2020-12-30: Come Hell or High Waters

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(* Dream Chasers BBS - (IC) Rumors *) Leviathan, West of Bevelle - Dec 12 2020 - Belize

Rumors are flash-flooding through Spira after a few Yevon ships broke through the embargo set by the Althena's Guard navy with the power of the lost aeon, Leviathan. Specifically, rumor has it that, according to the Guardsfolk who returned from battle, the purpose of this daring maneuver was for Yevon to recover and bring back the fayth of Leviathan to Bevelle. After all, Leviathan themself is VERY big and VERY obvious, so that much is fact according to countless eyewitnesses who watched them fight off the Guard's forces while those Yevon ships broke through to the west. If they really are sailing to recover that amazing aeon's fayth, whisper the faithful of Yevon, then maybe this war can still be won...

[Pose Tracker] Belize has posed.

Some time ago, a trio of Yevonite ships broke through the Althenan embargo thanks to the help of Summoner Belize and their mighty Aeon, Leviathan. It was far from a perfect battle--one of the ships took damage, and Leviathan was ultimately defeated--but the ships did make it through, and enough damage was done to Althena's Guard that they couldn't make immediate pursuit. But then, some of their forces found documents explaining what they were up to: they were off to find the fayth of Leviathan so that *every* Summoner in Bevelle might pray to it and potentially gain the power of Leviathan.

That's a big p problem for Althena's Guard. Aside from Kilika, previous attempts to seal fayths haven't gone well up until now. What's more, Leviathan might have been defeated in that battle, but they certainly didn't make it /easy/, and that was with just one Summoner. Imagine an army of Summoners, each able to pick up the slack when one's Leviathan falls...

It's for that same reason that Yevon is so willing to make this gamble. Althena's Guard has been besieging Bevelle for months, and if nothing more is done, it's very possible Yevon will lose this war. Bringing back the fayth of Leviathan will not only raise the spirits of the faithful but also potentially turn around this conflict. The stakes are thus high on both sides.

For those not on either side--Summoner Yuna may have been betrayed by her faith, but that doesn't mean she's given up on her pilgrimage. Part of the pilgrimage is praying to the fayth... and this is a fayth that has been lost for centuries, whose only visitor in all that time is one who died and became Unsent shortly thereafter. For those who support and care about Yuna, this is a way to support her. Aeon or no Aeon, it's unacceptable to let Althena's Guard do as they please to the ancient souls who sacrificed everything to fight Sin.

And for those who don't know or care about Yuna, well. The fayth are *extremely* valuable to Yevon, being sacred and all--and they're valuable to Althena's Guard in a different way too. Grab it first, and one could sell it to the highest bidder. Even sheer curiosity might draw one out this way, as long as one had access to a ship. All one would have to do is follow the stories of the conflict in the bay west of Bevelle and hear the rumors that Yevon is after more power.

'Here,' incidentally, is the sea west of Spira, just past Bikanel Island, around the archipelago that crosses north to south nearby. The Yevonite ships are hidden by the now-deserted Bikanel Island... though this means also that they won't spot any *other* ships sneaking up. Uijundo Temple, where Leviathan's fayth was consecrated, was submerged and is still submerged. After much effort, and under Belize's direction, the Yevon ships have managed to carefully, piously excavate the fayth from within. The great smooth crystalline stone sparkles from within the net pulling it up from the waters, swaying slightly from the crane reeling it in. The Hymn of the Fayth echoes, quiet but powerful.

Belize lets out a low breath as they see this. They know there's not much time before *something* goes wrong. Still, this is a step forward, and they allow themself to relax a little. Just a little. "Bring it over. Carefully," they call to those working the crane, gesturing towards the boat. "This way... This way..."

[Pose Tracker] Seraph Liath has posed.

Do what you must to recover as swiftly as you are able: we make for the Fayth of Leviathan.

It was with those words that the Prime Lord Liath left the people of Althena's Guard in a spectacle of light. Never one to do things by halves, pursuit was a dogged and immediate one -- but not single-minded. Had she intended to follow directly in the wake of those ships, perhaps she would have been here much further ahead of her fellow Guardsmen. However...

... she had something important to collect, first.

It is by way of message that Liath ultimately supplies the others in the Guard with the route towards Uijundo Temple. Provides suggestions and means by which they might hide their approach -- recommendations on how to advance upon the sunken temple itself. Thorough to the end. And bullheaded; she waits, at least, to ensure that reinforcements will be en route. But eventually, inevitably...

Bring it over. Carefully.


The pristine, crystalline surface of Leviathan's fayth glimmers with the reflected host of colorful possibility as strands of multitudinous light fly overhead past it and the Yevonites who work so hard, so zealously, to excavate it. They crash into the masthead of the leading ship in a grand, blinding flash, coalescing down to a single point, a single person --

"No further, Yevonites."

A single Seraph Liath, pointing the tip of her sword towards the members of Spira's faith...

... and the crane they now operate, with their precious cargo within.

"You are at the end of your rope. We are upon you."

This, of course, would be the appropriate time for reinforcements to arrive, and so Liath just boldly assumes this is when they -will- arrive. No one ever said she did not have an abundance of faith in people.

But regardless, her threat is real, and present...

... as is the thing strapped to her back.

A Sealing Rod. Specifically redesigned and remade.

To seal the very thing the Yevonites now so desperately seek to protect.

"Yield the fayth, before harm must fall upon you."

[Pose Tracker] Belize has posed.

A great, blinding light crashes into the lead ship, rocking it--and by proxy, the crane, and the net, and the fayth--violently back and forth. The impact damages the crane itself--not so badly that it's incapable of repair, but certainly enough to keep it from reeling in the treasure it cradles to safety. Softly singing the Hymn, the fayth is open... and vulnerable.

Belize sees this and gasps, pale-faced, "No!!" But anger soon boils in their eyes and their demeanor, and they whirl around to face Liath and her horrible Sealing Rod. They haven't seen one before, but they know this one's allegiance, and they can guess her intent.

"Never," they spit, drawing their bow and arrow with open, obvious hostile intent. "I would die a thousand deaths before I would allow you to desecrate them!!"

The other Yevonites, aboard both this ship and the other two, draw their own weapons and roar defiance at Liath. But while she might be alone *now*, her back-up is surely right around the corner. See:

[Pose Tracker] Hilde has posed.

Seraph Liath expects reinforcements... and so, reinforcements arrive. A lance with a rope attached buries into the deck of the ship with a metallic *thud* as an armored figure goes soaring through the air. She lands on the deck and straightens up to her full height, with one quick motion drawing the spear from the sand and stows it away behind her cape, fluttering in the breeze. Her armor gleans in the sunlight, and she studies the arrayed Yevonite with her single eye.

...Some distance away, an empty single-passenger boat smacks into the side of the larger ship and floats away in a lonely fashion. ...She must have leapt out of it beforehand.

"She is not alone. I must repeat her request - please relinquish the Fayth." Hilde says. She does not draw her sword right away, but she is ready to should the need arise.

...And it very well might.

[Pose Tracker] Margaret has posed.

War can acquire its own momentum, especially when you are in deep, deep beyond reckoning. The only way out of a tunnel is through. Right? Right.

"Let this be my offering unto the Goddess," says the Beastmaster Veren as he raises his broad-blunted rod of signal and correction. "Oh, Althena! I offer this fruit to you! In this moment, may the work of days and weeks of bloody service and the ten thousand bruises and two fractured bones which I have borne in winning the trust of these charming beasts pay for the sins of my life. Though this will not be the end, let it make you smile. Now!"

He swats the water.

The dolphins peep upwards. They seem cheerful... but don't they always?

Buckets of slightly fragrant herring and chopped up tuna are thrown out, caught, wolfed down.

"Now, heroes of the Goddess! Seize your floats! And oh estimable creatures - seize the tow points! And then pull - pull with your might! Pull in pursuit of the Seraph! Pull for ruin and the false church's ending! Kaahahahahahahahahahahaha!"

Margaret, the Black Pearl of Neo-Vane slides into the water.

Is this group large? No - heroes all, because there is no room for mass infantry maneuver with this gambit!


A black-haired head peeks above the water line and tilts to the side, one ear flicking out sea water and listening. There is a declaration - faintly, from deck - 'never... would die a thousand... desecrate...' Margaret nods to herself. Her right hand comes up, clenched. A gem on a ring flashes sea-green and kick-SPLASH, upwards -

Another flash -

One hand is thrown over the deck! The other pulls!

Margaret drags herself out of the water, looking a lot like a drowned rat for a fleeting moment. After this she heaves up, facing outwards -- her hands extended out as if she expects to be THROWN something.

Her eyes turn towards the other side of the ship's deck -- where she can glimpse the outlines of some kind of rigging and, a moment later, the distant sight of an approaching golem.

Margaret's jaw tightens.

[Pose Tracker] Marivel Armitage has posed.

Odessa has been rather quiet for Marivel so she figured she had time to keep tabs on the conflict between the Guard and Yevon, though was naturally far less inclined to participate in that war after having been imprisoned by the people she had previously been fighting for so she was content to just let it play out--humans being humans--and not interfere. Besides, she had a talk with Leo and had decided she could trust the guy. She was putting a lot of hopes on the White Knight, strange as it might have seemed.

But on the other hand... after seeing what the Sealing Rods of the Guard were imbued with--she wasn't inclined to just let them wreck Yuna's homeland. That's kind of how Marivel has grown to see Spira. But Yuna made clear her own intentions and so Marivel, who was going to use the opportunity to take a day off, decided to lend a hand. She liked the way Yuna was thinking and, naturally, has brought Boudicca along to create even more problems but mostly because she just likes Boudicca.

But how can she help?!


A large golem approaches the battlefield from the sea. Its made of brown and grey composite metal, has big bulky arms presently wearing what looks like Hob and Nob around its arms as water wing floaties (they're smiling!). It has one bright yellow eye and a horned helmet that signifies the golem as an Asgard Class mech. A green lens covers the Asgard's other eye. The rest is submerged underwater and its holding its arms alongside like it was pretending to be an airplane.

Marivel, sitting on the shoulder is talking to Rikku. "I once saw this incredible 'machina' when I was a child. It was the most perfect golem I've ever seen and I just had to build a model off my own. I bugged Ana and Lumen for all the Meister Manuals I could find and worked my butt off--but I wasn't really able to finish him until the downfall of my civilization. Just too big of a project you understand."

"But during the fallout period after the Blaze Disaster, I had a lot of time to finish my work. And so--Asgard (Marivel Edition) was born! And well all my machines can interface with Hob and Nob, as you see. If you want you can check him out for yourself, Rikku, but he isn't really meant to fight from the sea so we'll have to handle the work ourselves, ka ka ka!"

But as the golem moves into view, Marivel nods once to Boudicca and her face sobers up. 'You are at the end of your rope' Liath says.

"Ah, Prime Lord Liath! Tis true, we are at the end of our rope! But we are at sea, so what you see as the end of a rope is the lifeline that can pull us to shore!"

And Marivel naturally didn't come alone.

[Pose Tracker] Gon Guado has posed.

Gon was incapacitated during the breaching operation. The journey became a touch more fraught with uncertainty when one of the best 'prayer' users of the remaining fleet, and once more suffered a humiliation in the face of Otherworlders who seem to be able to dance all around him. It is the thought that finally, /finally/, they might have themselves a chance to be rid of these detestable invaders... that he makes use of the fact that he is blessed with the magic of healing and that he uses it on himself, which is a set of bandaging made of faith, will, and very warm green sparkles.

	(Then the helmsman who kept complaining about his shoulder got his turn.)
	At the critical time of action as shouting comes from over on the ship Belize is on, there is a golem emerging from the sea. Gon's brow furrows. They're coming from an angle they weren't expecting company from. He is not thankful for the interference, no matter how key and critical it is that any opportunity be leveraged lest the fayth be lost.
	He will never, as he storms back up above deck with the usual Guado long, quick stride with only the tiny subtraction by aging, ever allow himself to say 'thank Yevon that we are seeing help by the hands of the people who have disrupted /everything/.'
	He has yet to see who has attempted to board or flank the ship in which he is on. There is no possible way he will be surprised by the nature of what may board to disrupt, for he is prepared to dislike each and any one of them equally and this is adequate martial and tactical preparation enough for this amount of preparation time.

[Pose Tracker] Yuna has posed.

(SoundTracker) Closing In - Imogen Heap - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPfJFpz4m6s

On the trip over, Yuna speaks softly but earnestly to her friends about her friend, rival, mentor, and erstwhile executioner, the summoner Belize.

"I can't even imagine the courage it would take to return to this place after what happened to them," she explains. "To face the choice which lost them everything. To see the quest... to its end. At last. I'm not here to stop them. I'm here to /help/ them."


When the Hymn of the Fayth reaches Yuna's ears, something deep inside of her explodes with emotion.

Well... some/ones/.


A tear rolls silently down her cheek, a tear radiant with the coruscating luminescence of Leviathan's fayth -- and something else -- but her stricken expression is clearly that of an indescribable, transcendent joy.

"Welcome," she whispers, with her heart, with her lips. "Oh, welcome /back/."

It always would have been a short-lived moment. She isn't one of those who worked hard to achieve this moment; she is their heretic now, not their hero, and no more welcome in this place than any other enemy. Perhaps less welcome than some, even.

But she will protect them, whether they will it or no. And when Liath appears with one of those corrupted, hateful Sealing Rods -- LITERALLY hateful, she will not soon forget the blackly elemental force that Mariel exorcized from the last one -- Yuna doesn't hesitate.

She draws a rod of her own.

It is a simpler thing; a length of wood, a leather handle, a metal, three-pointed crown, a little silver bell that hangs off the ring at its butt.

But it has been many places. It has Sent soldiers and innocents, Summoned demons and angels. It has confronted the Grand Maester himself, and been surrendered to him also, in the name of life, of love. It has been reunited with her by the hands and wills of those who would do anything to see her OWN quest end... but gave it back, anyway, because they would rather stand with her than apart.

She holds it horizontally, outthrust in both palms, at shoulder's height.

And she stares straight at Liath.

"I will protect them from you," Yuna announces, simply, honestly, as is her wont. Loudly, so that the Yevonites know she is here, and what her intent is. "I will protect them /all/."

Her eyes are determined, though never hard. Fayth and faithful and faithless alike, Althena's Guard will harm them NO MORE.

Ducking her head, she adds to her companions in an undertone, "Stay close to me."

And she steps off her unusual mode of transportation, with a faint and grateful glance at Marivel -- and onto the surface of the ocean itself, which rises, like an opening flower, to gently kiss the soles of her bare feet.

Calmly, like she's crossing the street, Yuna walks towards the Yevonite boat. A few pyreflies escort her, arcing out of and into the water like dolphins, crying and calling like gulls. Except, of course, they are not as cute as either of those animals. But they are more than just tragedy and suffering, these spheres of light. Sometimes, they really are beautiful.

[Pose Tracker] White Knight Leo has posed.

The Prime Lord left no uncertainty in her words, and in the process, she placed Leo in a very difficult position. He knows that there is something fel and sinister within the Sealing Rods, but he doesn't know who is responsible--but defeating /one/ Leviathan placed great strain on both the Destiny and his troops. An entire /army/ of summoners, all of them fielding the Eidolon...

It's a difficult decision, but one Leo makes regardless. The Dragonship Destiny set out for Uijundo Temple, following Liath's trail. Leo made the executive decision to leave the ship out of range of the enemy's lookouts--it's fast, but if the Yevonites saw it coming, they could spook and bolt. Even worse, they'd /know/ their backs were to the wall.

Leo can always count on Margaret and her people to come up with unorthodox yet cunning solutions.

On the other side of the Yevonite ship, another dolphin breaks the surface, puffs out a breath. It's trailing a tow-rope in its teeth, and on the other end of that rope is... a waterlogged red cape, drifting in the waves like a giant jellyfish. Underwater, Leo flashes a bright smile to his ride. The dolphin smiles back, because its face always looks that way.

It lets go of the tow rope and turns to Leo--in a single, fluid motion, it rams him in the chest with its rostrum, turns, and flees the scene.

Leo barely manages to keep the breath in his lungs, even as he silently curses the traitorous cetacean. His awareness flows outward, to the seabed--

Water surges outwards. A great pillar rises from the seabed, with Leo standing atop it--soaked to the bone, his hair and clothing plastered against his body. His mouth settles into a grim little line as he sees Marivel--and Yuna. "Very well, Summoners," Leo says. He draws his blade with a /shing/ of ringing steel. "Protect them."

[Pose Tracker] Lulu has posed.

It is a strange experience to ride the Asgard-class mech through the sea, for Lulu. Not because at this point she has not seen these great machines, but because--Well, isn't it obvious? Nevertheless...

