salazar has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Violet Salazar's Finishing Touch for 94 hit points!
GS: Jam! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Shield! applied to Violet Salazar!
GS: CRITICAL! Cyre H. Lorentz takes a solid hit from Rek'gora's Calamitous Impact for 234 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Cyre H. Lorentz gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Clarissa Arwin has posed.

Clarissa curls her hand at her heart as she turns to look towards Yuna, her lips parting a little.

Then she breaks into a radiant smile. Her eyes practically shine. "We can make it the best and happiest world it can possibly be," she says, her emotions rising into her throat. There's not a spark of sadness or fear there - only hope and the dazzling warmth of pure positive energy.

That smile vanishes when she's suddenly struck by a blast of wind from someone she didn't expect to particularly bother her. When Volsung unleashes the twister, Clarissa's completely blindsided by it, pushed down against the turf with a pained wince. She throws her arm up to try and shield herself, but the winds pick up enough to slam her violently into the edge of the crater. She bounces once or twice, squeaking in pain before rolling back to one knee with a grimace.

That's when Rek'gora breaks its chains. Clarissa looks up with a stab of horror.

The Clysmian slams into the earth with an impact as terrible as it is spectacular - and Clarissa's there at the edge of the crater. The blast wave slams across her with an all-consuming fury. Fire and force swirl around her, swallowing the girl up entirely. She's gone, obscured from view, as if burned away entirely. Another casualty in this battle against a thing that should not be.

"Clarissa!" Felius shouts from the edge of the field, his normally stoic calm broken by a note of panic. He's been entirely useless in this battle - Rek'gora is a flier, and Felius is a close-range fighter. Nevertheless he rushes forward, only for the shockwave to throw him back.

The rumble of fire is suddenly pierced by a voice - high and clear.

"Felius!!"

Pushing through the fire, Clarissa crosses an arm across her face to try and shield her eyes from the worst of the damage. She's badly battered, blood running down her chin and arms and scorch marks riddling her clothing. Her blonde hair billows behind her like a rolling cloud.

But she's standing. Her bright blue-green eyes flare with something clear and intent.

The light of desire gleams like sparks in her vision. "I can't let it be this way," she declares, the weight of her emotions pulsing in her voice like blood through a vein. "I want more than to save the Filgaia we have today... I want to make it better! With all my heart!"

In the bore of Strahl Gewehr, light shines, dazzling and pure. Her heart races as she levels the ARM into the firestorm. "With all my heart!!" she cries, her voice afire with a defiant hope - hurling it into the face of desperation.

She fires --

    A blinding light fills the crater for a single, pristine moment. It is so bright that it can be seen for miles away - and with it, the earth itself rolls and shakes as if in awe.

The blast that erupts from the bore of Strahl Gewehr is like the sun itself descending on the battlefield. For just a moment, even the golden light of the Desperation Clysmian seems dim by comparison. Raw power pours into the shot, pounding towards Rek'gora with immense force.

GS: Clarissa Arwin spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Clarissa Arwin enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Courageous Heart!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has launched an attack Link!
GS: Clarissa Arwin takes a solid hit from Clarissa Arwin's Courageous Heart for 0 hit points!
GS: Surge! applied to Clarissa Arwin!
GS: Mighty and Riposte! applied to Clarissa Arwin!
GS: Clarissa Arwin spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Clarissa Arwin enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has attacked Rek'gora with Soul Survivor!
GS: Clarissa Arwin has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Clarissa Arwin's Soul Survivor for 150 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

    There are voices crying out. Voices crying out to their closest friends, their steadfast allies; the voices of Volsung denouncing those resisting him. The voices speaking against Rek'Gora. And voices... to the black blob.

    ...Lunata...?

                     ...who is it...?
                     I can't think...
                     It's so difficult...

    The blob believes it cannot feel, but that is wrong. People are calling out to... people are calling out to a person called 'Lunata'. People are mourning for the memory of 'Lunata'. And with each cry, with each fervent voice representing hope, so does the curtain of hopelessness peel away.

                                               What is this...
                                           The feeling of a...
                                                 ...Memory...?

    Lunie!

    Something enormous stirs, rippling the pool upon which the blob barely stands upon. A white-winged machine, a Gear whose visage should ripple fear and conflict and anxiety within her. Yet right now--

                         ...what is this...?
                     What is this
                     feeling...
                     Something... is
                     beckoning...!

    Shalune pulls down beside her, and though she cannot see or feel or hear right now, she is movable. Even as Diablo descends upon the battlefield, showing its crimson presence onto the field as it turns to engage the Clysmian.

    It'll be okay... Jay's here...
      we got you...
        ... we've got you.

    OS reaches towards the blob, next to Shalune, for but a moment. Is OS going to hurt or collect her? No, she... pets the blob, not unlike how a dog may be pet to soothe.

    It is scary... to not be able to talk.
      You should have form...
        You are precious to us.

                     Precious...
                                          I am... precious...
                                          Someone... I should
                                          know...
                     They are someone
                     I...

    The goop shifts as OS injects something into it, as if moving by sheer instinct. It stumbles with each step -- no, what it does cannot even be considered a step, more like a bristling as its liquid-like mass shifts against the considerable forces acting upon it. It is small enough, insignificant enough, that the enormous, crushing force that Volsung summons does not quite fling it off--

    --insignificant enough that in its moment of Glory, the chains that finally break from around Rek'gora do not strike it, that the fiery and horrible shockwave, even if it threatens to peel it off, do not quite do the rest of the job.

    The goop strugglers further, closer to Jacqueline and Citan.

    She can hear their voices coming in, ever closer, ever more solid and coherent...

    ...it's okay! I can hear you!
      Please,
      don't be afraid!

    ...Does your heart still hurt?
      If it does... then you must know.

    Lunata! She's still herself!
      It's really her!

                            My heart... my fear...
                                My emotions...
                              I can feel them...
                              ...Yuna... Citan...
                            ...OS... ...Shalune...
                               ...Jacqueline...
                            ...and so many more...

    The goop, finally, reaches its destination-- the sword, which Citan had planted back upon the ground. Slowly, it entwines along its blade, the ornate weapon appearing as if it had just slaked its thirst upon a viscious and inky monster...

    The sword flies.

    The weapon retreats to its source -- the open cockpit which Shalune had just leapt out of. The Gear's open cockpit is engulfed but for a brief moment, the blackened consciousness that is Lunata Croze spilling over its seat.

    And from within that consciousness--

                                   I will...

    A hand seizes up. A hand, five fingers formed from it; an elbow, a forearm, and a shoulder... a head, with a familiar shoulder-length cut of hair.

                                   I will...

    The manifestation of the girl whose very life ended within this very seat. The manifestation of the girl whose thoughts and feelings will forever be conveyed upon the gimballed sphere within this machine, key by the Artificial Medium... and now...

                                I... I will...
                                   I will...
                              "I WILL LIVE...!!"

DC: Lunata Croze switches forms to XG-00 Winged Gear Rephaim!
<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.
                      /V\
                      \ /
                       %
                      /x\
                   __--|---__
                .-``- |||  -``-.
              .``     |||      ``.
             ||       |||        ||
             ||       % %        ||/\ ,-.
             ||       <o>====>>>>>|-%X%--->
             ||                  ||\/ `-`
              .                  .
               ``.            .``   HIRASAKA O.S. v0.37
                `.`-_________-.`
                   `---------`

    Undead Girl's Unilateral Ugly Nightmarish Delusions Are Manifest
                         -= O.S. v0.23 build 29518 =-
                    branch hirasaka/xg00-29158-pc499-11-13
               calibration offset acquired ... checksum verified
               in exchange for the power thou hast requested...
                 resetting to zero-point moment ... cpg online
                   control module reassigned ... identified
           i hath received the defrayal of thine soul's sacrifice...
           molecular ion pump accessed ... cortex module established
          neural linkage network check ... pilot preset incompatible
                          thine due is the sum of...
                                    devour
                                    devour
                                    devour
                                    devour
              restart feed-forward control ... transfer functions
                        correct for Coriolis effect...
                                  successful

                                 XG-00 Rephaim
                                    ONLINE

    (BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vuh_mmx7Wuk )

    An enormous burst of light floods the crater, centred around the white Gear now suddenly functioning. Next to Diablo, and arguably Shiva, it is one of the three Gear-capable combatants that have now suddenly joined into the fray. It rears back with its mechanical arm--

    "My body... hurts... everything hurts..."

    And where it lacks diamond dust, or the crimson winds of one of the Eight Golems, or the enormity of the power wielded by the Lord of the Veruni nor an awakened Clysmian... Lunata lifts her head, a fresh and trembling but reconstituted body at the controls of the Gear.

    "...and that's proof enough that...
    I am alive!!!!"

    --and SLAMS its palm onto Rek'gora's head, bearing its full weight down upon the Clysmian of Desperation in its moment, discharging the entire sum payload of the Ley stored within it.

GS: Lunata Croze has attacked Rek'gora with XA-MA4 Palma Fiocina!
GS: Lunata Croze has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lunata Croze has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Lunata Croze's XA-MA4 Palma Fiocina for 119 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

Mariel feels a pulse of heat, pushing her upward and onward. It is Boudicca, but it takes Mariel a moment to realize that because she sees another source of flame. Dazed as she is, she still rises up for the arrival of a Golem from the past. Her eyes widen.

"You, too?" she says, slightly thick-tongued still as she shakes off the impact from the fall. "I thought - you could finally rest..." But for all that she wished she lived in a world where the Golems were not necessary, against a Clysmian is probably the best way they could be used and remembered.

She shoves herself up to her feet, searching in her bag already. They need supplies - people are hurt, she can see so many injured and her heart goes out to them. Shiva takes blows meant for another, and Mariel winces at every one, assembling what she's making from her bag.

It appears to be a ball slightly bigger than a big man's two fists together, on a long chain. Except the ball opens up, and Mariel pours two bottles - blue and white and faintly sparkling - into a chamber inside. She lights a match off her boot, ignites something inside the ball before closing it up, and then very deliberately grinds the match out when she drops it even though it can't possibly do more than scorch a bit of grass.

Priorities.

Every time Rek'gora screams, though, Mariel hesitates for just an instant. The desperation urges her on even as she hates the feeling, knowing that it is a part of the Clysmian, the thing that should not be here on Filgaia, but also a part of her. It *explodes* into energy on its landing, causing Mariel to stumble as she tries to leap it and almost succeeds, landing on her feet but staggering wildly, the pain in her head thumping every time she moves.