She /wants/ to help, this time. Though finding a lost Fayth naturally brings back memories. She finds she agrees with Yuna, too, about what courage must be necessary here. Could she do the same?

"I'm with you," Lulu told Yuna.


Here and now, Lulu stands on the shoulder impassively, having risen from her seat as they approached the ships on which the Fayth must rest. She knows the plan; she knows what she needs to do. And she sees what is arrayed against them. Will Yevon take the time to fight both fronts? She does not dwell on the possibility. She plans.

"Marivel," Lulu requests. "Can you get us a little closer?"

The familiar Mog on her arm, Lulu is a contrast in sight, elaborate black dress and small white doll. But she is intent, staring forward, and ready. "Yuna," Lulu says. "I'm right behind you."

[Pose Tracker] Rikku has posed.

Rikku wouldn't ordinarily be really certain she wants to get between Althena's Guard and Yevon so soon after escaping being thrown in a water dungeon...

... but it's for Yuna's pilgrimage so she's all in.

However - that was before she found out she'd be riding in on a giant Golem. Now she's not just all in, but she's doubled down. She's been listening to her lecture on its origins while looking this way, and that. And over there. Like she's just trying to watch it move. Certainly she doesn't expect to figure it out, Al Bhed don't 'figure out' Ancient Tech.


Rikku places a hand upon the Crimson Noble's shoulder. Speaking in a whisper.

"... the Asgard - Marivel Edition - is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my entire life."

Rikku thumbs away a single tear from her eye with her opposite hand.

"But don't worry about that. As /if/ Guardians would expect it to be so easy as just letting a giant War Machina handle... everything for us. Or you know, anything but the ride."

Rikku looks over her shoulder, and gives Lulu this thumbs up. Before then leaning towards Marivel and whispering. "The moment we get her back to land - you'll /promise/ to show me everything it can do right?"

Yuna's words though, sober her up though, if she's been heady on the drink of forbidden Machina. "It'd take a lot." Rikku says quietly, of Belize's choice. "More than I have."

When it's time, Rikku doesn't say anything, as Yuna announces her intentions. And when she asks her to stay close to her. Rikku hops down beside her onto the ship, and agrees with Lulu with a simple comment of... "Both of us."

Being more distractible though... Rikku clears her throat at Leo as he draws his blade atop the rising pillar. Which she must admit is a fairly cool intro, how-ever, "Aren't you forgetting something? As if her /Guardians/ would just let you get right at her without a fight!"

[Pose Tracker] Seraph Boudicca has posed.

Boudicca has her own reasons to be fond of Yuna and her quest, though how much of that Marivel can guess and how much is left to Marivel's whims is something Boudicca cannot fathom. Nevertheless she is here, because Marivel asked her to be here, and when one has eternity to spend one spends their time freely.

Perhaps bringing a source of oxygen along to the high seas isn't such a bad plan! Humans need air to live, and there is scarce little air, under water. Or at least, it is no air humans can breathe.

Boudicca knows that much, but still, to hear Yuna tell it - it is a particular way to humanise the threat of their architecture. What Belize lost, what she comes here now to do...

"Very well," is what she said, to Yuna, on an Asgard made from pluck and admiration. "Let us help them."

This is what she says, rather than marvelling to Marivel about the particulars of robots. There is a time to be airy and light, and there comes a time to carry burdens.


The Fayth, from the water.

The Seraph, from the sky.

One to another and Boudicca straightens on Marivel's Asgard as she looks up, to Liath, and her sealing-rod. One hand finds the other, as her fingers trail over her gauntlet. She remembers Liath's; she remembers her aid.

"And we upon you," she addresses her kin, and spirits are such ineffable things. "This is where I stand."

From where she stands, she has a good view of the water. Boudicca has not spoken with Margaret since they delved through Gaferis Ruins - and she was not so much a different person then, leave alone the name, the armour; but Boudicca knows what she knows and where she stands is not beside Althena's Guard, not any more. Still, a look to her - a look to /Leo/ - and perhaps there is a little sadness, in the calm of her expression.

Yuna bids they stay close, and stay close Boudicca will. She is free to defend her mortal friends; this she intends.

[Pose Tracker] Belize has posed.

Reinforcements are due, and so reinforcements come. Hilde leaps aboard via a polearm and a rope and a smaller vessel and repeats Liath's request, while Margaret emerges from the depths like a hot Cthulhu (which, to be fair, still leaves her dripping with seawater) and makes grabby-hands, and Leo finally rises atop a pillar of water after her. There are presumably a host of other Althenan's Guards to take on the Yevonites in the background. And while Belize has Gon to support them with his white magic, the attack is largely a surprise.

But then Marivel, of all people, emerges from the sea on a *Golem*, a Seraph of her own and Yuna and her Guardians aboard.

They feel her before they see her. They are Summoners both, Belize and Yuna, and they have forged their bonds in diplomacy and battle alike. And just as Yuna surged with emotion to hear that Hymn, Belize's breast too beat faster--not just their own heart but that of the soul that co-dwells within them.


It's cause for joy, but Belize can't express that joy right now--either before, when things hadn't quite yet settled, and certainly not now that the Althena's Guard have chosen *exactly* this moment to interfere. But Belize has their anger, and they have it in spades, and they'll unleash its full force if that's what it means to protect Leviathan.

Yuna is here to help them. Of this, they have no doubt.

So when their allies of Yevon shout in anger and fear of the Golem, Belize slashes the air with one arm. "Be stout of heart! They may come on forbidden machina, but *that* one is an ally--for now."

"I-isn't that Summoner Yuna aboard?!" says one of the sharper-eyed Yevonites. "Grand Maester Mika ordered she be killed!"

"Grand Maester Mika ordered Leviathan be retrieved, *no matter the cost*," Belize states sharply. "Yuna is a Summoner. She won't let these foul heathens," they gesture with open revulsion at the forces of Althena's Guard, "sully the fayth. Know your priorities! One stray heretic, or an army: which is the greater threat?!"

This convinces the Yevonites, many of whom liked Yuna anyway, and they roar as they engage with the NPCs on the other side.

Belize, for their part, turns a nod Yuna's way--and by extension, to Lulu, Rikku, Boudicca, and even (ugh) Marivel--atop the Asgard-class Golem before they face off against their opponents. In particular, they sneer at Leo. "It seems I owe you for that time on the Bevelle walls, White Knight. But even without that... I will never let you have your way!"

Twisting their arms to lay their focus on their bow and arrow, they unleash not a nocked attack, but a roiling bubble of green, purple, and black. It looks disgusting, it *feels* disgusting, and if it makes its mark successfully, it'll leave a noxious poison *all over* Leo's wet armor.

GS: Belize has attacked White Knight Leo with Bio! GS: Belize has gained 2 Combo! GS: Belize has completed their action. GS: White Knight Leo guards a hit from Belize's Bio for 58 hit points! GS: Poison applied to White Knight Leo!

[Pose Tracker] Seraph Liath has posed.

She expects reinforcements.

But steeled as those eyes of burning gold are as she stares down two ships worth of Spira's faithful, Liath looks as if she is prepared to fight them all entirely on her own if need be.

I would die a thousand deaths before I would allow you to desecrate them!!

The Seraph's lips pull into a tight line.

"... So be it. I would fight across a thousand lifetimes for the thing I hold dearest," is her response, the edge of her blade beginning to gleam with the hues of liquid rainbow.

"So if that is to be your answer, then let us see it to its thousandth."

She's prepared. But it proves unnecessary; on cue, the others arrive, by dinghy or by dolphin.

It's possibly pure, cetacean (and tiny boat)-based fortune that the timing shakes out perfectly on cue to Liath's declaration, but at the very least, the Seraph looks for all the world like it was meant to be this way.

Likely because she just earnestly believed it was.

A thin line curves upwards towards a smile as Hilde drags herself up upon the ship, (a very wet) Margaret and (similarly soaked) Leo arriving soon after. The situation is fraught to say the least, and no one could dare question Liath's resolve --

--But that doesn't mean the moment doesn't take a brief detour for her to blink and stare at the two Guard who arrive much more soppingly than the other.

"... Did you perchance... swim all this way...?" she wonders, wide-eyed.

"What marvelous resolve! But - forgive me - you are perhaps taking the meaning of an amphibious mission a touch too literally."

She doesn't even blink at (falsely) proclaiming someone else to be far too literal.

But they are far from the only arrivals. Liath's gold faze narrows, mere seconds before the sight of the surging golem carving through the ocean can be seen. Her legs tense in preparation, her gaze sweeping towards the automaton's location.

"Hold," she warns. "We are not alone."

And they come. The Summoner still on her pilgrimage, despite everything, and those who would support her. Gold eyes narrow.

I will protect them from you.

Liath's fingers clench for a brief, tight moment along the hilt of her sword.

"... Even as they forsake you? Even as they condemn you? They have betrayed you for their own, fearful gain, and you would yet stand at their side?"

It is a question of resolve that needn't be asked, yet is asked all the same. Liath's voice never wavers -- even as she notices the others aboard that Golem -- even as she hears familiar voices.

Tis true, we are at the end of our rope! But we are at sea, so what you see as the end of a rope is the lifeline that can pull us to shore!

And we upon you. This is where I stand.

And despite herself, Liath's smile finds her once more.

"... Yes, I suppose so," says the Prime Lord, to Marivel and Boudicca in kind.

"A lifeline, or a noose? Today one truth or the other will out. But if this is where you stand..."

And despite her smile, Liath's expression is a sad thing indeed as she taps the glowing tip of her blade to the surface of her shield.

"... I suppose we must stand at odds this day, mustn't we?"

Sad, as that light pours from blade to shield to coat it in prismatic radiance...

"Come, then. Let us cross swords."

... but resolved, all the same.

"Guardsmen! Repel the Yevonites and their allies! When an opening is had..."

Liath will seize it.

GS: Seraph Liath has attacked Seraph Liath with Immaculate Focus! GS: Seraph Liath assumes the Stoic stance! GS: Seraph Liath accepts Seraph Liath's Immaculate Focus for 0 hit points! GS: Quick applied to Seraph Liath! GS: Seraph Liath has completed her action.

[Pose Tracker] Belize has posed.

Meanwhile, deeper, underwater, in Uijundo Temple...

The swimmers who'd followed Belize's directions and helped retrieve the fayth--without fear of sacrilege due to entering the Chamber of the Fayth without being Summoners, for this journey is one sanctioned by Yevon--make their way to the surface in a hurry, hearing the commotion up above. In their rush, they don't look back.

If they had, they would have seen a long, long tentacle undulating through the currents, up from the depths below even the temple. One, and then another, and another, until eight long sucker-laden limbs crawl up through the Temple and into the Chamber...

[Pose Tracker] Margaret has posed.

Margaret's eyes flick around as the mobile Gear unit gets closer - as the Guardians and their Summoner arrive, individuals who seem to have joined the cause of Yevon for the purposes of this. Her eyes rest momentarily on Boudicca.

Boudicca can see a profound fatigue in those eyes, half-formed crow's feet that are largely held at bay by elfish metabolism and eye makeup. But the eye makeup washed off in the ocean. How could it not?

But it is fatigue laying on the surface. Underneath there is an indefatigable determination. Not one, perhaps, levied towards protecting others -- or at least, not in the same shape and form as that which shines forth. But even in night there is spirit, courage, and perhaps more important, CRAFT. Margaret rests one hand on the deck rail as she raises her other hand upwards, fingers half-veiling her own face.

"Tough that this is on a ship... but I'm not going to be taking 'Him' down with hesitation and prudence, am I?" Margaret says, mostly to herself but partly to the world in general. "Burst the night open... these two legs can take us anywhere:"

A sudden crackle around Margaret, stray sparks making some of her hair frizz and the rest of it forming into a momentary radiant nimbus around her lower body, crackling downwards. She grimaces - it hurts, without the leather boots and their copper heels and buttons - but the spell is indifferent to them.

A snap-crack-FIZZZH of thunder, a smell of ozone, and: "Thunder Road!"

And with this, Margaret leans down to rest both hands on the deck for a moment before kicking forwards, as if to charge through the enemy's defensive line and get to the goal! But this blitz has something far more vital than a goal at stake, doesn't it?

GS: Margaret has attacked Margaret with Thunder Road! GS: Margaret has completed her action. GS: Margaret accepts Margaret's Thunder Road for 0 hit points! GS: Quick applied to Margaret!

[Pose Tracker] Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel smiles at Leo. "I remember your passionate words, White Knight. Rest assured they are not forgotten." It's not an unkind smile and she doesn't even promptly headbutt him in the chest thus proving once and for all that Marivel is a nicer person than dolphins. Honestly, she's here to help BELIZE of all people whom she definitely hasn't had a single conversation with that didn't end in someone getting snippy but Crimson Nobles are strange people though Marivel in particular has a deep love for the mechanically inclined, the clever, and the curious.

"Of course, Rikku. But for now, we shall show off our talents at dogoodery." As over the top as always.

A lifeline, or a noose? Today one truth or the other will out.

"True," Marivel respects Liath and as such isn't inclined to get spiteful. "But we are all born into this world with a noose 'round our neck. All we decide is how we swing in the breeze and the wind bids me to seize that rod from you."

Yuna requests she move Asgaard closer--and Asgard complies, guiding our heroes ever closer--though also meaning it will be far more difficult to escape.

Marivel tilts her floppy hat so it provides a bit more shade over her face. "Boudicca, whatever happens I am proud to fight by your side."

And with that she murmurs, "Aport."

And she flashports towards Liath-- just to close the distance as she appears IN FRONT and ABOVE, slicing down with her red blade of Guillotine as she comes crashing down upon the Prime Lord. The truth is, she doesn't exactly know the difference between a Prime Lord and your average Seraph which means, for once, Marivel can feel the fascimile of a heart within her pounding.

"I'm making my gamble. I intend to seize the whole pot."

GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Seraph Liath with Augmented Aport! GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.

[Pose Tracker] Hilde has posed.

Various parties arrive. Hilde glances primarily to Marivel. She hadn't forgotten Marivel's warning, of course... but, much like with Leo, there are still things she must do. Speaking of Leo, Hilde glances toward the side as he and Margaret climb aboard.

...Hilde had elected to go on ahead, and she finds herself somewhat glad for this decision. Though she doesn't realize she missed out an opportunity to ride a dolphin.

Alas. Who are the true winners here?

Hilde returns her attention to the Yevonites, and those standing with them.

"...I see. So this is your decision." Hilde says quietly, shutting her eye as the refusal to relinquish the Fayth is restated. "...Very well. I must commend your resolve!"

She places a hand over a heart for a brief moment and starts forward... when, suddenly, she catches sight of movement out of the corner of her eye as someone moves up from below deck. Hilde whirls quickly, moving in that direction... but pauses, when she spots the source.

"...Ah! It's you! From the discovery of the core." Hilde notes, looking upon Gon. Indeed, she recognizes him... though, she frowns upon noticing his condition.

"...You do not look fit for combat, however, friend." She notes. "If you still insist on fighting... then please, allow me to assist you so that we may have a proper duel."

With a gesture of her left hand, golden lights swirl around Gon, converging upon his location! Should they make contact, he'll find his wounds fully mended.

HP and MP recovered!

[Pose Tracker] Seraph Boudicca has posed.

Yes - there is something sad to Boudicca's expression, restrained though it is. Would that her people never clashed against each other; would that she never had occasion to fight. But, for all these regrets...

... at least her conscience is lighter, facing off against Liath. Boudicca sees a true heart, no matter the disagreement they come to and the implements she has brought.

(She notices Hilde, across the way, how she heals the wounded before her assault. Liath is not the /only/ honourable Guardsman. There is a reason she found friends within their number, once upon a time. And yet, the source of them all...)

"Ah," Boudicca sighs, shaking her head. Her braids are loose, at her sides, shaking with her. The water did not touch her, coming in. "There is wisdom in their measurements. All days pass. Of these hours, twenty-four... no longer. We will see good days, again."

Boudicca smiles, a shade of melancholy to the expression, as Marivel expresses her pride. "And I to you, dear Marivel."

She grasps her tonfa. They are no blades of light; she has not come to Clarine with her final request, not yet. The polished wood deals well with the salt in the air, as she looks to Liath. "It has been some time," she says, as Marivel 'ports, "since I used my force entire."

And then she jumps.

The air BLASTS out from her heels, a crack of noise as Boudicca joins the sky; and from the sky her arm whips out. The gesture rains down long before she does, a glyph of Seraphic make underneath Liath and her blade; from it the wind blows, swirling and disruptive.

This is the wind which tore flesh; the wind she took such pains to keep from Hilde.

"All conditions worsening -- Buffeting Headwind!"

GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Seraph Liath with Buffeting Headwind! GS: Seraph Boudicca has gained 1 Combo! GS: Seraph Boudicca assumes the Avenger stance! GS: Seraph Boudicca has completed her action. GS: Seraph Liath takes a glancing hit from Seraph Boudicca's Buffeting Headwind for 41 hit points! GS: Delay applied to Seraph Liath! GS: Seraph Liath critically guards Marivel Armitage's Augmented Aport for 20 hit points! GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Liath gains 1 additional Combo!

[Pose Tracker] Yuna has posed.

Just before the chaos of battle splits their party up, Yuna gives each of them a quick but fierce look.

"Thank you," she says simply, to Marivel and Boudicca... and leaves it at that. It's important for them to know she isn't taking this for granted. That it means everything to her that they choose to help her help the others.

Lulu and Rikku already know that, they know it a thousand times over. So while those words could have been for all four of them, it isn't really. What her Guardians get, as they cross the ocean together, is all the same emotion, but communicated only with her eyes.

They're close now.

A tiny smile is born on Yuna's lips, at Belize's defense of her motives. She looks like she'd like to silently lay her hand over her heart, but she needs both her hands right now, supporting the rod that's supporting her footsteps, and those of her friends.

It lets them off onto the deck of the wooden ship, very near the crane and its precious, precious burden. Yuna glances up at it; she is always aware of a fayth when they're so very nearby, so exposed, without using her eyes -- in the same way one's own heart is always very nearby and exposed without having to look at it directly. But still, before she is too busy to do so, she wants to greet it with the ancient prayer.

She doesn't call it the Yevonite prayer anymore, though those on deck who aren't entirely comfortable with her presence might interpret it that way. It's impossible to mistake her for anything but what she is, though.

Grand Maester Mika and Maester Kinoc made very sure of that, before the end.

HERETIC, reads the intricate Yevonite rune branded on her palm. The burn has begun to scar over, but it remains a livid red.

Liath brings it up.

'... Even as they forsake you? Even as they condemn you? They have betrayed you for their own, fearful gain, and you would yet stand at their side?'

Yuna's smile, an audacious thing to begin with, on a girl who has been forsaken and condemned, refuses to fade. It is bright and sweet and... strong, stronger than steel.

"It will take more than the proclamation of fearful old ghosts to keep me from the side of those who need me!"

She eyes that Sealing Rod like someone who's become something of a veteran at fights like these -- she, who defended Besaid and Djose Temples, and who lives with the consequences of her failure to protect Kilika Temple every day, knows extremely well that the Seraph will inevitably try to seize an opening and take a shot.

But, as she is not an aerialist (at least, not without some help), she steps up next to Belize, stands shoulder to shoulder with them, and shifts her attention to someone she hasn't seen since the conquering of Spira's most joyful city.

"Shield us from the hungering Earth..." she prays, and an orb of golden light flows out of her staff to orbit Belize like they're the sun. A second encircles Lulu, who is still close beside her. "...of Sir Leo," she greets, and a measure of melancholy enters her expression.

"How fares your holy war?" she asks him, straight up, with the big blue-green eyes of a girl whose continent was wholesale invaded by those pledged to a distant Goddess. "How many lives have you saved, or even merely improved, in the name of your preferred method for losing against Sin?"

GS: Yuna has attacked Lulu with NulHarm! GS: Yuna has attacked Belize with NulHarm! GS: Yuna has gained 2 Combo! GS: Yuna has completed her action. GS: Yuna heals Belize! They gain 110 temporary hit points! GS: Yuna heals Lulu! She gains 110 temporary hit points!

[Pose Tracker] Lulu has posed.

Unaware of what may or may not be happening below, Lulu focuses instead on what is happening before; she has spells ready to dissuade any attempts at attack on Yuna as she walks, and as she works to get her own route over. ...She doesn't know Leo's 'passionate words' that Marivel mentions, but she sees her necessary opponent when it happens. She remembers the conversations they've had...

The conversations they haven't. And Belize, defending Yuna.

The appropriate tactic occurs to her naturally, of course. Leo draws his blade... and Lulu jumps from Asgard, now closer, onto the deck of the ship.

Lulu steps up as the golden light of Yuna's magic circles around her. Yuna displays a show of melancholy. Lulu does not.

As she feels Belize's magic on the air, she raises her hand to the sky. Power gathers around her--and bolts of lightning suddenly crash down onto the soaked, metal-waving White Knight.

GS: Lulu has attacked White Knight Leo with Thundara! GS: Lulu has gained 2 Combo! GS: Lulu has completed her action. GS: White Knight Leo takes a glancing hit from Lulu's Thundara for 75 hit points! GS: Reaction switch bonus! White Knight Leo gains 1 additional Combo! GS: Disrupt applied to White Knight Leo!

[Pose Tracker] Gon Guado has posed.

The Guado Guardian looks about ready to take a leap to the other ship with Liath. The churning waters do not give him much pause - he would rather Belize not die a second of a thousand willing times at this juncture. It is a matter of personal pride that no charge of his had ever lost their life before they decided to retire from their Pilgrimage.

	"...Ah. It's you." Gon notes, matching words but less reminiscing in tone. Hilde's might was as such she turned aside him and two capable Guado Guardians, all too handily. Hers is the blade that has felled Giants. His is yet another humiliation that compounds further and further as Yevon finds itself at the brink.
	"...Friend." He exhales, not in agreement but quiet exasperation. /Demeaned/. Years upon years of excellence in hunting Fiends. Years of training no small number of younger Guado in their traditional combat art.
	It is only in comparison that Gon has been found wanting... but in war, that comparison itself is the question, and if in the comparison he is the weaker, unable to adapt as easily to these new circumstances... the result is natural.
	A result he does not accept, as he crosses a gauntlet in front of him when golden lights swirl and take into him. They cleanse his wounds - evaporating lingering aches. A surge of greater awareness, as if the toll of the journey at sea so far has disappeared.
	It is not that she shows to have exceeded /his/ capabilities with prayer - the 'White Magic' of this land - that offends him most.
	"...Is this sport to you?" Gon's tone lowers. "I have two daughters whose dreams have been taken. Here you stand now, at the precipice of everything my people have worked for, hand-in-hand with the faithful of Yevo--"
	Several War Monks are already moving in, cutting Gon off. Yes. They have the right of it, as much as he would have loved to have said something like, 'a duel is for those in equal standing.' Otherworlder dialogue between battles to /this/ degree is the worst thing to have rubbed off on him.
	Two War Monks open fire with rifles, as Gon starts to move closer into formation - but they are weary and worn from the breaching operation.
	Even if they were in their best condition, they stand before one who has slain giants.

GS: Gon Guado has attacked Hilde with Adds! GS: Gon Guado has completed his action. GS: Hilde guards a hit from Gon Guado's Adds for 54 hit points!

[Pose Tracker] Rikku has posed.

"Well we /have/ been known to dabble in do-goodery... from time to time." Rikku says towards Marivel...

Though at Yuna's exchange between Liath... and herself... then Leo. Rikku actually feels a swell of pride at how she finishes... and says with a certain wryness, "Wow - hey Yunie, leave something left of him for Lulu?"

In the midst of it though, Rikku finds herself peering at Margaret.

Rikku /still/ isn't used to spells that have a long incantation, over from their side of the world. Yet she appreciates the warning. As Margaret starts speaking the incantation, she squints. And then her eyes grow wide at the first blur of motion. Because in that blur... she thinks she notices something.

Raising a hand, Rikku simply flicks her wrist and in that motion - a long yellow feather is just there.

"Right - so. Back in a minute?"

She says apologetically towards Yuna and Lulu.

Ordinarily, protecting Yuna would be her top priority. However, she understands how important this statue is to Yuna, and she's not about to let someone ruin it before the fight begins.

With a flick of her fingers, the yellow feather goes skyward - before dissolving into sparkles like some sleight of hand magician's trick. And the visage of a phantom clock appears around her. Pivoting, and pushing off the deck at a runner's Sprint - Rikku just dashes into her path at a speed which may cause everyone to think a sea breeze has picked up.

From the side of Margaret and out in front, a voice chirps in. "Hi! Were you /really/ trying to just go for a snatch and grab?"

Rikku twists into her path right in front of the Fayth statue. Bobbing side to side as she shifts her weight from foot to foot, as if ready to go one way or the other to block her.

"Respect! I'm giving you top marks for boldness!"

GS: Rikku has attacked Rikku with Use: Chocobo Feather! GS: Rikku has completed her action. GS: Rikku accepts Rikku's Use: Chocobo Feather for 0 hit points! GS: Quick applied to Rikku!

[Pose Tracker] White Knight Leo has posed.

Leo meets Liath's look with a slight scowl and narrowed eyes. "We had help," he says. "For a given value of help." About a hundred yards away, a dolphin lets out high-pitched clicking. "We can explain later, Prime Lord." And then he leaps, tracing out a graceful arc and landing on the deck of the Yevonite ship. His waterlogged cape can't flutter behind him; it takes away from the effect.

'I remember your passionate words, White Knight. Be assured they are not forgotten.'

The battle is joined. It's been a long, long time since Leo's seen Yuna. He still remembers the hurt and betrayal of their last meeting--when Yuna came to Kilika in a desperate attempt to broker peace between the Guard and Yevon. He's only heard scraps of what's happened to her since--an engagement to a Maester, a wedding that ended up turning into a battle. What has she endured?

He sees that brand on her palm. Even if he didn't, Liath makes things crystal-clear. Even now, after being literally branded as a heretic, Yuna--Leo takes a breath, his face growing as stony as the pillar he summoned moments ago. It doesn't quite make it all the way to his eyes. It does absolutely nothing to prepare him for what Yuna says. Leo's mouth falls open; he fumbles for words, but there's nothing he can say.

Belize gives him something else to focus on--something that isn't his own failures. Leo's blade sweeps up to block the sudden spray of venom--the toxic goo strikes his shining blade dead-center, but it's not a perfect block. Droplets land on his face and neck, hissing and bubbling as they burn into his veins. Pain spikes outwards from the points of impact. "You're looking spry for someone who should be a corpse," he says, his eyes fixing on Belize. "I /heard/ you die atop those walls!"

And then Lulu demonstrates why /she/ shouldn't be ignored, either. Leo has only a second's warning--the smell of ozone in the air, the familiar crackle of lightning in the clouds. He throws himself to the side, and the bolt of lightning /rips/ into the deck where he stood just two seconds ago. Tongues of electricity crackle across his body, attracted by his armor. "Ghh--!" Leo chokes out. Focus. /Focus/! Heldalf would be /ashamed/ to see you like this!

The Beastman blurs across the deck. His blade lashes out in a diagonal cut across Belize's chest--a maneuver that leaves the Summoner very little room to counterattack, should they be inclined. He spins on a heel, focusing on Yuna and her Guardian, Lulu. Some of the effortless fluidity seeps out of his motions--he brings his blade up, and then sweeps it down, but the strike is jerky, poorly-formed. The resulting energy wave erupts across the deck, though, and it's big enough to hit both Summoner and Guardian in one strike.

GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Belize with Flash Blade! GS: White Knight Leo has gained 1 Combo! GS: White Knight Leo assumes the Stoic stance! GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Yuna with Demon Fang! GS: White Knight Leo has gained 2 Combo! GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Lulu with Demon Fang! GS: White Knight Leo has gained 2 Combo! GS: White Knight Leo takes 27 damage from Poison! GS: White Knight Leo has completed his action. GS: Lulu takes a solid hit from White Knight Leo's Demon Fang for 169 hit points! GS: CRITICAL! Belize takes a solid hit from White Knight Leo's Flash Blade for 221 hit points! GS: Lulu used Defend! She takes White Knight Leo's Demon Fang attack on Yuna on herself! GS: CRITICAL! Lulu guards a hit from White Knight Leo's Demon Fang for 120 hit points! GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lulu gains 1 additional Combo! GS: Lulu activates Guard bonus!

[Pose Tracker] Seraph Liath has posed.

Her shield gleams with an undulating field of every possible color as Yuna provides her answer, light converging towards blistering white before scattering into reds, blues, pinks, yellows, greens, like waves crashing and scattering on a shoreline.

Liath's eyes shut, even as Asgard advances, even as battle begins dangerously near to her.

Her smile, subtle as it may be, takes a fonder edge.

"I would not ask for any other answer," she murmurs, beneath her breath.

By the time her eyes open and she looks up to address Yuna directly, that smile is gone in favor of a steeled line of resolve.

"So be it. Well met, summoner."

Summoner, she says, weighted with particular meaning.

As if Yuna could not be anything but.

Liath shifts. Her attention turns, gilded gaze sweeping towards Asgard. It takes on a sharper look at Marivel's words -- like one of silent acceptance. More than that -- appreciation.

"Yes," she utters. "Life is a precious gift, and we but choose the way we pay tribute to it in the time we are allotted. I made my choice long ago." She reaches behind her, briefly, with her shield-bearing hand, touching that rod. Her words reflect Marivel's in the space before the noble disappears from her mechanized mount.

"And it bids me to carry this rod to its appointed fate. I shall see it to its end."

They move. Marivel disappears. Boudicca leaps. Liath's eyes narrow. There is the briefest shift in the feel of things around her.

And it is the shining surface of that shield, rather than armor of spiritual flesh, that Marivel's Guillotine meets with a strangely harmonious chime of metal upon metal.

"I see no pot to be seized!"

And this is Liath's woefully misinformed yet unashamedly bold declaration before the light upon her shield FLASHES with contact with the Guillotine, creating a blinding surge of light --

-- one that complements the sudden, sweeping pivot of the Seraph as she launches into the air with the upwards sweep of her blade to meet the Noble, lightning forged of Althena's light crackling at the very tip of her weapon like a thunderstrike.

"-- lest the Fayth itself is pot-shaped? I -- hm."

Liath dares spare precious seconds in the aftermath of her attack to try to peer over the edge of the boat to catch a glimpse of the Fayth. She's never seen one.

For all she knows, it COULD be just a big pot with a baby-sized Leviathan inside--

"--perhaps with tiny serpent teeth--?"

But her curiosity and wild imagination costs her. That precious second is all it takes for Seraphic glyphs to form under her. She feels the swell of Althena's Blessing. Her teeth grit. She -springs-.

It's a tribute to both her speed and skill that, even distracted, Liath manages to avoid the brunt of that hellacious wind. The brunt, but not all of it: its fringes bite into Liath's leg, cutting a disruptive path up her extremity and rustling violently at the green coattails of her garb as she spins towards a stop at the soaked fringes of the ship's deck. She looks towards Boudicca, up above.

"Boudicca," she murmurs, with something that might be regret in her voice.

"I would not have wished our next meeting to have been on strife-soaked grounds as these."

But it does not stop her from standing. From pointing that blade. From chanting.

                                  "Eternal light, ever true
                                  and undefiled, grant this
                                   wanton sinner before me
                                     the majesty of thy

From a multitude of shimmering mirrors to summon forth around the Wind Seraph, surrounding her.

                                       "Kaleidos Ray!"

From a glyph forged at Liath's front to fire off a shining beam of pure white light, hitting one of those mirrors -- before reflecting between -all- of them to collide with Boudicca repeatedly with soul-searing magic, intent to trap her in a radiant cage.

GS: Seraph Liath spends 2 Combo on Headshot! GS: Seraph Liath has attacked Marivel Armitage with Lightning Tiger Blade! GS: Seraph Liath spends 1 Combo on Poison! GS: Seraph Liath has attacked Seraph Boudicca with Kaleidos Ray! GS: Delay expired! GS: Seraph Liath has completed her action. GS: Seraph Boudicca takes a solid hit from Seraph Liath's Kaleidos Ray for 138 hit points! GS: Poison applied to Seraph Boudicca! GS: Marivel Armitage takes a solid hit from Seraph Liath's Lightning Tiger Blade for 164 hit points!

[Pose Tracker] Margaret has posed.

Margaret streaks forwards - she is perhaps the fastest person on this ship right now, measured by foot pace - but as she moves, someone else is coming off to intercept her --

Margaret snaps her head to the side, side-eying Rikku even as the younger woman skids out to get between her and the Fayth, weaving and bobbing afterwards. Margaret's mouth opens and closes several times, the sharp words between Summoner and White Knight in her ears but in her EYES is something else entirely.


"I don't need you to... to GRADE me, you tow-headed little lorikeet!!" Margaret seethes. "Do you think I'm doing this for funsies?! Do you think this is a joke!? Whatever else is going on with you and your miserable beach continent, I don't intend to sit back and get turned into pounded fish paste by your damned Aeon! Nor any of my men or my allies! I intend to get out of here with a basket of medals and opportunity to fulfill my TRUE dreams!"

Her eyes float around for a moment, perhaps sensing the tension towards the Summoners. She weaves back and forth in a manner not entirely dissimilar to Rikku before her focus returns to laser-like intensity upon the other woman.

"Do you want to know what that dream is...?"