And then Mariel unlimbers the chain. She holds a couple feet of chain between her hands, but raises her right - the one with the ball - over her head, and she begins to spin it. Faster, faster...

Smoke - no, mist - issues from the strange thurible as Mariel sweeps it around and around. The sparkling, life-storing liquid, heated, becomes a fog that surrounds Mariel that revitalizes even as she starts to walk across an arc of the battlefield. She is heading toward Cecilia, having seen her go down - but the mist goes as it will, blown here and there by Volsung's tornado as much as anything else.

GS: Mariel spends 1 Combo on Reload!
GS: Mariel has attacked Seraph Boudicca with Ambrosia!
GS: Mariel has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Ambrosia!
GS: Mariel has attacked Yuna with Ambrosia!
GS: Mariel has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Ambrosia!
GS: Mariel has attacked Lulu with Ambrosia!
GS: Mariel has attacked Rikku with Ambrosia!
GS: Mariel has attacked Venetia Vuong with Ambrosia!
GS: Mariel has attacked Clarissa Arwin with Ambrosia!
GS: Mariel has attacked Mariel with Ambrosia!
GS: Mariel has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Mariel has completed her action.
GS: Mariel heals Clarissa Arwin! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Reload! Clarissa Arwin gains 15 extra FP from Mariel!
GS: Mariel heals Rikku! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Reload! Rikku gains 15 extra FP from Mariel!
GS: Mariel heals Lulu! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Reload! Lulu gains 15 extra FP from Mariel!
GS: Mariel heals Seraph Boudicca! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Reload! Seraph Boudicca gains 15 extra FP from Mariel!
GS: Mariel heals Mariel! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Mariel's Reload flag cannot target herself!
GS: Mariel heals Yuna! She gains 500 temporary hit points!
GS: Reload! Yuna gains 15 extra FP from Mariel!
GS: Mariel heals Venetia Vuong! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Venetia Vuong enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Reload! Venetia Vuong gains 15 extra FP from Mariel!
GS: Mariel heals Cyre H. Lorentz! He gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Reload! Cyre H. Lorentz gains 15 extra FP from Mariel!
<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

As the battle rages on the nano forge in the Dead Man's ARM, advanced technology has finished working the round she needed has been produced it's loaded into the chamber. She sees her firebolt strike ture she keeps moving. Aeons are summoned, high powered weapon deployed magic of all sorts is let loose upon Rek'Gora. People from both Lunar and Falgaia fighting this thing together. She becomes aware the round is done and she'll finally draw the Dead Man's Arm. the ARM doesn't look to be the most advanced on ea she doe so but she's cut short by the powerful counter-attack come he way she's done flying she foes flying. She impacts the ground rolling over several times before it halts. She's left battered and shaken.

 She still grips the ARM and slowly she rises to her feet and keeps the weapon held close she'll bring it up and look down its simple-seeming scope, as she does so she'll see the displays giving targeting information and the display noting the round's indeed ready. She will carefully line up the shot aiming for Rek'Groa's head.

 She holds her breath makes sure the shot is lined up and fires. The ARM lets off a thunderous crack as it fire and the round is let slip it tears across the gap between Tesni and Rek'Gora. If it impacts it will burrow into Rek'Gora form and detonate once it has penetrated as its high powered payload will detonate ith enough force that it could ravage a Gear. What will it do to something like this? Tes has no idea an can only pray it helps. Jay is trying to help Lunata, Mariel is down but alive from her effort. She's going to have to move, fast, very fast here.

 "The people have given their answer they will live they will fight to live they will not give in to their despair. This world is worth fighting for it's worth saving. There is so much awaiting ... it one day. I WILL NOT SEE THAT DREAM SNUFFED OUT BY YOU!"

GS: Tesni Inoue has attacked Rek'gora with Dead Man's Hand!
GS: Tesni Inoue has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Tesni Inoue has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Tesni Inoue's Dead Man's Hand for 158 hit points!
GS: Break! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Claude C. Kenny spends 1 Combo on Gatling, loading 1 into Gatling!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Volsung with Dragon's Howl!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: Volsung guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Dragon's Howl for 62 hit points!
GS: Mighty! applied to Claude C. Kenny!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny is getting a sense for this Veruni creature, after half a dozen exchanges. Volsung is tough, and powerful. Composed of a certain... something (an essence?) that allows him to shake off heavy shots. But he's not, strictly speaking, a trained fighter. There are gaps in the Veruni's technique that he can see. And if can hit them, he can make Volsung bleed. "And if it bleeds," Claude growls, "Then we can---"

          --PRIORITY ONE ALERT--
PRIMARY TARGET VITAL SIGNS IN SERIOUS DISTRESS

Claude's head turns back toward where Cecilia was fighting, a curse dying on his lips. He grits his teeth as his HUD lights up her unconscious form; he skims the readings quickly. Out but not dying, he thinks, turning his head back; he doesn't want to draw Volsung's attention to her. Not yet, anyway. He licks his lips nervously. Cecilia is way too important to die here - the Guardians aren't through with her yet. She needs to live. Which means he needs to get her out of here. But at the same time, the Guardians sent her here to stop this thing's birth. What would she want him to do?

Volsung puts paid to Claude's speculation, charging a massive sorcerous attack. Claude can feel the humidity shifting, feel the air getting thicker. He has a good feeling about what's going to come. And if he can manage to survive it, take advantage of the opening after Volsung launches his big shot - he may be able to put the Veruni down. But first he has to survive.

Volsung lets fly with a hurricane, calling on winds from the roof of the world. Claude C. Kenny draws in a breath, and sends his will down into the opposite direction - deep into the bones of the earth.

He whispers a short phrase, all but lost in the howling winds.

Claude plants his feet, cracking the stone beneath him as he roots himself deep in the earth. He crosses his arms in front of his face, body shivering as he channels his qigong into a thin barrier, deeply rooted in the mountainside. The winds howl around him, and Claude intensifies his concentration. He may be a pebble in the face of Volsung's gale, but Claude holds on, enduring the onslaught. "The tallest... mountain..." he sputters through grinding teeth. His fingernails dig into the rough callouses on his palms, knuckles popping as his fists tighten.

The wind begins to slacken, and Claude C. Kenny advances forward, ripping through the last sweeping gusts, scattering as he throws his arms to either side. He rushes in toward the Veruni leader, trying to hit Volsung before he has a chance to react; Claude lashes out with a pair of slashes, then cuts hard at the other man's sword in a backhand slash, trying to knock it out of line. Claude steps inward, driving his right hand toward Volsung's abdomen. It stops half a foot short.

"...started as a stone."

Claude's chi roars out in the form of a howling dragon, ripping through the gap and seeking to grab the Veruni in its jaws.

<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

Cecilia's burning heart eases under the soothing heat of Moor Gault, projected by a Seraph. She...still hasn't really looked into what that whole thing's about, but she thinks she can guess. She lurches upright, gathering more Ley to herself, preparing to conjure another Guardian. "I...I'm the Shaman, damn you," she whispers. "I promised...I promised I'd protect this world from exactly what you are!" The intense danger of Volsung's weapon being leveled at her, she trusts in the others to handle; this works out, more or less, right up until the end.

Cecilia's still aspecting her Leypoint toward fire when Rek'gora undergoes its horrible metamorphosis, the Baskar bindings upon it cracking apart. "No!" she cries. "It's still getting stronger! We have to stop it!!"

But the shockwave it releases carries Cecilia off her feet, blasting her skyward into Volsung's slicing tornado and send her careening, the wind stealing away her breath to speak.

There's a sick, horrible CRUNCH as she impacts, halfway up the crater. She forces herself to roll over, bonelessly, and through half-open eyes she surveys the scene, breathing shallowly. "I...promised," she rasps, and falls limp.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Suddenly, the Rephaim crashes into the crater. Jacqueline stares in shock and surprise - not expecting to see it here. And, of course, there's only one person who could've thought to bring it.

"Sh-Shalune! L-Lunata, she..." Jacqueline stammers, distressed. Shalune breaks into a run, ending up nearby. Shalune says she has her, that she'll be okay. Jacqueline nods uncertainly. She doesn't know what she has planned, but...

...She trusts Shalune. If she says she'll be okay, then... then she'll believe she'll be okay.

And more than that, Shalune has brought a friend - Diablo of all things appears, to challenge Rek'gora.

She looks toward Citan as he speaks, then - telling them to see to her. Jacqueline nods quietly.

And then she looks up, as the temperature lowers just a bit - but not in an uncomfortable way. Shiva is here, and where Shiva is...

"Yuna." Jacqueline whispers in surprise. She can acknowledge the beauty of Shiva and her attack now. "...Th-thank you."

And, OS is here, too. Jacqueline watches carefully cautiously, as they do... something for Lunata. Jacqueline doesn't know what... but something, anything, is better than nothing.

Beyond, the battle continues. Rek'gora screams. There's a wave of desperation - but Jacqueline can fight against it this time. She watches as the chains binding Rek'gora begin to break, and the Clysmian transforms. Wings unfurl, and eyes open.

"Th-this... this is bad." Jacqueline whispers. She moves, moving to protect those gathered behind her. Another pillar of earth rises to intercept the shockwave, the stones, and the flames. Once more, Jacqueline is bowled over, forcing her to pick herself back up.

She sees the way the goop that was - is - Lunata struggles closer.

"It's okay... I'm here." Jacqueline murmurs. And then, Jacqueline watches as the goop reaches the sword. Watches as it wraps around it, watches as it flies back to the Rephaim... and watches, as Lunata reforms.

"Oh, Lunata...!" Jacqueline cries out. She's crying again - but this time, they're tears of joy, her heart buoyed by the sight of Lunata, and by her declaration to live.

And as the Rephaim charges down Rek'gora Jacqueline turns to face it.

"...You don't deserve this. But...!" Once again she takes up a spell-casting stance - with her left hand, Jacqueline invokes an earth-based spell. Energy tears through the ground beneath Rek'gora, sending piercing shards of stone flying up at the Clysmian. With her right she brings the fury of the storm, bolts of lightning crashing down toward it. Where stone and lightning collide, the spells join into a rain of molten stone.

GS: Formation! Jacqueline Barber has attacked Rek'gora with Dualcast - Voltaic Quake!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Jacqueline Barber's Avenger stance ends.
GS: Lock state expired!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Dualcast - Voltaic Quake for 132 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Yuna has posed.

You have to look at Shiva the right way to see it, but there's a slender horizontal bar over her head. It started orange, then immediately went black, and then started slowly refilling with orange.

That first fireball.