Margaret turns slightly, presenting her left side towards Rikku. This may, in the long run, be a mistake because there's a certain object on the chain belt that has held several other small items of hers. She brings her left hand up as if to veil her face again, as if to conceal her intention, or the pain in her eyes. "And how I intend to fulfil it...?"


She twists forwards, her right fist coming out in a hyper-accelerated straight punch right square at Rikku, the thunderous aura of her spell crackling round her upper arm!

GS: Margaret has attacked Rikku with Althena Said Knock You Out! GS: Margaret has completed her action. GS: Rikku takes a glancing hit from Margaret's Althena Said Knock You Out for 58 hit points!

[Pose Tracker] Belize has posed.

Liath peeks towards the fayth still swaying in the net that keeps them from a deep drop back into the ocean. It's no pot, but more like a human encased in crystal, not unlike an insect encased in amber. The net prevents Liath from getting a good look, especially since she only has time for a glance, but it looks to be like an adult, clad in black and white and red and blue with an impressive feathered hat in garb reminiscent of a ship captain, hair long and partly braided, frame strong, even as they curl around themself as if asleep rather than dead. The Hymn of the Fayth that continues to emanate from the strange stone is a powerful baritone with depth and passion, one that would boom if not for the quiet relative volume. If she gets close enough, she might, strangely enough, catch a whiff of gardenias.

'They have betrayed you for their own, fearful gain, and you would yet stand at their side?' Liath asks Yuna. "Hmph," Belize sniffs--but they don't argue the point. After all, as far as the greater portion of Yevon is concerned, it's true. Them, though... They and Yuna have an understanding, all their own. Outsiders need not understand, and Yuna has her own answer for the Prime Lord besides.

And for Leo as well. "Hah!" they crow, lips baring a grin proud of the sheer /sass/ Yuna just punched Leo in the face with. Yuna, shoulder-to-shoulder with them as she is, will see their approval bright and clear in their sea-green eyes as her defensive magic encircles them. "You've gotten better at speaking your mind, Yuna." Perhaps becoming a heretic has done her good--though the company as mixed as it is, Belize leaves *that* part unsaid. They meet Lulu's eyes as she joins the two of them and brings the thunder down on Leo, and gives her another nod of gratitude for her help. The two of them haven't spoken much, but they've always had a good understanding.

Besides which, Belize has a certain respect for Guardians, whether she likes them as an individual or not. They do like Lulu, but even if they didn't, she'd have their respect for her willingness to protect Yuna with her life--something she demonstrates a moment later when Leo retaliates with his blade, and Lulu takes the hit for Yuna as only a Guardian can. They have respect for Rikku too, Al Bhed though she may be--though she's Yuna's Guardian, she blocks an Althenan attempt to simply go straight for the fayth. They breath out a long, soundless breath as they spot that as they struggle back to their feet. They... really owe that girl an apology. But--another time.

Of course, paying attention to other things is dangerous. Leo also attacks Belize--a straight-forward, simple cut across the chest. It hits them dead-on, and it carves through them so deep and long that, by all rights, they should fall dead on the spot even with Yuna's protective magic in place. And they do fall, screaming in pain and defiance, and slump... But then they look up. They smile, tight and hard and unforgiving, at Leo. He heard them die, did he? It hardly requires extra will to send them up with this injury, but pyreflies swirl up from them briefly all the same as they sway back up to their feet.

"Yes," they state. "You did." They flip their red-orange braid over one shoulder. "But you needn't flatter yourself. 'Twas not by *your* hand that I breathed my last. No--" They curve their bow down, then twirl into a graceful and familiar dance. "We Summoners always strive to defeat a far greater foe!"

As they dance, a familiar scene unfolds: a drop of light into a great crystal of ice, out from which a giant woman shatters and tosses aside her shawl. As Belize catches it, Shiva Cambria stands ready to peer down her nose at Leo. She brings up one hand--and then, with a graceful gesture, she brings down a great crystal of ice to strike the White Knight down.

DC: Belize switches forms to Aeon Shiva -Cambria-! GS: Belize has attacked White Knight Leo with Heavenly Strike! GS: Belize has completed their action. GS: White Knight Leo critically guards Belize's Heavenly Strike for 20 hit points! GS: Reaction switch bonus! White Knight Leo gains 1 additional Combo! GS: Mighty applied to Belize!

[Pose Tracker] Hilde has posed.

Hilde notes the exasperation with which he repeats her greeting.

"My apologies. What manner of address do you prefer?" She replies. And then he asks that question. Is this sport to her? At that, she frowns.

"I assure you, I am quite serious - but I see that as no reason courtesy, even to a foe." She replies, with a shake of her head. ...Her expression becomes somewhat sad, though, at the mention of his daughters... but, before he can finish, before she can form a response, two war monks open fire. Hilde retreats back quickly, her shield drawn. Her arm flinches back as rifle shots impact the shield. ARMs are still a strange and new thing to her - it's different than defending against a weapon or Sorcery. It takes a different set of skills.

"...Their dreams...?" Hilde murmurs. "...I apologize. I assure you, once this has concluded we shall do what we can to return things to a semblance of normalcy."

Will they, once this war has concluded? She seems to believe that, at least - or certainly hopes they will.

She draws her sword... but she does not move to strike Gon directly.

"For now, however, we must fight - steel yourselves!" Hilde calls out. She casts her right arm out with a flourish. That blue aura he might recall from their previous encounter flares into being around her... and then /explodes/ outward with enough force to push back Gon's Warrior Monk allies...and Gon himself, should he be caught in it. It soon dissipates, fading once more.

GS: Hilde has attacked Gon Guado with Aura Burst! GS: Hilde has gained 1 Combo! GS: Hilde has completed her action. GS: Gon Guado guards a hit from Hilde's Aura Burst for 76 hit points! GS: Mighty applied to Hilde!

[Pose Tracker] Yuna has posed.

As if Yuna COULD be anything else but a summoner.

In a world without summoners... what would she even be like?*

Summoners are so much more than just 'people who summon', and they're more than 'people who die,' at least if you're Yuna. Belize might disagree with her; she doesn't SPEAK for all summoners by any means; but to Yuna, to be a summoner is synonymous not only with sacrifice but with service. It means to put the needs of others over your own. Even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard.

Leo kind of looks like he's having a hard time right now.

When he doesn't respond, Lulu might sense weakness, but Yuna just senses pain. It amounts to the same thing, whether you're an ice-cold sarcasm queen or a (mostly) tender hero-slash-doormat: an opening. A chance. A chance to reach him.

And Yuna wouldn't be Yuna, if she didn't at least try.

"Thank you," she replies quietly to Belize.

She rests her brutalized palm on Lulu's shoulder (this requires going briefly to tiptoe to do it, a slippery prospect in her bare feet on the wet deck, but one thing Yuna's got in spades in this rough and tumble world is /balance/). Healing passes between them, foregoing the conduit of the rod. Skin to skin is enough. Heart to heart is enough. The black mage is briefly suffused in an extraordinarily quiet and gentle expression of white magic, and then most of the price her Guardian paid to protect her is gone.

But her eyes are on Leo -- they do not leave him. And they are not angry; they are earnest, and oddly -- well, not so oddly -- compassionate.

"Sir Leo. Do you understand," she asks him, "Who is in that crystal?"

Belize calls forth an aeon, demonstrating only half of the answer. As always, when in Shiva's presence, Yuna stands a little taller, her shoulders back, her chin lifted. Belize is having a similar effect on her too, now, truth be told.

"Do you know /why Belize is here/?" she persists, with greater intensity. "Not on Spira, but /here/, in this place, among all of the oceans of all of the worlds?"

She points her rod at him, and for someone who can no more conjure lightning bolts out of it as she can fly, it is a remarkably severe gesture.

"They are the same as your comrades Sin crushed to bits on the Djose Shore," she tells him. "They died... because they wanted to defeat Sin. Because they were willing to give their lives for something they believed in. And they were willing to give their deaths, too. The fayth carry on through the ages... joining with summoners only to lose them... all to finally and /permanently/ defeat Sin... it is the greatest act of sacrifice I can even imagine."

Coming from a summoner, that means kind of a lot.

"And... they are people," she says sadly. "The fayth are people. They're... my friends."

She lowers her rod, and dares look away from Leo to gaze up at Liath, instead.

"Do you know, Sir Leo," she asks him, one last time, "Who -- what -- is in that Sealing Rod, that you have brought to inflict unimaginable suffering upon MY FRIEND?"

  • Find out next year, in Final Fantasy X-2

GS: Yuna has attacked Lulu with Cura! GS: Yuna has gained 3 Combo! GS: Yuna has completed her action. GS: Yuna heals Lulu! She gains 210 temporary hit points!

[Pose Tracker] Marivel Armitage has posed.

I made my choice long ago

"So have I," Marivel says. The road had its ups and downs but the day that Ashley fused with the demon inside him is the day that Marivel lost the opportunity to take back that choice. "Sometimes I envy the undecided."

But she can't help but marvel (not marivel) at Liath's instinct. She moved into a blindspot but she still feeled her presence as soon as she re-entered local space.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9zw8hu7jN4

She flips back and skids back, that red blade swirling and twisting around her hand. Guillotine often take form of a blade but like with any shapeshifter, the true blade is in her heart--stuck in their like any good stake.

"Ah, that's right," Marivel murmurs. "They banned gambling--" Wait but that was a recent decree...! So it can't JUST be because they banned it! Well, she knows Boudicca. She can think of other reasons for the confusion.

That familiar feel of Althena's light comes streaking towards her. Marivel jumps back--but too slowly. The lightning impacts against her body and the only reason she doesn't turn to ash is because she is wearing her protective gear. She sinks to one knee as smoke and ash drift out from her body. "Well, if I look at it another way," Marivel murmurs. "At least I'm getting used to the sensation of burning out from the inside."

"...Perhaps as akin to some sort of... 'Magic Pot'?" Marivel, being the Wild Arms mascot character, is allowed to make fandom-spanning jokes like this.

She stands up and shakes herself off. "If that's how it begins," Marivel asides to Boudicca. "You may have to finish this battle with naught but my moral support."

The thick robes protecting her body shift and twist around her body before fading away into scraps off nothing. Marivel, fully out there in the open, raises her head, licking her fangs. Why she keeps doing this for light elementals is a mystery.

"Corrupting the fayths of this land," Marivel says. "Will not give the souls entombed within solace."

Guillotine twists forms, taking the form of a staff as she shouts, "Shadowbolt!"

A beam of darkness comes soaring out from the 'staff' towards Liath's body. It packs a stronger punch than it looks, the power of darkness pressurized into a thick compact form.

She heard Yuna's thank you. That will make the pain she is to endure today all the worth it.

DC: Marivel Armitage switches forms to Crimson Noble Marivel! GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Seraph Liath with Bloody Mari! GS: Marivel Armitage has gained 1 Combo! GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action. GS: Seraph Liath fully evades Marivel Armitage's Bloody Mari for 0 hit points! GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Liath gains 1 additional Combo! GS: Seraph Liath activates Evade bonus!

[Pose Tracker] Rikku has posed.

"Say what now?" Rikku blinks, "Was that an insult?" Rikku leans over to the crowd as if to poll the audience, "Was she making fun of my hair?" Apparently she decides she was, "Hey!"

Rikku then gets a more serious look on her face after she keeps speaking about her dreams, "Do I think you wage war on our 'miserable beach continent' for funsies? Ho boy... you REALLY don't want my answer to that when you're chatting at me about baskets of medals and fulfilling dreams are the end result!"

Rikku too looks up at Leviathan briefly - though she has less to fear from it. Despite how Belize hasn't always been on their side, she's never had Leviathan used against /her/ despite having numerous opportunities for accidents against the Al Bhed girl.

"Hm. Not really?" Rikku meets Margaret's question with a shrug.

Rikku shifts her stance up, and then as Margaret comes at her. The Al Bhed girl twists away from the blow as it glances off of her ribs and knocks her off course. Rikku stumbles backwards and massages her bruised ribs as she catches herself before falling to the deck.

"Rude! Talk about speaking with your fists...! I wouldn't talk to a someone about /my/ dream by like - blowing them up!"

Rikku suddenly drops low and charges forward. Stepping to the left at high speed, then abruptly juking to the right - vanishing in a blur of sudden motion.

Tap tap.

A finger on her shoulder seems to give away her position, before Rikku's clawed gauntlet lunges forward in an attempt to stab her from behind.

GS: Rikku has attacked Margaret with Claws For Days! GS: Rikku has gained 1 Combo! GS: Rikku has completed her action. GS: Sneak! The true nature of Rikku's attack becomes clear! GS: Margaret takes a solid hit from Rikku's Steal for 0 hit points! GS: Disrupt and Jam applied to Margaret!

[Pose Tracker] Rikku has posed.

Except, Rikku's hand never stabs her. At the last minute, rather than stab her - her hand simply makes a grab for Margaret's Sealing Rod.

"Say! Unrelated question! In Althenaland - do they give you a medal for losing spooky darkness rods? Inquiring minds want to know!"

[Pose Tracker] Seraph Boudicca has posed.

Liath and Boudicca are not so much dissimilar. Boudicca hears in her confusion the confusion she feels so often, midst her friends and allies. In fact, together...

Oh, but that was yesterday, and this is today. "Perhaps to-morrow," Boudicca says, and the words do not carry the power of chanting but there is another power there. To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, there is no pettied pace as Liath's blade points.

There is strength in recitation, a strength which grows with each line. This was known to the playwrights and is known to the Seraphim, and as Liath's Arte surrounds Boudicca, there is no place for her to escape.


What goes up must come down, and with a gust Boudicca crashes, down, down, /through/ the mirrors, a clashing of light as all the kaleidoscopes come down to one singular point. The light bounces off of every broken mirror-shard. Each is its own lance, through the spirit more the flesh. It is the spirit which needs piercing, when the flesh is sound and fury.

Oh, yes. Going through the direct route made it /worse,/ not better.

But it also means --

What goes up must come down and Boudicca is crashing down like a peregrine, and she took her tonfa to hand, after all. They lash towards Liath's shoulder as she comes down, as she springs away - the motion and the breeze like to send her spinning, in the old trick they call, "Soaring Vortex!"

Hop, hop, back to Marivel again, on the ground once more. A look to Belize; the picture completes itself. Ah, yesterday!

"'Tis an ill rod," she says, gaze coming back to the Sealing Rod at Liath's back. "I might suggest a staff, or perhaps something shorter. Fayth are not quite spirits such as us... but it is an unkindness to do this unto them, is it not?"

Boudicca sighs, and maybe Rikku /did/ bring a breeze onto the ship. "But we do seem to set against each other so often these days, I suppose..."

... she can't really criticise Liath for wielding that Rod, not when she's standing against her.

Though, she might note - that right now - Boudicca is standing in front of Marivel, not the Fayth. "Do not push yourself," she advises her, gently. "Light does not plague me as it does you. 'Twould do no good to hoodwink another innkeep from checking your bed, Marivel." She... /did/ look awful corpsey, last time she got out of a fight with a Light Seraph.

GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Seraph Liath with Soaring Vortex! GS: Seraph Boudicca takes 28 damage from Poison! GS: Seraph Boudicca gains 5 FP from Sufferer! GS: Seraph Boudicca has completed her action. GS: Seraph Liath guards a hit from Seraph Boudicca's Soaring Vortex for 85 hit points! GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Liath gains 1 additional Combo! GS: Entangle applied to Seraph Liath!

[Pose Tracker] Lulu has posed.

"Do what you need to do," Lulu replies to Rikku.

The shockwave of Leo's powerful Demon Fang should be large enough to affect both Lulu and Yuna, Guardian and Summoner both. It is large enough. But the jerky strike gives Lulu the time to leap into the smaller part of the arc and take the full blast to herself. Knocked to one knee, Lulu falls for a moment to the deck, teeth gritted against the wounds she's just taken.

"No," Lulu says, rising to her feet again. Black makes injuries hard to spot.

She shares that look with Belize--indeed, she didn't /speak/ much with them, but they share a certain similarity, perhaps. Or at least Lulu respects them, herself. But while she is inclined to protect the both of them in this case, Belize has her own guard, now. Shiva Cambria appears, and Lulu looks towards the Aeon, akin to Aeons she has known before.

Yuna's hand on her shoulder is a welcome comfort, even without the magic within it. It knits wounds, and she feels that quiet and gentleness even amidst the storm of magic she calls forth. And Yuna... speaks. She explains.

Lulu does not have compassion to offer to Leo. She made her own choice long ago, and she made it again, recently. And so she calls up the ice in the air itself instead of lightning this time, perhaps hardening her heart--or perhaps she doesn't have to.

Regardless, she lifts both hands to focus such significant magical force, and this time a space much larger than Leo himself will abrubtly mist over, superchill, and erupt in a mass of hard glacial freeze.

"...You should listen to her," Lulu says seriously as she reclaims her doll.

GS: Lulu spends 2 Combo on Headshot! GS: Lulu has attacked White Knight Leo with Blizzaga! GS: Lulu has gained 1 Combo! GS: Lulu assumes the Avenger stance! GS: Lulu has completed her action. GS: CRITICAL! White Knight Leo takes a solid hit from Lulu's Blizzaga for 195 hit points! GS: Reaction switch bonus! White Knight Leo gains 1 additional Combo! GS: Cripple and Mute applied to White Knight Leo! GS: Mighty applied to Lulu!

[Pose Tracker] Gon Guado has posed.

Hilde up and flings the Warrior Monks back. The one to Gon's right does everything properly, holding their rifle parallel to the shape and direction of the energy flow in order to get it to disperse across the surface.

	They fly as far across the deck as the one who doesn't. It is Gon who withstands it, and only /just/ as he braces his body to try and redirect and flow the energy around him - gauntlets leading. They rattle.
	He has, this time, adapted - but not without giving up three steps back to a forced kneel, for his lighter weight makes it difficult to stand there and hold strong.
	"Who are /you/ to define what is a... a semblance of normalcy?!" Speaks one of the champions of his people, for as much as that means in the face of the relentless Althena's Guard war machine. More shouting, more mobilization. Someone almost goes for the flamethrower and is stopped at the last minute because they're on a boat in the middle of the damn ocean.
	"Your marauding hordes destroyed /Luca/, taking with it the center of our people's greatest reprieve from Sin, and with it... my daughter Timu's desire to play for the Glories!"
	Fiends are attacking Luca. Gon stands at some gates, reassuring the masses as he watches the mayhem.
	Things are going as they should, he recognizes... until a strange woman 'summons' an 'Aeon' in the form of a white tiger. His nostrils flared as he eyed the scene with rightful suspicion as the panicking masses calmed and rallied around them. Are the faithful so blind? Perhaps the timing was right to remind them.
	He takes a step to address this... heresy.
	He hears footsteps and sees the vague reflection of a white-haired fellow moments before something hits him in the back of the head.
	Unfortunately, another set of War Monks have decided they're not going to wait for the end of the cutscene before they line up and attack themselves. Yevon's forces are strained, even now - and they think their increased distance from Hilde will prevent them from knocking them all down.
	"We have never sought permission to fight for our /very way of life/," Gon shouts over those attacking less with an indignant, almost heroic retort and more someone who just wants to shout to be heard at all. It doesn't carry well.

GS: Gon Guado has attacked Hilde with Only One Of Their Last Shots! GS: Gon Guado has completed his action. GS: Hilde critically guards Gon Guado's Only One Of Their Last Shots for 16 hit points!

[Pose Tracker] Margaret has posed.

"Well, tough," Margaret answers Rikku: "You get to hear it anyway because I'm bigger and faster than you - to say nothing of my many other--" Rikku is moving closer and Margaret pivots out of the way with a flourish, even bringing up one leg and leaning back to put a hand on the deck rail and smirk.

"You know, it is liberating, at least, that out here we're all flexible, that we're able to innovate, that we don't have to lean ourselves in deep on decorum and propriety and all these other little nitpicky details that the Goddess doesn't care about," Margaret muses. "But I mean to say that I don't have much that's PERSONAL against you. These things aren't MY call. You'd understand if you'd seen the Goddess yourself. I mean you'll probably hear... a bunch of nonsense from your fellow straw-haired interloper, about Althena, if you survive, but let me tell you that -"

Margaret then snaps up her other leg and leans over the railing, cackling as she swings in a slow pivot around that leaves her completely unharmed


which Margaret realizes about approximately sixty percent of the way through her merry loop. As she concludes in a crouch, her hair drapes over her face, revealing only one eye that seems to ignite gradually with the slow-burning furious presentation of what has happened.

Then for a moment Rikku might see a sort of look of mirth, perhaps a breaking cloud of laughter, on Margaret's expression--

-- oh no there it went, all gone now, only fury.

"You little SCRAVELLING JACKDAW, I know a rhetorical question when I hear one and here's another rhetorical question, did you ever see a DOLPHIN FROM THE INSIDE??"

And with this Margaret unfastens the belt loop that was holding her kusarigama in place. Moving with this overcranked-zoetrope, electro-magnetic lubricated velocity, the chain seems to snap and fly outwards, the sickle held tight in one hand as she whirls up the weight to sudden blurring, humming speed, bringing it in and out with enough force that a stray glance on the wooden railing throws up splinters.

With this velocity, what comes next may remind Rikku more of runaway machinery than being whipped at with a chain and sliced at with a sickle. Surely, she hasn't encountered those kinds of problems before. However, Margaret's BRUTAL MACHINELIKE AGGRESSION may force her back even so -

Or maybe Margaret's harsh words will do so. "Because you're going to! When I FEED YOU TO THEM! You scampering little sea crab, hold still so I can beat you into thief paste!!"

GS: Margaret has attacked Rikku with Blunt Banter and Sharp Reply! GS: Margaret has completed her action. GS: CRITICAL! Rikku guards a hit from Margaret's Blunt Banter and Sharp Reply for 100 hit points! GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rikku gains 1 additional Combo!

[Pose Tracker] White Knight Leo has posed.

'Yes. You did.'

Leo whirls to face Belize, his whole face tightening as the Summoner confirms his suspicions. It shouldn't feel like a surprise, but it does anyway. Goddess, he thinks, how many of them /are/ there? What is it about this place that allows the dead to linger so? Belize doesn't give Leo time to wonder. Shiva appears in a surge of glacial might, and a soul-piercing chill sinks into the White Knight's bones. It isn't just from the Aeon's elemental nature.

"HAAAH--!" Leo cries, and he sweeps his blade upwards in a mighty, two-handed strike. The Goddess' Blade catches the ice crystal in mid-flight, and for a moment, Leo feels what it is like to grapple against the will of the Fayth made manifest. He sets his feet, grits his teeth, and follows through. The ice crystal /shatters/ with a sound like breaking glass. Bits of it dig into Leo's shoulders, but he is spared the worst of Shiva's wrath--for now.

Would that the same were true for Lulu. In the instant he spent locked blade-to-spell with Shiva, the sorceress casts her own spell. Leo is still sopping-wet from his entrance, and the first thing he notices is the unearthly chill growing /worse/. The seawater freezes on his hair and clothing; his boots freeze to the deck in an instant. Leo cries out in pain.

Yuna speaks to him. Leo grunts, twists one foot loose with a crunch of shattering ice. "I--I--" he stammers, fighting to get words out past the chill and his own inner conflict.

They are the same. They sacrificed themselves for the hope of a better tomorrow--the hope that tomorrow would come /at all/. Leo's eyes dart sideways, fixing on Liath--on the pure-hearted Seraph who knows perfectly well what will happen if Yevon recovers this Fayth.

Why? Why is--

"I know," Leo says. The ice on his face cracks, and with it, the mask. There is anguish in his eyes as he looks back at Yuna. "Do what you must. Protect your own."

And then the rest of the ice crust /shatters/. Leo's aura surges up around him, the brilliant, pearlescent white of the White Dragon. "TEMPEST HOWL!" he roars, even as the chill makes his voice break. The radiance sculpts itself into the visage of a lion, and Leo throws himself at his foes, his feet leaving the ground. He streaks for Lulu first, then through her, to Yuna, before rounding on Belize's Aeon. His feet don't touch down until he's on the other side of Shiva.

GS: White Knight Leo has activated a Boss Action! GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Belize with Tempest Howl! GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Lulu with Tempest Howl! GS: White Knight Leo has attacked Yuna with Tempest Howl! GS: White Knight Leo has gained 1 Combo! GS: Lulu takes a glancing hit from White Knight Leo's Tempest Howl for 91 hit points! GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lulu gains 1 additional Combo! GS: Reaper applied to Lulu! GS: Lulu takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper! GS: Belize guards a hit from White Knight Leo's Tempest Howl for 112 hit points! GS: Reaper applied to Belize! GS: Belize takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper! GS: Yuna takes a glancing hit from White Knight Leo's Tempest Howl for 93 hit points! GS: Reaper applied to Yuna! GS: Yuna takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!

[Pose Tracker] Seraph Liath has posed.

"They are a wealth of possibility, are they not?" wonders Liath at the heels of Marivel's proclaimed envy.

"It is a thin line, between possibility and stagnation. So too, between stagnation and resolve. But I think it important to remember that even a well-tread path may branch, if one walks it long enough."

In those moments before the violence, the Seraph of Light smiles. A warm, hopeful thing.

"Perhaps even for those of us who have carried ever-bullheadedly forward. Do you not think?"

Wind ruffles violently at Liath's hair as she pedals backwards; light glitters around her in a way that seems to set her silhouette to an ephemeral glow as those mirrors and the glyph that utilized them breat apart into a glittering spectacle of sharding light. The liquid swirl of colors painting her shield dims, but does not fade, as she looks back toward the netting and the Fayth within. No pot.

"Hum," breathes Liath. She's frowning. It's not a disappointed frown. Shut up.

But whatever disappointment may or may not be there lingers only brief before fading into something else. Something thoughtful.

Something sombre, as she listens to that faint Hymn. As the hint of gardenia reaches her. Like someone indulging in a bittersweet recollection.

"You have been waiting for an answer to that prayer for such a long time, have you not...?"

Marivel's words reach her ears. And Liath pauses -- to blink.

"A Magic Pot--??" she asks, eyes full of wonder --

And down crashes Boudicca.

Wonder turns towards action in a fraction of a second. If there's anything to be said about Liath in moments like these, it is that it is clear the Seraph takes to the battlefield as naturally as if she was born from it. It's as graceful and fluid as a dance, the way she suddenly -launches- into the air, not -away- from Boudicca -- but -toward- her, fearlessly, not a single ounce of hesitation in her as she brings all of herself to bear upon Boudicca's descending sweep. Tonfa meet glowing shield in a crystalline CLANG of impact that threatens to dislocate Liath's shoulder from the sheer force of it. She bears through, suspended briefly in mid-air at that point of contact to curl inward, press knees to her abdomen --

-- and push OFF against Boudicca as the Wind Seraph springs away, using the counter-momentum to send her careening in a spiral through the air. Darkness flies from Marivel's staff as Liath falls --

--and it is a split-second reaction that sees the Seraph lashing -out- with that blade in the midst of her descent, catching the beam of shadow upon its tip and, with a twirl -- redirecting it upwards towards the heavens, away from her falling form.

It is masterful in its execution, even if the effort of it becomes clear from the way Liath hits ground in a stumble until she stops in a crouch a healthy handful of feet away from her opponents. The Seraph draws breath. She looks towards those fangs of Marivel's, thoughtful. Her lips press together at both of their words.

"Unkindness such an act may be," she concedes. "But I work for the sake of the Goddess' people, and I shall see this through to an end."

She rises, slowly. Lifts her sword.

"... I would ask this of you both, then: when one is set upon a wrong path, how do you change their mind? Do you tell them the truth of it? Speak words of a better way?"

And then she -impales- that sword into the ground, as motes of yellow and blue and white begin to swirl around her. Her eyes squeeze shut.

                               "Thou who wouldst take revenge,
                                 carve here thy holy seal!"

And beneath them both, that seal forges, complex and wide enough to encompass them in its entirety, glowing an ethereal gold. It churns with Althena's magical might --

                                     "Eclair de Larmes!"

And serves as a beacon to tremendous, pointed shards of light that suddenly -fling- through the sky towards that glowing seal on the boat's deck, looking to impale both Marivel and Boudicca with their searing radiance.

GS: Seraph Liath enters CONDITION GREEN!! GS: Seraph Liath has attacked Marivel Armitage with Eclair de Larmes! GS: Seraph Liath has attacked Seraph Boudicca with Eclair de Larmes! GS: Seraph Liath has completed her action. GS: Seraph Boudicca critically guards Seraph Liath's Eclair de Larmes for 31 hit points! GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Boudicca gains 1 additional Combo! GS: Seraph Boudicca used Defend! She takes Seraph Liath's Eclair de Larmes attack on Marivel Armitage on herself! GS: Seraph Boudicca guards a hit from Seraph Liath's Eclair de Larmes for 95 hit points! GS: Seraph Boudicca has gained 1 Combo!

[Pose Tracker] Rikku has posed.

"If that's the reason - then why are you lecturing me like it's really an age before beauty thing?"

Rikku retorts with a certain lightness, as she tries to scamper away with the rod.

"And hey look at that, beauty wi-"

Indeed, that is what Margaret saw, except Margaret's raw fury cuts her short. And yet the fury is strangely dissonant with the question which seems to confuse Rikku thoroughly as her expression screws up into this look of pure befuddlement.





Except, Rikku tries to sweep her targe as the sickle comes her way, "Yikes!" The sickle cleaves off the top portion of her little shield, as she tries to deflect downwards. And Rikku is forced to backpeddle as she's struck by the chain on the next swing, whipping her back another few yards.

... "Gck! T-Thief paste!? Okay! Now you're gonna get it!"

Rikku waits until the chain comes around again, and charges in, "YAAHHHHHHHH!"

And it's like she's going to do the same thing Margaret did, punch her right off. Her fist is clenched as he tries to hop, skip, then duck under the chain in her advance.

Then it's like she vanishes again in a vertical leap upwards.

"Psst." She hears a whisper from up in the rigging. If she looks up she'll see Rikku hanging off of it quite easily, "What say you forget all about the thief paste stuff and dolphin insides and just... you know..."

A bag drops down by Margaret's feet with a weighty jingle - they have a certain heft to it.

"... earn your medals some /other/ battle?"

Rikku uses Bribe!

How much? XYZAB Where X, Y, Z, A, and B are values that only Margaret and Rikku know. Gil left: REDACTED Clearance Level Lulu required!

"That sure sounds liberating to me!"

GS: Rikku spends 1 Combo on Interrupt! GS: Rikku has attacked Margaret with Bribe! GS: Rikku has gained 2 Combo! GS: Rikku has completed her action. GS: Margaret guards a hit from Rikku's Bribe for 0 hit points! GS: Reaction switch bonus! Margaret gains 1 additional Combo! GS: Weaken applied to Margaret! GS: Margaret has lost 2 Combo from Interrupt!

[Pose Tracker] Belize has posed.

Leviathan's fayth does not answer Liath--they can't, really. But, Belize aside, it has indeed been a long time since they've been able to answer the prayers of the faithful.

As for Belize themself, their smile turns rueful, briefly, when Yuna expresses her thanks to them. "You needn't thank me, really," they murmur. "But I'll accept it all the same."

They hadn't intended on sharing their past with Leo. They had no expectation that he would care even if they told him, and they generally keep that under wraps. They hadn't anticipated that Yuna might have already shared with her friends--that she might share *again* with an enemy. Yet they understand her motivations for doing it, and even as their eyes widen, they can't be upset. "Yuna..."

In a way, they're glad. For all their sins, there is someone who cares enough to share their story.

And so they take a breath and steel themself, then fix a stony stare on Leo. "She speaks true. I sought the power to defeat Sin in these seas... and I found them both." They gaze up, briefly, at Leviathan's fayth, still singing, still swaying. "In return, my Guardians and the crew that brought us here were dashed to the bottom of the sea to drown, and I, for all that I had the power of the Lord of All Waters, died of thirst on the endless ocean plains. I would be rescued, but not soon enough to save my life.

"Now I seek to bring Leviathan back to avenge those who died for my sake--my Guardians, Cambria and Ryuggu, and our ship's crew--against that hateful monster, Sin. I will see to it that its reign of destruction ends... That there will be no more victims to its unthinking annihilation. And *you*--"

But before Belize can sink their fangs into Leo with their own invectives, they see the ice shatter around him--not just literally but figuratively. His anguish. His conflict. His urging Yuna to do as she must to protect her own... And for a moment, Belize is baffled, for he keeps fighting.

"What? If that's how you feel, why do you persist in attacking us?" they utter as Shiva Cambria weathers the Tempest Howl, the lion-shaped energy blast breaking around her defenses, leaving her cracked but far from shattered. They turn as Leo lands on the other side of their Aeon and insist, "If you know you're in the wrong, then why..."

They trail off. They look over at Yuna. The HERETIC brand is still a livid red on her lily-white skin. Their eyebrows furrow, and... a brief light of sympathy shines in their expression. "I see," they say quietly. "There's always more than oneself at stake, isn't there."

Shiva Cambria turns, stepping gracefully around to protect her Summoner. She doesn't follow up with an outright attack, but she does stare Leo down--and there is force there even in Shiva's eyes, so cold and intense that even that look can be as piercing as an icicle.