          

Gwen's icy friendly fire, which sticks to her and makes her upper arms look more buff; that she gets a charge off this at all is grossly unfair, an abuse of mechanics.

                    

Yuna gasps at Volsung's cruel words towards Ida, the juxtaposition doubly profound when set against Seraph Boudicca's kindness and warm, warm strength; he commands a hurricane, and she commands an aeon, to shelter at least one of his victims with double palms. It is like, momentarily, being in an igloo, and Yuna's friend is bathed in snow, as the winds wear away at Shiva's fingers. They are more like icicles, afterwards... they've lost much of their flexibility.

                                                  

And then Rek'gora becomes... more. How much of this is active evolution, versus how much was simply hidden by the chains -- 'are those symbolic of Seymour, of Anima?' the summoner suddenly wonders, given her ex's fatherly connection to the Clysmian -- she doesn't know.

But 'lots of wings and lots of eyes' is a very Sin thing to do and to see.

And as the shockwave advances upon more than just herself, Yuna calls upon her aeon with greater desperation.

"SHIVA!" she roars. Even mice can roar.

Ida is safe. Lunata, miraculously, is more than safe.

The aeon plants herself squarely in front of Lulu, extends both arms, and pours frost into the fire. Yuna is slower, because she is smaller, but she arrives before the flame, and takes one of her Guardian's hands in her own, holds it tightly, so tightly.

She gazes up at the older girl, the pain she sensed still lingering in her own eyes, but more than drowned out by love, and love, and love, and love, and love. And as fire surges all around them, she doesn't look away.

                                                                                

O V E R D R I V E !

There is so much less of Shiva than there was. Her hands are gone entirely; her arms are stumps; her face has lost most of its features, smoothed by a terrific melting.

But Mariel's mist surrounds her.

And Yuna's heart defines her.

Yuna's heart, which swells at the sight of the XG-00.

At the sight of everyone, fighting so desperately...

...but not hopelessly.

They are as one. Yuna's heart soars, and so does Shiva. Her heavy braids whip around her as she explodes upwards, swirling high into the air, leaving only a puddle behind her on the ground to prove that she was there.

At Rek'gora's level, Shiva hangs, momentum and gravity equal and opposite.

She has no fingers to kiss nor hands to gesture nor arms to hold aloft.

But the temperature in the crater is dropping all the same... cooling crimson, superheated rock down the spectrum towards gray.

Shiva curls into the fetal position, at the heart of her sphere of superfrozen air.

It grows, and grows, and grows... in intensity, not in size...

...and then explodes forward, forming Blizzaja's tearing spires around Rek'gora (and Rek'gora alone, there is no attempt to target the Veruni; her path is clear) only to engulf them just as quickly within layer upon layer of glacier, and finally...

...far, far below...

...Yuna snaps her fingers -- the ones not entwined in Lulu's, that is -- and Diamond Dust rains down upon them all.

GS: Yuna has activated a Force Action!
GS: Yuna has activated a Force Action!
GS: Yuna spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Yuna has attacked Rek'gora with Blizzaja!
GS: Yuna has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Yuna has launched an attack Link!
GS: Yuna spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Formation! Yuna has attacked Rek'gora with Diamond Dust!
GS: Yuna has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Amplify, Burst, Hyper, and Surge expired!
GS: Yuna has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Yuna's Blizzaja for 113 hit points!
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Yuna's Diamond Dust for 153 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Rikku has posed.


Rikku turns around after her thrown explosives, at Lulu's statement. Sounding dumbfounded. She always knew that Lulu was so intense as a Guardian. Knew that she knew Yuna in ways that Rikku doesn't. Knew that she loved Yuna in ways that are uniquely her own. Yet there's something more in those words. A ferocious resolve that she can't match. And she wonders why.

"Lulu... I don't see any weakness at all." Rikku murmurs to herself, before her gaze shifts to Yuna calling out to Lunata.

"Oh no."

Did Yuna see it happen just now? Rikku wonders. Has it just settled in that she'd be another person for Yuna to dance to.

And then Rikku looks. Really looks, at the inky blackness. And puts a hand over her mouth.

"That's... her?"

Rikku was so sure she was dead. And now Yuna is saying it's her. Her rational mind doesn't believe it...

... but she believes in Yuna.

"Oh gosh what do we do?" Rikku fumbles for an Al Bhed potion. "I mean I have potions..." She stops.

Before realizing that this is perhaps a matter beyond rational thought. She wouldn't even know what she's looking at if not for Yuna declaring who it is. It's just a matter for belief. It's a job for Yuna. And this girl's devoted friends. And it's her job... to guard her Cousin.

That's the moment she hears the chain's shattering, and looks around, to look into those creepy eyes. Put on the back foot, humor is her only defense, "Um... I know you're just a kid... but since Seymour obviously didn't maybe now's a good time for someone to tell you it's not polite to stare?" She makes a nervous noise... and that's when it takes of.

Rikku suddenly turns and tries to run. Not away from the fight, but to take cover behind a pillar.

She dives and... doesn't make it. The awful shockwave slams her against the mountain side, as she's bombarded by debris of her would-be cover being shattered and sent flying her way.

"Ow... owwww... we're in deep..." Rikku just wants to lay there slumped over for a while. It wasn't so long ago that Seymour put her in the same position. "... pickles." And that's the moment, she sees Yuna's Aeon covering Lulu. Sees Yuna's hands in Lulu's.

She isn't half the Guardian that Lulu is. She's always known that.

But that image of Yuna and Lulu drives her, forces her to push herself up. It's hard to fight against her tortured body, but she didn't become Yuna's Guardian because it would be easy.

She did it because they're family.

Only to look up at the pulse of light as... "She's... alive?"

This is a really weird week for Rikku, who was first confronted with the idea that Unsent were actually really real, and also that now someone can die, become a blobby thing, and come back to life. It's like this specific event validates her optimism in some strange way she can't process right now.

Then suddenly things don't hurt as much. It's easier to move. Rikku smiles as if to thank Yuna, but then follows the mist straight towards the Elw who threw it. "O-Oh!" Rikku hops and waves at Mariel, "Wow! I'm really impressed. Thanks!"

Turning around, she touches the side of her gauntlet. And a small retracting barrel moves out of it. Eyeing the Clysmian's position... "You know with so many eyes..."

... Rikku picks a target which will get as many eyes as possible. Then presses a button on the palm.

"... It's kind of funny that I could make this shot blindfolded!"

The high powered explosive is shot out of her gauntlet like a bullet from a gun. Streaking across and over... to detonate the Grand Grenade in an explosion that dwarfs even her previous one. The recoil sending her back a pace or two.

GS: Rikku has activated a Force Action!
GS: Rikku has attacked Rek'gora with Otherworld Special: Grand Grenade!
GS: Rikku has completed her action.
GS: Mariel heals Gwen Whitlock! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Reload! Gwen Whitlock gains 15 extra FP from Mariel!
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Rikku's Otherworld Special: Grand Grenade for 107 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

    Shalune doesn't snatch the little figure away immediately, of course, but she's already cradling Lunata's form when it registers that Citan gave her a touch of support and reassurance. Her tongue feels much too thick in her mouth to be able to speak anything more, but she manages a tiny nod, and her arms tighten just a little bit around the figure of black - just a little, for fear she might actually be able to hug Lunata into two pieces right now.

    She watches pensively as OS touches the little creature. The thought of not trusting Lydie - or that there might be a difference between Lydie and OS - doesn't even cross her mind for an instant, especially not with everything else going on around her right now. But she can't help but feel a spike of worry at the sight of a finger sliding into the malleable body even if she trusts the intentions behind it. She pushes through the worry, drawing in a slow breath to try to calm herself.

    Behind her she can hear the Summoner yelling, and feel the force of Yuna's support as if it were a physical thing buoying them forwards. Boudicca's light washes over then, and even if Shalune's not the focus of the wave, it's still a relief to feel it there like a presence at her side. She finds herself blinking back a whole new set of tears, sucking in a soft breath as she's momentarily overcome by the support.

    A scream cuts through that relief like nails on a chalkboard. She still can't bring herself to look directly at the pitiful, terrible creature, but she can dimly make out the way in which its power seems to be rising to a crescendo. Had she more time, she might find it somewhat fitting that it's their desperation against the creature's own - as it is, she has just enough time to fling herself to the ground, Lunata held securely beneath her and kept safe from the flames as they wash over her instead.

    Once, she'd jokingly said she was made of asbestos with the way she handles hot foods. Now, she wishes she hadn't tested fate in quite such a whim, hissing with pain as the heat rolls over her back with only her heavy clothes to protect her. For a moment, she feels like she might be aflame, and nearly rolls on instinct - but manages to squash that impulse barely in time before she runs the risk of what it would do to Lunata.

    It leaves her winded on the floor, and Lunata slips from her grasp - but she can feel an intent from the little figure that wasn't there before, and instinctively understands that there's been some kind of shift and change, tiny but terribly important. Her hand shifts, and then makes a fist as she shoves herself upwards with an effort, watching Lunata's meteoric rise upwards.

    She can't find any words, only a soft and quiet sob of released breath and tension, and a grin bright enough to almost split her face in two. The Rephaim's form as it lifts up and shoots forwards is positively majestic, and she'd yell if she weren't completely breathless and maybe still a bit on fire.

    Somewhere behind the elation, a terrible tiny little voice makes her wonder if she just made Lunata shave even more time away even as she regained herself. How much do they have left to find her a way off the Wheel? But she swallows that thought before it can get any further, screws up her eyes with a sharp breath, and reminds herself that she chose to trust herself. All she can do is take responsibility and see it all through to the end, whatever that end might be.

    So when she rises this time it's with a growl torn out of her throat. Part of her wants to run to Jay and Lunata and give them both the biggest hug and then shove them somewhere quiet with each other, but that can wait just a little longer. Instead, alongside her, that crimson spark ignites once more to indicate the ancient Golem building up a second charge. Instead, Shalune doesn't hide and cover from it, holding her ground against the howl of the Clysmian and the raging wind that builds. She watches, instead. That's the important part.

GS: Shalune Amira spends 1 Combo on Gatling, loading 1 into Gatling!
GS: Shalune Amira has attacked Rek'gora with The Crimson Wind - DIABLO!
GS: Riposte expired!
GS: Shalune Amira has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Shalune Amira's The Crimson Wind - DIABLO for 185 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Rek'gora transforms. Whether it has become more majestic, more fearesome, or some combination of the two, Ivan is in no position to decide. Its shockwave crashes down, a chaos of force, flame, and flying debris. There's nothing to do but try to withstand it -- Ivan lowers his stance and braces against it, trying to keep on his feet, the pain coursing through him as the heat and fury of it threaten to consume him.