"Dame Lulu," Belize continues urgently, lowering their voice, "I have an idea. This man needs only have his defenses rent asunder. And if you apply great heat to something, followed by intense cold..." They don't spell out the rest. They trust Lulu is smart enough to catch their drift.

GS: Belize has attacked White Knight Leo with Icy Stare! GS: Belize takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper! GS: Belize has completed their action. GS: White Knight Leo accepts Belize's Icy Stare for 0 hit points! GS: Break and Disrupt applied to White Knight Leo!

[Pose Tracker] Belize has posed.

And deeper in the waters, within the sunken Uijundo Temple, eight tentacles surge out of the Chamber of the Fayth at aggravated speed. The creature whooshes from room to room, searching, hunting, but not finding. At last, it emerges from the Temple entirely, and its fell eyes rise up towards the vessels up on the surface, and a song so far away...

[Pose Tracker] Hilde has posed.

"I will not be the one defining it, for what it is worth." Hilde replies with a shrug. She goes quiet, though, at the mention of Luca.

She was not there for the battle of Luca - that had been directly after Operation Mi'ihen. The injuries she had sustained in that battle had put her out of commission until afterward. ...Though she knows not being present is no excuse, for still remaining with them even after learning what had occurred.

...She can't tell, however, if his biggest complaint is the loss of Blitzball or if there are deeper matters at hand.

"...It is... always a tragedy, when a child's dreams are extinguished, however-" She starts. Before she can finish, she finds herself fired upon by Warrior Monks. This time, however, she had spotted them - she expects them. They open fire... and with a quick swing of her blade, the incoming volley of riflefire is sliced cleanly in half. Much of it flies past and clatters to the ground, deprived of mass and momentum, while the rest strikes her armor with much less force.

They will soon find that, no, distance will /not/ protect them. This time, Hilde swings her sword in a horizontal arc in front of her, unleashing a crescent of blue energy that flies out at the Warrior Monks.

"...May I ask what that entails?" Hilde asks, with a glance toward Gon.

GS: Hilde has attacked Gon Guado with Force Blade! GS: Hilde has gained 1 Combo! GS: Hilde has completed her action. GS: Gon Guado has activated a Force Action! GS: Gon Guado critically guards Hilde's Force Blade for 27 hit points! GS: Gon Guado activates Guard bonus!

[Pose Tracker] Yuna has posed.

When Belize tells their story, Yuna bows her head as though she's hearing a sermon. But she isn't powered by reverence, not anymore, if she ever was really, deep down. And so partway through she looks up through her bangs at her friend and, just for a moment, reaches out with that HERETIC palm and... quietly holds their hand through the worst of it.


'Do what you must. Protect your own.'

Leo is anguished. Leo is conflicted. Leo miserably grants Yuna 'permission' to oppose him.

Yuna's eyes flash, and for the first time, he sees fury there. A true, profound anger, within the slender frame of the heretic summoner. It is neither intensified nor decreased by the howling strike that leaves her torn and bleeding, because -- though Leo's might in battle is far from irrelevant to her /safety/ -- it is entirely irrelevant to her feelings.

"NO, THAT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH!" she screams, straight back at the roar, right in his face. "I WILL PROTECT /EVERYONE!/"

White radiance explodes out of her to suffuse all of them, while Yuna blushes, slightly, a little taken aback by her own outburst. She sucks in a couple quick breaths. They are not calming, but she is not calm.

"That's not good enough," she repeats, softly but firmly, after. Meanwhile the magic is sinking into their skin, filling them with something warm but not at all peaceful... something gentle, but not at all weak. "You KNOW it's not good enough. That it CAN'T be enough to just... tell yourself that you're following orders. To just tell yourself that you're protecting YOUR own. It's not..."

She eyes the famous White Knight. And then he's told a second story.

"I met Dragonmaster Ghaleon... in the Via Purifico. Another one of us... who would die to defeat Sin forever. The man you started this war to avenge."

She smiles fondly.

"I liked him very much," she explains. "He reminded me of you. A man of honor... and he told me that after we escaped, we would be enemies, because he answered to a higher authority with principles different than his own. That wasn't good enough either. Because there is always-- ALWAYS-- a choice."

She holds up her empty palm. Thrusts it towards him.


"Choose better, Sir Leo," she concludes. And, at last, she implores. "Walk away."

Just before it's gone completely invisible, the radiance shimmers, mirror-bright. For a heartbeat, Leo faces two copies of himself.

GS: Yuna has activated a Force Action! GS: Yuna has attacked Belize with Reflect! GS: Yuna enters a Counter stance! GS: Yuna has attacked Lulu with Reflect! GS: Yuna enters a Counter stance! GS: Yuna has gained 1 Combo! GS: Yuna takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper! GS: Yuna's stance ends. She enters the stance! GS: Yuna gains 5 FP from Sufferer! GS: Yuna has completed her action. GS: Yuna heals Lulu! She gains 210 temporary hit points! GS: Surge applied to Lulu! GS: Lulu takes an additional 5 damage from Reaper! GS: Yuna heals Belize! They gain 420 temporary hit points! GS: Surge applied to Belize! GS: Belize takes an additional 5 damage from Reaper!

[Pose Tracker] Seraph Boudicca has posed.

Liath and Boudicca are not so dissimilar. Both strike at the other; both leap INTO the force of their strikes, rather than away.

Boudicca knows something of working for the sake of others, too, and it is true thoughtfulness which descends on her expression as Liath asks. How to convince the resolute...?

Here is the truth: 'Warrior' is a word of aspiration. For all they are alike, Liath is far more a master of the battlefield. Because she shifts so effortlessly from her query to violence, and Boudicca is caught in her wondering, cut off to a gasp. "Ah--!" That sigil is --


Boudicca is taller than this woman she is so close to. With scarcely a moment to consider, she turns, and surrounds Marivel with the plates of her arms. She casts long a shadow as the shards of light come down - and then another - and then another, each at different hours of the clock. They toll through the tale of her steel, like ringing bells. They vibrate through her. This close, Marivel may well /feel/ the way her grasp tightens, just so, with each impact.

There's a little pain, to the good humour of her voice, once the barrage finally ends and she's able to straighten up. "Let us not... inflict holy seals on you, yes?" Still, the good humour is there, and she smiles to her.

"Ah... you are formidable," Boudicca addresses Liath, again, as she turns. "As befitting the honoured Prime Lord, no..? Nevertheless, I shall not desist so easily." She bows her head; she smiles.

Another sigil lights - though this, beneath Marivel and Boudicca's feet. "Align all crosswinds, fain to walk the path of risk! Access palisade decree -- Fortifying Tailwind!"

The wind picks up around them. It is both shield and bolster, at their heels and their hands, and Boudicca looks up when it is done. "The truth is not a panacea, Liath. It may help them see the light... but it may equally do harm. There are things, I think..."

Her smile fades,

"... it is kinder not to know..."

She shakes her head, and that momentary pall leaves her eyes. "All I know is that I have ever spoken of this better way - and at times it has averted very sad fates, indeed. Though, perhaps the actions I took to secure that better world... perhaps they were the key. Are you in a position, Liath... where you might take those actions?"

Or, she thinks and does not say, does duty bind her?

GS: Seraph Boudicca has activated a Force Action! GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Marivel Armitage with Fortifying Tailwind! GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Seraph Boudicca with Fortifying Tailwind! GS: Seraph Boudicca takes 24 damage from Poison! GS: Seraph Boudicca gains 5 FP from Sufferer! GS: Seraph Boudicca has completed her action. GS: Marivel Armitage accepts Seraph Boudicca's Fortifying Tailwind for 0 hit points! GS: Burst, Quick, and Shield applied to Marivel Armitage! GS: Seraph Boudicca accepts Seraph Boudicca's Fortifying Tailwind for 0 hit points! GS: Burst, Quick, and Shield applied to Seraph Boudicca!

[Pose Tracker] Lulu has posed.

Lulu says nothing of Belize's story today. What they need to say to one another is the continued conversation of battle, for now. As for Leo...

Lulu takes no pleasure in Leo's pain. She takes no joy in the efficiency of her strategy, in the use of his already-wet state to apply lightning and then ice. She certainly takes no joy in her stammering. It is, to Lulu, exactly as he says. And this surprises her, with the ways she thought she knew him before.

Do what you must, Leo replied to Yuna. That he knows what thing lies within. What does this mean?

The lion-radiance crashes towards Lulu, and through her. She is no swordswoman; she cannot deflect the Tempest Howl with a doll. She does not try; it is speed, getting out of the way, and Yuna's magic ensuring her vitality that saves her from that blow, and even then he still impacts her powerfully with the powr of that white aura. But as she turns, her eyes widen in surprise at Yuna's outburst for the volume alone--but her feeling... No, that's Yuna. Somehow, that's Yuna, and Lulu is...

She listens to Belize, eyes but not head turning towards them. She listens to their plan, considering mechanism that they suggest. It's sound; her reply is a quiet, "I understand."

She begins to draw up magic. One might expect it to be difficult to conjure fire on the ocean, but Lulu begins to do it regardless; there is heat, there is /flame/, even here. However...

While she does gather that power, she holds it. She holds it, and listens to Yuna. And she thinks of Yuna's words.

"Summoner Belize," she says. "...I believe my spell may be unnecessary."

She holds the magic; she must be ready, she does not have that faith in people that Yuna has. But she has faith in Yuna, and that, for now, is enough. No magic looses upon the White Knight.

[Pose Tracker] Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel looks to Leo, then to Yuna. "Sounds like a personal problem," She quips with a small smile. It might sound strange if you aren't Marivel. Ghaleon and she had their own conversation but what Leo is going through right now--it surely must be torture. Unfortunately, she doesn't have the capacity to convince Yuna to act /less/ kindly so Leo is going to have to endure the torment for a while longer.

And besides, Liath knocks her shadow away with a sword strike. Truly some kind of transcendental swordsmanship there. Takes talent to deflect negative energy.

"I speak, I teach, I act, I hurt, I destroy," Marivel says. "In that order. The teaching is the important part."

A twinge of pain hits her from where that first blast hit her and she sinks to one knee, teeth clenched as Liath unleashes another barrage of light--

--only for Boudicca to act as not only her shade, but her refreshing breeze. "Boudicca..." Marivel frowns. But she does not get into an argument about it here.

"Your faith is commmendable." Marivel straightens up. "And you are surely a trained warrior while I am but a humble ARMsmeister. However..."

Red mist curls out andd around her body, not the usual black guising smoke--but only for an instant before that inky blackness overtakes it due to the sensation of light piercing it.

"When your world is poisoned and corrupted, shuddering from the fallout of your bloody wars... Will your so-called Goddess continue to grace her loyal subjects?"

That mist explodes out of Marivel, opening up and revealing gleaming fangs as it attempts to CHOMP down on Liath, pushing ever forward from the protective shell of Marivel's body which hangs listlessly as the entity that lurks within it has elected to go for a bit of a walk.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJOrisGgzc0

It isn't the adorable little fangs off typical Marivel. The demon within has such sharp fangs and is as accustomed to violence as a human is to breathing. That is the true nature of a Crimson Noble, held in check by lofty ideals and stories.

"I know what she does to the loyal. Gift it to her again and again as you'd like, but her judgement--or any who have costumed themselves in her skin--will come. You can hurt me more than this."

GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Seraph Liath with Life Drain! GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action. GS: Seraph Liath critically guards Marivel Armitage's Life Drain for 34 hit points! GS: Seraph Liath activates Guard bonus! GS: Marivel Armitage drains Seraph Liath! Marivel Armitage gains 17 temporary hit points!

[Pose Tracker] Margaret has posed.


thunk TWUNK skkkrsh thwing!

The battle is brutal, and then Rikku gets enough space to move upwards, and Margaret's head snaps up to look at her. Her ears have flattened against the side of her head - not all elves can do that but when they can it's usually a sign of fury or tension. But a moment later, even as ice surges, and light screams, a pouch of gold is thrown down to land at her feet with a deep and pecunious thwinkgh.

Margaret, being barefoot, is able to pick the bag up with her foot rather than let a hand go off her weapon. She tosses it up to rest on the back of her foot like a hackey sack and then KICKS it up into the air.

"Hnf," she says -

And then there is a crackle of lightning!

Margaret vaults out - over the railing, but then with another of those ring-gem sparkles is drawn upwards, once, twice, THREE times into the rigging as if she's being yanked forwards by an invisible rope round her belt tugged on by the invisible hand of the Goddess. Her legs splay out and her feet get in the rigging and as she glares up - but much closer - to Rikku, she holds out her sickle to the side. The blade is pointed away from Rikku. Peace?! In our time?

"I don't have a choice," Margaret tells her. "As I said. Sometimes you don't get to make choices in your life. It was this or - well, I doubt you care. It's a road I've been on for a long time /no age cracks/ I've worked out my stress but don't give me new ones just yet--"

Her voice lowers. "I can hear what she's saying down there. Your summoner, Yuna. I - don't understand how the Dragonmaster could be in there; perhaps he was taken prisoner and we had thought too little of him. What I don't understand is why you are helping the one prolonging the war - the ones who THREW your summoner into some kind of super-jail to die or to marry one of those big-hand boys, or both."

A pursing of her lips. "It's understandable you don't know the Goddess. I wouldn't ask you to join us in worship. But it's not the first time we've cooperated with other people. Hell, at least we're on the right planet this time. Join us and we can end this destructive conflict. The Goddess gives us these rules only to keep things from getting out of hand, at worst we'd be a change of burdens, eh? And -"

The gold lands on the flat of her sickle. Margaret tosses it in the air and tilts to the side perilously. The goal is to make the money land in the hip holster that had held the sealing rod. This would look /really/ stylish.

Rikku might also notice she's leaning out over the water and only has one foot securely anchored, and also that that faint lightning aura is fading around her, as if her spell has worn off. It doesn't help that she can hear the guttural and threatening words coming from the deck.

GS: Margaret has attacked Rikku with Why Don't You Come And Get It?! GS: Margaret enters a Counter stance! GS: Quick expired! GS: Margaret has completed her action. GS: Rikku takes a solid hit from Margaret's Why Don't You Come And Get It? for 31 hit points! GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rikku gains 1 additional Combo! GS: Cover applied to Margaret!

[Pose Tracker] Gon Guado has posed.

The Guado Guardian stance tends to be open and loose, with two arms hung low. The slackening of Gon's limbs just as Hilde starts winding up the horizontal swing seems to be a resignation to one's fate.

	He swings a gauntlet in an uppercut strike. The energy splits in /two/... and continues behind him and reforms regardless, the energy washing through him and billowing his hair about as the fellows lining up to deal with Hilde are dealt with.
	One of them goes straight overboard.
	"/However/," Gon sneers and takes back possession of that word in a display that reinforces the disparity in strength between them is only in comparison as he lowers the claw back down. "I am not inclined to explain the intricacies of a beloved part of Spira to one who does not /respect it/." As if a personal sore point beyond that.
	His eyes shut closed for a moment. "My youngest, Pani, would ask me if I would one day accompany her when she's old enough to do the Pilgrimage." That's a heavy thing for a father to consider, knowing what comes of the process. "You would take Spira's reprieve without an idea of what it is that is 'normal'?"
	Gon remembers the energy of a young woman who came so broken, but so /angry/, that she wished to become a Summoner and go on the Pilgrimage. A young woman who later would have turned out to have been playing them the fools.
	He was moved by how much she truly believed in her voice. He could have seen the Sendings he would suggest they perform - the gentle redirection of so many lost souls.
	The many mourning that would come to the Farplane, in turn, to visit them.
	He had never seen such drive, such potential on that front.
	No one else comes to back up Gon, or throw themselves at Hilde. (He looks over his shoulder to make sure. He is not about to be interrupted.) Some other development happens around the side of the ship - something urgent beyond just one man overboard - leaving him for the moment with Hilde alone.
	He starts to circle around her. It is deliberate, trying to lead her weapons facing away from the boat Belize is on. He does not fear the churning waters behind him so much, but it gives him a view of Yuna trying to talk down Leo's cause. Talking, talking, talking.
	...which he has been doing...
	"Of all the things you have ceaselessly criticized me for," ...yes... "you lectured on anger."
	Some utterances later, there is a chill in the air that surrounds Gon.
	Freezing, as if solid - as the etheral shape of a polygon-constructed sphere surrounds him, cracks into place, and disperses as he brings both claw hands criss-crossed.
	"I lecture your ignorance, arrogance, and hypocrisy all at once. That blade of yours has no conviction behind it."
	He has no realistic expectations of striking Hilde down here and now. He has seen her successfully withstand his greatest technique at the height of what the 'prayers' can give him when he shifts to offense.
	Now he gets to see how she handles it when he taps on the greatest expression of the White aspect of Ice that is at his command.

GS: Gon Guado has attacked Gon Guado with Protectga! GS: Gon Guado assumes the Stoic stance! GS: Gon Guado has completed his action. GS: Gon Guado accepts Gon Guado's Protectga for 0 hit points! GS: Burst and Shield applied to Gon Guado! GS: Cover applied to Gon Guado!

[Pose Tracker] White Knight Leo has posed.

Belize speaks of their past, and for the first time, Leo learns /why/ one might choose to linger in this Goddess-forsaken place. "Your duty, then," he says. His voice drops to a mere whisper; bitterness creeps into it, turning it into a quiet little hiss. "A righteous duty. One you embrace, despite the corruption festering in Yevon. That was mine, once. It feels like a lifetime ago."

'If you know you're in the wrong, then why...'

"Protect your people," Leo chokes out. Saying it again feels even more treasonous. What would General Heldalf do, if he saw his star pupil--the vaunted White Knight of Althena--urging these /heathens/ to do something like that?


Shiva fixes Leo with a gaze that chills him to the bone. Yuna speaks of her encounter in Via Purifico. The Dragonmaster--he spoke to her?

'I don't have a choice. Sometimes you don't get to make choices in your life.'

Leo's face tightens as he turns to Margaret, but Yuna grabs his attention right back.

'Because there is always-- ALWAYS-- a choice.'

Leo cannot bring himself lay eyes upon that brand, much less look Yuna in the eye. He lowers his head, shaking with barely-suppressed emotion. Not even the clever plans he told himself he'd implement /once he got the chance/ can comfort him. All the praise in the world would feel hollow to him.

Leo lowers his head. He doesn't dare call the retreat; Liath would countermand him, and she'd be right. He envies her resolve.

[Pose Tracker] Rikku has posed.

Rikku scampers into position across the rigging as Margaret vaults back up to her - kinda admiring the way she moves all the while. Yet when she gets up to her, and lowers her voice. Rikku sort of leans in, as she lowers her voice to answer her.

"There's a difference between the Fayth and Yevon. They're not one and the same, though I guess I see why it'd be easy to think otherwise if you don't live here. Yunie isn't on her pilgrimage for Yevon. Yunie's on a pilgrimage for /Spira/. Get it?"

With a sharp inhalation of breath, "Well... sealing the Fayth away isn't just hurting Yevon. It's more like it hurts... Spira itself. And well... Yunie mentioned... there's something in these rods that's... just plain awful..."

Rikku takes a sudden deep breath, as if dialing back away from it. She didn't witness it after all.

"... you're right that I don't know the Goddess, but I don't think the Goddess knows Spira very well, or its people if she thinks that sealing the Fayth with these things is going to win over people to her cause. I mean - I'm Al Bhed, and let me tell you for how many of us cooperated with your people - in private, when we're mourning?"

Rikku gives Margaret a long look with those strange eyes of hers.

"...We sing the hymn. Even though you wouldn't find a single one of us who's a fan of Yevon... especially right now."

Reaching forward with her gauntleted hand, she discretely brings another object over into Margaret's hands.

"So anyhow... think about it. Okay? Here's more where that came from if you will."

Rikku is giving her such a big smile... "And now!" The sound of a pin pulling, as she whispers, "Gotta make this look good right?"

Rikku simply lobs the grenade at Margaret - before letting go of the rigging. In mid-air it bursts into a huge explosion of smoke. It sure LOOKS like a huge grenade explosion! Big enough that Margaret vanishes.

... It was a smoke bomb. And while the smoke rapidly shifts states of matter into this gooey tar-like substance that sticks to /everything/ and gets /everywhere/.

Well it sure looks convincing right?

GS: Rikku has attacked Margaret with Use: Smoke Grenade! GS: Quick expired! GS: Rikku has completed her action. GS: Margaret accepts Rikku's Use: Smoke Grenade for 159 hit points! GS: Blind applied to Margaret!

[Pose Tracker] Hilde has posed.

"That is your prerogative, then. I won't force you to inform me, if you don't see fit to." Hilde replies, shaking her head. She quiets a bit, then, as continues, speaking of his youngest. "...That is a heavy burden."

She follows him, of course - he is an opponent and it would be disrespectful to take her eyes off of him now that the rest of his reinforcements have been dealt with. And then, as he continues, she raises an eyebrow.

"...I would not call it 'ceaseless criticism', but I recall that, yes." Hilde replies. "If I remember correctly... you drove yourself berserk, so that you could fight against me. You allowed, /forced/, anger to overtake you."

She shakes her head.

"Anger... it is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. It is, after all, anger at injustice that drives one to stand against wrongdoing. However, one cannot let anger alone guide one's actions." She comments, then shakes her head. "But... you say my blade holds no conviction. Is it because I do not wield it in anger? Because I did not thrust my sword into your chest the moment I saw you? That is not conviction - that's mere bloodlust, victory through force alone."

She shakes her head.

"There is more to conviction than anger. It is conviction that has brought me to these shores, /conviction/ that brings me standing here before you." She says. She studies him - studies his stance, now reinforced by his magic. And with that she lunges forward. It's a quick, powerful strike - but one intended not so much to inflict harm, but to break through his defenses and leave him vulnerable.

GS: Hilde has attacked Gon Guado with Rend Armor! GS: Mighty expired! GS: Hilde has completed her action. GS: Gon Guado has activated a Force Action! GS: Gon Guado critically guards Hilde's Rend Armor for 15 hit points!

[Pose Tracker] Seraph Liath has posed.

Sword yanked from the deck in which it is embedded, Liath does not present that weapon to ready it for more conflict. No -- the Prime Lord sheathes it in one smooth motion that leaves her with only her shield with which to defend herself, eyes slipping closed.

"I think it is an admirable thing, that you would be a shield to your friend, just as to the people who need you," continues the Seraph as Boudicca begins to weave her magics. Liath does not aggress. She simply stands her ground, gold eyes cracking open to look sidelong... towards Leo, struggling with anguish all his own.

"... You've a good, shining soul, Boudicca. Never lose it. But understand..."

The gaze that looks back towards the younger Seraph is one of experience, solidified by a will that might move mountains. Her hand tightens subtly around the pommel of her sword, as if steadyingly.

"... just as truth is not always a panacea, kindness is not always a boon. Sometimes, kindness does little more than to smother. Sometimes... we must show the truth for what it is. In clear, inescapable terms.

"And we must have faith in the goodness of the hearts of those we protect that they will know in that moment to do the right thing."

She is, if nothing else, candid in these brief moments, where her conversation partners are a Seraph, and a Crimson Noble -- and ones she respects and is fond of, at that. Her golden eyes turn towards Marivel as the Noble straightens. The smile that reaches her lips is somehow incredulous and good natured in equal measure.

"I have not known you near as well nor as long as I would like," is her first rebuttal, "but even I am capable of seeing there is so much more to you than that."

It is a warm humor that lasts only as long as it takes for that red mist to spill out from Marivel. It fades into something more serious, something more pensive, as the woman speaks; her shield arm tenses just slightly, as her body lowers.

"I know not--"

she begins to say before Marivel reveals herself.

There is so little time to react. In a hair's breadth, that mist -- /Marivel/ - is upon her, springing from the husk of the Noble's body as a hermit crab might shed a shell that has suddenly grown too small for it. Terrible, infernal fangs lash out for the spiritual flesh of the Prime Lord.

In an instant, Marivel is upon her. In an instant, Liath reacts.

That shield, still shining, -sweeps- upward. It manages to get to the point just beneath the demonic, misty entity's throat before it makes impact. The force of it drags them both backwards, splitting apart wood beneath Liath's heels as she attempts to keep those fangs from reaching flesh. She feels her arm strain. She braces her other against the shield, to reinforce it. She holds fast, even as those limbs tremble. And just as they are about to give way --

-- Liath lets -go-.

The Seraph relents. She falls down towards the ruined deck floor, sparing herself the worst of those terrible fangs. The brunt of it. But she does not avoid all of it.

The way the sharpened teeth of a natural predator's maw finds brief purchase on her spiritual flesh before she hits ground is evident in the rip of green cloth along her shoulder, so terribly close to her neck.

Of the faint sign of what might well be blood, or whatever a Seraph's equivalent of it may well be, dribbling from an unseen wound.

She hits ground moving. Getting distance between herself and that mist, not trusting to be able to fend off another. When she lands, she lands near the crane, bowed but defiant. And there is a time, when she recovers in a kneel, where Liath is simply... silent. She looks to Leo, unable to call a retreat he knows she would overrule. She looks back towards Marivel, towards the truth of her, unflinching.

"... You may be right. You seem to know our Goddess with an intimacy that most of us never have, and may never," she concedes. A rare thing, perhaps, especially for her -- but concede she does, all the same. "But she gave us this world. She gave us these people. And for that, she has my gratitude eternal. No matter what may come. Because for them, for each and every one of them..."

She rises. She reaches behind her.

"... I would do anything."

And she takes hold of that Sealing Rod.

Magic courses through Liath with a suddenness that is akin to an abrupt and cataclysmic shift in weather. 'You can hurt me more than this,' Marivel said -- and the Seraph seems intent to put that to the test. A bit more of her untethers. A bit more of her own nature, just as Marivel has shown a bit more of hers. Althena's Blessing surges around Liath, in a dazzling array of colorful columns that roar into being, as a smile finds her lips.

"I would like very much to know her as you know her, sometime," she says, scarcely heard in the growing dim of the tempest of light she creates. Each column fires off into the skies above.

And the clouds part.

It is sorcerous lightning borne of Althena's Light, each a different color, that strikes the ground around Marivel and Boudicca. Over and over, the storm of light roars across the entirety of the ship. It is only a prelude, though.

A prelude for the absolutely massive sword of light that descends from the parted clouds, forged of magic as if summoned from another realm entirely, that comes rapidly descending for Boudicca and Marivel, intent to run through them with a brilliantly explosive collision.

And all the while?

Through that storm, Liath -leaps-. -Lands- upon that crane.

And points the Rod downward towards the Fayth so perilously held, to begin to channel in this brief opening.

Nothing but sheer, absolute resolve reflecting in her expression.

GS: Seraph Liath has activated a Force Action! GS: Seraph Liath has attacked Marivel Armitage with Indignant Judgment! GS: Seraph Liath has gained 1 Combo! GS: Seraph Liath has attacked Seraph Boudicca with Indignant Judgment! GS: Entangle and Quick expired! GS: Seraph Liath has completed her action. GS: Marivel Armitage takes a glancing hit from Seraph Liath's Indignant Judgment for 92 hit points! GS: Seraph Boudicca takes a solid hit from Seraph Liath's Indignant Judgment for 187 hit points! GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Boudicca gains 1 additional Combo! GS: Seraph Boudicca has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!

[Pose Tracker] Belize has posed.

Upon reflection, it astonishes Belize that they could have spoken of their own conviction so many times to Leo, and it's only now that their faith has been broken--that *Yuna's* has been broken--that the two Summoners manage to break through to him. "Yes," they say simply. "Though I didn't realize that my... condition... is hardly unique within the Church." They chuckle bitterly, momentarily averting their gaze. "I despised myself for my weakness, you know. For not only failing to Send my friends and my crew, but for lingering on so *uncleanly*. I thought of it as a personal failure--one of the deepest I have ever known. And yet..." They lift their chin, steel in their spine and their mien. "I cannot let go just yet. Not until Sin has gone."

Yuna slips her hand into Belize's, and they tense. However, it's not from a dislike of the touch itself, as the color that rises in their cheeks may indicate. It's simply... been a long time. They do not outwardly acknowledge it, lifting their chin to instead pay attention to Leo and his breakdown... but their fingers curl gently around Yuna's in return.

But then, for all that Belize remarked on Yuna's increased willingness to speak her mind with pride and approval, they're still shocked when Yuna outright SCREAMS at Leo that what he suggests is *not good enough*, that she will protect EVERYONE--even him. They gawk at her with a nigh-scandalized, "*Yuna*!" ...it's not shocked in a *bad* way, though. It's not disapproving in the least. Rather, this is just so /different/ from her that they can't help but be surprised. When that surprise fades, they're left with wonder and a slight smile.

Lulu remarks that her spell may be unnecessary. Belize chuckles as they watch in wonder as Leo finally lowers his sword. Will this battle actually have a peaceful end? They could scarcely have imagined, and yet... They look again at Yuna.

They already believed this firmly, but now more than ever do they believe she will be the one to bring the Eternal Calm. And when that day comes... finally, they will be able to leave for the Farplane.

However, just as *this* foe lays down his arms, that *other* foe who boarded first *leaps* up to the crane as if it were of zero effort and raises that damnable Sealing Rod in an attempt to work (what Belize assumes to be) Althena's foul magicks on the fayth. "No!! Leviathan!" they gasp as they whirl around, eyes round with alarm. "Dame Lulu!! The fire!!" they call sharply, even as they express their will into Shiva Cambria. The Aeon of Ice nods once and half-turns on her toes, power gathering around her in the signature prelude to an Overdrive, as Belize screams in blazing rage and icy fear, "I will not--I WILL NEVER--!!"

[Pose Tracker] Yuna has posed.

Yuna's eyes close, just for a moment, when Leo stands down.

When they open, they are full of admiration.

She of all people knows it isn't easy.

And though it is brief -- though it is the same thing she's said repeatedly already -- though some could accuse her of robbing it of meaning, because she says it too often:

She says what she means, and she means what she says.

"Thank you."

It's his turn to have a hand held, if he'll let her -- it takes both of hers, they're so much smaller, small and pale and, as one of them has made all too clear, very delicate.

Yet, nevertheless, they endure. They reach out. They hold on.

The storm is reaching its climax. Yuna, who has never completely stopped keeping tabs on Liath, is nevertheless a beat behind Belize in recognizing the risk.

And she's momentarily at a loss. There isn't time to summon. None of her white magicks can protect Leviathan's fayth from this fell Sealing, she knows. But she has to do something -- she has to do SOMETHING!

Her hand retreats, slips hastily into the goodie bag her cousin packed for her, and taught her how to use.

Some would call it ironic, the sciences of the Al Bhed being wielded in order to save a fayth.

Yuna would call it something that IS good.

She can only pray that it will be good enough.

Her white-pink sleeve ombre swirls as she wings back and hurls the Mana Spring with all her strength. It isn't much, but that little tab is not heavy.

As for what it does... it draws mana from its surroundings. From an enemy. From her storm.

Mana, freely usable -- freezable -- ignitable -- for what Lulu and Belize's Shiva Cambria are about to do.

"We will ALWAYS," she chimes in reassurringly, with no less urgency but a somewhat more positive attitude. "We will always protect them... if we work together."

GS: Yuna has attacked Seraph Liath with Use: Rikku's Goodie Bag of Swag! GS: Yuna has gained 1 Combo! GS: Yuna takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper! GS: Yuna gains 5 FP from Sufferer! GS: Yuna has completed her action. GS: Seraph Liath takes a solid hit from Yuna's Use: Rikku's Goodie Bag of Swag for 0 hit points! GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Liath gains 1 additional Combo!

[Pose Tracker] Seraph Boudicca has posed.

Liath compliments Boudicca's defence, and she wonders, Yuna's words in her ears: can /she/ protect everyone?

She does not have the experience Liath brings; she is yet young, in the ways of the ageless. Stubbornly she strikes forward, though she knows not the bones buried in the earth. Marivel said Abilene saw something in Boudicca; perhaps it was something which shined, just as Liath says.

"We know them to be strong enough," Boudicca agrees, and thinks now of her Seers, fierce in their redemption and their joy for the world.

"But," and in this worry is she unvarnished and guardless, "are we...?"

In this moment it may be plain: Boudicca fights Liath, but she does not consider her a foe, not personally. Their love for the world has simply led them to stand opposite each other.

And who Boudicca stands with --

Marivel might seem a strange choice for such a close friend. In her vicious assault there is much to be concerned about; indeed the look Boudicca wears as she watches her descend /is/ concerned, and perhaps not entirely for Marivel. It is a concern which freezes her, for crucial moments, as Liath makes her escape, her declarations.

It is only when she lays hands on that Rod that Boudicca cries: "NO!"

She cannot be denying Liath's love for the world; it could so easily have come from her lips. Rather, it is the thing she holds which has paled her face - which causes her to spring forward. She darts through the storm of light, but, oh --

-- remember how Liath adapted to the field, how Boudicca almost did not.

A blade comes down. The force of light crashes down, on Boudicca, and she falls; impacts. A long gash about the back of her armour, strangely bloodless.

Boudicca and Liath are very, very much alike, but Liath has been doing this for much, much longer.

She lifts her face - finds her vision swimming, as her form struggles to hold itself. "Do not... do this," she pleads, with Liath, the words made weary by her blow. "That Fayth is as us... they wished... to aid the world they loved..!"

Ah, perhaps it's not just the force of the blow, which makes it hard to see.