Something rallies in him, though, a part of his spirit determined not to fall. He feels it like a physical pulse within his chest, itself painful and familiar... but he's beginning to recognize that it also brings a promise of power.

Sometimes it's fear, or grief, or anger. This time it's defiance, and as he taps into that well, a great fire roars from within his body, twisting into a spiraling column that shoots upward, and arcs for the Clysmian.

GS: Ivan spends 1 Combo on Gatling, loading 1 into Gatling!
GS: Ivan has attacked Rek'gora with Inferno Heart!
GS: Ivan enters a Counter stance!
GS: Ivan has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

I have to survive this, Venetia thinks as Force Crusher finishes and she worries momentarily about why the Crest Graph is hot. I can't explain this aloud, Volsung will hear me. But I also have to destroy Rek'gora.

While I'm at it why don't I eat the sun, Venetia thinks bitterly, jaw tightening, even as -

            something beautiful happens

Something that could have been beautiful. Something gone right for a fleeting instant. It is a religious feeling, deep in the soul and the back of the brain. The ego of Venetia Vuong, being merely 'quite large', is cast into awe and silence for a moment. Perhaps it dissipates the last of the hatred, the bile, that Volsung poured out. Who can say.

But then what goes up comes down, as ultimately all things must. The ground rumbles and shakes and bursts with heavy rips as Venetia briefly vanishes from view. The dust fades...

Venetia blinks it out of her eyes. Where am I, she thinks. She wiggles her toes, looks down for a moment. She is beneath a stone slab that has been slightly propped up by another piece of scrabbled terrain; she pulls herself free immediately and with vigor, and it slumps a few seconds later. A scent comes to her - the world comes into focus.

She can see the seeming-broken form of that Ignas princess.

I didn't give her that Crest, did I, Venetia thinks. There is a second moment of great interior stillness. Her eyes turn towards Rek'gora...

A Gear peeks over the side of the crater, and Venetia does not recognize it; and in that moment she thinks, well, that's it then, I'm going to die here, aren't I. She sucks in a deep breath and tilts her head down and says to herself, "In this case, there's just one thing to do for it." She curls the hand THAT SHOULD be holding her sorceress's rod, and shoves it into the pocket of her increasingly battered dress to bring out a service rag. The other hand gets into her crest pouch with reckless abandon, the pouch spilling out afterwards.

She puts the graph on the ground, the cloth over it, and both her hands atop it as if she is going to beat Filgaia back into life. "I'll show you all, bloody - smug-ass overland bare faced prick and your guardian damned granas-cursing piece of thieving symbolocagery-pokery - and you miserable and misbegotten creature, your secrets aren't going to get cut out of you if I can help it!"

There is a shimmer of violet light around her. It fades...
A second one...

Venetia rolls her shoulders, pushes herself upright, puts her right hand on the covered Graph and curls it backwards to touch it with her index finger. Her eyes widen behind the lace mask and there is a tiny plume of fabric as the cloth catches fire. That impact of Rek'gora's had aftershocks... and as they come through the thick and gelid mass of Filgaia-the-planet, a thing not quite the same as Filgaia-the-world, Venetia can feel them.

The cracks that that impact made suddenly yawn asunder like a bear trap. (This may horribly startle someone, but they are beneath Rek'gora's body - its limbs -) And then with a mountain-shuddering force they clamp SHUT. Venetia snaps her hand back as the rag catches fire, the patch of melted bronze that was a Crest Graph a moment ago drooling into a thin crack in the ground. She leaps away from it for good measure, staggering afterwards. As the forced distortion in the world's skin eases out, she looks up to the rain of ice.

Is this what the Day of Collapse looked like? she thinks, the breath of Mariel's incense still in her nose.

GS: Venetia Vuong has activated a Force Action!
GS: Venetia Vuong has activated a Force Action!
GS: Venetia Vuong has attacked Rek'gora with Tectonic!
GS: Venetia Vuong has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Venetia Vuong has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Rek'gora critically Guards a hit from Ivan's Inferno Heart for 57 hit points!
GS: Rek'gora guards a hit from Venetia Vuong's Tectonic for 99 hit points!
GS: Entangle! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Lulu has posed.

It still burns at Lulu, all the more as she hears Yuna reply to her and realizes she spoke her feelings aloud. There is nothing she can say at first, not in time. There is so much happening at once that overwhelms her senses. She has said before that there are many things that she does not understand, but the Rephaim's return, the terrible power of a Golem, and Volsung's sheer force are among them.

...Moreso now, with her mind still reeling under the strange red force all around her. She is in no position to defend this time from the fiery, terrible shockwave that comes. Lulu blinks, and looks up at it--

But there is the power of the Aeon, Yuna's and the Fayth's power both. She extends her arms and Lulu stares for an instant before she feels her hand taken by Yuna. She gazes towards her in the same moment. "Yuna..."

It hurts. But this is enough. "Thank you." Yuna is enough. Lulu keeps her hand in one of her burned and battered ones.

Pain, as proof that one lives... Lulu does not smile. But she looks up, towards Lunata and the strange machine, and inclines her head once. And from here, the fog that sinks into her because of Mariel's power invigorates, helps; she feels, though the haze is still over her senses, a power welling up within her still. She is not yet done. She cannot know Rikku's reaction to herself, but she can hear the other Guardian. "...Even if you could," Lulu says to Rikku almost gently, "I'm glad you kept your eyes open."

She can only gather up so much more energy at once, but gather what she can she does--with Shiva draining all the ice and the cold, it becomes simple to go with it, and fill the void.

Fire erupts underneath the Clysmian, and Rek'gora must contend with tongues of flame surging all around it while hopefully the brittleness of ice can still apply.

Also that's a lot of machina. She can't help but think of another time...

GS: Formation! Lulu has attacked Rek'gora with Fira!
GS: Lulu has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lulu has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Boudicca has posed.

    Unfettered desperation is a thing to behold.

    Boudicca does not run from the underlying thread of terror; she stands, she bears witness. Witness, now: a slab of stone parts from the earth, slams into her heated armour, leaves at her plated hip a deep dent inwards. A shockwave rocks through her planted feet, with deep reverberations which ought to shatter bones like glass. And fire --

    Fire joins fire and this is what worms its way in past her armour and her skin and every pleasant lie. Her alliance offers her no protection against that which would consume her. She is the wind; she fans the flames. This has always been, and will always be.

    Immortality is at times an immutable thing.

    "Oh," she exhales flame, which speaks to how deeply it dug into her. The air curls around her, reflexively, a breeze which flutters at the ash and the wreckage. "Oh," in small impossibility she exhales a second time, to see how Cecilia has landed.

    Exhale flame, inhale mist: that breeze captures the airborne particles of Mariel's ambrosia, and it is a welcome soothing, in the wake of desperation. She sees where Mariel is headed, too, and her fears are assuaged; Cecilia is in good hands. "Your aid is timely," she offers, in return, before she turns back to Rek'gora.

    This great, red bird...

    As Moor Gault's emissary, she must make a stand against it.

    "I am not the strongest of my peers," Boudicca confesses, as she steps forward. "Neither am I the toughest. I may not even be the fastest! But I have set myself to fight. I am not trapped by this conviction; I stand in no corner."

    She grasps her tonfa in hand, again.

    One gestures, without threat, to the reformed Lunata, another happy little miracle in the heart of horror.

    "Do you hear us, too? We are the choices we make, not those forced upon us."

    For all the emotion raging around her, the shades Volsung wrings out, her voice is steady.

    "I have felt fear and I have felt desperation but I am neither of these things, elementally. I do not become them. We do not become them." Cecilia has fallen but she still speaks; she still stands. She will not leave her fellow assistant to the Guardians disappointed. "Filgaia abjures you, Rek'gora. You have no home here. The one who belongs here..."

    All a sudden she starts running, and she claimed she was not the fastest but she is still terribly fast, even weighed down by hate and horror; she is, after all, the wind. Springing up, she can rise even to four wings - and her tonfa lash out at the Clysmian's underbelly before she keeps going, up and over it, and at its crest she twists and that tonfa comes down to strike it downwards.

    "... IS THAT GIRL..!"

GS: Seraph Boudicca spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Rek'gora with Cerberus Strike!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has launched an attack Link!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Rek'gora with Soaring Blast!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken expired!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora critically Guards a hit from Lulu's Fira for 38 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Seraph Boudicca's Cerberus Strike for 141 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Seraph Boudicca's Soaring Blast for 44 hit points!
GS: Slow! applied to Rek'gora!
<Pose Tracker> Citan Uzuki has posed.

    He gets no more than a few steps before someone seizes onto his arm.

    At first, Rachiel will meet with a man who is quite taken aback.

    "Your style..."

    Like Elly.

    Understanding of what she refers to blooms in his expression. "Ah... I see."

    She crumples then, going to knees, and he crouches down alongside her. In a language she will know well, he says:

    "<I suppose that you could say that.>" His gaze upon her turns flinty. "<...But you are in no condition to be worrying about this now, are you?>"

    He rises soon after, studying her and her present condition for a moment only to shake his head. "If you are hurt, miss," he says, switching back into the common tongue of the surface without pause, "then you should retreat. This place is too dangerous to stay within. Do you understand?"

    He does not linger with her any longer, moving at speed for the eye of the storm that is the battlefield.

    Eye of the storm. Funny, perhaps, the he should consider it that way.
    His first warning is the subtle shift in the pressure in the air. Air is shifted, sent spinning; a storm is brewing.
    No, more than just a storm. A--

    Citan moves. Into its heart. Through it. To look about himself would be to lose momentum, to freeze at a critical moment and be caught up within it to be destroyed.
    But he knows the nature of wind very well. After all, the Wind Element was...

    The nature of wind is formlessness. But where it can eat earth and snuff fire...
    It has a harder time touching water. Feeling for the changes in pressure alone, the distruption that the turbulence causes in its birth, he is able to slip the storm.

    If only to then meet Desperation once more.
    Desperation, as it sheds its chains and attempts ascension, perhaps, into something greater. Light flares off of it, then, before it dives downwards.

    There is no escaping the shockwave. Least of all him, having only just threaded the storm. All he can do is steel himself and hold his ground--

    Such that it remains afterwards, that is. Citan stumbles several feet from where he'd started out, exhales a sharp breath, and falls, for the moment, to one knee. Blood trickles in a thin river down one side of his face, pattering a few drops onto the ground.

    He doesn't see what happens to Lunata. He doesn't see the blade's return.

    What he does see is the Rephaim.