Boudicca lays her head to the wood of the ship, and leaves it in the hands of the mortal.

[Pose Tracker] Lulu has posed.

Leo bows his head, and it is over for now. There is no retreat--but Lulu knows that look in him, knows that way he does not look. He has said to them, to protect their people. So this time, Lulu does not strike. It is...

It's welcome. And it amazes her, as Yuna often does, all the more when she moves to take his hand.

But magic surges, and the clouds part. Lulu's eyes snap away from Leo, though she does not hear Boudicca, and she sees Seraph Liath's brilliant light as she sees her leaping for the crane. Belize's words reach her in the same moment, and Lulu lifts her hands. Mog does the same before her, as they both turn to face Seraph Liath and the rod she is beginning to use. She feels as much as sees Yuna moving; she hears her. And working together...

Flame roars to life. With force from the Mana Spring that Yuna throws, a bead of heat becomes burst becomes an explosion something larger than three men, a blast of flame that is meant to superheat a wide area. "Ready!" she calls.

GS: Lulu has activated a Force Action! GS: Lulu spends 1 Combo on Link! GS: Formation! Lulu has attacked Seraph Liath with Firaga! GS: Lulu has gained 1 Combo! GS: Lulu has launched an attack Link! GS: Lulu takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper! GS: Lulu has completed her action. GS: Cripple and Mute applied to Seraph Liath! GS: CRITICAL! Seraph Liath takes a solid hit from Lulu's Firaga for 250 hit points!

[Pose Tracker] Gon Guado has posed.

Gon, perhaps, will never be able to know what it means to have such incredible amount of trust in one's strength - and the character of one's opponent - like Hilde does. What he does know is, going on over there, there is a horrifying dance of bloody shadow and a defiant call from a wielder of Goddes-ly light. The screams of desperation from Belize, and he stands over here, as he faces a sword wielder who could probably fell all but a handful of the finest sword wielders of Spira.

	What he knows is that this is /terrifying/. At the cusp of everything his people worked for...
	We will protect /everyone/, he hears from the branded traitor Yuna. Her radiant personality is never lost, the presence of a resolute young woman who could have brought so much. The scope of Gon's ambitions and desires... narrower. The resolve and sacrifice involved on one's /personal/ part is beyond him.
	Hilde, one who has slain giants, moves to lunge into the defenses. They are met with an icy chill in the air as the blade makes contact with the now-faded overlay of a sorcerous shell and the metal of his claws with a muted echo.
	It holds.
	The aging Guado's eyes open again. If the traditions as they are are to endure, so must he - but where Hilde doesn't break the guard, his feet slide across distressed carpentry. His left foot goes upon a loose floorboard, which has him re-shift his weight in a half-step as to not fall into another humorous anecdote with him as the punchline.
	"It has not," his voice is starting to shake, "brought you past me." He's not sure how much longer he can hold. He can't tell if the fayth may be lost. He just has to hold Hilde here.
	Can he withstand another of that caliber? Can he keep her back turned? Can those War Monks over there do something now that he doesn't have speech to interrupt? (They can't, something caught on fire again.)
	Something has to give - soon.

GS: Gon Guado has completed his action.

[Pose Tracker] Belize has posed.

We will *always*, Yuna swears, and sends up a Mana Spring to draw mana around that Sealing Rod. Lulu's Firaga coalesces in on it, fueled by that mana, to superheat the Sealing Rod as she and Belize had discussed, and the caster calls Ready!

As for Belize... they calm a hair at Yuna's words, and nod fiercely at Lulu's. Their rage remains, but now it is glacial, with all the point and purpose of a blade made of ice. Shiva Cambria's snows howl and converge into a single tight block of ice around the Rod, glittering with all the power of the frigid wastes in an attempt to weaken the thing into shattering--

GS: Belize has attacked Seraph Liath with Overdrive - Diamond Dust! GS: Belize has gained 1 Combo! GS: Belize takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper! GS: Mighty expired! GS: Belize has completed their action. GS: Sneak! The true nature of Belize's attack becomes clear! GS: CRITICAL! Seraph Liath takes a solid hit from Belize's Overdrive - Death's Chill Embrace for 183 hit points!

[Pose Tracker] Marivel Armitage has posed.

The real Marivel is shrouded in smoke. It's a natural occurance for stepping into the light like this. Hints of eyes peek through the smoke. Nothing should look like that. Monsters look like that. Demons do too. Marivel has accepted all titles. Forms like this should not be here---not just on Lunar--but not in this reality--yet nevertheless, her people destroyed themselves to earn their home here. To earn her home here. It burns but there is no spiritual rejection. Indeed, even Liath knows there is more to herself than a simple ARMsmeister.

But even so, to leave herself open to this pain again and again. Is that a sign of bravery or madness? Of pain and sorrow or of dedication?

"Do you think her name was always a scar upon my soul? She taught me so many beautiful things. She taught me how to cooexist with humanity. She let me see how I cherished them and how to show it. I believed in her, not as a god--but as a friend. I loved her, just as you all love her. If she hadn't taught me how to sing with my heart, do you think I would care this strongly as to her fate?"

Heavenly light comes crashing down upon Marivel. It punches holes through the smoke obscuring her, sending sprays of crimson mist bursting out of Marivel. She screams with true pain but the fury is louder. Rage like this could never be directed at someone's enemy. She couldn't hope to be this enraged at Mother, or Volsung, or Neriah, or even Odessa. It's more than that.

And fury like that can push through any amount of pain. It keeps on Liath, pushing ever forward even as the light burns and burns. It burns like nothing else.

But her parents burned more than this, Marivel knows. They burned so much more than this. She can't dissapoint them by being afraid of mere elemental light, when transcendant light burned their everything away into ash.

And by pushing this hard, Marivel can unleash a power of her own.

Well, not her own really.

A bright red blade comes crashing down upon Liath. It is as much a statement as it is a technique.

"Maybe she already left you... And just didn't care to tell you."

But one last blast of night slams into the crimson mist and punches it back into Marivel even as that blade aims to punch right into the Prime Lord, sending the mist back into its vessel.

The Crimson Noble, burning with prismatic flame sinks down to one knee. She doesn't try to pat out the flames. She just burns, crouching next to Boudicca. She looks to the fallen form of her friend.

And sings her hymn, tending to the fallen Seraph with what meager healing talent she carries with her.

"The pain of burning alive." Marivel says. "Is nothing compared to that." She looks down to Boudicca.

"To this."

GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Seraph Liath with Deicide Saber! GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action. GS: Sneak! The true nature of Marivel Armitage's attack becomes clear! GS: Seraph Liath takes a solid hit from Marivel Armitage's Red Power for 189 hit points! GS: Seraph Liath has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!

[Pose Tracker] Hilde has posed.

Hilde tries to break through Gon's defenses, and they hold strong. She has to respect him for that - not many could endure the testing of Hilde's blade. She takes a step back, watching him carefully.

"No, it has not. Not yet." She concedes. She readies her blade for another strike... but then stops. She looks away from him - to the Fayth. She sees Liath, beginning to work on the seal... and, the forces arrayed to stop her.

She could strike at Gon, but there's no guarantee that she'll be able to get through his defences. She could move to try to assist Liath, but she would not put it past Gon to strike the moment she turns.

"...We are at an impasse, it seems." She observes.

GS: Hilde has completed her action.

[Pose Tracker] Seraph Liath has posed.

Do not... do this.

"I must," is Liath's unyielding response to Boudicca's plea.

"For the selfsame reasons you would bid me not to."

There is a channeling aspect, to these Sealing Rods. A process. But Liath is nothing if not an abundance of spirit to be channeled. It is plain to feel in the way the ephemeral seems to shift so profoundly as to become briefly palpable as she works her will through the rod. As she channels deeply into it, to accelerate a process that should require more time than this to ready.

She pours herself into it. And she feels something within.

Her expression contorts briefly. Her armored fingers tremble along the length of the Sealing Rod.

But she holds fast, and firm.

She will see it through. To the end.

She swore to this. And she will not surrender until she sees what she came here for done.

It is within this spiritual tempest that those golden eyes fall upon the bowed form of the White Knight. That stare holds as if demanding he look up. To look at her. To see her.

To see what comes next.

Not with a bowed head, but with open eyes.

It is a stare that strays only when she hears Marivel's words. Her gaze strays only then, to see the Crimson Noble forcing her way through a storm that doubtless causes her no end of agony. Willing herself through it, every step of the way.

Her gaze softens. It isn't sympathy, nor does it stay her hand.

It is empathy.


If she hadn't taught me how to sing with my heart, do you think I would care this strongly as to her fate?

"... I do not," says the Prime Lord. She feels the wild fluctuations in temperatures just beyond. She does not budge.

She simply looks up, instead.

"It is all too often the ones we love most that we hurt the deepest in our follies."

She looks up... and she sees that bright red blade, bearing down on her.

And despite the real and imminent danger of it...

... Liath smiles again.

"I would still like to know, someday--"

                                C R A S H

It all happens in short succession and to dazzling effect.

The first, that Mana Spring strikes; it shatters across Liath's shield, and its effect is immediate, drawing upon the deep well of Liath's magical reserves she so abundantly channels now. It does more than help to empower -- it disrupts, however briefly, providing precious seconds...

... precious seconds for the roar of Lulu's flame to broil forth into a massive gout that sears its raging path towards Liath.

This should be the time where the Seraph would be forced to move, with the saber above her, the fire upon her.

She does not. Instead?

She -thrusts- that rod forward into the conflagration.

Call it instinct to defend oneself. Call it willful defiance or foolhardy. A kneejerk reaction, perhaps. Call it something else entirely. Regardless, in those precious seconds, Liath -swings- that rod forward like a barrier between her and the flame. It strikes spirit and physical form alike, washing over the rod and pouring past Liath, heating into armor and broiling spiritual flesh and bone. Her teeth grit, but she holds firm. The rod glows orange-bright with heat --

--whereupon a blade of frost and a blade of red meet Liath at the exact same time.

If she shouts, it cannot be heard through the frosty din or the blood-red explosion that ripples forward from the impact of Marivel's saber. Bitter frost combines with raging flame to create a singular affect, a contrast of temperatures so sharp, so decisive...

... the rod cracks. Fissures.

And it is just as Liath is awash of red light that rod finally shatters under all that combined force.


A single word, lost in the chaos.

A single wish, lost in the cacophony.

And Liath is blown away, hitting the deck with a meaty, skidding thud.

The rod is broken, but all that can be seen is a haze of red and steam, for the longest time.

... until there is a crackle of something wrong.

It isn't light. It isn't heat. It isn't anything like that. There is a crackle of negative space. Things that should not be and yet undeniably -are- right -now- churn in little electrical arcs of unlight within that red, steamy haze. Tiny little sparks. Nothing. Nauseous nothing.

It sparks once. Twice. Three times.

And then tendrils of something that -should not be- spill forth from where the broken rod was, inky, shimmering, undulating black covered in red eyes that spreads out far and wide now that it has been freed from its vessel. Something spiritual and deeply, deeply /wrong/ in a way malevolently familiar.

It grows. It seeks something new to occupy.

This is the truth. Inescapable, unavoidable.

And all one can do is have faith, that at the right moment...

... those they protect will do the right thing.

[Pose Tracker] Belize has posed.

--and instead Death's Chill Embrace converges, cracking, reducing the Sealing Rod to crumbling bits of nothing.

And with nothing there to hold it back, the evil energy within has nowhere to go--but out.

Howling ice is replaced by howling darkness, tearing at the air. It begins to take form in the air, sending a greasy, unclean feeling out towards the combatants present. Though half-formed, it turns on the fayth, still singing their hymn, and opens a gaping void of a maw--

SPLASH. A great tentacle breaches the surface of the waters and slaps up towards the fayth. The Fiend Kraken bursts forth the next instant, sending up a shower of seawater that promptly rains down again. The dark energy latches, not onto the fayth, but to the *Fiend*--and it screams in anger, pyreflies whorling wildly, as its horrid beak snaps and even worse eyes glare. As yet more tentacles wrap up and slap down... one of them coils around the crane and *cracks* it.

With enough strength to break the crane off entirely, and pull down the priceless fayth still in its net, the Fiend nonetheless first turns on the assembled mortals present. An undying anger wavers in their two eyes, large as a person curled up. And in fact, shadows of something very much like that seem to lurk within those fetid orbs. Something... like...

Belize sucks in a horrified gasp, clasping a hand to their mouth. "This can't be. It can't--" they rasp, barely above a whisper.

"Cambria? Ryuggu...?"

The Zopharian Fiend Kraken that has haunted Uijundo Temple opens its beak and screams with the regretful voices of the drowned dead.

T O = B E = C O N T I N U E D . . . =>

[Pose Tracker] Gon Guado has posed.

An impasse, Hilde observes.

	Gon has yet to figure out a way to disagree with this observation out of some sort of contrary nature, but exhaling a labored breath as a cramp starts to run up from his right shoulder sort of passes for an agreement because he has no further argument.
	The veteran Guado warrior sees things happening - a haze of red and steam, and then... his jaw slackens.
	"...You should... turn back."
	Gon gets that out, words easy to lose in the growing cacophony of...
	"Around," he clarifies.

[Pose Tracker] Margaret has posed.

Was that smoke a work? Or a shoot? But such ideas, though eternal in their form, are not known in their ways. Margaret splutters at Rikku's treachery, but whether because she meant what she said - or some darker contrivance or bought loyalty - she does not pursue the Al Bhed. She is caught up, in that high rigging (and momentarily out of mind), wiping her face and using the sickle, cautiously, to scrape it off.

And then in the incinerating flashes on deck, something


Margaret looks down. Her mouth hangs open, slowly.

no, she thinks; that... what? It has to be... Was that a substitute, or -

or did -

But then there is a scream.

And you can lie to yourself, but you can't lie to the cosmos -- the universe will have the final word.

[Pose Tracker] White Knight Leo has posed.

'Thank you.'

Yuna takes Leo's hand in her own. He still doesn't look at her--can't look at her. His breathing grows ragged with emotion as the sounds of Liath's relentless assault reach him, filtering into the eerie bubble of calm.

With his other hand, Leo reaches up to touch his own forehead--he runs his fingers along the base of his horn. It still glistens with frost, but it's unbroken.

Even though part of him feels like it should be, after this.

Leo feels Liath's eyes on him. He looks up, trembling, and--with visible effort--meets her eyes. Freezing cold and soaked to the bone, he does not look like the proud White Knight that led Althena's Guard to Spira. He sees Liath's endurance, her devotion, her serenity. He wonders how she does it.

But then things go wrong. Time starts to slow as the Prime Lord holds out her rod to parry, as if it were a sword--

But Leo knows what's in there. His eyes go wide. "PRIME LORD!" he screams, as he leaps to his feet; the eruption of horrible energy almost knocks him back to the deck again. He catches himself, grabbing the railing. Liath slams into the deck next to him, and he instinctively steps forward, shielding her with his body.

Leo witnesses, with his own eyes, what Yuna and Hiro saw. Hearing it was one thing. Watching it makes his guts turn to water. It makes his brain want to rebel, to just not process what his eyes are seeing.

This is the truth he could not bear to face. Now he has no other choice.

[Pose Tracker] Marivel Armitage has posed.

"...Okay," Marivel says. "Then I'll tell you someday," all but consigned to see Liath accomplish her goal.

...Except Liath doesn't accomplish her goal. Or at least, not the goal Marivel thought was Liath's goal. She may not know Liath as well as she thought, but she swings that rod--that which she declared was her intent to utilize for the Goddess's purpose--wielding it like an extra shield herself.

Marivel stares for a moment. It is difficult for the Crimson Noble to believe that it was just instinct or a kneejerk reaction. Did Liath intend to break that rod, she can't help but wonder, did she know what its shattering would unleash.

But for all the pain that is to come, to Marivel it is a blessing. She doesn't know what would happen if these rods sealed away more fayths. To her, even a malevolent empowered super fiend is the lesser of two evils.

"Liath...?" She murmurs. That rage is gone, spent, so instead her gaze turns to Leo. She sees it in his eyes.

"You see, Boudicca...?" Marivel takes a moment to focus on her healing. She has a feeling they'll need Boudicca soon enough. "Now Leo too knows what it to be betrayed by her."


"I wish he didn't have to."

Maybe however much pain she felt herself, she wanted Althena to at least save them.

[Pose Tracker] Hilde has posed.

Hilde has been keeping an eye on events. But even with that, Gon's plain observation serves to emphasize the severity of the situation.

"...By the Goddess." Hilde breathes out. She doesn't look away. She stares at the rod as something /terrible/ bursts from it... and at the Fiend that appears. She shakes her head... and then, she looks back at Gon. She exhales.

...What do you say when you realise the truth of what you were after isn't what you thought it was? She doesn't think she has any words... so instead, she starts toward the others.