    Rising to his feet, the doctor takes but a moment to readjust his glasses. "I thought that might be your answer," he remarks, to no one at all.

    And then he grimaces, his gaze falling upon the still-living Clysmian.

    No rest for the wicked, perhaps.

    Whatever his body might protest otherwise, he breaks for the creature, closing the gap between himself and it.

    The first hit, should it connect, is as a wave hitting the shore. An open-palmed strike, the most basic of the form he learned from the person most dear to him.
    He puts all his strength into it, only to dart back for a heartbeat's span, like the tide rolling back out to sea. Then--

    He no longer wields a sword. Still, perhaps there is some essence of that in his form, perhaps, as he delivers a knife-handed strike for the Clysmian, a motion that carries with it the rising tide of the sea. ...And cuts as sharply as water against rock over the eons, all focused into a matter of seconds.

    He withdraws just the once more, as if to goad the creature into closing the gap.

GS: Citan Uzuki has activated a Force Action!
GS: You have activated the Force Action Full Clip!
GS: Citan Uzuki has attacked Rek'gora with Suisei -Retsu-!
GS: Citan Uzuki enters a Counter stance!
GS: Citan Uzuki has completed his action.
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Citan Uzuki's Suisei -Retsu- for 182 hit points!
GS: Dispel! Hyper, Lock State, and Quick removed!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

OS is knocked away from Lunata and friends by Volsung's twisting winds despite Rachiel's best attempts to intercept. It sends her flying good as she skids across the gound due to the unexpected (somehow for OS still unexpected) power of Volsung. Their wings are battered against the ground but they are, just as ever, impassive as they swing back up to land on their feet. Their body is i ndented sharply inward, holes have been ripped open along their side, leaving thick gaps and leading their body to look, frankly, impossible. More troubling is that OS doesn't seem troubled by this. They might be unable to be troubled. Already thick strands of silver goop lash down across its own body to repair the considerable damage.


And then...

OS shoots up into the air, looking down at the Clysmian. Still as impassive as ever. Even as the calamatic shockwave comes crashing out towards everyone. The expression in their eyes is almost like pity. The sorrow of Lydia is embedded further within its psyche. Maybe that was the idea--to bury Lydia's desperation so deep even a Clysmian has difficulty reaching it. But OS? There's no desperation in their eyes.

"There is no need for you to exist." OS says clinically.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5ZQYURYaAs

"You are built by those that wish to be God, dictating the path to follow for all. Whether they be elders sentencing children to die, or madmen wishing to unleash death upon this world. Know that you cannot be God. None can be God. All that we can do is entrust ourselves to God."

OS brings both arms forward, her limbs transforming from blades into cannons. The Mediums embedded into her body crackle with turqoise light as she channels their power into their arms.

"That renders your existence to be redunant. You do not need to be the ultimate weapon."

"For we, The Omega System, have already been forged. There will be no desperation in the paradise to come."

"And we..." OS snaps their arm back and swings it down, gigantic blades of light from the cannons ripping through the shockwave to strike at the Clysmian!--and more importantly, open up a path for OS to fly through. They glance towards Rephaim. Already reforged, they think, understanding Lunata in this moment in the strange way that OS understands anything.

Lydia and OS, Lunata and Rephaim. Neither of them asked for the fate that was in store for them. And yet...

OS smiles. A strange genuine smile that has been on their face once before. "WE are the ultimate weapon!"

They bring both cannons to bear upon the Clysmian.

The color pushes out of the wings and into OS's arms which turn from silver to a vibrant rainbow of colors, of purple, yellow, and white mixing and blending forging the other colors in between.

We Are Alive!

The colors detonate out from OS's limbs, the purple striking first and clinging to the creature, working on tearing apart its defenses...

...before the rest of the rainbow slams into it--detonating powerfully into a plume of vibrancy that bursts upward into the sky and around the battlefield.

Rachiel covers her eyes, unable to look directly at it. For the first time, she wonders if Solaris's grip on OS is as firm as even Krelian believes it to be. Or maybe, she can't help but wonder, maybe Krelian knows precisely how tight that grip is... and it's but the rest of Solaris that doesn't know.

"What kind of asset..." Rachiel murmurs, loud enough for Citan to hear. "...Are they trying to make out of them? Of her..?"

And then, also for the first time, "Of me..?"

She looks back to Citan who speaks to her in Solarian. She answers back.

"<...Guess not... I'll pretend I didn't see you.>"

She falls back, but she keeps looking back--she can't help herself.

GS: Lydia Seren has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lydia Seren spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Rek'gora with Trinity Force!
GS: Lydia Seren has launched an attack Link!
<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

    The timing couldn't be more perfect. Claude and Dean work in tandem, and the combination of their force literally knocks Volsung off his feet. He flies back and lands with a CRACK, and Dean jumps and pumps a fist into the air. "Yeah!!"
    
    Then the warmth and strength of Boudicca's magic passes into him via Ida, warming his heart, searing away that hatred he'd struggled so hard to push back in an instant.
    
    And THEN he notices Golem Diabolo, and Dean basically loses his shit. "WOAH! WHEN DID HE GET HERE?! AMAZING! SO COOL!! WOW!!!" he cheers while jumping over and over again in sheer, raw, pure delight, as if Diabolo were an internationally famous movie star, and Dean, a starstruck groupie.
    
    Then Lunata arises, freshly reformed, at Rephaim's controls, and while Gears are not nearly as cool as Golems, Dean still gives her a strong wave, still totally unaware that she had been dead or re-dead or *whatever* at all. "Go get 'em, Lunie!! You get to team up with Diabolo! So lucky!!"
    
    ...Not to mention that there is a giant blue woman freezing around the place. That's also pretty cool.
    
    But then Volsung gets up, and Dean's back on alert. The Veruni leader wipes blood from his lips and locks eyes on Dean, fury in his eyes as frigid as the Macalanian aeon. Dean frowns back. Volsung smiles--and totally fails to answer his question.
    
    WHAT A JERK!
    
    But rather than attacking Dean back directly, Volsung engages Ida--abandons his sword to do so, even. "Ida!!" he calls, hearing her scream at Volsung, and tears off to help his friend. He gets there in time to catch her when Volsung hurls her away, falling down with a loud "oof!" as Twin Fenrir vanish from his hands to allow room for Ida instead. Dean winces one eye shut and looks up to glare at Volsung.
    
    'Nature abhors aberrance--but not nearly as much as people do.'
    
    And something about that gives him pause.
    
    Dean doesn't know Volsung. He doesn't know a single thing about him.
    
    But he *does* know Ida. She's his dear friend, someone he did his best to stand by at a deep, dark time in her life. And although he he couldn't understand everything of what she felt, he does know how much it hurt her. How much it changed her, how much it made her lash out, how it literally changed her into a monster. She couldn't believe in the good in anyone, least of all herself. It had frightened Dean, how powerless he was to help her. All he could do was be there for her. But through that powerless, he gained understanding.
    
    And if Volsung understands it too--if he says he knows everything about it--
    
    "Is that what you really think?"
    
    --then Dean can't help but wonder...
    
    "What happened to you to make you feel that way?"
    
    As Volsung calls upon the winds, the air, the very atmosphere to create a localized hurricane, any other words Dean might have for the Veruni leader are torn from him. But the winds are clear, and through them, Volsung can see as Dean stares back at him the look in the youth's eyes change--
    
    into pity.
    
    The winds roar. Dean squeezes reassurance on Ida's shoulder, gives her a single nod and a smile, and then hunkers down. With his center of mass low, he begins to make his way over towards Volsung at the eye of the storm. He passes through the gales; he passes through the red; he passes through the hate. Slowly, slowly, but never yielding, he makes his way to the center. He gasps for breath as he stands, leaning over with his hands on his knees, across from a man who could easily kill him, who might just well be about to kill him, who is on the verge of making away with a terrifying force of destruction.
    
    Then he stands up straight and looks Volsung in the eye anew.
    
    "Hey," he calls. "Are you all alone? Is that why you're acting like this?"
    
    On its face, it's an absurd question. But in his eyes is still that look of pity--no--*compassion*. It's the same quality that Boudicca recognized in the daring boy, that made her think perhaps he was suited to being a Seer. It's the same quality that let him break through to the Demon of Elru, if perhaps only in some tiny way. He felt it for a moment for Rek'gora, but that was a monster, a creature of mindless destruction. This? Right here? Is a thinking, feeling person.
    
    "I won't pretend to know what you've been through. I won't tell you it's okay, either. I'm sure you've been hurt in ways I could never imagine--and I bet you're still hurting. And what you're doing right now? Not okay."
    
    Dean doesn't know if Volsung will listen.
    
    "But, you know... it doesn't have to be like that, Volsung. You don't have to be alone."
    
    Yet for the sake of someone who might just need help, he wants to try.
    
    Dean stretches his hand out to Volsung and smiles, sincere and wholehearted. "I'll be your friend."

GS: Dean Stark has attacked Volsung with A Single Outstretched Hand!
GS: Dean Stark has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Dean Stark has completed his action.
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Rek'gora with Delta Attack!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
GS: Volsung takes a glancing hit from Dean Stark's A Single Outstretched Hand for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Volsung gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Trinity Force for 191 hit points!
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Delta Attack for 171 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

The situation can, in fact, get worse.

Perhaps one should pay more attention when faced with the incarnation of Desperation. It might be wise to consider, perhaps, that such a thing can only grow in strength the closer it's pushed to the brink. That the fetters binding it are more than merely decorative objects. Diablo's advent is a critical turning of the tide, a critical addition to their forces, and for Cyre in the moment, a critical distraction.

For just the slightest instant, he allowed himself to feel as though they had just won.

In an instant, those hopes are dashed.

"What--" The Nahual stares agog at the sound of those chains falling to pieces. The Clysmian's strength doubles, a creature so immersed in its very nature that it cannot help but to grow stronger. The Avatar of Wind braces-- too late-- for the inevitable impact.

A catastrophe of fire and wind sears the earth and shatters the storm. The Nahual is at its center, forced to endure the might of a star burning itself to death struggling to survive-- an explosion the likes of a red giant going supernova, and he has front row seats.

The smoke clears. Standing there is a tattered divinity. The God-Body is shattered, bleeding motes of emerald light from countless weeping scars. The mandala is in pieces, one half broken and wedged in the parched earth. Even now, it disintegrates into so many scattering lights. Before the incarnation of Desperation, what is a mere Guardian of the Wind? Cyre sags, even as more fragments of Himself disintegrate, carried away in ley as it bleeds away. "I-- Eve#-1 FUNCTION (ANSI) EXPECTS 2 ARGUMENTS BUT GOT 1 the Shama#-1 FUNCTION (ANSI) EXPECTS 2 ARGUMENTS BUT GOT 1" Even Cecilia is struck upon the rocks. Have they failed? Will the Veruni have his way...?

This whole venture was doomed from the outset. He should never have set out alone like this, not after everything Ragnell put him through. He needed to rest. To stop. But he couldn't. Desperation-- desperation drove him forward. He had to kill it. Had to. What a fool he was. How could he kill something that had already found a home inside him...?

"Catenna--" Cyre whispers, "--I'm sorry-- I haven't the strength--"

In the distance, a clock strikes 12:15. The broken shintai lifts a head only half-connected to its torso by a strand of dwindling light. It's...

Rephaim.

Lunata.

A familiar scent wafts through the air. Mariel's Ambrosia washes over him, soothing his aching spirit, quieting his pounding heartbeat. Concentrated lifeforce fills his lungs, surging through his veins. He should run. He should take this second chance and escape as fast as his feet can carry him.

He does not.

He's had enough running.

"Hah, look at me, talkin' like I've got it all figured out. Serves me right. Been actin' like this was gonna be easy, but that was just to fool myself. Hah. Hahahahaha!" The broken godhead shudders as it laughs, then, with a sudden *shove* and a sound like breaking glass, it shoves a half-shattered arm back into its socket. "Like beating Desperation was ever going to be a matter of course! Might as well try to kill Hate or Love or Hope!"

"But--" The wind howls. Above, the scattered stormclouds reassemble. Thunder roars across the sky, lightning crashes into scorched-white stone, the gale lifts him up. "I'm so sick and tired of running myself ragged trying to fix everything! Always putting out fires! Never really stopping-- never really resting-- always running, always fighting! Never feeling like I'm good enough and trying to act bigger than I am-- Always so Desperate! That's why... I can't--"

The Nahual unhinges its jaw as its spine seems to snake back into its torso. A dozen cracks seal shut. Light blazes in its open maw as the air itself -trembles.- "I won't! Kick my ass some more if you want to--" A pulse of pure force shakes the atmosphere, pressure inverting as a soliton wave ripples through the landscape. It builds upon itself, gathering more and more and more power, shaking the land and the sky to their foundations. "It's not like you don't do it every other day anyway! At least-- at least today... Today I get to tell you proper, Desperation."

The pressure builds, higher, higher, higher. The frequency rises, faster, faster, faster, until finally it can rise no more.

And Cyre roars the words he's always wanted to shout to that part of himself, but never could bring himself to. All at once, the standing waves shatter, the resonance breaks, and all the power stored in every sub-oscillation is released all at once in a singular burst of hypersonic, vibrational force.

                                 FUCK OFF!

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has activated a Force Action!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz spends 5 Combo on Headshot and Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Rek'gora with Awakening Air!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Hyper expired!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Awakening Air for 174 hit points!
GS: Rek'gora has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Comprehension comes back to Gwen, brought on the warmth of Boudicca's touch and Mariel healing mist. "...?"

    It's enough, to quell her despair, and it's definitely enough to make sure that Volsung's words reach Gwen, loud and clear, as he stalks towards her, his blade lifted.

    'Someone has been doing things they shouldn't.'
    
    "This was my choice." It's the first thing Gwen has said since her words to Ida earlier, and while the words come out mechanically, it could only come from a response that was naturally grooved into who she is as a person.

    Blood comes in the wake of Volsung's sword, laced with iridescent yellow trails as Gwen moves back, her glowing eyes widened slightly.

    "All of this... it was my choice."

    'I'll have to correct this.'

    It hits her, like the way the ground shakes against Rek'gora, free from its chains.

    Frea. He'll find Frea. He'll kill her. He will capture Rek'gora, and he will destroy Frea.
    Frea will die.
    Frea will die.
    She was supposed to be the one who died first, except she changed that fate, and now Frea will die.
    Frea cannot die.
    Frea will not die.
    He will never find Frea.

    Because she will destroy him. She will destroy him, and Rek'gora.

    Calm descends on her, like a balm. "This is the mercy I can give you both."

    The poor Diablo will find a climbing Gwen, leaping up its form like an enthusiastic jumping spider on the hunt. She leaps from Diablo to attempt to collide with Lunata's gear, using the newborn form as another stepping stone to leap high up into the air.

     (BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QW1EjIsvUKY)

    If Gwen was in a better place, she'd appreciate Dean's gesture. It was the reason she felt he was the one who was true to that nature of good will that she seemed to hold up, if maybe just for show. Or maybe, she genuinely felt it.

    She can't quite remember which.

    Energy vibrates through her being; even if gravity has gladly given her its toll, the courier feels like she's as light as any bird.

    Light spills from her right hand, the very act of it expelling outwards in two geometric wings, expelling from her back.

    "Her mercy shall rain down on you both," she whispers, "by all I have, the all is one-"

    It explodes from her, in a flash of white.

    "The One is All!"

GS: Gwen Whitlock spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Gwen Whitlock with The All is One!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has launched an attack Link!
GS: Gwen Whitlock's  stance ends. She enters the Avenger stance!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's The All is One for 0 hit points!
GS: Amplify! applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Gwen Whitlock enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Rek'gora with The One is All!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Volsung with The One is All!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Volsung guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's The One is All for 86 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Volsung gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Volsung's Force Guard activates!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's The One is All for 183 hit points!
GS: Rek'gora has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    A wall of ice slams down into the ground around her. At first, Ida wonders who cast that spell, even as the thought of a friendly spellcaster feels truly incomprehensible. Then she looks forward, and sees fingers clasped in front of her. She looks up, and sees Shiva there, protecting her.

    what is that?

    Ida stands. She's alive. They're alive.

    Ida's gauntleted hands move through a Hyadean salute as the Aeon takes to the sky again. She looks back at Dean and Volsung, and manages a little half-smile. "Perhaps they will," Ida says, to the Veruni leader. "And perhaps they won't. But even if they do, I won't be alone."

    Ida raises both hands. Her fingers curl slightly as the armor on both palms irises open. Rings of dragonbreath filaments ignite in the openings, glowing red, then orange, then white-hot. She breathes, and the Ley wells up beneath her, flowing into her in great tendrils of flame. Ida's eyes narrow, even as in the back of her mind, he feels that warmth, and it does not burn, as it should.

    "Moor Gault," Ida intones. Her fingers clasp together in a Granasian prayer, and the heat in both palms compounds, infused by the power of her patron Guardian. "I accept this tempering, and bequeath it to those most in need." Ida spreads her hands again. Flame erupts from them, a torrent of Dragonfire infused with the Ley--it races straight towards Volsung, taking on a more concrete shape as it does. It forms wings, grasping talons, a colorful crest--a creature of glory and purity not that dissimilar from what Rek'gora has become. The firebird-effigy shrieks, dives, and wheels--Volsung is an incidental target, but he will feel its touch all the same.

    The effigy's primary target? Rek'gora. The firebird arcs high, and dives at the Clysmian like a stooping falcon. Heat-haze presages its passage, and in its wake, all is scoured clean.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has activated a Force Action!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey spends 3 Combo on Poison and Gatling, loading 2 into Gatling!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Rek'gora with Breath Of The Fire Dragon!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Volsung with Breath Of The Fire Dragon!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Riposte expired!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Breath Of The Fire Dragon for 176 hit points!
GS: Poison! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Rek'gora has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
GS: Volsung critically Guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Breath Of The Fire Dragon for 24 hit points!
GS: Volsung's Force Guard activates!
<Pose Tracker> Volsung has posed.

In the midst of his self-made force of nature, Volsung tilts his head backward to stare at the cloud-clotted skies with a look of utter, detached antipathy.

"Pointless," he mutters, beneath his breath, as Rek'gora transforms -- evolves.

"What a laughable mockery this all is."

His ashen hair whips about him as Volsung turns that bland blue stare towards those assembled. He stares at Diablo for a time, lost in thought, before his gaze rolls towards the Rephaim.

"..." About him, the bits he has summoned swirl and disperse towards the skies in frenetic, but purposeful patterns. Red spectres split away from Volsung to chase after and ride those bits, leaving the Veruni leader without that scarlet haze when his gaze finally turns back toward the advancing Claude.

"Interesting," he remarks, "that you're still standing. Maybe I should swat you slightly harder."

Said swatting, however, will have to wait. As Claude rushes with all that speed, Volsung is there to meet him; his reaction speeds are beyond uncanny, his speed absurd. Within a flicker, the Veruni lord is upon Claude, bringing that massive, technological greatsword down to -parry- those slashes in a burst of sparks. The second, backhand blow knocks his sword arm away. That hand snaps forward towards his abdomen.

In a blinding flash of light, the dragon's roar consumes Volsung. It rides the ground in a torrent, earth churning behind them, and as the initial blast fades, it is easier to see the Veruni --

Gram-Zanber abandoned in the moment, so that he might grapple the thing's maw with both hands, feeling it -burning- at his palms. He's twenty feet out before he -rips- it in half, gloves burnt away, palms singed.

"... You're not quite like the other humans, are you?"

It's a curiosity that doesn't seem like he'll bother to sate, as he starts to step towards Claude once more. The Gram-Zanber snaps back towards his waiting palm. Swings to his side, gleaming.

Beyond him, those bits have risen high into the air as the hurricane fades, encircling the crater in a strange, almost arcane formation, all of them glowing with scarlet light. He takes a single step forward.

'Hey.'

And then stops.

'Are you all alone?'

Cold blue eyes look towards Dean, all but capable of causing hypothermia by stare alone. His lips curdle mildly at the question. He looks at the boy, pitying him. -Pitying- him. There's something else there, something he sees, objectively, perceptive as he is.

But there's something...

He stares down at that offered hand. And in the midst of all the chaos and violence, in the midst of Rek'gora's final stand, as Volsung prepares a salvo that will lay waste to the entire crater...

... he hesitates, for one crucial moment, as he stares at that offered hand.

His left hand twitches, vaguely, upward. He hesitates for a brief, visible moment.

But...

                                              no

His hand raises. Clasps with Dean's.

                        the boy

And that ice stare seethes.

           is

                                            poison

"... And what a special blend of poison you are."

He grips tight. Rek'gora is forgotten. Everything is forgotten. He seeks to -yank- Dean closer. To whisper something to him.

"I don't have to be alone? You're absolutely right." he hisses, just for them.

"I -don't-. Soon, all of you will join me, exactly where you belong."

Leans in close. To pour something vile into the young man's ear.

"And when that puppet you care so much about has reduced everything you care for to dust, you'll be with me, too. Dean."

The bits hum with tremulous light. Rek'gora begins to falter.

But Volsung doesn't care.

With one, powerful motion, he -shoves- Dean backwards -- just before that Ley-infused dragonflame washes over him. His sword is swung upward, intercepting it, CLEAVING it straight through. The flames lick at the edges, beginning to heat the Gram-Zanber towards a white-hot pitch.

Gwen's assault joins the fray. The sword holds it off for five violent, intense seconds --

--before it flies into the air and Volsung is KNOCKED backwards, sailing through the skies.

<Pose Tracker> Volsung has posed.

And it is then the bits move.

Possessed by otherworldly force, those remote weapons SCREAM forth into wild flight, tearing glowing red patterns through the air until they have crafted a grand, glowing rune into space itself. That energy ebbs. It is like ether, but not. Like Veruni sorcery, but not.

Tapped from the Ley --

    -- but--

        --not.

Something undefined. Something inexplicable. Something that ebbs with a metaphysical strength of one of the oldest sentiments in the world.

And it all comes crashing down on top of Rek'gora in the midst of its fall.

Magical energies pulse with conceptual poison as shockwaves of discordancy -ripple- from that sigil. It spreads outward, further and further past its epicenter, jumping from one person and then the next, further and further, deeper and deeper. And as the sigil expands?

The bits fly, empowered by that strange red light, firing off beams of seething scarlet to create a cage of wrath around Rek'gora and anything close to it. The bits dart through, intent to -punch through- the creature, taking a chunk of it with them, scouring the ground around it in a haze of blistering red light.

"Have it. It doesn't matter. My curiosity is sated. But I think..."

Volsung lands, body smoking, head lowered. Legs tensed.

"... I owed you a stronger smack."

And he LEAPS into the air.

He is a blur. In one second he is gone.

In the next, he is high above the skies at the very edge of his own self-made dome where Gram-Zanber has reached the apex of its ascent. It begins to fall--

--and Volsung COLLIDES with it, boot-first, turning them BOTH into a raging, blazing meteorite of impossible force that intends to collide with where he once stood. The impact is calamitous, caving in the already beleaguered mountain as a broiling shockwave RIPPLES through the entire landmass.

And at its epicenter --

-- will be Dean Stark.

For daring to offer him that poisonous hand of friendship.

In the aftermath? Volsung is gone.

His towers collapsed in his cold, wrathful wake.

GS: Volsung has activated a Boss Action!
GS: Volsung has activated a Force Action!
GS: Volsung has activated a Force Action!
GS: Volsung has become ENRAGED!
GS: Volsung spends 2 Combo on Poison and Link!
GS: Volsung has attacked Yuna with Gotterdammerung!
GS: Volsung has attacked Lulu with Gotterdammerung!
GS: Volsung has attacked Rek'gora with Gotterdammerung!
GS: Volsung has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Gotterdammerung!
GS: Volsung has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Gotterdammerung!
GS: Volsung has attacked Dean Stark with Gotterdammerung!
GS: Volsung has launched an attack Link!
GS: Volsung spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Volsung has attacked Lulu with Walkurenritt!
GS: Volsung has attacked Yuna with Walkurenritt!
GS: Volsung has attacked Rek'gora with Walkurenritt!
GS: CRITICAL! Rek'gora takes a solid hit from Volsung's Gotterdammerung for 0 hit points!
GS: Disease, Poison, and Reaper! applied to Rek'gora!
GS: Rek'gora takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Rek'gora has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
GS: CRITICAL! Rek'gora guards a hit from Volsung's Walkurenritt for 204 hit points!
GS: Rek'gora takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Rek'gora has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
GS: Volsung spends 5 Combo on Headshot and Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Volsung has attacked Dean Stark with GZ Nemesis!
GS: Volsung has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with GZ Nemesis!
GS: Volsung has attacked Gwen Whitlock with GZ Nemesis!
GS: Hyper and Lock state expired!
GS:  Enrage purges all positive status!
GS: Volsung has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Rek'gora has posed.

Another shot slams into Rek'gora, as he flies -- free of chains, but not invulnerable. Violet's shot blasts a hole into the side of the Clysmian. His flesh begins to knit back together, motes drifting away.

Another burst of light forces Rek'gora's attention to shift. The creature turns his head -- and this time, all nine eyes flash red as they see the Winged Gear rise. When Rek'gora screeches this time, he sounds more confused than anything.

And the Clysmian is slammed back to the ground by the Gear's palm, smashed into the ground. Rek'gora screeches, and then a point-blank arc of golden light slams into the Gear's hand, pushing backward. Rek'gora's wings beat, and the Clysmian lifts into the air.

Not a moment later, Tesni's ARM fires. The blast slams into Rek'gora's head, knocking it to the side.

This is joined by rock exploding underneath Rek'gora's feet. Stone slams into him from below; Jacqueline's lightning smashes down from above. The Clysmian screeches again, just barely weathering the assault.

A couple of lances of light, just like those that struck down Lunata before, appear -- and then wink out.

Because Rikku's high-powered explosive SLAMS into Rek'gora. The Clysmian stumbles down, fiery blast rocking him. The nine eyes shift in unison, from Rikku to the Diablo.

Shalune watches.

And a massive crimson spark slams into the four-winged beast. The thing shudders and twists, but Rek'gora shifts about -- screeches -- and Ivan's spiralling flames shoot up, forming a tower. The creature screeches -- and those spears of light form. They shred through the tower, keeping the worst of it from slamming into him, and then wink out of existence before striking at Ivan.

But Doctor Uzuki rushes up in that time, his hand striking. A single, perfect knife-handed strike--

And the Baskar totems, the wooden engravings, the signs of the culture that made Rek'gora crumble. Wood shards explode outward as Rek'gora shrieks.
His head shifts, swinging, to face OS. There is an uncomprehending blink from nine eyes.

Colors explode from OS's body, slamming into the Clysmian. Rek'gora is smashed down into the ground, sending him scraping and coasting along. The thing lurches, rises up, and then gets SLAMMED back to the earth by Cyre's mighty winds.

The four wings beat. Impossibly, they push themselves up -- and then Rek'gora screeches, beak open, and dives into and through Ida's fire. The firebird burns away feathers. The creature stumbles, its flight more of an uncontrolled tumble. It begins to rise up, ready to dive down in another calamitous impact. But light spills off Gwen Whitlock. Her blast strikes into the Clysmian, before it can hit the ground. Smoke clears, and the creature lay on the ground. Defeated, but not yet dead.

Not yet.

Yuna provides the start of its tomb. Ice rushes up around Rek'gora. The nine eyes turn, and see Shiva curl upon herself in the refraction of a now-familiar icy tomb. The Clysmian screams, just as the ice explodes. Shards of ice slash and burn through the thing's flesh. Rek'gora stumbles backward in the air, wing flaps not quite up to the task.

Motes of black and white light drift off the Clysmian. His strength begins to fail him, as he starts to sink down towards the ground. The wings begin to fall apart, into so many motes of light that rise and dissipate from his body. He rises, but it is a half-done thing; a final desperate protest, rather than a true threat.

And Volsung's blast of magic slams into it. There is a large, powerful explosion -- and the creature lay on the earth. Broken, but not yet dead, under the Veruni leader's wake, as the cage that he made begins to fade away.

The land rises to swallow Rek'gora, at Venetia's command. It smashes into him, earth beating the Clysmian about. The terrible thing screeches, head snapping side to side. But the land rises, earth forming an encasement. A wing stretches out, but Lulu's fire screams upward. A fiery explosion erupts--

--and is cut off, as Venetia completes the tomb. Rock surrounds the Clysmian, for a moment. Ash, ice dust, and smoke waft all around it. And then, hidden from sight, light begins to shine from within the rocky imprisonment. Beams of light pierce it -- and the tomb explodes out into so many shards of rock.

And Rek'gora's form is a silhouette of light, back arched and wings open, before fading into nothingness.

GS: Yuna has activated a Force Action!
GS: Yuna takes a solid hit from Volsung's Walkurenritt for 373 hit points!
GS: Yuna enters Critical health and gains 25 FP!
GS: Yuna takes a solid hit from Volsung's Gotterdammerung for 0 hit points!
GS: Disease, Poison, and Reaper! applied to Yuna!
GS: Yuna enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Yuna takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Lulu takes a solid hit from Volsung's Gotterdammerung for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lulu gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Disease, Poison, and Reaper! applied to Lulu!
GS: Lulu takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Lulu takes a solid hit from Volsung's Walkurenritt for 257 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lulu gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Lulu enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Break, Cripple, Jam, Mute, Slow, and Weaken expired!
GS: Lulu takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

    It's in the first few moments of what seems like eternity-- the interstice between when all her senses collapsed and she fell into a bubble of nothingness and now --that everything's starting to filter in all at once;

    At any other moment, it would be entirely overwhelming. But Lunata is relishing all of this, every single bit and mote and morsel of this. Every colour, every taste (her mouth tastes like nanomachines and metal and something salty), every sound and explosion and roar of a Guardian and Shiva's presence and crashing ice.

    She's moving as Rek'gora blasts the Rephaim's palm back, overloading it and causing a small eruption, her senses attuning sharply with the Gear even as her time keeps flowing-- and she witnesses the powerful Aeon's Overdrive, once more blanketing the world in diamond dust.

    It's so ironic, she thinks, that the first Aeon she met was something they all had to fight and survive against. And not just Yuna, there's the voices of her Guardians too, those that stand by her side...

    "Yuna, Rikku, Lulu. I heard your words, through the void... and you're right. We all can do this together."

    And she hears his voice too, that of the good doctor's...

    "... I couldn't have done it without you, doc... you've got a great way of drawing blood from stone."

    ... and Dean's, as he cheers with exuberance when he sees Diablo, and calls out to her as well. "You as well, Dean! I know you can do it!" She's riding on such an emotional high right now. It feels great. She's gobbling up every single inch of emotional reaction that she can seize and capitulate on.

    She pauses, though, as she regards OS. "I've got no idea what's going on, but... right now, at the least, I can say I need a weapon to fight. And whatever else that's messing my head up can wait."

    And Cyre fires on through, struggling until the end as he defiantly strikes with hypersonic force; it's at that time that she's nearly disrupted as she senses Gwen, who's leaping up onto the Rephaim's shoulder, bearing wings she hasn't seen before, energy bearing through her very form.

    "Gwen...?" Lunata's eyes are wide.

    But it's Shalune and Jacqueline that she needs to also give a moment for, the one who, metaphorically, brought the Rephaim kicking and screaming in here (perhaps inside some soul-realm it is literal, but Lunata can't perceive that far).

    The battle comes to a horrifying and swift end, but one that they at the very least withstand; with Volsung's enormous blow of power that seems to shatter the land even further, and the spark that erupts of the Clysmian as it finally...

    ...finally... gone.

    Jacqueline and Shalune, who were both there to nurse her through the worst of times every single time something strange happened to her body, and... well, she's going to have a heck of a time being told that she was a goop for a moment.

    "Jay... Shalune... I'm making you worry so much, but...
     But... I promise, this is gonna be the last time... in a while..."

    The fact that she has to append 'in a while' does make her worry a little....... but then again, they live extraordinarily dangerous lives.

GS: CRITICAL! Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Volsung's Gotterdammerung for 0 hit points!
GS: Disease, Poison, and Reaper! applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Volsung's GZ Nemesis for 287 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Dean Stark guards a hit from Volsung's Gotterdammerung for 0 hit points!
GS: Disease, Poison, and Reaper! applied to Dean Stark!
GS: Dean Stark takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: CRITICAL! Dean Stark guards a hit from Volsung's GZ Nemesis for 266 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Dean Stark takes an additional 48 damage from Reaper!
GS: Dean Stark has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
GS: CRITICAL! Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Volsung's Gotterdammerung for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Ida Everstead-Rey gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Disease, Poison, and Reaper! applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: CRITICAL! Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Volsung's GZ Nemesis for 210 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey's Force Evade activates!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes an additional 51 damage from Reaper!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

OS looks towards Lunata. The smile is gone. It's machine once more.

"Thank you for our cooperation." They tilt their head again in that strange curious way. Lunata admits she doesn't know what'sgoing on and OS considers this for a long moment. Then they nod once.

"Understanding is an illusion. The universe is too strange to comprehend at this point in time. Embrace your lack of understanding and you will begin to learn."

They give Lunata another couple pats before flying away.

Analysis complete.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline can hear Lunata's voice again through the Rephaim. She sounds... so happy, and emotional. It's great. But, as much as she's tempted to focus on her, there's still a fight going on.

There's fighting on Volsung's side, and he... actually attacks Rek'gora? It's a good thing she's clear-headed once more, she really has to resist the urge to point out that he really did help them out in the end.

And in the end, Rek'gora falls. Jacqueline falls to her knees and takes a deep breath. She's relieved - relieved that this seems, at least, to be over.

"...I hope so, Lunata. I really hope so." Jacqueline says with a smile. The instant Lunata gets out of the that machine, she and Shalune are getting the biggest hug.

She'll also be around to dispense healing where necessary.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

It's over. He's spent. The God-Avatar sags as the color fades from its once-resplendent form. Fissures spiderweb across its form like a terracotta statue shattering in slow motion, before finally the the whole thing dissolves in a plume of dessicated ash.

...And Cyre falls out from within, right onto his face.

He's only just conscious enough to recognize that the Clysmian's essence is fading back into the ley. Wherever it was summoned from, thence it has returned.

...

Desperation. What would it have done, if it had survived? Sometimes, victory can only be claimed out of desperation. Sometimes, when everything else is lost, when the world feels like it's turning against you, desperation can save your life. Even if it's in the moment, even if you suffer for it later, you can at least take one more step. And sometimes, that's all that you need.

...

When he ran away from home, it was desperation, wasn't it? Cowardice, fear, a need to break away from something that- on reflection- wasn't even all that bad. And then the second they were in need, he ran right back to them like some kind of avenging hero. But-- what kind of joke is that? Was it really, truly sincere, or did he just see an opportunity to score easy points with the people he'd turned his back on...?

Cyre lays there, face turned toward the scattering motes of Desperation, as his thoughts turn inward.

Maybe... he needs to figure out what it really means to 'stop running.'

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    For a short while, Gwen flew.

    She didn't actually fly, and anyone who happened to look up (and really, who would be able to) would know she did not fly.

    Gwen is still human, and like a human, she is

    The burning energy has stilled by the time Gwen collides with the ground, the last of it spent to slow down her descent. Her heart pulses openly in warning, a similar spot on her back pulsing with that same, sickly light.

    "...!"

    She makes an attempt to sit up, her eyes focused on where Dean was, but the ground is unrecognizable from where she landed.

    There is also the matter of her own body, and the way her eyes roll back in her head, as she falls limp to the ground, her body completely spent.

     It may be a while before she's well enough to raise her head again, but at least, Gwen's alive.

     But what of the others?

<Pose Tracker> Citan Uzuki has posed.

    "What kind of asset..." Rachiel wonders. With his back still to her, there is not initially any sign that Citan has heard what she has just said.

    "Of me...?"

    Except for the fact that, for a moment, he stops.

    And when she says that 'she didn't see him', he ducks his head in a brief, shallow nod.

    And that is all, as he rushes in.

    What was that saying, again, he wonders. Something about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread?
    He knows which side of the dividing line he's on, unfortunately.

    ....Blood from a stone. That is certainly one way of putting it. Perhaps another time he might have room to explain properly. But in the moment, his focus is honed to a single point. What he must do now is see this finished.

    Getting in close to the Clysmian is a dodgy task, particularly for one who fights barehanded. But there's an opening, presented in a tower of flame. He seizes upon it, closes the gap.

    And strikes.

    No, not at the creature itself. But at parts of it that help give it meaning.

    His heart thuds in his chest, waiting for a long, perilous moment for it to follow through--

    And it never does. OS -- Citan's gaze lifts to take in the sight of her -- strikes at it before he can resort to such a dangerous gambit.

    And soon the moment vanishes altogether.

    When it rises to the air, only meet with--

    "...Gwen?" voices the doctor with some surprise, in those moments before she casts it down to the earth again.

    In the moments before the creature is laid to rest.

    In those moments before Desperation eases, vanishing into light.

    And then and only then does Citan Uzuki exhale a breath he had not realized he was holding.

    The role of doctor will fall to him again soon enough after. But for right now, he takes the moment to breathe.

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

    Before Dean creeps through the hurricane, while he still holds Ida, he feels her tense up with--fear? Panic? It's strange. It coincides with the sight of Diablo, but that can't be it. Who would be afraid of a super-cool and awesome sweetdiculous Golem?? It's probably everything else going on getting to her.
    
    Yet--if that's all there is to it--why are one of her eyes green?
    
    Dean doesn't understand that, either. But Shiva protects her, and that's enough for him. He moves on through the storm, to Volsung, to offer a hand in friendship.
    
    The Lord of the Veruni takes it, too. He stares at him--he hesitates--he *stops fighting*--and he lifts his hand and *takes* it. Dean honestly didn't know how he would react, so this seeming acceptance of an overture of peace? He *lights* up. The joy and delight in his face is radiant and painfully, excruciatingly sincere. There is no mistaking it for anything but.
    
    And that's why--
    
    '...And what a special blend of poison you are.'
    
    Dean blinks, joy morphing into confusion. "Huh?"
    
    Unguarded as he is in that moment, Volsung easily yanks him closer, more than close enough to whisper in his ear. And despite the cacophony of battle swirling all around them, Dean *does* hear. He just--
    
    "What?"
    
    --doesn't understand.
    
    "What puppet? Join you how??"
    
    At all.
    
    Not that he needs to understand. He didn't understand a lot of Ida's pain, either. All the same, when Volsung shoves him away, Dean stumbles several steps and falls backwards onto his back. Ida's flame dragon and Gwen's blast impact, and the Veruni is sent flying. "VOLSUNG!!" Dean shouts, like before and yet utterly unlike before, reaching out for him despite his rejection just a moment ago.
    
    Light explodes. The bits explode. Rek'gora explodes. Dean bends an arm over his eyes to shield them from the violent brilliance... just in time to see Volsung spin high in midair and KICK that massive saber down.
    
    Dean has seen this before. But this time, Avril isn't here to save him.
    
    He does try to defend himself, of course. He knows how Avril and Rebecca will react when they hear about this, how upset they'll be. But Volsung's really upset for some reason! It's like he's really trying to kill him for trying to be friendly!!
    
    In the end, he survives it--but only barely. His battered, bloodied body remains in the epicenter of the ferocious assault, unconscious and in critical condition. Others have survived and will tend to his wounds, and Dean will be grateful for that when eventually he awakens...
    
    But it's probably just as well that in the wake of all this, Volsung is gone.
    
    It's a work in progress, after all.

<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

Tesni Inoue is pretty banged up but not as bad as other people here, no she sees the sorts of feats she'd have though fiction once and it just keeps going. Did The people of Lunar and Falgaia have something, her own had been losing?

 Then again such thoughts are pushed away as she's already reloading her weapon, switching to more conventional rounds however she sees that threat is over and she knows while there's another in play she's not in any shape to pick another fight, she'll head over, lend what assistance she can to Jay or anyone else with her medical supplies.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Ida's body sags from the exertion of that last attack. Her chest heaves with each breath, and her limbs shake--the bleeding has almost stopped, but the adrenaline is fading, and without it, the bloodloss is taking its toll. She has enough focus remaining, though, to commit what she just saw to memory--Volsung taking Dean's innocent, compassionate gesture and turn it on its head.

    Ida will remember that.

    "You're going to wish you hadn't--" is all she gets out. Rek'gora erupts in a wash of Ley power, but there is no time to exult in victory. Volsung leaps into the air, and Ida realizes what he's going to do a moment later. "DEAN!" Ida screams. She throws herself at him, tries to shield him with her body.

    Both of them vanish in the cataclysm of Volsung's unleashed power.

    When the light fades, Ida lies on her back, her side torn open. Her clothes are ragged, and her exposed skin is a mess of heat-warped Hyadean exoskeleton and burned flesh. Two-colored blood pools on the ground beneath her; the flow is slowing, but her wounds are not mending. Her breath is slow, and shallow.

    Torpor claims her.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Boudicca has posed.

    Boudicca spoke to the unspeakable and surely struck it, too. One speaks louder than the other.

    Filgaia will not be set upon by Desperation.

    It is a duty which keeps her from Dean and Ida in their decimation; but she finds them, as soon as she can. "I am so proud of you," she says, weary of voice and expression, though they may not have the ears to hear. "You fought so well."

    They might be able to feel the warmth of a healing spring breeze, at least - particularly Ida, to help with that bloodloss - and they are not the only ones to feel it. There are so many wounded, and she is more confident, now.

    Her work is not yet done.

    She wants to see them safe.